Membership

The Membership Manager's Wish List

By / Dec 14, 2016 (iStock/Thinkstock)

’Tis the season of giving and receiving, and we know that association membership managers have more than sweaters and ties on their wish lists this year. We asked a few to share what they’d like to find in their stockings to help them meet member needs in 2017.

The holiday season is upon us, and if you’re like me, a shopping procrastinator, that means you’re just starting to think about the wish lists that friends and family have shared with you. I will get to the holiday shopping and wrapping soon, but first I wanted to hear from membership professionals.

In recent weeks, I asked membership directors, managers, and coordinators to compile their own holiday wish lists. And, boy, did they deliver—they want to be nerdier when it comes to membership data, deepen membership engagement and experience, and create automated marketing campaigns around recruitment with specific stories and messaging in mind.
One thing we know about membership professionals is that they’re a rare breed inside associations. Often, the job is a distributed effort across the organization. In fact, according to ASAE research, only 43 percent of associations have membership staff on hand. So, when we ask what membership pros want this holiday season, their answers may very well be a glimpse into how the organization at large is approaching membership.

Wish List Item #1: Engagement

The most common wish list item that we heard was deeper member engagement. It’s a theme we’ve explored again and again. It’s also a key goal for Liz Dombrowski, member service manager with the Insured Retirement Institute. IRI represents the entire supply chain for the retirement industry and has more than 900 affiliated member companies.

Member engagement is an objective in part because IRI members spread the word about the organization’s education and research resources. Dombrowski sees each member as a conduit to others. Her biggest challenge is knowing exactly what members need.

“As membership staff, we must find the right way to capture that engagement and use that snapshot as a tool to both drive new potential members toward our organization and retain our current ones,” she says.

Wish List Item #2: Caffeine and Data

Dombrowski also wants an espresso machine—and it’s no wonder, considering that membership professionals have to be plugged in around the clock, especially to their membership database, to thoroughly understand their members.

“Membership databases are powerful, and our members tell us exactly what they want,” she says. “2017 is all about appropriately capturing that data and using it to customize our message.”

Analyzing data can be a daunting task, particularly in associations that use several different data systems. Given how time strapped most membership professionals are, smart associations are looking for ways to make it easier to interpret data. Dombrowski may want to add a good data visualization tool to her wish list.

Wish List Item #3: Automation

A lot of membership professionals are thinking about new ways to automate the membership experience. Tim Heinle, membership manager at the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses, says marketing automation has been one of his biggest advantages in 2016.

“Our members’ needs are unique because the majority of them are nurses practicing at the hospital bedside, and they work unorthodox schedules,” he says. In other words, you have to reach your members when and where they are.

“If you can set up processes that help automate your member communications, especially onboarding and renewal communications, it can help save a lot of time,” Heinle says. Simplicity is also important: Start by taking a look at your membership application, and go from there.

Wish List Item #4: Personalization

This tops the list for Danielle Weaver, membership engagement coordinator for the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, who wants to dedicate more time to communicating with members one on one.

“Feeling valued makes all the difference,” she says. At PSNA, “[we] personalize the experience for members with a handwritten note, a phone call, even a simple email–to show thanks for their membership.”

Personalization requires time and resources, which membership pros never seem to have enough of. Weaver knows that challenge well, as she works to serve more than 17,000 registered nurses in Pennsylvania. To keep the job more manageable, right now she’s focusing on younger members.

“New RNs are the future of the profession, so it’s important to engage them now and find our future leaders,” she says. “I’d love to be able to spend 30 minutes talking to each and every one of our members to learn about them and find out how we can better serve them as an organization.”

What other items are on your membership wish list this year? Feel free to share them in the comment thread. And here’s to a safe, happy, and stress-free holiday season!

Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. More »

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