Non-profits and associations looking to build and retain strong membership numbers face unique challenges that require thoughtful, sustainable solutions.
If you're a membership-based organization, read on--here are some association membership marketing and retention strategies that will keep your constituency growing and engaged:
Crystallize Your Mission
Your team might understand your mission and live it every day. However, how that mission is projected to your members and potential members can be a challenge. If you sense that your mission is not being conveyed clearly, get your staff together. Interview them. Collaborate. Collect input.
Hold a member focus group to gauge their sense of your mission. See how things align or are fragmented.
Have an dedicated team document your findings and write a formal mission statement- one longer for internal usage and one shorter for marketing-and an accompanying standards document to control your messaging.
Develop a Plan
Brand awareness does not happen accidentally. And yes, non-profits and associations need to consciously develop their brands just like BtoB or BtoC for-profit organizations.
A strong marketing plan and positioning strategy will increase your brand recognition in your space, creating heightened awareness of your mission and therefore the opportunity for increased, sustainable membership numbers. To truly build your membership, and keep their connection to your mission strong, non-profit and associations must have a regimented, consistently implemented branding program, strategy and tactical plan to ensure consistent member touch points and to empower tracking and results monitoring.
Flying by the seat of your pants won't cut it.
Focus on Benefits and Value
Once you have clarified your mission and developed a plan, be sure your marketing messaging focuses on benefits and value, not price. Remind current members consistently about how they benefit from membership and how their participation helps the mission. Stress value over price to both members and potential members. Frequent price reductions, early membership renewal "sales" and other price-driven messages devalue your brand and will hurt membership over time. If your members feel your association benefits them, and potential new members clearly understand membership value, retention and recruitment campaigns will be more successful.
Maintain Your Database
Whether you only have the budget for Excel workbooks, or you've already invested in the latest and most sophisticated CRM, the same rule applies: Junk in, junk out.
In order to keep members engaged consistently, and data mine for new recruits, you must have a system and protocols in place for data entry and maintenance. Data integrity could be your most important challenge of all when it comes to membership growth.
Keep your members informed and engaged. Focusing only on adding new members is a big mistake. Equal attention needs to be paid to engaging existing membership so you avoid "treading water" with non-renewals offsetting any gains made by recruiting new members.
Use special events, newsletters, consistent email communications and social media outlets to amp up engagement levels. An engaged membership will not only renew at higher rates, but they will also become your biggest brand advocates, bringing in new members without being asked.
Pay Special Attention to Renewal Numbers
Every non-profit and association experiences attrition. That's normal. But when members don't renew in higher numbers than usual, it's usually the first sign that something is wrong with your membership marketing approach. Keep track of annual renewal numbers so you have a benchmark for what's normal and what's unusual. And then take action quickly and thoughtfully to course correct as best you can.
Even though you are part of a non-profit or association, the basic tenets of marketing still apply.
Define your mission. Know your audience. Develop a plan. Engage. And track.
Do these things consistently and you'll have a satisfied membership with healthy growth numbers year after year.