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GROWING YOUR SPACE CHAPTER
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The following Sections [PDF files] of the NSS Chapters Handbook haVE useful hints that will apply to Moon Society and Mars Society Chapters as well
Section 1 - STARTING A CHAPTER
- What is the National Space Society?
- What is a National Space Society Chapter?
- A Look at the Chapter Rules
- Starting the Chapter
- First Public Meeting
- What To Do
- Campus Membership
Section 2 - ORGANIZATION
- First Steps
- Setting Goals
- Volunteer Development
Section 7 - FINANCES & FUND-RAISING
- Basic philosophy
- Financial records
- Tax exemption
- Fiscal year
- Chapter assets
- Sources of revenue
- How to ask
- Other fund-raisers
- Bank charges
Section 10 - GROWTH AND MORALE
- The Chapter/Community Relationship
- Keeping Your Chapter Active
- Chapter Development
- Activating and keeping members
- Machiavelli and the Art of Chapter Building
- Old Leadership
- Saying Good-bye
- Student Chapters
- Tactics For Dealing With Crazies
- Are You Having Fun?
Growing Your Space Chapter
You may have the required critical numbers of members to qualify for official chapter status in your national organization. But do you have all the talent you need to undertake all the projects you envision? The answer to that is likely to be "No!"
Strive to plan every chapter activity so that it improves your recruiting capabilities.
Membership Forms - Whether you are speaking on a space topic to a non-chapter audience or at an outreach event behind your exhibit table, you should have membership forms on hand so that interested visitors can join your parent organization and your local chapter on the spot. Mailing a form after the event is not as effective. Put these forms where they can be seen, next to your "join our mailing list" signup sheet.
A form that NSS Chapters can use to recruit members.pdf file: Join_2002.pdf in the directory nsschapters.org/hub/pdf/
This form has been contributed by Arthur P. Smith of the Long Island Space Society (NSS)
new - A form that Moon Society Chapters can use to recruit members.pdf file: moon-memflyer.pdf in the directory nsschapters.org/hub/pdf/
This form has been contributed by Randall Severy
Chapter leaders. please share your ideas on growing your chapter, things that have worked for you, and those that haven't. Working together, we can create a page to guide new chapters, and new leaders of old chapters.
Membership Registration forms on your chapter website - You want to provide the opportunity for the casual visitor to your website to join on the spot. f course, you want visitors to come to your meetings and other events, but give them a chance to join while they are in the mood!
Even if your website does not have cgi-bin capacity to handle forms, you can have a page that visitors can download and print and mail in. This can be a simple web page or a formatted pdf file, or both.
Here are some examples:
- Clear Lake Space Society (NSS) webpage form
- Lunar Reclamation Society (NSS) wepage form
- Long Island Space Society (NSS) cgi-bin form
Send each new member a "Welcome Packet."
Recruiting Strategies -- The best recruiting strategy is to reinvent everything you do as a chapter so that it is designed to take advantage of every opportunity to convert interested fellow travelers into involved members. Some ideas:
- Have a visitor signup sheet at every event. The act of signing reinforces the pro-space interest of the signer - and it gives you a name, address, and phone number of people to invite to events, to meetings.
- Include a space for email addresses. If your chapter discusses things by email, and not just at the meeting, you can plug in visitors to your information booth who leave their email address. But if you can find a way to put a term on this participation (start-stop dates) as a sort of "trial list membership," that may encourage them to take the plunge and join, if they are getting anything out of the e-exchange. It will also keep the list from becoming top-heavy with nonmembers.
- Have an actual Guest Book where those really impressed with your exhibit and its message can say so. Those who sign it will have self-selected themselves for your further courtship.
- Registration forms should be on hand and in view - always.
- A Chapter Scrapbook on hand and in view will help - Scrapbook Tips
- Ask or suggest that a lingering visitor join. Don't just watch them look at pictures, read the captions, and wait for them to pass on. It is quite common for someone to be really interested, but too shy to ask about joining. A visitor may have only a shallow curiosity, but you should assume that their interest is real and break the ice with an invitation. "We are looking for new members, people who really dig this stuff." At the same time, do not be pushy. Just open the door. Let them walk through it.
