Each year in DKG, an international organization of women educators, we lose many more members than we initiate or reinstate. There are a variety of reasons our members resign, but one that is frequently mentioned is that they do not feel connected; they do not have a sense of "belonging."
There is no question but that we need to attract and engage the younger generations because they represent the future of our organization and our profession. For years I have said that it is not an either/or situation. It is both/and. We need both the younger generations and we need to keep our experienced members.
We need to engage the younger educators and we need to re-engage those who may feel disconnected so that they can share their experience and wisdom and can mentor and be mentored by those who are younger and/or new to the profession. And both groups need to have a sense of belonging.
Belonging is reflected as the third level in the pyramid of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Most of us never get to the point, regardless of our age, that we don't desire acceptance by someone, a group or an organization. We want to relate to other humans and feel connected, valued, and appreciated. How can DKG members take care of their own? The answer might be very simple.
- Contact members personally
- Acknowledge every member's past/present/future contributions
- Affirm all members' value
- Seek the opinions of all members on changes they would like to see
- Involve members in a program, project or activity
- Invite members to share a talent, skill or idea
- Extend a personal invitation to each member to state, regional and international meetings
- Ensure that each member has an opportunity to "serve" each biennium
- Share international information with all members to increase the feeling of being in the loop
- Recognize some members may need/want something but won't ask
- Encourage members regardless of their presumed emotional/professional strength
- Connect with those who rarely participate, appear uninvolved, or who sit alone at meetings
- Treat all members as you would like to be treated