Increase Member ROI from Meetings (613 words)

Increase Member ROI from Meetings through having member-only events

Increase Member ROI from Meetings

Is it possible to achieve more Member ROI from meetings? I believe it is possible, and with just a few simple adjustments.

For many associations and societies, the annual meeting and or Expo delivers the most value…as perceived by staff and volunteer leaders. But does it?

What’s the Feature of Membership?

Your convention is not a feature of membership unless you have a closed industry meeting (like IPCPR). Therefore, the feature of membership is actually the event registration discount. Make sure your member vs non-member registration differential is in the area of about 75% of the cost of membership. This way your organization will comply with U.S. antitrust laws. Additionally, you’ll maximize the financial advantage you deliver to your members.

Boost Member ROI from Meetings

To really boost Member ROI from meetings, develop member-only activities at your meeting and prominently promote these activities in all materials as such. Do you have a highly distinguished industry guru present at your meeting? Consider making that session member-only and station your staff or volunteers at the door to police it. Policing the door is critical to your success. Make a critical review of your meeting and look for opportunities to place member-only activities during, and after, business hours. Find ways to let your members know that they are very important based on meeting access.

Designate Membership on Convention Badge

Something as simple and cost-effective as having convention badge holders state, “XYZ Organization Member” can go a long way to help deliver increased member ROI from meetings by visually acknowledging your members. Also it makes it far easier to police the member-only events. No need to be punitive and display “Non-Member” on the badge holders. Just have blank holders for the non-members. That’s good enough.

Success Story

I recommended to one of my clients a simple Member ROI from meetings adjustment—charging non-members for the free opening night party and auction. This organization relies heavily on income from its yearly expo, and implements the expo better than any other organization in their industry. Expo passes are either free or extremely low cost to non-members. The logic is maximum number of bodies in the expo to serve the associate/supplier exhibitors.

Recently, this organization started charging non-members to attend the party…approximately $40, nothing outrageous. The outcome was that eight people complained (boycotting the party) and 200 bought tickets. The executive director thanked me for helping to increase the expo’s profitability.

More importantly, the members now see attendance to the opening night party as a feature of membership—delivering to them a financial advantage.

Innovation to Surge Member ROI from Meetings

This is where your creativity comes in. Since there really are no two meetings or membership organizations that are exactly the same—you will have to translate the above ideas into your specific situation. Look close at every facet of your meeting; engage all your departments in an ideation session to determine a strategy and tactics to implement the strategy.

To grow your Member ROI from Meetings, consider:

  • Work to make your organization more member-ROI-centric
  • Membership is everybody’s business; challenge every department/silo to determine how they can help in the effort
  • Just because you have done it a certain way in the past, hold every meeting activity as a possibility for increasing Member ROI
  • Explore closer the balance between the needs of your supplier members to have bodies at events and the need of your members to receive a reasonable ROI from the entire meeting
  • Check with your At-Counsel to determine how to comply with antitrust laws while pricing multiple events/activities for non-members as generally you can have the above mentioned differential for multiple activates at your meeting

Member Perception of Value

Member Perception of Value - ROI - Return on Investment

Member Perception of Value = Return on Investment (ROI)

My work over the last 20+ years has revealed to me that the member perception of value is paramount. What members (or prospective members) believe is all that matters.

Associations frequently do a good job of creating member value, but not such a good job of communicating that value in a way that matters to members. It is a particular skill set to be able to write influencing (sales) copy. Most association marketers write about the features of membership but forget to tell the member or prospect how those features will make their life better. (It is all about me :>) Everyone wants an exceptional return on their investment (ROI) of time and money, but how many association marketing and/or communication pieces clearly demonstrate that. (Not many.)

What many association executives do not understand is that is is a “relationship bank” issue in member perception of value. Making no, or few, deposits throughout the year equals bankruptcy–but at the end of the year association executives try to take a withdrawal (ask for renewal) when there’s nothing in the bank. Crazy, isn’t it? How can you expect to drink from an empty glass? Funny how some think they can.

Qualitative research, specifically the Member ROI Valuation Process reveals member perception of value…helping association staff and volunteer leaders to determine what products and services to sunset and what to keep. If something you do only benefits a very few, why are you spending resources in that area? Invest your organization’s resources (time and money) in things that benefit MOST of your members.

