Are you looking to run a membership drive but are not sure how to begin? With Covid-19, many clubs, associations, groups and nonprofits are struggling to attract and retain members. That’s why being able to run successful membership drives is so crucial. This article will outline nine steps you can take toward running a successful membership drive:
- Set clear and concrete goals
- Communicate your values and benefits
- Get members and staff involved
- Review your current membership path
- Incentivize referrals
- Think about new member recruitment
- Plan virtual events
- Utilize digital marketing and advertising
- Stay persistent
Set clear and concrete goals
When it comes to a membership drive, you must set clear and concrete goals. Everything you want to achieve must be clearly and specifically outlined. Doing so will help you make better plans, execute them, and ultimately succeed.
Utilizing membership management software can make measuring goals an easy process. You’ll be able to track member activity; your membership dues income will also make it easy for you to track revenue.
If you want to run a membership drive, it’s obvious that your primary goal is to gain more members for your organization. But this goal is vague and generic. When it comes to effective goal setting, using the SMART framework is strategic and effective. Michigan State University reports that it can help improve the odds of a goal succeeding by 33%. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-frame. Here’s a breakdown:
- Specific: The goal needs to target a specific area that requires improvement.
- Measurable: For the goal to be effective, it needs to be measurable.
- Attainable: It should be a goal that is attainable.
- Realistic: For a goal to be attainable, it needs to be realistic.
- Time-frame: The goal needs to have a time-frame for completion.
Associations looking to increase memberships should set goals that meet all these criteria. Here’s a good example of a goal:
“Increase membership by 10% as a result of our next three community events.”
Having the drive run in tandem with events allows for enough planning time to give your event attendees attention and to follow up with a personal touch. Personal outreach can provide you with the best chance to increase your membership base.
Communicate your values and benefits
You need to effectively communicate your values to those you intend to target. They need to know why they should become a member of your organization. Speak to the “What’s in it for me?” question in your messaging.
If your membership organization is already well-established with strong values and member benefits, communicating these shouldn’t be too hard. However if your membership organization is new, this could prove to be more difficult.
To help with this process, try asking existing members why they joined your organization. A member survey can help you find out what makes your organization different. What is its unique selling point? Perhaps you provide excellent networking opportunities through volunteering. Or maybe your professional development events have a reputation for being fun, informative and a great way to make new contacts.
How does your organization support its members and the local community? Create a list of all benefits and ensure this is communicated clearly and simply. Not only will this help you acquire new members, but this is also good advice for writing a donation letter to ask for support.
Get members and staff involved
Creating and operating a membership drive isn’t easy. Look to get your members and staff involved in your efforts. These are the individuals who are loyal and committed to your cause. Having a group of people who can assist you is extremely important. You’ll need a wide variety of skill sets, such as graphic design, writing, digital marketing and public speaking. Get as many people on your team as possible. Staff can do the legwork of writing, design and social media posts.
Board members can be invited to:
- Individually film video testimonials about the benefits of membership.
- Host Facebook live videos as an individual or a pair where they discuss an issue of importance to members and potential members.
- Write guest blog posts for your website about what they’ve gotten out of being a member.
- Give a brief membership pitch at upcoming in-person or online events. You can write a script or talking points for them if needed.
You can involve members by asking them to:
- Share your membership drive posts on social media with their followers.
- Ask them to write testimonial quotes you can share on social media and your website. You can ask them to submit a picture along with the quote to help raise the member’s profile.
- Personally invite a set number of friends or colleagues to join the organization (see Incentivize Referrals below). A personal invitation from an existing member is the most effective way to get new members.
You’d be surprised by how willing people are to help, especially when it comes to doing something good. The trick to getting these individuals on your team is to simply ask.
Review your current membership path
Before you even consider planning and executing your drive, you should make sure your membership journey is solid. Make it easy for prospects to be able to join.
How do you approach this? Audit your current membership path. Visualize being in the position of your prospects. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is it difficult to sign up?
- How hard is it to find the application page online?
- How extensive is the process?
- Does the prospective member have to scroll down to find key information or to be able to reach the join page?
- Are there too many form fields requesting information, making the prospective member more likely to give up?
- Are there times of year when it doesn’t financially make sense to join due to a fixed membership renewal date and a lack of proration? Note that we recommend rolling renewal dates to ensure higher revenue.
- Was it hard to learn about member benefits?
- Was I welcomed with a meaningful email that told me how to access my member benefits?
- Is there a follow-up email campaign to continue the welcome and help new members more deeply understand various benefits?
- Are new members receiving a personal follow up? Establishing a welcome committee can help you with this task. Committee members could be granted access to limited parts of you organization’s membership software where they can write a note in the member’s timeline regarding their outreach. Or they could share a Google sheet with a list of new members. There could be a column for the name of the committee member and the date that they reached out.
Try asking a family member or friend for their opinion about the process. Get them to sign up and ask for honest feedback. Getting an outside opinion is really important as they can spot things you might have missed.
