When it comes to member recruitment, chapter intentions are good, but execution? Not so much. After all, chapter volunteers aren’t membership professionals. Even the staff members at chapters and affiliates don’t always have the best resources and expertise to recruit members.
At the Association Component Exchange (CEX) last fall, one of our table discussions was about helping components grow their membership. We brought back these ideas for member recruitment resources and strategies.
Provide a member recruitment toolkit
Don’t wait for components to create their own membership marketing resources. Give them the resources they need—chances are, yours will be much better. As a bonus, chapters and affiliates are more likely to stick to your messaging and branding if they rely on your materials.
Your member recruitment toolkit could include:
- Membership marketing collateral: The Association for Corporate Growth provides membership marketing videos, PowerPoints, brochures, and branding guidelines to their chapters.
- Email templates: Sample copy for following up with the first-time event attendees (like this template from ARMA International ), making email “cold calls,” and following up email introductions.
- Sample marketing copy for the chapter’s membership page: For their chapters, the Risk Management Association has a list of benefits targeted at different market segments.
- Social media marketing resources: The Association for Vascular Access provides a tip sheet on creating a chapter Facebook page.
Help chapters meet the expectations of young members
If chapter leaders don’t involve young members in discussions about membership, marketing, and programming, they end up relying on their own assumptions about the needs and preferences of younger members and prospects.
Advise chapters to recruit young members for board and committee positions so they’re at the planning table. Listening to younger voices helps chapters:
- Design events and programs that appeal to young professionals.
- Collect testimonials from young members about the impact of membership on their career.
- Avoid relying on old tools to reach new audiences.
Many chapters have a Young Professionals committee that plan events for their peers, for example, roundtables on topics of interest to early-career members and prospects, or community service projects.
Young professionals can’t always afford membership. Many are burdened by student loan debt or don’t have the financial support of an employer. To make it easier for young members to budget for dues payments, your association and chapters could consider testing a Young Professionals membership tier with lower dues, or offering monthly automated dues payments.
Review the pros and cons of member recruitment incentives
Here’s a sampling of the suggestions and cautionary tales we heard at CEX about member recruitment incentives.
First, a proven idea: When a chapter recruits more members, consider giving them a higher rebate percentage rate.
And, another good one: Reward member recruiters with Amazon gift cards. One association learned that younger members preferred Amazon gift cards because they can use them however they wish. After making this switch, they saw a 25 to 30 percent increase in recruiter engagement.
Now, some issues to consider…
Providing a free month or two of membership as an incentive doesn’t always work. If an employer pays the dues, those free months may not make a difference to the prospect.
Words of warning were also raised about packaging membership with conference registration. Most associations see a lower retention rate for new members who join in this way unless they make a concerted effort to nurture them throughout their first year.
Build Recruitment Momentum
Membership drives are a great way to build recruitment momentum and a competitive spirit between chapters but they come with their own challenges. Members can get a little over eager during drives. Remind them to focus only on qualified leads. They shouldn’t spend time trying to get just anyone to join. Membership has to be a good fit for the prospect and the chapter.
New Member Onboarding
Chapters and affiliates also must be able to handle the onboarding of a large group of new members who join during a drive. Don’t encourage membership drives unless both National and its components have set up sustainable processes for onboarding.
Stay tuned for more ways you can help your components with member recruitment. The next posts in this series focus on digital resources and member recruitment training you can provide to chapters and affiliates.