Rose Society membership-- how to increase?

DisplacedClevelander(6a)November 13, 2013

OK, not sure if I am barking up the wrong rose bush but I figured that this might be a good starting point.

Signed up to head the recruitment/membership for my local rose society. The number of members is low, the number of attendees is even lower. Nowhere to go but up and as far as I'm concerned, we're so low, we're underground.

Not sure what was done in past years as far as recruitment/membership outside of flyers at the local nurseries and an ad in the quarterly free garden magazine.

What are ways that you recruit for your local rose groups?

Also, while I'm at it.. Have another question for you.. For those who live in bi-state regions, do you ever connect with the other nearby groups? Did you merge groups?


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nanadollZ7 SWIdaho(Zone 7 Boise SW Idaho)

Flyers??? I suppose it's a good thing to do, but have you considered using a Facebook page, or something similar on the net to get the word out about your rose society? Have some kind of "wine and roses" function just after the new year starts. Bring in someone who specializes in cooking with roses as an ingredient. Have a rose garden tour in the spring, featuring members' gardens. I'm just tossing out some ideas that occurred to me. Diane

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 2:24AM
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I think my group has tried everything but with no success. We are a local division of the national Swedish Rose Society. We count all paying members as local members as well, but few of about 50 members living in and around this city of 150000 inhabitants are interested in taking part in our local activities or attending lectures. Tuesday night we had arranged an interesting evening with an amateur hybridizer who showed wonderful photos of his creations and told us everything about hybridizing. We were 6 persons in the audience, the usual attendance.

Like other local groups we advertise our program in the national rose quarterly and on the society homepage. We remind local members by e-mail in good time before an event.

The only fairly successful event we attend as a group is a big plant fair at the university botanical garden in late summer. We sell rose suckers very cheaply, distribute information material about local rose growing conditions and try to interest visitors in our society. We make quite a lot of money on these occasions, money that now will go to the national society because we decided to cancel our local group after the Tuesday meeting.

The six of us will go on meeting as individuals, visit each other's gardens in summer and go garden visiting together privately. Other members may join but we will not advertise widely. We may attend events in Stockholm, one of the most successful groups, only 45 minutes away by train. As a member of the Swedish Rose Society one may visit any local group.

Most rose society members are satisfied with only getting the rose quarterly as a membership benefit.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 4:09AM
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The most successful events we've had is the annual Nostalgia meeting in the fall when we first show pictures from our own gardens and then auction off rose suckers and rooted cuttings.

Some lectures by nationally well-known garden writers have also been successful and attracted an audience beyond the rose society membership. They are too expensive for a very small rose group and have been arranged with local garden clubs and plant societies.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 4:35AM
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diane_nj 6b/7a

Getting out to the public is the best way.

Talk to local nurseries and see if they are willing to have a "Rose Day" or garden day where your society members can answer rose care questions.

See if there is a botanical garden that has any open houses where they might allow your society to have a table.

If there is a local flower and garden show, ask if they are willing to provide a space for your society at no cost. If not, ask if one of your members can give a talk on rose care during the show. We have had a space at the NJ Flower and Garden Show for 6 years, I have given talks twice, and we have had many new members come from the shows.

We also give talks and pruning demonstrations at the local county park that has a rose garden. We have a community garden where we also have a pruning demonstration. We give talks at garden club meetings.

Advertise your meetings and events in local newspapers, including any community papers.

Facebook page is good, and you can network with other societies, garden centers, and garden clubs, but local contact is much more effective

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 11:27AM
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Ah, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.

Nanadoll-- Looooove your two ideas of the wine & roses and cooking with roses. Was thinking of the cooking with roses idea but wasn't sure because I thought I was the only dweeb interested so appreciate the validation.

mariannese-- Will assume that you are referring to Sweden the country and not the city Sweden in New York (hehehe, yep, there's a small town . Very interesting to learn about your group and it's structure. Your idea of having a collaborative event with other garden groups to feature a well known speaker is fabulous.

diane_nj-- YAY! Yes! Rose Day! So smart and simple! And can't imagine that this would be too difficult to setup.

