Member ROI Valuation for Recruitment at Associations and Societies (1279 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

The Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process

Learn the Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process for non-profit membership growth.

The Problem:

For trade associations and professional societies, identifying the value your members want without the Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process can be a bit like threading a needle in the back of a Jeep, while crossing granite boulders, at 40 miles per hour—but it doesn’t have to be. Associations and societies exist to serve the interests of the participants or stake holders in their industry or profession—it is that simple.

Yet, extenuating factors, erroneous or not, frequently muddy up the waters of association or society focus. A very good argument could be made for the idea that too many association or society activities serve merely the vocal few in leadership. A convincing argument could be made for the idea that associations and societies focus too keenly on self-perpetuation. I am not going to make arguments in this article for these ideas but rather share my observation from two decades working with trade associations and professional societies.

Large associations tend to have a turnstile of employees. Young wide-eyed graduates with diploma in hand, go to work for associations or professional societies with dreams of making a difference. Then, they either become disillusioned or move somewhere else for career advancement. Frequently these young staffers start in member services department. Hence the problem—by the time they learn their job, they have moved on. The Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process can solve this problem by having stable and usable member value numbers for all staff and volunteer leaders.

Conversely, in the small associations, run by the executive director and perhaps a couple part-time staffers, there just is never enough time to follow up on those inquiries of potential members. Either the interested party must join on their own accord by filling out the membership application found at the Web Site by clicking the “Join” button or move on. This two decade old observation was painfully reinforced recently. The example I’m about to share, believing it or not, did occur.

One of my avocations is being the CEO of an IRS recognized non-profit public charity I recently decided that it would be good for me to join a related association so I called two California State Associations, one for association executives and one specifically for non-profits. As of the writing of this article, I have joined neither.

One of the two, I called and left a message with the membership person; she returned my call and left a voice message. That was the last time I heard from that association and it has now been a while. The second, I chatted with their membership person and am still waiting for an information package she promised to “get right out” to me.

In the situation with the first association, would it not make sense to you that the director of membership make a second attempt to contact a prospective member that called for information about membership? I just got busy and didn’t call her back. Had she called me back a second time, I believe I would have joined instantly.

As for the second association, I was amazed that when I asked the membership person about the value I would receive from being a member, she asked if I was joking. I was not, and was less than impressed with her lack on knowledge as to the benefits of membership. I have been even more unimpressed with her lack of follow through. I really did want the prospective member package to help me decide which association to join.

The issue is twofold, first how association and society membership departments track their prospective members. Many folks just need a little nudge, and they will join. However, when ignored they will put membership on the back burner, frequently forever. The second issue is knowledge. If a staffer has no idea as to the value that the members derive from their membership, how in the world can they influence industry participants to join?

Today, the model for business and professional persons is that they are looking for a return on their investment (ROI) rather than participating in their industry simply because they should. Yes, times have changed.

The Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process is the Answer:

Conduct the Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process for determining the yearly sustainable real dollar value of membership at your next meeting? The American Society for Quality did so, three years in a row, at their annual meetings and discovered that their members receive over $50 in benefit and value for every one-dollar invested in membership. For anybody, that’s huge ROI! The National Air Duct Cleaners Association learned that their members benefited to the tune of $17 received for every dollar invested. For the National Frame Builders Association we revealed that their members received $10 in value for every dollar invested in their membership. It’s all about return on investment, that’s something no association or society executive, staffer or volunteer leader should ever forget.

The most significant reason for my belief in the need for urgency—urgency for every association and society, globally, to conduct the Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process at their next meeting is recruitment. Why wait to plug up the leaking dike of member loss when you can do something about it now?

The Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process is, or should be, the cornerstone for your next member recruitment or member retention campaign. The single most important activity, resulting from the Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process, is for your association or society to develop a marketing brochure for your members to handout. This brochure will easily demonstrate why it is a good business decision to join the association or society based on intelligent ROI.

The number one reason, in my experience, why marketing and recruitment collateral materials and campaigns are not successful is because real benefits are left out. Too frequently, when I review the marketing materials of associations that are intended for use in gaining new members, all I can identify is features, rather than the bottom line benefit to the prospective member. As I stated earlier, most people that join an association or society in today’s business environment are looking for ROI, and not the warm and cozy feeling of serving their industry. However, too many paid association staff and volunteer leadership are still stuck in the old warm and cozy paradigm. Read my lips, it is ROI!

