California Native Plant Society


CNPS Membership Tips for Chapters

A few years ago, CNPS Board Member Arvind Kumar compiled the CNPS Membership Ideas Handbook, with contributions from several chapters detailing the various methods that some have found to yield positive membership results at chapter events. With the fall plant sale fast approaching, there may be one or two new ideas for your chapter to employ this autumn! CNPS Membership Ideas Handbook  
Satisfied Willis Jepson Chapter Plant Sale Customers - Photo by Wolfram Alderson

Successful Membership Strategies from the Redbud Chapter

Employing tips from the CNPS Membership Ideas Handbook, as well as trial and error, the rural Redbud chapter has had positive membership growth over the last few years. At the March 2011 Chapter Council meeting, delegate Joan Jernegan gave a presentation on Redbud's strategies for successful membership growth and retention. An archive of that presentation can be seen here.

Updated Chapter Membership Functions

The chapter membership duties document on the CNPS Admin web page, "New Chapter Startup B", has been updated and renamed as "Chapter Membership Functions" for easier reference. Recent changes include the addition of the online membership portal and electronic newsletters. This document should be reviewed by all volunteers who deal with membership at the chapter level.

Sample Phone Message and Email "Scripts" for Lapsed Members

Idea #2 in the CNPS Membership Ideas Handbook is "Email/Phone Call to Lapsed Members". This strategy has been used by the East Bay, Redbud, and Orange County chapters as a means to retain lapsed/dropped members by direct outreach and encouraging them to renew or rejoin. This is an easy and productive exercise that can be quite educational to learn more about your membership base and what keeps them interested in CNPS. With so many groups vying for increasingly limited funds in this economy, a simple personal phone call can make the difference between a lost member and an enthusiastic supporter for years to come. Charli Danielsen's East Bay's sample phone/email script is on page 8 of the CNPS Membership Ideas Handbook.

In 2010, the state office used an informal phone script:

"Hi, this message is for [lapsed member]. My name is ______. I'm calling from the California Native Plant Society because I notice that your membership has lapsed. I was wondering if you had any questions or complaints that I can assist you with. My number is ______, please call me if there is anything I can do to help. You may be interested to know that [your chapter] is having a [plant sale, program, ect.] on [date/time/place] and you can renew your membership there or online at Thank you for your past support of CNPS and have a nice day."

If you get a live person on the other end of the phone, there is more opportunity for interaction. Ask them if they know of upcoming chapter events, or why they supported CNPS in the past. If they have specific questions, try to refer them to the appropriate local volunteer knowledgeable in those areas or invite them to the next chapter meeting. This alone can be the most cost effective P.R. we can do at the local level to retain members and keep CNPS in the minds of those who might not be able to renew now, but will remember CNPS in the future.

Though retention rates for lapsed members who are emailed a plea to renew are lower than those who received personal phone calls, it is still a means to reach out to lapsing members who might otherwise fall off the radar. The Orange County chapter developed this email in 2010 to send to their lapsing and dropped members:

Greetings from the Orange County Chapter of the California Native Plant Society!

Our records show that you have been a member of our chapter in the past, and that your membership is now expired.  We would encourage you now to add your voice and your name to those who speak for native plant preservation in Orange County and California.

We speak for . . . protecting native plants, their ecosystems and the creatures whose lives depend on them. 

We speak for . . . native plant gardening in homes and businesses and public areas. 

We speak for . . . enjoying and cherishing the rich variety of native plants throughout the state.

We speak for . . . research and science and for educating children and adults about our state's natural beauty and diversity.

Every member counts.  We would like to count you with us.  Won't you please renew your membership with the California Native Plant Society? Click on this link to renew online, or to see options for mailing in your membership renewal. You will also see a list of some of the benefits of membership.

P.S.  Do you have comments about CNPS or suggestions that will help us serve you better?  Please respond to this email, or visit this website to make an anonymous comment.


Laura Camp, President

On behalf of Board Members Brad Jenkins, Jennifer Mabley, Nancy Heuler, Sarah Jayne, Celia Kutcher, Rich Schilk and Dan Songster

Please feel free to experiment with these scripts to develop your own "voice" of contacting your chapter's lapsing members!


Orange County Chapter Membership Retention Strategies

In September and October of 2010, an Orange County committee was formed to carry out a chapter level appeal to lapsed members. The appeal consisted of three parts - of which two were accomplished. Additionally a follow-up procedure (Part 4) has been put in place for ongoing lapses.

Part 1 - In September 2010, an email appeal was sent to 100 former members with email addresses on file. Some of these were from the state membership database and some from the chapter’s records. Out of these members, 18 renewed their membership.

Orange County chapter Postcard - click to enlarge.

Part 2 - In October, a postcard asking 165 lapsed members to renew was mailed, inviting them to the chapter’s upcoming plant sale and chapter meeting. Of those 165, 15 rejoined. The postcard cost $245 to print and mail.

Part 3 - Ideally, follow-up phone calls would follow. However, Orange County has not yet found a volunteer to call lapsed members.

Part 4 (follow-up) - Since October 2010, the chapter has sent a simple email appeal out each month to the lapsing members who have email addresses. 


The email appeals are cheap and easy. (Orange County uses a program called "Direct Mail" to keep track of email lists and compose and send messages. Jepson chapter has since adopted it to good results as well.) It's difficult to decide what motivates a member to renew, and several factors could be involved. Laura Camp has had members confirm that they got the lapsed member email and planned to renew, but perhaps they would have been the ones to renew eventually anyway.

The postcard results were somewhat disappointing, as the preparation of the postcard is time-consuming and somewhat expensive. Assuming the postcard was the important factor in motivating the 15 members to rejoin (which is a big assumption), it cost over $16 each per renewing member. We can hope that it makes sense to get our name and our activities in front of these former members, but Orange County will concentrate growing their email database and getting more sophisticated about email contacts.

The Orange County chapter membership committee knows from state results that phone calls are an important motivator to get people to rejoin. The chapter has a goal of contacting lapsed members by phone but has not been successful in recruiting a volunteer for this task. However, the chapter now sends a monthly email to our lapsed members, which is very similar to the one that went to the initial list of 100 lapses. In the past year, half of all dropped Orange County members with email addresses have rejoined.




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