Developing Strategic Alliances by Ed Rigsbee

Developing Strategic Alliances by Ed Rigsbee

Build it and they will come…but only if you build it correctly (member expectations) and do an excellent job of communicating why it is in their best interest to come (not the association’s best interest). In my book, “Developing Strategic Alliances” I when into great detail about relationship bank deposits. Key for this discussion is an understanding of what creates value for the other? If you develop something your members and/or prospects do not want–you get frustrated that they do not take advantage and they get frustrated because your are shouting from the rooftops about something in which they have no interest.

To earn my Certified Association Executive (CAE) credential, I had to understand the SPIE model: Scan, Plan, Implement, Evaluate and so do you. Scan what your market offers and what your customers (members) want. Then develop a plan to build it. Now build it. After you build it, review–did they really want it? Did you build it correctly? Did you market it correctly? It’s all about member perception of value.

Build it correctly and tell your market how it will make their life better…and they will come because they believe in the member perception of value that you have created.

Ten Strategies for Membership Growth (912 words)

Ten Strategies for Membership Growth

Membership Growth

Membership growth and member recruitment are not what they once were. 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.

Caution on Conventional Wisdom about Millennials (482 words)

Caution on Conventional Wisdom about Millennials

Caution on Conventional Wisdom about Millennials

Conventional Wisdom about Millennials

Is your conventional Wisdom about Millennials accurate? Just as bald white male baby boomers are not all the same—neither are millennials. One would be wise in considering this in member recruitment and retention. To paint such a broad-brush stroke is to leave many behind. While everyone, every generation, every color wants value from their membership—not all are viewing your membership organization from the same kaleidoscope of value.

For several years now I have been reading the endless fountain of articles on understanding Generation Y. These articles talk about millennials growing up with hovering (helicopter) parents and being immersed in technology. They want among other things:

  • A seat at the C-suit table—NOW
  • Inclusion for all
  • Meaningful work within their jobs
  • Prefer cause related organizations
  • Entrepreneurial opportunity
  • Extreme experiences at corporate, association and society meetings
  • Online supported relationships near and far
  • A sharing economy rather than ownership of stuff
  • Freedom

Well now, who wouldn’t the above? Let’s face it, all generations (painting with my broad brush) desire the above—but do they?

Raising Millennial Children

First up, I have two millennial sons and I’ll categorically state that the above is not their job or association shopping list. Sure each might desire some of the above and yet each has different perspectives and desires. Heck, two millennial men from the same household do not agree on all of the above. With that, how in the world can the “generational gurus” state “millennials want X, Y and Z”?

In raising our Y Generation sons, my wife and I relied on authoritative help in “understanding age-appropriate behavior” which was also a broad-brush perspective. The assumption was that the child was being raised in a nurturing North American home. For the first year or two, the information was helpful but after that “child’s personality and parenteral influence” had a greater influence on behavior thereby leaving the authoritative help—less helpful.

Today’s Millennials Are Diverse

Generation Y, perhaps more than the generations that were before, have had easy opportunity to learn from far more resources that that of traditional education. As such, some embraced the opportunities and others did not. Some became aware without education, some unaware with education and some aware and educated. Each of the three paradigms delivers different perspective to the workforce. Add to that geographical, gender, athletics and other various endeavors and you have quite a diverse generation. To state that “millennials want X, Y or Z” is to speak from a lack of knowledge and understanding. Humans are individuals.

Regardless of whether you are hiring a millennial to work at your association or attempting to influence them to join your organization the core truth is this—not everybody is the same and to paint people with a broad-brush is to make erroneous assumptions. Value means different things to different people. Keep this in mind as you make the decisions that will affect your association, its staff and members.

Adapted from The Membership Strategy-Membership is Everybody’s Business to be published early 2018.

Member Retention through Relationship Bank Deposits (829 words)

Member Retention through Relationship Bank Deposits

Member Retention through Relationship Bank Deposits

Ultimately yours like most associations and societies are looking for net-member growth and there is no better way than member retention through relationship bank deposits. Some do a great job keeping members but still lose many to attrition. Some are awesome at recruiting but tend to have a turnstile of members coming and going. Unfortunately, net-growth seems to be illusive to many.

