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Association Members Ask, “What’s In It For Me?” (973 words)

The ROI of Membership

Has attendance dropped at your association meetings? Has your membership numbers contracted? If you honestly answer either of the above questions in the affirmative, you are not alone. Both association executives and their boards of directors are asking, “What do we do about our shrinking membership?”

Your membership and meeting attendance could be decreasing because of the economy, industry consolidations, 9/11 or perceived value. The only one of these reasons over which you have some control is the last on my list—value.

Over the last half-decade, many association executives and boards have been lured into complacency by the opiate, or narcotic, of good times and a strong business environment. Many companies started sending a greater number of employees to their industry meetings as a reward rather than as an educational experience. Now many of those companies are sending fewer people. Many associations have found their potential pool of members decreasing because of numerous industry consolidations, mergers or acquisitions. Many associations have forgotten about value.

Recently, for a regional association, I delivered a morning keynote presentation followed later that afternoon by facilitating an industry roundtable discussion. As I generally do when I facilitate a discussion, I asked the attendees to put on the flipchart what was most on their mind in reference to their industry. Then I asked them to weigh the importance of each of the items on the list. This group put their association membership on the top. This association had just a bit over 10% of the possible membership available to join. It was a problem because of the strength they would need for coming legislative issues.

I suggested to the attendees that there are basically two kinds of people that join associations and attend association meetings. First, like most of the people in the room that day, are the industry members that support their association regardless of the quality of the meeting or its location. Then there are the others, they generally expect to get more out of the association than they put into it. They expect that the synergy of the collaborative event will deliver a greater amount of value to them than they pay in dollars and time.

To bring back association backsliders from their disappearance and abandonment, it is time for every association executive and their board members to ask, “How do we deliver more value and how do we show the value we currently offer?” The first part of the question will be different for each association based on the specific needs of the players in their industry. The second part of the question was the subject of the roundtable discussion I mentioned earlier.

First I asked the cost of membership, and then I asked the attendees to tell me what their association did for them. As we listed on the flipchart the valuable services this association delivered to its members, I also asked them to assign realistic dollar values to each item. For this regional association, the cost of membership and attendance at the two semi-annual meetings was pegged at approximately $1,600. After less than an hour, the group came up with membership value in real dollars at $5,800. Had we have had more time; I believe the membership value number would have been higher.

I believe the best way for an association to grow its membership is through a one to one method; that is one current member bring in a new or lost member each year. Realistically, not all members will do this, but many will. Wouldn’t you like a 20%, 30% or more increase in membership, and revenues for your association? I suggested to the roundtable attendees that their association could produce an Association Value brochure and/or a Value PowerPoint presentation to help current members show other owners in their industry the value of association affiliation. This would help the current members to more easily articulate the reasons for their personal emotional ownership in their association. Give ‘em the right tools, and people will amaze you with their results.

As a primer for your own Member Recruitment Brochure (to prove that membership is a good business decision), listed below are the actual services and real-dollar values offered to me by the group:

  • $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.

Perhaps you might argue with some of the specific dollar values listed above? That’s fine because you now have bought into the value idea, now you are just haggling over the actual amounts. If prospective association members or industry leaders, quibble over the actual value amounts—that’s great too, because they have also bought into the value idea. Any smart business leader can see that it makes good business sense to join their industry association and receive $5,800 worth of value for a small investment of $1,600.

Remember, your association has control over the amount of value offered to its membership. Perhaps your members, armed with the right recruitment tools, can help industry players that are non-members in perceiving a higher value in association membership? Give ‘em the right tools, and perhaps your members will amaze you too?

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

How to Increase Your Member ROI Quotient (658 words)

If your membership organization wants to grow, your member ROI quotient is important (return on investment)

Increase Your Member ROI Quotient

If your membership organization wants to grow, your member ROI quotient is important (return on investment).  Engage industry stakeholders through delivering honest and usable value. The universal thought that is whirling around in everyone’s mind is, “What’s in it for me?” Perception is reality; and today’s associations and societies must get real about the ROI. While most really do not know how much ROI they deliver, just delivering ROI is no longer good enough; today you have to prove high-level ROI to keep members and recruit new ones.

ROI delivery and increasing your member ROI quotient is both an art and a science. The science is adding up the numbers and disseminating the information. The art is in managing the member perception of value. You must prove to your industry that membership in your organization is a good business decision. To do this, you must manage your resources in a new way.

Stop Giving It Away to Grow Your Member ROI Quotient

This is huge, please take notice! There is an omnipresent erroneous belief among association professionals and volunteer leaders that, “If we give it away to non-members they will see the value and join.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. This idea is killing your member ROI quotient. When you give away, for example, your legislative updates, newsletters, and magazines, all you are really doing is reducing the value your members receive for their membership dollars and minimizing the motivation of non-members to join. Why should the non-member join? Look at all the value you are giving them for a zero investment. The cold hard truth is that if they haven’t joined by now, they’re not going to join.

Put a Price on It to Grow Your Member ROI Quotient

This will dramatically increase your member ROI. Anything that you make available to members should exhibit an honest “retail” price; everything from electronic newsletters to member lists to legislative updates—everything. To legitimize the price, offer those products, services, and access to non-members at the stated retail price. Don’t think outsiders will pay? Think again, and, regardless of if non-members purchase these items or not, you are stating the value (ROI) your members receive. Do not make the mistake of letting members just think it’s free.

Do your members call the headquarter office for advise when they get into a jam? Send them an invoice, zeroed out with an equal discount, just like any other professional service provider would do. This goes for other services the association provides “free of charge” for its members. Every single day of the week you have to remind your members of the real-dollar value they receive because of their membership in your organization. Keep the value fresh in their heads and they will remember when it is time to renew.

Grow Your Member ROI Quotient; What Else Do You Have to Sell?

There’s gold hidden in your organization’s dusty shelves and computer files. Look around your organization for items, services, and various methods of access that might be perceived by non-members highly valuable. Put a retail price on those items and services, and make them available to non-members at the retail price and to members at no charge or a greatly discounted price. The differential will add to your members’ perception of their yearly membership ROI.

The rub here might be that some of your board members still hold on to their antiquated belief that all of the above is sacred and proprietary information and thereby not to be disseminated. Come on, it’s the twenty-first century, let’s move on and provide as much ROI for your members as possible.

You ask your members to send you a check each year. And, each year when they write out that check they have to make a new decision to buy. Make it easy for your members to see that it is a good business decision to hold membership in your organization. Do this through higher ROI delivery and perception and guess what? They will become membership evangelists for your organization and convince their colleagues, many that you might never reach, to also join and partake of the plentiful ROI.