Membership and Retention
During my campaign for International Director, I am frequently asked about my views on the challenges facing Toastmasters. I thought I might take a break from my leadership posts to talk about my views on the future of the organization and the challenges facing us.
In my opinion, the biggest challenge facing Toastmasters isn't COVID - it's member retention. It's only natural that a club will lose a certain number of members every year. People move, they experience life changes, their priorities change, etc. The number most commonly mentioned in Toastmasters is that we lose 40% of our membership every. single. year! If you run a business, and you lose 40% of your customers each and every year, you won't be in business for long.
People in sales know this adage but, the least expensive customer to get is one that's already purchased from you. While we may not spend actual money to get guests to attend our meetings (although some may), we spend time contacting them, following up to make sure they'll attend the meeting, following up some more to see if they want to join, etc. It just makes sense that our time would be more wisely spent ensuring that our existing members STAY than to be constantly recruiting new ones!
Once they've joined our club, it's our DUTY to see that they receive value for their money. We do that by making sure that they progress in their education program. To get better at any skill you need to practice, get feedback on your practice, and implement that feedback in future practices. Keep iterating this process until you've achieved your goal.
In our case, members give presentations, they get evaluated, and then they incorporate that feedback in their next presentation. For this to be effective, they MUST be speaking frequently; at a minimum - once every 4-6 weeks. Otherwise, all they're doing is repeating their Ice Breaker project - over and over and over.
DOES having members earn education goals REALLY affect retention? In 2013-2014, my first year as Vice President Education, our club submitted 11 education awards and was a 10-point, President's Distinguished club. Our retention rate that year was 48.6% (mind you, we gained 22 new members!). In 2017-2018, we submitted 43 education awards, we were again a 10-point, President's Distinguished club, but our retention rate was 73.7%! (Note: Retention rate is calculated by taking the year-ending membership number, subtracting the new members added during the year, and dividing by the year beginning membership number and multiplying by 100.)
(Caveat: Don't focus on the sheer number of education awards earned. Instead, focus on the number of different members earning education awards. This shows you how involved the entire club membership is. I know, one year, our club submitted 9 education awards and I was responsible for 5 of them!)
The bottom line is that if people see progress towards the goal that brought them to Toastmasters in the first place, they'll be excited, enthusiastic, and engaged. Those members tend not to drop out.
Until next time!