FNPS is its Members

Without members, there are no Chapters, and there is no Society. On the other hand, with a stable and growing membership, a Chapter can meet its goals and keep the energy high. This section provides a number of procedures and strategies derived from the long history of the organization and adjusted to today's realities. When you find something that works, please contact the Society's Membership Chair so we can add to this document. Share the strategy with the Sabal Minor editor so all the Chapters benefit.

We will discuss three primary topics here: (a) Managing the members you have, (b) recruiting new members, and (c) retaining members. Although there are specific tips for each area, the cross-cutting theme is communication and follow-through. Get to know your members, listen to their preferences, and keep them enthused and involved. Let's work together and grow the Society.

Membership Management in a Nutshell

Each Chapter should have a Membership Chair who is responsible for oversight of membership recruitment, data and corresponding with the Society. Growing membership is an important focus area for each Chapter, as a rich blend of individuals strengthens and extends the reach of the Society as a whole. The Membership Chair should be prepared to communicate with both the FNPS membership contractor, and the Chair of the Society's Membership standing committee. Communication is usually accomplished via e-mail, but phone calls are occasionally necessary.

Maintaining Records

Routine recordkeeping activities are central to keeping an eye on Chapter health. This recordkeeping consists primarily of the membership roster, and associated contact lists that are derived from it. Each month, the Chapter's records should be reviewed to be sure they are complete and accurate, and that any necessary changes are made to contact lists.

FNPS Recordkeeping

The membership contractor for the Society maintains a database of information for all current members. Each membership is assigned a unique identification number, and assigned a “home” Chapter based on zipcode. Members, however, may choose the Chapter they wish to belong to, or belong to no Chapter at all. They may even below to several, should they wish to pay for additional memberships.

Currently, a Chapter receives a monthly report from the Society with a roster of memberships, and notice on who has joined or renewed, and who has been dropped for non-payment of dues. They also provide notice of those who are delinquent and about to be dropped so the Chapter can contact them.

Membership Management Checklist

  • Verify FNPS roster for accurate e-mail information
  • Write new members and send welcome packet
  • Make sure a name tag is created for new members
  • Thanks renewing members
  • Ask tardy members to renew
  • Ask dropped members to renew
  • Include new member names in newsletter, announce at meeting
  • Ask guests to join at meetings
  • Write all guests that complete the guest roster at meeting

ANNUALLY (or on schedule)
  • Make membership recruitment plan and set goals
  • Distribute brochures throughout the community, and keep them stocked.
  • Present to community groups
  • Send out membership outreach letter
– former members
– targeted individuals
– relevant businesses

Recruiting members

About active recruitment. Although some people will join the Society because of their personal or professional interest in native plants, many more will join if you ask them to do so. Each Chapter can create an annual membership recruitment plan.

The central tools of membership recruitment include:
  • FNPS membership brochure
  • Your Chapter print publications (see sample Chapter brochure)
  • Guest or information sign-up sheet
  • Banners or display boards
  • Talking points on the benefits of membership.
  • Recruitment letters (print and electronic)
  • Incentives (plants, merchandise)

Benefits of membership

mission related
  • Learn about Florida’s native plant species
  • Learn how to reduce chemicals, water-use and maintenance in home landscapes
  • Joining a state-wide network of naturalists
  • FNPS publications, including The Palmetto and Sabal minor
  • Annual state conference on horticulture, science and conservation
  • Field trips that include Florida’s wild natural areas
  • Educational programs and events
  • Support for science and conservation
  • Involvement in efforts to preserve natural Florida
Individual Inducements
  • Memberships and donations to FNPS are tax-deductable
  • Membership discounts or early admission at plant sales
  • Joining gift (free plants, promotional items, t-shirts, seeds)
  • Discounts at Native Plant Nurseries

Proven Strategies

Chapter meetings. At each Chapter-hosted meeting and program, ask guests to join, and offer incentives (such as a free plant) for doing so.
  • Announce/welcome new members, thank renewing members.
  • Consider asking guests to introduce themselves.
  • Each guest should be encouraged to sign-in on a guest list at he door (see Sample Guest sign-in).
  • Board members should introduce themselves at an appropriate time during meeting.
  • Have blank nametags and a marker available for guests.

Follow-up Correspondence. Whenever there are names and contact information gathered, these potential new members should be contacted as soon as possible.
  • If you have a printed newsletter, send 3 issues or so to guests.
  • Add guests to any e-news list (always include an “unsubscribe” feature.
  • E-mail is a good way to reach out: it saves paper, and is easy to implement. Best of all, brief is best. You can just write something like:
Dear (name),
It was great to meet you at (event). We would love to have you as a member of our Chapter. It’s really easy and inexpensive; just go to www.fnps.org and clicking on the Join/Donate button on the top. Your membership will help us preserve, conserve and protect natural Florida.
Hope to see you soon!
Recruitment letters. Craft recruitment text to use in both electronic and print correspondence.
In all cases, these correspondence should be personalized vs. “Dear Friend of Nature.” Examples:
  • Follow-up to meetings
  • Follow-up to chance meetings
  • Outreach to targeted individual
  • Outreach to past members
  • Outreach to e-news recipients
Click here for sample letter.