Again, thank you all.. Wish I could high five and hug you all at the same time. But since I can't, please know that I am incredibly grateful for your assistance.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 1:11PM
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kstrong(10 So Cal)

We do all kinds of things that "forgive" the first year's dues in hopes of hooking people in to see what is going on, from which they can become "lifers." Anytime you have an event that asks for the public to attend you have this opportunity. We sell donated things at our rose show with a "discount" to new members of the amount of one year's dues (or maybe half a year in the case of things that cost us money -- like the mini rose plants that we get at wholesale from a vendor). In that case, we don't make a "profit" on the plant (or the donated item), but we get a member and the wholesale price is still paid. People, being people, love a bargain.

We even do this with the Rose Auction coming up this weekend. We give people who sign up as first time members there 10 "rosey bucks" to use at the auction.

And whenever we set up a table at the fair or a garden center or pruning demo or whatever, we offer a "the rest of this year" membership for 5 bucks.

Don't laugh. It works.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 7:57PM
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From the point of view of someone who has been "into" roses for only the last 2-3 years and is NOT a member of a local society:

I've not gotten involved because everything I've read about them on the internet makes me believe they have the attitude that "roses are hard." Now I'm going to zip up my flame suit here, but there seems to be an ego invested in "I grow roses, roses are hard, so aren't I special." They WANT growing roses to be hard. They LIKE that growing roses is hard. I want growing roses to be easy--at least in comparison to what they seem to think is necessary. (The group is dominated by hybrid tea growers and I'm focused on old roses.)

My personal opinion--keep in mind I haven't been around long enough to actually know what I'm talking about--is that the general problem of membership is too many people have given up roses because no one has shown them a reasonable way to do it.

That all said, as the PR person I actually am, I would try to increase membership not by trying to find people who already grow roses, but by trying to convince people who might already be interested in gardening how/why they can/should try roses and place your group as one willing to hold their hands and help them get started then provide fellowship.

So where are current gardeners who aren't growing roses? In my neck of the woods we must have 3 or 4 garden shows, another handful of "home & garden tours" as well as county fairs and a state fair that you could do a booth or a talk or even just volunteer at as a group to increase visibility.

A local garden outlet (especially the smaller locally owned ones) might be willing to sponsor your group and/or include information about you on their sales counter or be willing to offer discounts to members or provide space for a lecture or some other social gardening gathering. (A small business loves a reason to get potential customers in the door!!)

Do you have access to someone's really lovely home in a nice part of town or a home that is historic or unusual for some type of event? Those types of places get people to come out of the woodwork just to visit the interesting house they might know about, but have never been invited too. That one is a little sneaky, but pretty effective!

Is there local historic home or garden or a park that might benefit from the addition a few roses? You could as a group provide them and agree to maintain them along with a bit of recognition. Plant some beautiful easy care old rose that is fabulous in your area then offer bands of it for sale every so often. Or the name of that local nursery who is sponsoring your group and might agree to keep a few in stock!

Ask yourself, "where are gardeners?" Then go after them.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 8:23PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

subk3, I have never joined a local garden group either, but for different, reasons. I just don't think I am a 'joiner' and having been gardening organically for 30+ years, rose growing was the farthest thing from the direction I was going. I have to agree that finding ways to interest people in growing roses who have become convinced that it is too difficult would be a major change to make and a timely one.

I think you have to consider that everyone loves roses. Try to find someone who doesn't and I think you would be looking a long time. (g) It is growing roses that is intimidating. I don't think it is anyone's fault that roses are both difficult to grow and/or thought of as difficult to grow. It has been a process that has been developing without anyone actually noticing. When people first began using chemicals on roses, I'm pretty sure they didn't consider that a problem. So the breeders concentrated on other things, like developing fragrance, etc. People are now rethinking it and trying to change that and that can only be seen as a good thing.

Unfortunately, for those who have grown to love HTs and many other gorgeous roses, roses that don't require chemicals, for the most part, have not caught up with the roses that do, in terms of beauty or fragrance. I'm a beginner rose grower. I haven't even grown a HT, so these are just my casual observations. But, especially those HT growers, would benefit more than they realize by supporting rose growers that are trying to make those changes. Because the more they receive support, the faster they can find roses that are just as beautiful and fragrant that don't require chemicals.

