Every association needs to have a clear value proposition to encourage new members to join and existing members to continue being involved. As revealed in recent research, networking rates as one of the greatest benefits valued by professionals, who appreciate associations that facilitate this activity. Associations can offer networking opportunities as part of their membership packages, via targeted events and creation of new connections.
Membership subscriptions are an essential revenue stream for many associations. It is imperative that organisations get the value proposition right and show potential members and existing members that a membership is beneficial to their professional growth and career. Otherwise, people and businesses won’t join the association to begin with.
Many associations list a range of reasons why an individual or business should join their organisation. These include education programs, advocacy, supplier discounts, and many more benefits. While having a clear set of reasons to join is important, if an association cannot effectively communicate this to members, then it is wasted.
To create a compelling value proposition, associations need to demonstrate how membership can enhance someone’s career. Members want tangible things that make their jobs easier and more productive. They want unique benefits that they can’t get elsewhere. This may be the association’s unique position as the national experts or leading voice in a particular sector or industry. Clarifying that membership to an association is a different and special offering helps to demonstrate value.
Associations should listen to feedback and develop a deep understanding of their members needs. New members are far more likely to join if they feel that their needs are being met, or their problems are being solved.
Members often like joining associations for the sense of belonging and camaraderie that membership creates. Associations should build on this idea by emphasising the ways that membership strengthens bonds within the sector and establishes partnerships.
And finally, associations should feel both inclusive and exclusive. This means, a membership base should feature a wide variety of voices from different backgrounds, and anyone should be welcome and accepted. But simultaneously, members should feel that they are accessing something special that isn’t available to non-members.
Networking has always been important, but it has exploded in recent years as a priority for professional people wanting to advance their careers. A strong professional network can open new doors, present diverse opportunities, and allow you to stay on top of industry trends and the latest news.
Recently, AES were commissioned by a national association to identify the reasons their members had joined. Upon compiling the results of the survey, we found that one of the main reasons for joining was the opportunity to network. Members communicated that they felt the organisation did a great job delivering networking opportunities. The results surprised the CEO of the association, who hadn’t realised how much value was to be found in creating opportunity for her members to network.
Associations are well placed to facilitate this networking activity and create opportunities for members to share ideas, meet potential business partners or employees, and expand their contacts. Networking allows people in an industry to discuss and solve common challenges. It also allows people in adjacent industries to share ideas and find new ways of tackling issues.
Member meetings are often the main activity of associations. Members come to these events for several reasons, but the main one is the opportunity to network. These sorts of settings promote positive networking, as others are similarly wanting to meet new people and form new professional relationships.
Although networking is undeniably a valuable offering from an association, unfortunately, very few associations get the networking model right.
Many professionals want to network more, but find it difficult to do so. Reaching out to people ‘cold’ can feel awkward and unnatural, and more introverted people will struggle to be proactive in seeking out new connections. This is why associations need to facilitate networking opportunities and encourage their members to take advantage of these.
Joining an associate can feel intimidating if you don’t know anyone else. When a new member joins, make sure a committee or staff member contacts the new member and invites them to attend the next online or face to face event.
Often when a new member attends an event, it can be challenging to meet new people. In fact, many people will avoid situations where they feel they will be the only one in the room not talking to someone.
Ideally, when hosting an event, associations should allocate a staff member or volunteer to greet all new members at the door. Introduce the new member to some key members who can introduce the new member to others in the room.
Additionally, associations can create new connections via mutual interests. Make sure your database highlights areas of interest for members and organise interest group meetings online or at association events. Smaller groups like this are more comfortable for some people.
With over 30 years of management expertise, Executive Director and Founder of AES, Nick Koerbin is one of the most experienced NFP leaders in Australia. He has held positions as the CEO of Materials Australia, the National Parts Code, as well as senior positions in the Institute of Insurance, Australian Quality Council, the Financial Planning Association, the Australian Human Resources Institute, and the Furniture Industry Association of Australia. Nick created AES with a vision of creating a set of management practices that could be consistently followed to ensure success. Over his 30 years in the industry, he noticed that inconsistent management practices often impeded delivery of services to members, which in turn created issues with membership renewal. By establishing AES and creating the NFP Association Best Practice Self-Assessment, Nick has been able to assist leaders in becoming more confident and informed decision makers so that they can create more effective strategies and implementation plans.
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