Catching Up With Membership Stories, Part 2

One association professional called all 1,000 of her association's new members on the phone. Another association dug into data to arrive at a more optimal dues rate. Let's see how they've both fared since we shared their stories.

Another week, another pair of updates on associations that grabbed our attention for their membership work in the past couple years.

This is the second of two posts revisiting membership pros that you’ve read about here on the Membership Blog or in the pages of Associations Now to find out how they’ve fared since we last spoke. (If you missed last week’s stories, you can catch up here.)

This week, a look at how a “member concierge” program has boosted retention among first-year members and how a commitment to data-based decisions gave an association a better estimate of an optimal dues level.

We have continued to use data to make most, if not all, of our decisions.

A Phone Call to Every New Member at CDA

Then: In 2012, the California Dental Association created a new position for 25-year staff veteran Terry Fong: member concierge. Her key role was to place a phone call to welcome every single new member of the association, about 1,000 people in a year. It went well; in “Calling All Members,” Fong said she connected with about 60 percent of members called, and early metrics at the end of the first full year were encouraging.

Now: Fong reports that retention rates were higher among new members she spoke with via phone during her first year as member concierge than those she didn’t reach:

CDA retention chart

“We also know some of our assumptions were different than what we had originally thought,” Fong says. “Specifically, we learned through contact that new-member reasons for joining were based on wanting to connect in the dental community, not benefit usage, as we had assumed.”

CDA is closely watching these cohorts of new members and is working the member concierge role into its extended member-welcome program, including a six-month “checking in” email that is sent under Fong’s name. Fong says CDA is pleased enough with the results that it is examining the possibility of adding another member concierge position, though no decision has been made.

Fong, for one, is convinced of the value of her interactions with members.

“If there was a wish list, I would wish for the association to entertain the idea of expanding the program to include calling loyal members who have been with the organization for a number of years with a ‘Haven’t heard from you, how are you doing? Anything we can do for you? Are we on task? How can we improve service, or what benefits are you interested in?’ The challenge is how that could be accomplished with close to 23,000 members,” she says.

Data on Cost to Serve Members at ASID

Then: Last year, the American Society of Interior Designers employed an association-wide data analysis to get a clearer picture of its cost to serve a member. That led to a recalibration of its dues, with an increase of about $15 to its “Professional” member rate. In “No More Gut Feelings,” Troy Adkins, vice president of membership and industry development, explained that the process was part of a shift in philosophy:”We were shifting the mindset at the same time, organizationally, to a metrics-driven decision-making process.”

Now: Adkins says ASID’s retention rate ticked up about 2 percentage points in 2013 over 2012, though he credits that to both a better understanding of cost to serve members and several improved practices, such as an incentive for early renewal and a shift in timing for a phone call in its renewal series, creating a “sense of urgency” for members near lapsing.

ASID also adjusted dues again in 2014. “When the model was presented to the board of directors for approval, we included a provision that allows us to review and adjust dues annually based on the current inflation rate,” Adkins says. “That’s what we did this year. Next year, as we bring new events and education programming online, we will most likely need to review the new cost of service to members.”

The success of the cost-analysis project has led to greater appetite for data at ASID.

“We have continued to use data to make most, if not all, of our decisions,” Adkins says. “After the dues analysis was complete, we initiated a research project on the value of the benefits and programs we offer members and nonmembers. That information has helped us understand what resonates most with current members as well as members of new target audiences we plan to recruit going forward. Our next project, just getting underway, is to research an optimal membership structure.”


Joe Rominiecki

By Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki, manager of communications at the Entomological Society of America, is a former senior editor at Associations Now. MORE

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