January 20, 2018

The 5 Rs of club membership retention

Want to retain your club members not just during the academic year, but from year-to-year? Want to have a positive affect on retaining students at your school? Want to have faithful alumni who return to support the school (and maybe even your campus organization) after they graduate? Try implementing these 5 Rs of Student Retention in your club or organization and you’ll not only retain and recruit more members, but your organization will begin to run better. In addition, both your club members and the school will reap long-term benefits in terms of student retention, academic success and alumni loyalty.

Dave Kelly - The 5 Rs of club membership retention

  1. Give them a Responsibility. If you give your club members responsibility they feel more connected and because they have a responsibility or role they show up for meetings and projects. It’s also a great way to develop future leaders. Even new members can have small responsibilities like setting up the meeting room or greeting members and guests as they arrive. Assign someone to be the Sargent at Arms (“If anything goes down, you handle it.”) or lead the pledge. Simply put, a responsibility gives your members a reason to show up and participate.
  2. Enforce Requirements. Sometimes, by enforcing the rules you may fear that people won’t participate., but I’ve found that if you set a standard people want to achieve – most people will try. Try setting – end enforcing – requirements for hours of community service, meeting attendance, serving on committees, etc. Remember, membership retention – like a marriage – is work. In fact it’s often harder to keep members than to get new ones.  A great recruiting pitch may get them in the door, but it’s how your club functions that’s going to keep them hanging around.  If you do have requirements – and I recommend that you do – make sure recruits are aware of them when they sign up. If they don’t want to do it, you’d rather loose the member from the start. If they do sign up, they will become some of your better members. Note that this also builds on the first R. Give them a responsibility and then enforce the requirements of that responsibility.
  3. Give out Rewards. I like plaques and food but they key is to make it something meaningful to the individual. The rewards can include things like candy, books, bumper stickers, t-shirts, movie tickets, restaurant coupons, tickets local attractions ( you might be able to get these donated) to the simplest reward of all – a heart-felt thank you! The best policy when it comes to rewards? Reward the RESPONSIBLE and those who meet REQUIREMENTS.
  4. Assign them a Role-model. Everyone could use  a buddy – someone to watch out for them, some one to make sure they not missed – so why not assign them one? You can pair senior members with new members to do things like follow up when they don’t make meetings and to make sure they continue to participate in club activities. By creating these pairings you also create a two-way responsibility. The new members also become responsible to the mentors who are taking the time to watch out for them. The senior member becomes someone who’s been there longer and can help when the newer member runs into challenges.
  5. Help build Relationships. That’s what all of this is about. If a member has friends in the organization, or the people they like hanging out with are also members, they will stay. As a leader one of your responsibilities is to build relationships within your organization so your members like hanging out with each other. Greek organizations are masters at this. They cultivate long-term memberships from freshmen to seniors and into the alumni years that can continue to support the organization. Building strong and lasting relationships also helps perpetuate the organization. The last thing you want is for your organization to die – for you to be that last group because you didn’t for lasting relationships.

It’s easy to put both a formal and informal emphasis on retention using these 5 Rs. You’ll see individual and collective benefits in both the short and long term.


Leadership consists of a set of skills, methodologies and ideas that can be taught.

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About the Author: Dave "Gonzo" Kelly (64 Posts)

Dave Kelly is the leading authority on student leadership and community service on college campuses today. As a professional trainer, motivator, and servant leader, Dave is an expert on all aspects of running and leading campus organizations and developing the character of a servant leader. Dave has 20+ years training leaders and advisors from student government associations, campus activities boards and campus clubs of every kind on organizational leadership and community service projects. He has trained students and advisors at more than 150 different colleges and universities and is the national coordinator for the APCA Serves! Initiative by the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities.

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