Association Members Must Become Evangelists (874 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Members recruiting new members

If you expect your trade association or professional society to serve you well; you must become an actively engaged evangelist for your association. You must bellow it from the rooftops; the value you receive from your membership. You must tell all your colleagues, competitors, and suppliers why they too should become members. It is your job to drive a continual membership recruitment campaign. More members, among other things, mean a louder voice in legislative matters, more programs to help you improve your business, and better affinity programs.

A trade association or professional society should be a wonderful, industry wide strategic alliance enabling all stakeholders to harness the collective strength and thereby receiving the value they need. The members that are actively involved as functionaries in their industry should be the ones driving an association, not the paid staff and not the suppliers. Your paid staff members already get their benefit—a paycheck. Not to diminish the roll of paid staff however, there is a different dynamic between the persons that ”pay-to-play,” members and associate members verses the ones that are “paid-to-play,” the staff. The times when the paid staff experience this “pay-to-play” dynamic is mostly if they participate at ASAE, MPI, PCMA, etc. where they too are a paying member.

The suppliers always get a huge amount of value from participation—networking with their customers. However, it is you, the functionary member that stands to gain the most through participation. At this point I must stop and be clear to you on the idea that I firmly believe suppliers, or affiliate members, should be able to participate in your association and should hold board positions. But, too many associations are currently addicted to the opiate of having their suppliers do all the work of driving their industry’s association. It is not their job—it’s yours! Your suppliers will happily do all the work, but by relinquishing your responsibility, you will only weaken your association.

What about the paid association staff? Sure, their job is to enable, support, and encourage the membership. If a prospective member calls or emails an inquiry, they are to instantly jump on it, get out some membership marketing materials, and then forward the inquiry to the volunteer membership committee to close the deal. If staff does their job and does not function as a stumbling block or impediment, then there is no excuse—every inquiry should be converted to membership.

However, if the paid staff is too busy doing the work that the volunteer leaders and their committees should be doing, then they will not instantly jump on membership inquiries, and another potential member is lost. Remember, more members mean a louder voice in legislative matters, more programs to help you improve your business, and better affinity programs.

Association board members always receive a higher level of value from their association membership by virtue of their increased engagement. This is the reason that I refuse to conduct my member value process for determining the yearly sustainable real-dollar value at board meetings in contrast to conducting the process at member meetings. Board member numbers will always be higher. To become an evangelist for your association, you must truly understand your return on investment (ROI). When you are clear on the yearly ROI you receive from your membership investment of time and financial resources, you will want to shout from the rooftops.

For over a decade I have been traveling North America conducting my proprietary member value process at association and society meetings. I have NEVER found an organization to deliver less than a 2X ROI—many deliver 10X. One, the American Society for Quality, delivers 50X. While there may be an exception, my belief is that the collaborative efforts of association members will always deliver value—the challenge is that most associations really cannot quantitatively document the actual value they deliver. Unfortunately, that can leave the perception in the minds of some members that their trade association or professional society is falling down on the job. While some organizations might, in fact, be falling down on the job—most deliver value quite well.

I have always advocated that business is about results, not excuses; and as such so should associations and its members. To get results, become an evangelist for your association. For squeezing even more value from your association or professional society membership, my recommendation to you:

  1. Learn more about the services your association offers and pledge to take advantage of the value for which you are already paying. Admit it; you’ve been throwing money away.
  2. Attend your association’s annual convention this year—no excuses.
  3. Volunteer at the convention to do something for the following year.
  4. Get to know your association’s paid staff as they can be a stellar resource in times of need.
  5. Commit to yourself that two days a week you’ll take only a 45 minute lunch rather than your usual hour and a half. With that extra time, you’ll call non-association members that are involved in your industry and ask for the order—invite them to participate through membership.
  6. Do more year-round networking with the members of your association. They truly are an invaluable resource in both good and bad times.

Membership Recruitment Evangelism Needs a Little Push (942 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Member Recruitment Evangelism

Membership Recruitment Evangelism…while the term evangelism is generally used in conjunction with religion, past evangelicals have proven to be exceedingly effective marketers. Case in point; Apostle Paul is considered by many to be the world’s most effective marketer.

