People Will Travel to Your Chapter Events; How to Combat the Real Distance Problem
Often, lack of attendance for more rural chapters is blamed on external factors, such as travel. In general, it is a myth that distance keeps people from attending a meeting, even if distance may play a small part in people’s lack of attendance. The part it plays, however, has more to do with how valued members feel in relation to what they must put into maintaining their active membership. For instance, if they are always driving an hour to attend a meeting, while others never drive more than 15 minutes – it creates an unfair burden on certain members over others. Certainly, there are ways that chapters can work to ensure that distance remains a non-issue for its members.
Here are some ways to limit the distance between members and the chapter:
1. People drive long distances for numerous reasons. Your chapter meetings are no different. Showing the value for the meeting is always key. Making sure you are meeting the needs of your membership is essential to maintaining and increasing attendance.
2. If distance really is a major problem for your chapter, ensure that your location is centralized to your membership. Maybe a move is in order if the location is not centralized. Or, if not centralized and you simply cannot move your permanent location, occasionally have special events or a meeting in the more outskirt locations of your area. You can’t make everyone happy all of the time, but making the effort a few times a year for members farther out will show members just how much they are appreciated.
3. Recognize that, yes, there are changes in society and the economy, but know that the geographic area hasn’t changed. Examine how your chapter fits in with this change and combat the impact. Maybe the problem is less about driving the distance, but more about having the money for the chapter dues. Create ways to assist members through hard times if possible. At least be aware of the situations members face.
4. Offer carpool options to members that live in the same area. This might involve some coordinating, but this could cut down on concern for a few people who share the duties of driving the longer distance. And it builds rapport with those members. It would be nice if one of the carpool buddies was on the board, providing an opportunity for one-on-one time with a representative for your chapter.
5. Ask the members why they haven’t been attending. You may just be surprised in their responses. There may be a huge gap in what you think they want and what they really want. Once you know what their needs actually are, you can do a better job meeting those needs and getting people through the door.
7. Make sure the meetings both offer the benefits your chapter promises and are entertaining. Members should leave every meeting wanting to come back. This involves continuous planning and listening to your members.
8. Find ways to reward members for attendance. Offer discounts for outskirt members. Reward the people who drive the longest with extra perks like extra raffle tickets, valet parking/free parking, chance to win a gas card, or earn points toward a free meeting if they attend 6 or more meetings in 12 months. The sky is the limit when recognizing the limits your traveling members may be facing.
9. Promote meetings early and often. It may just be that people don’t know that a meeting is even taking place. Of course, your schedule is likely planned out, but lives get busy and people don’t always remember even if it is something they would really like to attend. Making sure your members, and potential members, have the details and options for travel assistance, if any, could just make the difference in getting members through the door.
Members want the value that your chapter leadership has created for them – you just have to be cognizant of the challenges they face in order to realize it. They want to be present. Building the bridge to combat the distance can be as simple as one of the above solutions. No matter what the needs of your members, the path should always begin with them. Without the membership, the chapter’s strength is diminished. Together, success is more than just a possibility.