Use Routine Correspondence. Use your e-mail signature: include “Join the Florida Native Plant Society Today at http://www.fnps.org” whenever an Officer corresponds on behalf of the Society. Routinely include invitations to join in your response to all inquiries about plants or local issues.

Outreach to Key Individuals. In each community, there are individuals that you know should be members given their interests or professions, or positions. It is a useful exercise to make a list of these, and reach out to them at least annually, or whenever you have an occasion to meet them in person. Whenever you collaborate on a project (e.g., demonstration garden, plants survey, consultation, public education, etc.), this is also an opportunity to ask these partners to join.

Potential Members
Scout leaders
Members of other conservation groups, such as Florida Trails Assoc.
Faculty at schools, community colleges, universities
Extension office staff
Municipal or county officials
Botanical gardens staff
Master gardeners
4-H Coordinators
Farm Bureau
Garden club members
Proprietor and staff of local businesses
Park and Nature Centers staff
Native nurseries and native plant landscapers
Environmental Consultants

Gift Memberships. Gift certificates are available for print from the Society website. If each Chapter member gives a gft of membership to one person annually (e.g., for a birthday or holiday), membership could double. In certain cases, you may use Chapter Sponsored Membership to recruit targeted individuals. When a new official comes to town, a gift membership is a nice welcome.
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Membership Brochure Distribution. Spread your supply throughout the membership, so they are ready for opportunities. Your Chapter can keep brochure racks stocked in logical places throughout the community, and member businesses should of course keep a supply on hand. Libraries, Tourism Centers, and Nature Centers are natural distribution points, and there are many others depending on your locale. Be sure that information about your Chapter is inserted, including meeting place and contact information.

Public Presentations. Whenever members give presentations—whatever the topic—they should include a brief overview of the Society, bring membership information, and encourage those in the audience to join. It is a good idea to plan some presentations for the year with recruitment in mind. If the Chapter speaker is offered an honorarium by an organization, they can request that the host organization join the Society in lieu of payment.

Community events. During plant sales and exhibits, visitors to your booth should carry away membership information, and be asked to join. Give discounts on merchandise to those who join at the booth! Be sure to use whichever talking points fit best for the individual you are talking to. Your visuals should reinforce this request by displaying www.fnps.org in large type, and language such as Join Today for Florida’s Future.

Retaining members

Connect with your members at meetings. If you do nothing else, do this. Nothing kills membership like a clique. Use nametags. When members attend meetings and events, they should feel welcomed, appreciated, and a part of the Chapter. The Board should make a concerted effort to learn names, or at least make sure that everyone has a name tag. Designated people should make sure that this happens, and suggest adjustments to the board.

Match your members’ interests to Chapter activities. Most people are pleased to help or participate when asked directly, and involvement increases investment. Providing activities to address the variety of interests represented by the membership will increase retention (and will help you get things done). Make a list of Chapter activities, current and planned, and match members to them.

Invite them back. People let their membership lapse for a variety of reasons, but if you ask them to rejoin, they might. Let them know you have great plans and want them to be a part of them; give a few examples. And here’s the courageous part: Ask them to let you know why, if they don’t plan to rejoin. You may not like the answers, but they may help you improve your Chapter.

Blow your horn. Members can’t be proud if they don’t know what you’re doing. Make sure your officers are prepared to highlight recent achievements (briefly please) at all Chapter meeting. Applause is a good indicator of your success in this.

Communicating with Members

Keep them informed and connected. Whether it is via print or electronically, Chapter members should receive the official Chapter News on a regular, predictable basis. Each member receives The Palmetto quarterly, the Sabal minor every two months, and FNPS Action Alerts if they have requested them. Your job is to share the local issues and perspectives, and remind your membership they are part of a community. For content suggestions, see the section on Chapter News. Always include a reminder to “Share this with a friend.”

Vetting Communication. Communication with the membership should have defined channels, and a process for Chapter Board approval of content. Ideally, this process is included in your Chapter bylaws, and important to controlling the quantity and quality of correspondence with the membership.

Be Respectful of Their Time. The amount of e-mail the typical involved individual receives is unmanageable; hence it is a fine line between keeping the membership up-to-date, and spam. Your goal is to stay out of the junk mail folder. If you hold tight to mission, it is easier to decide when to correspond. When there are pop-up issues or events, put them through the test (1) does it relate to mission; and (2) is this information unlikely to be available (or accurate) from other sources; and (3) are there actions you want the membership to take? If you’ve answered “yes,” alert the membership.

Be Respectful of Their Talents. Do routinely ask for input from members who have an identified interest in any particular issue or activity. This is win-win. It will engage membership, as well as increase the quality of all initiatives.

Use New Technologies to the Chapter’s Advantage. Collaboration tools, such as Google Documents, make it a breeze to fine-tune important correspondence to your membership. Make sure that your website serves the membership. Use of social media tools, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Newsfeeds, will engage a younger demographic and create new on-line communities. Leveraging emerging communications channels will be essential to the increasing membership and preserving the vitality of the Society.