Five Ways to Increase Membership in an Organization

Offer your members cost-saving benefits like group purchasing programs and discounted educational opportunities, and you'll likely not only grow your membership ranks but also your association's bottom line with additional non-dues revenue.

As an association leader, you want your members to get the most value out of their dues money, whether that's through preferred supplier programs, continuing education opportunities, or networking events. But all of those benefits fall on deaf ears if your association can't grow and sustain its membership. "Membership is everything, and everything is membership," says Michael Connor, membership director at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Growing membership starts with the right messaging, and no message perks up people's ears like the chance to save money. Here's how to offer more value to association members, ultimately driving association membership higher than ever and bringing in non-dues revenue to boot.

Score Deals for Them

The first thing your association needs to attract members is a formidable discount or affinity program. And don't just think about industry-specific routes to savings. The Public Relations Society of America offers members deals on everything from homeowner's insurance to UPS printing services to NewsCactus software services.If your association's roster boasts thousands of members already, then leverage that membership size when negotiating deals with suppliers. Or, partner with an outside group purchasing organization that has already negotiated pricing. The Healthcare Supply Chain Association, for instance, offers member hospitals and nursing homes 10 to 15 percent off of their purchasing costs, leading to total member savings of $33 billion per year. If you can offer members 15 percent savings on all supply costs, you'll have scores of prospective members knocking on your doors.

Run the Numbers So They Don't Have To

Once you've done the legwork of finding discounts for your members, it's time to get the word out. One great strategy is to make clear that membership pays for itself. In your brochures and promotional materials, include a real-world story about one of your members who leveraged your association's cost-saving strategies to save more than the cost of his membership. If your discount programs can save members just 10 percent on their supply costs, then you shouldn't have a problem finding someone whose membership saved them hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

Assemble three to five membership testimonials to post to your website. The first thing prospective members are likely to do is visit your website, so be sure the testimonials are visible and glowing. The American Sociological Association's member testimonials highlight the association's professional development, networking, and member-savings opportunities.

Provide Educational Opportunities

This is a "soft" way to save members money, as professional development improves on-the-job productivity and thus company profitability. It's an effective recruitment strategy because prospective members want to know they're getting something out of your association that they can't get anywhere else. In many cases, education is an irresistible and invaluable offering, as it helps further their careers. As a bonus, conferences and training sessions double as valuable networking opportunities, and registration fees generate non-dues revenue for your organization. The Irrigation Association offers members more than 25 courses and 20 reference manuals designed by experts in agriculture, landscaping, golf, and business. Courses can be taken online or in person and teach members about topics from bidding on landscape irrigation systems to electrical troubleshooting for golf courses.

Reel In Members With Social Media

Exercising your social listening skills via social media can help you understand what your members want. Use it to conduct straw polls: What new discounts do members want to see? Which hot topics in your industry warrant educational seminars? Do members want more networking events? By giving members more of what they want, you can boost your association's perceived value among current members—and reach new members whose connections are interacting with your association. Social media also allows you to spotlight current members. If a member consents, play up the fact that your discount program just saved them $650 on supply costs. Use it to give shoutouts to members who recruit new members, spread the word about networking opportunities, and welcome new members.

Offer Marketing Assistance

If there is one thing every business leader wants, it's to benefit his bottom line. So, as the cherry on top of your other benefits, offer members a free boost to their marketing programs. Leisure Travel Alliance offers its members direct-to-consumer marketing services at no extra charge. When members provide LTA with their customer data, LTA does the research to format and enhance those customer profiles. It's willing to help members without a customer database produce one, and it manages design, production, and distribution of all agency-specific marketing materials. LTA even pays for the postage. Provide discount programs, training, and industry-leading information, and your association will always be a step ahead of the pack. Your member benefits program will not only provide stability with member retention, but it will also sway ambivalent members to joining your ranks. They just need to understand what the benefits are.

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