Evangelism, simply put is the selling of an idea. In this article I’m going to focus on how paid association staff and executives can help their volunteer members to spread the association membership word to colleagues, competitors, and suppliers. And, why it is in the members’ best interest to make the effort. Yes, evangelism needs a little push in these uncertain economic times.

Be an Enabler.

Association staff members are in a unique position to be either an enabler or an encumbrance. The issues at stake might be of control—whose association is it? An issue might be of sharing the workload or areas of accountability? When your staff says, the members are not doing their job; you need to explore why and repair the situation.

When a potential member contacts the association office, is there a sense of urgency among the association staff to respond quickly and to also forward the inquiry to the volunteer membership director? If not, why not?

What about recognition? Something as simple as acknowledgement, perhaps in your newsletter, can go a long way to encourage your members to become membership evangelists. I want to be clear in the idea; I’m suggesting recognition, not incentive!

Give ‘em the Tools.

If one has only a hammer in their toolbox, then one will naturally see every problem as a nail. What do I mean by this? Believe it or not, legislative issues are not a member-only value. I have worked with too many associations that focus on legislative issues to their chagrin when it comes to delivering value to their members. Since a non-member also receives the same value from an association’s legislative efforts, the association has to offer quite a number of other services, products, access and assistance that holds a monetary value in the minds of members and prospective members.

Knowing the yearly sustainable real dollar value (line item by line item) that your members receive from their investment, and non-members are denied, is a fabulous tool for your membership recruitment evangelists. This helps both in the area of member retention and recruitment. Besides bringing them in, you’ve got to keep them engaged or you’ll lose them quick.

Build the Brand.

Your association is a brand, both in the minds of members and non-members. To members the brand has a particular meaning—most likely very positive. To the non-member what meaning does the brand hold? The brand must not have much of a meaning in the mind of the non-member or they would have joined in and already become a member. When a non-member states that membership is too expensive, what they are really saying is that they really no not see the value.

For your members to be effective evangelists, they must have a crystal clear meaning of the brand in their own minds before they can eloquently articulate the virtues of membership to the non-believers.

Brand means more than a logo, the look of your web site or the beauty of your headquarter office. Your association brand is the total collection of all that you are, do, and represent—including the current members that actively participate. What can you, the association executive, do to make your association a better and stronger brand in the minds of your industry participants and functionaries?

Show ‘em the Money.

I’ll never forget this particular Sunday afternoon when my older son and I visited our local Circuit City big box store to purchase a television for his bedroom. After we made our selection and paid the bill, the salesperson locked the sale indelibly in my mind. He spent a few minutes congratulating my son and I on our choice of television, and repeatedly assured us that we would enjoy that purchase for years to come. He cut buyer’s remorse off at the pass! If there was any chance that we might return our purchase—it disappeared instantly.

Show your evangelists the money. No, I don’t mean pay them for bringing colleagues, competitors or suppliers into your association—I am against membership recruitment incentive programs. Show them the money they save, or make, as a result of their membership.

Many years ago, in my days of outside sales, I learned a powerful lesson—if you don’t tell them, they don’t know you did it. In my seminars and consulting I call this documented value added. Simply put, when you do something for another— something that they consider being valuable to them—you had better tell them that you did it or in their mind, you never did.

Mr. or Ms. Executive Director, this statement is for you…every time you or one of your staff members helps an association member, take a moment to write and mail that member a note thanking them for the opportunity to serve. And, mention what you did for them.

As an example, “Dear Member, thank you for the opportunity to help you overcome your code challenge (or anything you did for them). It was heart warming to know that we at the National XYZ Association were able to overcome the $5,000 fine that the local municipality wanted to impose.”

Do this, and you are showing them the money, locking in their desire to remain a member, and will increase the likelihood that they will share the story with someone in your industry that is not yet a member of your association. Yes, membership evangelists do sometimes need a little push.

