The middle of a pandemic might seem like an unlikely time to embrace the recruitment and retention of association members. However, this should be one of your highest priorities and a way to manage your budget and keep your association financially sound in 2020.
COVID-19 has had adverse impacts on almost every association, so now is the time to re-visit your strategic plan. To advance your organization in a virtual environment, you will need to make appropriate changes and then analyze and align your budget with those changes. At the very top of your list should be membership.
6 Ways to Boost Recruitment and Retention of Members
Associations certainly are not a one size fits all, but when it comes to members, there are ideas that can work across most industry and trade platforms. Here are a few ways to re-think your recruitment and retention strategy:
1) Launch an Association Stimulus Program
A stimulus program should extend renewals for existing members. Some of your members may have been hit hard financially, so giving them some extra time to renew their membership could be advantageous for both parties.
2) Offer Trial Memberships for New Members
If your association has embraced virtual learning and has a valuable resource center or library of information on your website, consider offering a three-to six-month trial. Education is a good way to entice new members. Then work hard to convert these trial memberships into long-term ones. And if you are not an association that has adopted online learning, now is definitely the time to start.
3) Offer Reduced Fee Memberships to Past Members
Now is a great time to showcase what past members are missing. With so many people at home, they are looking for ways to engage with others, so take advantage of that opportunity to appeal to them and their areas of interest.
4) Provide Student and Young Associate Memberships
If you are looking for retention and succession planning opportunities in your association, look to students in colleges, universities and trade schools or recent graduates of those programs. They are looking to get ahead and may not be aware of the advantages of belonging to an association in their particular field. It is a great opportunity for them to connect and build relationships. You may want to reach out to educational programs that align with your association and offer programming for them. Or perhaps reach out to a high school or middle school where educators are looking for new ideas and ways to engage students and offer programming.
5) Start a Scholarship or Sponsorship Program
Although some industries are reeling, others are still on pace or exceeding their financial goals. If you have members in the latter two categories, talk to them about sponsoring a new member by picking up all or part of the membership fees in order to keep your association on sound financial ground.
6) Increase Sponsorship Opportunities and Charge to Attend Your Online Offerings
In the spring as both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations alike clamored to go virtual through one of the many online platforms, meetings and even some conference sessions were primarily free. Now, savvy organizations are charging a fee and not-for-profits are looking to regain lost sponsorship dollars by charging third parties or member companies to host or sponsor an online event. The dollar amount of these sponsorships is increasing as virtual programming has become a must. Survey other associations and not-for-profits to compare what they are charging for sponsorships and attendance in your market. Events are a major source of revenue for associations so if you haven’t already, now is the time to take your conferences and programming online, and charge for them. You can use the guidelines in the first five points to offer a sliding scale for attendance costs.
Associations have been around for years in some form. They have survived during other pandemics, the Great Depression and many financial crises, and have always served a pivotal role in keeping their organizations and members moving forward. As association leaders today, now is your time to keep cash flowing, budgets sound and embrace new strategies. The key is in your members and adopting innovative ways to engage them.
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