*The information in this article was provided by the Governance Committee and Vincentian Life: Conference
In the previous chapter, we focused on how to retain the members you have and how to help them to grow. Keep in mind that in order for the Conference to grow we need to be able to attract new members. New members have the ability to renew a Conference with fresh new ideas and experiences. History has shown that Conferences which do not engage or welcome new members become stagnant and often close down.
Imagine the benefits of gaining a new member is like finding a diamond in the slag at the Kimberly mines. You have no idea of its real value until you chip away the exterior to reveal its inner composition (get to know her/him), and spend time polishing its surface (provide training, motivation and direction).
In this chapter, we will focus on the techniques to use to bring new members into the Conference so that you can discover those hidden diamonds.
It has been proven that the best way to recruit new people for your organization is the personal invitation. Challenge every member of your Conference to invite one friend or family member to join the Conference. Your Conference would easily double in size. This is because people have a tendency to trust the recommendations of people close to them, people whose opinion they value.
If you have enjoyed being a Vincentian, then you probably have talked about it to family members and friends. Spreading the word about something good can prove to be contagious. If being a member of the Society has truly had a positive impact on your life, then you likely want to share that with others.
Start by encouraging them to attend a meeting. Invite them to participate in some activity of the Society. Invite them to accompany you on a home visit to observe how we serve those needing help. Exposure to who we are and what we do is one sure way to make someone want to know more. Of course, keep in mind that all you can do is invite them. It is the Holy Spirit that will move them to sign on the dotted line.
INVITATION TO SERVE
After the personal invitation, the next best recruitment method available is the Invitation to Serve. The Invitation to Serve is a proven recruitment method that is used for starting new Conferences and recruiting new members for existing Conferences. This is touched on in the chapter titled “Getting Started.” This method provides an organized approach for recruitment and has a proven track record throughout the United States and has been used for more than 15 years.
There is no need to go into detail about this recruitment program here. All of the details are described in the program documentation which is available on the National Council website under Growing New Conferences/Councils. Suffice it to say that everything you need for a successful recruitment is spelled out in the program description. All you have to do is follow the step-by-step plan.
Another recruitment method that has been in use is the parish ministry fair. Essentially, the parish picks out a particular weekend on which they invite all of the parish ministries to have a display table with information about their particular ministry and invite parishioners to join. Members of each ministry provide brochures and other information and answer questions the people have about their ministry.
This can be an effective way to get people to join many ministries. It can also be overwhelming to people who are given too much to choose from. For an individual ministry, you are faced with people being offered too many choices, a lot of competition, and the possibility that you will be overlooked depending on your location. Realistically, more time is required and much smaller numbers result from this type of recruitment. However, it does give your organization visibility and an opportunity to talk about the good works of the Society.
In any recruitment effort, we must keep in mind the ethnic and cultural differences of the community in which we live. The membership in a Conference ideally should reflect ethnic and cultural diversity. An example would be if a community has a large populace of Hispanic/Latino people, that membership should be reflected within the Conference. The same holds true with Black Americans, Native Americans, and other ethnic or racial groups. Conferences should be aware of and exposed to the cultural competencies needed to service those in need regardless of ethnic, racial or cultural background.
Did you know the Society was founded by a group of college students? Young adults were at the very center of our existence and growth as an organization. Youth and young adults represent the future of the Society. It is imperative that we make every effort to attract and welcome young people into our Conference. This very important topic is discussed in more detail in another chapter on Youth and Young Adult Involvement.
The biggest failure that occurs in any recruitment effort is when existing members do not welcome the new recruits. In this case, we are not referring to saying “hello” and shaking their hands. “Welcoming” means to allow them to participate in the life of the Conference.
“Welcoming” includes the following:
- Allowing new members an opportunity to attend meetings on a regular basis. Sometimes our existing members are unwilling to accommodate changes to attract new members. For example, often times Conferences will hold their meetings during the day because the majority of the existing members are retired and daytime meetings are attractive and convenient. However, this does not allow people who work during the daytime hours the flexibility to attend the meetings. The existing members could adjust their meeting schedule to accommodate the new recruits as a sign of acceptance.
- The same holds true with doing home visits. Sometimes our members again set all home visit schedules for daytime hours with no regard for its new member’s availability.
- Our existing members need to partner with the new recruits to make them feel welcome in addition to training them. Sometimes our members are so accustomed to a familiar partner they sidestep the opportunity to partner with new members.
- This is also true with activities other than Home Visits. For example, certain members are used to doing a particular job, such as organizing and maintaining the food pantry. They feel ownership of that work and will not allow anyone else to help.
As mentioned in the previous chapter, one of the fastest ways to lose members is to not make them feel welcome.
There are proven ways to bring new people into the Conference: personal invitation, Invitation to Serve, and ministry fairs. However, no effort will prove successful if you do not welcome the new recruits and get them active.
The Leadership Task Force has developed a Conference and Council Leadership Training Curriculum centered on webinars developed to help current and potential leaders in the Society. The webinars are available in both live and recorded form. One of the webinars is titled “Recruitment and Succession.” You can access the curriculum and webinar descriptions at the following link: Conference and Council Leadership Training Curriculum – St. Vincent de Paul USA Member Site (ssvpusa.org)
The direct link to the “Recruitment and Succession” webinar is https://vimeo.com/461935919.