By Jeremy C. Nagel
The results are in for Michigan Farm Bureau’s 2018-19 membership year, which concluded Aug. 31 with more than 2,000 new regular members: 223 written by 123 member-volunteers; 1,813 written by Farm Bureau Insurance agents; and 31 written by county Farm Bureau staff.
Among the member-volunteers excelling in recruitment were Gratiot County Farm Bureau President Erin Humm, Wayne County Farm Bureau Membership Chair Phil Selter and Patricia Kauska of the Otsego County Farm Bureau board of directors. Each wrote a whopping eight new regular members! (See the entire list of our volunteer membership recruiters below.)
In Gratiot County, Humm and her board of directors took an innovative approach that simultaneously addressed two sticky facets of the membership cycle: incentivizing new memberships and ushering new, young members into Farm Bureau.
“We wrote a grant a year ago to help fund a sponsorship of sorts for state FFA degree recipients,” Humm explained. “The deal was if they got their state degree we’d sponsor a one-year membership for FFA completers.”
As someone who arrived at the Farm Bureau party later than many of her peers, Humm appreciated the opportunity to bridge the gap that separated her from the organization for many potentially formative years.
“I wish I’d known there was a natural progression from FFA into Farm Bureau, but instead I felt lost after high school,” Humm said, reflecting on her own leadership path. “I came in just at the tail end of the Young Farmer program, so I missed out on ProFILE and a lot of the networking opportunities. As a board we decided this sponsorship idea was one way to bridge that gap.
“Especially for those young people who aren’t attending an ag science school like MSU, this is a way of keeping them in touch with the industry and the leadership opportunities Farm Bureau provides. It’s an extension of where they’ve just come from.”
Wayne County took a creative approach as well, starting with a throwback membership drive cleverly disguised as a euchre tournament.
“Back in February at the county fairgrounds we hosted a euchre tournament. It was $25 to play but if you signed up you could put that toward your membership,” explained Phil Selter, Wayne County’s membership chair. “More than 80 people showed up and we signed up 13 new members that night.
“It was kind of a no-brainer and just worked really well for us, so we’re going to try it again next February.”
In Mason County, President Seth Earl signed four new regular members.
“Asking for a membership is like sales,” Earl said. “Never be afraid to ask for the close — meaning never be afraid to ask them to be members.
“People have a desire to be a part of a bigger organization — an organization that offers them something, but that ‘something’ is different for everyone. Programs and activities that involve all of our demographic groups are essential.”
Identifying a prospective member’s priorities and matching them with the appropriate corner of Farm Bureau is a key component of Earl’s approach to pitching the membership. Another key is getting new members active from the get-go.
“We try and get people involved but not overloaded with the organization,” he said. “One thing that’s worked well is asking new members to attend one of our statewide events.”
Here’s the full list of volunteer membership writers, statewide: