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5 Ways Associations Are Wooing Members

Association membership is making a comeback, thanks to the economy and some new strategies. Here's how three large associations are doing it: 

1. New-Member Onboarding


Incoming association members are often on their own to figure out what the organization offers. The National Restaurant Association is attempting to fix that with its creation of a “director of member experience,” who learns about members' businesses and connects them to NRA tools and subject matter experts. NRA member value and strategy VP Tom Wojno (above) says an “engagement plan” is created identifying ways the association can work with each member. The association has 91% member retention. The American Library Association launched a similar initiative where members can pick various "pathways" to follow based on their specific interests. ALA membership director Ron Jankowski says members like being able to self-define their relationship with the association.

2. Member Segmentation Is Your Friend


The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses has segmented its members into categories like age, career level and credentials. But now membership services director Christina Salu says the association is looking at data to segment by new categories like “location” to get a deeper understanding of member preferences. Members are better served if specific groups are targeted with relevant messages. Tom says segmentation has worked well at NRA, especially given its broad range of member types from independent restaurants with one location to large chains. 

3. Don’t Be Afraid Of Testing


AWHONN, which has over 24,000 individual members (some of them pictured at a recent conference), is testing how messaging, content, photos and email subject lines perform and retesting things every few months. Member needs are constantly changing as they grow within their practice, which is why retesting is so important, says Christina. It also recently created a membership committee, which will have a diverse set of people weighing in on shaping member recruitment and retention. 

4. Targeting Students


ALA partnered with over 40 state library associations to offer joint student memberships at the local and national level. Because the state associations are geographically closer to the students and the library schools, this recruitment effort has helped ALA increase its market share of student members from 48% to 53%, even though the number of library students dropped over 20% since 2008. Ron says being active on social media, student blogs and offering an online student portal have also helped. 

5. Break Through The Noise


People are inundated with information, and associations are increasingly having to find ways to break through. Ron says ALA drastically expanded its use of social media, but it’s also going back to basics and communicating to members through print and direct mail to get away from overwhelming email. Never assume that members know all that the association does, adds Tom. “You have to continuously improve telling your own story.”