Follow the below listed steps and I assure you that you will not be sorry you did.

  1. Conduct the Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process at your next meeting. For more information on how to conduct this process, there are several articles at
  2. Association or society board of directors and paid staff review the specific value line items resulting from the process. Determine if more service and value can be offered to members under the most valued categories.
  3. Board then approves the changes and allows paid staff to implement. (Important note here, volunteer leaders need to “keep out of others’ rice bowls” and tend to their own, or nothing will ever get done.)
  4. Member recruitment brochure is to be developed based on the Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process results. These brochures should be held for the next membership meeting, like the annual convention.
  5. Keynote presentation on industry collaboration should be scheduled for the meeting where the brochures are distributed. The job of your keynoter is to get your members excited about what is possible for their business through accelerated collaborations resulting from increased association or society membership.
  6. Keynoter announces the new membership recruitment campaign and asks for a commitment from each member to personally give out 10 brochures to colleagues and industry participants.
  7. The question of prizes for membership recruitment is frequently posed by association leadership. I am neutral on the subject; however I would recommend that you consider this: Do you want your members recruiting for tangible prizes or for the benefits they will receive through increased industry collaboration?

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Rigsbee’s Member ROI Valuation Process (1075 words)

Discovering the Real-Dollar Value of Your Association Membership


Grow your organization by proving membership is a good business, financial, and career decision. Gone are the days where professionals and business owners would simply belong to their association because their should or for “networking” opportunities; that was a Baby Boomer paradigm. Today, more than ever before and forced by younger generations, it is crucial that trade and professional associations deliver high-level and usable value to their entire membership. I’m talking about the real-dollar value that individual members now demand rather than the value that the leadership thinks they need.

Frequently, when I’ve asked association members about the value they receive from their membership they stumble. How would you, as an executive director or volunteer leader, feel if all the members of your association said, “I’d be foolish NOT to belong to my industry’s association and attend its annual meeting?” You would feel fabulous!

Unfortunately, that’s infrequently the case. In an issue of Association Management magazine, there was an article about why membersdo not renew. The article stated that American Society of Association Executives’ research revealed the following reasons for association members not renewing:

  • Business closed/merged–12%
  • Change of profession-15%
  • Cannot determine-16%
  • Dues too high-17%
  • Not enough time to use member benefits-7%
  • Services no longer relevant-17%
  • Other-16%

In my opinion, the only “non-value” issue is the business closing or change of profession. All the remaining reasons loudly say, “Not enough perceived value!” Over 73% of the non-renewing members said, “Not enough perceived value.”

Two Categories of Association Members

Today, there are basically two categories of association members: The first is the most desirable by many leaders. They will belong to their industry’s association and support it with attendance—no matter what. These “jewels” are dying off. The second is a more challenging type. They say, “I’ll come and play in your sandbox if you can show me that I will get more out of it through synergies and economies of scale than by not participating.” The latter, generally are younger and many times have taken over the business from a parent. Their life is busy and they do not want to waste their time just “networking”.

Why are association executive directors and volunteer leadership not listening? Perhaps, it is because it’s generally easier to blame the member reduction problem on industry consolidation, an area of no control, rather than on lack of member perceived value, an area over which leadership does have control. Even with consolidations, if the involved parties really believed in the value of membership in their industry’s association, they would find the time and dollars for multiple executives, and or subsidiaries to hold membership.

Now that an enormous problem has been unearthed, let’s look at one possible solution: A process for helping members to determine the real dollar value of their association membership. This will help your members in having an emotional ownership in their membership. Additionally, this process will empower and encourage members to talk to non-members about membership in your association.

Association Member ROI

I discovered this process due to association member request. It is truly fulfilling to see people make a shift when they understand and work collectively to discover answers. I believe if you look at this with an open mind, you too, will absolutely want to take your association membership through this valuation process. While I have helped a number of associations with this process, I will detail my work with one such association.

