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Membership Recruitment and Retention

Recruiting new members is vital to any student chapter. New members bring new ideas, energy, talents, and leaders to achieve the chapter's goals and a commitment to forestry and the natural resource profession.

Setting the Stage

Everyone needs to be involved with membership recruitment. The first step is to hold a planning meeting with current members, leadership, and the faculty representative. Agenda items for this meeting should include:

  • Review current chapter goals and objectives. Current members cannot recruit if they do not understand the chapter goals, objectives, and the SAF mission statement. This may be an opportunity to decide if the chapter's goals and objectives for the year or semester need revising.
  • Identify potential new members. Establish a list of potential members that current members, leadership and the faculty representative know. Then, make a second list of potential members that you may not know including freshman, transfer students and graduate students.
  • Establish an achievable goal. Consider your current member numbers and the number of potential members. Not all individuals you approach will be interested in SAF membership. However, with a strong recruitment plan and commitment to membership, your chapter numbers will grow! Don't set the goal too high. You want chapter members to feel an accomplishment at the end of the recruitment drive.
Implementing the Recruitment Plan

Direct contact with potential members is the best way to recruit new members. It allows for discussion of chapter's projects, future speakers, goals and most importantly what membership means to you. After talking with potential members, invite them to the next meeting to experience SAF. For potential members you do not have direct contact with, try some of these techniques:
  • Ask professors if you can have 2-3 minutes at the beginning of class to talk about SAF, the student chapter and invite individuals to a meeting.
  • Request a list of forestry or natural resource students from the Registrar's Office. Privacy policies may require that a faculty representative request the list. Even so, the Registrar' Office still may not be able to share the list. If you do obtain a mailing list, mail a flyer or send an e-mail about the meeting or information about the Society of American Foresters.
  • Create fliers to hand out to students and post around classrooms and bulletin boards. Promote refreshments at the meeting—"feed them and they will come".
Hold a welcome or orientation chapter meeting. In this meeting, you can discuss:
  • SAF student membership which includes:
    • 8 issues of the Journal of Forestry
    • 12 issues of The Forestry Source, newspaper covering the latest critical issues facing natural resources
    • Access to the members-only section of the SAF website
    • SAF's student Social Network to communicate with natural resource students from around the country
  • Explore the networking opportunities available by attending local SAF chapter, division, and state society meetings, and the SAF national convention. You can also discuss future SAF meetings the chapter will be attending and how networking can lead to life-long contacts.
  • Describe chapter social events throughout the semester or year. Does your chapter develop a spring or fall picnic, ice cream socials, camping trips, holiday party, or senior luncheon or dinner?
  • Discuss the educational opportunities with future speakers, for example, learning the different aspects of forestry including urban forestry, consulting forestry and watershed management.
  • Talk about future community service projects including "Walk in the Woods", Habitat for Humanity, Project Learning Tree program at a local school or Adopt-a-Highway.
Even if you do not hold an orientation meeting, make sure the following materials are available at the first meeting:
  • SAF student applications
  • Copies of the Journal of Forestry and The Forestry Source
  • Flyers about SAF's website
  • Copies of SAF Merchandise Catalog
  • If applicable, information on SAF's National Convention
  • Flyers about the student electronic discussion list
There are several ideas to get potential members to sign up for member during the orientation meeting including:
  • Have the faculty representative endorse applications during the meeting.
  • Have the chapter send in the applications to save time and money for student members.
Involving New Members

Formally welcome new members and discover their interests and skills. The more you know about your membership, the easier it will be to get them involved in your chapter's projects.

Here are tips for getting new members involved:
  • Ask for volunteers to do a certain job. Then, note who actually shows up. This doesn't mean that those who show up are ultimately interested in just that particular job. Their real interest may be getting involved in anything, or in meeting other members.
  • Interview new members by phone and ask them direct questions about opportunities for their involvement and their related interests. This should be done for all new members on a general basis, rather than "calling around" for volunteers for a particular task at the last minute.
  • Hold a small group sessions of new members with a leadership team member. Stimulate informal talk about interests. Be sure to ask someone to take notes.
  • At the first meeting of the year, place signs around the room indicating primary areas of your chapter's activities. Take a "working recess" to give everyone a chance to go to the area(s) of their main interest, talk to designated members of the leadership team, receive special materials and sign up.
  • Have each member fill out a Membership Information Card to indicate their interests and other information valuable to the chapter. This card should be tailored to fit your chapter. It might be helpful to locate a computer expert, artist, pickup truck or someone who has access to a special place for an informal meeting.
Membership Retention

The moment a member is recruited, the retention process should begin. Make new members feel welcomed, get them involved and make sure that they are aware of all the benefits and services they will received.

Here are some retention tips for student chapters:

  • Hand out a checklist to student members before they leave for the holiday break. The checklist can remind students to pay national dues, inform student leadership if they will have a new phone number or address during the spring semester and mark the dates of the first meeting in the spring semester on their calendar.
  • If your chapter has a bulletin board, post a reminder notice about renewing SAF membership for next year. Don't forget to keep a membership benefits list posted.
  • In March, the faculty representative will receive a list of members who have not renewed their membership. The student leadership should personally ask each member to renew his or her membership. You may want to follow-up with an e-mail highlighting the benefits of student membership including networking, Journal of Forestry, The Forestry Source, student discussion list and the value of being involved in their professional Society.
These are just suggestions to recruiting new members, discovering their interests and retaining members. Working together as a group, your chapter will discover more ideas that will help you grow...and don't forget to have FUN!


Discovering Member's Interest, Office of Student Activities, Western Illinois University

The SAF Leadership Manual, "Membership Retention", Society of American Foresters