Attracting More Association Members: A Q&A

March 31, 2020
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An association’s success is dependent on how happy and fulfilled its members are. The more meaningful experiences and learning opportunities your association offers, the more likely you can get membership renewals and even attract new members.

Though member retention is crucial to keeping your association on track, you shouldn’t stop your member acquisition efforts. To truly compete with other options available to prospective members, you need to provide an experience that outweighs the cost you charge to get in the door. 

With a solid foundation of association management tools to help you execute your efforts and a mission that you (and your members) genuinely care about, there’s no reason for you not to attract new members. 

Before formulating your member acquisition strategies, it’s always a good idea to do some research. Read on to answer your most frequently asked questions:

  • Where can I find potential members?
  • How can I make a good first impression?
  • What kind of opportunities do association members want?
  • How do I engage my members online?
  • What are the best ways to elevate an event?

Managing an association is more than just hosting an event every now and then. Genuinely engage your members and provide experiences they’ll never forget. This way, you can attract more association members. Let’s begin!

Where can I find potential members?

A question that association management professionals continue to ask themselves is: Where can I find potential members? 

Many people join associations to meet others with common interests and collaborate or grow, often in a specific industry or field. Whether your association is made up of education leaders or marketing professionals, increasing your membership strengthens your association as a whole. No one wants to join an association if there’s no one else to “associate” with.

Because most associations are specialized, it makes sense that your members will have certain  commonalities between them. One of the best ways to find prospective members is to take a look at your current member data, note any patterns or similarities, and apply those insights to your outreach efforts.

You should be collecting data from your member profiles, event attendance, and even eLearning opportunities— all of this should be centrally located in your association management system. If you want to avoid a lengthy data integration process, your best bet is to invest in a comprehensive association management software with all these capabilities built into a single platform. Furthermore, optimize your association management database with good data hygiene practices to ensure that all of your data is accurate and there are no duplicates!

The best association management system will also have robust reporting features, streamlining data from all of your tools. You should be able to easily customize your reports to figure out:

  • Where your members are located
  • The age range of your members
  • How most of your members found your association
  • Which events they liked the most
  • Which social media platforms your members most active on

Once you get a sense of who your current members are from real data, you can better determine how to find new ones. For instance, if you notice your members are active on Twitter, put more effort into building that online engagement.

How can I make a good first impression?

Once you figure out where your prospective members are most active and apply that to your outreach strategy, you still need to make an impactful first impression.

It’s likely that as soon as someone hears about your association, the first thing they will do is search the name online. That’s why it’s so important to take a look at your online presence and determine you’re doing all you can to optimize the user experience.

Your organization’s website should be easy to find and accessible on all devices. Many people are doing the majority of Google searches from their smartphones, so it’s important to ensure it’s mobile-optimized. 

Ultimately, your website should be extending the association experience and anticipating all website visitor’s needs. For instance, make sure you have these features:

  • General association information like a brief history and your main mission.
  • A FAQ page for those who want quick answers.
  • Member testimonials so users can get a sense of membership life.
  • Guidelines and requirements for those who are thinking of joining.
  • Contact information for further engagement.
  • Event calendar to showcase any upcoming opportunities.
  • Access to a member portal so members can start engaging as soon as they join.

If a prospective member is perusing your website, ensure you have these elements in order to showcase why your association is worth joining. Your website is your first impression and you should do all you can to turn a curious visitor into an official member. Based on Morweb’s top website builders, it’s important to invest in a website builder that is made for associations.

What kind of opportunities do association members want?

The reason members continue to stay with your association is because the experiences and opportunities you offer outweigh the price of their dues. So that raises the question: what kind of opportunities do modern association members want?

The most popular way for associations to engage their members is through live events. Whether it’s a conference with multiple vendors or an event hosting a professional speaker, your association should provide these types of experiences for your members. After all, most members join to connect with others like them!

However, you can only host so many live events in a year to keep members consistently engaged. It costs a lot of resources and time to plan these types of experiences.

Consider offering these additional opportunities:

  • eLearning experiences. Many people join associations to further their education and advance in their field. Invest in a capable Learning Management System and create courses that are relevant to your industry! This way, members can gain official accreditations.
  • Online discussion forum. Make sure that you’re giving your members a place to engage, even when not in person. With an online discussion forum or message board, members can discuss current issues and relevant topics with each other whenever they want!
  • Options to join committees. Once people join your association, many members want to expand their role within the organization. Create committees within your association for highly-involved members who want to be involved in more initiatives, such as planning fundraisers or lead training.

The more opportunities you provide, the more satisfied and genuinely fulfilled your members will feel. Build a reputation for providing unique and meaningful experiences, and prospects will flock to your association.

How do I engage my members online?

With the growing accessibility of the online world, limiting your association’s opportunities to in-person occasions will turn away potential members. You also need to develop your online community!

Association members want a careful balance of their needs being anticipated and the independence to control their own experience. To grow and cultivate an online community, provide your members with tools and let them use it how they want. For instance, ensure your members are equipped with:

  • Online member portal. From your association website, let members access an online member portal. This is where they can meet other members and find useful resources like the member directory and discussion forums.
  • Navigable member directory. Allow your members to become familiar with each other with a member directory. Each member can have their own profile and edit it as they please. That means if a member moves addresses or gains an official accreditation in their field, they can self-edit their profile to reflect that to the rest of their peers. 

Don’t forget about keeping up your communication! This means sending emails regarding upcoming events, new learning courses, and even just minor changes to the association. If you’ve recently hit a milestone of 10,000 association members, send out an email blast!

It’s important to have ample communication between association and members. This way, they feel like they’re a part of a real community and can invest themselves in its progress. For more engagement ideas and tips, check out Fonteva’s article.

What are the best ways to elevate an event?

While your association should offer digital experiences to promote online engagement, you should still be brainstorming ways to make your in-person events better. 

Events, especially when open to non-members, are some of the best ways to attract prospective members. It showcases what your association is capable of, and showcases your mission to an audience of people who are most likely to be genuinely interested.

Take advantage of modern digital solutions! With your association management system, there are ways to streamline the entire registration process, boost attendance, and even further engagements. If you want to do a little research on different event software solutions, this article is a great read.

There are several ways you can leverage your tools to make the entire event experience better, from signing up to checking out. Consider the following scenarios:

  • The registration form is too long and the potential registrant closes the window without further research. Make sure you can customize your own online event registration. This way, you can ensure that you only ask the most important questions and don’t waste people’s time. 
  • The event includes multiple panels and your attendee misses the one speaker they wanted to see because they were lost or didn’t know it was happening. Before the event starts, let your attendees build their own agenda. They can reference this agenda during the event, ensuring they don’t miss a thing!
  • An attendee wants additional information on the event and is unsure who to ask. Provide your attendees with a mobile event app where they can grab general event details and stay updated on all recent announcements or changes. They can also easily contact a staff member if they need help or interact with each other on the app message board!

Hosting an event is already a big feat for many associations, and provides an incredible resource of opportunities and excitement for members. Spread this positivity to non-members and show them why your association is worth joining.

Don’t worry if your member rates are starting to fall! As an association, attracting new members will be a continuous task. Just ensure that you’re keeping your current members’ needs in mind and providing experiences they’re excited about. Good luck!

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