By Betty Purkey-Huck, Rocky Mountain Regional Leader and Chair, Chapter Health and Retention Committee
Oh my gosh, there were only three members at my chapter meeting last night! What’s going on?
Has that ever happened to you? You may be used to 12 members attending your meetings and suddenly only three or four are showing up. You haven’t been paying attention and all at once you notice and realize that attendance at your meetings has been declining over the last six months. Maybe you need to look closer at what is happening.
The big question is why attendance has dropped and what can you do about it. The first thing is to talk to your chapter members, both those who are attending and those who have not attended in a while. Could you bring members back if you changed something about your meeting? Is the meeting date or time a problem? Perhaps people’s schedules have changed and it is time to look at a different day of the week for your chapter meetings. Maybe people would find it easier to come if the meeting time was a little later so they didn’t have to rush from work. One chapter found that members were having difficulty driving at night so they changed their meetings to lunchtime instead. Or, maybe your members are getting tired of bringing a dish for a full meal. Our CO, Erie-2 chapter found a solution to this. Watch this video from Chapter Co-Leaders Candy Payne and Nancy Liebetrau to hear about what they did to address declining attendance at their meetings.
The key is to find out if your members are happy with things in the chapter. You need to know what your members would like to continue, what they would like to start, and what they would like to stop, if anything. One way to do that is to hand out blank cards at the meeting and have them fill them out anonymously. Summarize the results and have a discussion.
If some of your members feel the meetings have gotten a little routine, one way to add interest is to invite a speaker from outside the chapter. DFW provides a quarterly speaker list that includes representatives of our Featured Grantees who may be available to participate in your chapter meeting in person or by Skype. You may also be able to find a former Peace Corps volunteer who served in the featured country, someone who immigrated from the featured country, or perhaps someone who has traveled to the country. One chapter found a local Vietnamese restaurant, and the owners were delighted to come and talk about their home country and culture.
Researching the culture of the featured country, cooking their cuisine, and talking about the culture and customs and the differences and similarities between us creates an educational and lively discussion. Sharing the women’s stories that are in the Project Fact Sheet also makes the project seem more real and personal. Having different members present the featured project adds interest to the meeting because different presenters have different styles. Sharing hosting responsibilities also creates added interest and can strengthen membership commitment.
Do something different in your meetings now and then; e.g. invite men to your meeting for the holidays or some other occasion, or have a “bring a friend” meeting. One chapter began using the DFW Dinner Affirmation and found it brought deeper meaning to the meal and the meeting. It is very important to remember friendship, comaraderie and fun at the meeting. Celebrate birthdays, new babies, and weddings as part of your meeting. Get creative and you’ll come up with an amazing number of interesting ideas!
Each chapter is different, and it is vitally important to do what works best for your chapter. If you listen to your members, your chapter will thrive.