  • Initially, ask the members what they get out of belonging to their association. Every item they mention, list on a flip chart or enter into PowerPoint with the image projected on a screen.
  • Next, after each item is listed, conduct a discussion on the real, honest and yearly sustainable dollar value they received through their association membership and attending their conference. This can be difficult, as people will argue incessantly about the numbers. Hang in there and gently force them to come to some kind of agreement on the value of each item listed.
  • When the group seems to have exhausted the line items, push them to explore further, many times more valuable items will be discovered. Below is an example of the association membership value that one group determined:
    1. $1,000 for industry specific technical training offered twice a year.
    2. $1,000 for business, management and marketing training twice a year.
    3. $300 for monthly legislative updates.
    4. $1,000 for coupons for goods and services offered by the national organization with national and regional membership.
    5. $600 for legal seminars offered twice a year.
    6. $200 networking value at semi-annual meetings.
    7. $300 tax savings on income spent attending vacations (meetings).
    8. $500 for mentoring opportunities available through meeting attendance.
    9. $200 for product knowledge gained at meetings.
    10. $200 for company credibility and image associated with membership.
    11. $300 for education in accessing local publicity.
    12. $200 for publicity and exposure through association membership.
  • Now ask the group how much it costs them to both belong to the association and attend the association’s annual or semi-annual meetings. Put that number on the flip chart.
  • Next, add up the dollar amount of all the line items on the board and show the two numbers to the group. For the above-mentioned association, the cost of membership and attendance at the two semi-annual meetings was pegged at approximately $1,600. After less than an hour (session time expired), the group came up with membership value in real dollars at $5,800.
  • With numbers like the ones above, it is easy for one to justify the time and dollars necessary to take advantage of membership in their industry’s association. It is possible for your members to say, “I’d be foolish NOT to belong to my industry’s association and attend its annual meeting?”
  • The last thing is for the association leadership to produce a Member Value brochure; in which are listed the actual services and yearly sustainable real dollar values offered by the organization.

I believe one of the best ways for any association to grow its membership is through a membership participation process like the one I’ve outlined for you. This will help your current members to truly become active advocates for the association rather than just passive members. Realistically, not all members will do this, but many will. Give them the right tools, and people will amaze you with their results.

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Why Today’s Associations Must Prove Their ROI (Return on Investment)  (820 words) 

Your membership organization is most likely delivering quite a bit of value to the members. Unfortunately, very few of your members know about the real-dollar value. In reviewing, yet another, association magazine I’m reading a two-page article about this particular association in which the virtues are explained for the members. The sub-headlines are: education, a new inspection initiative, distributor best practices, and (of course) the annual convention. It was a great feel-good, warm, and fuzzy article about the association. However, to quote the 1970’s Wendy’s TV commercial campaign tagline, “Where’s the beef?” 

Baby Boomer vs. Gen X&Y Members

God bless the baby boomers, they joined their trade association or professional society because they should. They believed in supporting the industry that provided them with a living. However, today the younger folks are saying, “I’ll come and play in your sandbox if you can prove to me that it is worth my time and money.” They want you to prove the ROI that you deliver—Bummer! 

Back to the article; in the two pages, there was not a single mention of real-dollar ROI. While this is commonplace for an association “member benefit” article, it really does not have to be. Because of retirement and death, from this day forward, there will be less baby boomer members than the day before. But, will there be more Gen X & Y members? Perhaps there will be, yet only if you can prove the ROI.   

Why Not State the ROI?

So why are associations not stating the member ROI that they deliver?

1.      Unwilling to dedicate the time and money resources to determine the yearly sustainable real-dollar membership ROI. This is truly the number one reason.

2.      Afraid that if they go through the process that they will fall short of member expectations.

3.      Stuck in the 1970s mentality that industry stakeholders “should” join.

4.      Still believe that the association is the one and only repository of industry-specific knowledge and education so those that “want what we have” must join.

5.      Still believe that 12 magazines and an annual meeting each year is enough value for members to remain loyal.

6.      The Board of Directors and the paid professional staff cannot agree on the strategic direction of the organization.

7.      The individual members that make up the Board of Directors are engaged and see the value and they cannot fathom that other members cannot see the value of membership.

8.      And the list goes on and on… 

Morphing to Communities of Reciprocity

Twenty-first century associations that plan to survive will transcend from the 12 magazines and an annual meeting, 1970s model to vibrant communities of reciprocity for various member contingencies, thereby remaining relevant to all ages of membership. Recently, the Los Angeles County Bar Association created their “Dinosaur” group for the senior lawyer members. They charge a little extra and deliver special age and topic specific meetings for that community. What are you doing? 

