Non Dues Revenue for Non Profits

Member Retention through Relationship Bank Deposits (829 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

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.

The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.

New Member Retention

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

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

New Member Retention with Rigsbee’s 12+12 Method

New member retention is critical to the success of your organization and member retention is a contact sport. 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 and 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.

The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.

Knowledge Management Should be a Member-Only Benefit (785 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Knowledge, through Effective Knowledge Management

The acquisition of industry or profession knowledge, today called Knowledge Management, has been and will continue to be, a primary driver for individuals and companies to hold membership in your member-ROI-centric organization. Efficient and effective knowledge management, (how your organization develops, archives, and makes specific knowledge available to members), should be a member-only benefit.

Most non-profit organizations will define their knowledge management activities and resources as keeping tract of, and making easily available, industry or profession knowledge. This typically includes:

  • Policies, standards, and guidelines
  • Best practices
  • Trade press/scholarly journal articles
  • News releases
  • Other industry/profession specific documents
  • Expert opinion
  • Availability of, and access to, subject matter experts
  • Peer review committees
  • Research
  • Surveys*
  • Safety and occupational issues
  • Knowledge sources created by staff
  • Collective industry/profession stakeholder knowledge

Chances are that a large segment of your members are not aware of the knowledge resources you make available to them. This is a sad situation because so much of the potential member perceived, return on investment (ROI), can be demonstrated in this line-item member benefit. However, this is also an amazing opportunity to accelerate your member awareness efforts. There is also an even stronger chance that non-member industry stakeholders are also bankrupt in the awareness of this benefit—or are they?

Determine Real-Dollar Value of Knowledge Management

The true real-dollar member benefit from your organization’s knowledge management practice must be calculated by members based upon:

  • Total knowledge availability
  • Member awareness of available knowledge management
  • Uniqueness of proprietary knowledge management
  • Ease and speed of access to specific knowledge
  • Resource acquisition time saving in hourly measurement

While many of the above elements of calculation might at first glance appear to be nebulous, nevertheless, all can be measured. Proprietary knowledge can be valuated in real-dollars by the cost of acquisition through non-member benefit (outside) sources and/or the cost to the member’s organization of not having access to the knowledge.

The ease and speed of access should be valuated yearly, based on the time savings in hours, calculating the member’s hourly compensation or that of their clerical assistant. Multiplying the yearly hours saved by your member’s (total) hourly compensation is an exercise that is quite revealing—you’ll be amazed at the number. While it is true that much knowledge is currently accessible through public knowledge management systems like Google, the length of time that it might take one to do the search, read through the numerous sites, and aggregate the needed knowledge could be daunting and very time consuming.

Unintended ROI Killer

If your organization makes industry knowledge management available to non-members, my bet is that you are metaphorically shooting yourself in the foot every day. If non-member, industry stakeholders, can access anything more than “industry headlines” through your web site or from headquarter staff—why in the world would they invest in membership?

Your organization must put a high value on your knowledge management activities, reserving all but the most basic “industry headlines” for members to access through password protected, members-only sections, at your web site. Headquarter staff must also be instructed in the fine art of only giving away a “taste” of knowledge—not the whole meal.

While I continually hear from association and society leaders, the worn out justification of giving knowledge away so non-members MIGHT see the value of membership and join, you and I both know that if they have not joined by now—they’re never going to join. Rather, these industry parasites are going to continue to bleed you dry if you allow them to do so.  Sorry, parasites might seem like a strong word, however if you think about it—it’s appropriate.

Quit Giving Knowledge Management Away

When your organization allows non-members to access your knowledge for free, the clear message you are giving to non-members is that you really do not value your knowledge or your knowledge management systems and processes. So why should they pay for membership? Also, the clear message you are sending to your (paying) members is that there is no membership ROI for this line-item. Why no ROI? It’s simple; since you are giving it away free to non-members, your current members could relinquish their membership and still acquire the knowledge management if they wanted it.

Measure It

Your organization delivers yearly sustainable real-dollar value to members in several areas; I call them line-items. By encouraging your members to measure each value proposition line-item (user generated content), they can easily see for themselves, through real-dollar ROI, why membership in your organization is a good business decision. Your members will believe and support what they help create, and hopefully become member recruitment evangelists for your organization—convincing the industry “parasites” to make a new decision, and join.

*Association/Society generated surveys inherently are subject to legal antitrust scrutiny. Registration of intent with the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice can mitigate some liability. Conforming to the National Cooperative Research and Protection Act, in methodology and intent is advisable. An excellent resource is the Association Law Handbook, by Jerald Jacobs, published by ASAE; 2007.

