QBARS - v28n4 Notes on Being a New Member of Seven Chapters

Notes on Being a New Member of Seven Chapters
Jane McKay, Kings Park, New York

The ARS has far too large a turnover of new members and I feel that more must be done to hang onto our members. I feel the first step must be taken by the local chapter when a new member joins. Allow me to tell you my experiences in joining, as an associate, a number of chapters.
In November 1973 I sent off checks to two chapters. It was February 1974 before I received a membership card and newsletter from one chapter. It was the first week of March before the second chapter responded to a "What happened" letter by sending their current newsletter plus back issues.
In December I joined five other chapters with the following results:
Chapter 1. Membership card was received almost immediately, and since then letters regarding meetings, copy of membership list, plus their winter newsletter with good articles.
Chapter 2. Received a membership card and one letter informing me of meeting, but not until February.
Chapter 3. Received a membership card promptly and nothing since.
Chapter 4. Membership card almost immediately plus letter in February, two months later, regarding meeting and garden tour.
Chapter 5. Potomac Valley Chapter sent a membership card immediately plus an envelope containing the following: (1) a cover letter listing officers and directors, a list of all committees and their chairmen and members, a list of '73-'74 meetings showing themes, place and as far as they knew programs. (2) Spray schedule. (3) A "Source of Supply" list. (4) A book list. (5) Seed distribution list. (6) Membership list. (7) A report on Gable Study Group, including list of Gable hybrids to help in identification. (8) A committee report (Wellington Planning Committee) listing plants wanted and asking for donations of same. In addition in early January received an order form listing plants offered by Species Foundation. The chapter planned a group order.
As far as the New York Chapter is concerned we usually send only our recent newsletter and membership card, of course letters are sent monthly.
After receiving the 'new member packet' from Potomac Valley I decided it was time we here in New York did more for new members. I spoke to our president, Dennis Stewart, he agreed with me and appointed me chairman of the now-to-be-organized 'new member committee'. I'm in the process of getting this started. In addition to myself, I plan to ask our membership chairman and two fairly new members to serve on the committee. As a first step I would like to start sending our new members the following along with their membership card:

  1. Chapter By-Laws
  2. Latest Newsletter
  3. Nursery List (this is a list we have prepared showing nurseries in the area that carry named rhododendrons)
  4. Calendar of Events listing probable meeting dates, garden tour dates, plant sale dates, flower show dates, etc.
  5. A list of supplies we have for sale at each meeting. Mention that books are available at meetings - both of the above at discount prices
  6. Seed list
  7. List of Board members and officers with addresses and phone numbers
  8. List of Committees and chairmen
  9. Since we usually meet at Planting Fields Arboretum a map showing directions
  10. We will also consider sending our three booklets, "Azaleas", "Rhododendrons" and "Propagation"
  11. A questionnaire to be filled out and returned, in order that we may find out the specific interests of the new member.

Though we have a 'Welcoming Committee' this consists of only one couple. I would like to see this expanded to include five or six couples who will go out of their way to talk to new people at meetings. I would like to see more of our new people involved in working at our plant sales, shows, etc. This of course will take concentrated effort to seek these people out and get them interested.
On a national level, the only possible suggestion I can make is to include one article in each Quarterly geared strictly to the new member.