Advisory Series - 3 Ideas For Growing Your Association Membership

Shiv Narayanan 05 June 2014 0 comments

The Advisory Series will chronicle key insights, best practices, mistakes to avoid, lessons learned and successful strategies shared during Wild Apricot’s Small Membership Advisory Community sessions. Through the sessions, we’ve discovered that despite being diverse in function and industry, small associations, clubs and non-profits face many overlapping challenges. Stay tuned for frequent blog posts on topics raised by the Advisory Community. Each post will focus on one topic/problem.

The Challenge:

Attracting members with limited funding and resources is incredibly difficult.

Examples and insight from our Small Membership Advisory Community

How an alumni association used networking to grow their membership

Most associations and clubs identify a “target member” and focus efforts on acquiring these members one-by-one. Or they try to attract groups of members through events or industry activities. But this requires effective post-event follow-up to acquire subsequent member registrations.

Have you ever considered leveraging your current members’ networks to add new members? More importantly, have you targeted people to become members because they can bring many more members?

During a recent advisory session, an alumni association discussed how they implemented this idea. The association’s strategy was to target a handful of classmates from each year’s graduating class via LinkedIn and enlist those individuals to recruit their contacts instead of approaching each graduate individually. By leveraging the personal relationships among classmates, the alumni association was able to grow its membership significantly.

Among your target members, what kind of individuals would make great recruiters because of their personal/professional networks? You can grow your membership exponentially if you can find a way to enlist these members.

How a neighborhood association created value for members

You may have a plethora of potential members within arm’s reach who just won’t join your organization even though they love what you’re doing, attend all of your events and have the time to be a member and contribute.

Why don’t they become members and contribute to your organization? Perhaps, it’s because the same perks, events and information are available to non-members and members alike.

We spoke to a neighbourhood association during a recent session who fit this profile. Their membership fee was only $15, but all events were free for both members and non-members. Membership was dwindling.

To address this problem, the neighbourhood association looked “outside the box” and created a membership card that gave members a 10% discount at local businesses. In the first year, the card only offered discounts to 9 businesses. In two years, the effort snowballed as 26 local businesses joined the program and membership quadrupled from 100 to 400 members.

Though this sort of program may not be viable for all organizations, it makes a strong case for creating value for members. What can your organization do to make membership valuable to potential members?

How one association put an effective process in place to find the “right” volunteers

Small associations and clubs are dependent on volunteers, especially when funding and staff resources are scarce.  But sometimes, the “come one, come all” approach may not offer the best return on volunteer investment.

As we've noted in our Getting Started With Volunteer Recruitment guide, to ensure an optimal experience for volunteers and your organization, it’s important to define specific volunteer assignments or roles in order to have the right person for each volunteer job.

One of the members of our Small Membership Advisory Community recently touched on this topic. While finding people to volunteer is one of the biggest challenges for most organizations, this organization put a rigorous interview process into place and had volunteers compete for available positions. The practice not only helped get more qualified people to apply for the positions, but also made volunteers stay with the organization longer.

You may not want to institute a competition, but perhaps your organization could benefit from having some minimum requirements in terms of skills, experience and having defined volunteer job descriptions. What changes can you make to find the “right” volunteers to move your organization forward?

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Join Wild Apricot’s Small Membership Advisory Community

Interested in joining our conference calls? There is currently a wait list of people for future calls but you can submit a form here and you will be included on a call as soon as possible.

You can also join the discussion in our Advisory Community forum where many topics are being discussed.

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Shiv Narayanan [Magnetic Apricot] Shiv Narayanan [Magnetic Apricot]

Posted by Shiv Narayanan [Magnetic Apricot]

Published Thursday, 05 June 2014 at 8:30 AM

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