Ten Strategies for Membership Growth (912 words)

Member recruitment is not what it once was. Guilt is not much of a motivator in today’s world. In this new order of things, you the association or society executive must embrace the idea that member recruitment is no longer the exclusive responsibility of your membership department. Today, membership is everybody’s business. Yes, it is the business of all your staff, volunteer leaders and members at large. Everyone must pitch in.

In order to embrace this idea of membership being the responsibility of everyone, you will need to have implementation strategies in place to facilitate your new paradigm. Yes, life will be different for the CEO as this person must hold the mantle of responsibility to see that everyone embraces membership is everybody’s business to the fullest. Below are the ten strategies you must embrace…every day.

Strategy #1-The Will to Grow Strategy is book-ended with the will to change. What got your organization to where it is, most likely is not what will get you to the next level. This is where you scour your Bylaws, Policies & Procedures, and daily operation culture to discover hidden member value killers, resource wasters and anything that minimizes the ROI your organization delivers to members. Trust me, identifying is far easier than fixing, and fixing is what you must accomplish.

Strategy #2-The Build a Member-ROI-Centric Organization Strategy is built upon the foundation of the above. This is where embracing membership is everybody’s business is crucial. Every department in your organization must look upon itself anew to discover member value killers and make appropriate changes in their departments to better deliver improved member ROI. Sunset what’s not working and improve and/or increase what is working.

Strategy #3-The Grow Your Member Value Proposition Strategy is not as difficult as one might think. First to the qualitative research as outlined in The ROI of Membership—Today’s Missing Link for Explosive Growth to determine what your members believe is the current real-dollar ROI that your organization delivers to them. Now compare your organization to your competition. You do have competition if you look hard enough. Find what you do better than your competition that matters most to your members and start growing your member ROI from that point.

Strategy #4-The Member Retention Strategy is important and many organizations do not have a structured strategy in place for keeping members. Many believe that a membership turnstile in inevitable. Please…a modicum of energy in keeping your members pays off handsomely. First year members are most at risk and you will want to have a 12-month/12-touch system in place. You need a long-term system for all members and person in charge of the system. The system should consist of both staff and volunteer leader efforts. And, other departments can help. As an example, how about “Your membership has expired” belly bands on your magazine—printed or electronic? Other departments can help also.

Strategy #5-The Win Them Back Strategy is also something that many organizations have overlooked. Sure, you might send a reminder invoice or two but do you have a formal multi-touch system for regularly attempting to win back expired members. Recent and longer-term expired members should be on your target list. You need to do more than send a (passive) newsletter once a year; you need to engage expired members in a way that compels them to rejoin.

Strategy #6-The Member Recruitment Strategy is something that most organizations have in some form or another. Is it exclusively the membership department’s job to recruit…heck no…membership is everybody’s business. You just as much need member evangelists shouting from the rooftops about the ROI your organization delivers as you need an aggressive recruitment staff. You need to have your chapters involved and you need excellent member recruitment collateral materials that talk about the “what’s in it for me” and exceptional member ROI.

Strategy #7-The Components/Chapters Strategy can make or break an organization. Does the organization treat its chapters well? If not, why not? Think of chapter members acting as thousands of individual member recruitment evangelists…if only you give them a helping hand.

Strategy #8-The Alliance Strategy is where you find other organizations with whom your circles of interest overlap and you can develop mutually beneficial programs that deliver similar value to both organizations. I’ve been writing about successful alliances since the early 1990s and I’m here to tell you that it is both rewarding and difficult. Be certain to have your agreements in writing, even for the simplest partnering relationships. I’m not talking about vendor sponsorships but rather other associations or organizations where synergy can be developed.

Strategy #9-The Non-Dues Revenue Strategy might not be seen as part of member growth, but it is.   There has been a dramatic shift since the 1960s toward greater percentages of association and society operating budgets away from member dues in favor of increased non-dues revenue. You need money to develop high-value member products, services, events, and the like and member dues are not going to cover it. Additionally, you must offer the maximum, allowable by law, differential between member and non-member pricing to improve your member value proposition. Explore the possibilities.

Strategy #10-The Mosaic Strategy is all about how you put the above nine strategies into place. You cannot achieve any of the above in a vacuum so you will need to have your, let’s call it master plan in place. You as the CEO are the ultimate conductor or this orchestra called an association and it is you that must see that all parts, pieces, and departments are working collaboratively to achieve sustained membership growth within your association or society. Membership is everybody’s business.



Ed Rigsbee is the consummate evangelist for member recruitment and strategic alliance success. He holds the Certified Association Executive (CAE) and Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) accreditation. Ed is the author of The ROI of Membership-Today’s Missing Link for Explosive Growth, PartnerShift, Developing Strategic Alliances, and The Art of Partnering. To his credit, he has over 2,500 articles in print and countless articles electronically published.

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.