One of our national association clients recently had a member night in the city where its board of directors was having a meeting. All members from that city and surrounding areas were invited to attend. This is standard practice for this association as meetings move from one coast to the next. When looking at the bill for the night, I couldn’t help but reflect on whether or not the event was worth the financial investment. I asked myself, what benefits does an association receive when hosting a member night?

What Is a Member Night?

A member night is a social event, generally in an informal setting, that members from a specific geographic location are invited to attend. The structure of the night can vary, however there is generally a food and beverage component and a format that encourages conversation and networking. Some member nights may incorporate games or competitions but the format will ultimately depend on the type of members that will be in attendance. In our case, we rented a private area in a lounge, served some appetizers and had musical entertainment.

Benefits to the Member

The benefits of hosting a member night are twofold: there are the benefits to the member from a personal perspective and there are benefits that can affect the association or profession as a whole.

The members benefit by familiarizing themselves with other local members as well as members of the board and/or members of the association management company (AMC). This allows the member to grow their network and realize the wealth of resources available to them. The member will be more comfortable reaching out to other local or national members from a collaboration standpoint or with any questions that they may have. There is power in numbers and by establishing a sense of community within a professional association, members are more likely to work together towards common goals.

Benefits to the Association

The benefits of a member night to an association may not be quite as obvious as the benefits to the individual member, however they may be greater. The first benefit is simply in terms of awareness. Members should know who their board of directors is and what they are doing for them. This allows for greater idea sharing and feedback from the membership. Chances are members are more likely to get involved in a board initiative if they can put a face to the name that is making the request.

A member night is also an extremely effective means of gaining member feedback in an informal setting. Sometimes a conversation over an adult beverage can reveal more important information than a member-wide survey. One of the main goals for a board is to achieve the association vision and mission statements. These statements summarize the membership’s shared values and a few face-to-face conversations with members can help highlight whether these statements are still current or whether the association, profession, or members might be moving in different directions.

One last benefit that can be realized during a member night is the possibility of recruiting volunteers. Associations are always looking for members to sit on various planning committees or boards. A member night is a great opportunity to meet members who are excited to get involved but don’t necessarily know how or don’t know what opportunities may exist. An informal conversation may be a great way to present volunteer opportunities to members without them feeling like they have to commit right then and there.

Overall, a member night will need to be tailored to the membership type and the format of the evening will be based on member taste and preference. Regardless of the style, the benefits realized by both the member and the association make the cost a worthwhile investment. Members gain a greater sense of community and expand their network while the association increases awareness, gains valuable feedback and has an opportunity for recruitment. Not bad for a night of socializing!