In the association management profession in Canada, we are now learning to adapt to the new normal and bring back business procedures that we used pre-pandemic.

One of the hot topics that was on the back burner for many association leaders was membership recruitment. There was so much uncertainty of what associations could offer members during and after the pandemic. Associations had to re-focus and leave new member recruitment off the table. Associations had many questions regarding the feasibility of resuming in-person events that provide education and networking.

Association leaders know the importance of adapting to the needs of members. As a result, associations are bringing back variations of member benefits pre-pandemic. Now is the time to re-format your membership recruitment plan… and begin focusing on growing your association.

What should you be considering in your association recruitment plan?

Consider what your association offers to its members. What do members find value in by belonging to your association? What would they like to see offered in the future? Create two-way dialogue opportunities between the association leadership and its members. The following tools can help you achieve this.

  • Membership Surveys
    • Sent to all members with the same questions
  • Creation of focus groups
    • Based on the survey results, create a focus group of members who provided diverse or contrary results in the survey
  • One on one interviews
    • Speak to members and allow them to speak to you about what they find is a benefit to belonging to the association and what they’d like to see in the future.

See one of my past articles here on research in association management.

How can I apply this research into your association recruitment plan?

Membership research is only helpful if you apply it to your recruitment plan. Take the information you learned in your research and create a plan. A plan with strategic direction behind it will provide the most success. Read my article here on creating new services for your association. Regardless of whether you create a new service, you need to market your association outside of your current membership and reach a broader community.

How to promote your association outside your membership base?

  • Create a referral program
    • Your association members are your biggest resource. Create a referral program for members to recruit new members from their professional contacts.
  • Offer complimentary memberships
    • While offering complimentary memberships often discredits your association and can upset current members, you can offer complimentary memberships to specific groups. For example, you can offer this to students in the profession, or new professionals in the association. Often, you can create a mentorship program to enhance this and create opportunities for turning these complimentary members into long-term paying members.
  • Invite non-members to accredited education sessions
    • Quite often, associations offer accredited education specifically to their membership. Expand the attendance base and invite non-members. This will provide an opportunity for these potential members to meet current association members, witness the operations of the association, and learn more about the association.
  • Speak to potential members
    • Association leaders should be taking the time to speak to professionals in the community about the association and encourage them to seek out the benefits of belonging. The association leaders should be researching the benefits that each potential member may have – and highlight these in the meeting.
  • Create a social event and invite members and potential members
    • Society is starting to become comfortable with attending social events again. Create a social event and invite members and non-members to reunite and experience the valuable networking that existed pre-pandemic.

Remember that as you create your membership recruitment strategy and promotion plan, you must set reasonable and measurable goals. Realize that we are still in a pandemic, and professional spending is limited and individual needs have changed. While some people may be looking for more professional development opportunities, others may be looking for networking events. Try to broaden your offerings to meet the needs of your potential members.

And remember, recruiting the members is the easy part… the challenge is retention!

For more information on planning a membership renewal campaign, read my colleagues article here.