Revamped Membership Strategy Brings Record Growth to Coaches’ Group
A year after completing a strategic assessment of its membership, the International Coach Federation saw the number of applications to join, and for its credential, skyrocket. The key ingredients of its success: a focus on value and a recognition that the profession’s demographics are changing.
March is typically a good month for membership applications at the International Coach Federation. ICF’s annual membership cycle starts in April, so people interested in joining or renewing their membership often do so the month before.
However, ICF, which represents and certifies professional coaches, has never had a month quite like March of this year, when 1,426 new members joined, bringing its total membership to just over 25,000. Before that, the most people to join the organization in one month was 717, in April 2013. In addition, ICF approved 300 applications for its credential and fulfilled 2,370 requests for certification applications—another record.
How’d they do it?
“I think we are finally seeing the results of some more aggressive membership campaigns that we engaged in, in the past year,” said ICF Executive Director and CEO Magdalena Mook. “We started talking more from the perspective of true value-added of membership rather than just the benefits we offer. Benefits are nice to have, but they’re not why people join an organization. It’s more about the commitment to the profession, commitment to the standards, and having a voice in shaping the future of the profession.”
The changes came after ICF brought in a consultant and undertook a strategic assessment of the organization’s growth plan, which included taking a closer look at the demographics of the coaching profession.
“We’re seeing that our coaches are becoming a little bit younger, and we’re seeing that their clients are becoming younger as well, which is good news, because that means coaching is no longer perceived as a luxury or something that’s available only to C-suite executives,” Mook said.
ICF is also putting more emphasis on getting their local chapters the right tools to successfully push the message of the international organization.
“We’ve been giving our local organizations more attention and the appropriate tools and resources so that those leaders can be a very credible voice and face of the ICF in their local markets,” Mook said. “We want them to be true ambassadors for the organization.”
The strategic analysis also resulted in a few changes to ICF’s membership structure, which makes the unprecedented growth even more of a surprise, said Mook: Members are now required to be coach-trained before joining, and, for the first time in eight years, ICF implemented a dues increase.
“There’s something to be said for standards and for the value of a membership, the value of professional associations,” she said. “The appetite for standards, for quality, for community is great, and we just need to be attuned to the needs of our members and the needs of the marketplace that we serve.”