u3as have been sharing ideas with each other and coming up with resources to help the movement retain and recruit members during this time and beyond. This article is from Penicuik u3a, who share their experiences of retaining and recruiting members.
We are a small u3a. In 2019 we had 123 members, 114 in 2020, now 124 and still rising in 2021.
It takes much less effort to retain members compared with recruiting new ones. Our member retention plan started with committee members phoning those who had not renewed (the personal touch) and in many cases only a simple reminder was required. However, we have some who did not re-join for a variety of reasons.
Our first hybrid open meeting had an attendance of 37 (with a hall limit of 42) and 18 at home on ‘Zoom’. With more groups coming out of hibernation and/or seeking other than on ‘Zoom’, numbers have increased.
Some groups which normally meet in homes are still hesitant to re-start. So, we’ve found two useful alternatives in community hubs which are either low cost or free, with the happy proviso that you buy their refreshments.
Recruiting new members
New blood, ideas and energy are essential.
In September, we started a campaign of mailing our new poster and a few copies of our 2021/22 programme to local free newspapers, community hubs, targeted local clubs (bowling, tennis, social), local surgeries, noticeboards in shops and supermarkets, community and leisure centres, libraries and churches.
We asked our members who were members of other groups to spread the word. We made posters/leaflets available for them because we believe that our members can be our best ambassadors. We had displays at two street fairs using our u3a beach flag and our Pathfinder display panel (steadied with essential guy ropes!) We continued to advertise at no cost on Facebook using local residents’ pages as well as Nextdoor (a free to join neighbourhood social website).
During lockdown, we started two new outdoor groups (Nature Appreciation and Petanque), inviting members of our other groups to join in, even temporarily. In our next monthly newsletter we will be recruiting for Poetry can be Fun, Hill pechers (i.e. more strenuous walking), Scrabble and Circle dancing.
The cost of these many promotions was essentially limited to printing (a few inkjet cartridges), paper and postage.
It must be said that much of our member retention and recruitment plan came from idea-sharing with the Scottish Central Belt u3a Network group and especially with the u3a Pathfinders group which is trialling the u3a Retention and recruitment toolkit.
See the full series from the Recruitment Working Group in the Recruitment category.