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Recruiting members and keeping them active

What is in this guide

  1. Why do you need to recruit members and keep them active
  2. Important things to know about recruitment
  3. How to set up a membership system
  4. How to develop a recruitment strategy and plan
  5. How to keep members active
  1. Why do you need to recruit members and keep them active

All organisations have a reason to exist and work to do - having active members may be crucial to implementing your plans successfully. This guide is aimed at organisations that have a membership base. It will help you to set up a system for membership, a strategy for recruitment and a plan for keeping your members involved and active.

Organisations usually have members because:

Your constitution should be clear about your goals and about the role and tasks of members. The constitution together with your action plans should guide you about who you should target for recruitment. For example a political party may wish to recruit as many people as possible, but only people who agree with its policies. A trade union may wish to recruit all the workers in a factory, regardless of their views. A welfare organisation may only want members who are prepared to work as volunteer counsellors for a certain number of hours every week.

Members are the base of most organisations and we should take them very seriously. Organisations often get off to a good start and recruit many people, only to lose them after a few months. Once you have recruited someone, you should work hard to keep them happy and active in the organisation. There is a natural process in organisations where:

  1. Some of your supporters in the community will become members
  2. Some of your members will become committed activists
  3. Some of your activists will become leaders.

If you want to keep on generating more activists and leaders for the future, you have to have programmes to develop members into activists, and activists into leaders.

  1. Important things to know about recruiting members and keeping them active

Amongst many reasons that organisations have for recruiting members the following are the common ones:

The more different types of people you have in your group/ organisation, the more representative it is of your target community. This will ensure greater community support for your group/ organisation.

Members bring skills and experience that they can use to benefit the organisation.

More members mean that you can do more work as an organisation.

The more members you have in your group/organisation the more different ideas and opinions are expressed and discussed, this will lead to better decisions being taken.

Who should you recruit as members?

Think carefully about the members you want to recruit. Look at the aims and programmes of your organisation and the kind of people you need. Target people who:

Membership system

Every organisation needs a proper system to record members, their contact details and their status. Discuss the type of system that will work best for your organisation. Here are some of the issues you should consider:

Recruitment strategy and methods

Before you start a recruitment drive, make sure you have a proper strategy in place.

Keeping members active and involved

Recruiting members should be only the beginning - if you do not manage your members well, communicate with them and motivate them to work for the organisation, you will soon have to recruit more members. You should have a clear plan and process for keeping members involved.

On the next few pages we give more detailed tips on how to do everything discussed in this section.

  1. How to set up a membership system

Type of system

Discuss the type of membership system that will suit your organisation. For all the systems listed below you will still need a form for members to apply. You can give some proof of membership like a card or a badge, or you can simply keep a register of members. Here are a few different types of membership to choose from:

Process for joining

Once you have decided on the type of system you have to develop a process for joining.

  1. How to develop a recruitment strategy and plan

Set your goals and targets

Do not start recruiting members until you are clear about what members your organisation needs. Think about your organisation's goals and plans and discuss who you should target to become members - for example: are you looking for people from a specific constituency or people with specific skills or people with specific views.

Decide a target number for how many members you want to recruit and where you are most likely to find them. Set a deadline for by when you want to achieve your goals and target number.

Decide the message you want to communicate to potential members

Why should anyone join your organisation? Unless recruiters can answer this question, they will not be able to persuade people to join. Discuss what you can offer your target constituency and how you will persuade them to join.

Identify where potential new members can be found

Once you have decided who your target members are, you have to discuss where you can find them. You have to know your area well and understand the constituency you are targeting. If our constituency is, for example, school learners, you can simply go to all schools in the area. If you want to recruit more broadly from a geographic community you have to look at the best way to find new members. Work out whether you should recruit by calling a public meeting, or by going from door-to-door, or by approaching organisations and sectors and going to their meetings and events, or through sending recruiters to busy public places like shops and taxi ranks.

 Recruitment methods

  1. Keeping members active

Many organisations lose members as fast as they recruit them. There are common problems we all have in keeping members involved and active. Here are some typical ones:

People usually join an organisation because they want to do something for their community. But they also want something out of being a member. You should find out what motivates members and make sure you manage them so that they stay motivated and involved. Members are usually motivated by:

Here are some of the things you should do to keep members motivated and involved:


Meeting skills   |   Inputs and verbal reports   |   Executive portfolios   |   Conflict management
Planning   |   Understanding your constituency   |   Recruiting membersGuide to Constitutions
Guide to the Nonprofit Organisations Act  |  Legal structures commonly used   
Education & Training guide

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