The new Membership Committee met for the first time, last night, and I'm gratified to say that we almost ran out of seats!
I called the meeting because the DVAA has grown somewhat stagnant of late. By stagnant I mean that our member base has shrunk instead of grown while the scope and frequency of our services have been similarly diminished. The mission of our new Membership Committee is to work on reversing this trend and thereby revitalize the club.
Any number of great ideas were bruited around, and I'll detail a number of those below, but if I was going to concentrate on only two I'd focus on "Making It Personal" and "Closing The Loop."
The DVAA has had a long and storied history of hosting private meetings and events for its members—Messier Meetings, Solar Saturdays, Holiday Dinners, ATM Meetings, "Local" Group, Potlucks, Observatory Trips, StarBQs and more—but the scope and frequency of these small-scale events have diminished to almost nothing. Yes, we recently added a number of Main Sequence Star Parties to our roster (thank you Nate & Jeff!) and yes we just had a Planetarium Trip (thank you Jan!) but that's still a drop in the bucket compared to yesteryear. A key finding: we need to redouble our efforts to make membership in the DVAA more personal and rewarding.
BTW, towards the end of the night we did something that I had never done before in my nearly twelve years as a DVAA member: the circle of us formally introduced ourselves to each other, sharing a few sentences on our introduction to astronomy, our professions, where we lived, our personal lives, etc. Simple stuff yet surprisingly profound, and a lesson for the future.
As to "Closing The Loop" the club does indeed offer an outstanding set of public programs—our star parties, public meetings, outreach events, and more—yet we really need to get better at turning these favorable touch-points into long-standing relationships. As an example, we’ve been known to hand out the occasional business card at our star parties but we don't do any of the following:
- Give out take-aways on the club; especially the dates, locations and info on our forthcoming events
- Give out the least bit of follow-on material (astronomy videos, how-to guides, link-lists, tips, etc.)
- Collect attendees names and email addresses (see “Swag Bags,” below)
- Reach out to the “fly-bys;” folks who bring out their scopes but we never bother to attract into the club
- Give out toys, snacks or games for the kids
- Do any sort of statistical analysis on our non-member attendees, let alone make plans based on data
It would be fair to say we suck at closing the loop but the good news is that the committee had tons of ideas on this front. First and foremost, Roy Patton came up with the idea of Swag Bags; something to hand out to new attendees at our events. The basic idea is to hand out a bag with our logo and contact info filled with info on the club, discount coupons, a Planisphere Kit, a key-chain red-light flashlight, astronomy magazine offers, and more. The key point is that the only way to get a bag would be to give us contact details so we can try to close the loop. Simple as that.
There were a bunch of other ideas, too, including:
- Contact expired members to ask them to reup (In-Progress)
- Update the website with better “manual” payment instructions (Done!)
- Implement PayPal as an additional payment method on the website
- Make the Membership Committee a standing well-staffed committee
- Ask our members what they want/need via an emailed survey (In-Progress)
- Do outreach with Colonial Middle School (after clarifying observatory status)
- Add more beginner-friendly content, especially to our General Meetings
- Create a series of flyers to hand out at Philly Science Fair and other events
- Get Colonial Observatory back up on its feet and establish a regular schedule
- Communicate, communicate, communicate
- Send flyers by email to area schools announcing our upcoming events
- Hold volunteer-only "thank-you" events like the StarBQ this June at my house
Beyond the above we need to step up our publicity game, too.Thankfully, Bill McGeeney and Roy Patton raised their hands. Oh, and one more thing: Bill McGeeney has agreed to become our official star-party mascot: Moony!!
P.S. Al Lamperti, Roy Patton, Brian Lee, George Keighton, Jeremy Carlo, Len Jensen, Robert MacPherson, Erik Swanson, Bill McGeeney and Irv Schlanger had some great ideas and enthusiasm. Made me start to believe we can turn this boat around.
P.P.S. One additional area which we still don’t have good ideas around is making the club more relevant for women and girls. I’d like to say we had a smashing lot of great ideas but the truth of the matter is that we didn’t. We can do better!!