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Ten Strategies for Membership Growth (912 words)

Ten Strategies for Membership Growth

Membership Growth

Membership growth and member recruitment are not what they once were. Guilt is not much of a motivator in today’s world. In this new order of things, you the association or society executive must embrace the idea that member recruitment is no longer the exclusive responsibility of your membership department. Today, membership is everybody’s business. Yes, it is the business of all your staff, volunteer leaders and members at large. Everyone must pitch in.

In order to embrace this idea of membership being the responsibility of everyone, you will need to have implementation strategies in place to facilitate your new paradigm. Yes, life will be different for the CEO as this person must hold the mantle of responsibility to see that everyone embraces membership is everybody’s business to the fullest. Below are the ten strategies you must embrace…every day.

Strategy #1-The Will to Grow Strategy is book-ended with the will to change. What got your organization to where it is, most likely is not what will get you to the next level. This is where you scour your Bylaws, Policies & Procedures, and daily operation culture to discover hidden member value killers, resource wasters and anything that minimizes the ROI your organization delivers to members. Trust me, identifying is far easier than fixing, and fixing is what you must accomplish.

Strategy #2-The Build a Member-ROI-Centric Organization Strategy is built upon the foundation of the above. This is where embracing membership is everybody’s business is crucial. Every department in your organization must look upon itself anew to discover member value killers and make appropriate changes in their departments to better deliver improved member ROI. Sunset what’s not working and improve and/or increase what is working.

Strategy #3-The Grow Your Member Value Proposition Strategy is not as difficult as one might think. First to the qualitative research as outlined in The ROI of Membership—Today’s Missing Link for Explosive Growth to determine what your members believe is the current real-dollar ROI that your organization delivers to them. Now compare your organization to your competition. You do have competition if you look hard enough. Find what you do better than your competition that matters most to your members and start growing your member ROI from that point.

Strategy #4-The Member Retention Strategy is important and many organizations do not have a structured strategy in place for keeping members. Many believe that a membership turnstile in inevitable. Please…a modicum of energy in keeping your members pays off handsomely. First year members are most at risk and you will want to have a 12-month/12-touch system in place. You need a long-term system for all members and person in charge of the system. The system should consist of both staff and volunteer leader efforts. And, other departments can help. As an example, how about “Your membership has expired” belly bands on your magazine—printed or electronic? Other departments can help also.

Strategy #5-The Win Them Back Strategy is also something that many organizations have overlooked. Sure, you might send a reminder invoice or two but do you have a formal multi-touch system for regularly attempting to win back expired members. Recent and longer-term expired members should be on your target list. You need to do more than send a (passive) newsletter once a year; you need to engage expired members in a way that compels them to rejoin.

Strategy #6-The Member Recruitment Strategy is something that most organizations have in some form or another. Is it exclusively the membership department’s job to recruit…heck no…membership is everybody’s business. You just as much need member evangelists shouting from the rooftops about the ROI your organization delivers as you need an aggressive recruitment staff. You need to have your chapters involved and you need excellent member recruitment collateral materials that talk about the “what’s in it for me” and exceptional member ROI.

Strategy #7-The Components/Chapters Strategy can make or break an organization. Does the organization treat its chapters well? If not, why not? Think of chapter members acting as thousands of individual member recruitment evangelists…if only you give them a helping hand.

Strategy #8-The Alliance Strategy is where you find other organizations with whom your circles of interest overlap and you can develop mutually beneficial programs that deliver similar value to both organizations. I’ve been writing about successful alliances since the early 1990s and I’m here to tell you that it is both rewarding and difficult. Be certain to have your agreements in writing, even for the simplest partnering relationships. I’m not talking about vendor sponsorships but rather other associations or organizations where synergy can be developed.

Strategy #9-The Non-Dues Revenue Strategy might not be seen as part of member growth, but it is.   There has been a dramatic shift since the 1960s toward greater percentages of association and society operating budgets away from member dues in favor of increased non-dues revenue. You need money to develop high-value member products, services, events, and the like and member dues are not going to cover it. Additionally, you must offer the maximum, allowable by law, differential between member and non-member pricing to improve your member value proposition. Explore the possibilities.

Strategy #10-The Mosaic Strategy is all about how you put the above nine strategies into place. You cannot achieve any of the above in a vacuum so you will need to have your, let’s call it master plan in place. You as the CEO are the ultimate conductor or this orchestra called an association and it is you that must see that all parts, pieces, and departments are working collaboratively to achieve sustained membership growth within your association or society. Membership is everybody’s business.

The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.

