Lifelong association members are likely some of the most well-regarded and active members in any field. They have learned from their peers, explored membership programs and services, and have almost all been involved as an association volunteer at some point. They are the members who make your association a community. So, how do you find your association’s place in their hearts and minds? Lifelong members are made through a series of small moments of belonging, a quick solution to a common problem, and an abundance of empathy. When a member reaches a place of implicit decision-making about their renewal, the association becomes part of their identity, and the decision to renew is no longer a decision at all.
A lifelong member is made in the day-to-day experiences your members have with your association. It becomes your responsibility as an association professional to create many positive experiences. One of the more direct ways to consistently engage with members is to ask them to be part of the association as a volunteer.
An Invitation to Volunteer
By serving on a committee or task force, your members will get to see how decisions are made and programs are launched, and they will see how their contributions make a difference. An invitation to volunteer may be through a formal vetting process, such as with some leadership positions, or it could be as simple ask asking for a little assistance welcoming new members at an event. The invitation demonstrates to your member that you see their individual value and want them to belong in the association.
It’s increasingly rare for an association professional to be a subject matter expert in the association’s field, but each of us has first-hand knowledge of the human experience. We all know what it feels like to spill a cup of coffee on our keyboards, or to have a headache and still be on deadline. Having an appreciation of your member’s sheer humanness and responding with recognition goes a long way toward building trust in the long term.
The adage “people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad management” holds true in the association world as well. Really listening to what your members have to say is a simple way to show respect. Really listen to your members when they ask a question or seek advice and treat them as you would like to be treated. Learn the names of your members and use them!
As association professionals, we are in the business of relationship building. We are in the business of problem solving, and we are in the business of people. Lifelong members feel included, engaged, respected, and remain members to maintain those relationships. Remember, members don’t make the decision to be a lifelong member when the renewal invoice arrives: members make the commitment through a series of positive interactions with your staff and leadership.