How successful is your professional association in recruiting, mentoring and retaining membership?
Today, I attended a breakfast meeting for a professional association. We discussed how very effective this particular professional association has been over the years in making themselves relevant and accessible to both new and old members.
That’s significant news these days.
The majority of professional associations with whom I’ve either worked or have been a member / board member, are struggling to retain membership beyond Year One.
Here are 3 tips to keep top of mind as you and your Board chew on what it will take to grow and retain your professional association’s membership over the next five years. Ask yourselves:
Tip 1 – Do you make your members feel welcome?
If you are an old boy or old girl in your professional association, everyone knows who you are and greets you. If you are the new kid on the block, meetings can be deadly. If your organization has no mentorship program, create one. If you are an Officer or Chapter President, and you don’t make it a policy to meet, greet and mentor new members, shame on you. In one association of which I am no longer a member, I constantly got the eyeball once-over from the President with the clear message: “Who the heck are you and what the heck are you doing at my meeting?” With that type of exclusive and elitist attitude, would you want to return for the next meeting?
Tip 2 – Is your organization offering age and gender-appropriate perks for membership engagement?
What’s the average age of your association’s Board members compared with the average age of new member recruits? Unlike the “old days”, these days employees are paying for their own professional memberships. New members are wondering “What’s really in this for me?” in terms of ROI on their membership dues. Make sure your internal perception of ROI of membership is aligned with that of your new members. The $500 in vendor discounts they receive as a benefit of membership may not float their boats the way it does for older members. Younger members may not be interested in annual golf outings or family picnics. Are you in-touch or out-of-touch with your recruits?
Tip 3 – How effectively do you leverage your social media presence in new membership engagement?
Many professional organizations have LinkedIn Discussion Forums, managed by an internal employee. As Board Members, are you really minding the store? What’s the level of engagement from your younger members, who are consummately engaged on other social media platforms? A LinkedIn professional Discussion Forum should be your organization’s place to shine. Yet in many of these groups, conversation flow is dominated and squashed by retired members who talk about “back in the old days” and put down anyone else’s ideas. You know who these people are because they do the same thing to younger, newer members at local and regional meetings. Go back to Tip 1. Who is going to want to dip their toe into that Discussion Forum, knowing there are naysayers lurking in the background?
Make sure you and your Board members aren’t continuing to drink your own Kool-Aid®. Evaluate your own performance by using the same criteria your new recruits employ when weighing your professional association’s value and relevance to their engagement, interest, time and investment.
While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.
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