In just three years, the Construction Financial Management Association experienced almost 10 percent growth in its membership. How’d they do it? By removing membership growth as a top priority.
Do you want to attract more members to your organization? That sounds like a silly question: Most associations would answer “yes,” but many seem to struggle with how to do it. The solution for the Construction Financial Management Association was to stop focusing on attracting more members.
It’s counterintuitive, but the results speak for themselves: CFMA recently announced it had surpassed 7,000 individual members, a nearly 10 percent increase in just three years. When the association was established in 1981, it had only eight founding members.
Growth is a byproduct of all of the other things that you do as an association.
So how’d they do it? Three years ago, shortly after Stuart Binstock was tapped as CFMA’s new president and CEO, the organization made a significant change to its strategic plan: Leadership agreed to remove membership growth as a priority, deciding to focus instead on delivering greater member value.
“To me, growth is a byproduct of all of the other things that you do as an association,” Binstock said. “So, our thought was that by focusing on all of the things that we do and by focusing on the value of membership, we would end up in the same place, which is achieving growth.”
CFMA asked members what they thought of the products and services that were already being offered. “That survey reinforced a lot of things that we knew, like our number-one member benefit was our magazine,” said Binstock. “But what was interesting was that we learned about things that people didn’t value, and so we either improved what we were doing with those offerings or we removed them completely.”
CFMA also reshuffled staff to place a greater emphasis on customer service, implemented a new outreach program for new members (the idea for which, Binstock noted, came from an Associations Now article), revamped its educational offerings, and refocused its regulatory advocacy efforts.
“Associations are famous for trying to be all things to all people, to all of their members,” Binstock said. “The reality is, you lose your focus with that kind of scattershot approach, and it ends up diminishing everything you do. Rather than spread our resources thin, we want to really excel at the things that are important to our members, and this approach helps us do that.”
Selling the idea of removing membership growth from the strategic plan was easier than Binstock anticipated.
“The organization over the years had always had growth as a goal, and they’d seen it continually not come to fruition,” he said. “Initially, there was some shock, because it had been a goal for so long. But once everyone realized how delivering value tied back into everything else that we’re trying to do, it all made sense and everyone was on board.”