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Sierra Club Scrapbook

September 04, 2011

Newcomer/Member 'Welcome' Events Spur Activism, Help Retain Members

Donna-Sprecht
Donna Sprecht arriving at a newcomer event at the Eaton Canyon Nature Center, near Pasadena.

By Donna Sprecht, Angeles Chapter Membership Chair

We've organized about seven Chapter-wide Newcomer/Member "Welcome to the Sierra Club" events every year for the past ten years. We plan these events to include all areas of the Angeles Chapter and Orange County. We invite Groups and Activity Sections, Committees, and Task Forces to come and table at the event. We send invitations out to members by mail, post the events on websites and advertise them in newsletters, in our chapter schedule of activities, in newspapers, e-mail invitations, and flyers.

In addition to bringing in new members and engaging those who are already members, the events also teach Groups/Sections and Committees how to recruit new members. The tabling entities make a huge impression on those attending, like the Political Committee, Mule Pack Section, Natural Science Section, Hundred Peaks Section, Wilderness Travel, Wilderness Adventure Section, Easy Hikers, Little Hikers, Singles Sections, Global Warming Committee, Water Committee, and many more.

About 50 percent of those who show up are already members. These people always say they have been longtime members but have never come to an event. The results? I think the Angeles Chapter recruits more new members than any other U.S. Chapter.

We believe the personal invitation helps us to retain our members. The presentations by the entities offer many opportunities to newcomers and members. We have had stunning results in engaging our membership and maintaining our membership above 40,000 members.

Donna-Sprecht-and-Minarets
Donna Sprect in the Sierra Nevada, with the Minarets in the background.

The newcomer events weren't my idea, but I did change the format and organize more volunteers. The original events in the mid 1990's used a slide show, but people usually walked out when the lights were dimmed. So I picked up the tempo and invited more of our many Angeles Chapter groups and sections
to come and promote their wide range special activities. Originally the only newcomer events in
our chapter were the ones I organized in Orange County. When I was elected to the Chapter Excom
and appointed Chapter Membership Chair, I did move the events all around to our different areas.
It is a big area: From Santa Clarita down to San Clemente and from the foothills to the ocean.
 
Critical to our success is the participation of our 16 Groups and 30 Activity Sections and many, many volunteers to help organize these full-production events with the help of the Chapter resources and Executive Committee.

The biggest challenge used to be getting labels for the invitations. But now with HELEN (Helping Environmental Leaders Engage Neighbors), the Sierra Club's membership database, that part is easy.

One lesson we learned was that personal contact is invaluable. Be available and always have membership materials with you. Be available to answer questions about the Sierra Club and why people should join. (If you need a script, I have one.)

One thing that didn't seem to work so well were slide presentations of activities, but they didn't really work. Keep the program short, exciting and fast-paced.

Have a success story to share? We'd like to hear about it. Go to the Success Stories project on the Sierra Club's Activist Network and let others learn from your experience.

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