As associations adapt to COVID-19, it is critical to lead through crisis and ensure that your organization’s member benefits still provide value. Two RGI membership professionals, Melissa Heeke, CAE and Nick Estrada, CMP, outline how to ensure your organization offers member value even in the midst of uncertainty.
During COVID-19, the world has become more digital. How has this changed association membership?
NE: Our current environment demands a flip between the primary and secondary tools associations use. Digital resources are now the primary way people connect, and in-person communications have been placed on the backburner. Because of this, the membership experience has changed, but there is also an opportunity for associations to highlight value. Every association is now on a level playing field because everyone is in the same situation. Those who will be successful will be those who can highlight their value digitally.
MH: This time prompts us to look for ways to use collaboration tools online. People have a need to associate with each other and if anything, there is an enhanced desire for relationship.
Many associations have traditionally offered in-person events as a key driver of recruitment and retention. Now that many of these events have been canceled, how can associations adapt?
NE: There is more of a focus on membership renewal verses new member marketing. Instead of incorporating “join and save” phrasing to target new members, try using wording like “use this discount code to save on your renewal.” This appeals to existing members.
MH: It is hard to imagine a world without face-to-face contact and association conferences. I think those conferences will always be around, but right now we just need to maintain openness and find new ways to connect with people online. One thing I have noticed is that there are more partnerships among associations. Associations are starting to share benefits to keep members engaged and overall, there is more collaboration and connection.
How should associations approach membership renewal differently to adapt to COVID-19?
NE: Associations should look to identify how they can help existing members. Flexible payment options, discounts, and lengthened grace periods are all ways to help members during a time of financial burden.
MH: Tone is essential. It is important to maintain a mindful approach and be sensitive to unemployment. Although some may be struggling, connection through associations is worth it, so we should not shy away from renewal messages. Instead, we should just adjust our wording to be more open and flexible with dues rates.