The current social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and (to some degree) Facebook offer very low cost methods of delivering community specific value to your members. For most associations, LinkedIn should be your number one choice. LinkedIn groups cost nothing but deliver amazing return. My recommendation is to keep your groups closed. The idea of letting everyone in is not a good idea in the area for reasons of control and ROI delivery. 

Google Makes it Easy

Never before in the history of mankind has information been so available to the masses. Since it is now impossible for associations to be the exclusive holder of industry information, best practices, codes, etc; associations must prove their value to retain members and also to recruit members. The stakeholders in your industry can get much of the industry specific information that they need to succeed in business through a simple Google search of the topic—and they can do it almost anywhere with their Smartphone. Yes, the paradigm has shifted. 

Today’s associations cannot rely on their old paradigms for member recruitment. The conversation from member to prospective member can no longer be, “You should join the association to support your industry and network at the convention.” Today the conversation must be, “Let me explain to you why it is a good business decision to join the association. The return on investment of time and money that most members receive is…” 

Reality Check

I’m a baby boomer and I admit that I frequently morn many traditions that are no more. Gosh, today’s men even believe it is acceptable to wear their hats indoors—oh well, that’s progress. Kids think profanity is simply additional adjectives, adverbs and nouns that are necessary for their expression punctuation. And, the world is becoming far less provincial. Things change and so must associations. Feel-good is no longer good enough. For today’s associations to thrive; each and every one must continually prove the real-dollar ROI they deliver to their members.   

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Membership: What’s in it for You? (678 words)

(678 words)

If you are taking advantage of the “member-only” products, services and activities that (fill in org name) provides—you realize that membership is a smart decision. You demand a reasonable return on your investment (ROI) in membership and you should get it. You have done more than the non-member outliers; you have invested in this organization. Simply put, you deserve more.

You differ from the other industry/profession stakeholders that simply take advantage of the (fill in org name) activities that serve the (fill in the blank) industry/profession. You have decided to actively participate with your time and resources. Let’s make sure you are getting all you can.

Several Years of Research

Over the last several years, Rigsbee Research has been conducting qualitative research in the area of calculating the ROI of membership in actual dollar numbers. Surveying members as to their perception of value in dollar numbers for every member-only feature delivered by their organization. Association and society members like you, have valued their memberships accordingly: in the category of Professional Development at an annual real-dollar value of just under $4,000. The number for the Business Solutions category is just over $7,100, with Knowledge Management delivering a little over $2,400.

Professional Development

Professional development and career growth are basically synonymous. Some of the member-only features are as follows:

  • Income differential through certifications
  • Gained knowledge and experience through volunteer leadership positions
  • Peer support and mentoring
  • Access to National or State Chapter resources
  • Special interest groups
  • Career development services
  • Peer and Industry prestige

Business Solutions

The business solutions category is a large one for many organizations. Some of the member-only features measured included:

  • Safety programs, education and resources
  • Business development and peer referral opportunities
  • Affinity or partner program discounts
  • Innovative business/practice solutions
  • Access to other organizations through affiliated membership agreements
  • Discounts on organization’s goods, services and events
  • Access to assistance at organization’s field or headquarter offices
  • Legal seminars and consultations

Knowledge Management

In days of old, associations and societies were the hard-copy depository for industry or professional knowledge. Today, membership organizations compete against Google daily; however to organizations that excel in knowledge management have found ways to make access by members to their vast resources quick and easy. Some of the member-only features measured included:

  • Industry research, benchmarking and compensation studies
  • Legislative updates
  • Member-only password protected knowledge sections on organization’s website
  • Industry/profession standards, regulations and codes
  • Printed and electronic magazines and newsletters
  • Member directories

Buying Motives

In the above listed examples of features of membership delivered my various membership organizations—your specific value might depend on your buying motive for joining and belonging. Of the six buying motives listed in The ROI of Membership, the three most frequent membership buying motives tend to be:

  1. Profit and Gain
  2. Fear of Loss
  3. Avoidance of Pain

With this in mind, consider the (fill in org name) to be your number one strategic alliance for success. Much of what you and your organization need to prosper is available to you as “member-only” features of membership. Just think how much more value the (fill in org name) could deliver to you in products, services and activities if there were twice as many members. Help the (fill in org name) to help you by recruiting just one new member this year. Then, help that new member to assimilate into the organization by influencing them to attend the annual meeting—and when they do—introduce them to your network of friends and colleagues. This will better assure their long-term membership.

