FNPS is its members
Without members, there are no Chapters, and there is no Society. On the other hand, with a stable and growing membership, a Chapter can meet its goals and keep the energy high. This section provides a number of procedures and strategies derived from the long history of the organization and adjusted to today's realities. When you find something that works, please contact the Society's Membership Chair so we can add to this document. Share the strategy with the Sabal Minor editor so all the Chapters benefit.
We will discuss three primary topics here: (a) Managing the members you have, (b) recruiting new members, and (c) retaining members. Although there are specific tips for each area, the cross-cutting theme is communication and follow-through. Get to know your members, listen to their preferences, and keep them enthused and involved. Let's work together and grow the Society.
Membership Management in a Nutshell
Each Chapter should have a Membership Chair who is responsible for oversight of membership recruitment, data and corresponding with the Society. Growing membership is an important focus area for each Chapter, as a rich blend of individuals strengthens and extends the reach of the Society as a whole. The Membership Chair should be prepared to communicate with both the FNPS membership contractor, and the Chair of the Society's Membership standing committee. Communication is usually accomplished via e-mail, but phone calls are occasionally necessary.
Routine recordkeeping activities are central to keeping an eye on Chapter health. This recordkeeping consists primarily of the membership roster, and associated contact lists that are derived from it. Each month, the Chapter's records should be reviewed to be sure they are complete and accurate, and that any necessary changes are made to contact lists.
The membership contractor for the Society maintains a database of information for all current members. Each membership is assigned a unique identification number, and assigned a “home” Chapter based on zip code. Members, however, may choose the Chapter they wish to belong to, or belong to no Chapter at all. They may even belong to several chapters, should they wish to pay for additional memberships (some do).
Membership data is distributed to chapters via a secure area of the FNPS website. The data that is distributed is current to the previous day. There is one login per chapter, to be restricted to the chapter leadership for use (DO NOT GIVE IT TO GENERAL CHAPTER MEMBERS!). This is CONFIDENTIAL member information and needs to be protected as such. This information is for FNPS business only and not to be shared outside of FNPS. People authorized to access the data generally get the login from other chapter leaders. However, if lost or believed to be used improperly, contact the FNPS Web Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Data distributed includes:
- Membership lists (on-line, printable list plus spreadsheet downloads)
- Lists of new members
- Lists of memberships approaching their renewal dates
- Lists of memberships that have expired within the last several years
- Emails in copy/paste format and in spreadsheet format
- Mailing labels (pdf files designed to work with Avery labels)
- Summary of number of memberships and number of members (some memberships have multiple members in them)
- Easy search if what is needed is contact information for a single member.
If information is needed that is not in the materials delivered via the FNPS website, chapter leadership can contact Administrative Services at email@example.com request a special report.
Membership Management Checklist
- Verify FNPS roster for accurate e-mail information
- Write new members and send welcome packet
- Make sure a name tag is created for new members
- Thank renewing members
- Ask tardy members to renew
- Ask dropped members to renew
- Include new member names in newsletter, announce at meeting
- Ask guests to join at meetings
- Contact all guests that complete the guest roster at meeting
ANNUALLY (or on schedule)
- Make membership recruitment plan and set goals
- Distribute brochures throughout the community, and keep them stocked. Present to community groups
- Send out membership outreach letter
- former members
- targeted individuals
- relevant businesses
About active recruitment
Although some people will join the Society because of their personal or professional interest in native plants, many more will join if you ask them to do so. Each Chapter can create an annual membership recruitment plan.
The central tools of membership recruitment include:
- Making a difference - every membership is a donation toward conserving Florida's unique floral heritage and the wildlife it supports
- FNPS membership brochure
- Your Chapter print publications (see sample Chapter brochure)
- Guest or information sign-up sheet
- Banners or display boards
- Talking points on the benefits of membership.
