Tag Archive for: Engaged Members

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

The Differential is the Valuable Feature of Membership (703 words)

Price differential the real feature of membership.

It’s very interesting that a lot of association executives association volunteer leaders and others seem to think that the feature of membership or the benefit of membership is something like…the meeting or other things in which Members can participate.


Here’s the thing…if non-Members can participate also, then that activity truly is not a feature membership.

What is the feature of membership, it’s the differential and I think this is the thing that we really have to look at…the price differential in every product and service you offer.


Consider Anti-Trust Law

The United States Federal anti-trust law basically states that you cannot compel membership in the price of any product or service. What that effectively means is this…you cannot charge a non-member more for a product or service than is equal to or more than the cost of membership.


If your membership, as an example, is annually $500 and you charged $500 more, let’s say, for your meeting registration to a non-member than a member, technically you’d be compelling membership. This behavior would put your organization in a non-defensible situation should anybody bring litigation against you.


Now chances are, if you have this practice of charging a higher differential than is the cost of membership or, if you have this practice of rolling in a free membership with your meeting to pay that differential…there is a good chance you’ll never get hit with litigation against you. There is also good chance the Federal Government will never initiate litigation.


What Percentage Differential?

However, if a competitor did, or if a vendor did, or a sponsor did, or a disgruntled Member…you would most likely be in indefensible position. With this in mind, let’s talk about differential pricing and the way that should safely work for you. Basically, a safe differential it’s about 75% to 80% of the membership cost. The Federal Government doesn’t explicitly state an exact number, but association law lawyers say there’s indication that approximately 75% to 80% of the of the cost of membership is a fair differential.


This also means, for organizations where membership priced low, especially like professional societies, there is not as much differential to work with. If membership in your organization is $100…we are talking about a $75 or $80 differential maximum in the products and services you offer…that’s it.


I realize this can be frustrating but here is a beacon of hope, a ray of sunshine, a silver lining in this cloud…and that is…you can charge the differential on everything it’s not collective, it’s not cumulative, it’s for every product and every service.


You can have that differential of about 75% of the cost of membership on everything. You might be thinking that’s a lot of money for people to buy these things and not be a member. Absolutely, and the really important point here is that every time your member registers for a meeting, attends a webinar, buys a product or service from you, they will see that there is this 75% differential or savings between their member price and the non-member price. This will cause them to have a mental conversation with themselves about the value of their membership in the organization. This is an important part of the member value equation.


If you build the pricing differential with purpose and strategy, every member in your organization is going to see a substantial savings over non-member pricing. They will experience this valuable savings on everything. When this occurs, you’re going to be able to do qualitative research on the real-dollar value of membership. My book, The ROI of Membership goes deeply into the subject. It’s all about on how to prove the return on investment in actual dollar numbers to members.


Engaged Members

If you’ve got members that are engaged and they’re participating in quite a number of activities and in all of these for-fee activities they’re enjoying a 75% discount differential off the cost because of membership, they’re jumping for joy.


Focus of the total value proposition members receive and you’ll keep your members. And, you’ll also start noticing your current and satisfied members will be your prime source for new members…they will become your member recruitment evangelists.

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Member Recruitment: Grass Root Volunteers Vs Paid Staff Driven (1170 words)

It’s an association or society executives’ perpetual question, “Which group is best suited to lead the charge in new member recruitment?” What is your answer; the professionals, the amateurs, or both? Today, this question may be more crucial then ever before.  Let’s explore what each side brings to the member recruitment, assimilation, and retention table.

Paid Staff (Professionals) Driven Benefits:

  • Stuff gets done; since member recruitment can be part of their job description there is a strong motivation to get the job done. One will rarely hear the excuse for non-performance; I have been busy running my own business.
  • Consistency; when member recruitment is one’s job, or part of it, there will generally be more of a consistent outreach effort and a decreased likelihood that things will fall through the cracks.
  • Dedicated resources; the professional staff will always have access to all the latest and greatest brochures and other member recruitment tools that your organization produces. They will also have a predetermined amount of time that they will dedicate daily to make recruitment sales calls.
  • Clear message; the professional staff will regularly communicate a clear, and hopefully scripted, recruitment benefit message. Making multiple calls daily will allow the professional to hone their sales message taking it to the simplest common denominator.
  • Knowledge; generally a staff person, working with member recruitment daily, will have a greater depth of the organization’s membership features (even beyond board members) and how the prospective member can utilize those features to become benefits of membership.
  • Outsider looking in; this offers a different perspective from the functioning industry member that holds membership in any given association or society. This different perspective, clear of industry jading and erroneous perceptions can be of substantial benefit in member recruitment activities.