Interestingly enough, we found that most membership organizations today are far better at delivering value to members than they are at calculating and communicating the ROI of membership. It has been quite common for various membership organizations to deliver, annually, in the range of $10 to $50 in return for every dollar invested in membership. What does this mean to you? While the (fill in org name) may not have communicated all the value they deliver to you, you can be assured that if you access all that is available to you—you will enjoy an excellent return on your membership investment.

Riding the Member ROI Wave—Proving Real Dollar Member ROI for Consistent Growth (1292 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Ride the Member ROI Wave to Accelerated Organizational Growth

State associations, more than national associations, are riding the member ROI wave of accelerated member recruitment. They are proving the real-dollar return on investment (ROI) of membership in order to influence industry members into joining. These associations have realized that the “join because you should” died a long time ago. Today, the “prove to me that membership is a smart decision” has taken hold across North America and is indicating there will be no letup of this paradigm any time soon.

Still Hooked on Days Gone Bye

Unfortunately, far too many associations are still hooked on the opiate of the more senior members belonging to, and attending meetings “because they should,” regardless of the quality of events or ROI of membership. They are not riding the member ROI wave. Wake up! These lovely folks, in huge numbers, are retiring and/or passing away. In their place, are appearing a different breed of industry participant and joining because one should is about as foreign to them as your Grandfather’s Oldsmobile.

There are those that cling to the fading idea that associations must be mission driven, without concern for delivering member value. Some say that associations that deliver real-dollar member value are nothing more than buying clubs. Perhaps today’s Mission-Driven philosophy might be nothing more than an excuse for non-performance while Member-ROI-Centric demands that association staff and volunteer leaders perform at the highest levels possible in order to member ROI wave.

Member ROI Centric

Associations that cling to obtuse missions as opposed to delivering high-level member value can imprudently spend the lion’s share of time and resources conducting activities—activities that serve the industry and all that are involved without holding membership. Where’s the value for those loyal members that annually render their dues payments? Many say that it is non-existent. It’s not always easy to be high-performing and deliver actual real-dollar value to members—value that the non-members do not receive. However, for staff and volunteer leaders that use “member ROI, member retention, and member recruitment” as one of their important considerations in decision making—across the organizational silos—these organizations are learning how to create and deliver member ROI. These organizations are enjoying consistent membership growth.

Today’s Forward-Thinking Associations

Progressive association staff and volunteer leaders of today are taking a different approach to member recruitment and retention—one that centers on member value and ROI. They are riding member ROI wave by focusing on how every decision affects member ROI. They are:

·        Seeing their organization through the eyes of the non-member to better understand why the non-members have not accepted the invitation of membership.

·        Promoting the benefits of membership features. They have learned how to explain the “what’s in it for me” to prospective members. They no longer rely on just a list of membership features and erroneously calling them benefits, they are riding the member ROI wave. Additionally, they have learned to differentiate between the features only accessible to an individual or company through membership and the activities they do that delivers benefit to all in the industry. They are learning how to sell through the window of member-only benefit and relying less on things their organization does that delivers benefit to all.

·        Proving beyond the shadow of doubt that membership in their organization is a good business, career, and financial decision by conducting qualitative research sessions to determine what their members believe is the actual, annual real-dollar ROI of each member-only, feature of membership is worth.

·        Discovering, identifying, and engaging their organization’s Member Recruitment Evangelists—the members that have been around for a while, are influential, and understand how a larger and stronger organization can deliver more value to members and their industry alike. And…arming these Member Recruitment Evangelists with an effective tool for influencing non-members into becoming paid members.

The Member ROI Wave Evangelists’ Tool

The trend is moving away from the traditional three-pound prospective member packages. Those packages of yesterday were really an effort to baffle with bulk rather than to dazzle with brilliance. Today, nobody will read a box or folder full of information—it was something like an association member recruitment data dump. Member Recruitment Evangelists and prospective members alike want something (hard-copy and electronic) compact, tightly written, and clearly explaining the “what’s in it for me” in real dollar members. They want to get an idea as the member ROI wave they can expect. The days of saying, “Membership is Priceless” are gone.

