Membership Retention Guidelines

The growth of the Knights of Columbus depends not only on recruiting new members, but also on retaining current ones. These retention efforts for new members begin once he joins the Order. In addition efforts must be made to retain longstanding members and to keep them enthusiastic about the Order. Below is some information on starting your council's membership retention efforts.

Retention efforts must start immediately after the First Degree has been conferred on a new member. Encourage the new member to take the Second and Third degrees as soon as possible. Establish a "welcoming committee" of several council members to provide the member and his family with information on the council, show them around the council's facilities and answer questions they may have. Present the new member with a baseball cap or T-shirt emblazoned with the Order's emblem and the council number. A new Knight's proposer should introduce him to other council members, help make him feel at home and inform him of the dates and times for council meetings and activities. Establish a car pool to bring new (and old) members to meetings. Also, as soon as the First Degree is over, get new members interested in earning the "Shining Armor Award" to help their knowledge and involvement in the Order grow.

Use the Admission Committee Questionnaire (#391) to find out the interests of new members. Giving a new Knight responsibilities and assigning him to program committees helps him feel that he is an important part of the council. Use the Member Interest Survey Form (#1842). The survey gives members the opportunity to list their preferences for possible committee assignments and indicate the areas that they find exciting, challenging and promising. There is also space for members to express their thoughts on how to improve existing programs. Ask them to also list new programs they think the council should conduct.

Establish a retention committee to examine reasons why Knights become inactive and let their membership lapse. This committee plans programs to conserve the council's membership and anticipate and solve problems that may cause membership suspensions. The deputy grand knight should be named to the position of retention chairman and his committee is composed of the council's trustees. Use the Membership Retention/Conservation Report Form (FSC 14105). After discovering problems, the committee should work with council officers to remedy them.

The financial secretary should provide the retention committee with a list of members in danger of being suspended. Contact these members and discuss their reasons for being inactive. Urge them to become active again. The financial secretary can also furnish a list of suspended members. Contact former Knights who still meet membership eligibility requirements and ask them to rejoin.

Keep council meetings interesting and relevant. If a member asks himself: "Why am I here?" then something is wrong. Start meetings on time and keep discussions, comments, etc., within proper limits. The grand knight should refer any nonessential matters to the appropriate committees. Hold meetings on a night convenient to most members. Allow all members to voice their opinions in an orderly way and try to keep meetings open and relaxed.

The flyer "Responsibilities of Grand Knight" (#1937) explains the guidelines for conducting a council meeting. Grand knights should also be familiar with parliamentary procedure. The booklet How to Conduct a Meeting: Parliamentary Procedure (#438) is also helpful.

Encourage a free exchange of ideas on council programs and business during council meetings, but make sure the council remains focused on the issues under discussion. If possible, complete the business portion of the meeting within an hour.

Another way to help retain members is personal follow-up. Let a member know he is missed the first time he fails to attend a meeting or event. Forward a "We missed you at the meeting" postcard message. Call him on the telephone or write a personal note at the bottom of the next meeting notice.

Marked decline in meeting attendance and committee involvement among formerly active members is a sign of lost interest. Although these members may have compelling reasons for reducing the amount of time they give, do not give up on them. Handle such members with tact and consideration. Make missing members feel valued and needed by asking them to take on a task that "only they can do," one which their experience truly counts. Ask them to give just a small amount of their time to one particular project. Explain that their contribution is very important. Take time to say thanks. Honor members with a luncheon, ceremony, award or certificate in recognition of their years of involvement and service.

Use email, postcards and announcement cards to keep members up-to-date on important information vital to the successful operation of your council. Contact your local post office regarding what it would cost your council to provide such a service to your members.

Look at your current programs and activities to evaluate whether your council's resources and members are being fully used. Do members express interest in these programs? Are a majority of the members participating? What type of council image do these programs project to the community? Are these programs meaningful, sincere and diversified enough to appeal to all council members?

