Struggling to recruit new members? Try these six tips

 by Kenya McCullum

The ACF 90-Day Chef to Chef Challenge has entered its final month and you may be wondering what you can do to increase your chapter’s new member enrollments before the October 31 deadline.

ACF of Greater Buffalo New York, which is led by Chapter President Jacqueline Bamrick, has been extremely successful getting new people on board. Want to know how you can emulate their results? Bamrick, along with Mark Wright, the chapter’s Certification Chairman, provides some helpful recruitment tips below.

Give personal attention. When Wright and Bamrick talk to potential members, they start the conversation by calling them directly, or even stopping by to see them in person. As a result of this individualized attention, people’s interest in joining is piqued more than it might be if they were only contacted with an impersonal group email.

Stress the long-term benefits of membership. Once Wright does get the conversation started with potential members, he goes on to let them know how membership can be helpful for their career in the long term.

He explains his pitch this way: “I just say think about joining because you might need it someday since there’s a lot of jobs out there that require ACF certification. It might not seem like a lot right now, but down the line in ten years from now if you’re thinking about getting out of a hot, small kitchen and into a larger kitchen or corporation, that ACF certification or that ACF membership will go a long way.”

Invite prospective members to a chapter meeting. Bamrick says another reason the Buffalo chapter has been so successful at recruiting new members is because they encourage people to come to a meeting to see what the ACF community is like first-hand.

“Once they come to a chapter meeting, they see the enthusiasm, they see what we do for the community, and they always want to get involved,” she says. “We try to actually do a tangible type of involvement with them, not always talking to them.”

Tell your story. Why did you join the ACF? Why is membership so important to you? If you tell people your story, you not only get them interested in joining your chapter — you can also inspire them in their own career path.

“I joined because I wanted to get involved in something that I was very passionate about, which is culinary arts. I was a student at the time, and I also wanted to network and get certified. I achieved all that through my relationship with colleagues I met through the ACF,” Bamrick says. “Being a female role model [as] a chapter president, as well as being involved with the organization for 20 years, builds enthusiasm and interest when I represent the chapter.”

Avoid a hard sell. Although you want to be convincing when you speak to would-be members, you don’t want to annoy them and turn them off to joining your chapter entirely. Personally contacting people twice is enough to tell them how ACF membership can benefit them, as well as answer their questions, without becoming a nuisance.

Don’t forget quality. Boosting membership numbers is a great way to strengthen your chapter — but only if you recruit the right people. Bamrick suggests that while looking for new members, chapters should not sacrifice quality for quantity because in the long run, numbers alone won’t help your chapter or its members.

“I would say two really good, solid members are better than ten members that aren’t going to do anything whatsoever,” she says. “You won’t ever see them and they won’t support anything, so I would focus on the people you think are really going to make a difference, that are really going to commit. Focus on having that strength versus having just a few random people that aren’t going to be there when you need them.”