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If you are finding it difficult to recruit and retain members to your section, ask why?  What is it about the section that makes it unappealing?  We have a tendency to look externally for the reasons, i.e., “Everyone is too busy” or “s/he needs to spend more time on their studies.” Which may be true, but if you find these reasons often used, challenge yourself to take a look INTERNALLY as well.

Remember, students join motivated organizations.  What makes up a motivated organization? Motivated organizations know what they want; they have goals, a vision, and an action plan. When is the last time you evaluated your organization?  Ask your current members to evaluate your section in the following areas to better understand where you are strong and where more attention needs to be directed.


  • A sense of purpose.
  • Internal communication.
  • Growth and development opportunities.
  • Team building – cohesive membership.
  • Membership participation.
  • Recognition.


Tip #1 – Get Organized and Stay Organized

Organization is key.  Keep a good list and record of all your officers, their positions, and objectives so that you and your group can look at them any time you need to.  

Tip #2 – Make your group worth the time to join

If I am a new member is there something I can do that can give me the sense of accomplishment?  Is the only way to actually be “active” in your organization to be an officer?  A common complaint from younger members is that, besides putting up flyers and going to meetings, there is nothing for general members to do unless they become officers.  Does that sound like fun to you?  Empower your members, give them responsibility and the opportunity to practice their leadership skills.  This not only will increase their confidence level but will also make them more experienced officers in the future.

Tip #3 – Recruitment is an on-going process

It isn’t something that you only do at the beginning of the semester.  If your section gets involved in homecoming, that is a recruitment and image development opportunity; if you co-sponsor or collaborate on a program with another group or participate in a community service opportunity with other non-members that is a recruitment and image development opportunity.  Use those opportunities to educate people about your section.  All members should be prepared to answer the question, “tell me about your club, what do you do?”  Can your current members do that and is the message consistent?

Just like companies, it is important to work to make your organization’s name a “household word.”  Remember also, students many times, are members of more than one group so the outreach you participate in may have positive recruitment affects. Don’t miss the opportunity to “sell” your organization.

Tip #4 – Create a positive and welcoming environment

Know your member’s names.  Know your member’s needs.  Personal contact is key.  Email is great and easy, but if you want to really keep your members and show them that you value them, you must work toward more personal contact.  Does your exec board know people’s names?  if there are too many members to know all their names, it is even more important to have personal contact.  Students want to feel important and know that they are appreciated.  By knowing your members, it shows that you care and that this person matters to you regardless of the importance of their job.

Structure your meetings so that everyone feels comfortable.  When discussing issues or brainstorming, allow for individual reflection and group discussion in order to accommodate the different processing styles of introverts and extroverts.  Be aware of, respect, and understand cultural differences students may be accustomed to and incorporate them into your meetings.  Lastly, create an environment where members are secure with sharing their opinion even when it differs from the leadership or with the majority opinion.  Disagreements and conflicts if handled in a professional and respectful way make organizations stronger.  Strive to have a very diverse membership base.  Different perspectives, experiences, and life styles will make the organization stronger as long as everyone is working towards the same vision and accomplishing the same goals.

Tip #5 – Recruitment is not one person’s job

Although one person may need to coordinate efforts, EVERYONE should be responsible for maintaining and sustaining membership.   Your recruitment campaign should include specific techniques and tasks to be accomplishes, a timeline, and an indication of who will be responsible for completing each task.

Tip #6 – The GRAPE Principle…

GRAPE is the acronym for the five most common reasons students join student organizations.  It’s important to ask everyone why they joined to make sure you understand your members’ needs.  Ask them each year, since members’ needs will change.

G – GROWTH; having opportunities to increase your skills and competencies, persona skill development opportunities, becoming more competent, experienced, and confident.

R – RECOGNITION; gaining respect from others you admire, receiving recognition and praise for a job well done, receiving feedback on your work within the organization.

A – ACHIEVEMENT; having the opportunity to solve problems, seeing the result of your efforts, being given meaningful responsibilities, seeing your feedback and ideas become reality

P – PARTICIPATION; planning and scheduling work, given the opportunity and being allowed to make or contribute in important decision making, being “active” not just a member.

E – ENJOYMENT; having fun, working as part of a team, feeling a part of something important.

Adapted from: http://www.fandm.edu/x11961.xml