Recruiting the right members is vitally important to a successful co-op. Learn why people join and how to encourage members to join.
Who should you recruit as members?
Think carefully about the members you want to recruit. Look at the purpose and strategy of your co-operative and the kind of people you need. Target those who:
- Form part of the constituency you want to represent or work with.
- Identify with the aims and objectives of your organisation.
- Support and want to work for your cause.
- Have skills and experience that will help your work.
- Can influence other people and get them to also join the organisation.
Creating a valuable membership proposition
When looking at the value of membership, it is important to recognise that the prospective member is not making a donation to the organisation; they are making an investment (financial, time, opportunity cost), and expect to see something in return.
- To support the business mission (and contribute to its success)
- To benefit from access to products, services or employment
- To generate new business or benefit from shared marketing.
- To benefit from economies of scale or reducing expenses.
- To raise their profile.
- The missions of both businesses align.
You need to be able to explain clearly what people get in return for being a member – and it should be more inspiring than ‘you’ll get a monthly newsletter’!
- Explain how the member will achieve a successful return on their investment.
- Understand that different people have different reasons for joining. Make sure you know who are you communicating with, so you can be confident the message is the right one they need to hear.
There are no 'silver bullets' for member recruitment. Your co-op will need to analyse its audiences and devise methods of communicating your message to specific audiences. Here are some quick ideas:
Depending on the size of your co-op and the aims of your recruitment drive, this task could be enormous. More than one person should develop the recruitment plan and consider how many people you need to work on this. Other members should be encouraged to recruit new members whenever they can.
Before recruitment starts make sure you have resources ready. This might include application forms, postcards or flyers or telephone numbers of members that can be contacted to sign up.
Recruitment can happen at any time and should be an ongoing part of your work. If you have any events or campaigns planned, think about including a membership ask.
Make a list of organisations that might be interested in joining. Or whose staff or members might share similar values to your co-op. Ask if you can come and talk at one of their meetings, set up recruitment tables at their events or in their staff room or reception (for large companies).
Your organisation might need additional skills and talents. Target specific individuals who have the skills or contacts you need and invite them to join. Are there any influential leaders in your community or sector? Ask if they will help spread the word about your co-op. Make a list of key individuals in your community that you would like to have as members and contact them personally.
If there is a target area in your community where potential members live, you could send recruiters from door-to-door to discuss your organisation and invite people to join. Make sure you do this safely and legally.
Tables staffed by recruiters can be set up in public places like shopping centres, sporting events and railway stations. You should have a table at all of your own meetings or public events. Make posters and decorate the table so that it attracts attention.
The best recruitment method is through personal contacts. We all know people who share our interests and members should be encouraged to bring their friends to meetings.
Traditional advertising (eg in local newspapers) can be costly and untargeted. Social media advertising allows you to target by gender, interest and geographical location, and can be more cost-effective depending on your messaging.
Getting stories into the local paper or on the radio can be free, and allow you to convey more developed key messages about your organisation, the role of members, forthcoming meetings, etc. You can also send letters to individuals or use leaflets to encourage people to join up.
Once you have recruited someone, you should work hard to keep them happy and active in the organisation. There is a natural process in organisations where:
- Some of your supporters in the community will become members
- Some of your members will become committed activists
- Some of your activists will become leaders.
If you want to keep on generating more activists and leaders for the future, you have to have programmes to develop members into activists, and activists into leaders.
Recruiting members should be only the beginning - if you do not manage your members well, communicate with them and motivate them to work for the organisation, you will soon have to recruit more members.