If your council has lost good Knights, develop a campaign to retrieve those members. Organize a number of active members with good telephone personalities located throughout the geographic area your council covers. Give each volunteer a list of lapsed members in his neighborhood, with details of when they joined, what committees each served on and what each did for the organization. Add to the list whatever personal data your records contain. This information serves as a good starting point for conversation. Supply these workers with up-to-date information about the organization including present activities, future plans, a supply of current K of C publications, and Membership Document (#100) forms.

Recruit lapsed members just as you would new prospects. Sell the organization to former members. Ask them what they enjoyed most about their participation in the past. Keep questioning on a positive basis. Emphasize the aspects of the organization the member is most likely to miss in allowing his membership to lapse.

Through efforts to retain current members and recruit new ones, we help the Order remain strong and growing. Use the following strategies:

  1. Once He's Joined, Keep Him Involved

    Proposing a new member is a terrific achievement. But, turning over a completed Membership Document (#100) to the grand knight is not the end of the job. A proposer needs to maintain a personal relationship with the new Knight to see that he is integrated and stays involved in council activities. There are several steps proposers can take to ensure this:

    • After signing up a prospect, explain to him that the council's Admission Committee will examine his qualifications for membership. Accompany the prospective member to the Admission Committee meeting. Introduce him to the members present.
    • Once the prospect has been accepted by the council, escort him to his First Degree and remain with him throughout the event. Introduce him to his fellow council members after the exemplification.
    • Take the newly initiated member and his family under your wing. See that he learns council procedures (such as meeting times, committee assignments, etc.) and meets other council members. Accompany your recruit to his Second and Third degree exemplifications and stay with him throughout the day.
    • Introduce him and his family at council events. Encourage him to involve his family in council-sponsored activities.
    • Always make it a point to contact the new member before each council meeting and bring him to a meeting if necessary. If the new member becomes inactive in council activities, try to find out why. Call and ask to visit with him. Explain your concern about his absence and offer support or assistance. If the Knight becomes in danger of being suspended, his proposer should work with the retention committee to find out the reasons for his lapsed interest and to work to conserve his membership. With a little personal effort you can help guarantee that your recruit becomes not only an active member of the Knights of Columbus, but a member for life.
  2. Go for the Fourth!

    The Fourth Degree of the Knights of Columbus is committed to the preservation of the Church, the Order, and the many nations where Knights serve. It should be a natural progression for First, Second and Third degree Knights to aspire to join the Fourth Degree. Membership in the Fourth Degree allows a Knight to display pride in his country, while continuing to serve his community and Church.

    Promote Fourth Degree membership to all members of your council. Assign a liaison from your council to your assigned assembly. The liaison serves as a means of promoting the Fourth Degree to prospective council members and can also answer any questions about the Fourth Degree at council meetings. If members are aware and informed of the Fourth Degree they are more likely to join this most visible part of the Order.

    To qualify for the Fourth Degree a member must:

    • Be 18-years-old or older
    • Be a citizen of the country in which he resides
    • Have been a member of the Order for at least 12 months
    • Be a member in good standing within a council.
    • Use these materials to help recruit members into the Fourth Degree:
    • The "Introductory Flyer to the Fourth Degree" (#4544) explains the role and mission of the Fourth Degree of the Knights of Columbus to both members and nonmembers alike. It clearly and concisely shows how the Fourth Degree supports our Faith, our Order and the countries in which we are present.
    • The "A Message for Knights Who Want More" flyer (#4135) shows current Knights that the title of "Sir Knight" is truly an honor and that by joining the Fourth Degree they will strengthen their faith and their commitment to the Order.
    • The "Fourth Degree Poster" (#4545) is suitable for posting in council halls or on church bulletin boards. For more information on the Fourth Degree, contact: The Supreme Master, 1 Columbus Plaza, at New Haven, CT. 06510.
  3. Half Showman, Half Teacher - The Lecturer

    It's not enough to just try to educate people by passing on information; you have to do it in an entertaining way to make them stand up and take notice and walk away enthusiastic about what they've heard. This challenge is faced by the council lecturer when preparing material for the "Good of the Order" section of a meeting. A successful program of "Good of the Order" topics will help encourage your members to attend meetings and stay informed and involved in your council.

