Food for Thought

by Abigail Solazzo


We have over 30 chapter meetings taking place throughout the country this fall. For those chapters holding meetings, this presents a face-to-face opportunity to engage and recruit members and volunteers. While it is always a good idea to have volunteers complete a volunteer interest form or give prospective members a brochure, we want to apply different strategies that personalize the experience for newcomers and first-timers to encourage them to get involved.

Welcome gifts – Many of our chapters give welcome gifts to first-timers or prospective members as well as current members. This gesture is personal and appreciated, especially if it opens the door to strike up a conversation with a potential volunteer or member.

Meeting partner – Think back to your first time attending a chapter meeting. Perhaps it was intimidating or overwhelming not knowing anyone or what to expect. To ensure prospective members have a positive experience, select a handful of meeting veterans to be designated as a their ‘meeting partner’. The meeting partner will be paired with a first-timer and act as a liaison throughout the meeting. Ensure newcomers are introduced to chapter leaders, exhibitors and other members, or accompany them to special events or sessions to ensure they feel welcome.   

New member advisors – This role takes the meeting partner strategy one step further. Like the meeting partner, new member advisors are there to ensure your new members have a positive experience throughout their first year (and beyond) of membership. Once again, you’ll need a select group of veteran members to be matched with new members. An advisor provides new members the opportunity have someone they can call with questions or concerns related to their membership, chapter involvement, or industry-related issues at any point throughout the year.

Specify the jobs or tasks – While each chapter distributes a call for volunteers, it doesn’t always result in many potential volunteers. At your next chapter meeting, specify the exact jobs that need to be completed or roles to be filled, giving members a very clear picture of what to expect. Then approach members directly and personally invite them to help with a job or task.

Shadow a volunteer for the day – Encourage members to ‘get a taste’ of what it takes to be a volunteer. Invite members to shadow your current volunteers while at the meeting. They will have the chance to ask questions, learn more about the role, and experience the rewarding role our volunteers play in putting together meetings and events for members.