Effective Membership Growth Strategies for Associations
Are you having trouble growing the membership of your association? If so, you are not alone – 68% of organizations have difficulty with it (1). Membership is one of your most significant brand assets for your organization. It is fundamental to the health of your efforts and a key revenue stream. It’s time to focus on your membership strategy.
Why is it Important to Have a Membership Growth Strategy?
Why is membership growth important? As an association, it is likely that you have two primary revenue streams – membership fees and sponsorships. As you may have figured out already, the income from membership fees will probably not be enough to sustain your operations, unless you set them at a high rate, but that will dissuade people from joining. Because of this, many organizations focus less on membership recruitment and retention strategies in favor of sponsorship engagement, correctly recognizing that engaging corporate sponsors can provide a big flow of cash in a short period of time. Organizations too often fail to recognize that association sponsors invest because of your membership, and that they will want to know that their sponsorship is going to put them in front of many of their target audiences. The best way to engage more corporate sponsorship is by having a healthy, thriving, active membership, and you can’t have that without a plan for how to increase association membership.
Increasing membership growth and employing a member engagement strategy has intangible benefits too. New members can bring new energy, ideas, and connections to your existing membership, strengthening the draw to participate.
Ideas to Increase Membership
It costs an average of seven to 10 times more to gain a new member than it does to retain an existing one (2). So, if you are going to do it, it is worth doing it right with a thoughtful membership growth strategy. How do you recruit members to an association? Here are some best practices.
Do your homework. The key to any good membership strategy requires you to know who your membership association appeals to. All the decisions you make in your membership growth strategy will stem from this information. Examine your existing membership to determine who your association is resonating with. If you can, it would also be good to research your competitors’ membership and what they are offering as part of it.
Show your value. What is your niche? What does your association offer that no one else does? What problem does your target audience face that you can help them overcome? Knowing your unique value proposition will help guide you in choosing your membership marketing strategies.
Establish a community. Many people join associations for connection and networking. Your goal should be to help your members build relationships with each other, not just with your organization. Building a meaningful community among your members helps your association membership recruitment strategy by making existing members happy, who will hopefully encourage others to join as well.
Offer high-quality benefits. The best way to increase membership sales is by offering membership benefits that outweigh the cost of the membership fees. After all, that’s why people join – to get something out of it! This is another reason why knowing your audience is so critical in your membership strategy. You must know who they are to know what they need. Offering free, hyper-relevant content like blog articles, whitepapers, and case studies, is a great perk. Education, coaching, job posting, and certification opportunities are others. Networking events and conferences are essential for community building among your membership. And hey, some branded swag every once in a while doesn’t hurt either!
Overcommunicate. One of the biggest mistakes many organizations make in their membership strategy is not bragging about their benefits enough. Many associations offer fantastic resources and information, but far too many of their members don’t know about them. As soon as you reach the point where you are sick of talking about your membership perks, that’s when people will finally start to know what they are.
Build partnerships. Community engagement and partnerships help raise awareness of your organization and creates a mutually beneficial relationship for both parties. Donor organizations, businesses, and other membership organizations all offer good partnership opportunities. It could also start to grease the wheels for future sponsor engagement.
Incentivize referrals. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful tools to increase your membership sales, so try to reward existing members who use it to expand your membership numbers. You could offer a discount on fees or free swag to inspire their efforts. You could also highlight referring members in your newsletter, case studies, and social media to encourage their help.
Solicit feedback and act on it. Asking people to be honest about their opinion can be hard, but it is necessary for your membership growth strategy. Keeping your finger on the pulse of your membership’s thoughts and concerns helps you to have a thriving, active membership. The best way to do this is through interviews. If you’re able, speak to every single member that joins or leaves the association, and schedule regular check-ins. Polls and surveys can also help you gather feedback from your membership more frequently. But don’t just stop there. If you identify problems or opportunities for improvement, develop a plan to address them and get to work. Then make sure you follow up with your members to let them know you acted on their input.
A membership growth strategy isn’t just about increasing the size of your member roll. It’s about setting the foundation for future efforts and building a thriving organization. Paradigm can help you ensure each of those building blocks are strong and can help you meet your organizational goals. Together, we’ll develop a membership strategy that identifies who you are, your differentiators, and your value propositions – and communicate it in such a way that will resonate with your audience, and clearly set you apart from your competition. Please contact us today to get started.