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A universal membership model.

If there is one activity common to all associations, it is recruiting and retaining members. A task force of 21 association and business executives--brought together by Public Communications Inc., Chicago collaborated over six months to determine universal principles of membership recruitment and retention. Members of the task force were asked to participate because they had published articles on membership recruitment and retention or had been recognized for their organization's membership programs. For example, some were past winners of ASAE Awards of Excellence. The result of the task force: a model, or checklist, you can use as a framework for recruiting or retaining members. The task force's work product, first presented at a workshop sponsored by the Public Relations Society of America, New York City, follows.

Step 1: Analyze the market.

Determine

* the universe of people eligible for membership;

* the categories of people within the universe of potential members;

* the location of these people;

* the needs, concerns, and issues of these people;

* the benefits they expect;

* the financial and time commitment they are willing to make;

* the process by which they decide to join an association;

* the entity that pays for their membership;

* the entity that approves their decisions about membership;

* the noncompeting organizations-- certification boards, licensing authorities, and government agencies--that influence or control their decisions about membership;

* the time period during which they would be most receptive to recruitment;

* the obstacles or barriers to membership; and

* how potential members can be addressed individually and in groups.

Step 2: Analyze the competition.

Determine

* competing associations;

* their member benefits--products, services, and programs--and the effectiveness of those benefits;

* their image within the marketplace;

* their member recruitment and retention methods;

* their rates of membership renewal and turnover;

* the benefits they don't offer; and

* the commitment--in dollars and time--they ask of members.

Step 3: Analyze your association.

Determine

* the mission and goals of your association;

* the effectiveness of your association in fulfilling its mission and attaining its goals;

* how your association wants to be perceived by members and potential members;

* how your association is actually perceived;

* your association's current market share or penetration;

* your association's retention and turnover rate;

* the benefits members value most and least;

* the additional member benefits your association provides;

* your association's resources--money, personnel, materials, authority, and time--for providing additional member benefits;

* other member benefits your organization is capable of providing but currently doesn't offer;

* the extent to which members take advantage of your association's benefits and services;

* reasons members don't renew their memberships;

* the commitment of association staff and volunteer leaders to serve member interests; and

* the commitment of staff to serve member needs.

Step. 4: Establish membership goals.

Determine

* the people you want as members;

* the quantity of members; and

* the time period.

Step 5: Establish a strategy.

A recruitment strategy usually captures attention, develops interest, gains approval, and moves to action. The strategy for a recruitment program may differ from a retention program. A recruitment program brings new members to an association, and a retention program encourages members to get involved in the programs and activities of the association.

Determine

* who is responsible for the recruitment and retention program;

* the people to target for recruitment;

* the method in which benefits will be communicated;

* the role of officers, board members, and committee leaders;

* the manner in which noncompeting organizations may be useful in recruitment and retention;

* cross-selling strategies in which memberships can be marketed through product lines;

* the economic benefit for each member gained;

* a reasonable recruitment expenditure per recruited new member;

* the economic merits of pursuing former members;

* the budget; and

* the methods that determine the effectiveness of the program.

Step 6: Develop tactics.

Tactics are the programs and activities that accomplish your recruitment and retention strategies. There are a range of tactics: recruitment brochures, personalized letters, advertisements, exhibits, reduced dues, copies of a newsletter or journal, and recruitment slogans and logos.

No matter how typical or unusual the tactics you use, each should communicate one or more membership benefits, such as the ones that follow:

* prestige--intangibles such as special stature bestowed on members;

* recognition--awards, fellowships, and accreditation;

* information--newsletters, journals, conferences, and telecommunication; * advancement--training courses, seminars, workshops, home study, and job placement services;

* representation--legislative relations and lobbying, regulatory agency relations, and political action groups;

* business and professional aids-- research, surveys, guidelines, and loaning libraries;

* networking--social events, chapter meetings, and state and national conventions;

* service--opportunities to serve within the organization (i.e., committee participation);

* leadership--hold office, chair committees, and serve on boards; and

* economic incentives--travel clubs, discounts on purchases and rentals, and insurance.

Step 7: Evaluate the results.

Determine

* who will measure the effectiveness of the recruitment and retention program;

* the intervals at which results will be evaluated;

* the statistical measurements of program effectiveness such as response rates for promotions, conversion rate for inquiries, and comparative cost-effectiveness of promotional tactics;

* to whom evaluations will be reported; and

* how the program will be modified to make the best use of results.

To obtain the complete model, including an analysis and list of participants, contact Public Communications Inc., 35 E. Wacker Dr., Chicago, IL 60601.

Alan K. Leahigh is executive vice president of Public Communications Inc., Chicago.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Leahigh, Alan K.
Publication:Association Management
Date:Jun 1, 1992
Words:855
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