7 Tips to Increase Association Membership

Associations will live or die by the success of the membership program

If you’re responsible for acquiring new members, and retaining the existing ones, you may be on the lookout for some new ideas to beef up the program. The tips that follow may be just the boost you need to ensure your program is headed in the right direction.

  1. Back to basics

    Evaluate why members joined initially, and use this as a narrative in your communications. It’s important that you don’t just assume you know the answer to this one. While that may be easier, you could be surprised about the reasons a member originally had for signing up. Interview or survey existing members. If possible, reach out to recent former members and see why they didn’t rejoin. Use an online tool like SurveyMonkey to make this process easier and organized.

  2. Provide a personalized membership card

    In doing this you are telling the member they are part of something bigger, something special. Send the card and be sure to include other useful items in the welcome kit, like discount coupons and membership event reminders. Doing this will remind your member about the benefits to their membership all year long.

  3. Send a thank you gift

    Use the early days of membership as an opportunity to send a branded gift item to provide a constant reminder of your association. Some of my favorites include calendars, clothing and mugs. Each of these has longevity to keep your association brand in front of the member. It costs a little more, but if you personalize it, it will create a significantly higher value.

  4. Start renewing from day one

    It’s really important that a member sees the benefit to membership, and making sure they see why they have joined from day one will create a positive, lasting impression. A last minute message asking a member to renew right before they expire may ring of insincerity. Also, beginning early means you’re less likely to see attrition due to your communication being overlooked or forgotten. Make it really easy to renew. How many times have you been thwarted by a poorly designed checkout? Give your members an easy process.

  5. Provide a ‘members only’ resource website

    New and useful content targeted specifically to your audience, along with content sharing tools where members can really engage with each other, promotes a sense of community. Message boards, job listings, tips from the experts and a marketplace to buy and sell specialized equipment will give your members a real tangible benefit that may otherwise be unavailable. People love to talk about what they know well, provide that forum.

  6. Reach out and connect often and regularly

    With the wealth of tools at our disposal, there’s no excuse. Reach out to your membership on a regular basis. Be clear that it shouldn’t be a one size fits all approach. Mix up the ways you communicate by incorporating email, real old fashioned mail and even the phone to really make your member feel special. If they see the value, and feel valued, they will keep coming back.

  7. Use a Lifetime Membership program

    Send a special direct mail invitation to current annual members asking them to upgrade to a life membership. Offer a loyalty discount to add incentive. Membership retention solved. These types of programs have been reported to do very well (See “The 2016 Membership Marketing Benchmark Report” – Marketing General, pg.26).


Action Plan

Use this sample outreach timetable to get you started, tweak to make it your own.

Within 24 Hours

  • Send a welcome message (Emailed for efficiency, and sent as a real letter for impact, as soon as the member has joined)

At 2 weeks

  • Members are mailed communication announcements for upcoming events
  • Members are mailed a personal invitation from salesperson/retention expert to the next event
  • New member packet is provided
  • Member should receive a welcome letter from CEO/President

At 1 month

  • Member receives letter invitation to log into members only section on website

At 3 months

  • Member receives mailed invitation to encourage attendance at upcoming events

At 4 months

  • Notification of membership orientation mailed (Orientation can be used to showcase benefit of membership, your website, and to make staff introductions)

At 6 months

  • Member receives reminder email and letter to log into members only section on website to verify profile info and review referral report

At 8 months

  • Mail to member (retention) to thank for membership

At 10 months

  • Member receives renewal letter and membership dues invoice (in 10th month)
  • Letter points out achievements of association and future plans that will help members
  • Use communication to encourage continued support, offer special for 2nd year membership

At 11 months

  • If you didn’t get a renewal, ask again. Send a followup renewal letter.

After 1 year

  • Following a renewal – “Thank you” letter
  • Can include complimentary materials (marketing booklet/expo tickets/early bird event discounts)

INTEGRAM will help you reach your goals and move your acquisition and retention program into the green. We help improve awareness, drive recruitment and engagement, create interdependence and promote higher renewals. Plan a constant, consistent engagement with INTEGRAM – the solution you need.

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