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Member Recruitment: Grass Root Volunteers Vs Paid Staff Driven (1170 words)

It’s an association or society executives’ perpetual question, “Which group is best suited to lead the charge in new member recruitment?” What is your answer; the professionals, the amateurs, or both? Today, this question may be more crucial then ever before.  Let’s explore what each side brings to the member recruitment, assimilation, and retention table.

Paid Staff (Professionals) Driven Benefits:

  • Stuff gets done; since member recruitment can be part of their job description there is a strong motivation to get the job done. One will rarely hear the excuse for non-performance; I have been busy running my own business.
  • Consistency; when member recruitment is one’s job, or part of it, there will generally be more of a consistent outreach effort and a decreased likelihood that things will fall through the cracks.
  • Dedicated resources; the professional staff will always have access to all the latest and greatest brochures and other member recruitment tools that your organization produces. They will also have a predetermined amount of time that they will dedicate daily to make recruitment sales calls.
  • Clear message; the professional staff will regularly communicate a clear, and hopefully scripted, recruitment benefit message. Making multiple calls daily will allow the professional to hone their sales message taking it to the simplest common denominator.
  • Knowledge; generally a staff person, working with member recruitment daily, will have a greater depth of the organization’s membership features (even beyond board members) and how the prospective member can utilize those features to become benefits of membership.
  • Outsider looking in; this offers a different perspective from the functioning industry member that holds membership in any given association or society. This different perspective, clear of industry jading and erroneous perceptions can be of substantial benefit in member recruitment activities.

Volunteer Leaders (Amateurs) Driven Benefits:

  • More authentic; because the volunteer member’s recruitment effort will come primarily from the heart rather than the brain, the emotional connection to an industry colleague will be dramatically more powerful than an office staff person with their highly scripted message that might come off too slick.
  • Peer-to-peer value; members will have better access to colleagues within the industry and also command a high-level of credibility.
  • Word-of-mouth; members in an industry can create a buzz through their suppliers and customers. The active functionaries in any industry, geographically dispersed, interact more frequently and intensively than can a bureaucrat.
  • More people available; if you look at it from a numbers game perspective, hundreds of volunteers geographically dispersed and talking to colleagues will deliver more industry in-person touches than would be possible of staff.
  • Personalized examples; there is unequaled persuasively power in the personal success story. Members can explain from doing, rather than observing, how their trade association or professional society helped them to solve a problem, access a business opportunity, or delivered membership features that created high level ROI (return on investment) to them personally or to their business.
  • Industry jargon; naturally someone that is actively participating in his or her industry will have a deeper understanding of insider industry speak. The exception is a long-term association employee. However, they will generally by that time, be in a top executive position and most likely not involved in daily member recruitment efforts.
  • More passion; for the member that truly understands and appreciates the value delivered by his or her association, they will have the propensity to become a true member recruitment evangelist.

The challenge for many organizations is that very few paid staffers will ever become member recruitment evangelists for their employer the way volunteer leaders and members might.

Member Retention

You want engaged members rather than simply numbers. When an organization relies on commissioned staff to recruit members the motivation is simply getting numbers. What comes with those numbers is high-quantity drop-off. This is because there has been a minimal effort to assimilate new members. Conversely, when an active member recruits a new member, the likelihood of that member helping the new member to assimilate into the organization is very high. My personal recommendation is for active members to only recruit one member a year. It is very manageable and very likely that the member that did the recruiting will help their new colleague to assimilate into the organization by inviting them to the coming annual meeting, take them around, and introduce them to other members.

Membership Evangelism; What’s It Take?

