Is Your Association on the Same Page as its Members?

By Haley Pearson • August 13, 2018

Is your association something members want to be a part of, or just something they feel like they should be a part of? You may find proof in your participation numbers and renewal rates. In this era of rapid technological growth, the work environment is not the same as it once was and your association’s brand should reflect that.

Have your membership recruitment methods evolved to adapt to online competitors? Does your content regularly change to give yourself an edge when the behemoth of a search engine that is Google is readily available at members’ fingertips? Membership retention is a big source of anxiety for many associations since it’s paramount to keeping them afloat. However, with the help of some introspection, retaining members is easier than you’d expect.

Learn from your mistakes (and successes!).

If members don’t renew, ask why. Use a phone call, email or survey to ask, but know that the more personal you can make the interaction, the better. The more information you obtain, the easier it will be to fine-tune your membership recruitment process. If you decide to do a survey, offering an incentive for filling it out is well worth the price. Even if the people filling surveys out are no longer members, their experience is still valuable to your association’s future membership growth.

Of course, surveying members about their membership choices can go both ways ─ asking members who have decided to renew their membership may also have interesting insight for you. Success can oftentimes be confused with dumb luck, so gathering a sizable amount of consistent feedback with which you can draw conclusions about your membership offerings is crucial to improving them.

Conduct a SWOT Analysis.

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and can be conducted just about anywhere ─ a sheet of paper, whiteboard or tablet will all work fine. It’s as easy as it sounds ─ write down your association’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats based on your team’s empirical knowledge (from surveys like the one mentioned above), other research you’ve conducted about your association. A SWOT analysis is a fantastic way for your team to assess which parts of your membership experience you should be focusing on. Try to gain as many objective insights as you can and create one together at your next staff meeting.

Seek inspiration.

They don’t have to necessarily be your competition, but if you notice there are other associations that seem to be doing well at recruiting and retaining members, it’s worth a closer look to see if you can figure out why. How is their website? Do members share association-related information on social media? What kind of events do they host?

The group doesn’t necessarily have to be an association, either — a club with membership dues or professional networking websites could also provide fresh insight into how your association could evolve to meet member needs. However, this is not to say that analyzing your competition should be avoided altogether. Incorporating what seems to be working for others into your own association is a safe way to bring about change.

Make new traditions.

If your association is in need of change, analyzing the parts of events, education and other member programming that haven’t changed for years is a good place to start. Decide what should stay for cultural value, efficacy and lucrativeness, but consider chucking the others. Getting rid of old traditions that aren’t important to members anymore also makes room for your association to start offering new programming and traditions that members do want. Give your outdated policies and honor codes some TLC.

Get personal.

Associations were created to unite people in similar industries and professions, but as people are offered more alternative ways to spend their time and money, it is time for associations to go a step further. The value of networking within your industry is still relevant and important, but try shifting the focus of your association to shared community values. What is the direction or change your members would like to see in your industry? Public education campaigns or workshops are a great way to start communicating that change.

If your association is in dire need of rebranding, representing yourselves as a community of like-minded individuals with goals is a surefire way to catch the attention of prospective members. By arming yourself with newfound research regarding your members’ wants and professional needs, the right path for your association will become that much clearer and easier to achieve.

About The Author

Haley Pearson is a marketing major at the University of Florida. She plans to work in brand management upon graduating in May 2019.