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:
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.
Ed is the Founder and CEO of the 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, Cigar PEG Philanthropy through Fun, and president at Rigsbee Research which conducts qualitative member ROI research and consulting for associations and societies. He has been called “the dynamite that broke up our log jam” by association executives—rarely politically correct and almost always provocative—and from a dozen years as a United States Soccer Federation referee, Ed calls it the way he sees it. Exceptional resources at www.rigsbee.com.
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