  • When an individual member understands how a larger membership organization might serve them better, they become passionate about spreading the word. They do this for two reasons. First, they want to share the wealth with all the members in their industry and second, they desire growth so they might enjoy additional benefits.
  • Effective recruitment tools are an absolute must for members to become evangelists for their organization. These tools are not used as a crutch but for credibility builders and roadmaps to tell others their story.
  • Recognition at any level, and for any task, delivers reinforcement that their actions and results are appreciated. And for some, recognition is a bit like a life’s scorecard. It never hurts and always helps; so why not do it?
  • Emotional ownership in organization is developed through an unwavering belief that the organization serves their industry, their company, and themselves in a way that no other could do. When a member believes in their organization’s delivery of highly valuable member benefits, the organization effectively “owns them.” The member can’t wait to shout from the rooftops how their association serves them. After all, they made the fabulous decision to join, didn’t they?
  • Association staff and volunteer leaders should pay attention to the members that are highly-engaged in your organization, even though they may not select to be part of the leadership. These highly engaged members should be encouraged, asked about their opinions, and in all manner appreciated and recognized for their passionate effort to spread the word about your organization; even if they are contrarians!
  • Membership evangelists, above all else, desire to help others. Get out of their way—even if they do not follow all of the rules to the level you desire. You are not looking for well mannered church mice to spread the word. Rather, you are looking for risk-takers that truly desire to make a difference, to do your membership recruitment bidding.

My Preference

If you are truly looking to recruit new members that will be engaged in your association or society, and if the choice was mine—I’d have the volunteer leaders in charge of the member recruitment effort with the support staff highly engaged in the process. I’d have the volunteers sell the idea of membership to their colleagues and have the professional staff do the follow up paperwork, answer additional questions, and collect the dues. I believe this to be the best utilization of members and staff. However, if you are just looking for revenue through numbers, go ahead and have the commissioned office staff lead the effort.

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Member Recruitment in a Down Economy (1226 words)

The trade associations and professional societies, especially ones that serve mature industries have been hit particularly hard the last couple years with their membership rosters. Unfortunately, the old member value delivery and recruitment formulas seem not to be working like they once did.

First Explore Belonging

While there are numerous reasons to belong to an association or society, most fall into one of two categories: career/business improvement and industry/profession affiliation.

Credentials & Certification

Organizations that offer valuable credentialing tend to lock members in on both of the above reasons. The idea of value in certification and credentialing is important to explore. As an example, the American Society for Quality offers a credential to its members that actually translate into an additional yearly income of approximately $5,000 for the member that hold the credential.

Conversely, many other organizations offer credentials but invest no money in the promotion of the credentials to the marketplace thereby rendering the credential of value only to the person that holds said credential. Value is the key. Just developing credentialing and certification programs without investing in the market promotion rarely offers actual real-dollar value to members. This old formula no longer works.

Membership for Business Improvement

Generally most persons that join their trade association or professional society do so with the hope of securing ideas and help in business and career improvement. Or put another way, “Show me the money!”

Members need and want to learn but unfortunately, in the name of “industry specific,” much of the education that is offered to members during recessionary times is more incestuous than innovative. The reason for this is that organizations can get “free” programming form suppliers and consultants. And, the organizations actually, truly, and erroneously believe that the industry consultants and suppliers will not “sell” during their education sessions.

Doing what you have always done and expecting different results is the age old definition for insanity. Looking within an industry in difficult economic times is just that—insanity. The innovation and new answers will come from outside. This is where organizations must look to offer true value to their members rather than be tightfisted with their financial resources.

Membership for Affiliation

As mentioned earlier, credential availability is an important reason for association or society membership.  Another “soft” reason is simply the desire to participate and assist one’s industry or profession. This was a primary motivator for the Baby Boomers and those that came before. However, today’s emerging leaders are focusing more on some sort of a return on their time and money investment. No longer is affiliation in itself enough of a reason.

Political Advocacy

Traditionally one of the important reasons for membership that encompasses both business improvement and affiliation has been to demonstrate strong political voice. Associations and societies are effectively the most important collective that business and professional persons can and should join. These groups, when demonstrating great numbers can truly affect legislation at the federal, state, and local levels.

The current problem is that so much of the advocacy work done by membership organizations delivers value to an industry or profession regardless of membership. Many have discovered that they get the same value as members without holding membership. This phenomenon greatly diminishes the return on investment of membership. The double edged sword that many organizations are currently facing is that they need more members to do more advocacy but larger numbers of industry players are sitting on the side-lines enjoying the value without investment or participation.

Are there answers? Sure there are. One answer that many organizations have employed is through their credentialing and certification programs, where those that hold the credentials or certifications enjoy increased business while those that do not, do not! In this area, a restructuring might be in order.

