Recruit new members by focusing on your outreach

Lillie Plowman
Publications/Premiums Marketing Manager
APWA Kansas City Office

Webster's defines the words "outreach" and "recruit" as follows: Outreach—to reach out; an act or instance of reaching out. Recruit—to engage in finding and attracting new members.

Why the emphasis on outreach and recruitment? The big challenge facing APWA today is how it will grow as an association. APWA has worked to create and improve its capabilities to provide education, advocacy and tools to exchange information among its members, with impressive successes. The iInfoNOW Communities, Click, Listen and Learn training tools, tracking for new infrastructure legislation and regulations affecting public works, and new initiatives to provide relevant advice to regulators and lawmakers on public works infrastructure and public works services are but a few of a longer list. These and other expanded services would be attractions for potential members to become active and involved members. If we could only make them aware. Awareness can only be achieved through the efforts of our members.

Indeed, it is you, our members, who are the key to the growth of our association and the improvement of its programs. In the business of protecting and improving public works facilities and services, membership numbers count.

What follows are a number of outreach activities that can be performed carried out in order to bring new members into our association. Please join us in building our membership and making this year a real standout for the American Public Works Association!

  • Emphasize the positive achievements of your chapter. Share your pride. Publicize what your chapter does well, for example a successful equipment show, awards program, National Public Works Week (NPPW) activities, educational presentations, etc.

  • Plan a special membership drive, inviting as many prospective members as possible. Encourage every member to invite at least one solid prospect. Offer an incentive from the APWA Premium Collection to prospects who sign up that day. (To view the entire Premium Collection, please visit us at go to

  • Hold a recruitment contest. Select the prize for the contest from the APWA Premium Collection and display it at all of the meetings until someone wins. Make it a fun opportunity for the members to become involved in the contest.

  • Design a coupon that can be given to non-members to receive a discount on a luncheon or chapter- sponsored event. This will encourage your members to bring guests and encourage non-members to attend. Make sure to have a plan in place to follow up with non-member attendees regarding membership benefits.

  • Invite prospective members to your regular meetings, as well as special APWA events.

  • Wear your APWA lapel pin everywhere you go. This is the best personal advertisement for your chapter.

  • Organize the accomplishments and activities of your chapter into a list or scrapbook, and make it available to your prospective members. This is an excellent way to show members in action, as well as highlight members' accomplishments.

  • Contact your local TV stations about showing the six-minute video Everyday Heroes or the 30-second Public Service Announcement.

  • Use APWA's six-minute video entitled Everyday Heroes that emphasizes the everyday role of public works professionals. Use it during recruitment events; it's ideal to show during National Public Works Week.

  • Contact members who did not renew to invite them back to the chapter. Why not contact your former chapter members and invite them to come back and join APWA? These individuals already know the value of APWA.

  • Set up an information table at city-wide events, meetings or workshops held in your area. Have some of the publications and APWA Premium Collection items on display.

  • Hold an informal open house or picnic. Challenge each member to bring a non-member. This is a great way to network and increase membership. Offer rewards for those members who recruit the most members. Put up flyers. Any of the items in the APWA Premium Collection would be a great idea. Advertise it in the local papers. Put up flyers.

  • Advertise meetings and chapter events in local, regional or business/professional publications.

  • Distribute copies of the APWA Reporter and promote the magazine as a benefit of membership.

  • Offer professional development opportunities at a reduced rate to APWA members. One great way is to be a host of an APWA Click, Listen and Learn site.

  • Distribute National Public Works Week posters to local libraries, schools, city halls, businesses, etc.

  • Build and/or maintain a website to outreach to potential new members, but also to be a communications/value added to members. This could include a calendar of events, newsletter, and more!

  • Create a Chapter Recruitment Rewards Program—every time a member recruits a new member, they are able to earn points. If you recruit a new member, you earn two points, recruit a lapsed member you earn five points, etc. Once the member reaches a certain quantity (for example, 25 or 50 points), those points can then be redeemed for a variety of thank-you gifts from the APWA Premium Collection.

  • Sponsor a community outreach activity. Invite P.W. Paws to meet the young children in your community. Great giveaways that promote APWA include P.W. Paws pencils, balloons, stickers, coloring and comic books, and T-shirts.

  • Hold a ceremony to "induct" new members to APWA. Ask for current APWA members to serve as "mentors" to the new members prior to the time of "induction" to help oversee the process of assimilation into the chapter.

  • Develop a comprehensive recruitment and retention strategy. The range of possible tactics is broad—typically including such things as a recruitment brochure, personalized letters, advertisements, exhibits, reduced dues, introductory copies of the APWA Reporter, your local chapter newsletter and a recruitment slogan. No matter how typical or unusual the tactics, each should communicate one or more benefits of membership, such as:

      Networking: social events, chapter meetings, resources

      Advancement: training courses, seminars, workshops, job marketplace in APWA Reporter

      Information: newsletters, APWA Reporter, conferences

      Representation: at both local and national levels

      Prestige: intangibles such as special recognition/designation bestowed on chapter members

      Recognition: awards and plaques

      Service: opportunities to serve in a leadership position, chairing committees, serving on boards, and holding office.

      If you have questions about any of these activities or need additional information regarding membership recruitment, please contact Patty Mahan at (800) 848-APWA ext. 3584 . For questions concerning purchasing any of the APWA Premium Collection items, please contact Lillie Plowman at (800) 848-APWA ext. 3538.  We're here to help!