4 Great Ideas From a Membership Idea Exchange

When one association hosted a membership-development idea exchange for its chapter leaders (a great idea itself), the recruitment and engagement ideas got members talking. Here are four creative examples.

Through what has now been more than nine years since the debut of Associations Now magazine, only two recurring article formats that have endured, uninterrupted and unchanged from their original form: “Idea Bank” and “CEO to CEO.” Given ASAE’s value proposition to “connect great ideas and great people,” this makes sense. Idea Bank and CEO to CEO fit that ideal perfectly, and, boiled down, ideas and people are what associations are all about.

So, when I heard about the “idea fair” concept that the National Association of the Remodeling Industry had planned for its Fall Leadership Summit, I wanted to learn more. It sounded like just the type of program, focused on people and ideas, that other associations could learn from. Kathleen Raab, CAE, executive director of NARI’s Madison, Wisconsin, chapter, reported that the speed-networking-style idea exchange was indeed a success and got NARI’s chapter leaders talking about tactics for membership development at the start of the summit. And, in “Rules of Engagement: Chapter Exchange” in the November/December issue of Associations Now, Raab shares tips for how to run a similar event at your association.

We ask, “Who’s the one person that would make your dues worthwhile?” … As easy as that, a relationship can be built.

That article is, purposefully, about an idea for exchanging ideas. But you might wonder about the actual ideas that were exchanged. The NARI chapter leaders were tasked with sharing their best tips and advice on member recruitment, retention, and engagement. Raab says there were plenty of great ideas, and she shared four in particular that she liked. While they come from the context of the remodeling industry, here they are for your consideration. They might just prove useful in your association’s membership efforts as well:

Postcards with a personal touch. One chapter prints postcards for members to fill out with a handwritten note to a colleague or business associate who isn’t already a NARI member, encouraging them to join and inviting them to an upcoming chapter event. The chapter then collects the postcards and mails them out. This facilitated member-to-member recruitment makes it easy for members to participate and has a bigger impact on potential members than a standard recruitment letter.

Instant connections. Raab’s chapter shared its practice of connecting every new member with an existing member in what is a very relationship-driven industry. “Sometimes a supplier can’t get in to talk to a contractor. So, when we ask that question—who’s the one person that would make your dues worthwhile?—they’ll usually give us a name, and we can pick up the phone and make that phone call to the connection right away,” she says. “That person will almost always pick up the phone or reply-all to the email because the contact info is there. As easy as that, a relationship can be built.”

Tailored value statements. NARI members come in all shapes and sizes—sole proprietors, small companies, large companies, general contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, and so on—so one chapter has adapted (and shortened) its value statements into several different versions, each targeting the specific needs or concerns of different types of prospects in the remodeling industry.

A one-day phone-a-thon. Another chapter asked members to participate in a two-hour member-recruitment call center. It got 12 of its “best phone people” and set up a small headquarters for them to call lapsed and prospective members from. Backup workers were on hand to immediately email membership applications to call recipients who asked for them, and the callers were divided into two teams to compete on who could recruit the most new members. “It was easy to get people to do that for two hours, and then they had a party afterward,” Raab says. “So, rather than saying, ‘Can you be on a membership committee for an hour once a month?’ they said, ‘Can you just help us for two hours on this one day?'”

Back in August, I wrote about how making member connections can harness the power of “five-minute favors”—a habit suggested by ASAE Annual Meeting Opening General Session speaker Adam Grant—so I definitely like the practice of asking new chapter members who they want to be connected with. I also love the short phone-a-thon idea, if for nothing else than the party incentive. There’s no job that a little reward of pizza and drinks can’t make better.

Which of these ideas could work at your association? Could they be adapted to other industries or to state or national associations? Got any other great membership development ideas to share? Let us know in the comments.


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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