2013 Membership Report

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Introduction

A request has been made following considerable discussion on the water cooler about membership numbers, recruitment/retention, and approvals, that a staff report be produced which gave a snapshot of the work that has been undertaken around membership of the charity.

Background

  • In October 2012 a membership survey was conducted, and a report presented to the Board of Trustees. The overall conclusions were that a proactive drive for membership recruitment needed to be supported at a grassroots level, and that a series of improvements based on the survey feedback needed to be put in place.
  • In January 2013 the Fundraising Manager began the monthly publication and distribution of a members newsletter that sought to make the role/work of Trustees and Staff more transparent, highlight microgrant success stories and volunteer opportunities to engage with the Chapter.
  • Following the appointment of a Volunteer Support Organiser in March 2013 the Membership Newsletter was then distributed by her from June 2013, with a review and revamp of the design/content supported by a volunteer working in the office in June/July.
  • In June 2013 a consultation was sought on how we position membership when promoting it to potential members and a recommendation published.
  • Work around clarifying membership role was undertaken in the production of a specific Membership FAQs section of the UK Wiki in August 2013.
  • In August and September 2013 a Volunteer handout which also sought to support membership sign up was drafted in English and Welsh language versions and printed. This has been distributed at key events, including Ada Lovelace events, editathons and the Open Government Partnership stand to name some.
  • In early October a feedback message was sent to participants in Wiki Loves Monuments to promote volunteering and offering membership sign up as a way to engage in the Chapter and movement.
  • Throughout November a Membership survey was drafted, and was finally distributed after extending the consultation period. The survey will be closed on Friday 6th December.

Membership numbers

Membership numbers have been reported for the last 14 months on a monthly basis in the Chapter's monthly reports which are designed for sharing our progress with the movement. They had shown a small but steady increase from August - December 2012, and then a large drop in January and February 2013. It has been suggested this drop is as a result of a failure to proactively recruit more members overall, rather than as a result of passive memberships created during the 2011 fundraiser expiring. Given the data available the consistent pattern for the chapter has been between 8 - 12 new sign ups a month and between 2 - 5 expires, aside from the two large drops in grace memberships.

A request has been made that the membership numbers be reported in a different format in a separate tabulated report. This will commence from December 2013 and be linked to in the monthly movement report in the hope that interested parties can have clearer insights into overall long-trends.

Some observations

  • The November 2012 report to the board based on Membership survey results presented some ideas for membership recruitment but lacked the commitment of volunteer or staff capacity to deliver these
  • Many of the results of the 2012 Membership survey have been implemented or considered/explored and rejected.
  • The results of the 2012 survey and intital results of the 2013 (still open at the time of writing this report) indicate members consistently rate membership recruitment as their lowest priority
  • This sits oddly against the session at the 2013 AGM and on-wiki discussion where attendees showed considerable enthusiasm and creativity in thinking about how membership recruitment and retention should be approached
  • There is no formal process whereby volunteers or event partners integrate an 'ask' about joining the charity in their interactions with event attendees. When directly approached, key volunteers overwhelmingly indicated they did not feel comfortable or confident in doing this.
  • There is undoubtedly more the chapter could do to minimise the difficulties in signing up (Better forms and making Direct Debits subscriptions for membership fees available) and feedback from the 2013 survey results will be considered in this.
  • There is more the Chapter or volunteers could do to manage issues around expiring members, including standardising sending a feedback survey to expired members and inviting expired members to rejoin on an non-intrusive but semi-regular basis (email).

Recommendations

Recruitment

  • It is evident that members and volunteers themselves see recruitment as something that staff do. We need to change this; members are naturally the best advocates for membership and will have a network of offline and online contacts they should feel confident to approach. We need to look at supporting people to do this in a way that feels positive, not like 'selling something'.
  • We need to continue to improve our processes and benefits in ways that are consistent with our values and mission. It may be that offering discounted attendance for our flagship events such as EduWiki or GLAM Wiki is a sensible way to recruit sympathetic and useful members.
  • A suggestion has been made that we offer membership for a longer period than one year. This would require a change in our articles of association but could be possible.
  • We need to look at the diversity of our membership, and where we have poorer representation, look at ways redress such as advertisement in publications with audiences less represented in our membership cohort or attending events with specific audiences.
  • We often present to the outside world in a negative way. Openness and transparency are core values, but we have already had considerable feedback from the 2013 Membership Survey directly referring to recent arguments on the Water Cooler and mailing list as confrontational. We need to consider our public face in terms of our website, its content and ease of use, and how, frankly, this may be damaging recruitment.

Retention

  • The Volunteer Portal is a high priority in terms of offering members an induction process and path so they can feel involved even if they never participate in-person at events
  • The members newsletter appears to have been broadly successful. The next phase should be to more heavily involve members directly in editing its sections and staff merely undertaking the administrative side in relation to distribution.
  • Membership development activities should be created and expanding, potentially in partnership with the VLE to facilitate online uptake, but really as standard we ought to run a membership training workshop at any AGM or EGM that examines issues of roles and participation

A final thought

One of the consistent issues appears to have been a lack of capacity to deliver the desired results in terms of recruitment, retention and activities in the sense of membership development. There are clearly key volunteers within our organisation who could contribute usefully by generating ideas, critique and overall strategy for membership of the charity and it may be appropriate to form a working group inviting these individuals to come together with the Fundraising Manager and Volunteer Support Officer to develop and expand on the work of 2013 and the results of the 2013 Membership Survey.