Fall isn’t just filled with holidays and important deadlines; it’s also Sons of Norway’s busiest recruiting season. Knowing that the next few months will see many new members joining lodges, how can we ensure that they get the most out of being a part of the largest Norwegian cultural organization in the world and renew a year from now?

A few years ago, when we checked in with new members to learn about their experiences, we found two common issues. First, some felt they were being ignored by their new lodges; they felt some lodges were not very welcoming of new members to Sons of Norway. Conversely, a number of new members said they felt overwhelmed; almost immediately after joining they were encouraged to fill leadership roles, despite having virtually no experience with the organization. With this knowledge in hand, let’s look at 7 ways your lodge can create an environment that is welcoming, without being overwhelming for new members!

  1. A welcome phone call. A simple call welcoming a new member to a lodge can make all the difference, especially if that member joined through the Sons of Norway website. For many small lodges, this can be done by a single person, like a Vice President or Secretary. However, for a large lodge, a committee or group is a better option. Don’t forget to thank the new members for joining and remind them of an upcoming meeting, program or event.
  2. A message in the newsletter. A newsletter is a great way to highlight exciting happenings within the lodge and a new member is just such an occasion. A simple welcome message lets the new member know they are a part of a family now, and lets the rest of the lodge know of them.
  3. An introduction at a lodge meeting. If you know a new member is at a meeting, take a few moments and introduce them. You could even give them a couple minutes to say a little about themselves. These small introductions can spark connections between new and old members, which benefit everyone.
  4. Send out birthday cards. Creating a welcoming atmosphere for new members can extend beyond the first few weeks of membership. Make a point to send a birthday card or note. This small touch will help reinforce the new member’s connection with the lodge. Like phone calls, this can be a group effort in a larger lodge.
  5. A personal invitation to a special event or project. Does your lodge have an exciting upcoming event? Don’t forget to reach out to new members about it! They may not be in the loop yet, so a quick phone call could be the difference between attending and not.
  6. Help a new member connect. When a new member comes to their first meeting or event, set aside some time to introduce them personally to some of the other members of the lodge. This will help put a name with a face and isn’t quite as intimidating as speaking in front of the entire lodge.
  7. Have new member meal. Try organizing at least a dinner or other evening activity twice a year for new members, and invite a few veteran members of the lodge to join in. This can help break the ice and foster stronger relationships between the members and the lodge. These smaller, more intimate events are a good way to get to know the members better and their interests.

Of course, the work your lodge puts into welcoming members to the lodge will pay dividends in the 2014 Recruitment Challenge, but improving your retention rates which means more points for your lodge’s total score!

Remember — everyone moves at their own pace, so don’t overwhelm new members with leadership roles or committees to serve on. Next month, we’ll highlight some ways your lodge can beginning fostering new leadership!