Recruiting New Members
People join student organisations for many reasons: they want to get involved, meet people, make new friends, explore interests, develop leadership skills or even just have fun. Groups need new members - it's what they exist to do, and besides, new members bring new ideas and talents. New members are the “spark” that keeps your group alive and insures its continuity and vitality in the coming years. Whether your organization is new or has been active for a few years, you will always need to find new members.
Jewish societies at university are competing with a number of other organisations for students' time and commitment. It is important that your Jewish student union has a well formulated plan for recruiting and retaining new members. Without this, you will shrink, and possibly cease to exist. With a good plan, you will grow, and as you involve more and more people, more and more can be done - thus continuing the process of growth.
Identify the Market
First of all think about whom you are trying to attract. Obviously one large group of people you are trying to get to come to your Jewish Student Union is Jewish students. Add to this other groups that you might want to be targeting - student age residents of your town, academics, non-Jews. Then segment the groups - that is, sub-divide the groups to smaller categories. Think about what kinds of people are included within the 'Jewish student' group. Segmentation should be done according to different interests - it makes no huge difference if Jewish students are studying geography or history, but it makes a big difference if they are 'clubby' types or 'library' types (or both!) Think about who is out there to offer services and events to, and also what kind of people you need to get involved in running your group.
BEFORE RECRUITING BEGINS
Before beginning you need to know:
WHO ARE WE AND WHAT DO WE WANT?
Sort out the Product
Have a meeting to review and discuss your organisational goals and objectives at least once a year. This meeting will allow you to think about if you are doing the right things, or if your Jewish Student Union needs to refocus. For example, if you are only providing social events but people are interested in Jewish learning, you need to work this out sooner rather than later. Think about where your Jewish student union would like to be in six months' time. By making sure that your Jewish student union is what people will want you will make it a lot easier to recruit new members.
From your list of the different types of people that you want to attract to your Jewish student union, you should be able to work out what each group would want. This means thinking 'if I was like that, what would I want to be offered?'
Now that you know the types of people you are interested in, your next step is to work out a recruitment strategy. Think about when you are going to recruit - for the whole first Semester, first month, throughout the year, in two time periods...? When designing your recruitment strategy keep in mind your member profile. You have already worked out the kinds of thing that people want to be offered. These are the things that should be offered. Then think about how best to reach the best types of potential member. What places do these prospective members most likely frequent? Some segments of your target audience will respond well to flyers, others to an announcement by a counsellor or rabbi. Work out what to offer to whom, and how. Do they have special interests? What kind of publicity would attract their attention? If you get stuck, try to think back to when you first became involved. What attracted you? How were you recruited? If you weren't, how did you hear about the group?
HOW WILL WE FIND NEW MEMBERS?
As you begin your recruitment drive, keep in mind that attracting new members is a very difficult task. You will need a clear plan and the cooperation of all of your members. You may also want someone to act as Recruitment Director.
Get everyone involved. Ask current members to help think about how to attract people like them. Have your current members identify people they know who may want to get involved and personally invite them to attend a meeting. Word-of-mouth is the best and least expensive type of publicity that you can use. Get as many members as possible to talk to as many people as possible about your Jewish group. Tell people what you have to offer them. Ask them about themselves (and really listen) to create a good relationship. Tell them how the organisation could benefit from someone like them. Let them know how their talents, skills and interests would help the organisation, and how the organisation would help them.
Personal Contact and More Involvement
After you've successfully completed your recruitment and orientation, spend time getting to know your membership and let them get to know you too. Talk to all new members about their skills, interests and previous experiences. Once you have this information, it will be easy to get new members involved in organising your group's projects. Get new members involved in a project that makes use of their talents. This is the MOST CRITICAL TIME in your recruitment efforts. It is crucial that new members feel included and see that their contributions are important. Otherwise, you will lose the member. (Despite your best efforts, some people will decide not to join. Allow them to leave gracefully with an invitation to consider joining sometime in the future.)
Remember also that students come from diverse backgrounds, don’t make assumptions about their previous experience. You may even want to target specific populations either by year or school, area of study, place of residence or cultural affiliation. Team up with other campus organisation to appeal to specific student interests and concerns.