January 13th, 2008
Carrots and Cultivation
By John Ensslin
Frequently when we discuss growing SPJ membership, the emphasis tends to be on recruiting new members. Not as much attention is paid to retaining members.
This is unfortunate. In many ways, keeping a member should be easier than finding a new one. After all, existing members already have said “yes” to SPJ once if not several times.
Yet, it is a sad fact that the average SPJ membership lasts about 2.5 years. If we could somehow lengthen that average and cut down on the “churn” of membership, our numbers really would begin to grow.
Retention, the other big “R”, was the subject of a recent meeting of the SPJ Membership Committee. We brainstormed and compared best practices when it comes to hanging onto our members. Here are a few of the ideas that came up:
Deep discounts for members
Bill Bleyer of Long Island SPJ said his chapter rewards existing members by providing deep discounts on the price of nearly every event that the chapter holds.
Currently, the national SPJ office mails out lapel pins to reward them for significant milestones such as their 15th or 20th year as a member.
Why not take this idea a step further on the local level? Find someway to celebrate a membership anniversary by offering them a free ticket to an upcoming event.
Or in the case of say a 40 or 50 year member, invite them to your local awards ceremony for a moment of recognition.
Thank you notes
John Houtari of East Tennessee SPJ has a worthwhile practice. Whenever John gets a notice that renewing members have paid their dues, he e-mails them a thank you note. The fact that he takes a bit of time to do that goes a long way toward holding his chapter together.
The Post Graduate Deal
Membership Coordinator Linda Hall pointed out that SPJ is currently offering a special deal on the new expanded post-graduate members. For a limited time, recent college graduates can pay $72 for two years of dues and get their third year free.
Local chapters might do well by offering this deal to the parents of graduating journalism students as a thoughtful graduation present.
Job hunt advice
Another way to hang onto your student SPJ members after they graduate is to make a concerted effort to help them with job hunting advice and tips on potential jobs. This service can go a long way toward building loyalty.
Many chapters are currently operating without someone designated specifically as a membership chair. This means the chapter’s overworked president frequently is the only person available to make calls to people whose memberships are about to expire. Or worse yet, the calls are never made.
Make it a priority in your chapter this year for someone to take on this basic responsibility. Hanging onto a member is just as valuable as finding a new one.
Give your membership directors a little bit of leverage with folks who have been slow to renew. If you have an upcoming event of interest, dangle a free ticket as an incentive to renew.
Programs for Pros
Sometimes in our zeal for teaching young journalists, we forget to do programs aimed at the interestes of mid-career journalists.
Sarah Bauer of Minnesota SPJ suggested an excellent program idea. Host a session for reporters and editors who are trying to balance the demands of motherhood and journalism.
If you have your own strategies for creating the glue that holds a chapter together, share them with us and we’ll post them in a future Garden Center report.
Garden Center update
You may recall in the second posting to this blog on Nov. 12 when I described the frustrations of trying to recruit a talented but reluctant colleague to SPJ. (See “A Tough Nut”)
We’ll the Gardener is pleased to report that “Gywn” handed him a check last week and will be the Colorado chapter’s newest member next week.
What finally helped win Gynn over were some steady (but not obnoxious) reminders about the values of SPJ plus a free ticket to a sold-out SPJ breakfast with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
SPJ by the numbers
Membership this week: 8,926
Membership one month ago: 9,201
Membership one year ago: 8,753