The ink is drying on the 2022 membership campaign ledger and there’s still some cake leftover from celebrating Michigan’s third straight year of regular-member growth.
But before we put that binder on the shelf and pull out the Christmas music, remember this: Few of those newbies you wrote will stay onboard if they get no value for their $50.
Key to fixing that? Get them involved.
Seasoned Farm Bureau members agree that involvement is the key to unlocking the kind of devotion those seasoned members share. When it comes to maxing out the value of membership, there’s a strong you-get-what-you-give component: The more involved you are, the more rewarding Farm Bureau becomes — and bigger value means more passionately committed members you’ll retain and the more skilled leaders you’ll groom.
It’s only the future of the organization at stake is all. No biggie.
Involving new members can be as tricky as writing them in the first place, so let’s start consulting some experts, starting in… <jabbing finger at map> Gratiot County, where a Farm Gate informant tapped Stacey Carey as especially adept at involving newcomers to The Bureau.
She starts by approaching people directly, personally, one-to-one.
“I just call and ask — or I ask people face-to-face,” Cary said about her most reliable involvement tactic. “It’s that personal touch that gets results.
“In anything you do, you have to let your passion show through and be enthusiastic. It’s contagious and then people want to be a part of it.”
Another key to her success rate is keeping her involvement appeals bite-size, like when she enlisted volunteers to help during Kiddies’ Day at the Gratiot County Fair.
“I called several people and said, ‘I only need you for about an hour. We just need you to smile and answer people’s questions about farming.
“You just baby-step them into it.”
Worth noting is the overlap between her member-engagement tactics and those she uses to recruit new members in the first place.
“Again, you’ve got to be enthusiastic about it. Tell your ‘why’ — why you’re involved in Farm Bureau.”
Her effectiveness at pitching Farm Bureau membership to promising prospects is a matter of record: Cary led the pack in District 8 this year, writing 14 new members in Gratiot County.
Back to engaging newcomers, Cary leans on the diversity of engagement opportunities within the organization, with appealing options fitting various interests.
“Politics is not my jam but since my grandpa passed away, I find I turn to Farm Bureau for guidance on candidates who are friendly to agriculture,” she said, adding a related plug for the work MFB’s legislative counsels do in Lansing and D.C.
“There’s a whole department down there in Lansing who fight for us,” she said, connecting the organization’s strength-in-numbers advocacy with another cherished lesson from grandad:
“Back in the day there used to be all these co-ops — my grandfather started Sumner Farmers Co-op —and they had the buying power of a huge farm. Being a Farm Bureau member gives little and medium-size farmers access to experts at the home office,” she said, specifically namedropping Craig Anderson, walking encyclopedia and MFB’s Regulatory Relations Specialist.
Beyond the regulatory and the technical, Cary said Farm Bureau’s softer side appeals to a whole other segment of the membership.
“People love children, there are all these things we do through Promotion & Education,” from Project RED and Ag in the Classroom to outreach through public libraries and other community institutions.
“Other organizations offer discounts — and so does Farm Bureau — but this is my ‘why’: Of your $50 dues, $16 stays in our county for our own local programming,” Cary said before wrapping up her impromptu seminar with one final nugget:
“New members aren’t going to stay engaged or renew their membership until they see not necessarily what’s in it for them, but more so what our organization’s doing for the community.”
Look for more savvy guidance for involving new members in forthcoming Farm Gate issues.