Members through Members Verses Incentive

This is an age old dilemma, one that is currently getting plenty of play in board meetings across the landscape. The easy approach is to offer incentives or commissions to members and paid staff to recruit new members. Regrettably, more frequently than not, is the fact that this method simply delivers a turnstile of members as opposed to long-term member retention. Anybody in sales that has been successful over the long-term will attest to the fact that it is less expensive to keep customers than to find new ones. So goes membership organizations.

The best approach for long-term member retention is the grassroots approach where members invite colleagues. This method gets a better class of member and had the built in member retention system; one-on-one mentoring. To successfully adopt any grassroots member recruitment campaign, the current membership has to be armed with the proper tools. The most important tool with which an organization can arm their membership is the yearly sustainable, or reoccurring, real-dollar value of membership return on investment (ROI) number. This is where most organizations fail miserably.

Member Benefits Verses Features of Membership

Through extensively researching the web sites of membership organizations I have discovered that few understand member benefits. Benefits are the things that make the members’ lives better. The features of membership are the items available to members to utilize or ignore. As example, access to an affinity program is a feature of membership. The member benefit that the affinity program is that it delivers more business, more money, cost savings, etc. to the member.

So many organizations that I have worked with offer affinity programs similar to those that are offered from outside the organization. If the price benefit ratio is not substantially greater with membership, for this membership feature, there is no value. This is the case in so many situations because the organization is enjoying a revenue commission from the affinity program provider which frequently eliminates the financial benefit to members. When an organization espouses that members should support their organization by participating in a particular “additional value-less” affinity program, that is old paradigm thinking and one of the important reasons for lack of member renewals.

Organizations must find products, services, and programs that deliver real-dollar value to members—far beyond what non-member industry participants may enjoy.

Hidden Gold

Membership organizations’ boards of directors and paid staff should regularly mine for gold. Most organizations have assets that are of value to industry players; access being an important asset.  As an example, if an organization offers member access to non-members, the differential between member and non-member price is the honest member value that can be computed into member ROI. Most likely that differential will be a small number. However, if that same access was available only to members, or the differential was greatly increased, the perceived value of membership would also increase. Take this idea throughout all the silos or departments or your organization and I guarantee that you will find gold; more possible member value.

Getting Them to Join

The documented reason for over 70% of members that do not renew their membership is due to their lack of perceived membership value. The number one reason industry stakeholders do not join your organization, is not because of the answer most offered; lack of time, but rather because of their perceived lack of value in membership.

The way to get industry players to join and retain membership in difficult economic times is to offer unarguable and easily demonstrated high membership ROI. It truly is easier than you think.

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Member Recruitment with an Eye on Assimilation (767 words)

As I read comments on member-get-a-member ideas by association membership directors at a Linkedin Group discussion, I can’t help from wondering if they are even considering member retention. An important thought for association and society executives is; do you want the instant gratification of a membership spike or the satisfaction of sustainable organic growth?

Incentives for Member Recruitment

Giving current members an incentive for recruiting new members can be a great way to temporarily boost membership numbers but is a poor method for true organizational organic growth. This is similar to a sales person that is only interested in making the sale and not interested in developing long-term customers. Instant gratification is rarely the best course of action for sustainable organizational growth.

What’s the true long-term organizational value derived from an aggressively competitive member recruiting new members solely for his or her ego and need for the instant gratification of winning a contest? Can, or will, this aggressively competitive recruiter also aggressively help to assimilate the new recruits? I don’t think so, and without successful assimilation, there will be no retention.

The Recruitment Myth

Turnstile membership recruitment is a waste of valuable resources and ultimately damages an organization’s reputation. Rather than having advocates and evangelists in the marketplace, praising the benefits of membership; turnstile member recruitment fosters disgruntled ex-members that extol the perceived indifference that they experienced while holding membership. In this situation, your organization would have been better off not having them as a member in the first place.