- Some incentive or gift for signing up on the spot is not a bad idea. This can be a book or magazine, a T-shirt, an item of chapter-produced merchandise, or simply a month or two extended membership the first year.
- Member Conversion (new member to renewed member.) Keep a record [buy a dedicated notebook and/or keep a Member Data file on your computer] of the dates people join, and of their anniversary dates. It is actually more important to make an effort to get a new member to renew that first time, than to look for new members. Don't ever take new members for granted! A good tactic is to "interview" each new member, find out what his or her special interests are, and what buttons work. Then check your notes through their first year and make sure that you are addressing those interests.
- Invitations: invite guest book signers to your annual holiday potluck or summer barbecue, if you have one, and be sure to have any new exhibits, books, newsletters, etc. on hand to engage their interests.
- Don't get discouraged. Finding a new member is a lot like finding a new significant other. As one girl put it, you have to kiss a lot of toads to find the handsome prince.
- new - Go after former members of your national organization. Here is a sample letter sent out by the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the Moon Society.
pdf file: mid-atlantic-reenewal-letter.pdf in the directory nsschapters.org/hub/pdf/
If your chapter has an established recruiting tactic that really produces, please share it with us.
Putting together a Welcome Packet (U.C.)
Send (or give, as the case may be) each new member a "Welcome Packet." Make it a chapter project to define just what goes into that packet, and ask for a volunteer "Greeter." Many new members are shy, and if you miss the chance to make them feel at home, their first visit may be their last. Some ideas:
- spare back issues of any chapter newsetter or of the National organization's magazine or newsletter
- a Membership card, with name of person, join date, name and logo of chapter or outpost
- a set of outreach flyers so that he or she can become familiar with the message you are trying to get out to the public
- a calendar for the current and coming season: meeting agendas (if you are able to set them in advance); outreach events, conferences and conventions, group outings, chapter socials, etc.
- a list of chapter projects, reports on their progress, and highlighting any holes in your talent pool. By doing this, you are giving the newcomer a virtual menu of ways he or she can get involved and not be just a spectator or groupie. Your list of projects should emphasize that it was put together based on the interests and strengths of current members, and that as you gained members with additional interests, the chapter would be able to add more projects tailored to new talent.
- email list: if your chapter discusses things by email, and not just at the meeting, be sure to plug the newcomer in right away. If visitors your information booth want to be on the list, fine. But if you can find a way to put a term on this participation as a sort of "trial membership," that may encourage them to take the plunge and join, if they are getting anything out of the e-exchange. It will also keep the list from becoming top-heavy with non-members.
Getting Publicity for your Chapter and National Organization (U.C.) There are a number of ways to get the word out that you exist. Here are some:
- Register with your library: Your home town library may keep a list of special interest clubs and organizations as the library is frequently the first place someone will go to ask about the existence of such groups and seek contact information.
- If you have a chapter newsletter, sending a copy to a library won't hurt. Of course, if you are in a big city, providing each branch library with a copy each month could easily become costly.
- Inquire about speakers bureaus, and offer to speak on space topics. Work to build a "repertoire" of prepared topic talks with visual aids (transparencies are easiest) and talking points. Then when you get inquiries about speaking to some group, you can provide them with a short list of topics to choose from. When you speak, always have business cards, brochures, and a selection of flyers on hand for members of the audience to take home and share with interested family members and friends.
- Write letters to the editor on any space topic that is getting the attention of the media, always taking a positive and constructive approach, stressing nearer term benefits.
- Sponsor essay and art and design contests at junior & senior high schools. And be sure to make a media event out of award presentations.
- Work with libraires to develop special space theme book promotions
- Offer to help judge science fairs, and design competitions.
- Match upcoming space events with a local tie in. When you know that there is going to be great media interest in some upcoming event (e.g. Cassini's arrival at Saturn), work in advance to develop some local interest tie in to that mission or development, and let the media know about it. (For the Cassini event, you might sponsor a student contest to design an outpost on Titan, or to come up with a flag for Saturn.)
Creating a Chapter Presence in Your Community - occasional publicity is not enough. You want to work on turning one-time events into established working relationships. You want to be a source in your community that can be counted on.
Finally, go through the lists of sugestions above, and pick two or three to implement in the coming year. Rome wasn't built in a day, and getting into "growth mode" is not easy. But every journey begns with one step.