As an association, your goal is to provide resources and opportunities for your members. Your members are the reason for everything you do, the heart and soul of your organization. They rely on you for resources, and you rely on them for a consistent revenue stream. That means much of your focus as an association has to be centered around managing members effectively and increasing and maintaining the network of members you’re connected with.
As you do this, it will also be important to work on enhancing member involvement. By building professional relationships between members, producing more resources for them, and providing opportunities such as conferences, events, and continuing education, your association will be strengthened.
But that first step of recruiting new members and getting members to renew their memberships can be tricky. In this post, we’ll walk you through five tips you can follow to increase membership registration:
- Provide great membership perks
- Make your association’s website easy to use
- Reach out to existing members’ networks
- Plan an event specifically marketed to prospective members
- Strategize to retain members
As you follow these tips, you’ll be able to find and connect with new people and hang on to current members. They’ll benefit from your association and be a valuable part of your professional circle, strengthening the mutually beneficial relationship between association and members.
1. Provide great membership perks
One of the best ways to attract new members to your association is to assess (and improve, if needed) the perks you offer. In other words, ask yourself, “What are my members getting out of their membership?”
If the resources and opportunities you’re offering are worth the cost of membership dues, prospective members will see it’s a no-brainer to join your association and current members will want to renew. But what are alumni or professionals looking for when considering membership in your association?
Here are some of the most sought-after resources that associations can provide:
- Conferences: Conferences are a great way for professionals to connect and learn. Attract people to an association membership by offering discounted conference registration or access to exclusive events or conference materials. You can even host your conference virtually.
- Member Events: Harness the power of exclusivity by offering special events that are available to members only. People will be motivated to register for a membership if a great speaker or entertainer is participating.
- Re-certification/Continuing education courses: Many professionals have to stay on top of their certifications or simply want to pursue more education in their field. Fill these needs by offering courses that are either member-only or discounted after the cost of membership registration. Remember that busy professionals need a convenient way to fit education into their schedules, so consider offering courses online.
- Job Boards: Many people join associations just for the access to a larger community. And one of the benefits of belonging to a community is that you can rely on it for helping you find opportunities. Create a job board on your association’s website. Job seekers and employers will be able to turn to it as a resource to find the right people or opportunities they want.
- Network Directories: Again, community is key. Offer a members-only directory so members can connect with each other, strengthening their professional connections and ties to the association.
- Insurance Offerings: Some associations offer group insurance policies. A benefit like this can be especially attractive if your members are primarily self-employed.
Remember, you know your association best. As you’re looking for ways to draw in more members, consider what your specific community wants from you and then work to offer those resources as benefits of membership.
2. Make your association’s website easy to use
Your website is key to how you gain and retain your members. In their day-to-day lives, members old and new will rely on your association’s website to pay dues, connect with each other, and get information about the opportunities you’re offering.
If your website is difficult to navigate, members will be less inclined to visit it often (or to follow through with dues payments). So what can you do to optimize your site?
Morweb’s roundup of website best practices suggests you try the following:
- Keep your branding consistent. Make sure any fonts, logos, or colors you use on marketing materials for conferences and events are the same that you use on your website. The consistency makes you easy to find and trust, and helps your association appear organized.
- Make sure your site loads quickly. Reduce the number of redirects your site requires and remove any unused code that might be slowing your site down. The last thing you want is for members or prospective members to get frustrated with how long your site takes to load and then decide to leave.
- Optimize your site for every device. Whether they’re using a tablet, computer, or mobile phone, users should have a positive, streamlined experience with your website and be able to get the information they need.
These ideas for website optimization focus on the online experience members and prospective members have on their end. But you’ll also need to be mindful of the association management software (AMS) you’re using to manage your members.
According to Fonteva’s overview of AMS systems, the AMS you choose should help you to gather and organize information about your members. When considering different options for your AMS, you should look for a system that can provide the following features:
- Membership management
- Member portal
- Event management
- Financial management
- Communication management
- Reporting tools
Using the right software on our end will set you up with the right tools to manage your members and stay organized. Then you’ll be able to focus on recruiting and retention.
3. Reach out to existing members’ networks
When it comes to finding new members, it can be hard to know where to start. But your existing members often have connections to more professionals or alumni who aren’t part of your association.
By using your members’ connections, you can gain access to people you haven’t been able to find on your own. Plus, relying on members for recruitment suggestions is a great way to get them involved. You can even incentivize your members to refer their colleagues or friends by gamifying the process and offering prizes or extra member perks, like swag or free tickets to an upcoming event.
There’s another benefit to tapping into your existing members’ networks. New recruits will be more likely to register for a membership because a person they know and trust is already part of the association.
4. Plan an event specifically marketed to prospective members
Sometimes people want to join an association but are reluctant to do so because they aren’t sure about how they can “break in” to the community they want to be a part of. It’s your job as an association to make your organization feel accessible to newcomers.
One great way to come across as welcoming to new members is to host an event specifically for prospective members. So much of what associations do targets existing members—and rightly so—but it’s a good idea to go out of your way to connect with new people.
Whether you host a virtual or hybrid information session or a lecture with a great keynote speaker, you’ll want to be mindful of how you market your chosen event.
Try the following strategies:
- Make college students your target audience. By doing so, professional associations will be able to connect with students that are incoming professionals in their field. And alumni associations can tap into school loyalty to get students registered for their alumni association before they leave school and forget to follow through with joining.
- Advertise the event on social media. Social media will help you reach younger prospective members you might not find otherwise. Plus, existing members can share the event details with their friends, tapping into their own social networks like we mentioned above.
- Ensure event registration is easy. If someone is on the fence about registering for a membership with your association and wants to attend the event to learn more, you want to make sure they follow through with attending the event. Make it easy for them to register for the event online and it’ll be more likely that they show the day of.
- Hold off on pushing for association membership until the actual event. To avoid coming on too strong, wait until your attendees are at the event to begin talking about membership and dues. Give them a chance to get to know the association and the perks you offer at the event, and then provide them with information on how to get registered. This will make the process of joining your association less overwhelming.
As you work on planning an event specifically for prospective members, focus on what they need to know to be convinced that it’s worth their while to be part of your association. This will guide you as you plan the event.
5. Strategize to retain members
Once you’re consistently recruiting new members, you’ll need to shift your focus to retaining your members, because you want to hold on to new members and get existing members to renew their memberships with you when the time comes.
To do this, you can use your association membership management software. For example, if you want to get members participating in an event focused on renewing memberships, use your AMS to streamline the process of hosting that event. Combine membership renewal and ticket purchasing together online, and use your software to store attendees’ contact information so you can follow up with anyone who might not have had the chance to renew their membership during event registration.
You can also streamline the process of paying dues online with an easy-to-use payment form. The easier it is to pay dues, the more likely members are to continue paying them.
On top of streamlining your online processes for payments and registration, you’ll want to offer ways for members to take on more responsibility in the association. For example, you might get members involved in leading and running committees within their local chapters. While attending conferences and taking courses is an important part of being in an association, taking ownership in the organization by being in a leadership position is also a great way to make members feel like they’re needed long-term.
As an association, you care about making sure your members are engaged and connected to each other. When you strategize to recruit and retain members, you can grow your association and connect people to opportunities that will benefit them in their professional circles.