New Member Assimilation

You know this, your new members receive huge value from attending your conventions and conferences—when they have a guide and mentor serving as their pathfinder. The challenge with the above mentioned aggressive recruiter is that said recruiter has no time to be a pathfinder for several freshman members.  Sometimes organizations are sophisticated enough to assign first time conference attendees a mentor, however this is only minimally effective because of no prior relationship.

The absolute best is for a member to get a member—only one per year—urge the new member to attend the organization’s upcoming conference and be their pathfinder and assimilator throughout the meeting. The new member feels included, benefits from educational and networking opportunities, and develops an emotional ownership in their membership of your organization. This is the crucial foundation for any long-term member.

What’s Missing?

The reason that so many member-get-a-member campaigns fail to deliver long-term members is because the foundation upon which the new members were sold their membership is one of sand rather than bedrock. What’s missing is a credible member recruitment tool that explains in real-dollar terms what the member gets in return for their investment into the new organization. Without this critical link, member recruiters can only arm-twist or offer hollow promises of the benefits of membership. Member recruiters must be able to prove in real-dollar terms that membership is a good business decision.

Changing Member Recruiters Motivation

To transform your members from aggressive recruiters that are motivated solely based on the instant gratification of wining a contest or filling their pockets with incentives; to advocates and hopefully, evangelists, does take smart planning and implementation. Your current members must truly understand and believe, to their core, that their association or society delivers an excellent return on their investment of both money and time. They must have a strong emotional ownership in the idea that membership is a good business decision. They must also completely understand how a larger and stronger organization will have the capability to deliver even more measurable value to every stakeholder. There is always the fear that if the organization grows too much the intimacy will disappear. The organization must also demonstrate through its long-term planning strategy that there are future programs being developed to sustain the valued intimacy.

Evangelists or Detractors, the Choice is Yours

How your organization approaches growth will largely determine results. If the instant gratification of an immediate membership spike is important to your organization, you will ultimately develop more detractors than evangelists. However, if your organization is willing to adopt an organic grassroots approach to growth, the benefit received by the organization and its members will be transformational. Take this path and your organization will enjoy in its ranks, legions of member recruitment evangelists. Your organization will also enjoy higher than normal member retention—evangelists stay, while detractors leave.

Do you really need to give your members a $25 Starbucks card to motivate them to tell a colleague or competitor why it is a good business decision to hold membership in your organization?

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Smart Member Recruitment; Use Evangelists (679 words)

For effective member recruitment, highly engaged and long-term retained members are your first, best hope. Who more than these members are qualified to sing the praises of the value your membership organization delivers to members? These members could easily be converted to member recruitment evangelists. Since these members can also access their (non-member) colleagues far easier than can professional headquarter staff, why not make the most of what you’ve got?

The Problem

The majority of your engaged and retained members are of Baby Boomer age. Their membership paradigm is that of joining their trade association or professional society because they should, because they need to support their industry or profession. Yes, those were the association good old days—gone perhaps forever. Today, the majority of the younger association and society stakeholders (non-members) are less interested in joining because they should and much more interested in what’s in it for them—what’s my return on investment? This creates a huge selling/recruitment chasm between the generations. Quite frankly, most Baby Boomers are ill-prepared to successfully engage and recruit those of Generation Y age (the twenty-somethings).

The important question is what do current members need in the area of selling tools and ideas to be successful in engaging the interest of non-members, especially younger ones? First, let me tell you what it isn’t. Your current member recruitment “hard-copy package” is most likely ten pounds of paper and other stuff that you have assembled over the years, with a lack of strategy, to convince someone to join your organization. I call this baffling them with bulk. The important learning point here is that you most likely send out gobs of information that a prospective member might, if you are lucky, scan. They surely will not read all the material as it is just too much. A prospective member just wants the core information that explains the, what’s in it for me—how will I profit from membership—prove to me that it is in my best interest to join.

