Having members helping to recruit new members and retain existing members can be a challenge for many associations across a variety of industries and professions. The question “What’s in it for me?”is a fairly frequent (but often unstated) response.

Return on Investment of Association Membership

Members are constantly weighing the return on their investment for membership in your association so communicating that value is incredibly important.

Members have many reasons for joining associations. They may need to belong to an association in order to maintain a designation or certification. They might join for networking with like-minded individuals, to attend conferences, lobby government or just belong as a marketing tool for their business. Understanding the members and the motivation behind them joining is important to ensure you are offering the right services, and hence offering value.

Mission & Vision of Your Association

Many people join associations based on the mission and the vision of an organization. Staying true to the mission & vision can help you articulate your value to members and potential members. You cannot be everything to everyone so you need to understand and focus your attention on those that truly need and value your services. Focus especially on the exclusive services your members have.

Communicating Value

Many people understand value when it is given to them visually. Can you calculate the value of your membership dues in concrete dollar amounts? Can you also come up with short phrases that highlight the value of membership? Examples include events or professional development sessions you host and the value they receive from attending (such as, collecting continuing education points towards satisfying a professional body they belong to), or lobbying on behalf of the profession that they benefit from.

After calculating the value of membership and creating the short phrases to describe it, communicating the value in clear, concise language is very important. Don’t be shy about telling it like it is and make sure your communication methods are tailored to the different class of members you have within your association. Older members might have different reasons for being members than the younger members, so tailor the message in a way that relays the value in each member’s terms.

Evaluation of Value

After you have communicated your member value message, solicit feedback from members on how they perceive the value they receive for theirs dues. One on one conversations, surveys, focus groups and exit interviews can provide you with the information you need to determine if you are offering value to your members or not.

We have an association management client that recently went through a board meeting where all they focused on was membership. They discussed how to maintain, how to grow, how to reach past members and how to articulate the value proposition that they provide to their profession.

It was a valuable exercise with many action items coming out of the meeting; exploring new approaches, new ways of thinking about membership, the value that they provide to members and how to enhance that value. One of the topics discussed related to their competitors and highlighting opportunities that might exist to partner, or how to differentiate themselves from their competitors. It was a very valuable meeting and will likely lead to more discussion and honing of the value proposition for future meetings.

Bottom line for all associations – members are the lifeblood and why you exist. Keep the lines of communication open with members so you are aware of the changes that are going on in your industry and can adapt and stay ahead of those changes as they happen.