Offense and Defense

To enjoy net-member growth, it’s obvious but frequently forgotten, that an organization has to be excellent at both recruitment and retention–every day. This is a challenge as many find it hard to continually focus on two things (1) how to get them and (2) how to keep them. Member Retention through Relationship Bank Deposits relies on the features of membership you make available to members. This can help with the hard part…communicating how the features make members’ life better. This is the Achilles Heal of most associations and societies—communication. Specifically, communicating value. Too many of the communication directors want to concisely communicate facts to save their readers time. That’s great, but in doing so there is a massive opportunity loss—opportunity to prove value, remind of value, and subliminally lock in the perception of value among the membership. This ability is excellent offense and defense.

If You Don’t Tell It Didn’t Happen

Early in my career I received a lesson that I have carried for life. Selling consumer goods (sunglasses) to the retail industry (drug stores), I was making my rounds when upon visiting a particular store I found the products of a competitor on my display. Upon asking the owner about his purchase he told me that he was told that the particular style was very trendy. I agreed and told him that that particular style had been on his display (from me) for several months already. He didn’t know because I failed to mention it to him, therefore leaving a competitor to wedge in. If you fail to tell, it didn’t happen and you are leaving an opening for another organization to sell their value.

Value Communication

Communicating value to your members is making relationship bank deposits. Two key places to look to determine the quality of your value communication is at (1) your “Member Benefits” page at your website and (2) your electronic communications. Are you “telling” members how your organization makes their life better or simply mentioning features of membership and expecting them to make the translation for themselves? This is crucial for Member Retention through Relationship Bank Deposits.

  • Member Benefits page. First check and see if the text happens demonstrate features or benefits? Features explain what’s built into the product or service and benefits explain how the features make the user’s life better. You’ll most likely have to admit that what you have listed is features rather than benefits.
  • Electronic Communications. Most likely your communication editor is keeping the copy “tight” in hopes that the reader will review the entire piece. Read through what is written and ask yourself this for everything you read, “Who Cares?” and “So what?” If your two questions are answered clearly, you might have benefit copy.

Every time, you want to communicate in as many methods as possible, “Because of your membership, this is how we are making your life better.” This kind of communication, continually, is how your organization makes regular relationship bank deposits with its members.

Relationship Bank Withdrawals

In order for your organization to make sufficient relationship bank deposits for the time of member renewal…when you do attempt to take a withdrawal, this effort must be CONTINUAL. In the cosmic relationship bank, consider that about a dozen deposits are requited for each withdrawal. This would mean that you would have to make about one deposit a month just to get a member to renew. Deposits come in all sorts of forms: awesome meeting, membership pins stating longevity, HQ staff helping with something, etc. The sky is the limit; you just have to remember that value is in the eye of the beholder. This means that just because you think something is valuable (a deposit) if the member does not think the same—it is not a deposit.

Everything as Separate

Bundling is easy, saves time and makes the life of your staff easier. But, doing so diminishes member-perceived value. Everything your organization does for a member should be delivered, regardless of the conduit, separately. Sending a new member package filled with stuff is one relationship bank deposit. However, sending each included item out separately—while it does take more work—is one relationship bank deposit per item. With a little more work, your organization can create vastly more perceived-value. This is Member Retention through Relationship Bank Deposits at its best. As we all know, it is about the member’s perception, not yours. Never offer two or more resources at no charge to members in a single email—break it up. If you extrapolate out this paradigm throughout your organization you will, yearly, deliver enormously more perceived-value to your members and they will reward you when renewal time comes and you request a relationship bank withdrawal.

Adapted from Ed Rigsbee’s forthcoming book titled, The Membership Strategy-Membership is Everybody’s Business

Improve Your Member Value Proposition for Total Organizational Growth (788 words)

Improve Your Member Value Proposition for Total Organizational Growth

Improve Your Member Value Proposition

Member value proposition is what most new and current members want. Your member value proposition is determined by the beliefs, perspectives and emotional connection of members to the organization, its staff and volunteer leaders. The other side of that coin is how the industry, in general, perceives your organization. If operatives in your industry thought membership in your organization was a great deal, then they would already be members.

