Maximizing Membership: The Four R's for Association Success

Association Solutions

Maximize your association’s membership success with the four R’s


We know that all roads lead to membership in professional societies. I spend most of my day thinking about the members of the clients I work with and how we can best improve their experience with their association. In an increasingly transactional world, going the extra mile to provide a “special touch” during your members’ life cycle with the association — from initial join date through their retirement — will lead to higher membership retention and overall engagement. These four areas of membership can be summed up by recruitment initiatives, retention of existing members, reengagement of long-term members to keep them happy, and recognition of veteran members.

1. Recruitment: Your association will always need a pipeline of new members to keep membership numbers afloat. Identify ways to recruit new members to join your association. Some examples include implementing a monthly new-member onboarding series to familiarize new members with benefits; launching a “benefits and accomplishments” campaign highlighting what the association has accomplished over the past year; and using existing members as ambassadors to specific groups (students, international members, etc.) to educate nonmembers on the benefits of joining your society.

2. Retention: Once someone has signed up as a member of your association, the goal is to keep them as a member. How do you do that? This is where a member roadmap and a volunteer roadmap come in handy

A member roadmap outlines what new members can expect in their first one to two years of membership. It can be set up with specific benchmarks that help guide them so they feel more familiar with the association.

Volunteer roadmaps are used for members who are ready to commit to working with the organization. Creating volunteer roadmaps that show opportunities for members to grow and professionally develop within the association will entice professionals who may not necessarily be leaders in their industry, but they have the time and dedication to channel their leadership qualities into their association.

3. Reengagement: This is the group of members I think about the most. A quick aside: I have been an AT&T cellphone customer since it was Cingular Wireless. I’ve had a cellphone since I was 16, so easily for half my life. I’m no longer getting the benefits that are offered to potential new customers. I see this group of association members the same way.

I call this group the “what have you done for me lately?” members. These are the most important group to keep happy, as they often renew their membership on time each year and are actively involved with the organization. How do you keep them engaged and happy as members?

One method I am a huge proponent of is member needs surveys. Typically disseminated every two years, this can help gauge what benefits are actually being used and are widely known to your association’s membership. If there are benefits that are underutilized or that members don’t know about, start marketing those to your members to remind them exactly what they get for their annual dues.

4. Recognition: Recognizing the long-term members, volunteers, and leaders within the association is a phenomenal way to keep retired members engaged and willing to train the next generation of leaders within an association. Some ways to implement recognition campaigns include an opportunity for these members to serve as mentors for a mentorship program or developing a volunteer center hub to engage members in the work of the association and develop their leadership skills. Once these initiatives are developed, create a “Volunteer of the Year Award” to recognize long-term members and leaders of the association. Another idea is to start a fellows program, if one does not already exist.

Creating a robust strategy around each of these four key areas will help your association ensure there’s a steady flow of new members, as well as a feeling of purpose and appreciation among your current and long-standing members. Providing value at every step of your members’ journey will position you as a leader in the profession and a resource that’s instrumental to each member’s success.

Jordan Burghardt is the director of engagement, Association Solutions, at MCI USA. She specializes in member engagement, relationship development, community outreach and volunteer recruitment.