- Recruitment letters (print and electronic)
- Incentives (plants, merchandise)
You Will Make a Difference
- Your dues support leading edge scientific study on native plants
- Your dues support conservation of Florida's native plants and native ecosystems
- FNPS is the only organization devoted to native plant conservation in Florida
- You can be involved, hand-on in efforts to preserve natural Florida
- Local meetings with informative programs
- Learn about Florida’s native plant species
- Learn how to reduce chemicals, water-use and maintenance in home landscapes
- Annual state conference on botanical science, conservation, and landscaping
- Field trips with knowledgeable field botanists and opportunities to visit Florida’s wild natural areas
- Joining a state-wide network of naturalists
- Network with scientists who are actively applying science-based conservation
- Access to FNPS publications, including The Palmetto and Sabal minor
- Memberships and donations to FNPS are tax-deductible
- Membership discounts at many native nurseries
- Reduced admission costs to the FNPS annual conference
- Local opportunities to purchase native plants
At each Chapter-hosted meeting and program, ask guests to join, and offer incentives (such as a free plant) for doing so. Announce/welcome new members, thank renewing members. Consider asking guests to introduce themselves.
Each guest should be encouraged to sign-in on a guest list at the door (see Sample Guest sign-in).
Board members should introduce themselves at an appropriate time during meeting. Have blank nametags and a marker available for guests.
Whenever there are names and contact information gathered, these potential new members should be contacted as soon as possible.
If you have a printed newsletter, send 3 issues or so to guests. Add guests to any e-news list (always include an “unsubscribe” feature. E-mail is a good way to reach out: it saves paper, and is easy to implement. Best of all, brief is best. You can just write something like:
Customize your Routine Correspondence for the Chapter
Consider creating an email signature for your Chapter correspondence. How you do this will depend on the email systems that chapter officers use. But, in the signature line, include “Join the Florida Native Plant Society Today at http://www.fnps.org/join” whenever an Officer corresponds on behalf of the Society. Routinely include invitations to join in your response to non-member inquiries about plants or local issues. Note: if this is Greek, just make sure that you have your name, your position in the chapter, and "Join the Florida Native Plant Society at fnps.org/join" at the bottom of the email.
Outreach to Key Individuals
In every community, there are individuals that you know should be members given their interests or professions, or positions. It is a useful exercise to make a list of these people, and reach out to them at least annually, or whenever you have an occasion to meet them in person. Whenever you collaborate on a project (e.g., demonstration garden, plants survey, consultation, public education, etc.), this is an opportunity to share your experiences in FNPS and, if appropriate, ask these potential partners to join.
- Professional botanists and plant ecologists
- Park and Nature Centers staff
- Botanical gardens staffs
- Native nurseries and native plant landscapers
- Environmental Consultants
- Garden club members
- Master gardeners
- Members of other conservation groups, such as Florida Trails Assoc.
- Faculty at schools, community colleges, universities
- Extension office staff
- Municipal or county officials
- Scout leaders
- 4-H Coordinators
- Farm Bureau
- Proprietors and staffs of local businesses
Gift certificates are available for print from the Society website. If each Chapter member gives a gift of membership to one person annually (e.g., for a birthday or holiday), membership could double. In certain cases, you may use Chapter Sponsored Membership to recruit targeted individuals. When a new official comes to town, a gift membership is a nice welcome.
Membership Brochure Distribution
Spread your supply throughout the membership, so they are ready for opportunities. Your Chapter can keep brochure racks stocked in logical places throughout the community, and member businesses should be encouraged to keep a supply on hand. Libraries, Tourism Centers, and Nature Centers are natural distribution points, and there are many others depending on your locale. Be sure that information about your Chapter is inserted, including meeting place and contact information.
Whenever members give presentations—whatever the topic—they should include a brief overview of the Society, bring membership information, and encourage those in the audience to join. It is a good idea to plan some presentations for the year with recruitment in mind. If the Chapter speaker is offered an honorarium by an organization, they can request that the host organization join the Society in lieu of payment.
During plant sales and exhibits, encourage visitors to your booth to carry away membership information. Ask them to join. If possible, have a table or other Wi-Fi-enabled device and a swipe card. Use the FNPS website "http://fnps.org/join" and the swipe card to get them to join immediately. Help them fill in the forms. Give discounts on merchandise to those who join at the booth! Be sure to use whichever talking points fit best for the individual you are talking to. Your visuals should reinforce this request by displaying www.fnps.org in large type, and language such as "Join Today for Florida’s Future."
