“If you’re not growing, you’re dying” – Unknown
I’ve seen the above quote contributed to James Ray, Lou Holtz and even Rocky Balboa. And while I typically would not espouse the words of ‘The Italian Stallion’, in the world of professional associations, words have never rung truer. When it comes to Association Management, the success or failure of an organization can often be judged based simply on membership trends from year to year. Is your association losing members each year? Maybe you lost a few but gained more. If an association is serving its purpose and providing its members with true value in return for their dues, chances are that organization has been steadily growing over the long term.
Not only are membership numbers such a strong indicator of an Association’s overall health, but most association budgets are directly tied to dues paying members. Financing value added events and services with these budgets can often mean the difference of whether a member returns next year or not. With this being the case, both membership retention and attraction must be a focus of every Boards annual agenda.
Over the last 12 years I have witnessed first hand associations that have made membership growth and retention a priority and those that have not. From those experiences, I offer the following suggestions on how to increase your membership:
- Ask your current, longstanding members for input. Find out why they continually renew their membership dues each year. Where do they find value within the organizations. Whether its for the member benefits, ‘Continuing Education’ opportunities, camaraderie or simply because it’s an old habit, take notes. This information can help you restructure your association in the future.
- Contact past members and ask them why they decided not to renew. You may find that there is a consensus regarding certain benefits no longer offered, or a recurring complaint about meeting formats or locations. To help in this process, conduct face-to-face or phone exit interviews with each member that has communicated intentions for not renewing. It is important to understand the members true motivations for leaving.
- Add new, exciting elements to your association and then get this information into the hands of your current and past members. Send out a colorful mailer letting them know what’s new within the organization. You may find that your current members will be more likely to get involved if they see a new element that entices them as well as getting past members to once again rejoin the association.
The only way to grow your association is to invest time into it’s members. By understanding your membership and the motivation behind each’s involvement, you will be better prepared to craft strategies that keep current and new members active for many years to come.