August 2, 2016

Membership Development Plans 101

Membership Development Plans 101

One of the most inevitable aspects of life is growth. It’s something you do every day without even realizing it. Nothing wants to stay stagnant, and that includes your association. It’s important to continually evolve, grow and improve. For an association to enhance its recruitment and retention efforts, it must understand the rate at which it wants to grow. By creating a membership development plan, associations will understand their growth potential and how they can achieve it. Feel like your association will see a shift in its growth pattern? It may be time to create your development plan sooner than you thought.

Where Do You See Yourself in 10 Years?

Doesn’t everyone love this question? It may seem goofy, but it’s a serious question associations must ask. One of the first things associations must understand is where they want to go. CEOs don’t lead businesses into a one year plan. They have a projected path that they want to follow, normally spanning between 5-10 years. In order to make your membership development strategy, you must understand why you’re making it. Association executives must convene to gather data from their current membership framework. What is your ideal member? How many of these members do you want to have by a certain point? Is there a demographic that you’d like to have more of? Where do you want to be in 7 years? These questions will give you insight into what your organization really wants.

Creating Your Membership Development Plan

You and your staff have determined your projected growth rate. You understand the demographic you want to target and are ready to make it happen. Now what? In order to achieve your goals, you will need to create and implement your membership development plan.

Know Your Audience

Every association has a niche - what is yours? If your goal is to attract new members, shouldn’t you know who to target? One of the first things you must determine is your audience. It wouldn’t make much sense to market your association and its benefits to someone who has zero interest. That wouldn't only be a waste of time, but precious resources. A great way to establish your ideal member base is to create fictional member personas. These members encompass everything you want out of your members. By doing this, you will have a tangible idea as to who you should market to. Think of them as your 5 Star Members.

If your association utilizes an AMS that has strong reporting capabilities, it’s important to analyze member data to understand your current member base.

Be Realistic

Nobody likes to be put under extreme pressure. When an association establishes its growth rate, it must be realistic. It wouldn’t be fair to make your staff try to achieve an unattainable goal. By reverting to membership data and figures, you will be able to make data-driven decisions. If your association is targeting a certain demographic, is there enough of them to reach your goal? If not, you may need to adjust your expectations. Your association shouldn’t set itself up for failure.

Understand Your Value Proposition

There are reasons why members decide to join associations - you will need to figure out why they join yours. What are your association's core values? What are things that people cannot get anywhere else? Associations need to step back and get back to basics: Why are we here? Once you determine your valuable attributes, you will be able to market them accordingly.

Create a Corresponding Marketing Plan

Now that you’ve established your values: Prove them! Your association probably already has a marketing plan in action. However, you will need to adjust it in order to engage prospective members. An excellent way to reach these members is through social media. Almost everyone has some type of social media profile, making it easy for associations to reach them. You have the ability to promote your discounted dues plans, non-member events and relevant content in order to engage prospective and current members. Offer them an incentive - why should they care? Why should they join/renew? It’s not enough to just implement your marketing plan, you will need to measure your results. It wouldn’t make sense to continue to do something that just isn’t working. By analyzing specific measurements, you will be able to track your progress and adjust your efforts.

It all Comes Back to Money

If your association is like most, then budgeting is a major component in your daily functions. If you have a specific membership growth goal, how are you going to achieve it financially? It’s important to designate a portion of the budget to your membership development in order to see improvement. If there is a targeted ROI, how are you going to measure it? Associations must understand that by having hefty membership development goals, it must make it an organizational effort. Without the backing of a budget, many of these efforts will never come into fruition.

There is always room for improvement, and this includes your membership development efforts. If associations create lofty growth goals, they will have to make them attainable. By analyzing your target demographic, and implementing a marketing plan, your goals can be reached.