New to the association management profession, I recently read a book suggested to me by a colleague to gain a better understanding of how to grow membership.
In The End of Membership as We Know It, the author Sarah L. Sladek presents three categories that most associations struggling to grow membership fall into, all stemming from a failure to deliver value to members.
These associations are the nickel-and-dimers. They tend to charge too much and give too little, sometimes without even realizing it. For potential members it is hard to distinguish the benefits of joining because they still have to pay for every product, program and service the association offers in addition to their membership dues.
These associations don’t have a clear idea of what membership means anymore. Their members aren’t paying for exclusivity or member-only access because the benefits are open to all for a price. Why join when you can just pay to attend the events and purchase individual services as needed? The saying “why pay for the whole cow when you can pay for just the milk” comes into play here.
These associations have been around for many years and are a well-known brand. However, recently they have declined because they are no longer relevant and haven’t stayed current. While their benefits may have been meaningful in the past, they have failed to adapt to the needs of today’s audiences and are paying the price.
The issues with all of these association types come back to value. Membership is only a commodity if members are getting their money’s worth. Without providing value and clear benefits to members,the association is lacking the key to building a growing and financially stable organization.
Assemble your association leaders and develop a clear value proposition statement, new benefits or ways to demonstrate why prospects should take the leap and pay you hundreds of dollars. Without membership benefits that add value to your members’ businesses and lives, you will most likely begin fitting into one of these categories if you don’t already.