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So, why join?

Why should a member join your organization? Regardless of size, geographic scope, or industry, the answer is almost always the same: “Our association offers exclusive, members-only benefits including advocacy, a journal or magazine, discounts on publications and education, resources to keep you up to date, leadership opportunities, networking, and career assistance.”

But how many of these benefits are truly unique, exclusive, and—most important—relevant and valuable? Members join for different reasons. Some join to obtain relevant and timely information. Some join for career advancement. Some join for purely transactional reasons. What benefits do you offer to these different varieties of members—the information seekers, networkers, rising stars, social members, mission members, transactional members, and lifelong learners? The issue for most organizations is answering the question why. Why join? Why renew?

Part of the answer lies in understanding the fundamental difference between benefits that are important and benefits that are the primary drivers of membership.  Understanding the specific value of your benefits—in other words, whether they are low, medium, or high drivers of membership—is only part of the story. You need to also know the next best alternative. Are your benefits scarce or widely available elsewhere? If there are a limited number of alternatives—or none—the value may be higher and you can charge more for them.

Even in the face of these changes, I believe membership is alive and well. Like storytelling, membership is an art. You’ve got to skillfully recruit members who will remain members throughout their careers. And during those careers, you’ve got to successfully provide for them exactly what they need, when they need it. When you accomplish this, they will tell your organization’s story to their colleagues and peers.

Excerpted from Magnetic Membership: Create a Stronger Draw for your Association (Associations Now July/August 2014) by Sheri Jacobs, FASAE, CAE