It is important to attract newcomers, but we must also pay attention to how we best keep them once they start attending meetings. How can we be more welcoming? How can we learn from newcomer feedback? How can we best encourage participation and a sense that they belong at our meetings? How can we best support newcomers outside of meetings until they become more self-led?
Between 2009 and early 2011, Dr. Sue Pickett of the University of Illinois and her team conducted a study of 126 newcomers to RI meetings. The prelimary results, as presented at the May 2010 Chicago ALSHS meeting, is in the first attached PDF below called RI2010 Meeting Evaluation by Dr. Sue Pickett. The final March 2011 study is available now. See the Final UIC Study on Newcomers post by Celinda. The study asked the following questions
– Who attends RI groups?
– Why do they go to RI groups?
– What do they like about RI groups?
– What do they learn in RI groups?
– How does participating in RI groups help them in their lives?
Among other things. this study helps us understand newcomers better. A few parts of the study which may be particularly important for retaining newcomers are:
1) What they like and dislike about meetings: (on RI2010 Preliminary Results, see slide #23, "Satisfaction with RI Groups"). If we make the meetings more appealing by doing more of what they like and less of what they dislike, they may be more likely to keep going to meetings.
2) Why they stopped going to RI meetings. (on RI2010 Preliminary Results, see slide #26, "Why Did You Stop Going to RI Meetings"). Note the numbers who dropped out due to issues that are at least partly in our control -- related to the meeting format and the leaders.