Caution on Conventional Wisdom about Millennials (482 words)

Caution on Conventional Wisdom about Millennials

Caution on Conventional Wisdom about Millennials

Conventional Wisdom about Millennials

Is your conventional Wisdom about Millennials accurate? Just as bald white male baby boomers are not all the same—neither are millennials. One would be wise in considering this in member recruitment and retention. To paint such a broad-brush stroke is to leave many behind. While everyone, every generation, every color wants value from their membership—not all are viewing your membership organization from the same kaleidoscope of value.

For several years now I have been reading the endless fountain of articles on understanding Generation Y. These articles talk about millennials growing up with hovering (helicopter) parents and being immersed in technology. They want among other things:

  • A seat at the C-suit table—NOW
  • Inclusion for all
  • Meaningful work within their jobs
  • Prefer cause related organizations
  • Entrepreneurial opportunity
  • Extreme experiences at corporate, association and society meetings
  • Online supported relationships near and far
  • A sharing economy rather than ownership of stuff
  • Freedom

Well now, who wouldn’t the above? Let’s face it, all generations (painting with my broad brush) desire the above—but do they?

Raising Millennial Children

First up, I have two millennial sons and I’ll categorically state that the above is not their job or association shopping list. Sure each might desire some of the above and yet each has different perspectives and desires. Heck, two millennial men from the same household do not agree on all of the above. With that, how in the world can the “generational gurus” state “millennials want X, Y and Z”?

In raising our Y Generation sons, my wife and I relied on authoritative help in “understanding age-appropriate behavior” which was also a broad-brush perspective. The assumption was that the child was being raised in a nurturing North American home. For the first year or two, the information was helpful but after that “child’s personality and parenteral influence” had a greater influence on behavior thereby leaving the authoritative help—less helpful.

Today’s Millennials Are Diverse

Generation Y, perhaps more than the generations that were before, have had easy opportunity to learn from far more resources that that of traditional education. As such, some embraced the opportunities and others did not. Some became aware without education, some unaware with education and some aware and educated. Each of the three paradigms delivers different perspective to the workforce. Add to that geographical, gender, athletics and other various endeavors and you have quite a diverse generation. To state that “millennials want X, Y or Z” is to speak from a lack of knowledge and understanding. Humans are individuals.

Regardless of whether you are hiring a millennial to work at your association or attempting to influence them to join your organization the core truth is this—not everybody is the same and to paint people with a broad-brush is to make erroneous assumptions. Value means different things to different people. Keep this in mind as you make the decisions that will affect your association, its staff and members.

The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.

Member Retention through Relationship Bank Deposits (829 words)

Member Retention through Relationship Bank Deposits

Member Retention through Relationship Bank Deposits

Ultimately yours like most associations and societies are looking for net-member growth and there is no better way than member retention through relationship bank deposits. Some do a great job keeping members but still lose many to attrition. Some are awesome at recruiting but tend to have a turnstile of members coming and going. Unfortunately, net-growth seems to be illusive to many.

Offense and Defense

To enjoy net-member growth, it’s obvious but frequently forgotten, that an organization has to be excellent at both recruitment and retention–every day. This is a challenge as many find it hard to continually focus on two things (1) how to get them and (2) how to keep them. Member Retention through Relationship Bank Deposits relies on the features of membership you make available to members. This can help with the hard part…communicating how the features make members’ life better. This is the Achilles Heal of most associations and societies—communication. Specifically, communicating value. Too many of the communication directors want to concisely communicate facts to save their readers time. That’s great, but in doing so there is a massive opportunity loss—opportunity to prove value, remind of value, and subliminally lock in the perception of value among the membership. This ability is excellent offense and defense.

If You Don’t Tell It Didn’t Happen

Early in my career I received a lesson that I have carried for life. Selling consumer goods (sunglasses) to the retail industry (drug stores), I was making my rounds when upon visiting a particular store I found the products of a competitor on my display. Upon asking the owner about his purchase he told me that he was told that the particular style was very trendy. I agreed and told him that that particular style had been on his display (from me) for several months already. He didn’t know because I failed to mention it to him, therefore leaving a competitor to wedge in. If you fail to tell, it didn’t happen and you are leaving an opening for another organization to sell their value.

Value Communication

Communicating value to your members is making relationship bank deposits. Two key places to look to determine the quality of your value communication is at (1) your “Member Benefits” page at your website and (2) your electronic communications. Are you “telling” members how your organization makes their life better or simply mentioning features of membership and expecting them to make the translation for themselves? This is crucial for Member Retention through Relationship Bank Deposits.

