Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Sara Hwang, International Vice President for Division 1.
As we head back to school for the fall, I’m sure most of you have started brainstorming membership recruitment strategies. The International Officer Team and I recently hosted a webinar on Membership Recruitment Best Practices to hear about the challenges you’re facing and what’s working for your chapter.
From listening to members and from our own experiences, we know being a part of Phi Theta Kappa enhances the community college experience; so we want to find more ways to encourage more eligible students to accept membership so they can benefit from our programs and resources.
Below are some of the questions we posed to the webinar attendees. Responses from attendees are in italics.
Why did you accept membership to Phi Theta kappa, yet other eligible students on your campus did not?
“I accepted membership because of the scholarships; but after joining, I realized that I have a lot to learn.”
While it is a good incentive to attract eligible members, Phi Theta Kappa has a lot more to offer than just scholarships. I personally have built my skills in professional development and networking and have grown as an academic scholar.
“Almost every member I have talked to found the membership letter vague and unclear. They always ask, ‘What is this?’ ”
While the invitation from Phi Theta Kappa may seem mysterious and sound too good to be true, it’s up to us as campus leaders to put a friendly face to the invitation since we already have that presence on campus. Establish that relationship with eligible students so they’ll feel welcome and will come to you with questions.
In your experience, what is the value of membership?
“Membership allows networking on a regional and international level. Networking is so important in today’s world, no matter what your career field is. Information is so valuable, and only through networking can you meet new people and gain other perspectives.”
One of the most important lessons I learned through Phi Theta Kappa is how important networking is. Networking is not just being friendly; it’s about starting, building and maintaining a relationship.
“Working on the Honors in Action Project forces you to dig deeper into what you want to say for all to learn with the least amount of words. With the research you learn to follow the trail to dig deeper as to why someone writes what they do instead of just taking the surface of a topic.”
Not only do you grow professionally, but you also grow academically. The Honors in Action Project gives your chapter a chance to learn about a topic in such depth. It’s not just research though — you have to understand the problem and see how you can tackle the problem from different angles.
“When I joined, not only did I benefit from scholarship opportunities, but I was able to connect with and form lasting relationships with people that were just like me! It gives you a sense of belonging.”
Going into a community college, I did not feel like I could make friendships. Through Phi Theta Kappa, I have joined a community of high-achieving scholars who motivate each other. For me personally, I didn’t have confidence in myself; but my advisors and fellow members saw potential in me and encouraged me to take more leadership roles in the community.
Is your chapter striving to grow? How?
“A big reason why many members from our chapter joined is because people from our college tried to recruit early. We actually had people from PTK come talk to us in high school on what PTK was and what it stood for.”
It’s very important to get all the information out there so eligible students know what benefits they can take advantage of. Getting that information out there early can help those high school students to have a goal in mind as they start community college.
“We are a small chapter, so I have been taking the time to meet with members one on one versus just a group meeting. Most of our members are new and have no idea what we do. Also I let them know to bring a friend along with them; that way they feel in their comfort zone, and we have a potential new member or provisional member.”
That’s a great way to start opening communication channels between officers and members. Officers and Phi Theta Kappa programming may seem a little intimidating at first, but putting yourself out there first will allow students to feel more comfortable. Break down that barrier and build a personal relationship with them.
What does member recruitment look like on your campus?
As a new member, some of the most important information I received came during a new member orientation from an advisor and current chapter officers. Hearing the stories of how the current members benefited from Phi Theta Kappa helped me see how I could benefit as well. Nothing beats a personal testimony.
As we progressed with the webinar, we came across some struggles facing membership recruitment as well. Two main obstacles were the membership fee and how to establish a relationship with a stranger.
As a Phi Theta Kappa member, you already have a presence on campus, so begin building that relationship. Reach out to college administration and explore the possibility of setting up a scholarship for eligible students who can’t afford the membership fee.
By being a part of this organization, you’ve already established yourself as a role model. Show others you are someone they can go to. Be approachable, and put a friendly face to the name of the organization. Remember, you were once in their shoes.
I hope you’ll incorporate some of these techniques on your own campus. It was an honor to host this webinar and get all of your input. As always, your IO team is available for questions or even a quick conversation. Feel free to contact us through email at email@example.com or on Facebook. We’re only a few keystrokes or a phone call away.