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The RGI Blog

Membership 1-2-3

Is your membership flat or lagging? The knee-jerk reaction is to come up with a brilliant plan to fix your recruitment problem. But the fact is recruitment is only one factor in the equation.

Picture your organization’s membership program as a three-legged stool. To fully support your program, all three legs need equal attention. When one of the legs becomes disproportionately weighted, the overall value of membership becomes less stable. So what are the three components of a sustainable membership program?

Your Recruitment Plan: “Why should I join?”

For most membership organizations, recruiting new members is core to survival. Even if you’re goal isn’t necessarily growth, new members are essential to at least counter natural attrition. A sustainable recruitment strategy is not solely about setting the magic price and giving your members the right discounts. It’s about continually asking and answering the right questions.

  • What would attract someone to your organization? The more sobering question is, if your association disappeared tomorrow, would anyone notice? Would another organization emerge to fill the void? It is important to understand the unique needs of your market and to ensure that your programs and services align with those needs.
  • Why join your organization vs. another? Do you truly know who your competition is? In today’s information-rich world your competition may not be as obvious as you think it is, and it’s certainly not only other membership associations. Differentiate yourself from all of the noise and market to your uniqueness.
  • “What’s in it for me?” Potential members want to know how membership in your organization will make them better off. The benefits of joining should be easy to find and understand so potential members can quickly appreciate the value in membership.

Your Retention Plan: “Why should I stay?”

Attrition is a fact of life. Even to merely maintain the status quo, a focus on retention is a must. Some questions to consider when evaluating your retention:

  • Why do members leave? Rarely is the answer truly “price.” Somewhere along the way the value did not meet the expectation. You can’t be all things to all people, but there may be opportunities to tweak your services that could make a difference. Ask and learn. At best you may be able to bring a member back. At the least you might avoid losing someone else.
  • Is your value sustainable? Members want to see the benefit of their investment. Continually assess the relevancy of your organization, and the value of membership to your most tenured members as well as your newest recruits.
  • How are we encouraging member engagement? Opportunities to participate in person and virtually should be plentiful. Whether through a variety of volunteer options that meet differing needs, educational and social event choices, social media connections, or consistent news feeds, engagement opportunities are a must for sustaining interest and value in your organization.

Structure: “How easy and inviting is it to be a member?”

The way you set up and execute your membership program, both internally and externally, has a tremendous impact on recruiting and retaining members. Consider these questions when reviewing your organization’s membership structure:

  • Are there barriers to membership? Whether it’s the qualifications for membership or the ease in which someone can submit an application, what are the hurdles someone has to jump over to join? Every association is different, but from the types and tiers to the prerequisites of membership, choose options that best align your mission to your members’ needs.
  • How well do you service your members? Associations are in the relationship business. With every member contact you have, think of how you are either enhancing or diminishing that relationship. Do your processes encourage a good member service experience?
  • Does the structure of your organization compliment your membership structure? In other words, is the membership experience integrated throughout your organization? Whether through your events, education, website, emails, publications, or staff and board interaction, the membership experience should be consistent throughout your organization.

Keep these three legs in focus to better support your membership program, but recognize they don’t tell the whole story. For more information and tips, make sure to download our newest eBook, Membership Development in Focus, next week.