Association members usually fall into two categories: mandatory and voluntary membership. While mandatory associations typically support regulated professions, voluntary associations can be a community of like-minded industry professionals, general enthusiasts, or businesses whose combined dedication allows the organization to exist.

Membership recruitment comes into play for voluntary associations since members can come and go as they see fit. As a member of the public, joining a voluntary association will be based on the attractiveness of the association. From member benefits and cost of membership to how your website and social media are presented, potential members will consider everything when contemplating membership. The job of presenting your association as an appealing and worthwhile membership to hold is a challenge all voluntary associations will face. Member recruitment can be fun and successful through personal touches, marketing, and tangible benefits!

Member Recruitment Package

Voluntary associations should either have a recruitment package or a webpage so that the staff, the board, and members can point out prospective members. This marketing piece is integral to grabbing the attention of the public. Be sure that your recruitment materials include a brief explanation of all,

  • member benefits, supplier/partner connections,
  • discounted rates,
  • education/webinars,
  • exclusive events – anything unique to the association,
  • membership cost and terms, and
  • a rundown of the purpose and goals of the association.

Depending on the context, potential recruits may also be interested in seeing the board of directors, association staff, and a membership list. Consider featuring member testimonials attesting to the association to create even more appeal.

Put it to use!

Creating and possessing an incredible recruitment piece is one thing, but the real work comes in by making it work for your association. Membership recruitment is a shared responsibility for association staff, volunteer board, or committee members. All parties are ultimately responsible and accountable for the success or downfall of the association; therefore, everyone is expected to contribute to the recruitment process. The more people you have advocating for the association across the target market, the more likely they will hear about it and the higher the chances they will consider joining.

With voluntary associations, members can apply to join at any time of the year, meaning that recruitment never stops and should always be in the back of the board and association volunteers’ minds. You never know when striking up a conversation with someone new could lead to a new member!

Make it Personal

Board members (and if your association has one recruitment committee) are familiar with their association’s benefits and perks. Still, it is crucial for board members to fully embrace the recruitment process if membership growth is a goal of the association. Board members are encouraged to not only send potential members in the right direction but also to add the personal touch that people crave. When encountering someone who seems interested in joining as a member,

  • Share stories of events, your experiences dealing with staff,
  • How you like to engage (webinars, in-person hangouts, community forums) – anything someone would not get from simply reading recruitment material could be the extra push required for them to join.


Another common form of recruitment is a physical presentation. By presenting an oral pitch, potential members put a face to the name of the association, they get to ask questions, and they get a great feel for the association. Even better, a great way to engage current members is to recruit them to recruit others (what?!)! Eager and dedicated members will advocate for and encourage like-minded people to join the association and probably even do it as unpaid volunteers. Provide the volunteers with a general spiel and a PowerPoint presentation. They should equip themselves with the tools to deal with the FAQs. It is an excellent face-to-face connection and can certainly convert some prospective members into association members.

Know Your Target Member

Take this article with a grain of salt; all voluntary associations are different, and they all will have different recruitment strategies, mediums, and styles. Another key to recruitment is knowing your demographic and who you are targeting to join your association. Digital recruitment strategies like geotargeting, search engine marketing or promoted social posts might work for some, while old-school printed ads in a longstanding journal may work for others. These mediums will ultimately point back to your recruitment materials. Whichever the public finds in your association, always utilize your board, your volunteers, and your association staff to promote and showcase your association’s benefits; you will undoubtedly see progress!

Read more about Association Membership in my colleague’s article here: