New Membership Ideas

I recently attended the American Bar Association’s Bar Leadership Institute in Chicago on behalf of a client, Central Ohio Association for Justice (COAJ). Presidents and Executive Directors of bar associations throughout the country are invited to attend this event as a way to prepare for their upcoming membership year. As William R. Bay, Chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Bar Activities and Services, put it in his welcome letter to attendees; “We have one focus and goal: preparing you for one of the most important assignments you have – doing your best for your bar.” With 30 presenters, this two-day event was extremely educational and beneficial for not only bar association leaders but for leaders of any association in any industry.

Through my discussions with fellow attendees and the programming itself, I noticed one main theme – Increasing Your Membership. Whether I was talking to an executive of a large association in South Carolina consisting of 3,500 members or a president of a smaller bar association in Louisiana consisting of 200 members, I found that we are all facing similar issues with membership.

In one of the workshops I attended, “The ABCs of Membership”, presenter Sheri Jacobs, CAE, President and Chief Strategist of Avenue M Group, LLC, discussed the basics of membership development, retention and engagement. In an effort to retain your current members, Jacobs suggested giving a gift card good towards a CLE seminar to each member who renews their dues by a certain date. In her experience, she claimed the majority of members never redeem gift cards, and as a result your association would not incur much expense for the generous benefit offered. She also suggested allowing the member to give the gift card to another colleague in his/her office in an effort to spread interest in your association. Not surprisingly, Jacobs also recommended finding out what benefits drive your members to continue to renew and then highlight these benefits throughout the year to constantly remind members why they should remain a member for years to come. Therefore, by the time the next year’s dues renewals are sent, your members have been reminded why it is important for them to continue their membership.

In an effort to increase your membership, Sheri Jacobs recommends a “Member Get a Member” program. By tasking each of your members with the responsibility to get one person to join, you can essentially double your membership without incurring extra marketing expenses. And who better to market the association than a member themselves? As an added benefit, you can recognize these members at an upcoming event. If you don’t think you can ask this of every member, then you can start with either your board members and/or your long-standing members who have a history with your association. Another way to increase, and possibly retain your new members, is to offer a 365-day money back guarantee. As you would expect, this program offers the member a full refund of dues paid if at any time within the first year that member feels they are not being offered full association value. This program does have its drawbacks, especially considering the budgetary limitations of requiring an unknown amount of capital available to offer such refund. Finally, Jacobs recommends that new members are surveyed within 30 days of joining. Either a President, Executive Director or a ‘member ambassador’ who sponsored the new member should conduct the new member survey. The survey could be a formal written questionnaire or a casual conversational, but should focus on why the new member joined your association. This questionnaire will assist in better understanding what is driving membership which will in turn allow you to then create benefits around these ideas.

An association cannot exist without its membership. Therefore, you must make it a priority to always focus on growing your membership. If you aren’t actively growing, you may find you are losing more and more members each year.

For more information on how Greydan Communications can help your association’s membership, call us at 1-888-525-8810 or send us an email.

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