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 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: http://www.rigsbee.com/association-member-retention-1.htm
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 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.