During the summer months, many FFA members are attending camps, showing livestock, working on their Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE), and so much more. All these activities increase their engagement in the organization, help them develop into the leader they were meant to be, and, even better, are just plain fun. However, none of that would have happened without first signing up to be a part of something larger — the National FFA Organization.
Local FFA chapters thrive on its members and their passion for the organization. However, not every chapter has the type of foundation that has passionate members every year. Having an active chapter year after year takes time, passion, and dedication. However, it is possible with the right leadership and consistency.
The National FFA Organization is a student run organization which means it takes strong student leaders for a successful chapter. However, it is not just up to the elected chapter officers to create an active environment — it is up to every member and their advisor. When everyone works together, your chapter can develop and grow into one of the most active organizations on campus.
For example, Erin Ruiz, the FFA advisor for the Meridian FFA Chapter in Mounds, Illinois, has seen success in growing her chapter by opening up the organization to every student and ending the stereotypes that surround FFA and make it a welcoming place for anyone. Ruiz said, “Every kid, whether they have a farm background or not, can benefit from participating in FFA. I have seen that first hand.”
Ruiz continued, “Don’t worry so much about winning. Instead focus on getting to know your kids, building relationships, and building strong community support. That is what I did and I now have the most active ‘clubs’ in our high school and kids of all walks of life want to get involved!”
Through hard work, dedication, and trying new things, Ruiz and her FFA members were able to grow their chapter. However, it is important to remember that growth doesn’t happen overnight and takes time. For many chapters, finances are a hurdle to growth as well. Although fundraising can be challenging, check out this resource for some ideas for your chapter.
How to grow your FFA chapter:
- Increase involvement — This tip is helpful at all levels, not just for officers. It is important to involve members in any way possible — create committees, ask for input for decisions big and small, and ask for members to try new things.
- Focus on the team experience — Similar to increasing involvement, it is important to think about the team experience. For example with the Meridian FFA Chapter from above, Ruiz altered the chapter to fit the members, instead of altering the members to fit the chapter. Listen to the wants and needs of the members and adjust from there.
- Communication is key — Like in any organization, club, or business, communication is key. Without good communication, success is impossible. If you need a guide for change, check out the bottom up approach where the members make suggestions to their committee, then the committee leader brings the ideas to the officers, and the officers take those suggestions and utilize the suggestions made directly by the members. This allows for members to have a say in the direction of the chapter.
- Share the FFA love — One of the best forms of recruitment for an organization is its own members. Members of FFA are actually recruiting 24/7 without even realizing it. Any time they are talking about FFA around their friends, they are recruiting — good or bad. It is important to be honest, but also show how rewarding it is to be an active member of FFA
While there are many ways to grow your FFA chapter, you have to do what works for you and your members. Maybe it is having food at every meeting to increase attendance, and then working to develop their interest from there. Or you can set up a booth at the freshman welcome night. However you increase awareness about your chapter, remember to have fun and stay consistent. FFA is a wonderful organization that can open up many different doors of opportunities for its members.