Association Communications Benchmarking Series

Increase Your Membership ROI – Return on Involvement

By Sarah Sain • June 28, 2017

Sarah Sain
Sarah Sain, Naylor Association Solutions

We’ve all seen the #MondayMotivation quote on social media: “You only get out of life what you put into it.”

It’s meant to prepare us to start the week ready to work hard and give it everything we’ve got. After all, you can’t just sit around and wait for good things to happen. We have to grab those opportunities when they come and be looking for new ways to learn and grow.

The same holds true for association membership.

Preliminary findings were released this week from the 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, which will be released later this summer at ASAE’s Annual Meeting & Exposition in Toronto. The news is good – membership remains strong at most associations. But membership goes so far beyond just joining.

For years, association members have had to make the case for their membership ROI. Is the cost of membership worth the return on investment? But what they should also be measuring – and where there’s a real potential to maximize the benefits of membership – is with another ROI: return on involvement.

You may ask yourself, aren’t return on investment and return on involvement the same thing? After all, your involvement with an association is an investment of your time and energy. Still, not really. Your return on involvement is a value that can’t always be tied to a dollar amount, but it does pay substantial dividends in the short and long term.

To maximize your return on involvement, it requires networking, volunteering and engaging with fellow members and finding ways to make sure your voice is heard as a leader in your industry. Here are some ideas for how members and associations can provide peak ROI – return on involvement.

Members: Know Your Benefits

Members, do you know if your association has a magazine? Do you know if you can write for it or advertise? Do you know if your association has a job board where you can post your resume or find a new hire? When is your association’s next educational event? Do you know if they offer a certification? Do you know if your association offers discount programs that could save your organization money?

I think you get the point. Your association likely offers so many benefits as part of your membership, you may not even be aware of all of them. So here’s a simple exercise: Take one hour over the next week to refamiliarize yourself with your association membership. Whether you’re a new member or a 20-veteran, you’ll likely find something new or a benefit that you just didn’t need in a previous career stage.

Educate yourself on what being a member of the association means. Start with your association’s website, and read what’s available to you. Then set up a call the membership department. If you’re facing a specific challenge, they’ll be able to walk you through what benefits might help you overcome and succeed.

Your membership is just that: yours. Make the most of it.

Associations: Don’t Wait for Raised Hands

Back in school, there were a few students who were always the first to raise their hands when the teacher called. Some of those former students are now professionals within your membership. They’re always reliable and eager to volunteer in any way.

But consider the rest of the “class.” Within your membership, you likely have another group who would like to volunteer their time and engage with the other members, but they need you to call on them. Perhaps they’re just more introverted, or perhaps they don’t know what role they might fit in best. Perhaps they’re overwhelmed and afraid to commit to too much.

Don’t count those members out. Instead, create smaller opportunities at the ready and ask them directly to get involved. In addition to annual roles, like board positions or committee chairs, make sure your association has a list of one-time needs or assignments that take 30 minutes or less. Getting help to check those items off your to-do list will help your staff tremendously, and it also helps those members see just how valuable they are to the association.

Members: One Good Thing Leads to Another

Lowell Aplebaum, CAE, spoke earlier this month at the Georgia Society of Association Executives’ Annual Meeting in a session called “Creating the Member Story.” He started off by telling a membership story he’s really familiar with: his own.

Aplebaum first got involved with an association he was a member of when he complained about the renewal process. Instead of balking at his negative feedback, the association asked him to help them make the process better. Today, Aplebaum oversees the commission for the Certified Association Executive certificate.

Now, he didn’t go directly from Point A to Point B. In fact, Aplebaum has had many roles over the years, serving associations in many ways. But this example just goes to show that you never know where one opportunity will lead – whether that’s tomorrow or 10 years down the road. It could open the door to a series of new chances and connections that will take you someplace in your career that you never expected.

Remember that the momentum has to start somewhere, so when your association asks you to take on a volunteer role, reach out to a fellow member or lead in some capacity, don’t be afraid to say yes.

Associations: Everyone is the Membership Department

Association membership directors play a vital role. They fight for renewals, target new members and keep essential dues revenue flowing in so the association can focus on its mission. But they can’t do it alone.

Membership is everyone’s job – from the executive director or CEO, to the events and education teams, to the communications department. Everyone on staff can play a role in making sure members know and understand the value that your association provides them individually, their organization and the industry as a whole. Make sure the entire staff understands the goals of the membership department and identifies ways that they can lend a hand.

Finally, don’t forget that your strongest voice for membership is your members themselves. Arm them with the information they need to know, and then allow them to tell their own stories about how your association has impacted lives. There aren’t many marketing piece that will compare to that.

About The Author

Sarah Sain is a senior content strategy and development manager with Naylor Association Solutions, working exclusively with society of association executive and meeting professional clients. Email her at ssain@naylor.com or follow her as @ssain7 on Twitter.