An Argument for Qualitative Research

First is the pre-solution step. You must be able to prove in relative simple terms that membership in your organization is a good business decision. The best way to do this is to conduct active qualitative research among a sampling of your membership to determine the yearly sustainable real-dollar return that they receive from each of their membership investment dollars. Too many well-intended associations have their staff “determine” the dollar-value of member benefits but unfortunately the staff-driven numbers fail to pass the member smell test. For a glance at how this is done visit:

The Solution

This the tool for which your engaged members have been waiting. Build a simple member recruitment brochure that dazzles membership prospects with brilliance as opposed to the old way of baffling them with bulk. I am happy to provide any association or society executive with my recommended member recruitment brochure template. To receive this, just email your request to and put “template request” in the subject box.

Now that you have the proper tangible member recruitment tool (brochure)—one that proves the return on investment (ROI) of membership, you need to re-educate your members on how to promote the organization. Get off of the tired old, no-sale method; of talking about all the advocacy and legislative work the organization does as a reason to join. This is crazy! The non-member already receives this “industry stakeholder” benefit at no cost. Why would they be motivated to pay for that which they already receive for free?

Better, is to teach your current members about all the “member-only” benefits in real-dollar numbers that your organization delivers. Give your members this awesome member recruitment selling tool. Educate your members in how to properly explain why membership on your organization is a good business decision through proving and explaining the real-dollar ROI of membership.

I guarantee you that effective selling technique, proving membership ROI, is far more successful in recruiting long-term members than is attempting guilt—very few people these days join an association or society just because they should.

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Helping Your Association Members to Evangelize (645 words)

(645 words)

In order for any trade association or professional society to best serve its market and constituents, it must reach, maintain, and hopefully surpass critical mass in its membership ranks. Today’s challenge for organizational staff and volunteer leaders in doing this is in the influencing of younger stakeholders in your industry or profession to join in and support the cause. Here’s the rub; younger people tend not to join the cause, just because they should as did their predecessors, the Baby Boomers—bummer!

There are three basic ways to recruit members:

  1. Direct Sales where you have commissioned sales persons on the street or working the telephones.
  2. Pull Marketing where you use expensive traditional or electronic marketing campaigns.
  3. Member-Get-a-Member

Encouraging Member Evangelists is the number one method for both successful member recruitment and assimilation. Remember, recruitment without assimilation is about as silly as spitting into the wind. Member retention leads to member evangelism. The crucial question is, “How does one convert happily retained members into member recruitment evangelists?”

1.   Remind your happily retained members about the value they continue to receive, yearly, from their membership through proving the return on investment (ROI) they enjoy.

2.   Show your happily retained members a vision of what might be possible for them if the organization grew. Everyone is interested in the, what’s in it for me. When members both intellectually and emotionally realize what additional benefits might be possible for them through a much larger organization, they will find a new motivation to spread the good news about your organization.

3.   Give your member evangelists the correct tools for effective evangelism. In order to influence the younger generations into holding membership, your evangelists can no longer stand on the generationally dead pulpit of supporting one’s industry, but rather must prove that it is a good business decision to join. Most of the organizational member recruitment paraphernalia in the marketplace today, tries to “baffle with bulk” rather than to “dazzle with brilliance.” Shorter is better and there is no replacement for proving your ROI.

4.   Recognize the efforts and successes of your evangelists. In the majority of cases, that is really all you need to do to motivate evangelists. Recognition is a powerful tool, one which many leaders frequently overlook. Skip the contests and handout acknowledgements rather than prizes.

5.   Member-get-a-member campaigns are fabulous is long as a contest prize is not the motivation for participation. Do it now! Throw out your prize-driven contests. They just motivate members to be competitive and want to win something. To be more successful in member recruitment and retention, you only want each member to enroll a member, or two, each year, as that is all they can realistically help to assimilate into your organization. There is absolutely no long-term value in recruiting a bunch of members into your organization—through a contest or telethon—that you cannot properly assimilate, knowing they will leave in a year, and then badmouthing about their lousy experience to all in the marketplace that will listen.

6.   Accountability on the part of your board of directors and membership committee is the key. These volunteer leaders must remain accountable, to paid staff, for membership growth and the methods employed to reach stated goals. They must also be held accountable, by paid staff, to assimilate, engage, and retain members once recruited.

