Recruiting and Retaining New Ringers

Tony Furnivall rings at Trinity Wall St, NY. He originally wrote this article for his local newsletter and it is reproduced by permission.  He makes reference to YMCA and Community Colleges. These are North America centres of adult education. You can substitute your own equivalents.

Willie Sutton is famous for having replied (in answer to the question “Why do you rob banks?”) “Because that’s where the money is”. I think that we should follow that line, and ask ourselves “What type of person are we looking for, to join our band?” and then follow that question with “And where can we find them?”. In other words, we want to identify a target population, and then our target location should be somewhere these targeted ringers are.

Two obvious populations that we could target are teenagers, and young adults. These people can most obviously be found in schools – high schools, and colleges and universities. We need also to ask what type of person we are looking for. Perhaps the most common personality trait among ringers is interest in math or computers. Not to say that this an exclusive selection criterion, but it is a good place to start. With this in mind, we need to craft something to attract them – giving benefits, to them, of ringing, and how it can help them with some sort of need that they have at the present time. It doesn’t have to be rocket science. Young people who are leaving home to attend college would probably put “Finding and making new friends” high on the list.

If you want to attract an older, possibly more stable crowd, then why not approach a local YMCA, or Community College, and offer a course there. A big benefit of this approach is that people registering for such courses expect to pay. The prospect of generating revenue for yourself and/or your tower is also a powerful incentive to make your training program as effective as possible.

And that leads directly to the issue of retention. Retention is everything that you do with, to and for those new recruits, from the first time they come into the tower. So often our recruitment activities are limited to a simple notice somewhere, and it is not until someone shows up that we begin to recruit them. Recruitment is a marketing activity – retention is a membership activity. You want to build a group of people who have this ringing thing in common. And this means, ideally, keeping the group together without impacting, or being impacted by, your regular band. Ten-minutes of handling in an odd moment of a weekly practice is as good as hanging up a sign saying, “Please keep out – we have our own thing going on, and you’re an interruption”. These new recruits need lots of tender love, care and attention. Especially attention.

There are any number of ways of growing this new band, and the best way is to do the ITTS Module 2 course. All the exercises that you will learn there are good at building not only a group of technically competent ringers, but also a group with internal cohesion – a group that acknowledges their “togetherness”.

So there it is: Recruitment is a targeted marketing activity, with a lot of analysis and planning about just whom you want to have in your novice band, and Retention is the process of loving them into existence, once they make that first cautious step into the ringing room.

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