 

Member Communication: inform or influence

This is an area where every organization can improve. The vast majority of stories in your Member Communication fall short of influencing members as the stories mostly inform. The difference is in how a story is written, most of the stories are not written through the window of “what’s in it for the member” and therein we find the rub—this angle is what can cause a member’s perception of value to change for the positive—or the negative.

 

How to Write Benefit Copy

Just offering a superior member value proposition is not enough. Your organization must clearly communicate your member value proposition in order to attract new members.

  1. First determine what is being sold. It should be one of 4 things for your Communication: product, event, member recruitment or member retention
  2. Then determine which feature of membership (from your member benefits web page) the thing being sold is.
  3. Next determine which buying motive is at play: profit/gain, fear of loss, avoidance of pain, love/affection, comfort/pleasure or pride/prestige. Many times there can be more than one buying motive but pick one for simplicity.
  4. Now write copy explaining the “what’s in it for the reader,” why they should care and include a call to action statement.
  5. Last, write the title of the story or promotional copy using one of the following perspectives: shocking, ask a question, offer data, create a value statement or reveal a secret.

 

Qualitative Focus Group Research

To find out what your current members believe is the member value proposition that they receive in actual dollar numbers you will want to conduct a series of Member ROI Valuation focus group sessions utilizing qualitative research methodology. This is an excellent starting point for boosting your value proposition.

 

Strategy Mapping Exercise

The strategy mapping exercise is your next step of discovery as you want to compare your organization’s member value proposition to that of competing organizations. This exercise allows leaders to compare with the various competing organizations—those that also compete for membership dollars, mindshare and value perception of people in your industry. Ideally, in contrast to the below example, the lines would not track but rather demonstrate vast differences.

Non-Profit Strategy Mapping Visual Example

Non-Profit Strategy Mapping Visual Example

Features Framework Exercise

The third step is to conduct the features of membership framework exercise—first with staff—then with volunteer leaders and overlay the three pieces. This will create visual impact for staff and volunteer leaders as to what is helping and hurting your organization’s member value proposition. The step-by-step “how to” can be found starting on page 88 of The ROI of Membership.

 

Getting all the Departments in Alignment

Every department at your organization must use new decision filters. The important filter to add is the “decision filter” of how the actions considered will affect positively or negatively the organization’s member value proposition, return on investment, member retention and recruitment. Each department has to align toward making your organization more member-ROI-centric.

 

The Hard Truth

Accepting change and shifting your organization’s culture is something that will be difficult. Sure, the volunteer leaders and paid staff give the member value proposition idea lip-service and “embrace” the new but when push comes to shove, they fall back into their “non-productive” comfort zones and eschew the necessary change. This is the fulcrum point where you might be currently failing. This is where all the above work becomes mute, meaningless, and a waste of time as the players in your organization thinks they are changing but in reality is only getting ready to get ready. What most people in this situation are really saying is that they agree that others should change but they themselves want to hold on to control because they know better than the others.

 

Embrace Change Management

If you truly desire to push past the current “failure point” and move into a new era of high-level member value proposition, everyone from the executive director and president to the newest section leader needs to be on-board because membership is everyone’s business. Now here’s the difficult part of the equation, if there are volunteer leaders and or staff pushing back—there is no longer a place for them in the organizational chart. Yes, a staff member that is not willing to play the new game must leave the organization and for the volunteer leaders—they must give up their positions. Are you willing to go to these lengths to grow? Think hard before you answer as you will be held accountable—not by Ed Rigsbee—but by your conscience, integrity and morality.

Power Struggle Among Paid Staff and Volunteer Leaders (858 words)

Power Struggle between Paid Staff and Volunteer Leaders Can Kill any Non-Profit Membership Organization

Power Struggle between Paid Staff and Volunteer Leaders

Power Struggle

For a number of associations, power struggle is the primary core issue hampering membership growth. This revolves around the power struggle among volunteer leaders and paid staff desiring control of the organization. While I have worked hard with a number of organizations to help them shore-up symptoms, this pervasive challenge remains. I realize that paid staff could sometimes be the problem, but that is for another post.

