4 Tips for Increasing Association Membership

No matter what purpose or industry they represent, associations and non-profit organizations struggle to keep up a sufficient membership as time goes by. When older members retire or age out of these groups, they must attempt to attract a demographic of younger people. Many also struggle with retention. After a new person visits the group once, they may not add their names to the membership list or return on a regular basis. What actions should an association or non-profit take, to increase membership and keep it high for the long term? Here are four:

1 – Analyze the Existing Association Membership List

Before deciding who you wish to market membership to for the purpose of gaining new sign-ups, take a long look at the current members and figure out why they are a part of your association. Start with an analysis of the demographics involved. Are most people of a certain age or from a particular industry? Do they all come from a particular geographical area or earn a specific level of income? These characteristics will help you target people who will be a good fit for the group.

In order to expand the association into new demographics or attract the attention of a different socioeconomic or age group, you need to determine what benefits the group would be most interested in. Weighting benefits against the needs of existing members can be tricky, however. So exercise care. New benefits may allow your to not only to boost numbers, but provide additional value to the entire membership.

Do not shy away from using postal direct mail with millennials, as well as older individuals. Studies have shown that they appreciate meaningful mail as much as anyone else. Unlike older audiences, millennials who read a direct mail piece will jump immediately to the Internet to research or sign up with your group. So make sure you have online contact information clearly displayed on the postcard or letter.

2 – Create an Appropriate Direct Mail Introduction

Direct mail remains one of the best ways to attract attention to an association or organization focused on any industry or topic. Although we normally think of letters when we think of postal mail, a colorful postcard might be the right choice, because it attracts attention and conveys just enough information to incite interest. Before you worry about graphic design and color choice, however, you need a specific reason why you want to send out the mailer.

One option is to simply introduce association membership as an option to a new group of people. This method is not as effective as creating a unique deal, giving away something of value, or extending an invitation to a special event. If you go this route, be sure always to outline the benefits a person would get from joining as clearly as possible. Be aware, too, that most people will not join a group solely for an altruistic reason. Make sure you explain the business and personal value of joining, and reveal benefits that are highly targeted to the group you are sending the direct mail piece to. This creates a more personal invitation that will probably get a better response.

3 – Do Not Forget Visitors or Old Members

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to boost association membership numbers is by contacting people who have expressed interest in the past. If someone visited your group's website or social media page, you should have collected their contact information.

If someone was a member of the group before, but allowed her membership to lapse, you probably have even more information about the person. The prior involvement with your group, no matter how deep or long, can be used as a magnet to draw lapsed members back. Always make sure to remind the person of her previous involvement with the association, and solicit feedback on what she liked, or did not like, about your group and what benefits would hold the most appeal.

And don't quit soliciting lapsed members too early. Some successful associations mail lapsed members up to 17 times before giving up on them. Sometimes, members and lapsed members just need to be reminded that the organization exists. Sending a promotional item such as a refrigerator magnet or a small notepad with your association's branding on it can keep the benefits of belonging in the forefront of members' minds.

4 – Keep the Membership List Fresh through Frequent Contact

An association needs a constant influx of new people, in order to stay viable and active. Current members must be nurtured as well.

A steady stream of direct mail will boost membership rates and keep everybody involved with the association in touch with what's going on. The more contact an individual receives from your group, the greater the chance she will either join your ranks and become a vocal supporter, or become a new members. A steady stream of direct mail also serves to keep you list fresh. People change jobs more frequently today than anyone imagines. Mailing pieces to them routinely helps you keep track of the constant changes in employment.

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