Are Your Meetings a Feature of Membership? (903 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Meetings as a Feature of Membership

Meetings Feature Membership, what does it mean? Here is the bitter pill…if non-members can attend…your meetings are not a feature of membership. However, the discount on registration and member-only events are.

Nearly every membership organization can further its mission more effectively, with more members. More members generally translate to larger meetings. To recruit more members, especially Millennials, there must be an outstanding perceived return on investment (ROI) offered.

Contemporary membership research, surveys, and reports all indicate that many membership organizations are challenged with trying to justify why one should join their ranks. There is the good old admonishment, “Join to support your industry.” This has become increasingly ineffective.  Let’s not forget the old standby, ”We have great networking.” Perhaps your organization has progressed to a more contemporary “We have great live and online communities”?

Yet, something is still missing…a truly compelling reason to join. What’s an association executive or director of membership to do? How to make your meetings a feature of membership?

Accelerate Your Action

In order to grow your membership and member meeting attendance, perhaps it is time to push against conventional wisdom and look in a new direction? Consider the inaccuracy that most of what is offered up by membership organizations as “member benefits” are in fact, features—perhaps features of membership. For an organization’s services, activities, or other things to be considered “features of membership” said services or activities must be available only to members. You must make some aspect of your meetings a feature of membership.

Industry benefit activities are those things, like advocacy, that create great value for everyone in the industry—not just the members. These activities are great customer service accomplishments for the longer-term members that care about them. However, they are quite ineffective in recruiting new members—because they receive the value without having to become a member.

Show Me the Money

While advocacy generally is not a feature of membership, a legislative update…distributed only to members clearly is a membership feature which will save the member time, money, and avoidance of regulatory pain…all buying motives. These buying motives are the actual benefit…the things that make your members’ lives better…the things that will motivate non-members to join like meetings feature membership. Like the above mentioned feature of membership, discount on meeting registration, saving money is the benefit and not the meeting.

Motivating the Meetings Feature of Membership

Consider grabbing the opportunity to drive more value, more member ROI, for members at your meeting. There is currently much discussion in the meetings industry about “meeting ROI” but very little about “member ROI.” What the members get in exchange for their annual dues should be important to any association executive. To effectively increase “member ROI” at any of your meetings, consider including in your scheduled offering a number of “member-only” educational, networking, and/or social sessions. You will find this most effective at times when multiple activities are taking place at the meeting so there will be something for non-members to do. And, remember to develop some specific member-only education or activities for your long-term members. They need more than simply a place to see their friends once a year.

As you now know, it is only the registration discount that is the true meetings feature of membership. Add to this feature some member-only activities and those activities also become features of membership. You will greatly increase the total perceived member ROI (member-only). You will be offering your current members more compelling reasons to attend your meetings and to retain their membership. For the non-members, this is like the take-away close—a powerful reason for the non-member to join your organization.

Influence the Decision to Join

There is no advantage in vague or fuzzy-bunny “member value proposition” marketing without meetings feature membership. In order to grow your membership base, which will increase your opportunity to influence more members to attend your meetings; it is crucial that your organization clearly communicate its member value proposition in the area of Meetings Feature Membership. A reasonably easy and inexpensive way to achieve this goal is to calculate the member-perceived real-dollar value of each “member-only” feature of membership. Communicating your organization’s real-dollar member ROI via your website and other marketing channels, both printed and electronic, will go a long way to telling your value proposition story and influencing the decision to join.

Meetings Feature MembershipGive ‘em What They Want

There is the question of which segment(s) you will get the best “bang for your buck” in influencing both membership and meeting attendance? Generally it will be those people that are newer to the industry. They truly have the most to gain from membership. To influence this segment, you have to communicate how it is in their best interest to participate with your organization. During recruitment, is not the time for talking to these younger people about all the great value the organization delivers to the industry. There will be plenty of time for that after they have engaged in your organization and will better understand the value.

Now is the time to communicate the great value that your organization delivers to its members—the ROI of membership based on each member-only feature, especially Meetings Feature Membership. It is your job to help them understand the real-dollar value of each of these features of membership that your organization offers. This will hopefully include a number of new “member-only” activities at your upcoming meetings.

The Membership Value Myth (1050 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

The Membership Value Myth

The Membership Value Myth; you’ve heard it time and time again. Membership in our organization is priceless. Oh really? You mean like the MasterCard commercial where another person figuratively ends up with egg on their face?

