Building blocks

Putting together a recruitment strategy

2 August 2023

Organising and recruitment work builds the capacity of your branch. A coordinated effort to increase membership density through recruitment and retention will pay off in every area of the union's activity.

This increase in membership and membership involvement will bring an improved ability to identify workplace concerns, greater credibility with management and will contribute to the development of new activists. You will need to make a realistic assessment of what resources you can commit to organising and recruitment and how this will impact upon other work. With some initial planning you should be able to integrate recruitment and organisation into all the work of the branch and vice versa.

Make recruitment a priority

Increasing your membership density is not a job which can be undertaken by the membership secretary acting alone: it is a job for the whole local committee, the department or workplace representatives, and other active members. The committee and the reps must be involved in developing and implementing recruitment plans. You will need to take a collective decision as a committee to dedicate time, energy and resources to recruitment activities.

Set time aside, either as a committee or in a wider group with local representatives, to map your institution (see Workplace mapping), set goals and targets, and plan your recruitment campaign. Although recruitment is an ongoing activity, setting a timeline is a helpful way of preparing for and monitoring recruitment activities. You may wish to invite your regional official or the branch development organiser attached to your region to attend or to help you to plan these meetings. Recruitment and organisation will need to be a regular agenda item at subsequent committee meetings, so that you can evaluate your progress and revise your strategy.

Involve representatives

The most effective way to recruit new union members is through face to face conversations between colleagues. Encouraging local representatives to see recruitment as part of their regular work is essential for the strength of your union. Have everyone on the committee take responsibility for supporting particular representatives

Examples of recruitment activities

Information stalls

You can raise the visibility of the union and initiate conversations with potential members by holding information stalls at various times during the year outside dining areas, common rooms or the entrance to the library. You may want to do this in collaboration with other unions. Arrange a rota for staffing the stalls during the lunchtime session. Ask passers by whether they are union members and invite non-members to join. Make sure that you have information available about other unions for those who are not eligible for UCU membership.

See also: Running recruitment stalls

Recruitment meetings for those with special interests

Organise social events or informational meetings or campaign meetings for members and eligible non-members around an issue of current concern, e.g. casualisation, equality, workload issues etc. Make sure that you publicise the meeting to non-members and make it clear that they are welcome. At the meeting welcome non-members; have membership materials available; circulate a sign-up sheet; and make sure that participants know what you are going to do next about the issue under discussion and how they can support you.

Recruitment weeks

Run a 'join the union' week, maybe with the other campus trade unions. Over the course of the week put the spotlight on UCU, try lots of different activities to recruit new members.

For example:

  • put up posters in every department
  • send out a recruitment letter to every non-member
  • hold information stalls outside dining areas, common rooms or library entrances
  • send members a letter asking them to recruit a friend and enclose a membership application form.

Laboratory and office visits

The most effective way to recruit new members is to talk to them. It may be easier to work in pairs. For guidance on how to have a recruitment conversation, see Recruitment conversations.

Recruit a colleague campaign

Dedicate an issue of one of your branch newsletters to your recruitment campaign to make sure that your members are aware that you are engaged in a recruitment effort and that they understand why it is important for UCU membership to grow. Explain the campaign and its goals. Set out your timetable of events and invite members to volunteer, eg to staff a publicity table.

Logistics: timeline and resources

Once you have decided on the actions that you are going to take:

  • decide a timetable for the events you are going to organise
  • create a list of the resources you will need
  • how long will it take to create and assemble the materials you need?
  • how many volunteers do you need to recruit to assist you? Who will recruit them? Who can help you? How can you go beyond the 'usual suspects' and recruit new volunteers?
  • agree a timetable for committee or sub-committee meetings to monitor
  • finally, don't forget to set the date of the final review meeting at which you will assess the campaign as a whole.

See also: Recruitment campaign checklist

Last updated: 2 August 2023