If your membership organization wants to grow, engage industry stakeholders through delivering honest and usable value. The universal thought that is whirling around in everyone’s mind is, “What’s in it for me?” Perception is reality; and today’s associations and societies must get real about the ROI (return on investment). While most really do not know how much ROI they deliver, just delivering ROI is no longer good enough; today you have to prove high-level ROI to keep members and recruit new ones.
ROI delivery is both an art and a science. The science is adding up the numbers and disseminating the information. The art is in managing the member perception of value. You must prove to your industry that membership in your organization is a good business decision. To do this, you must manage your resources in a new way.
Stop Giving It Away
This is huge, please take notice! There is an omnipresent erroneous belief among association professionals and volunteer leaders that, “If we give it away to non-members they will see the value and join.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. When you give away, for example, your legislative updates, newsletters, and magazines, all you are really doing is reducing the value your members receive for their membership dollars and minimizing the motivation of non-members to join. Why should the non-member join? Look at all the value you are giving them for a zero investment. The cold hard truth is that if they haven’t joined by now, they’re not going to join.
Put a Price on It
This will dramatically increase your member ROI. Anything that you make available to members should exhibit an honest “retail” price; everything from electronic newsletters to member lists to legislative updates—everything. To legitimize the price, offer those products, services, and access to non-members at the stated retail price. Don’t think outsiders will pay? Think again, and, regardless of if non-members purchase these items or not, you are stating the value (ROI) your members receive. Do not make the mistake of letting members just think it’s free.
Do your members call the headquarter office for advise when they get into a jam? Send them an invoice, zeroed out with an equal discount, just like any other professional service provider would do. This goes for other services the association provides “free of charge” for its members. Every single day of the week you have to remind your members of the real-dollar value they receive because of their membership in your organization. Keep the value fresh in their heads and they will remember when it is time to renew.
What Else Do You Have to Sell?
There’s gold hidden in your organization’s dusty shelves and computer files. Look around your organization for items, services, and various methods of access that might be perceived by non-members highly valuable. Put a retail price on those items and services, and make them available to non-members at the retail price and to members at no charge or a greatly discounted price. The differential will add to your members’ perception of their yearly membership ROI.
The rub here might be that some of your board members still hold on to their antiquated belief that all of the above is sacred and proprietary information and thereby not to be disseminated. Come on, it’s the twenty-first century, let’s move on and provide as much ROI for your members as possible.
You ask your members to send you a check each year. And, each year when they write out that check they have to make a new decision to buy. Make it easy for your members to see that it is a good business decision to hold membership in your organization. Do this through higher ROI delivery and perception and guess what? They will become membership evangelists for your organization and convince their colleagues, many that you might never reach, to also join and partake of the plentiful ROI.
Ed is the Founder and CEO of the 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, Cigar PEG Philanthropy through Fun, and president at Rigsbee Research which conducts qualitative member ROI research and consulting for associations and societies. He has been called “the dynamite that broke up our log jam” by association executives—rarely politically correct and almost always provocative—and from a dozen years as a United States Soccer Federation referee, Ed calls it the way he sees it. Exceptional resources at www.rigsbee.com.
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