3 Tips to Serve Multiple Member Types

As industries evolve, so do the associations that serve and represent them. As association managers, we must grow alongside them while staying rooted in our primary mission. This can be a tricky balance, so we’ve found three steps you can take to ensure you continue serving ALL your member groups.


If you are involved in association management, you know that there is an association for everything and that means there is an association for every constituency. As associations continue to become more nuanced to meet member needs, new membership models may be adopted and new categories established. This could include offering tiered or group memberships, more electronic or paperless options, and adding special interest groups.

Regardless of if your association serves individuals, trade groups or a combination, your membership likely falls into multiple membership types based on specialty, career stage or geographic area. The following tips will help you provide engaging programs and services to multiple member types and all member types within your association.

Keep your mission in mind

First and foremost, it is essential to build upon the strategic goals surrounding your association’s purpose. If your organization was founded to serve the interests of professionals working in a specific industry, it is natural to attract suppliers and vendors who also serve those professionals. There may be crossover between professionals and vendors, but they are likely two distinct member types each with unmistakable needs. If your mission is to serve professionals, it can be tempting to spend your time, talents and treasure on designing complex programs for vendors that support the needs of your core members, but remember your association is there to serve your mission.

Put yourself in their shoes

Once you have determined how much energy your paid staff and volunteers can afford to spend on each membership type, take the next step and consider spending a day in the life of that member. Who are they serving? What are their pain points and how do they define success?

Multiple member types call for multiple solutions. While there are often similarities among members of an industry, motivations will vary. Even if you spent weeks crafting the perfect profile for each of your member categories, there are still a plethora of granular details you will be unable to pursue due to time constraints. If your association has 5,000 individual members, you have 5,000 individual member types as each person brings a unique perspective to their experience with the association. When you can empathize, your member’s relationship with the association will grow stronger and relationship-building is a key to retention.

Measure on each member type

The popular quote from Peter Drucker’s 1954 book The Practice of Management still holds up. “What gets measured, gets managed.” Studying the ebbs and flows of membership recruitment and retention offerings will allow you to better understand the motivations of multiple member types and will help identify the intended – and unintended – impact of changes within the organization. Detailed reporting will allow your board of directors and staff to understand trends within the membership and more easily see the consequences of their decision making. Ultimately, reporting can help your decision-makers make better decisions. 

Improve your overall membership efforts with our free downloadable resource, Membership Development in Focus.