This trend of producing a compact tri-fold member recruitment brochure for the organization’s Member Recruitment Evangelists, and everyone else, has been embraced more by state associations than has national associations.

Some of the state and local associations that have produced the Member Recruitment Evangelists’ tool include:

·        Mechanical Contractors Association of South Carolina

·        Southern Illinois Builders Association

·        Associated Builders and Contractors Minnesota/North Dakota Chapter

·        American Council of Engineering Companies of Colorado

·        American Council of Engineering Companies of Virginia

·        National Association of the Remodeling Industry Central Ohio Chapter

This tool succinctly communicates the “member-only” features of membership and how the membership-at-large values each feature in annual real-dollar numbers. The brochure also communicates the “what’s in it” for the individual, their company, and their industry. Not every prospect will care about all the features of membership that is offered to them. As such, Member Recruitment Evangelists have the ability to discover which features of membership matter to the prospect and then can help them to understand the ROI they can expect from using just those features. For a free template to help you produce your own “dazzle them with brilliance” member recruitment brochure, email your request to

Member ROI Wave Buying Motives

Selling guilt is like having only one tool in one’s toolbox. The days of people joining because they should, have vanished. With that said, selling guilt along with several important reasons to buy can still be effective, in some situations, for getting CEOs to sign up large numbers of their employees. This is something that some Member Recruitment Evangelists and others are discovering. The something else is buying motives.

The organizations that are riding the member ROI wave, are doing so by helping their members to couple the evangelists’ tool with the knowledge of buying motives is proving very effective. Association staff and volunteer leaders are starting to understand the difference between a feature of membership and how each of the various features make their members lives better—the benefit of the feature. They are moving toward great benefit copy writing for both electronic and print publishing to help current members and prospective members alike to better understanding of the “what’s in it for me” that the association offers.

Each feature of membership relates to one or more buying motives within the framework of non-member decisions to buy (join). The six basic member ROI wave buying motives are:

·        Profit/Gain

·        Fear of Loss

·        Avoidance of Pain

·        Comfort/Pleasure

·        Love/Affection

·        Pride/Prestige

As association staff members learn how to write benefit statements for each feature of (member-only) membership and do so through the window of one or more buying motives held within the minds of prospects—the power of the written word exponentially accelerates. How well an organization’s website communicates member value and ROI has an enormous effect on the organization’s member recruitment results.

Chief Staff Executives Getting Onboard

For years, many chief staff executives (CSE) truly believed that member recruitment was solely the responsibility of the membership department, and focused elsewhere. Today, many CSEs are riding the member ROI wave and realizing the critical nature of everyone in the organization being on-board for the organization’s quest for member recruitment. CSEs are working hard to breakdown the silo mentality of the boards of directors and the staff members—becoming member-ROI-centric and charging everyone with the simple question, “How will this action affect member retention, recruitment, and total delivered member ROI?” After all, Membership is Everybody’s Business. They are effectively riding the member ROI wave.

“Compelling conversations is the single best way of creating concrete conversions… CONSISTENTLY!” –Ed Rigsbee

How to Increase Your Member ROI Quotient (658 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Increase Your Member ROI Quotient

If your membership organization wants to grow, your member ROI quotient is important (return on investment).  Engage industry stakeholders through delivering honest and usable value. The universal thought that is whirling around in everyone’s mind is, “What’s in it for me?” Perception is reality; and today’s associations and societies must get real about the ROI. While most really do not know how much ROI they deliver, just delivering ROI is no longer good enough; today you have to prove high-level ROI to keep members and recruit new ones.

ROI delivery and increasing your member ROI quotient is both an art and a science. The science is adding up the numbers and disseminating the information. The art is in managing the member perception of value. You must prove to your industry that membership in your organization is a good business decision. To do this, you must manage your resources in a new way.

Stop Giving It Away to Grow Your Member ROI Quotient

This is huge, please take notice! There is an omnipresent erroneous belief among association professionals and volunteer leaders that, “If we give it away to non-members they will see the value and join.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. This idea is killing your member ROI quotient. When you give away, for example, your legislative updates, newsletters, and magazines, all you are really doing is reducing the value your members receive for their membership dollars and minimizing the motivation of non-members to join. Why should the non-member join? Look at all the value you are giving them for a zero investment. The cold hard truth is that if they haven’t joined by now, they’re not going to join.

