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3 Strategies to Recruit Members Through Association Software

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When it comes to recruitment for your association, you have to walk a thin line. You need to actively encourage members to join without driving them away by being too pushy.

The trick to striking the right balance? Instead of creating a plan just to promote your program, focus on promoting the value of your program whenever prospective members naturally encounter it.

That is, if your membership program offers incredible value to your members, then any introduction to your program is a natural advertisement!

Prospective members are much more likely to respond positively to a recruitment strategy that feels like a natural part of their interactions with your association than they are with outright marketing strategies that, in today’s media landscape, feel obvious and forceful.

So how can your association put this theory into practice?

Try these strategies, all made possible with the right association management software solution:

  1. Increase exposure to your membership program
  2. Offer online-only membership benefits
  3. Foster a strong online member community

Bonus! Before you read on to the strategies, make sure you check out one of the best membership software providers with Fonteva’s essential guide to membership software.

Ready to recruit a fresh pool of members for your program? Let’s get to it!

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It’s a simple concept: the more chances you provide for potential members to come into contact with your membership program, the more chances they have to decide they want to join.

Getting the maximum benefit from these opportunities for interaction relies on planning them intentionally, taking into account your existing members as well as your prospective members’ wants and needs.

To help your association plan the right introductory experiences for prospective members (that also benefit existing members!), we’re going to focus on two of the most common: online learning opportunities and in-person networking events.

Online education

What could provide more value to your members than chances to advance their education from the comfort of their own homes? Online learning opportunities present obvious value to your current members as well as prospective members you’re aiming to attract.

One of the most popular and effective forms of online education are webinars. If you decide to host webinars, consider the following:

  • Attendance: Some associations encourage membership signups by restricting webinars to members alone, while most open up registration to anyone interested in attending. We recommend leaving registration open until your webinar becomes so popular that requiring membership wouldn’t diminish your attendance numbers.
  • Timing: When are the best times to schedule your webinar? You should consider days of the week and times of the day that attendees are most likely to attend, keeping time zones in mind. Not sure what time would be best? Ask your current members before and after your first webinar!
  • Marketing: How will you encourage prospective members to attend? You likely don’t have their direct contact information yet. To get the news of your webinar out to anyone who might be interested, post the schedule on your website and social media, encourage members to share, or consider posting a notice in an industry publication.
  • Follow-up: Will members who attended receive a special badge or certificate to display on their public member profile? Will you send out the slide deck or performance survey to attendees? Encourage attendance at future webinars by focusing on stewardship immediately after the webinar.

Webinars show prospective members that your association values its members enough to plan special online learning experiences for them. If you emphasize during your webinar that members get other amazing opportunities like these, prospective members have no reason not to join!

In-person events

There’s nothing like an in-person event to connect your association and its members.

Whether you host a cocktail hour, a charity run, or a multi-day conference, you’re giving non-member attendees a number of opportunities to interact with your leadership team as well as current members.

Through these personal interactions (as well as any materials you provide at the event!), prospects will get a sense of how valuable membership in your association truly is!

Keep the following in mind when planning your next event:

  • Attendance: How will you encourage non-members in attendance to join your membership program? We suggest offering members a discount on registration, then showing non-members at checkout how much they could save on their ticket if they had the member discount. Make sure your membership management system can automatically apply the discount to a cart with a registration and a membership!
  • Timing: In-person events are more difficult to schedule than online events, especially if you’re planning a large event that members would need to make significant travel plans to attend. Try saving your big events for once a year and encourage member committees to plan their own smaller events to engage the local member community.
  • Marketing: Non-members might assume that an event hosted by your association is just for members. Show them that’s not the case by emphasizing that anyone is welcome on your website or offering guest passes for members to bring their friends. But during the event, ensure that the other benefits of membership are obvious.
  • Follow-up: Don’t let your attendees return home and forget about your event! Encourage post-event participation by sharing recordings or materials from sessions, email attendees to thank them for attending, and send membership applications to non-members who attended.

The networking connections or educational aspects of in-person events can communicate to your potential members how valuable membership in your association is.

Even aside from the professional value of membership, however, the personal connection of in-person events can convey the personal benefits of membership. We’ll dive more into that topic in the last section of this post!

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Once prospective members have been introduced to your association, it’s time to give them some additional reasons to join. One time-tested way to boost recruitment is through members-only benefits.

Of course, offering any kind of benefits will attract new members to your association, but online-only benefits reinforce engagement where your association needs it — online.

Think about it: much of your association’s operations happen online. Members pay dues, purchase branded merchandise, register for events, and communicate to your team and other members online.

And with a sophisticated, intuitive member interface, your association software solution encourages members to see the online platform as an integral aspect of their membership experience.

Luckily, the right association software makes it easy to offer the most popular online member benefits, such as:

  • Discounts at your online store
  • Invitations to special events
  • Priority registration for events
  • Access to online resources
  • Digital membership cards
  • Customizable online member profiles
  • Membership directory access

These benefits might initially serve as a primary motivating factor to join your program, especially for those who purchase a membership to get a discount on event registration, admission, or online merchandise.

But there is a great, intangible member benefit you can offer prospective members: a strong member community. Read on to learn more!

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If your members feel a strong sense of belonging and allegiance to your association, potential members will be able to tell — and they will want to be part of it. This close feeling of community is the best advertising your association’s membership program could ever hope for.

Especially for large associations with members spread over a wide geographic area, it can be difficult to foster a strong sense of community among your members.

Just because it can be difficult doesn’t mean you should leave community engagement entirely up to your member’s initiative, though. Quite the opposite!

Instead, choose an association management software solution that makes it easy for your association’s membership team to actively promote your member community.

To encourage a healthy membership community, rely on the following features of your membership CRM:

  • Member directory. Your association maintains profiles of your members. Ensure that those profiles are public, that members can update them, and that you publish a searchable member directory for members to discover connections with one another.
  • Member chapters. Empower your members to exert some influence over their local chapters by setting up online communities that they can join to communicate directly with each other, plan local events, and form sub-committees.
  • Automated membership renewal. Don’t let memberships expire without warning! Use your membership management software to automatically send reminders, and check out Doubleknot’s guide to membership renewal letters for help crafting the perfect message.
  • Member communication. Communicate with your members even when you aren’t asking for dues, donations, or RSVPs. Share relevant news from your industry, either from industry publications, popular media outlets, or your own blog in a newsletter.

The right association software will allow your association to establish the infrastructure for a strong member community online and off. While your work isn’t completely done at the setup stage, you present your members with opportunities to take initiative!

When planning your member recruitment strategy, make things easier for yourself by incorporating your association management software solution! We promise it will pay off.


About the Author


Jake Fabbri is the Vice President of Marketing at Fonteva with over 18 years of experience working in marketing management. He has experience with lead generation, content marketing, marketing automation, and events.

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