Looking to boost the number of students who join and participate with your chapter? Here are twelve ideas that officers and advisors can implement to get new members more involved and excited about your chapter.
1. Increase Your Chapter Communications
More often than not, the reason members become inactive is because they simply don’t know when or where upcoming chapter events will take place. Sometimes they don’t even know who to ask. To correct this, try sending out e-mails, posting information on a highly visible bulletin board in your psychology department, or creating a social media page(s). Remember: no single form of communication will work for everyone. Consider sending out your message in as many ways as possible.
You can also take advantage of technology advancements. For instance, consider hosting a live Facebook video for any students who are off campus and unable to attend your meetings. You could also upload a video of meetings to YouTube or have someone at the meetings (e.g., your chapter secretary) post a brief “meeting minutes” to social media. For online institutions, check out the Eye on Psi Chi magazine article, “Learn From Kaplan University’s Online Chapter Success.”
2. Create a Points System
One creative way to encourage participation is to establish a unique points system. For example, every time a member attends a meeting or event, they get a point (which will be tracked by the chapter’s president or secretary). Once members have attended three, five, or however many times that you would like, then they will be eligible for a special “elite membership category,” which can be recognized on your campus.
(Important: If you decide to create a points system, please keep the following in mind: Psi Chi chapters may not impose any type of service activity as a condition for eligibility to join—membership eligibility must be based on academic performance only. And of course, hazing is strictly prohibited.)
Want to create additional interest in your chapter’s points system? You could also offer a special gift to those attend your chapter meetings and events a set number of times. For example, consider purchasing a bundle of graduation regalia, which your elite members could then borrow during their senior graduation ceremonies! Speaking of rewards, that brings us to our next suggestion . . .
3. Offer Prizes and Raffles
Give away the occasional free raffle item, like some of these awesome Psi Chi T-shirts or maybe Psi Chi gift cards so that the winner can choose the perfect reward. Here are some other ideas:
- Get your advisor to agree to conduct an in-depth review of a student’s paper or resumé of their choice. Then, raffle off this attractive opportunity, which won’t cost you or your chapter a dime!
- Advertise that you will donate a few dollars to an organization or cause of your choice for each person who shows up at a particular meeting or event. (You were probably already planning to donate to a cause anyway, am I right?!)
- If you’re hosting a graduate school workshop, consider purchasing copies of Psi Chi’s Graduate School eBook for attendees.
4. Feed the Troops!
Sometimes, just the briefest mention of refreshments is all it will take to fill a room for your upcoming events. Plus, if your food smells really good (e.g., pizza or hot brownies), you’ll probably also draw in nearby psychology students who just happened to be in the area!
5. Provide Course Extra Credit
Many professors provide a list to their students each semester containing possible activities that count for extra credit. Why not ask your professors to add Psi Chi events to these lists? Or perhaps your professors would provide extra credit to students who support your chapter in some other way!
6. Create Engaging Content for Your Meetings
Promoting interesting talks is a great way to pull in new and returning members. For example, invite a guest speaker such as a professor at your campus or a Psi Chi alumnus who could give helpful career advice. No topic is off limits; consider programming about fascinating fields of psychology, career support, or graduate school advice. View Digest 275 for some popular topic ideas for your meetings.
Members also like to conduct regular community service projects at meetings such a making cards for military personnel who are overseas. When getting to know your members, it is sometimes fun to have movie nights or go out to eat as a group too!
7. Show Everyone the Value in Participating
Students sometimes do not know what they’re missing at your chapter events. They might even think that applicable membership benefits end as soon as they add Psi Chi to the resumés. It is your mission to tell them otherwise.
Psi Chi provides countless Membership Benefits such as this blog and $400,000 in annual awards and grants. But that's just where it starts! Your individual chapter also offers countless leadership, community service, education, and friendship opportunities.
Let others know that your chapter is a perfect platform for them to have fun and build meaningful relationships with others who have similar passions. To do this, try informing them about some of the activities your chapter plans to conduct this year. Your sense of excitement will likely show through, and more members are sure to participate as a result. With more members, you chapter will be able to accomplish bigger tasks (e.g., community service projects) than ever before!
8. Introduce Yourself and Others
This may seem obvious, but including others can be easily overlooked in group settings. Please always make sure to reach out to each and every new member and visitor at your chapter meetings and events. Consider asking them their opinions or encouraging them to tell everyone a little about who they are.
Students who leave meetings feeling a stronger connection with current active members are more likely to return. You can learn more about being inclusive in the recent Eye article, “Campus Protests Highlight Student Concerns: Can Your Chapter Help?”.
9. Update Newcomers About Your Chapter
Students are also less likely to put forth their ideas if they don’t feel “in the loop” about your chapter. So, let them know what projects your chapter has recently been involved in.
To do this, ask someone such as a chapter secretary to start each meeting by describing the events at the last meeting so that any new visitors feel as informed as possible. It is also helpful to keep handouts about upcoming projects or copies of your chapter’s Strategic Plan nearby to share with others.
10. Seek Out Diverse Groups
Is it possible that there are groups of eligible members who your chapter might have overlooked? See this recent blog post for a full list of eligible groups of people. The post also describes the new changes to make it easier for transfer students to join, and advice to start promoting your chapter to members who will soon be eligible is also included.
11. Institute Annual Chapter Goals
Are you unsure what cool things your chapter will accomplish this year? If so, your chapter may be at a heightened risk to accomplish little or even nothing at all. No worries. Here's how you can fix this:
At your next chapter meeting, review our Strategic Plan as a group to come up with activity ideas throughout the year that everyone can look forward to. This is a sure method to give your chapter a definite direction for the months to come. Just as important, decide then and there, who will take on any specific responsibilities to ensure that these plans become a success.
12. Give Everyone Something to Do
Most important, students who are given ways to get involved are more likely to return to future meetings. At each and every opportunity, try to give new participants at least one small task that they can each perform.
For example, maybe you could ask a first-time visitor to suggest what snack you should bring to the next meeting (they are definitely more likely to return if they know your chapter will be having their favorite snacks!). Or perhaps a new member might be interested in leading a five-minute discussion at the next meeting about a psychology-related issue they are passionate about. Involving new students could even be as simple as bringing a few Psi Chi flyers to each meeting so that you can ask newcomers to hang up a few across campus on their way back to their dorm rooms after the meeting.
Note. This post was updated 11/20/2019 in order to add sections 2, 3, 4, 5, and 10, and make other minor modifications. The previous title of this post was “Modern Enthusiasm: Getting Students Excited About Your Chapter.” The changes above were inspired by feedback provided in the “Leadership in Community: Ideas for Strengthening Your Chapter From the 2009 National Leadership Conference” article published in the spring 2009 issue of Eye on Psi Chi.