Did you know that retaining members is much easier than recruiting new ones? Compared to most Non-governmental organizatons (NGOs), FNPS has a very high retention rate, but let's encourage it! We don't want to lose members accidentally.
Connect with your members at meetings
If you do nothing else, do this. Nothing kills membership like a clique. Use name tags. When members attend meetings and events, they should feel welcomed, appreciated, and a part of the Chapter. The Board should make a concerted effort to learn names, or at least make sure that everyone has a name tag. Designated people should make sure that this happens, and suggest adjustments to the board.
Match your members’ interests to Chapter activities. Most people are pleased to help or participate when asked directly, and involvement increases investment. Providing activities to address the variety of interests represented by the membership will increase retention (and will help you get things done). Make a list of Chapter activities, current and planned, and match members to them.
Invite them back. People let their membership lapse for a variety of reasons, but if you ask them to rejoin, they might. Let them know you have great plans and want them to be a part of them; give a few examples. And here’s the courageous part: Ask them to let you know why, if they don’t plan to rejoin. You may not like the answers, but they may help you improve your Chapter.
Blow your horn
Members can’t be proud if they don’t know what you’re doing. Make sure your officers are prepared to highlight recent achievements (briefly please) at all Chapter meeting. Applause is a good indicator of your success in this.
Use the "Member Coming Up for Renewal" and "Recent Drop" Lists
These are available to you on the Membership Tools section of the FNPS website. This is a secure area of the website that give chapter leaders access to membership information.
FNPS sends emails to people coming up for renewal. The FNPS emails give them links where they can renew on-line. FNPS also sends postal email letters to those who don't wish to renew on-line. But, there is nothing like a personal touch. If you think someone has forgotten (yes, we know those people), give them a shout (phone, email, when you see them). If you don't know them, email them and find out why they joined FNPS and how FNPS can better serve the vision that had them join. Encourage them to renew. Sometime, all that is needed is a reminder, or a personal touch that shows them that the Society values their participation.
Communicating with Members
Keep members informed and connected
Whether it is via print or electronically, Chapter members should receive official Chapter News on a regular, predictable basis. Each FNPS member receives The Palmetto quarterly, the Sabal minor every two months, and FNPS Action Alerts if they have requested them. Your job is to share the local issues and perspectives, and remind your members that they are part of a community. For content suggestions, see the section on Chapter News. Always include a reminder to “Share this with a friend.”
Communication with the membership should have defined channels, and a process for Chapter Board approval of content. Ideally, this process is included in your Chapter bylaws, and important to controlling the quantity and quality of correspondence with the membership.
Be Respectful of Time
The amount of e-mail the typical involved individual receives is unmanageable; hence it is a fine line between keeping the membership up-to-date, and spam. Your goal is to stay out of the junk mail folder. If you hold tight to mission, it is easier to decide when to correspond. When there are pop-up issues or events, put them through the test (1) does it relate to mission; and (2) is this information unlikely to be available (or accurate) from other sources; and (3) are there actions you want the membership to take? If you’ve answered “yes,” alert the membership.
Be Respectful of Member Talents
Routinely ask for input from members who have an identified interest in any particular issue or activity. This is win-win. It will engage membership, as well as increase the quality of all initiatives.
Use New Technologies to the Chapter’s Advantage
Collaboration tools, such as Google Documents, make it a breeze to fine-tune important correspondence to your membership. Make sure that your website serves the membership. Use of social media tools, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Newsfeeds, may engage a younger demographic and create new on-line communities. Leveraging emerging communications channels is essential to the retaining and increasing membership and preserving the vitality of the Society.
Factoid: Based on usage statistics and our latest poll of the FNPS membership, our social media users tend to be about 5 years younger than our FNPS website users. The median age of our members seems to be between the 50-60 years. We have active website and social media users who are well into their retirement years. Most of our chapters do not track their website usage, so there are likely chapter differences. FNPS suspects that our oldest users rely solely on postal mail, and this is their only connection to FNPS. Do what you can to keep them in the loop.
What this suggests is that the majority of our members no longer have young children at home, but most of them are not "over the hill". We also have a significant contingent of young professionals in the biological fields. Please be respectful of members of all ages.