Cindy Cassell, a registered dietician, is the owner and operator of Nutrition Access and Clermont County Farm Bureau’s volunteer membership coordinator. She and her husband operate a 55-head buffalo farm. She took a few moments to share her insights on membership work in her county.
Q: How did you get involved in the membership campaign in Clermont County?
A: I wanted to become more engaged in our local county organization, and the former membership chair stepped down after about 15 years and I said “I’ll do it.” I think if you made a commitment to be a county board member you have a responsibility to bring resources, time and/or energy in support of the organization. Being the membership coordinator gives me the opportunity to meet interesting people, do some fun events and get engaged with the local Farm Bureau members.
Q: What membership challenges do you face?
A: There’s a need to bring awareness of the benefits of Farm Bureau with all our country citizens. The younger parents of 4-H members as well as new people moving into Clermont County may not know about Farm Bureau and what it stands for. Bringing new people into the organization who are excited about agriculture and living on a farm in the rural community is a neat opportunity. Some challenges include a traditional structure that may inhibit connecting with younger generations and how we can best use new communications strategies to efficiently reach out to potential members. Email newsletters and online social networking can help us run a campaign where we don’t have to spend as much time knocking on doors so to speak. Using social media and other electronic means of communication may lower the cost of membership duties and allow us to be more efficient in reaching more people.
Q: What new opportunities do you see for engaging new Farm Bureau members?
A: Social media and online networking provides opportunities for members to communicate and be productive without having to physically get together. Eliminating the stress that many feel with having to travel long distances at busy times of the day to attend a meeting at times makes people not want to be involved. Better communications as well as Skyping meetings (online video conferencing) may be a good way to bring people together.
Q: What approaches to selling a Farm Bureau membership do you find most effective?
A: I don’t really think of it as selling a membership. I think of it as offering like-minded friends and neighbors the opportunity to get involved with agriculture on a higher level. Most people that farm or own a business or are involved in a professional association of some sort get together as a group to discuss situations that affect them or plan meetings where they have common interest. That is how I see Farm Bureau, supporting local people with a common interest and using it as a platform. Ultimately, it’s about the people, the relationships, the communications and the networking. So instead of the traditional door-to-door selling technique, we have been holding educational events with agriculture-themed topics like beekeeping and animal nutrition and then hopefully square dancing and bowling with the new membership drive. If you create the event and make it interesting then people will come and bring their friends, and it becomes more of a “Go To Event.”
Q: How are you finding, engaging and motivating volunteers?
A: I am reaching out beyond our traditional county Farm Bureau committees. I’m working with a circle of close friends who I run with. I thought it would be interesting to do fun stuff with my friends that I would not normally do, but also where they could bring their friends. When an organization creates something your friends want to be a part of, their friends want to be a part of it, too.
Q: What suggestions do you have for those working to grow Farm Bureau membership throughout the state?
A: 1. Make the atmosphere look and feel consistent at your events, from the signage to the food, to the placemats. But do something unique at every event to help people remember it. The food and theme are especially important.
2. Food is such an important part of the experience. Instead of using a general caterer, I look for local producers who can provide a different product they have made, grown or raised. It might require more time and effort to do this, but local connections and where your food comes from are very important and it promotes county businesses. Plus, this helps people experience our events in a way that matches the look and feel of Clermont County Farm Bureau possibly similar to Our Ohio magazine.
3. Think outside the box. Your events and programs don’t always need to be farm-related, but agriculture-related. When it’s warm, always do things outside and on the farm. People want to touch, feel and experience agriculture; county Farm Bureaus should be places where we help non-Farm Bureau members connect the dots between farm and food and agriculture.