    The grand knight appoints the lecturer to provide suitable education and entertainment programs for the council. It's up to him to plan and present worthwhile programs that will help build meeting attendance and benefit the attending members. To do this the lecturer needs to be knowledgeable on all aspects of the council's programming. Even with a thorough understanding of council programming and the workings of the Order, it can be difficult to come up with new topics for meetings. Fortunately, there are several sources the lecturer can turn to for fresh ideas.

    The types of programs arranged by the lecturer are limited only by his imagination and creativity. Panel debates on issues facing the community or the Church; speakers such as the coach of a high school team, a town or parish historian, or a local newspaper columnist; quizzes on history, the Bible or sports; discussions of movies, books or plays; performances by theater groups or choirs; presentations by members on their crafts or hobbies; screening a classic film; a presentation on health issues by a doctor; ethnic night celebrations; arranging a talent show; past grand knight dinners; holiday celebrations; and debates by politicians are just some possible programs.

    A good place to look for ideas is Program Supplement. This newsletter includes service programming ideas for councils, information on upcoming special events, data on Order wide programs, details on membership campaigns and descriptions of materials available from the Supreme Council office.

    Another excellent source of ideas is Columbia. Every month the magazine features educational and entertaining articles. These articles can serve as a springboard for discussions on programs the council might be interested in undertaking, how the council will participate in an Order wide initiative, or issues facing the Church and the community. Discussions could also revolve around the remarks of the supreme knight or the supreme chaplain or any of the other articles featured in the magazine. The "Knights in Action" section of Columbia includes articles on programs sponsored by councils throughout the Order than can prompt talks on your council's activities.

    State newsletters, newsletters from other councils, diocesan newspapers and parish bulletins are also good sources for discussion topics.

    Lecturers should also familiarize themselves with the videos offered by the Supreme Council office listed in the Knights of Columbus Audiovisuals booklet (#1539). Membership, inspirational and instructional titles are available

  4. Take an Inventory

    Taking an inventory of your council is a way of finding out where your council is heading by seeing where its been. It's a good idea for council officers and program directors to get together at the start of the fraternal year to take stock of last year's endeavors as a way to help the new officers and chairmen with the coming year's efforts.

    This meeting should be a time to look back over the council's membership recruitment and retention efforts and program activities to size up their strengths and weaknesses. What programs can be expanded or improved? How can glitches be avoided next year?

    This review is a time for honest assessment, not finger-pointing over projects that may not have worked out. When reviewing programs, ask these questions:

    • How well were the membership recruitment and service programming plans designed at the start of the year followed?
    • Were these plans realistic?
    • Were the plans overly ambitious, or did they fail to tap into the council's full potential?
    • Where goals achieved? If not how can you expand family involvement?
    • Were the entire parish and community involved in these efforts?
    • Were materials available from the Supreme Council office fully utilized?
    • How can the lessons of this year be used to develop better plans for the coming fraternal year?

    The program and membership directors should share their evaluations with their grand knight and incoming directors to ensure the lessons they learned through experience are passed along.

  5. Keeping Members Interested

    The key to success in any council is keeping members interested, excited and active. One way you can do this is by encouraging members to participate fully in council activities.

    Here are some of the ways to show interest in new and established members alike and to help them become active participants in the council:

    • Telephone members and remind them of meetings.
    • Offer to provide transportation to members who would like to attend council functions, but don't have the means to get there.
    • Answer questions. Members will ask why council activities are done in a certain way and if things can be changed.
    • Provide them with sufficient information.
    • Inquire about the particular interests of the members through membership surveys.
    • Help new members make new friends in the council by introducing them to all fellow Knights.
    • Be aware of personality conflicts and try to avoid them as much as possible.
    • Do all you can to help members feel important to the council?
    • Get members' names in the council's newsletter, both when they join and as they begin to take an active role. Be sure members' names are always spelled correctly, whether in the membership directory, on a name tag at a meeting or in a news story.

