Nutrition Association Reveals Secret Sauce to Membership Growth

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics announced record high membership numbers for fiscal year 2012-2013—the eighth year in a row of solid growth, despite the recession. What’s their secret?

While many associations are facing slipping membership numbers, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics announced last week that it reached its highest membership level in the organization’s history.

With roughly 75,000 members, the growth in membership for fiscal year 2012-2013 marks eight years of steady membership increases, including during the economically challenging years of the Great Recession.

“Our member benefits include an aggressive focus on programs and services,” Academy president and registered dietician nutritionist Ethan Bergman said in a statement.

One member group that the academy, formally known as the American Dietetic Association, has focused on is newly minted registered dieticians and dietetic technicians, for whom the organization has introduced a five-year incremental dues increase leading up to the full $226 membership fee.

“We find that we lose members during that first five years, and often it’s because they can’t afford [the dues],” Bergman said. “If we can give them the opportunity to be a member without having to pay the $226 until they’ve established themselves in their career, that’s a good way to encourage the students and then the graduates to see what the benefits are, and then when they get established in their career, $226 isn’t that big of a dent in their budget.”

Graduated dues is one part of a three-pronged approach the academy has taken to boost membership numbers.

“We also do some peer-to-peer targeting,” Bergman said. Each local affiliate gets a list of registered dieticians in the state, and those who are already members are encouraged to reach out to their nonmember colleagues and friends to champion the benefits of joining the organization.

The academy also focuses on providing practical toolkits and professional development opportunities for dieticians looking to grow in their careers.

Member feedback plays a key role in the academy’s strategy for continued membership growth. The group relies on member surveys and a professional development portfolio—in which members project their professional development needs for the coming five years—to help meet individual needs, Bergman said.

(Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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