If you’ve joined an Orchid society recently you may have one of two feelings: 1) the group is super helpful and informative; or 2) the group was cliquey, snobbish, or standoffish. If you experienced the latter, you likely aren’t a member at the moment, or you’re considering leaving.
If you’re not a new member and you’re a long-time member, this post may be of interest to you simply because you’d like know how to make your group more inviting to new members.
SO…how does an orchid society become more “new member friendly”? How do societies work toward an inclusive community of experts and beginners, who teach and learn, and ultimately grow the hobby? How do we make the orchid world more collaborative? For starters…we check our ego and pride at the door when we pick up our name tag, then we get down to building a tighter community with the following tools and efforts.
Here are the 9 ways you can make your orchid society more collaborative and inviting to new members
1. Welcome New Members with Pride – they are the lifeblood of your future society, make them feel welcome
Set new members up for success and make sure they feel like they’re getting value from your society
2. Provide a “Welcome Package” – include: contact info, meeting/show dates, a summary of what a meeting entails, how to volunteer, etc.
Most importantly a welcome package helps set the tone and expectation for the new member. For many people joining a society, it’s their first time being a part of an official group with a board and laws. It’s a bit overwhelming at the start if you show up to the AGM and everyone’s voting on who’s who in the next-year zoo. A welcome package helps transition new members into your processes.
3. Create an Online Chat Group – they’re great for discussions, questions and sharing (Facebook Groups are perfect for this, and they’re easy to setup)
This is honestly more valuable in my opinion than anything. An online community can facilitate conversation when it’s most convenient for individuals; it opens up conversations about care, about trading plants, and it allows your member base to share knowledge among each other, rather than the burden lying fully on the governing board. If you want to try one out, join Orchaholics Anonymous and see what it’s all about before you set up a group for your society
Let’s GROW together!
Tell us what your Orchid Society is currently doing to welcome and include new members
Contact Here…but not and we’ll add them to this list
4. Share Member Experience & Knowledge – you have a community newsletter…use it!
A “member’s growing corner feature” is a great way to showcase how other, more senior members grow in your climate. Ask a member per month to provide a write up about their area, with photos and tips or takeaways and publish it in the newsletter. This helps force conversation, it introduces experienced members to new members, AND it helps illustrate to new members how others achieve success in their collections. Here is an example of one I wrote for our local Orchid Society.
5. Start New-Member Focus Groups – Start a “beginner’s corner”, or “trouble-shooting corner” or “culture corner” at every meeting.
It’s a place new members can go to and ask for help. It’s best if you can provide take-home resources too…possibly more than just AOS care sheets. Growing tips that are relavent to your climate. Tips from your fellow members…it’s a great way to have members contribute to the knowledge pool. ASK – “If you had one tip for new members growing in _________, what would it be?” Then put it all in a single doc with links to resources
6. Run Short Workshops – Mini demos and presentations by the members can go a long way for new members
It doesn’t mean you need to dedicate the whole meeting for these. Often a quick 10-15 minute talk about something can be a good jump start. Things like the dreaded, “how to repot a phal”, “how to manage dendrobiums in fall”, “what you need to know about __YOUR CITY’S__ tap water”, etc. Plus, it creates conversation in smaller pockets.
7. Get Member Feedback – ask new members what they would like to see more of
It doesn’t mean it needs to dictate the whole society agenda, but as a knowledge-based society, it’s kind of your duty to ramp new members up. Some will have only a few plants, many will be frustrated with their lack of success, and most will welcome the opportunity to provide feedback.
8. Keep Your Meetings Top of Mind – Send out pre-meeting reminders for all members
I know your OS meeting seems top of mind for your board…but the rest of your members are caught up with every other aspect of life. They haven’t adopted an orchid-first mentality…yet; so the more you can remind them, the better.
Two fantastic ways to get new members to SHOW UP at your meetings are to: use MailChimp to send reminder emails the day or two before the event, and another one the day of. The other easy tool for pre-meeting reminders is using Facebook’s event tool. Members can opt into the event and then Facebook does the rest of the work…hounding attendees about the upcoming event!
9. Bridge the Age Gap – Some of us are young pups, some of us are elder orchid wizards, all of us love our orchids.
One Orchid Society member comments, “In the past I have experienced problems simply because I am young-ish. I think societies need to adapt and understand that younger people have just as much right to be there and learn, and may have some good ideas. Embracing technology and new things is also a plus. On the other side of the coin, young people need to understand that someone growing for 30+ years has lots of good information to impart. People cannot help when they were born but we all love the orchids and need to get along.”
This is more a call-out of awareness than an actual solution, but here’s the tea: sometimes ageism is a thing. Regardless of the why it exists or who’s the one to fix it, let’s agree on one core understanding: our passion and interest in orchids unites us regardless of how young or old we are. Everyone knows, it can feel unsettling to be the “odd person out” in a group…so regardless of someone’s age, sex, gender, race, etc, welcome all new members with an inclusive community. If we want this hobby to flourish, knowledge is the key and it needs to be handed down and received with open arms.
More Tips for Societies…Coming Soon
I’m going to get some more feedback on this topic, so check back often for updates if you’re looking for creative ways to help welcome new members to your society.
Special thanks to Orchaholics Anonymous members:
Michael Wong, Andy Anderson, and Matthew Polmanter for their feedback and insights on helping expand this list of ideas.