I believe it is now the time for many organizations to honestly face this hampering core issue. Too many organizations have held a central belief that any non-(your industry, fill in the blank) person is simply not capable of understanding the industry issues and as such is incapable of effectively managing the organization. Today, such dismissal of professional association management personnel is a mistake. This is not a critical commentary but rather a (frequent) honest observation. Most hampering symptoms seem to emanate from this core issue.

Days Gone Bye

There was a time when your organization’s leadership was composed of the most influential names in the industry. These captains of the industry had legions of secretarial staff to whom they could assign their volunteer leader responsibilities…and things would get done in a timely manner. Questions could be easily answered and decisions made. This capability made it logical that the organization’s volunteer leadership would hold power as they could direct implementation (by their employees). This void of days gone bye have clearly contributed to the power struggle that many non-profits experience.

Today’s Paradigm

Many volunteer leaders today do not have an army of clerical staff at their beck and call. If they have association work, they have to do it themselves. Couple today’s dynamic with yester-year’s idea that volunteer leaders are in charge (of everything) and what transpires is a continual and massive bottleneck.

Too many of today’s volunteer leaders rely on the excuses of “I have a job” or “I’m just a volunteer” for non-performance of their accepted duties. A symptom of this can be the lack of clear and concise volunteer leader job descriptions. And, most are not held accountable for their performance. I have seen it time and again where volunteer leaders will go “underground” for weeks at a time while important organizational business/duties need to be resolved—the bottleneck. It is completely understandable that people have to earn a living, and conversely perhaps your organization is tapping the wrong people on the shoulder to be leaders or needs to accept a new method of operation. This is a core cause of today’s non-profit power struggle.

Who has the Power?

Today’s non-profit volunteer leaders, especially those of baby boomer age, joined and matured within their association/society at the latter days of the bye gone era. They observed earlier leaders hold absolute power over the organization and to some degree, covet the same for themselves. That paradigm would be fine except for the key ingredient—the army of secretarial help that “got the job done” in the old days.  This by the way is not uncommon within mature societies/associations throughout the United States. For a new era, new “power and control” considerations must be adopted in order to minimize power struggle.

The Partnership

Volunteer leaders have approved the hiring of paid staff—some staff members are more association-professionally trained than others. Bylaws generally state something like, “The Executive Director shall be the administrative officer of XYZ functioning under the immediate direction of the President and the Executive Committee. The Executive Director shall have charge and direction of XYZ’s office and its employees and shall conduct the business of XYZ. It appears to me that there is a myriad of interpretations of the above within volunteer leadership ranks which adds to the confusion causing power struggle.

In benchmarking today’s more successful associations and societies, there is a partnership between the chief staff executive and the chief elected officer. Partnership is the key word. Each must understand their duties and execute accordingly—the CSE with his/her staff and the CEO with his/her volunteer leaders and membership at large. I frequently find this missing in organizations. Yet, this is to where many must evolve.

In today’s world of professional association/society management, the role of CSE is frequently given the title of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) because that is truly what the role necessitates.

What I unfortunately see too much of—is volunteer leaders (current and past) considering the paid staff as their minions—much like the clerical staff that the leaders of old once enjoyed. This should not be the case. Today’s association/society staff is more professional than those of years ago. Today’s staff has educational and certification opportunities that were not available to them just a few decades ago.  On the flip side—rarely do non-profit volunteer leaders take advantage of the plethora of association/society leadership and governance education available to them—they are too busy “at their day job” to dedicate the necessary time and energy. Again, this is simply an observation rather than a critical analysis.

However, this is necessary for organizational survival and hopefully success, to develop a respectful and effectively working partnership between volunteer leaders and staff.

Moving the Needle

In many organizations the Staff is positioned to help launch a successful member recruitment campaign, and what is needed is some horsepower behind the launch—which is only available from the volunteer leaders. The choice is in the domain of volunteer leaders, they can encourage or continue to corral. The power struggle must be resolved.

