How to Keep Women Coming Back
For years we have been promoting the virtues of women’s groups and during that time we have listened to the community repeatedly sharing their biggest challenge with us:
How do we keep members committed to consistently showing up for each meeting?
This is a big issue. It’s not difficult to appeal to women and attract them into showing up for a new group and attending a meeting or two. But keeping their interest and enticing them to come back for more is a tougher problem.
Whether you are the leader of the group or a member, consistency is important to the formation and success of any group. Attending on a regular and consistent basis is of primary importance. Building a strong group is a journey. It takes time to build the necessary trust for each member. It takes time for your group to coalesce and have meaningful interactions.
We have come up with the following points to help you motivate your members’ interest in the group and keep them wanting to continue.
What’s Your Vision?
Be clear about your vision. Why do you want to bring the women together? Initially, this is all about you because you are starting the group and need to think in terms of what you want and in what direction you want it to go. The clearer you are about your vision, the easier it will be to communicate it to potential members and motivate them to join your group. Remember though, you are only half of the equation in the success of your group – the other half is the group members themselves.
What’s In It For Me?
Once you’ve established this great vision of what your group will do and be, you know what type of women you would like to have in your group. This is important! Yet, after you create your vision, you need to step back and ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?”
You can be sure that your early participants will be thinking, “What’s in it for me?”
If you continually ask this question of yourself and your members, you will find that you’ve created a foundation that intrigues members to continue to participate. So, what’s in it for the women in your group?
The focus of your group is important. After all, that’s what brought your women together in the first place. Keep in mind that there is another, unidentified yet equally important, reason for women to join the group – to meet other like-minded women and build relationships.
Women will gravitate towards relationships…it’s important to them.
Help Women Build Relationships
In the early stages, you are balancing two foundational aspects of a successful group: focus and relationships. Always remembering the main purpose for the group and building upon it keeps your group focused. Creating lots of opportunities for the women to get to know each other, interact and share who they are with other members brings them closer to each other and more committed to the group as a whole. It is most important at the early stages that you create an environment that will help women start sharing.
As soon as women begin sharing who they are and letting others “know” them, that means they feel safe and are committing to the group. If your group isn’t bonding, check in as to why your members decided to join your group. Find out what stops them from feeling safe in the group. Maybe it’s how you’ve structured the meeting – too often or not soon enough, too formal or not structured enough. Maybe there are some who aren’t on the same page with other members or some who tend to criticize others. This is damaging to the group. Keep checking in with members and look for ways to improve your group.
Do You Have The Right Members?
If you want a group that focuses on finance and the members are interested in self-help, you won’t be able to keep their interest. Sometimes your focus is too broad and doesn’t hold the interest of the group. In the early stages of the group you will be soliciting the members’ input to determine the right focus of the group for everyone. Be patient as this is a process over time and the wrong members will fall away when the topic doesn’t interest them. This way you keep building the right type of group for you and your committed members.
What Structure Will You Create?
The structure of the group can be flexible and still create a consistent group membership. At the beginning, it may be appropriate to invite new people to meetings on a regular basis, constantly expanding your group’s network. This may work for your group over the long term or you may decide to become more focused.
One group we know started out as open to all members who were interested in Spirituality. It was based on a monthly Sunday brunch theme, pot luck, rotating houses, yet all topics addressed “What is spirituality?” to the members.
Women would come and go, yet after almost a year there is a core group that consistently shows up. Why? These women wanted to discuss spirituality with other women as well as build relationships.
After 8 months, the consistent members decided to close the group because it had developed a strong core membership. These members decided that if someone didn’t show up for 3 monthly meetings in a row, she would be considered inactive and would be removed from the group email. The group email is how members communicate to each other about the particulars of the next meeting, topics, etc.
The group started out open and then the members decided to close it in order to preserve the bonding that was occurring with the consistently attending members. Again, be patient and keep creating an environment that supports bonding with your group members. It will strengthen your group.
Different Types of Personalities
Though it sometimes can be challenging to have different types of personalities interacting, the differences enhance the strength of the group by offering up the knowledge, skills and abilities each member brings to the group. Of course, you do need to reign in some strong personalities in order to give the more quiet members a chance to contribute.
This is a great discussion point for your group. How does the group ensure that all members have a chance to contribute? Let them decide the ground rules as they will own it and you won’t have to work so hard giving everyone a voice.
Keep in mind that every time a member comes to a meeting it’s an opportunity for her to get to know the other women and start to bond. The theme is what initially brought them to the first meeting…bonding with other women is what keeps them coming back.
Let us know what other issues you have either as a leader or a member of a women’s group.
Karen & Pat
maximize the value of the women in your life
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