One of the best ways to get new members is to take advantage of the ones you already have. Referral programs provide a way for you to reward existing members for acting as recruiters on your behalf. Although your loyal base is most likely already advocating for your group, incentivizing goes a long way. Members want to feel appreciated — they want to be acknowledged and rewarded for their loyalty.
The referral incentive can be any number of things: a gift card, an item, or perhaps a raffle ticket. Just make sure it’s something that provides value to them and that you can afford to give away. Word-of-mouth marketing is extremely powerful, so why not take advantage of it? You can give small rewards for each referral or simply do a drawing from the list of members who referred others. One reward could be a discount code for the referring member use when they log in to renew their membership.
You can collect information on referrals by adding a new field to your membership sign-up form where the member can enter the referring member’s name. If you want to leave this field in all year long instead of just during the membership drive, you can use the field to ask, “How did you hear about us?”
Think about new member recruitment
It’s typical to only focus on recruitment during the time that you run your membership drive. Even though running a drive is good to prioritize gaining new members, you should always be trying to build your base. Implementing some of the strategies from your drive into your day-to-day operations can be invaluable. Doing this will help keep you prepared, optimized, and ready for when you run your next major membership drive effort.
Plan virtual events
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that although we can’t always meet in person, this doesn’t mean we can’t meet at all. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses, associations and clubs successfully kept their teams together with virtual events.
A membership drive doesn’t have to be limited to an in-person event. In fact, a virtual event is more accessible — even in regular times. Virtual events have the potential for a far greater reach, meaning you can attract more potential members and even those who may not be nearby geographically.
A virtual event can act as a networking event, providing you with an opportunity to broadcast your culture and benefits. You can also provide a platform for speakers and other talents that provide value and excitement. It’s an overall great tactic for building a sense of community and letting a diverse array of voices be heard. In addition, if the content is valuable to members or prospects, you can opt to put a recording of the event on your social media channels to further its reach.
Utilize digital marketing and advertising
Do you want to supercharge your drive efforts and get the word out about your organization? Try digital marketing and advertising.
Most — if not all — of your prospects are going to be online. Who isn’t these days? The internet and social media provide you with easy access to your market and advertise to your target audience. There are many digital marketing and advertising strategies including:
- Social media marketing: Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn are ideal places to connect with potential members. There are a number of ways to connect:
- You can choose to pay for very targeted ads based on geography and other demographics
- Use traditional social media marketing methods such as creating posts, doing live videos and posting events.
- Create Facebook or LinkedIn groups where members can gather online and discuss topics of common interest. You can announce your membership drive there.
- Take it to the next level by joining other social media groups where your prospective members may be present. If you comment wisely on discussions and make posts there, it can boost your organization’s profile with people who may not hear about you otherwise. You want to be sure to review the group’s terms before posting overly promotional messages. This type of engagement is most successful when undertaken consistently instead of just during your membership drive.
- Search engine marketing: Sometimes spending a little money for advertising space on Google can help boost your push efforts, returning on investment. A well-placed and crafted paid ad can draw in your target market. You can run it for a specific amount of time and easily see measurements of clicks and views.
- Search engine optimization: The best way to increase your placement on search engines is create quality content on your website that targets the right keywords. When your ideal target prospects search for these keywords, your page will be displayed. Write blog posts on topics of interest to members and potential members. Thorough, in-depth guides are a good format. Be sure that it’s easy to find out more about the organization or see information on joining from your blog posts.
- Email marketing: Building a robust email list is a great way to not only engage your existing members, but to nurture prospects as well. Email is by far the most personal digital marketing channel. Some tips:
- Be sure you have an email list signup form on your website so that others aside from members can be notified about your upcoming events and activities.
- Have your membership software add event registrants who are non-members to your mailing list. These contacts are the perfect audience for membership drive campaign messages as they are already familiar with your group, but just haven’t yet pulled the trigger to join. For these targets, it will be important to let them know how joining as a member is superior to just attending events as a non-member.
- Create a welcome email series where you touch on various member benefits and/or ways to get involved. An engaged member is a member who will be more likely to renew the following year.
- Use email marketing to let your members know about your events well in advance and keep them informed about what the organization is doing on their behalf. If you don’t tell them, no one else will.
- Direct mail: Even though digital marketing is the new wave, sending direct mail can still be effective. You can send a discount coupon for members to share with prospective new members to spread the word about your membership drive. If you have any partners or sponsors who are already sending mail to those who are a good target audience for membership, you can also ask if you can print a small flyer or coupon to be placed in their mailer.
Some channels will show results and returns on investment quicker, like social media marketing or search engine marketing. Others — like search engine optimization and email marketing — will take some time. They’re all worth the effort, and each plays a unique role in growing your brand.
Above all else, the key to making your recruitment efforts pay off is to be persistent. You can implement every suggestion and strategy outlined in this post, but if you’re not consistent, it won’t matter. Ensure your membership drives don’t drop off in quality — look to improve on these by looking at new channels and opportunities that arise as technology and social media evolves.
It’s a good idea to pull reports so you’ll be able to measure success year over year. Request ideas from your board members to improve your annual conference or other events. Do you offer enough membership benefits? Can your membership form be improved?