A Membership Roadmap for 2022

It’s always a good idea to have a sense of where you’re headed, especially at the start of a new year. Planning for membership in 2022 means understanding members on a deeper level to be even more responsive to their needs.

The start of a new year is always exciting—and a little daunting. It’s been hard to plan or predict anything, which we all know by now. However, as associations look toward serving a future membership, pipeline, and customer, they will need to tie what they are doing to what problems they are solving. And that means understanding, at a deeper level, why members come to an association.

“It starts with the member first; it doesn’t start with what you’re offering,” said Sheri Jacobs, FASAE, CAE, president and CEO of Avenue M Group.

For starters, the workforce has changed, and it looks like working from home is not going away anytime soon. And the Great Resignation is happening. In November alone, a record number of Americans—more than 4.5 million—voluntarily left their jobs, up from 4.2 million the previous month, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Data Statistics.

But people aren’t necessarily leaving the workforce, they’re just changing what they’re doing. “We have to incorporate that as we think about membership and our members,” Jacobs said. For example, “entrepreneurship is going to grow, giving associations a huge opportunity.”

Jacobs offers some advice on preparing for a membership landscape that continues to evolve.

Data Deep Dive

Really understanding members will require digging deeper with ethnographic kinds of research and using that data to better understand how to interact with members, what needs to change, and how to better communicate and deliver benefits that are more responsive to their circumstances. Simple qualitative research and membership surveys are good, and they provide statistically significant data, but it’s not enough.

“You have to go deeper with your members in 2022 and truly understand the ‘why’ behind the ‘what,’” Jacobs said. “Data will drive membership in the future, and that means upping your commitment to collecting, analyzing, and using data as part of your decision-making process.”

A Strategic Membership Plan

Most organizations have a strategic plan, but this year it’s time to develop a strategic membership plan that is flexible enough to accommodate new opportunities or sustain when problems or changes arise. It starts with assessing goals, and then defining the number-one priority and having a deliberate membership strategy focused on achieving that goal—whether it’s membership growth, reach, or revenue. So, when associations are looking at new initiatives and what to do next, it all must tie back to that number-one priority.

Within that, there needs to be an emergent strategy that covers what to do in extenuating circumstances (i.e., a major disruption such as a pandemic) beyond the deliberate strategy. Even if it’s a crisis, it’s looking at new opportunities and making the best decision on what to do based on what you already decided to achieve in the membership strategic plan.

Consensus Kills Innovation

Getting everyone to agree on a new idea is one way to seep all the innovation out of it. And innovation is going to be crucial in how associations grow membership, regain revenue, attract new members, and expand their reach to new audiences.

For example, if one person on the membership team or executive team is on board with an idea and they are willing to do it, then test the new idea. “You do not need consent. You don’t even need two people,” Jacobs said. “As long as one person says they are willing to make it happen, you do it.”

In spite of everything that has happened, Jacobs remains positive. “There is such an urgency for organizations to rethink how they interact, who they interact with, and how they deliver,” she said. “I’m very optimistic that organizations will change, and that will be very good for everyone.”

(DNY59/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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