Brian Lenhard is the NFTY-SAR Membership Vice President and Jordan Brown is the NFTY-STR Membership Vice President.
Both of us, from different regions, different Temple Youth Groups (TYG), had something significant in common. We were both 8th graders who had just joined their local TYG. After the B’nai Mitzvah years, we had hoped that we would stay involved in the Jewish community and would leave a substantial impact, one way or another. Yet, believe or not, we were shy and confused. Having never attended a TYG event, we didn’t know that many people to begin with. We observed, however, that the engagement from our individual TYG’s was outstanding, wheeling us in like we’ve been best friends for years. The members that came before us included us in conversations, invited us to lead, asked to hang out outside of TYG events, and included us in their own TYG community. The warm inclusiveness and the brightness it has brought to our lives is the prime reason why we ran for Membership Vice President in our respective regions.
We want to explain some different techniques that can help welcoming your new members easier and more meaningful to the participant. These techniques could be useful on a TYG or regional level. First, we have noticed that participants feel a lot more included when they are welcomed or greeted at the door. The “Walking in the Door” technique is very beneficial because it allows participants to feel welcomed and involved right when they get there. We both “welcome people at the door” at TYG and Regional events because it really does make a positive impact in the long run. Welcoming people immediately as they walk through the door instantaneously gives them a feeling of self-worth and excitement, as well as immediately knowing someone who they may not have known before. It may seem minor, but these differences in how you first welcome a member at an event can “make” or “break” your participant being active in your region or TYG.
So after you meet and say ‘hi” to the participant, what’s next? Now you have to get to know each other! Getting to know the participant is where you can make a huge impact by having conversation about hobbies, similar traits, differences, or things that you are both excited about. Yet, when getting to know the participant, you should be focusing on getting to know them not yourself. It’s very easy to start talking about yourself, and give your back story, but you have to remain interested in what they have to say, rather than trying to be interesting to them. You should consider asking the participants where they are from, who told them about NFTY, and engage in conversation that will connect you and the participant together. Avoid giving them your story, which participants are not always into hearing. It’s also very easy to say “hi” to members at the door, and then walk away to sit with your friends. Make sure, when you first meet the prospective member, stay with them after they walk in the door, and start to actually get to know them. You should also bring one or two of your other friends over to meet the prospective member so they can continue to branch out and meet new people. This is vital in welcoming new members who aren’t engaged as soon as they walk in the door.
So now you have met the participant, hopefully at least once or twice, and have engaged with him/her as much as you can. The event is over! What do you do now? You follow through! Think of this strategy like swinging a baseball bat: when you follow up, you’re only getting about halfway, and might, or might not, get an infield hit. If you follow all the way through, however, there’s a good chance you’ll get a home run. This concept applies to unengaged members. An example of following through is calling first time attendees to make sure they had a good time at an event. Good questions to ask are “Did you have a good time at the event”, “What was your favorite program”, and things of that nature. It’s not just one phone call that does the trick, however; personal, face-to-face meetings, continuous phone conversations, and making the unengaged members feel like they were vital to the events’ success, which they were, is what really secures a member.
All of this is not just about recruiting new members for your region, however. This can also affect you personally. You never know if this new member walking in the door could change your life or be your new best friend. This is one of the most rewarding feelings someone can have at a NFTY event.
It can be hard to step away from a group of friends and welcome a new member in, but it’s something that is inspiring to everyone. At some point or another, we all felt like we were “lost” at a NFTY event, but we also all had that one person invite us to sit with them at dinner, be their partner for a mixer, or anything in between. After the participants are brought in by that one person, they will continue the same tradition in the future, which is something that is vital to the growth and success of NFTY.