By: Brad Ball
Big Buzz Idea Group
If boosting membership is a key goal for your organization, we’ve got three questions to kick off your strategic planning.
To add some context, we spoke with Lynsey Sorrell, the Vice President of Membership for the Ely Chapter of Lambda Alpha International, the Honorary Society for the Advancement of Land Economics. As one of our valued association management clients, she was able to share some of the impactful ways we’ve worked together to improve her organization’s membership. Read on for our thought-starters to move your own membership forward.
1. How can you use technology to gather data or make the process easier?
Take a look at the methods you use to manage member relationships, update your website, and send email communications. If you want to retain and grow your membership, you need to maintain accurate membership information and organize it in a user-friendly way.
Using email marketing software can allow you to efficiently keep in touch with membership, as well as track opens and clicks. In turn, you’ll streamline communication, ensure your messaging is consistent, and get insight into what’s working and what’s not.
“[Big Buzz] helps us keep our communication consistent and I think that helps the members,” said Sorrell. “It’s a lot more professional and consistent. We have a routine of when things go out. We’ve worked hard to stay consistent and hit those timeframes.”
When technology can’t act as your outsourcing partner, our Big Buzz team can also step in to help with administrative tasks.
“Because [Big Buzz] can take care of so much of the administrative burden, it allows the board members to stay true to our mission and our values because we’re not bogged down in the day-to-day tasks,” Sorrell said.
One example: our team revised the Ely Chapter’s membership application process and took on receiving, organizing, and managing the applications before delivering them as a complete package to the selection committee.
The client no longer had to rely on volunteers to collect pieces of the applications, and the committee could focus on membership selection and other crucial parts of their work.
2. How can you improve the value you provide and enhance the membership experience?
Get clear on the value members receive once they join your organization. Creating robust membership benefits—and clearly communicating them—is key to attracting new members and retaining current ones.
The value your organization provides may include a range of membership benefits, such as:
- A membership directory listing
- Access to exclusive content and events
- Networking groups
- Specific advertising opportunities
In the ever-expanding virtual work world, it’s also important to make online experiences as engaging and user-friendly as possible. Small changes can make a big difference and add value.
“We normally have a banquet at The Peninsula [Chicago Hotel], so how do you bring something that’s joyful and fun [online]?” Sorrell said.
“We have an oath of allegiance to the society we have everyone say and we talked about, ‘What if we did it as a virtual “choir”?’ …And it was really fun, and people appreciated it. [Big Buzz] took the time to do the research and follow through and execute. I’m sure it was a lot of work, but they made it look effortless for us. That’s the value that they bring.”
Other user-friendly changes we made to the process were effective and added value. For example, the Ely Chapter’s monthly members-only programs previously utilized an event registration platform set up with password-protected event pages, and while the password was provided in the member email promoting the event, it often caused confusion.
Similarly, the chapter’s online membership directory involved a complicated log-in process, a cumbersome procedure to update listings, and complex links between organizational databases. Once Big Buzz streamlined the event registration and membership directory processes, members had a much more enjoyable and streamlined experience.
“For members registering, it’s a point-and-click. Big Buzz manages it all on the back end,” said Sorrell. “They’ve done a really great job of leveraging technology to have that [process] be smooth.”
She also noted the value in Big Buzz’s work to catalog and cross-reference attendee contact information for post-event follow-ups.
“In the two years that I was program chair, we saw a very steady increase in the number of people attending our events,” said Sorrell. “And I think that then speaks to member retention. If they come to our events, they’re reminded of the value of membership. The improvements we made to the registration and communication process… I’m certain that was one of the factors for the record attendance we had in 2018 and 2019.”
3. How can you encourage existing members to evangelize your organization?
When your members appreciate their membership and feel valued, they’ll talk about it. That word-of-mouth is an incredibly impactful form of marketing for you, so it’s critical to equip your members with the tools and experiences they need to share about your organization. After all, your members are most likely the people to interact with other people and organizations that fit your membership profile.
In a similar vein, remember to involve your board of directors when it really counts.
When the Ely Chapter wanted to increase member retention, Big Buzz helped the organization add a personal touch to their follow-ups.
Members who were not current with their dues received the usual renewal communications and invoices at the end of the year. Once the renewal cycle was about half-way over, the chapter’s board reviewed the list of members who had not responded, and each board member took a portion of the list to personally contact with a planned outreach message.
That personalized outreach added relevance and importance to the organization. It made members feel valued. And it was a reminder of the very benefit of membership: personal connection.
Did any of these questions spark ideas for you? Let us know!
Taking time to think through these three points can give you a good start on taking your membership to the next level.
If you need help with identifying your best next steps or executing the administrative side, give our team a call. We’d love to work together to grow your membership community in the coming year.