There are countless ways to build BBYO in any community. As council/regional leaders you will know your community and the teen audience best. That’s why we present five different techniques to build your council/regional membership (mostly through strengthening your region through chapters), so that you can work with your peer leaders and regional staff to determine which strategy will bring you closest to your goals. In some regions, all of these methods may apply, and in others, only a couple. Consider all of them, and figure out how you might implement them back home.
In many regions, chapter membership is all over the place. For starters, some chapters fall below the chapter charter minimum (12 members). Chapter membership levels can easily lend themselves to realistic goals and “easy wins”.
- If you have a chapter with 9 members set a one-month goal for them to reach 12.
- If you have a chapter at 13 or 14, set a two-month goal of reaching 20.
- If you have a chapter at 23, set a-three month goal of 30.
Each time a chapter reaches a goal, set another. This will build momentum and spread enthusiasm among your membership. You will see your regional membership rise steadily as chapters continuously reach and break through their original goal levels.
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The quickest way to increase membership in your regions is to have your chapters reach their high point from the year before by the end of September. If each of your chapters re-registers their membership (with the exception of graduated seniors) by the end of September, and works to recruit 2 members a month, per chapter, for 8, 9, or 10 months, your region will grow considerably. Recruiting a minimum of 2 members a month is also a good strategy because it provides a period of time for every pair recruited to have specialized attention from the rest of the chapter. Remember, 2 are the minimum. You want to strive for more. This will help in building a strong AIT or MIT class each semester.
We recognize that not every chapter will succeed in recruiting 2 members a month. Perhaps the BBYO chapter is located in a community with few Jewish teens. This will skew your numbers. What is significant to keep in mind at all times is that the “two member a month plan” is a minimum. Whereas the BBYO chapter may only climb 8, 10 or 12 members over the course of the year, it is likely the rest of the chapters, located in denser communities can recruit more than 2 members a month.
Remember, this plan is in addition to Early Fall, Early Spring, and 8th Grade annual recruitment pushes. Maybe you’ll start a new chapter in addition to this. Think about two, three, and five years from now. If Region X practices this each year over the next few years, it will grow to 550, 600, 650, etc. Your opportunities are limitless. Take advantage of the year ahead of you to lay the foundation for the years after you.
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Starting chapters in new areas is time intensive, but also very rewarding. The first thing to keep in mind when starting a new chapter is about building it for the future, not creating a quick patchwork of a chapter that is not equipped to survive the long haul. When starting a new chapter in a new area, it is key to understand that they will not start right off planning their own programs and being a fully functioning chapter. Lots of hand holding, going slowly and taking it step by step is something that is necessary to build a strong leadership base.
One of the first steps that must occur is identifying the needs of the community. Is BBYO going to be a central component to the Jewish community, or is it a fringe organization, one that exists to help find the unaffiliated Jewish teens in the area? The second question is what can the community support at the current time? What do AZA and BBG have to offer that is unique to the Jewish teens in a specific community? Are you looking to start an AZA chapter, a BBG chapter, or a BBYO chapter? Once you have identified the needs of the community you are ready to start.
There is no defined way to “begin” a chapter, but the first uniform step is being able to offer them something they don’t currently have in the community. The central question of starting a new chapter in any area, urban, suburban or rural is identifying what the Jewish teens want and providing it for them.
Start them off slow, gather parent’s support and plan some fun programs that will leave them wanting to return. Finally, if you are in a large city and will be starting a new chapter from members breaking off of other chapters, you have to be extremely careful the leadership in both the new chapter and in the old chapter is sustainable not only for the next 6 months, but in 2 years from the break. Starting a chapter with seniors is not a lasting situation and one that won’t likely be pragmatic for the coming board.
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You need face-time with Jewish teens. Have BBYO partner with other teen programs in your communities including sport leagues, community service initiatives, town fairs, civic projects, or local political campaigns. If BBYO is a presence in Jewish teens lives – beyond WOW! Programs – you will find pockets and social circles of Jewish teens that would have otherwise not come into contact with BBYO or AZA and BBG. From these partnerships you may find groups of Jewish teens that are interested in joining current chapters, taking part in summer programs, or starting new chapters. Become the Jewish teen presence in your area and it will lead to a culture of involvement.
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This is the biggest goal of all. If AZA and BBG grow to be the popular Jewish youth group of choice in your community then you have succeeded. It’s important to recognize that this takes time – even years. This is accomplished through many ways. Are siblings of past members seeking BBYO and AZA and BBG on their own before even being recruited? Do your JCCs, Jewish Federation, and community organizations work, promote, and program with BBYO on an ongoing basis? Are your alumni active? Are there consistent opportunities for growth and expansion? Is your membership stable?
If over time your membership continues to climb, your region has a positive and meaningful image in the community, and AZA and BBG have a cool, fun, and satisfying reputation, recruitment challenges will ease. This is the product of strong programming, effective membership efforts, and responsible teen leadership over the course of many years. Put your regions on the path toward this goal this year so that in the near future, AZA and BBG are strong, and the premier Jewish experience for Jewish teens where you live.
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