Tag Archive for: membership

Can Associations Serve the Industry, and its Members? (532 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

The ROI of Membership

Trade associations and professional societies that primarily focus on legislative matters can run the risk of neglecting its membership. Does that mean that focusing on influencing politicians is a bad thing? Not as long as the organization’s members don’t get left behind. Unfortunately, this is just what happens, much too frequently.

Here is an important question, “Does your organization’s legislative activities create value for non-members?” You’ll most likely answer, “Yes they do.”

If so, what’s the benefit in membership? Where’s the motivation for a person or a company to continue giving the organization money when others receive basically the same benefits with no cost involved?

You might answer with, “Well, they need to support their industry.” I agree, however the drop-offs or non-joiners intensely disagree. And, they vote with their checkbooks.

Not long ago, an association in the Pacific Northwest hired me to conduct my Member Value ProcessTM at their annual meeting. While we determined that the association delivered acceptable value to its members, it was crystal clear to the board of directors that much of the work in which the association focused (legislative), benefited the industry as a whole and not just its membership.

Gosh, I hate it when people want to shoot the messenger rather than to listen to the message, but that’s the life of a consultant. As you guessed, the board was not happy with the findings—few really do enjoy looking into the mirror, let alone bringing it up close.

So, what’s the solution? The simple solution is to deliver more value to your members than to your industry. Granted, some non-members will always get value from the important legislative work in which associations participate; however, this needs to be minimized.

Here is the most important question that organizational staff can pose to the volunteer leadership, “What else can we offer to our members that costs us very little yet is perceived by members as being highly valuable to them?” You answer that question, and you’ve solved the age-old riddle!

As an example, the association mentioned above charged the non-members the same price to attend the annual meeting as the paid members—justifying this horrific action by saying that they needed more bodies to walk through their expo to satisfy their vendor/allied members. Hogwash I say. Honor your members by giving them a HUGE discount.

Another association gave members, and non-members the subscription to their newsletter at no charge. That’s okay for the members, but hellfire—make the non-members pay.

A third example is the association that sold its membership list to non-members for the same price as to its members. Let’s not go down the path of the ethics of selling membership lists but rather the ethics of treating your members so poorly.

I bet if the staff and volunteer leaders of your organization were to spend a single day brainstorming ideas on how to deliver more value to the membership, you would be amazed at what you’d discover. Please don’t whine about poor member retention or recruitment if you’ve never spent a day brainstorming how to deliver enough value to your members so they could justify the cost of their membership.

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

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Membership: What’s in it for You? (678 words)

(678 words)

If you are taking advantage of the “member-only” products, services and activities that (fill in org name) provides—you realize that membership is a smart decision. You demand a reasonable return on your investment (ROI) in membership and you should get it. You have done more than the non-member outliers; you have invested in this organization. Simply put, you deserve more.

You differ from the other industry/profession stakeholders that simply take advantage of the (fill in org name) activities that serve the (fill in the blank) industry/profession. You have decided to actively participate with your time and resources. Let’s make sure you are getting all you can.

Several Years of Research

Over the last several years, Rigsbee Research has been conducting qualitative research in the area of calculating the ROI of membership in actual dollar numbers. Surveying members as to their perception of value in dollar numbers for every member-only feature delivered by their organization. Association and society members like you, have valued their memberships accordingly: in the category of Professional Development at an annual real-dollar value of just under $4,000. The number for the Business Solutions category is just over $7,100, with Knowledge Management delivering a little over $2,400.

Professional Development

Professional development and career growth are basically synonymous. Some of the member-only features are as follows:

  • Income differential through certifications
  • Gained knowledge and experience through volunteer leadership positions
  • Peer support and mentoring
  • Access to National or State Chapter resources
  • Special interest groups
  • Career development services
  • Peer and Industry prestige

Business Solutions

The business solutions category is a large one for many organizations. Some of the member-only features measured included:

  • Safety programs, education and resources
  • Business development and peer referral opportunities
  • Affinity or partner program discounts
  • Innovative business/practice solutions
  • Access to other organizations through affiliated membership agreements
  • Discounts on organization’s goods, services and events
  • Access to assistance at organization’s field or headquarter offices
  • Legal seminars and consultations

Knowledge Management

In days of old, associations and societies were the hard-copy depository for industry or professional knowledge. Today, membership organizations compete against Google daily; however to organizations that excel in knowledge management have found ways to make access by members to their vast resources quick and easy. Some of the member-only features measured included:

  • Industry research, benchmarking and compensation studies
  • Legislative updates
  • Member-only password protected knowledge sections on organization’s website
  • Industry/profession standards, regulations and codes
  • Printed and electronic magazines and newsletters
  • Member directories

Buying Motives

In the above listed examples of features of membership delivered my various membership organizations—your specific value might depend on your buying motive for joining and belonging. Of the six buying motives listed in The ROI of Membership, the three most frequent membership buying motives tend to be:

  1. Profit and Gain
  2. Fear of Loss
  3. Avoidance of Pain

With this in mind, consider the (fill in org name) to be your number one strategic alliance for success. Much of what you and your organization need to prosper is available to you as “member-only” features of membership. Just think how much more value the (fill in org name) could deliver to you in products, services and activities if there were twice as many members. Help the (fill in org name) to help you by recruiting just one new member this year. Then, help that new member to assimilate into the organization by influencing them to attend the annual meeting—and when they do—introduce them to your network of friends and colleagues. This will better assure their long-term membership.

Interestingly enough, we found that most membership organizations today are far better at delivering value to members than they are at calculating and communicating the ROI of membership. It has been quite common for various membership organizations to deliver, annually, in the range of $10 to $50 in return for every dollar invested in membership. What does this mean to you? While the (fill in org name) may not have communicated all the value they deliver to you, you can be assured that if you access all that is available to you—you will enjoy an excellent return on your membership investment.