Membership: Defining and meeting the challenge


2012/11/15 by grahamfawcett2012

Walking for good health and discovery!

Every volunteer organization has the same, ongoing problem: how and where does it find new members to increase its support, implement its program and, ultimately, replace its own leadership? Why should membership development be one of the highest priorities for a volunteer organization? Because from the membership come participants, volunteers, revenues, personal networks, a talent pool, and future leaders.

Membership recruitment must be a continuing effort. It’s too easy to focus on membership for a year or two and then ease up once the goal has been reached. From the outset, there should be one specific position on the Executive responsible for membership recruitment. The ideal person for this position is one who already has a good number of contacts and network connections outside the walking community. He or she should also have well-developed communication skills and be able to think creatively, ‘outside the box’.

Back in the 1960’s, a famous Canadian philosopher, Marshall McLuhan, coined the phrase ‘global village‘, as it applied to the fields of media and communications. He accurately foresaw the advent of mass media and the revolutionary changes to come through electronics. I think, however, that even he would be amazed at how far the revolution in communications has taken us, and how integral it is to almost every aspect of our lives. We have evolved far beyond his original idea of a ‘global village’, and have in many ways become a ‘single cell’, where we as individuals are in almost immediate contact with every other person in the world as a member of the same cell, whether we know them or not. The ability to communicate, to find and exchange information, and to express oneself is so immediate, pervasive, and complete that not even the old notion of ‘six degrees of separation‘ between any two individuals on the earth is valid any more. How do I know this? Quite by accident, in two hours one morning, I reunited members of a family in different parts of the world over the internet. I did not know the person who called me, nor the person she was looking for or where he lived, yet I was able to find the individual being sought through a simple Internet search and the sharing of an email address. My point? To find and share information, which is more effective – printed pieces of paper shared randomly, or electronic communication directed through networks? The phone book, or the Internet? A single individual, or a community working collectively on your behalf?

At its most effective, communication today must engage the participants and be self-sustaining. The tools at our disposal are powerful, but have no real effect until they are shared. If others can expand the sharing for us, then the power of communication has almost no known upper limit. Indeed, we will likely never know who has seen, shared or made an informed choice not based on what we have decided to share, but how we have decided to communicate it. Or, as Marshall McLuhan also said, “the medium is the message“.

In order of effectiveness, I would say this of the following:

Flyers, brochures, paper advertisements: expensive, difficult and time-consuming to distribute. Information is easily outdated and difficult to correct.

Web pages: informative, but static and passive. Waiting to be discovered only by those seeking information. There’s a danger that the information is outdated as it usually requires constant revision and updating. Web pages can become dynamic through access from online databases where information is input by authorized stakeholders, a feature requiring investment and training.

Email: direct and personal. Limited to known individuals or groups on email lists. Lacking appeal in their visual presentation. Information given may easily outdated in the short term. This includes information shared from online ‘groups’ such as Yahoo! or Google Groups.

The following fall into the category referred to as ‘social media’. Broadly speaking, any means of communicating that gives the user the opportunity to express themselves and share with a growing community belongs to the set of ‘social media’. Look for things like Comment boxes, Share / Like / Reply / Follow buttons, and so on. This is where and how prospective new members become informed and engaged. This is new ground for existing Volkssporters, as they are largely uncomfortable with the openness of the Internet. However, it is here that you will find younger people already looking for opportunities to engage. Here, others go to work on your behalf through their participation. The growth potential here is phenomenal.

Personal networks: We all belong to other networks where the personal touch can be used to great advantage. Existing club members may belong to several of the following at the same time: retirement groups, work groups, church groups, hobby groups, community service groups, professional groups, and so on.

Use other technologies and online services: if you have a camera and like to take pictures, share the pictures of your Volkssport experiences with online services such as Flickr, Picasa, Vimeo and Facebook, then share them through other social media such as the ones below.

Facebook: Probably the most widely used and easiest social medium to access. Depending in the user’s security settings, exposure to potential new members can be quite limited. There is, however, a growing number of Facebook pages dedicated to Volkssport clubs and groups. This would be much less restrictive than personal pages. There is always the opportunity to Comment, plus a newer Share function that can take a post on one person’s Facebook page and post it on one’s own, thereby extending the circle.

Blogs: There are many forms of blogs (electronic diaries), most of which are searchable by anyone using the common search engines such as Bing, Google, Yahoo!, and so on. Some, such as this one using WordPress, are entirely online and require little or no investment. This is where one may inform, express opinions, share information with a very broad community and anyone searching for particular information through keywords entered into a search engine.

Twitter: Simpler, but potentially far more powerful than anything above. Easily searchable. A very easy way to broadcast simple information, attract attention to a cause, or effect social change. Governments have been brought down by Twitter.

There is no one strategy above that can be all things for you. I have decided to use three of the above to achieve some synergy: Facebook, this WordPress blog, and Twitter. If I use one, I can attract attention to the other two. There is some learning required, but good guides are available. References below.

I hope you have found something useful here to help ‘grow’ your membership.


The Rough Guide to Social Media for Beginners, Sean Mahoney; Penguin, 2012
ISBN 978-1-40935-833-6

Social Networking for Seniors, Anne Sparrowhawk; In Easy Steps Ltd, 2011
ISBN 978-1-84078-410-7

Follow Me! Creating a personal brand with Twitter, Sarah-Jayne Gratton; Wiley Books, 2012   ISBN 978-1-118-33634-2

If you have enjoyed reading this text, or found it useful, please press on the ‘Follow My Blog’ button on the right, or the ‘Like’ button below. If you have a Facebook page or a Twitter account, press those buttons below to share with your own circle of friends. Any one will help spread the word. Thanks!

Please also visit the IVV web site for up to date information.

2 thoughts on “Membership: Defining and meeting the challenge

  1. April says:

    Superb site you have here but I was wanting to know if you knew of
    any message boards that cover the same topics talked about here?
    I’d really love to be a part of community where I can get opinions from other experienced people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thanks a lot!

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