7.   Adopt the system for your road map to success. Working with non-profit organizations for over two decades, I have found that the implementation of a system is necessary to keep everyone on track. The system is circular rather than linier; Recruitment àAssimilation à Engagement à Retention à Evangelism à Recruitment, again and again and again.

Shift Your Culture to that of Recruitment Evangelism (744 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Member Recruitment Evangelism

Recruitment Evangelism, is it possible? You’ve heard it before, “You’re either green and growing or ripe and rotting.” This has never before been truer in the world of trade associations and professional societies.  Too frequently, what your baby boomer aged members want is not consistent with what today’s recent college graduates desire. What’s an association executive to do?

Change your organization’s culture to that of Recruitment Evangelism. Help your long-term members to see the wisdom behind diversity and inclusion, especially in the generational area. Help them not to fear the young upstarts. Help your current members to see the value to them personally in your organization reaching critical membership mass industry market share.

Recruitment Evangelism, What’s In It For the Baby Boomers?

  1. Legacy; as the senior members of your organization see retirement closer than farther—thoughts emerge about leaving footprints. Help them to see the need for their life’s work to matter and to continue.
  2. Making a difference; when senior members mentor younger members, both win. The senior member gets the satisfaction on moving from simply being successful to living significantly. While the junior member accelerates their industry learning curves through accessing the senior member’s lifetime knowledge bank.
  3. Legislative power; your senior members have strong opinions on their industry and the role government plays in enabling or inhibiting commerce. The more members (market share), the greater the voice your organization will have locally, regionally, and nationally.
  4. More programs; with more members comes more money to focus on the specific needs of various contingency groups represented by your organization—and hopefully some of the new programs developed will be focused on the needs of senior members.
  5. Successful succession planning; many of your senior members plan to turn their business over to a child or children. Leaving behind, a strong and thriving association to assist bolsters their confidence in the next generation of company leadership and governance.

Three Conduits for Recruitment Evangelism

  1. Direct selling is the most expedient method for member recruitment but with it comes a price; time and treasure. Direct selling can be done in person and this method is the most effective but not the most efficient. Direct selling can also be done over the telephone which is very efficient but not as effective. For successful direct selling, employing professional sales persons is generally the only sustainable method. You can do telethons but the downside there is ineffective member assimilation follow up.
  2. Direct marketing, hard copy via the postal service or electronic via the Internet can be marginally effective however extremely expensive.
  3. Word-of-mouth, member-get-a-member is the best of all approaches because the cost is minimal, the human power is extensive, and the prospect is sold and assimilated effectively.

Recruitment Evangelism, Nurturing Your Evangelists

  1. Give your enfranchised members the correct tools that spell out, in no uncertain terms, the yearly sustainable real-dollar return on investment (ROI) on member-only benefits. This will help them to prove to prospects and colleagues that membership in your organization is a good business decision.
  2. Give your recruitment evangelists the organizational structure and support (ie committee opportunities, Sr./Jr. Mentoring programs, YPO programs) to help them effectively assimilate new members. When members join and stay, it’s a win for your recruiters.
  3. Give them some public recognition for their efforts at your annual meeting or some other appropriate event.

Understand the Circular Member Lifecycle

  1. Recruitment; the member joins the organization.
  2. Assimilation; the member starts to participate and feel welcomed.
  3. Engagement; the member starts to actively participate on their own without the prodding of their mentor or recruiter.
  4. Retention; the member is fully enfranchised in the organization and has been for several years.
  5. Evangelist; the member is so thrilled with his or her long-term experience that they want to spread the good news about the member-only benefits of participation in their organization and urge others into membership.
  6. Recruitment; it all starts again, see step number one.

For Recruitment Evangelism to become a reality, at the core of your culture shift needs to be an understanding of the real-dollar ROI your organization delivers. This is the basis for recruiting the younger generations that are dealing with working spouses, high-level involvement with their children, and the knowledge that they can seek industry knowledge quite effectively through the Internet. Your organization might consider abandoning its sacred cow activities in favor of developing communities of reciprocity for members of all ages. Prove to current and new members alike that holding membership in your organization is a good business decision.