When someone says that membership in their organization is priceless, what they are really saying is, “I have absolutely no idea of the monetary value I receive from my membership dollars.” What they are saying is that they see their membership as an expense rather than an investment. They are perpetuating the Membership Value Myth and that is a huge problem. If your organization’s members see their membership as an expense, during tough times membership is one of the first things to go.

Monetizing the Membership Value Myth

Because the majority of North American trade associations and professional societies have not gone through process of determining the actual yearly real-dollar value delivered, their members are yearly forced to justify the annual membership dues expense for themselves. This puts many organizations in the precarious positioning stature of being a mere commodity and the Membership Value Myth continues.

There are two basic ways to determine real-dollar member value: staff determined or member determined. In the staff determined model, the staff creates arbitrary numbers derived from industry research comparisons and staff perceptions of what services and products should be worth, or the value from obtaining these at member discounted prices. In my experience, I have found staff driven numbers to be a far cry from the reality their members’ experience and perspective.

Member driven value numbers, since they are self-created, are believable to most—even non-member industry stakeholders. Organizations that employ facilitation in sessions where their members, not staff, determine the actual value—they receive from each and every one of the organization’s activities, products, and services—enjoy more honest and believable numbers. These organizations are not reliant on the erroneous and troublesome phrase: membership is priceless. Therefore they can bust the Membership Value Myth.

Member Value verses Industry Value

Too many associations and societies emphasize and position their direct mail and electronic marketing efforts with—all the valuable work they do for the industry in the area of advocacy and influencing the legislative process—as important reasons to join. There it is again, the Membership Value Myth. This is not a bad for member retention and is almost completely ineffective for member recruitment. Why is it ineffective for member recruitment you ask? This is because industry stakeholders generally get all the value without holding membership. They are getting the milk without buying the cow.

Does it make sense to ask someone to pay for something they are already getting at no cost to themselves or to their company? Well, that is precisely what many of North America ’s associations and societies are trying to do. The old Baby Boomer model of “you should join to support your industry” is dead. Let it go, and move on. What the generations that follow the Baby Boomers want to hear you say is, “Let me prove to you that membership in our organization is a good business decision.”

To eliminate the Membership Value Myth by proving that membership is a good business decision, you have to separate the member-only benefits from the industry stakeholder benefits. In most cases, all of an organization’s advocacy and legislative work falls into the category of (free) industry stakeholder benefits. As stated earlier, this work is good for member retention; it is frequently a no-sale for member recruitment.

Overcome the Membership Value Myth

Member-only benefits are what your members should measure to determine the real-dollar value of their membership. As you would expect, member-only benefits are the activities, products, and services (and discounts) that are only available to persons or companies through holding membership in your organization. As an example, while your legislative work is generally an industry stakeholder benefit, in contrast your legislative update is a member-only benefit—that is of course, if you do not freely distribute this to non-members. If you do, stop doing that NOW! If you offer your legislative update to non-members at a higher price than to members, the deferential in price is the member-only benefit.

Part of the real-dollar value of your legislative update is figured by the amount of time it would take a member, or their clerical staff, to amass the information critical to their business or profession that you provide. If it would take the member 20 hours a year to find and access the information that you spoon feed them, then part of the real-dollar value is 20 times the hourly income of the member or their staff person. This is not just their paycheck number but the real cost per hour the company pays for that person to be there, including benefits cost and workstation/office space costs.

To determine the yearly real-dollar value a member receives from their dues, have your members, in a facilitation process, go through each member-only benefit to determine their personal value, coming to a reasonable group consensus. Add all the numbers and divide by the member cost—you will then have a membership ROI (return on investment) number. It takes a skilled facilitator to correctly draw the numbers from members and is rarely successful when the process is lead by a staff member. This is because staff members have personal agendas in specific programs or silo areas or the organization.

Priceless as the Core of the Membership Value Myth

Using the lexicon of North America , when I hear members or staff stating that membership or a specific benefit is priceless, I think, “Where’s the beef?” In the area of member-only value, relying on the word priceless to describe an activity, product or service is for the weak, lazy, and uninformed. Relying on priceless is a 1990s paradigm that died in the early 2000s. The membership value myth is clearly that of trying to sell to non-members that which the industry stakeholders already receive at no cost. The member recruitment paradigm of today is to prove to non-members the real-dollar value in member-only benefits that is available to them only from membership in your organization. The Membership Value Myth busting paradigm of today is to prove to non-members that membership in your organization is a good business decision.

If you would like help in proving that membership in your organization is a good business decision, I’m happy to supply you, at no charge, with my “dazzle them with brilliance, rather than baffle them with bulk” member recruitment brochure template. Email your request to and put “template request” in the subject box.