  • Member Benefits page. First check and see if the text happens demonstrate features or benefits? Features explain what’s built into the product or service and benefits explain how the features make the user’s life better. You’ll most likely have to admit that what you have listed is features rather than benefits.
  • Electronic Communications. Most likely your communication editor is keeping the copy “tight” in hopes that the reader will review the entire piece. Read through what is written and ask yourself this for everything you read, “Who Cares?” and “So what?” If your two questions are answered clearly, you might have benefit copy.

Every time, you want to communicate in as many methods as possible, “Because of your membership, this is how we are making your life better.” This kind of communication, continually, is how your organization makes regular relationship bank deposits with its members.

Relationship Bank Withdrawals

In order for your organization to make sufficient relationship bank deposits for the time of member renewal…when you do attempt to take a withdrawal, this effort must be CONTINUAL. In the cosmic relationship bank, consider that about a dozen deposits are requited for each withdrawal. This would mean that you would have to make about one deposit a month just to get a member to renew. Deposits come in all sorts of forms: awesome meeting, membership pins stating longevity, HQ staff helping with something, etc. The sky is the limit; you just have to remember that value is in the eye of the beholder. This means that just because you think something is valuable (a deposit) if the member does not think the same—it is not a deposit.

Everything as Separate

Bundling is easy, saves time and makes the life of your staff easier. But, doing so diminishes member-perceived value. Everything your organization does for a member should be delivered, regardless of the conduit, separately. Sending a new member package filled with stuff is one relationship bank deposit. However, sending each included item out separately—while it does take more work—is one relationship bank deposit per item. With a little more work, your organization can create vastly more perceived-value. This is Member Retention through Relationship Bank Deposits at its best. As we all know, it is about the member’s perception, not yours. Never offer two or more resources at no charge to members in a single email—break it up. If you extrapolate out this paradigm throughout your organization you will, yearly, deliver enormously more perceived-value to your members and they will reward you when renewal time comes and you request a relationship bank withdrawal.

The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.

The Will to Perform-Association Volunteer Leaders (539 words)

The will to perform among volunteer leaders is crucial to a non-profit's success

The Will to Perform

Oh how things have changed, where has the will to perform gone?

The association world was once filled with members that pretty much did everything…and if they were lucky, they could afford an executive secretary…mostly to keep the clerical in order. Today, that executive secretary, in many associations enjoys the CEO title. This is because they really do act as the CEO of the association. The chief staff executive runs the HQ office and directs the staff to achieve what members (volunteer leaders) once did themselves.

But, what about the members, are they still doing their share? In too many circles, an observer would have to answer with, no they are not. Today everyone’s world is compressed—we are all trying to do too much in too little time. It is common to hear among the volunteer leaders, “The staff will do it; it’s their job. “ This sentiment is heard across the association-sphere, regardless of how full the staff members’ plates are.

Let’s bring this discussion to membership. While we all “mouth” that membership is important and it is the life-blood of an association…our actions do not always demonstrate this. In too many associations, and let’s be honest, membership is an afterthought or the department gets far less than necessary resources, attention, and prestige.

While the above can also be said for other departments in associations, membership in my experience is the most egregious.

What can we do? First, we must embrace that in today’s world of associations—there must be a partnership between staff and volunteer leaders in each silo/department of the organization. This is where the Will to Perform is most crucial. If either side of the partnership does not perform, trust is lost and the partnership is ineffective. Staff has to abandon the, “I have a life” as well as volunteer leaders must abandon the, “I’m just a volunteer; I have a job or a company to run.” Neither of these excuses for lack of performance is acceptable.

While this idea can be extrapolated throughout the organization into all silos/departments, specific to membership, we must communicate to our volunteer leaders and staff alike that, Membership is Everybody’s Business. We are all in this together and together we will resolve all issues. Members of today, unfortunately, have been trained by staff to expect everything to be done by staff. Moving forward, this must be changed.

Give your members a precious jewel. All volunteer leaders need a reason to perform before they can muster up within themselves the Will to Perform. What is the core value to them and the organization for them to desire to perform well? In the membership silo/department it is this—membership is a good business, financial, and career decision. If the association’s CEO can broadcast this message in a way that staff and volunteer leaders accept as a precious jewel that membership is a good business decision and held close to the heart—then it can and will be shared with others—the uninitiated.

If you are an association CEO, Executive Director, Executive Vice President—the chief staff executive, your job is to demonstrate in deed, more than in word, that Membership is Everybody’s Business and that membership in your organization is a Good Business, Financial and/or Career Decision. (c) 2017

The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.