    Establishing caring and concerned relationships among council membership will encourage your members to participate in council activities. By showing interest in new and old members alike, your council will confirm its commitment to members and will increase their willingness to assist in programs.

  6. Every Council Active

    Recruitment and Service Program efforts are like exercise and good nutrition for a council – they're necessary to stay healthy. A council that is stable and strong regularly recruits new members and conducts programs for the Church and community. A council that is facing difficulties often goes months or even years without adding any new Knights to its roster or sponsoring service projects.

    To keep councils working on recruiting new members as well as conducting service projects, the Order started the Every Council Active program. This program encourages councils to add at least one new member through initiations or reinstatement during the fraternal year.

    During the last fraternal year more than several thousand councils failed to recruit even one new member. What went wrong for those councils that didn't even add one member? The inability to recruit even one new member could be the first sign that a council is in trouble. Don't let your council reach that stage. If you haven't added a member yet, work to do so immediately.

    Now is the time for councils that haven't brought in any new members to get their recruitment activities going and join the majority of councils in the Every Council Active program. Joining this program can be the first step toward Star Council status. It can also encourage members to join in the recruitment process and help in meeting council recruitment quotas.

    Get the recruitment process started in your council by asking someone to join the Order. This will push your fellow council officers, chairmen and members to do the same. By bringing in one member your council automatically joins the Every Council Active ranks, but don't stop there. Work to break past council recruitment records and help keep the Order strong and your own council active.

  7. Fraternal – First and Foremost

    Throughout history fraternal societies have grown and flourished for many reasons. Some promoted social integration for their members, others provided economic security to members and their families through the sale of insurance. Some of these fraternals came into existence to strengthen common ties of a religion among their members while others served to give social status to their members.

    The Knights of Columbus was founded by Father Michael J. McGivney as a society to promote fraternity among Catholic men. That fraternity – the sense of brotherhood among members and the families of members – remains, along with its Catholicity, the defining characteristic of the Order's identity.

    To maintain a strong, friendly and fraternal atmosphere among Knights and their families, councils should conduct programs that build camaraderie and pride in membership. These fraternal programs don't have to be complex.

    Council Directories - Each year, publish a council directory for distribution to members. Include current listings of supreme, state, district, council, and circle officers. List each member's name, address, telephone number, e-mail address and day of birth. You may also want to feature the names of wives and other personal information such as occupations. Listing occupations provides free advertising for the Knights who provide the services. Include a yearly calendar of council activities inside the directory's front cover.

    Honor Achievers - Sponsor periodic "Recognition Nights" to honor outstanding members. Pay tribute to those Knights who participate in council projects. Present them with a plaque or some other appropriate award, such as one of the many certificates available from the Supreme Council office. See the Knights of Columbus Certificates flyer (#2640) for a listing and photos of available certificates. Among them are a "Certificate of Appreciation" (#1462) that can be presented to any member in "gratitude for his dedication, loyalty and inspirational leadership"; a "Giver of Life" certificate (#1444) for members who regularly participate in council-sponsored blood drives; and a "Knight of the Month" certificate (#1476) and a "Knight of the Year" certificate (#1545) for presentation to honorees of these programs. Recipients should be chosen for exemplary service to Church, community, council, family and youth. A generic certificate (#2898) is also available.

    Help Members Facing Hardship - Your council may consider paying dues for members in real need who are unable to pay them. These Knights may have been unemployed for an extended amount of time or be unable to work because of medical reasons. A man should never have to give up his membership in the K of C because he is unable (not unwilling) to pay dues. Knights can also aid a member in finding new employment by helping him with writing a resume, practicing job interview techniques with him, or just letting him know about job openings. Councils can also help Knights facing difficult times by aiding with chores around their homes or simply driving them to medical appointments. Remember, charity begins at home, so make an effort to assist needy Knights and their families.

