Meet The Volunteers Driving Membership Recruitment

The boost in membership is thanks to dedicated volunteers

5 December 2008
vol Lee Stogner [far left] explains the benefits of joining IEEE at a conference.

Getting new members to join IEEE doesn't happen on its own. It takes the hard work of a dedicated group of volunteers from the IEEE Membership Recruitment and Recovery Committee. As of September more than 57 000 new members had joined this year, some 3300 more than the number joining during the same period last year.

The MRRC has two goals: recruiting new members and making sure that current members stay. IEEE relies on more than a thousand volunteers around the world, not a paid sales force, as its primary recruiting team. Along with those are eight staff members from IEEE Member and Geographic Activities in Piscataway, N.J., who provide strategic, logistical, and administrative support.

The committee is composed of a membership-development chair and two members who represent society membership development. The MRRC helps membership-development chairs and volunteers from each IEEE region perform a variety of recruiting activities. They include setting up recruiting booths at IEEE conferences, handing out recruiting cards and fliers that list the benefits of joining the organization, and contacting former members to encourage them to renew. The volunteers meet once a month via the Internet to compare their efforts. And they take what they learn back to their sections to try to get more members involved in recruitment.

"We want to make every section, chapter, and student branch realize that everyone can be a membership-development volunteer," says Senior Member Lee Stogner, chair of the MRRC and director-elect for Region 3. "If every member recruited just one person, IEEE membership would double."

To provide the volunteers with guidelines, the staff and volunteer team developed the IEEE Membership Development Manual. It outlines what chairs and volunteers need to know about recruiting members, including an explanation of IEEE benefits, how to analyze their section's report on membership statistics, and where to look for prospective members.

OPPORTUNITIES It should be no surprise that some of the best places to find new and existing members are the recruiting booths at IEEE conferences, according to Senior Member Marko Delimar, vice chair of Region 8 membership activities. The booths are stocked with fliers describing member benefits, and volunteers are on hand to answer such frequently asked questions as "What is the value of membership?" and "What if I can't afford the dues?"

"Many potential members do not belong to IEEE because they've never been exposed to the organization and don't know its benefits," Delimar points out. Having someone around to answer questions also helps retain current members, according to Stogner. "Sometimes it's that one question they can't find an answer to that's been holding them back from renewing," he says.

Staffing booths at IEEE conferences has helped the South Africa Section increase its membership by nearly 25 percent in the past three years, says Member Saurabh Sinha, the section's chair-elect. "Seeing the impact of my work motivates me to keep volunteering," Sinha adds.

Another popular recruiting tool is the Member-Get-a-Member card. The business cards, which include the URL of IEEE's online membership site, are part of the membership recruitment kit sent to the volunteers each year. Each volunteer's name and member number are printed on the cards so they'll get credit for the members who join, provided prospective members enter the volunteer's information when they fill out the membership application. The cards, which resulted in about 14 000 new members last year, earn volunteers a US $15 discount on their membership dues. The volunteers also can earn up to $90 in credit, which they can apply to the purchase of IEEE products or donate to the IEEE Foundation.

Starting next year, those Member-Get-a-Member cards won't be limited to volunteers. All members will get the cards when they join or renew, and they'll also be eligible for discounts and credit toward future purchases.

Other recruiting methods rely on joint section or chapter activities with student branches. They include discussions on the importance of staying with IEEE after graduation; advertising upcoming IEEE events in local newspapers; and, with the company's permission, posting notices of IEEE events on office bulletin boards.

KEEPING IN TOUCH One Saturday each month Stogner hosts a Webcast for more than 50 section and society membership-development volunteers from around the world to review their member statistics, discuss what recruiting methods are working, and go over their plans to boost participation for the following month. The volunteers generate reports using SAMIEEE, an online database that breaks down membership statistics section by section. With the program, volunteers can tell whether membership grew after a recruiting drive at a conference and what other activities may have spurred people to join.

"When someone in Hawaii wakes up at 4 a.m. on a Saturday just to stay informed about how to grow membership, that's a testament to the dedication these volunteers have," says John Day, senior manager of IEEE Membership development, the staff team that provides support to the MRRC. There is also an online community for membership-development volunteers, where they can share recruitment advice, ask each other questions, and check out analytical reports.

What motivates the volunteers to do so much work? "I want to help IEEE continue as an organization that's worth joining," Delimar says. "To accomplish this, we must continue to grow, because each new member brings something special to IEEE."

FOR MORE INFORMATION about membership-development efforts, visit http://www.ieee.org/md.

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