Events That Will Drive Buzz With Members

One group’s unique member benefits provide food for thought to associations looking to create exclusive and one-of-a-kind events or venues for their members.

Even after working at ASAE for more than a decade, I’m sometimes still surprised when associations come up in my personal life. And even more surprised where I am when it happens.

Like a whisky tasting.

But that was the case last Saturday as I sat listening to the description of what would be the fourth tasting of the night.

“And this one comes from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society,” our host said. “It has a very limited release, and it’s only because I’m a member that we get to sample this one.”

My ears perked up. “Society.” “Member.”

But then it was the host’s explanation of some of the member benefits he receives that really got me thinking. (Side note: The Society should really hire this guy as a spokesperson.)

When you join, you receive some standard benefits. Among them: a membership handbook, a quarterly subscription to Unfiltered magazine, and access to exclusive whiskies not available for purchase.

But then there’s the less typical ones: access to the Society’s Members’ Rooms in the UK, invitations and discounts to member tastings hosted by the Society throughout the United States, and Society Spots. The latter are bars in cities like Washington, DC; Chicago; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Seattle, where members have access to Society whiskies.

It’s this type of benefit exclusivity and uniqueness that keeps members interested in staying with your association. And that idea extends to conference venues or meetings.

For example, a lot of associations have their own conference and meeting venues within their office spaces where they host professional development and other programming for both members and nonmembers. Imagine if they transformed one of these spaces into a “members-only room” where they hosted exclusive, one-of-a-kind events or meetings.

Some ideas to consider: Lunch or cocktails with the CEO or board president that is limited to the first 30 who register, a VIP reception with a conference keynote speaker, or a small networking event where everyone is the room has been selected to attend based on preset criteria. And when the room is not in use for these type of events, maybe it’s open to members to use for coworking or as a makerspace.

Museums have longer offered these type of spaces. For example, the British Museum has a Members’ Room that includes a study area, comfy chairs and couches, free WiFi, and even a café. And the Art Institute of Chicago has a Member Lounge where people can relax, learn, and socialize. It includes an outdoor patio, barista station, and bar.

Whereas the Scotch Malt Whisky Society has Member’ Rooms and Society Spots around the world, that’s probably out of the question for almost all associations due to budget and staffing constraints. To work around that, perhaps associations could work with their partners, vendors, or other related organizations and have them donate space at their offices to host “pop-up members’ rooms”—something that seems to be already catching on in the for-profit retail space. They could be a good way to get members together in places where associations don’t typically hold meetings or events.

And, remember, even though your association likely can’t distill a members-only whisky, that’s not to say it can’t offer an exclusive event or venue space that has a buzz of its own.

(via the Scotch Malt Whisky Society's Facebook page)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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