Put a Price on It to Grow Your Member ROI Quotient

This will dramatically increase your member ROI. Anything that you make available to members should exhibit an honest “retail” price; everything from electronic newsletters to member lists to legislative updates—everything. To legitimize the price, offer those products, services, and access to non-members at the stated retail price. Don’t think outsiders will pay? Think again, and, regardless of if non-members purchase these items or not, you are stating the value (ROI) your members receive. Do not make the mistake of letting members just think it’s free.

Do your members call the headquarter office for advise when they get into a jam? Send them an invoice, zeroed out with an equal discount, just like any other professional service provider would do. This goes for other services the association provides “free of charge” for its members. Every single day of the week you have to remind your members of the real-dollar value they receive because of their membership in your organization. Keep the value fresh in their heads and they will remember when it is time to renew.

Grow Your Member ROI Quotient; What Else Do You Have to Sell?

There’s gold hidden in your organization’s dusty shelves and computer files. Look around your organization for items, services, and various methods of access that might be perceived by non-members highly valuable. Put a retail price on those items and services, and make them available to non-members at the retail price and to members at no charge or a greatly discounted price. The differential will add to your members’ perception of their yearly membership ROI.

The rub here might be that some of your board members still hold on to their antiquated belief that all of the above is sacred and proprietary information and thereby not to be disseminated. Come on, it’s the twenty-first century, let’s move on and provide as much ROI for your members as possible.

You ask your members to send you a check each year. And, each year when they write out that check they have to make a new decision to buy. Make it easy for your members to see that it is a good business decision to hold membership in your organization. Do this through higher ROI delivery and perception and guess what? They will become membership evangelists for your organization and convince their colleagues, many that you might never reach, to also join and partake of the plentiful ROI.

Member Value Verses Industry Value—What You Need to Know (562 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Deliver High-Level Member Value-All They Hear is, “What’s in it for me?”

In member recruitment, member value is the primary driver that you must completely understand is “member-only” value. Trying to convince a person to pay money to join your organization to get what they are already getting is just nonsense.

Not to Get Lost in the Weeds

For over a decade, I have been talking to association executives about the idea of Member Value through the window of “member-only” value and I must say that it frequently seems like I’m talking to a brick wall. Here is the rub…most associations and societies are pretty darn good at their advocacy work. These organizations work hard to affect legislation in a way that delivers a positive result to their members. And, that positive result is also enjoyed by non-members operating in the industry as well. Unfortunately, most current membership surveys reveal that at most, 20% join for advocacy and legislative influence reasons. What about the other 80%?

Is this advocacy work important? You bet it is. Does it deliver perceived value to members? It sure does. The problem is that everyone, regardless of membership receives the benefits. Since everyone in the industry receives the benefits; is this advocacy result a “member-only” benefit? Absolutely not, and that’s the challenge facing today’s associations and societies.

Industry Value

Every activity your membership organization does that delivers value to all the stakeholders in your industry is simply put—industry value. This might include advocacy, Web Site content access, Social Media Group access, and weekly/monthly publications…just to name a few. Generally these value propositions are not sell-able; meaning that these value items will be a no-go in convincing non-members to join your organization. They are already enjoying these value benefits without holding membership in your organization. The tired and ineffective “support your industry” argument will most likely not work with these groups or individuals.

Member-Only Value

Member value just for the members and not the industry. The products, services, benefits, and discounts that your members receive by virtue of paying for their membership are the true “member-only” benefits that your organization delivers. These “member-only” benefits are going to be your organization’s unique selling proposition tools. While non-members do enjoy the industry value that your organization delivers, it is the “member-only” benefit package that will potentially motivate the non-member in your industry to cut a check to your organization. Sell the “member-only” benefits.

What Member Value Story Does Your Website Tell?

In developing your Website strategy, you must determine if your “member benefits” page is positioned primarily for member retention or for member recruitment. If it is primarily for member retention, then simply listing the features of membership and leading with your advocacy work…might be enough. However, if you want your “member benefits” page to help you in selling membership you must list the “industry benefit” last and lead with the “member-only” benefits your organization offers. To make your page more dynamic, learn the difference between features and benefits. Features are built into a product or service and the benefit is how a feature makes a person’s life better.

