Membership

More Deep Questions for Association Membership Pros

By / Nov 4, 2015 (iStock//Thinkstock)

Give your association mind a little exercise by musing on these membership discussion starters.

A couple weeks ago, I got an office window. It’s a new experience for me, and I find the view of trees and sky outside relaxing. It’s a setting more conducive to reflection and contemplation, a chance to think about some really important questions.

Which leads me here, just past three years since this blog challenged association membership professionals with “A Few Deep Questions for Membership Pros.” Many of those questions remain open for discussion, but today I’ll offer six new ones, another set of thoughts for membership minds to ponder. I’m eager to hear your thoughts.

What department in your association has the biggest impact on your membership performance?

1. On any given day, would you rather get one call from a happy member and two calls from cranky members, or zero calls from any members at all? As in any customer-service setting, fielding complaints from members can be a chore, not for the weak of will. Sometimes, you probably just want a nice quiet day where the phone doesn’t ring. But it’s also true that every interaction with a member, even an upset one, is an opportunity to deliver a positive experience. Does zero calls from members mean no one cares enough, either way, to contact you?

2. If you could implement one of these two membership offers tomorrow, which would you choose: tiered benefits packages or automatic renewal via credit card? I’ve written about associations adopting these offers a few times, and the potential upside to each seems promising. Both, however, require significant back-end work for staff and systems to accommodate them. Let’s assume you can clear those hurdles easily, though. Which new offer intrigues you most?

3. What department in your association—other than membership and marketing—has the biggest impact on your membership performance? Is it your education department, drawing in members with sought-after training? Is it your publications division, delivering a steady stream of knowledge and content, even to your mailbox members? Or maybe it’s government relations, winning battles to keep your industry growing? Every part of an association affects the membership experience, of course, but is there one group of colleagues you secretly root for more than the others?

4. Would you rather have dozens of employees at one company as active members but not the company’s top executive, or vice versa? Of course, both would be best, but if you had to choose, what would be more valuable: a large volume of rank-and-file professionals or one high-level decision maker?

5. What membership metric best reflects your association’s overall success and progress toward its mission: recruitment, retention, or engagement? These numbers are best viewed as progress indicators, not end goals themselves. (Your association’s mission is not simply to recruit more members.) So which one follows most closely to mission progress? If you have an answer, is it a best guess or is it based on a clear correlation to mission metrics?

6. Finally, a membership dilemma: You’re stranded on a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (this one, perhaps), and two bottles with messages wash ashore. One is a membership offer from the International Association of Island Castaways, and the other is an offer from the Society of Stranded People. IAIC’s primary member benefit is a set of detailed instructions for building a small but seaworthy raft. SSP’s primary mission is lobbying world governments for greater naval search-and-rescue spending. Which association do you join?

Please share your responses to any of these questions in the comments. And offer up any other tough membership questions you have, as well.

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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