Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Elizabeth Denehy - Blueprint for Action

Research Question

Throughout my time with uWHA as a Co-President and previously as the Head of Alumni and Development and on the foundational board, we have struggled to retain and increase our membership. Thus, the research question I have aimed to answer is: 


Interviews with Leaders of Organizations

The left handside illustrates the organizations of the leaders I interviewed, and the right handside depicts the various successful strategies that they implement for increasing the number of active members and enhancing their organization's membership experience. These findings led me to discuss these strategies with my executive board members and apply some of them to the blueprint for action for uWHA. 

Membership Survey

The uWHA membership has 125 members, excluding myself and the organization's two faculty advisors. I received a response rate of 19.2% (24 responses). These responses helped to illuminate the central issues that the membership are facing. The survey included questions on why members joined the organization, in what ways they think it could improve, and their sense of identity, interaction, and solidarity within uWHA. The answers that I received from this survey supported the findings from the six leaders of other organizations and also helped me to focus on which strategies I should present to the uWHA executive board. 

Below are some selected quotes from the survey that helped me to understand the current sentiments around uWHA and address how members would like to enhance their membership.

Why members joined the organization:

"uWHA is safe space for female student-athletes and supporters to fully be themselves and have a supprotive community"

"To interact with other women who shared my values in regards to sport and to enact some change in female athletics at Harvard" 

"To get to meet other female athletes on campus and generate a sense of community among us"

Ways they think it could improve:

"More intimate events where I can meet more of the women in the club"

"More events and opporunities to meet others" 

Kind of programming they would like to see from uWHA in the future:

"I would like to see more events for mingling and actually talking and interacting with other teams"

"I would like to see more informal events where members of uWHA can just grab food and do homework or hang out and get to know each other. I also think events before or after female sports' games would increase attendance"

"Regularly scehduled activities / events / meetups" this new programming would impact their level of engagement in the future:

"It would make it more exciting to go to events" 

"I would be more engaged with uWHA by meeting more members and looking forward to increased participation at events to interact with more people"

"I would make more time to go" 

The survey also included a quantitative part. Below are the results:

This graph represents the averages of the responses to each qualitative question. The members were asked to rate each statement on a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). The blue, red, and yellow dots represent statements concerning identity, interaction, and solidarity within uWHA, respectively. These results illustrate that the membership does not feel like uWHA has a strong community and more interactions are needed in order for this to occur. 

Interviews with uWHA Executive Board Members

These interviews were essential to understand how these strategies could possibly be implemented and if they are in line with the mission of the organization. The results from these interviews helped guide my recommendations and blueprint action below to outline how to implement the strategies within uWHA next year. 

Plan for 2022-2023 Academic Year Incorporating These Strategies 

Drawing upon my findings, the strategy that was recommended the most was creating more opportunities for community building through more frequent, casual events and putting on events catered toward potential members at the beginning of each semester. To streamline the process, I have developed recommendations for the next executive board on how to implement these strategies from the organizational leaders, membership survey, and uWHA executive board members and created a schedule of the events we should put on in the next academic year. Some of the strategies that the organizational leaders suggested were not in line with how our club is run, such as having a selective comp progress, but most of them I have incorporated into the plan of action. Below is a suggested timeline for the 2022-2023 academic year based on the research I conducted that would best increase active members and enhance membership engagement.

As uWHA grows and develops, it will be essential to continue enhancing the membership experience. Keeping track of our membership and a pulse on what they want out of the club will be an important aspect of planning the years to come. This blueprint can serve as an action plan for next year but still needs to be updated according to the needs of the membership. 

As a senior mentor next year, I will help to see this plan through and help the new executive and general board make adjustments as necessary. My hope is that this blueprint allows the new boards to plan ahead, rather than feeling scrambled that there were not enough community events. Overall, this blueprint will act as an outline to increase the number of active members and enhance membership engagement. 

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