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Membership Development is More than a Committee Responsibility

Posted By Eric Ewald, Tuesday, September 9, 2014
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Associations can get disastrously siloed when it comes to the important work of the organization. Many follow conventional wisdom that states that the board of directors, as stewards of the organization, defines organizational mission, vision and goals — and committees exist to support the work of the board. OK, but…

A common problem can occur when the Board simply concludes it has done its job by assigning membership development goals (including recruitment and retention) to a committee and then monitors progress via reports at board meetings. The problem is that this approach sharply limits utilization of the best membership marketing channel.

The 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report (Marketing General Incorporated, 2014) details the most effective marketing channels for acquiring the most new members as follows:

Most Effective Marketing Channels for Acquiring New Members





Association website


Direct mail


Promotion at events


Personal sales calls


Cross-sell to non-members who by products/attend events




Local events


Association-sponsored events


In our world full of surface-level likes, endorsements, posts, tweets, etc. (information overload), a growing number of people rely on colleagues and friends for very real advice and guidance. Yes, social media can channel “word-of-mouth” — but Advertising Age estimates that only 7%, yes, just 7% comes from social media (Neff, 2012). According to Nielsen’s latest Global Trust in Advertising (Nielson, 2012) report, 92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from people they know, above all other forms of advertising — an increase of 18% since 2007.

The implication of these statistics: Organizations focused on growth need to create evangelists of as many members as possible rather than simply tasking a membership committee with achieving recruitment and retention goals. Start with Board members, other committee members and staff. All should be familiar with and passionate about the mission and goals of the organization. They must also be very familiar with how to join and how and why to get involved. Branch out from there to include other members who aren’t part of a committee to participate in the ongoing membership development goals of the organization. If your organization delivers enough benefit to the industry or profession as a whole (in addition to members individually) then members are helping themselves — because the organization will become a more effective and powerful representative of the industry or profession.

Start today. Get these trusted sources to help you tell your organization’s story to increase membership. It is in your interest and theirs.


1. 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report. 2014. Marketing General Inc. Alexandria, VA.
2. Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Report. 2012. Nielson. New York, NY.
3. http://adage.com/article/digital/ge-study-proves-consumers-respond-shared-content/232324/

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