    Commemorate Special Moments - One way to promote fraternity is to simply recognize the important moments in the lives of members, Squires and people who are important to your council by sending Knights of Columbus greeting cards. Birthday (#757), Anniversary (#1484), Get Well (#1483), Sympathy (#1932), Thank You (#2010) Congratulations (#2087), cards are available in English, French and Spanish from the Supreme Council Supply Department for 25 cents each. These cards come with envelops. Please use a Requisition Form (#1) when ordering.

    Remember the Sick and the Departed - Make it a policy to include prayers during meetings for Knights and family members who are ill. Arrange for council members to visit a brother Knight or family member who may be hospitalized, living in an extended care facility, or home-bound. Pray a decade of the rosary with the person to lift his or her spirits. Offer to assist family members of a hospitalized Knight by driving them to the hospital for a visit. Offer to stay with the home bound Knight or family member while care givers go out for shopping, a movie or some other activity.

    • When a Knight or a member of his family becomes seriously ill or is hospitalized, send out postcards or put a listing in the council's newsletter, asking that this individual be remembered in the prayers of his fellow Knights. Encourage members to telephone, e-mail, write to or visit the bedridden Knights or family members.
    • The death of a loved one can be devastating for a family. At such times, Knights can help ease the suffering of the family of deceased members in many ways. By attending the wake service for a deceased Knight or a Knight's family member, council members show the fraternity that is an integral part of the Order. A "Knights of Columbus Memorial Service" (#2942) is available for $1 per booklet (limited to 2 per order). Also, present the family of the deceased with a Resolution of Condolence (#1450, English; #1450F, French; #1450S, Spanish). These resolutions are available from the Supreme Council Supply Department for 25 cents each. Council members can also assist survivors by helping at a post-funeral brunch or luncheon.
    • Once the funeral is over, Knights should continue to be of service to a deceased member's widow and family. Invite them to council activities, especially memorial Masses for departed members. Stay in touch with the widow to see if there is any work that needs to be done around her home such as roof repairs or repainting. Be sure that she remains on the mailing list for the council newsletter. Offer to help her prepare her yearly income tax return, with repairs to her car, or provide her with transportation when needed.
    • Without its fraternal and Catholic nature, there wouldn't be much left to the Knights of Columbus. This fraternity, or sense of brotherhood, is the "unwritten" benefit of membership. It's something that is easy to take for granted, but needs the effort of each and every member to stay alive.
  8. Shining Armor Award

    Awarded for service to the Order with distinction during the first year of membership, the "Shining Armor Award" is given to those men who exemplify what a true Knight of Columbus is.

    The concept of the "Shining Armor Award" program is to get new members active in the many facets of the Knights of Columbus as early as possible and assist in maintaining that activity and also honor them as a valued member of your council.

    To qualify for the "Shining Armor Award" new Knights must during their first year of membership:

    • Be involved in at least three council service programs
    • Attend at least three council business meetings
    • Receive their Second and Third degrees
    • Meet with their council's insurance representative
    • Recruit at least one new member

    These are the qualifications for the basic program; consider implementing it in your council. Keep in mind, the main focus of the program is to get new members actively involved within their council from the very beginning. Councils can order materials for this program through the Supreme Council Supply Department by using a Requisition form (#1):

    Qualification Cards (#4292) help new members keep track of their progress toward attaining the "Shining Armor Award" as their grand knight verifies each completed requirement. These cards are available at no charge.

    Certificates of Recognition (#4293) are a special way to commemorate the hard work of these new Knights. These certificates are available for .25 each.

    "Shining Armor" Lapel Pins (#1700) will not only be an honor for those who earn them to wear them, but they will also serve as a promotion for the program to other new Knights. These pins are available for $3 each.

  9. Don't Let Your Council Go into a Summertime Slump

    Keep your members involved and active during the summer months by taking advantage of the short-sleeve weather to conduct programs to promote fraternity among your members and serve the Church and community.

