A Little Recognition Can Go a Long Way

Find out how recognizing your member recruiters can increase membership.

What's the great idea? Create member-recruitment recognition contests.

Who's doing it? Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE)

What's involved? It's no secret that member-get-a-member programs are a great recruitment tool, but entering a member's name into a drawing for a prize isn't always the most convincing way to ask her to recruit on your behalf. SPE found a way to get members involved in recruitment by offering recognition programs and contests that focus on both individuals and groups.

Former SPE Sections Chair Brian Wiggins says structuring the program around the two groups fits the organization's structure as well as offers options that can increase member participation. "They give an extra push to people who are already committed and very engaged with your organization," says Wiggins. "It gives them an incentive to go out and tell people about it and get them to join."

Participating sections—SPE's term for local affiliates—recruit members and are tracked from September 1 through August 31 of the following year. SPE assesses how many new members the section gains as well as how many it retains and groups them according to size. Winning sections receive $1,000, recognition at SPE's annual meeting, and a mention in its monthly journal.

At the individual level, Wiggins says those who recruit members receive thank-you gifts called Membership Development Appreciation Awards. A member who recruits one new member receives a lapel pin, with more gifts at five, 10, 25, and 50 members recruited. The SPE website is updated with the members who have recruited more than 100 members, where a list of section leaders within each group is listed as well. "For those members who recruit more than 100 members, they enter what we call Century Club status. The big bonus is that you get lifetime membership in the society," says Wiggins.

As far as monetary investment and staff time goes, Wiggins says buying the gifts and giving out cash prizes costs between $20,000 to $30,000 a year, but staff time is just a few hours a month.

What are people saying? Wiggins says that members appreciate being acknowledged for their efforts, even if it's a small gesture. "Usually, it's not so much what the prizes are or how much they're worth; it's more giving them something back and generating some enthusiasm for getting new members." With approximately 90,000 members worldwide, growth during a down economy, and a 90 percent retention rate, Wiggins says the return on investment for the program is significant.