Why are your members, members?
10 January 2018
Posted by: Katie Spackman
Of course membership of a professional body can be a compulsory requirement in some careers. But if it's not, why do people join associations? Louise Clarke put the question to a number of associations and sector experts.
- I want to belong to my association
- I want to prove my commitment to and support of my profession
- Knowing we're there to support and represent them (as a professional body and a trade union)
- To be part of a volunteer network
To be covered with insurance and trade union advice and support.
These are a few statements received regularly by the British Dietetic Association in its member surveys.
A feeling of belonging and 'being part of something' is key for many people. To attract and keep members associations also need to provide valuable partnerships and links with other relevant organisations, including other membership bodies, employers, educational institutions, corporate partners, sponsors and the public/government sector. Regular relevant event and networking opportunities are also very important.
Many people join associations as students when they are looking for job opportunities. This is undoubtedly a captive audience that associations should tap into.
Lapsed member research
To find out why members are members you need to begin by finding out why people leave. It's often possible to get members back just by giving them a call, chatting to them and asking why they didn't renew their membership.
Most members want to be involved and this commitment is a resource your association can use. Provide volunteering opportunities that give members valuable experience and also help you in the running of the association.
The American Alliance of Orthopaedic Executives (AAOE) developed a volunteer matrix to recruit members to get more involved and create potential leaders. As most of their volunteers were retired people, the AAOE created a matrix to identify professional and demographic information about volunteers. This was a simple spreadsheet that tracked things like age, practice size and type and professional experience.
Web analytics are also a good source of information for recruiting, engaging and retaining members. What search term queries do they make? What is the breakdown of page views or downloads based on characteristics such as member category, career, age or geographic location? And if most of your members are viewing your site on mobiles, make sure the content suits the mobile format.
Toasting membership growth
With 352,000 members in 141 countries, Toastmasters International has seen 23 years of membership growth, which it puts down to 'an aggressive acquisition strategy'. Confident about why they continue to grow, CEO Daniel Rex says it's because their product works: "It enables men and women to become better communicators, but the reason people stay is that of a sense of community."
The community feel and togetherness is strengthened by a number of organisational strategies:
- Member influencers and connectors who bring in new members by word of mouth are identified
- Consistent marketing and communication: Toastmaster clubs that make up the membership use a centralised resource page where text, photos and marketing materials are freely shared.
- Member mentoring: new members are matched with existing members so that their membership experience can be customised.
Membership issues will be a topic of discussion at the forthcoming Associations World Congress www.associationsworldcongress.com focusing on recruitment, engagement and retention during Breakfast Brains and sessions in Stream C, Membership Engagement.