When the question “Who is responsible for recruiting new members in a club?” is asked in Club Officer Training, the typical response is “every member!” While having every member building membership is ideal, there is one club officer who focuses on member recruitment and retention: the Vice President Membership (VPM)
The VPM role is critical to club success in one of the most challenging aspects of sustaining a thriving club: membership. It’s also a role that can be very rewarding.
“I have been a Toastmaster for 23 years and served in many officer roles multiple times,” says Starlett Drader, DTM, a member of the Speak N’ Eagan Club in Eagan, Minnesota, and an Area Director. “VPM is my very favorite officer position because I get to meet potential members, help them see why Toastmasters can help them, and then watch them grow and shine in their newfound confidence and abilities.”
In addition to being a crucial part of others’ growth, VPMs grow their own communication and leadership skills in several areas, including:
- Networking and relationship building
- Strategic planning
These skills are built through thoughtful execution of typical VPM responsibilities:
1 Recruit new members.
Recruiting new members can involve direct personal invites, collaborating with the Vice President Public Relations (VPPR), and training members on how to invite guests. Recruiting new members does not have to be solely the responsibility of the VPM.
“I’ve learned in my role as VPM to lead everyone in learning how to invite guests [to meetings], invite them to be members, and together make sure we are meeting members’ needs,” says Pat Croal, DTM, of the Saturday Morning Live! Club in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
2 Initiate contact with guests and make them feel welcome.
Sometimes the VPM may communicate with first-time guests prior to a meeting (for example, when a guest initiates contact with the club, or the VPM is copied on a communication with a prospective guest). In those cases, the VPM might email or call the prospective guest to encourage them to attend and to provide information ahead of time.
“VPM is my very favorite officer position because I get to meet potential members, help them see why Toastmasters can help them, and then watch them grow and shine in their newfound confidence and abilities.”—Starlett Drader, DTM
When guests arrive at the meeting, the VPM can welcome the guest, and ask what brought them to the meeting. Knowing why a guest is at the meeting (e.g., a desire for skill development, a member invited them, etc.) can help customize the follow-up to them and how the benefits of membership are presented. The VPM can also ensure that the Club President welcomes the guest at the start of the meeting by providing the President with the guest’s name ahead of time.
3 Provide information to guests.
The VPM should be prepared to answer questions regarding membership and to provide information to guests. Even if a club has physical guest packets, a Toastmasters virtual guest packet should be provided in a follow-up email (and possibly in the chat in an online meeting). In addition, clubs might want to supplement the Toastmasters guest packet with unique information about their club, especially how to join.
4 Manage the process of converting guests to members.
The process of converting guests to members should be seamless. Consider evaluating your current process and creating a “Guest to Member” checklist, including:
☑ Following up with a guest within one to two days after the meeting (and even during the meeting, with a guest breakout room in online meetings).
☑ Filling out the membership application for a new member and submitting their dues.
☑ Communicating with prospects prior to the next meeting (contact former guests and invite them to an upcoming meeting).
☑ Ensuring that the new member is added to the club website and other club communications (calendar invites, newsletter, etc.).
☑ Handing the person off to the Vice President Education (VPE) for the scheduling and assignment of a mentor. The VPM could also be the officer who manages the Club Mentor Program.
☑ Getting the new member started in Pathways (if the mentor doesn’t).
5 Conduct membership building programs.
The VPM, along with other club officers, organizes and promotes the club’s participation in the Toastmasters membership building programs: Smedley Award (August 1–September 30), Talk Up Toastmasters (February 1–March 31), and Beat the Clock (May 1–June 30).
The VPM can take the lead in organizing open houses or special events during each of the membership program time periods. They can ask members to specifically focus on inviting guests, even finding out from members the names of people who they plan on inviting. To increase the likelihood of guests becoming members, hold the guest-focused events at the same time and location as the typical club meetings.
Another approach to membership building and retention is to consider every meeting a special event, and to create a high-quality experience for both members and guests.
“I prefer to focus on making every meeting an extraordinary experience,” says Lucinda Harman, DTM, currently the VPM for the Modikwa Toastmasters in Steelpoort, South Africa.
For many clubs, combining high-quality meetings with a few open houses (and getting members committed to invite specific guests), along with consistent follow-up, is the winning recipe for success.
Additionally, consider aspects that make your club unique, and target your invites to guests for whom your club culture would resonate.
6 Work with other club officers to strategize solutions to member challenges.
Having club officer executive committee meetings at least monthly to discuss member challenges and make action plans early and regularly will help the club avoid panic and despair later in the Toastmasters program year. Consider conducting a Moments of Truth or a member survey to find areas to improve your club’s quality and to make your club one that members want to stay in and guests want to join!
DaWane Wanek, DTM, District 50 Director and a member of the Tyler Evening Toastmasters in Texas, encourages VPMs to show their enthusiasm and embrace the role. “Own it,” says Wanek. “Don’t be afraid to engage prospects and make them feel like they want to be part of something special.”
Diane Windingland, DTM is a presentation coach from St. Paul, Minnesota, and a member of two clubs: PowerTalk Toastmasters and Readership Toastmasters. Learn more at www.virtualspeechcoach.com.