As association management professionals, we all know the influence our organizations can have on an industry and the value we can provide our members. So, why is it so hard for organizations to recruit and retain quality members? This article will review key things to focus on to recruit and retain engaged and committed members.
Empathy - To recruit and retain members for your organization, you need to understand what is vitally important to your members. Do your members need continuing education? Do they need a voice in government? Find out their most essential needs and deliver solutions in a timely, efficient and cost-effective manner. By catering your services to their most crucial needs you are proving your organizations value.
Return on Investment (ROI) – More likely than not, your members pay to be part of your organization. You should have a plan on how to not only demonstrate the value of your organization but also communicate your organizations value to the paying member. Having graphic member benefits charts on your website or on membership applications is a good place to start. Another suggestion would be to provide your membership with an annual update on what the organization did with membership dollars the previous year. By demonstrating your value through newsletters, events, lobbying, etc., and consistently communicating your value to your members, you will be reassuring your members that investing in membership with your organization was worth their time and money.
Foresight – Foresight is knowing what is coming down the pike and being positioned to give your members not only advance notice but also the action plan needed to navigate the future. We know you cannot break out a crystal ball and predict, say a global pandemic (if you do have a crystal ball, let us know because we’d love to take a look!). However, using foresight when managing an association does not mean you need to predict the future. Associations are sometimes slow to react to disruption and risk losing their value as a result. As a decision-maker in your association, you need to know how to adapt to disruption from the norm and help members do the same. Monitor trends in the government, especially if there is a bill that might impact your organization in some way, and have action plans in place to communicate changes to your membership, activate grassroots lobbying or higher level lobbying efforts if necessary. Knowing when vendor contracts end and shopping around for better deals on venues, digital programs, printers, etc., is another way of staying one step ahead of the game and proving your expert value to your leadership and members.
Camaraderie – Provide an inclusive and welcoming space for everyone! This does not just mean having a cocktail/social hour at your annual meeting for members to mix and mingle. Develop small volunteer opportunities for your members outside of your leadership to prove to your members that you value their input and contributions. Encourage members to submit newsletter articles or content for your organizations social media pages to give them the opportunity to let their voices be heard among their peers. Taking an annual survey of your membership and allowing for open-ended feedback will also allow for your members to feel part of something bigger. Finally, Facebook groups and members’ only forums allow for year-round peer interaction and collaboration and provide members with frequent interactions with your organization.
Overall, you should be actively proving your organizations value to every member. We often focus so much on communicating goals and ideas with our volunteer leadership, that the general member can be overlooked, and they can feel like their membership is not worth their investment. In order to retain and recruit engaged and committed members, you should be actively listening to your membership, working on providing solutions for their most essential needs, developing plans for growth while looking into the future and providing members with an inclusive experience.