Dr. Rick Goodman is interviewed on the concepts of his book titled, “The Solutions Oriented Leader” by Ed Rigsbee. Topics covered are: leadership assessment, positive thinking, hiring correctly, communication, feedback, mastering emotional thinking, organizational culture, and conflict. Contact Dr. Rick Goodman at https://www.rickgoodman.com/ or 888.267.6098.
Tag Archive for: association member recruitment
|When your members are actively engaged in your association or society, there are two important benefits to the organization. First is what usually comes to mind—member retention. Second, might not be so top of mind and that is member recruitment. When a member is enthusiastically engaged, he or she will aggressively talk about the organization to colleagues, suppliers and customers. There is no better source for member recruitment, which will have the follow-up member assimilation factor included, then member evangelists.
Fostering communities of reciprocity within your organization is the number one most important activity of association and society leaders and paid staff for encouraging high-level member engagement. However, there are frequently self-generated internal control issues that can easily squelch this kind of valuable participation. If a particular community is not, an association officially sanctioned and developed community, the leadership can all too easily consider the community a threat, menace, or danger to the organization’s traditional power structure. This is truly a disappointment to mature organizational value seekers.
There are no better organizational communities of reciprocity than the ones that are member founded. While these communities are all too frequently feared by the ensconced organizational leadership, they are nevertheless conduits of high member value. Dynamic individuals drive the creation of communities that they want, need, and desire.
If a contingent of your members want a particular community and develop it, they will value it and remain engaged as long as the community delivers value to them. It would only be a low-esteem, paranoid personality that would want to squelch this kind of community participation. Association leadership must embrace these emerging communities or chance the repercussion of member anger and drop-off.
Since these members generated communities deliver additional organizational value to members, association and society leaders really should be looking to put in place strategy and tactics that foster these communities rather than try to limit them. Frequently, geographical communities can evolve into formal “chapter” structure far quicker and more successfully than can or does organization developed structure.
As I mentioned earlier, control is one of the primary reasons that organizational leadership will squelch member generated communities in favor of official organization created communities. Organizational created communities are fine and can deliver high levels of value if created for the correct reasons; primarily to deliver additional value to members. If revenue generation is the primary organizational driver, the communities have a higher propensity for failure.
Organizational created communities must serve the needs of members rather than the needs of the organization. There also is the important challenge of relevance. Since member created communities are relevant to member needs, organizational created communities must do the same. The challenge with surveying members using an online system like Survey Monkey to determine wanted communities is that all to often members will state, give me this—and when created by the organization, the members never participate. This is because they have no skin in the game. Then association leaders surmise that members really do not want the communities.
Better, is for association leaders and staff to listen intently to off-handed remarks made by members during a variety of events and when enough members make a similar remark about a needed community—build that. This method is much more effective than the traditional leadership structure saying, “We need X, Y or Z” and then going out and building those communities without a champion.
Regarding a community that I personally built, even though the entrenched leadership of a particular association continually tried to kill the community; my good friend, W. Mitchell, frequently said to me, “The market decides.” With this in mind, the leadership could have and should have embraced a community being developed that gave scores of members an additional reason to attend the annual convention but fear of absolute control paralyzed any thoughts of collaboration, much less cooperation. Is this what you want?
A valuable hybrid approach will generally serve most organizations and their members well. This is where member generated communities are encouraged and assisted through a flexible support system put in place by the board of directors and administrated by the organization’s staff.
My urging to all association and society leaders, volunteer or paid, is to embrace communities of reciprocity that sprout within and around your organization. These communities should not be feared but rather embraced, nourished, and encouraged. The natural byproduct is additional perceived value your members will experience from membership in your organization, additional reasons to be engaged, and the organic development of member evangelists, singing the praises of your organization. Gosh, isn’t that so much better than animosity, distrust, and ambivalence?
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 to email@example.com 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.
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%
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:
- $1,000 for industry specific technical training offered twice a year.
- $1,000 for business, management and marketing training twice a year.
- $300 for monthly legislative updates.
- $1,000 for coupons for goods and services offered by the national organization with national and regional membership.
- $600 for legal seminars offered twice a year.
- $200 networking value at semi-annual meetings.
- $300 tax savings on income spent attending vacations (meetings).
- $500 for mentoring opportunities available through meeting attendance.
- $200 for product knowledge gained at meetings.
- $200 for company credibility and image associated with membership.
- $300 for education in accessing local publicity.
- $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.
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…”
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.
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.