Membership

Membership Memo: Reach For It

By / Apr 1, 2016 (JJPan/ThinkStock)
SPE and SPI are in immediate touch with the next generation of talent entering our industry.

Could a sponsor help you enroll hard-to-get prospects?

For years, student membership at the Society of Plastics Engineers had been flat, but Russell Broome, managing director at SPE’s U.S. office, and his team had a hunch: Even the modest $31 annual dues rate was a barrier for today’s debt-burdened college students.

Sure enough, a short test period offering free membership to students drew new signups in droves, so SPE considered its options to extend the free offer for a longer period. ­Simply eliminating dues wasn’t sustainable, especially if the organization wanted to adequately serve hundreds or perhaps thousands of new student members. So, SPE borrowed a funding model common in other domains but less widely practiced in membership operations: It found a sponsor.

The Society of the Plastics Industry is the trade-association sibling to SPE’s individual-membership technical society in the plastics field. SPI’s member companies are ever on the lookout for the next generation of talent, so helping students get a foothold in the industry by subsidizing their SPE memberships was a natural fit.

“It became a win-win-win strategy for all parties involved,” says Broome. “Students planning to enter the plastics industry are able to stay abreast with the latest technologies through SPE and network with company leaders through SPI, all at no cost while a student. Likewise, SPE and SPI are in immediate touch with the next generation of talent entering our industry.”

The arrangement offers some advantages over a simple discount, as well: SPE can maintain the $31 price tag on student membership to convey the value offered, while naming SPI as a sponsor of student members paints it in a positive light.

Other associations use a similar model to support participation among other underserved segments, including international membersminorities, or those between jobs. And they turn to a variety of sponsorship models, such as partnering with foundations or industry suppliers or seeking donations from at-large members.

What matters most is getting those underrepresented members in the door, says Mark Garrison, senior vice president, membership and business development, at SPI: “Our goals include investing in tomorrow’s workforce and future leaders.”

Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki is a contributing editor at Associations Now, a lifelong Phillies fan, and a proud alum of Ohio University. More »

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