Build it and They will Come? (440 words)

Membership growth through value and return on investment (ROI)

Membership Growth

My work in non-profit membership growth since the late 1980’s has revealed to me that if the member perception of value is paramount. What members (or prospective members) believe is all that matters.

Associations frequently do a good job of creating member value, but not such a good job of communicating that value in a way that matters to members. It is a particular skill set to be able to write influencing (sales) copy. Most association marketers write about the features of membership but forget to tell the member or prospect how those features will make their life better. (It is all about me :>) Everyone wants an exceptional return on their investment (ROI) of time and money, but how many association marketing and/or communication pieces clearly demonstrate that. (Not many.)

What many association executives do not understand for sustained membership growth is the relationship bank issue. Making no, or few, deposits throughout the year equals bankruptcy–but at the end of the year association executives try to take a withdrawal (ask for renewal) when there’s nothing in the bank. Crazy, isn’t it? How can you expect to drink from an empty glass? Funny how some think they can.

Qualitative research, specifically the Member ROI Valuation Process reveals member perception of value…helping association staff and volunteer leaders to determine what products and services to sunset and what to keep. If something you do only benefits a very few, why are you spending resources in that area? Invest your organization’s resources (time and money) in things that benefit MOST of your members.

Build it and they will come is important for membership growth…but only if you build it correctly (member expectations) and do an excellent job of communicating why it is in their best interest to come (not the association’s best interest). In my book, Developing Strategic Alliances I when into great detail about relationship bank deposits. Key for this discussion is an understanding of what creates value for the other? If you develop something your members and/or prospects do not want–you get frustrated that they do not take advantage and they get frustrated because your are shouting from the rooftops about something in which they have no interest.

To earn my Certified Association Executive (CAE) credential, I had to understand the SPIE model: Scan, Plan, Implement, Evaluate and so do you. Scan what your market offers and what your customers (members) want. Then develop a plan to build it. Now build it. After you build it, review–did they really want it? Did you build it correctly? Did you market it correctly?

For membership growth, build it correctly and tell your market how it will make their life better…and they will come.

The Will to Perform-Association Volunteer Leaders (539 words)

The will to perform among volunteer leaders is crucial to a non-profit's success

The Will to Perform

Oh how things have changed, where has the will to perform gone?

The association world was once filled with members that pretty much did everything…and if they were lucky, they could afford an executive secretary…mostly to keep the clerical in order. Today, that executive secretary, in many associations enjoys the CEO title. This is because they really do act as the CEO of the association. The chief staff executive runs the HQ office and directs the staff to achieve what members (volunteer leaders) once did themselves.

But, what about the members, are they still doing their share? In too many circles, an observer would have to answer with, no they are not. Today everyone’s world is compressed—we are all trying to do too much in too little time. It is common to hear among the volunteer leaders, “The staff will do it; it’s their job. “ This sentiment is heard across the association-sphere, regardless of how full the staff members’ plates are.

Let’s bring this discussion to membership. While we all “mouth” that membership is important and it is the life-blood of an association…our actions do not always demonstrate this. In too many associations, and let’s be honest, membership is an afterthought or the department gets far less than necessary resources, attention, and prestige.

While the above can also be said for other departments in associations, membership in my experience is the most egregious.

What can we do? First, we must embrace that in today’s world of associations—there must be a partnership between staff and volunteer leaders in each silo/department of the organization. This is where the Will to Perform is most crucial. If either side of the partnership does not perform, trust is lost and the partnership is ineffective. Staff has to abandon the, “I have a life” as well as volunteer leaders must abandon the, “I’m just a volunteer; I have a job or a company to run.” Neither of these excuses for lack of performance is acceptable.

While this idea can be extrapolated throughout the organization into all silos/departments, specific to membership, we must communicate to our volunteer leaders and staff alike that, Membership is Everybody’s Business. We are all in this together and together we will resolve all issues. Members of today, unfortunately, have been trained by staff to expect everything to be done by staff. Moving forward, this must be changed.

Give your members a precious jewel. All volunteer leaders need a reason to perform before they can muster up within themselves the Will to Perform. What is the core value to them and the organization for them to desire to perform well? In the membership silo/department it is this—membership is a good business, financial, and career decision. If the association’s CEO can broadcast this message in a way that staff and volunteer leaders accept as a precious jewel that membership is a good business decision and held close to the heart—then it can and will be shared with others—the uninitiated.

