Trout Unlimited believes that conservation should be fun, rewarding, and open to all who show an interest. We work to engage diverse audiences in the value of coldwater fisheries conservation because we believe that even if we protect all remaining pristine land in perpetuity, it wouldn’t be enough to sustain our fisheries. To ensure long-term viability of North America’s lakes, rivers, and streams, we need a grassroots army of volunteers dedicated to educating others on the importance of cold, clean water and the species that call them home.
In recent years, we’ve seen incredible growth in chapters that have moved away from the model of a monthly member meeting and a few other traditional activities to instead offer a diversity of events. By putting opportunities out for people of all ages, genders, interests and skill levels to engage, these chapters are finding that there are plenty of people interested in being part of TU’s success!
The following resources are designed to help your chapter begin or expand your membership engagement events and leadership development efforts. Your Volunteer Operations Staff are always available to answer questions and offer advice.
Engagement at the Chapter Level
For TU’s 400 local chapters – and their 300,000 members and supporters – fun, interesting, and informative events can help recruit new members to your chapter, fundraise for your conservation activities, and build community among all in your area who care about cold, clean water and the fisheries that depend on it.
Whether your chapter offers a monthly meeting, develops hands-on volunteer restoration projects, offers regular local fishing trips, creates social activities to build community, hosts women’s specific fishing clinics, takes veterans fishing, or facilitates youth education programs and projects, opportunities for your chapter to recruit new members come when you reach beyond your chapter roster into your surrounding community and spread the good word of coldwater fisheries conservation and show folks how fun TU can be.
Questions to Ask Yourself As You Develop Activities
So often we hear that “it’s the same people coming to everything” and yet we know that there are many members, non-members and people in the community who want to participate in your TU chapter activities. Your job is to find out how to attract them! One great way to advise your planning efforts is to send out a member survey and ask them directly! Ask yourself these questions when planning chapter events:
- Where Do Our Members Live?
People can be incredibly parochial and not seek to attend events outside of their town – or just a short drive away. If all of your chapter activities take place in the northern part of your territory, but half the members live around a city in the south, you may very well be excluding them because they aren’t willing to drive to attend your events. Take a look at your chapter roster and where the members live and consider moving events around, holding events in new towns and new areas of your chapter territory to find new members interested in participating! (Note: Holding chapter events “in the middle” of your territory can also be fraught as rather than making them convenient for most people, they tend to make them mutually inconvenient to everyone.)
- When Are Our Members Available?
Chapter meetings on a weekday evening at 7 p.m. have long been the cornerstone of our TU community, and they continue to be an important event we offer. But weekday evenings may not be possible for young parents eager to spend the “tuck in” time with their children, working members who commute each day and are just getting home after a long, tiring drives etc… They may also not be what many members are interested in attending. Consider offering a range of activities on a range of days throughout the course of the year, including weekday meetings, social events at a bar or brewery, family-friendly fishing or volunteer opportunities on a weekend etc… By giving people more choice on when to connect to your chapter, they are more likely to participate.
- Are We Offering Something for Everyone
Along with chapter meetings, what other types of events can you offer to engage more members? Surveys of TU members show that different people are interested in different activities. Many members enjoy chapter meetings, a segment of the membership is interested in fly tying, almost every member wants to learn how and where to go fishing locally, and a majority of members want to plant trees, pick up trash and volunteer to make a local stream healthier. Respond to these interests by offering more of what people want, where and when they want it!
- Where Do Our Members Live?