5 Ideas for Delivering an Unforgettable Year-end Event and Attracting New Members

5 Ideas for Delivering an Unforgettable Year-end Event and Attracting New Members

As the year winds down, it’s time for a last look at this year’s membership numbers. Are they where you want them to be? Before you start thinking about changes to make in the next year, focus on the end of this one; you still have time to bring in some new members this year.

Have you scheduled your year-end event yet? You might think of a year-end event as just a wrap up, a time to get together and have fun in a relaxed environment. But why stop there? Set up your year-end event to accomplish all that while giving you some additional outcomes you may not think of initially.  

The right year-end event can help with membership. It can bring in new members while also delivering value to your current membership, confirming for them why they joined in the first place, and why they should stay (and perhaps driving them to bring in new members).

Yes, it should be engaging and enjoyable, and it should also leave guests feeling that joining your chapter is a must, not a maybe. Here are some tips for making sure the event is the best it can be.  

  • Celebrate the chapter’s successes. What have you accomplished in the past year? Reflect on what you’ve done – the educational events you’ve held, the advocacy you’ve participated in, or showcase some powerful networking outcomes. Be sure to include the role of your volunteers in this success, so they feel recognized and appreciated, and guests see the role volunteers play in your organization. “Research shows that effective recognition can result in increased engagement, productivity, retention, service, and morale,” according to Edward Yost, manager of employee relations and development at the Society for Human Resource Management.  Celebrating the events of the past year will also show prospective members some of the value they can get by becoming a member and the sort of programming and events they can expect in the coming year.
  • Invite leading experts to speak. As you reflect on the past, it’s also important that you look to the future, to show guests and members you’re watching out for them. Bring in experts to share their views on emerging trends, both in your industry and those that affect your industry, like technology and finances. This is another way to showcase your chapter as a source for critical information on some of the most pressing topics.
  • Have a chapter leader give a toast. Many chapters have their board members give a speech at the last meeting or event of the year. This speech can be one of the more important ones they’ll give that year, so it’s important they put some thought into it, rather than speaking completely off the cuff. Have an idea of messaging and tone and write some bullet points. Also, keep it brief; Toastmasters recommends speeches of less than 3 minutes. It should be original, heartfelt, and customized to the audience. If the speaker feels comfortable, let them be creative and include some humor. Just remember to keep the audience in mind. Know what humor will work, and what will get you stares, silence, and run the risk of losing members or potential members.
  • Allow ample time for networking. Ensure that your prospective members have enough time to meet with current members, the board, volunteers, and any industry experts. This is another chance for them to add to their picture of the chapter, clarifying who they’ll spend their time with and the benefits of joining the chapter.
  • Follow-up! After the event, with the experience still fresh in their minds, send each prospective member a thank you email or note for attending, or consider a phone call. And, invite them to remain a part of the learning, networking, and excitement they experienced by joining your chapter. Be sure to ask for feedback – surveys are just as effective for gathering information from non-members as they are for members – to make future events even more appealing to prospective members.


Year-end events are often considered a primary benefit for existing members and just an informal way to wrap things up for the year. But that can be a narrow view. Chapters should also see how these events can help expand their reach and boost membership.

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