    Many councils hold annual or frequent family outings, picnics, barbeques or pool parties. These types of activities give family members what can sometimes be an all-too-rare chance to play together. Encourage games that can bring families together as teams, such as parent-child badminton, horseshoes, volleyball, bocce or Whiffle ball tournaments. Remember to join the Order wide celebration of the family by participating in the Knights of Columbus Family Week celebration in August.

    Besides being a great way to encourage the spirit of fraternalism, outings also offer the opportunity for councils to provide hospitality. Many councils invite people who might not otherwise have opportunities for a day out – residents of group homes for people with intellectual disabilities, disabled people, participants in Big Brothers/Big Sisters, or children from troubled homes quietly referred by parish priests.

    Other councils organize family camping or fishing trips, whale watches, nature walks, or trips to sporting events. Invite people with disabilities or needy families to these events.

    Conducting a golf tournament is a favorite summertime fraternal activity. Gathering to cheer on the council softball team or meeting for pickup baseball, football or soccer games are other ways to share fun and fraternity.

    Other councils use the warm weather to help with landscaping and maintenance at their parish schools or churches, often saving their parishes a substantial sum of money while having a good time. Some help clean up public parks or assist convalescent hospitals to plant gardens for patients. Some councils have even started K of C gardens selling the produce to raise money for charities.

    Popular summertime church activities also include retreats and outdoor rosaries at Marian shrines.

    Since young people, including Squires, are out of school during the summer months, be sure to involve them in council activities. These young men and women can be a great source of extra volunteers for council service projects. Both young and old benefit from those shared experiences.

    These activities are perfect for councils to sponsor during the summer months. Don't let your council become dormant – stay active by getting involved!

  10. Honor Those Members who are Always There

    Every council has a group of members whose outstanding qualities aren't flashy or very noticeable. These are the men who always pay their dues on time, never miss a meeting or have maintained their membership for many years. Like those men whose outstanding abilities show through in their volunteer or membership recruitment activities, these members are deserving of recognition. There are many ways your council can recognize these faithful Knights.

    In recognition of long-term dedication to the Order, after 25 years of continuous service (at the age of 70), or 50 years of continuous membership regardless of age, a member merits the distinction of Honorary Life membership and is exempt from the further payment of dues, per capita charge and assessments. All priests and members of religious communities automatically receive Honorary Life membership. These dedicated Knights are an asset to their councils and should be treasured and respected. Materials available to councils for honoring these Knights include:

    • The Honorary Life membership card is available from the Membership Records Department
    • The Honorary Life membership certificate (#1458)
    • The Honorary Life membership card is available from the Membership Records Department

    Any or all of these items can be presented to the long standing member as part of the Honorary Life membership ceremonial. This ceremony is described in the Grand Knight's Handbook (#915).

    Encourage attendance at council meetings by presenting members who have been present at every meeting during the fraternal year with a "Certificate of Perfect Attendance" (#809). This 8.5-by-11-inch vertical certificate is available from the Supreme Council Supply Department at a cost of 25 cents per copy.

    For those members who annually pay their dues, the Annual Payer Stickers (#1745) are available for their membership cards. The labels are supplied for a cost of $3 per sheet. To order labels, contact the Supreme Council Supply Department.

  11. Well-Run Meetings will Boost Attendance

    If members ask themselves "Why am I here?" then something is wrong with the way your council is conducting its meetings. Follow these guidelines for well-run meetings:

    • Keep council meetings interesting and relevant.
    • Start meetings on time and keep discussions, comments, etc. within reasonable limits.
    • The grand knight should refer any nonessential matters to the appropriate committees.
    • Hold meetings on a night convenient to most members.
    • Allow all members to voice their opinions in an orderly way and try to keep meetings open and relaxed.

    The flyer "Responsibilities of Grand Knight" (#1937) explains the guidelines for conducting a council meeting. Grand knights should also be familiar with parliamentary procedure. The booklet How to Conduct a Meeting: Parliamentary Procedure (#438) is also helpful.

    Encourage a free exchange of ideas on council programs and business during council meetings, but make sure the council remains focused on the issues under discussion. If possible, complete the business portion of the meeting within an hour.