Volunteer Leaders (Amateurs) Driven Benefits:

  • More authentic; because the volunteer member’s recruitment effort will come primarily from the heart rather than the brain, the emotional connection to an industry colleague will be dramatically more powerful than an office staff person with their highly scripted message that might come off too slick.
  • Peer-to-peer value; members will have better access to colleagues within the industry and also command a high-level of credibility.
  • Word-of-mouth; members in an industry can create a buzz through their suppliers and customers. The active functionaries in any industry, geographically dispersed, interact more frequently and intensively than can a bureaucrat.
  • More people available; if you look at it from a numbers game perspective, hundreds of volunteers geographically dispersed and talking to colleagues will deliver more industry in-person touches than would be possible of staff.
  • Personalized examples; there is unequaled persuasively power in the personal success story. Members can explain from doing, rather than observing, how their trade association or professional society helped them to solve a problem, access a business opportunity, or delivered membership features that created high level ROI (return on investment) to them personally or to their business.
  • Industry jargon; naturally someone that is actively participating in his or her industry will have a deeper understanding of insider industry speak. The exception is a long-term association employee. However, they will generally by that time, be in a top executive position and most likely not involved in daily member recruitment efforts.
  • More passion; for the member that truly understands and appreciates the value delivered by his or her association, they will have the propensity to become a true member recruitment evangelist.

The challenge for many organizations is that very few paid staffers will ever become member recruitment evangelists for their employer the way volunteer leaders and members might.

Member Retention

You want engaged members rather than simply numbers. When an organization relies on commissioned staff to recruit members the motivation is simply getting numbers. What comes with those numbers is high-quantity drop-off. This is because there has been a minimal effort to assimilate new members. Conversely, when an active member recruits a new member, the likelihood of that member helping the new member to assimilate into the organization is very high. My personal recommendation is for active members to only recruit one member a year. It is very manageable and very likely that the member that did the recruiting will help their new colleague to assimilate into the organization by inviting them to the coming annual meeting, take them around, and introduce them to other members.

Membership Evangelism; What’s It Take?

  • When an individual member understands how a larger membership organization might serve them better, they become passionate about spreading the word. They do this for two reasons. First, they want to share the wealth with all the members in their industry and second, they desire growth so they might enjoy additional benefits.
  • Effective recruitment tools are an absolute must for members to become evangelists for their organization. These tools are not used as a crutch but for credibility builders and roadmaps to tell others their story.
  • Recognition at any level, and for any task, delivers reinforcement that their actions and results are appreciated. And for some, recognition is a bit like a life’s scorecard. It never hurts and always helps; so why not do it?
  • Emotional ownership in organization is developed through an unwavering belief that the organization serves their industry, their company, and themselves in a way that no other could do. When a member believes in their organization’s delivery of highly valuable member benefits, the organization effectively “owns them.” The member can’t wait to shout from the rooftops how their association serves them. After all, they made the fabulous decision to join, didn’t they?
  • Association staff and volunteer leaders should pay attention to the members that are highly-engaged in your organization, even though they may not select to be part of the leadership. These highly engaged members should be encouraged, asked about their opinions, and in all manner appreciated and recognized for their passionate effort to spread the word about your organization; even if they are contrarians!
  • Membership evangelists, above all else, desire to help others. Get out of their way—even if they do not follow all of the rules to the level you desire. You are not looking for well mannered church mice to spread the word. Rather, you are looking for risk-takers that truly desire to make a difference, to do your membership recruitment bidding.

My Preference

If you are truly looking to recruit new members that will be engaged in your association or society, and if the choice was mine—I’d have the volunteer leaders in charge of the member recruitment effort with the support staff highly engaged in the process. I’d have the volunteers sell the idea of membership to their colleagues and have the professional staff do the follow up paperwork, answer additional questions, and collect the dues. I believe this to be the best utilization of members and staff. However, if you are just looking for revenue through numbers, go ahead and have the commissioned office staff lead the effort.

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Helping Your Association Members to Evangelize (645 words)

(645 words)

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:

  1. Direct Sales where you have commissioned sales persons on the street or working the telephones.
  2. Pull Marketing where you use expensive traditional or electronic marketing campaigns.
  3. Member-Get-a-Member

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.