Why Do Your Members Join? It’s Not for the Reasons You May Think

Updated: Sep. 22, 2020  |  Categories: Membership, Decreasing Membership  

Why Do Your Members Join? It’s Not for the Reasons You May Think

You may think people join because of the value they get from being a member. Or maybe it’s for the benefits you provide? Or is it because of the reputation of your chapter or the national association?

Think again.

If you asked, and you should, the answer would surprise you. Many of your members wouldn’t say it’s because you’ve been around for 75 years. An overwhelming number would say they joined simply because someone who is already a member – colleague, friend, their boss, a person whose opinion they value –said they should. Maybe they attended a chapter meeting as a guest of one of these people, and they joined. Maybe their boss paid for their first year of membership, they attended your conference, or perhaps they volunteered at an event and liked the people they met, so they joined. 

Knowing your existing members are the primary reason new members join, what should you be doing to keep your existing members happy they joined and continuing to actively recruit new members? 

Here are some ideas:

Offer incentives for bringing in new members. That same survey that tells you why members join can shed light on what they’d like in return, such as:

  • referral bonuses
  • discounts off their renewals
  • vouchers to future events


Encourage members to ask others to join. Sure, they’d love the referral bonuses and renewal discounts, but with all they have going on in their daily lives, most need to be reminded to keep one eye on member advocacy. Remind them, through your various marketing channels, what new members bring to the chapter, in addition to money, of course, which allows you to continue to hold the events and provide the educational opportunities your members want. New members also mean more people are available to join your committees and the board, to help hold all of those awesome events and educational opportunities.

Tell them what you want them to tell potential members. Don’t assume they can verbalize (or will remember) why they like being members, like friendship, career advancement, personal development, etc. Recap – in meetings, on the website, and in your email campaigns – how membership has helped them and what it’s provided, through the events they’ve attended and the successes they’ve been part of. And the fun they have had. Show them through member stories on your website, both to remind members all the things they like about your chapter, and to better connect potential members and existing members.

Happy members are more likely to bring in other happy members. That said, don’t think the benefits you offer have no value, because they play a significant role. But that value is in what they provide to existing members and what those members say about the chapter to potential members. Give your existing members what they want and need, to help them stay for the long-term and bring new members with them.

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