Easy, Low-Cost Ways to Update Member Data

Spring is here. What better time for a member data cleanup? Small, easy steps make a daunting challenge easier to dive into. Here are some quick ideas to get the ball rolling.

When member data collection shifted from a paper process to an electronic one, it seemed like all the thorny issues involved with keeping member information up to date were solved. It didn’t necessarily work out that way. Updating member information is a constant challenge that comes up frequently, as it did in a recent thread in ASAE’s Collaborate online community [member login required].

The issue is complex, and, like many things, it has been compounded by the pandemic. The crisis made it clear that only having members’ work information is not enough, especially when so many people are working from home. But sometimes members are wary about sharing their personal information.

“As with any kind of data you want to collect about your members, explaining why you want it and what you plan to do with it is key,” said Elizabeth Engel, CAE, CEO and chief strategist at Spark Consulting.

For example, saying that your association is collecting home email addresses because of the pandemic, or to have backup information if the member changes jobs, lends transparency to the request. Also make it clear that you won’t bombard both their home and work email addresses with a bunch of extraneous stuff, she said.

The following are some fast, simple ideas for keeping individual and student member information up to date.

Social Media and Incentives

A good place to start a data cleanup campaign is to ask members to provide a link to their LinkedIn profile in addition to work and personal addresses. “If someone changes jobs, there’s a good chance that’s going to be the first way you know about it,” Engel said. So, if an email address starts bouncing back, the membership team can check the member’s LinkedIn profile and update the information in the association’s database.

Prizes are a good incentive to motivate members to participate in an information-gathering campaign. Engel recommends offering the biggest prize the first week of the campaign, to reward members for updating their information early, and then smaller prizes later.

When considering incentives, “think about what makes sense for your audience,” she said. For example, a lot of associations offer a free annual meeting registration, which may not be a great prize because the cost of travel is often more than the registration. A better idea? Free access to a valuable association resource that even members ordinarily have to pay to receive. If that’s not an option, drawings for electronics or gift cards are other possibilities.

Keeping Students in the Loop

Another recurring challenge is capturing updated member data for students because their information is usually only good for the four years they are in school. A solution? Congratulatory graduation certificates for fourth-year students. It worked well when Sara Bustard, now the director of membership engagement at the Pennsylvania Osteopathic Medical Association (POMA), worked at the Alpha Omega International Dental Society.

Each AO chapter leader was responsible for collecting fourth-year students’ personal emails on an Excel form and sending it back to the main office. The team checked to make sure everyone on the list was a paid member and then uploaded the updated information directly from Excel into the database. Once AO had the updated student information, it sent the certificates—complete with AO’s seal and the president’s signature—to chapter leaders to distribute at senior end-of-year celebrations.

“Students loved it,” Bustard said. “It was a big deal.” It was also an inexpensive and “super easy” way to stay connected with an elusive membership segment. Bustard plans on brainstorming with her team at POMA to find ways to replicate the model there.

Managing data is more than a one-time effort—it’s an ongoing process that requires a lot of maintenance and care. “You’re never finished,” Engel said.

What is your association doing to keep member data up to date? Please share in the comments or send me an email.

(natasaadzic/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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