Group Membership Category Boosts Members, Revenue, and Value

Digging deeper and asking members questions uncovered a great opportunity to cast a wider net, which ended up paying off for the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities in several different and tangible ways. Find out how.

Opening the door to an organizational membership turned out to be a game changer for the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities. After launching it in early 2020, ABRF nearly doubled its membership by December 2021 and increased its value proposition and volunteer pool. Even better? Membership dues grew by about 40 percent and sponsorship revenue increased by more than 60 percent as sponsors engaged with a larger audience. 

For many universities that conduct research, it is more efficient for them to create shared core research facilities, which means that instead of every scientist having their own set of equipment, the university invests in the best and most up-to-date technologies and puts them in a shared facility. Then researchers arrange to access the facilities when they need them.

Delving Deeper

ABRF had hovered in the 700 to 800 individual member range for several years. When ABRF’s Executive Director Ken Schoppmann, IOM, CAE, came on board four years ago, he began to ask questions: What’s our penetration rate? what’s the scope of the potential audience we could engage? Why do people join?

“Unfortunately, I got different answers from different people because there was no real centralized information about the size or how many facilities there were across the country or within institutions,” Schoppmann said.

As he started to work with members, he learned that in some cases larger institutions like Harvard and Ohio State may have dozens or even hundreds of these shared research resource facilities. “If you think about each one of them employing even two to three people, that’s 200 or 300 people at each university who could potentially be members of our organization,” Schoppmann said. “Yet collectively we only had 700 or 800.”

Schoppmann decided to engage institutions at the institution-wide level so that with one decision they could enroll and engage all their core personnel as ABRF members. It ended up working well.

“It’s transformed the group,” he said. As of December 2021, ABRF has 1,800 collective members. “What’s changed is now the lion’s share of those members are institutional members, or what we call group members,” he said.

Positive Outcomes

Here are four reasons the new organizational category is a win-win:

  • ABRF is a volunteer-driven organization so the more people they have as members, the more potential volunteers they have—which is important. “We don’t want to keep tapping the same 50 to 60 people all the time,” he said. “It also helped us recognize that we needed to do more with our members at every stage of their careers and in different roles.”
  • Member institutions benefit because it’s a way for them to provide a valuable professional development opportunity for staff who don’t have many other options because they might be at a stage in their careers where they haven’t connected with a professional society, or they don’t necessarily have a single discipline affiliation. Because they cut across many technology areas, ABRF can be their home.
  • The new member category is advantageous for all ABRF members because they have a larger community of people to share ideas and best practices with, especially in such a highly specialized area. “Having 1,800 colleagues instead of 800 gives members a broader network,” Schoppmann said.
  • There is also a marked economic benefit for ABRF because it is heavily engaged with its sponsor partner community. A member audience that is double what it was two years ago enables the group to enhance its value proposition for sponsors.

“We’ve been able not only to sustain but grow that connection and investment from our sponsor community, which is such a significant portion of our economic model,” Schoppmann said.

Has your organization added a new membership category? Please share in the comments or send me an email.

(Andrii/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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