Membership Tips for Challenging Times: Three Ways to Put Members First
When everyone is affected by the same crisis, figuring out what you can do to help others is not always easy. Here are three ways one association, inspired by its members, helped them during a critical time.
In response to a recent blog post on keeping members close in challenging times, I heard from Keith Chamberlain, director of membership and experience at the Healthcare Financial Management Association, with some ideas he has implemented for members during the pandemic.
HFMA’s members are finance professionals in the healthcare field, and the association helps them navigate many challenges in the U.S. healthcare system. Knowing that its members had the backs of the clinicians they were working with during the pandemic, Chamberlain said, we asked, “What can we do to have their backs?”
HFMA created these new programs for its members in response to the pandemic:
Renew now, pay later. With the help of its IT team, HFMA created a “Renew Now, Pay Later” program for its largest group of members, who were lapsing on June 1. Members clicked a button stating their intent to renew and gave their credit card information, but HFMA didn’t charge it for 90 days, providing a grace period for payment.
It was not difficult to set up, Chamberlain said—the IT team simply created a new 90-day subscription for that group of members. HFMA already had monthly billing installed, so they just leveraged the technology to use monthly dues payments in a similar way. Fewer than 100 people have taken advantage of the offer, but those who have are “delighted” with the option, he said.
Sheri Jacobs, FASAE, CAE, CEO and president of Avenue M Group, said she has seen organizations extending their dues payments from 60 to 120 days. “It is my recommendation that associations do what they can to keep their members,” she said, “even if it means they will experience a loss in dues revenue.”
Responsive resources. In January, HFMA launched a new version of its members-only online community forum. Like many other online communities, this one has specialty areas focused on topics like revenue cycles and legal and regulatory issues. When the pandemic hit, the association’s business partners asked what they could do to help members, so HFMA created a unique forum for them where they could share ideas, solutions, and resources. It gave business partners “a place to reach out to their customers and connect in a way that was authentic and provided supportive value,” Chamberlain said. “It remains one of our more active community forums.”
Thirty-day free trial. In April, Chamberlain’s team unrolled a full-access 30-day free membership trial at a time when people in the healthcare space needed access to resources specific to their field. HFMA’s publishing team had ramped up content to help members with fast-changing federal COVID reimbursement guidelines, which new trial members could now access when they needed it most. That program brought them “hundreds and hundreds” of new members, Chamberlain said. Almost 60 percent of those new members have stayed on past their free trial.
Many associations had been slow to change until the crisis hit, which Jacobs attributes to their tendency to evaluate the “risk of change without considering the greater risk of maintaining the status quo.” Cognitive bias causes people to resist change because, she said, “they focus on what they might lose rather than what can be gained.”
HFMA’s experience is a good reminder to consider the second part of that equation.
What is your association doing that is working right now to engage, retain, and recruit members? Share your thoughts in the comments or send me an email.
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