The Art of Planning a Membership Drive

By Marie Schoenfeldt, PLS, CLA

Whether planning a wedding or an organization event, you need a plan, a schedule, a list—something to use as a guide. Planning consists of setting goals. However, do not plan out of your reach so that expectations are impossible to attain right from the start. Goals should be realistic and challenging but not set so low that there is no incentive.

In planning a membership drive, your ultimate goal should be to improve membership by recruiting and retaining members. Identify what must be done first, second, etc. What can be postponed till later? What needs to be done now? What are the best methods to get to the end results? Make your “to do” list starting out with your first priority. As you add to your list, rearrange priorities if necessary. Determine the methods of going from your first priority to the last item. Set deadlines for each phase of your plan.

Your first priority is to select a committee. Do not try to do everything yourself. Delegate! Set a date to meet with your committee members at a time convenient for everyone. Discuss your goals. What type of membership drive is best for your chapter and the legal community? Have a discussion on where to get the information you need to plan your event effectively. Encourage your committee members to offer their suggestions. Be especially cognizant of the potential of all of your members and get them involved. Ask them to set a personal goal to bring at least one potential new member to your membership event.

Follow the same rules that apply to writing—who, what, when, where, why, and add a how.

WHO. Our association consists of legal professionals—secretaries, legal assistants, paralegals, file clerks, project assistants, law clerks, firm administrators, and office managers, as well as attorneys. In addition to law firms, legal professionals will be found in law departments of corporations, trust departments of banks, legal departments of hospitals, etc. Reach out to all of the various areas involved in the legal field—court personnel (including court administrators, court reporters, circuit and county clerks), city/municipal personnel, and process servers. Do not forget the local schools (community and vocational). NALS offers a student discount.

WHAT. In addition to marketing our multilevel association to legal professionals, we are also marketing our “products,” which include:

  • Certifications
  • Legal education
  • Networking
  • Professionalism
  • Improvement of individual performance
  • Learning ways to do a task better
  • Learning to be a leader
  • Support of other members

Prepare  potential member packets with information about your chapter, state, and national associations. Brochures and other informational documents are readily available from NALS. Include information about the certification programs, upcoming legal education, and other events.

WHEN. Determine the best time to conduct your membership drive—timing is crucial. Early fall or after the first of the year—seasons of beginnings—have proven to be the best times when potential members are inclined to consider their careers and may be more receptive to considering membership in order to improve themselves, in their professional and personal lives.

WHERE. Have your committee members check out possible locations to host your event. The location should be readily available to potential members as well as current members. Perhaps sponsor a social gathering at a local restaurant after work or at lunch in a quiet separate section. Remember members and potential members have responsibilities to their employers as well as their families. Consider furnishing refreshments.

WHY. If we do not market our association, how can we expect to get new members? This should be an ongoing  process. All members should be proud to show that they are a member of a great professional association and to let others know about NALS. Members should always be alert to opportunities to recruit new members.

HOW. There is more than one way to reach people. Determine the best way for your chapter to reach potential members (direct correspondence, personal contact, etc.). Try educational events, direct mail, phone solicitations, personal visits, staged recruitment events, and pro bono or community activities. Distribute brochures with information about your chapter and your state association. (NALS also has many types of brochures available.) Place an article in the local newspaper regarding your upcoming membership drive with at least two contact people listed. Choose a theme or slogan that is easily recognizable and easy to say and remember.

Contacting employers is a must. Let them know why their support staff should be members of our association and reap its benefits. Market our products directly to them. Get the employers’ assistance to encourage their staff to join and participate. Let employers know that NALS offers a one-stop source for training, educating, and developing a professional staff.

Prepare a flyer outlining our association’s benefits, indicating why one should consider membership. Set out the date, time, and place of your membership activity. Fax the flyer to the various offices (law firms, trust departments, etc.) with an email reminder a few weeks later or hand deliver your information. These methods are of no cost to the chapter.

Project enthusiasm about our association and the benefits you have received. Determination is needed to gain members who are enthusiastic, positive, and eager to be a part of NALS. Those who look at their job as a profession see NALS as a stepping stone to achieve their goals.

Now is the time to start planning to increase your membership!

| the NALS docket |

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