How Many Members Do You Have?

Updated: Sep. 22, 2020  |  Categories: Membership, Membership Data Inconsistencies  


We’ve talked in previous posts about ways chapters can better engage with their members. But, the tips and ideas we provide are useful only if you are satisfied with the size of your existing member base.

How many chapters can truly say they don’t want to continue to grow their membership?

According to Marketing General Incorporated’s 2018 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, association membership continues to increase:  48 percent of those they surveyed reported an increase in membership, up 2 percent from last year.

However, their deep dive into membership shows there is still room for improvement. While associations with increases in their 1- and 5-years memberships had more millennials, those who saw a decline in membership in the past five years were more likely to have higher numbers of baby boomer members. And, with just 48 percent seeing an increase in membership, that means that 52 percent found themselves stagnant or saw their membership decrease; twenty five percent of those surveyed actually reported a decrease in membership.

It might sound like common sense, but it’s worth repeating:  only once you bring in a member, can you work on getting him or her to stay. Recruiting new members must be a key driver in your goal to increase your membership.

There are several strategies that can help increase the number of individuals who join your chapter.

Segment your marketing by audience. And communicate to each segment in the way that works best for them. Segmenting allows you to focus on each group, like early career, experienced individuals, millennials, etc., and speak them directly, rather than mass marketing to all potential members in the same way. Perhaps the millennials you’re targeting would prefer to hear from you via social media, early career individuals want to know more about your networking opportunities, and later stage career individuals want to hear about the advocacy work your chapter does. Segmenting allows you to do just that.

Use your existing members to attract new members. They joined your chapter for a reason. Be sure you are clear on why that was, and use that information to recruit other new members, as you can be sure there are others who feel the same that way. Ask members for insight into bringing in new members and get them involved in the process, by having them become chapter ambassadors. Consider incentivizing current members for bringing in new members, through discounts to future events and vouchers to attend events for free if they bring a guest.

Make members out of guests. Guests are your biggest opportunity. By attending your events they’re already showing an interest in your chapter, and you don’t want to let them get away. Your membership marketing plan should include way to focus on those who’ve come to your events as guests but haven’t joined. We call them nonmember attenders. Whatever you choose to call them, they’re the best source of prospects for your chapter.

Follow up and don’t just stick to email. Try handwritten notes and phone calls, which go a long way toward showing guests you value them and would like to see them join. A phone call, even if you leave a message, is much more personal and stronger than a generic email blast.

Individuals who are considering joining your chapter want to know how they’ll receive the value they expect in exchange for giving you their money and time. Once you learn the value each audience segment is looking for, you can better communicate that value and how you’ll meet it.

Whatever route you take, try communicating a sense of urgency. Potential members should have the sense that yours is THE chapter to join, sooner rather than later, and if they don’t, they’ll miss out. What do you offer that your members don’t find elsewhere? Is it the advocacy members benefit from, the quality or content of your meetings, or members-only events with special speakers that you hold?

A chapter can only survive, and thrive, if it has members who join, and stay. Chapters that continue to explore and implement new ways to get members, will see continued membership growth, as they keep their chapter relevant and attractive to potential members.

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