If you are an association CEO, Executive Director, Executive Vice President—the chief staff executive, your job is to demonstrate in deed, more than in word, that Membership is Everybody’s Business and that membership in your organization is a Good Business, Financial and/or Career Decision. (c) 2017

New Member Retention Made Easy with 12+12 (835 Words)

Effective new member retention with Ed Rigsbee's 12+12 Method of spreading out the love

New Member Retention with Rigsbee’s 12+12 Method

New member retention is critical to the success of your organization. Both conventional wisdom and numerous member surveys tell us that (first-year) new members are most at-risk for non-renewal. Fair enough, I couldn’t agree more. The important question is what to do about it? I suggest to my clients that they create a 12-Month/12-Touch New Member “Showing the Love” Assimilation System. The idea is a combination of my Relationship Bank Deposit recommendations in my second book, Developing Strategic Alliances and an idea from John Gray, Ph.D. who is the author of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.

I’m sure you’ll agree that one must make Relationship Bank Deposits before one attempts to collect a withdrawal. For new member retention, this is huge. For anyone that disagrees…try getting money from a bank with which you have no prior relationship and you’ll quickly see it is a no-go. In relationships the ratio is generally 10 to 1, meaning 10 deposits for every withdrawal.

A number of years ago I sat in the audience when John Gray addressed the National Speakers Association and I’ll always remember this; it is about the points. He had a bouquet of roses on a pedestal close to his lectern. He made a statement alluding to the point that if one gives the bouquet to their special someone, it is one point. However he stated that if one gives only one rose, it is also one point. He lectured the men in the audience about giving the bouquet once a year and thinking one is done. Not good enough he stated. However, give one rose a month and one has earned 12 points.

New Member Retention

Putting the two ideas together we have the 12-Month/12-Touch for New Member Retention “Showing the Love” Assimilation System. The idea is simple, in addition to everything else you do for your members, have a special “onboarding” process that consists of one touch each month for the new member’s first year. Then in a year’s time when you request that they renew, sufficient Relationship Bank Deposits have been made to justify a Relationship Bank Withdrawal. This will be equally successful for individual membership organizations and those with company memberships.

The 12 Touches Delivery

Many associations and societies have automated new-member emails that go out at various intervals. This would be great if their open-rate was better than the common 20-40%. What it means though, is that 60-80% of the emails sent are never opened. Some organizations even mail a new member package with lots of stuff. However, for new member retention wouldn’t it be better if the stuff was dripped out over time?

Your plan should be to mix up the conduit for delivery: USPS, UPS, FedEx, email, phone calls, etc. Each month have a different kind of touch using a different delivery method. This will assure that most of your touches are being received. One of my clients came up with a novel idea; on the new member’s birthday, that first year, they received an email telling them to respond within 48 hours and the organization would send them a cool T-shirt with the organization’s logo. They have been getting excellent results from that single touch.

Various Touches to Consider

Remember, for successful new member retention, mix it up over the first 12 months and be careful of not relying too heavily on email because of open rates. The below are simple to do, you will need an organizing system that might be as simple as an Excel spread sheet or as complex as using your Association Management System (AMS).
• Telephone call from membership director
• Telephone call from chapter leader (urging them to get involved locally)
• Telephone call from executive director
• Telephone call from member of the board of directors
• Mail simplified new member package
• Mail membership pin
• Mail membership card
• Mail membership certificate or plaque
• Mail specialty advertising item (swag, trinket, tchotchke)
• Mail Association logo wear
• Email new member information bundle containing several documents of interest (generally as PDFs)
• Email containing new member video
• Email containing new member survey
• Email discount coupon for your products/services
• Email special new member discount for annual meeting
• Email video message from executive director or president
• Email directions video about how to navigate your organization’s member-only website section

For effective new member retention, do not limit yourself to the above. Meet with staff and/or volunteers to determine what kind of touches would be appropriate for your organization. Develop in implement your own 12-Month/12-Touch New Member “Showing the Love” Assimilation System and I can assure you that your new member retention will skyrocket.