From U3A Conference
PUBLICITY and promotion are essential to help spread the word about U3A in general and your U3A in particular.
The aim is to gain new members while making the wider community more supportive of the achievements of the U3A movement.
And what makes people join U3A? Bathurst U3A (NSW) asked members to complete a survey. One question was “How did you hear about Bathurst U3A?”
Significantly 50% of respondents said “From friends” underlining the great importance of word of mouth in building member numbers.
The next highest proportion – 19% – said “Press.”Not surprising then that most U3As appoint a public relations/publicity officer to write and distribute releases to local media and opinion makers.
Last year U3A Sunshine Coast (Qld) went a step further. They appointed a special marketing officer to work with their publicity officer to further their long-term goal of increasing membership.
Here are some other promotional ideas your committee could consider. Some you may already carry out:
Stage an Open Day/Week
One tried and true method of publicising your U3A is to stage an open day or even an open week.
Publicise the fact that some classes will be open to visitors and members both. Naturally not all classes are suitable for casual visiting and some tutors may prefer to keep their classes closed to outsiders.
The NSW Network encourages all member U3As to take part in NSW seniors Week each year by holding an Open Day during that week.
The Open Day normal features ordinary U3A activities but is intended to encourage new membership and to raise U3A’s community profile.
Gold Coast U3A Moncrieff ran an open week last year and encouraged members to bring
along a friend.
Grafton U3A (NSW) plan to hold a U3A Expo at the Regional Gallery during Seniors’ Week
U3A Northern Rivers (NSW) offers prospective members a discount to join U3A. Anyone joining in the fourth term of a year pays the usual fees ($30 single, $50 a couple) but because they join so late in the year they not only have membership for that term but for the following year as well.
In other words, a newcomer gets 16 months membership for the price of 12.
The discount is only available once for each applicant.
The scheme has been operating successfully for more than five years.
Milton-Ulladulla U3A (NSW) reduces its annual membership fee from $15 to $10 for people joining from Term 3 onwards.
Arrange a permanent display
Bright and District U3A (Vic) reportedly had great success last year with a public stall displaying photos of classes.
Members handed out newsletters and timetables and generally spread the word among passers by. The stall was so successful – 10 new members – that the Bright committee asked the manager of the local IGA supermarket to allow them to put up a U3A notice board on the shop’s outside wall.
The U3A woodwork group made a board with a clear shatter-proof Perspex cover and weatherproof timber frame. Now it is a permanent reminder to shoppers of U3A activities.
Others such as Mudgee District U3A (NSW) arranged a temporary display in their local library.
Seek media coverage
Many newspapers and TV stations run special supplements or programmes during Seniors’ Week.
Visit the editor or appropriate reporter and encourage them to cover an interesting event you can organise through your U3A.
Select something that defies the stereotypes of “old people” such as belly dancing or a forum on how GOOD things are today.
Effective publicity officers try to develop a personal relationship with reporters on local media so that when any question about retirees comes up, the reporter is inclined to mention U3A or seek a comment.
Most journalists today are overworked and will welcome your assistance in getting stories with a strong local angle.
U3A Nepean Blue Mountains is typical of many U3As in promoting U3A by attending local festivals and similar events such as Australia Day galas and agricultural shows.
Kempsey bags it
Kempsey Macleay Valley U3A is providing class carry bags for every financial member who signs up for a course this year.
The calico bags, bearing a screen-printed U3A logo, allow members “to keep together all the bits and pieces you need for various courses.”