Membership Pro Tip: A Year in Review

The end of another year is at hand. Wait, didn’t we just do this? It feels like it’s been 12 seconds, not 12 months. That didn’t stop anyone from giving great membership advice, though. Here are some examples.

Tapping into a vast pool of membership expertise yielded a lot of excellent tips in 2021. As always, associations came through with resilience and looked out for one another—and their members. It wasn’t easy, but the value of community and a member-focused approach helped everyone make it through another tough year.

Welcome Aboard!

Despite some sincere hopes videoconferencing would become a thing of the past, that did not happen in 2021. However, the United Fresh Produce Association found an upside to the platform. The group created a series of recorded member orientation webinars featuring members talking about their journey.

Here’s the kicker: The group chose members who had not previously seen the value of the association, but who ended up having a transformative experience. It made a big difference to hear their stories, according to Miriam Wolk, CAE, vice president of member services at United Fresh. And it gave rise to a whole new generation of members.

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression, as the saying goes. The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases made that adage a reality by using information from surveys, member applications, and orientation webinars to personalize the member onboarding experience from the get-go.

“You have to make sure the member feels like they’re not just a member of the organization, they are the member of the organization,” said John Lingerfelt, CAE, who was then AASLD’s senior manager of member communities and is now director of membership at the National Society of Accountants.

This Time, It’s Personal

The Health Industry Distributors Association announced a 21 percent surge in corporate members earlier this year. One way the group achieved that success was through responsive communications tailored specifically for members’ top priorities.

Kelley Taft, HIDA’s senior director of membership, and her team came up with a members-only email called “HIDA Heads-Up,” a great way to highlight new resources and other benefits without sounding like a sales pitch.

When communicating with members, it is important to consider where they are and meet them there. Sheri Singer, president of Singer Communications, recommends cutting email copy by 50 percent and spending almost as much time on writing the subject line as you do on the body copy. If you want people to open your emails, the subject line needs to answer the question: What’s in it for me? “You have to write it in terms of what the member gets out of it, not what the association gets out of it,” Singer said.

Stand By Me

Showing members you have their back during turbulent times keeps the community together and is a way to increase retention and engagement.

The Professional Convention Management Association has always offered a hardship dues rate for members who have lost their jobs or are in transition to help them sustain their membership and remain engaged with the organization. However, when the pandemic hit, they put the offer out to all members.

“Having a hardship dues rate is a great recommendation for other associations versus having members drop off,” said Meredith Rollins, PCMA’s chief community officer and foundation executive director. “Then you may never get them back.”

While associations have done a great job being there for members in hard times, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association ended up being there before things took a turn for the worse: PSBA launched a free, 24/7 crisis communications service for its members in 2019, before the pandemic hit. In 2020, the benefit proved very timely.

“Little did we know that we would head into a time when school districts are faced with some pretty divisive and sensitive topics,” said PSBA Chief Communications Officer Annette Stevenson.

Do you have a great membership pro tip that has improved recruitment, retention, or engagement? Please share in the comments or send me an email—and your tip might be featured in the new year.

(Dilok Klaisataporn/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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