Promote the Member-Only Benefits

In order to help your members and staff to do a better job of member recruitment, help them to understand the differentiation of the above elements. Their efforts will be far more successful if they focus on what is available only through membership and de-emphasize the industry value. If you really want the see their efforts successful, also give them the most powerful tool of all—knowing what the member-only, member-determined, yearly-sustainable, real-dollar return on investment (ROI) number is. That magic number will be their number one member recruitment tool.

The ROI Missing Link (815 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

The ROI Missing Link

Is there really an ROI Missing Link? Absolutely! Meeting ROI and Member ROI are two completely different issues; however for associations and societies they are quite related. Recently, I have sat in on ROI webinars and read a number of articles on meeting ROI. Most of the work that I have experienced has been around particular formulas. The math is the easy part.

What’s Missing

The ROI Missing Link element is the valuation methodology; most do not get into much detail here—I’ve asked. This is the important and more difficult part. Assigning real-dollar numbers to elements seems to be where much of the available ROI information falls short.

Meetings without Members & the ROI Missing Link

The primary challenge that associations and societies are experiencing is membership hemorrhaging. The reason for this is perceived value, or lack there of. Few organizations have been successful in their effort to determine the yearly sustainable real-dollar value of membership, hence the ROI Missing Link. Without an honest number there is no way to determine a truthful ROI of their membership dollar and time investment. It is difficult to have meetings without members.

ROI Missing Link Facilitated Process

For over a decade I have been teaching membership organizations a simple but honest method to determine the yearly sustainable real-dollar value that members receive from their membership investment. The method is simple—I ask them. In a real-time live environment, asking members what the various services that their organization delivers yields truthful answers.

Why Not Use Technology?

The reason I do not believe in technology for this process is because the technology removes risk. I want members to own their valuation answers. I’m not looking for an average of blind numbers but rather a face-to-face discussion on the actual real-dollar value received from any particular organization delivered line item benefit.

The ROI Missing Link

The ROI Missing Link includes all the hoopla around meeting ROI as it’s the membership ROI. Without members there is no meeting. Sure meeting ROI is a great number to have, however it is such a small part of the total equation. The meeting ROI math has no honest meaning without the total equation. Today, members of membership organizations are looking at the total value proposition of membership, not just the meeting ROI.

Membership ROI

To discover the honest membership ROI that your organization delivers, you will want to conduct a facilitated session with a reasonable representation of your membership; demographics, psycho-graphics, etc. Through this process, the ROI Missing Link will be completed. The executive director, any paid staff member, or volunteer officer CANNOT be the facilitator, period!

  1. First be clear on the idea that this is art and science. As such, you are only attempting to get “ball park” numbers. You cannot drill down to the last nickel. Also determine if you want to include the annual meeting value. If only a small percentage of your members attend the annual meeting, leave that value and cost out of the steps below.
  2. Using a flip pad or electronic imaging, first ask attendees what benefits the organization offers and add each to the list (without any dollar value).
  3. After the attendees are done offering the benefits, move into the valuation process. Take one item at a time, saving networking for last, and discuss the yearly sustainable real-dollar value of the item. Complete agreement is not necessary. If the majority say the number is X, then go with X.
  4. This same process must be completed for every item mentioned. And guess what? Some items will be valuated at zero. No worries about the zeros, however those should be placed on the agenda for the next board of directors meeting. Also, the facilitator must keep things moving and not allow any one person to grandstand—too much.
  5. If the value is something that non-members in the industry also receive, you unfortunately have to value the item as zero. Not that the item (like advocacy) is of no value, since non-members also receive the value, it cannot be listed in the “member” ROI column.
  6. If an item is offered to non-members, then the difference between member and non-member price is the valuation number. Again, we are trying to determine the honest ROI of paying dues every year.
  7. When all items have been valuated, add the total value and divide by the cost of membership for an X times ROI. I realize that some others use a different formula, and that’s fine. Use any formula you want. The end result is: for “$Y” in your yearly membership investment, you get “? x $Y in return” and the ultimate question is this…Is it a good business decision to belong to Y Association or Society?

Does it Work?

Yes! I have been working with associations and societies for over a decade, helping them to determine their yearly sustainable real-dollar membership investment ROI. It is this number that delivers the gold. It is this number that will help members to both recruit new members and remain members themselves.