Is there something a rose society could do to attract someone like me? Well, something that would interest me, would be a group that was organizing volunteer efforts. For instance, we have a new space in the Boston area called 'The Greenway' which are city gardens and I just managed to get there a few weeks ago and walk around a small portion of it. I found myself thinking of how much fun the volunteers that care for that space must have.

Also, I'm always noticing areas around my town where appearances could be spruced up. Traffic islands, around highway exits and entrances, etc. Maybe a rose group could join forces with a native plants group or an organization like we have here, the New England Wildflower Society and have a fundraiser to fund community gardens. You could end up with demonstration gardens that included roses that people could ride by every day that they could see were easy to grow. So far all I ever see are knock outs used in public spaces in my area. The town square, the library, there's lots of places to choose.

In Boston, recently, there was a group of volunteers who had taken on a project of lining the Boston Marathon route with daffodils for next spring's race. That drew a lot of people who don't usually garden to come out and volunteer. Something they all felt connected to and was making a big difference in their community.

Hope that helps.. :-)

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 7:28AM
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seil zone 6b MI

I think getting out there is the most important thing. Participate in as many things as possible and talk to people. Our society has a facebook page and not even many of the members have liked it yet so I'm not sure that's working.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 10:57AM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

As someone who for years fielded rose society queries from websites, I can tell you that most people contacting a rose society want to know about roses they don't have to spray.

One of the most welcoming things you can offer potential members is a list of such roses.

They aren't looking to become rose exhibitors. They don't, for the most part, demand absolute, exhibition-level perfection. They just want to enjoy a few roses without causing their dogs or children to go into grand mal seizures.

Those are the folks you want.

Offer them a group that's right on top of what roses work without pesticides, and you've got a good chance they'll be tempted. Throw in a pruning demonstration, and maybe a demonstration of planting techniques, and you're on your way.


    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 1:50PM
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Many/most of the positive suggestions are familar. I can offer a comment of the problem you may experience once you have a membership built up.

What to do to keep the club from exploding? Somehow, one has to keep the rose exhibitors and the non rose exhibitors away from each others throats.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 5:37PM
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Having been a membership chair for several years for multiple rose societies, I can say there is no one sure-fire way to entice people to attend meetings, let alone join a rose society. People turn first to the internet for information so getting your local rose society on the web and linked to other local gardening groups, the ARS website, Facebook and local nursery websites will go a long way towards publicizing your society. Make sure your website is updated on a regular basis, complete with pictures, a monthly rose calendar, email and phone numbers for local CR's and a schedule of local rose activities, cost and contact info.

Join with the Master Gardeners and other local gardening groups to set up info booths at public gardening events, tours, nurseries, etc. Make sure your group has small fliers and membership applications available every place you go.

Offer a half-year membership, gift memberships and maybe a free rose bush, garden utensil or booklet with extended memberships. Don't be afraid to offer a pro-rate or complimentary membership to local nurseries, churches or other garden groups.

Send your electronic newsletter to local homeowners groups so they can include your events to your neighbors.

Visit local nurseries, hang posters, volunteer a 'rose' day when bare roots come in. Make sure you know what the local nurseries are ordering and don't send all your members to mail-order instead of supporting the local guys. Recommend roses they can purchase locally.

Support, volunteer and advertise for your local public rose garden. Establish workdays and use limited street signage to publicize.

Print media advertising is really expensive but sending your newsletter and information to local garden writers and editors can get you a freebie mention in the paper or some coverage for a rose show.

Prepare to spend many, many hours a year trying to encourage people to grow roses and join a rose society. Long past the time you no longer hold the membership position, continue to be committed to membership. Some of our newer members took up to five years before deciding we didn't bite, scratch or cost them an arm & a leg.
Most people I've given programs to said they walked away with new info and a better understanding of their gardens.

Once you get new members, make sure they get introduced to your CR's, get them a mentor if needed and don't try to push them into holding office right away.

Jeannie Cochell, Phoenix Rose Society

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 3:34PM
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