Growing Your Chapter’s Membership
A chapter’s membership is without question its most valuable asset. It is important that your chapter always be attracting new members while retaining its current members. These are the two sides of the coin.
Attracting new members
Research1 in the association field tells us that the decision to join is more accurately a decision to affiliate. This means that our members are driven to join because they see a shared identity.
Research also tells us that members are looking for a balance of personal benefits and good-for-the-order benefits. This means that our members are driven to join because the association benefits the profession and the field as it provides training, education, and networking.
To capitalize on these facts, create an ongoing strategy that shares how your chapter meets the needs of the profession and the professional and how joining lets professionals connect with others like themselves. A few examples to build on:
- Invite colleagues to attend an event with you so you can introduce them to the group and the network. include a brief presentation about the chapter and how it is supporting the profession with the message that new members are always welcome at every event.
- At events, consider putting a star or other visible element to distinguish non-members and then task board members to greet them and talk about membership. Be sure to follow up after the event with a personal note, email, or call to nonmembers to thank them for attending and to ask if they have any questions about the chapter and membership. Once a nonmember has attended one event, be sure to put them on the list for future events and announcements.
- Every event should offer a price differential so nonmembers see a visible value to membership.
- It may also be possible to meet people through your involvement with another organization. When you do, take time to explain why they should belong to ASPEN as well and be sure to follow up after the meeting with a personal call, note, or email.
- If possible, offer members a special price to bring first-time guests as a way of attracting prospects.
- If your newsletter is electronic, consider distributing it to prospects as well as members. This strategy has worked well for other chapters who find that getting information about the chapter in front of prospects encourages them to attend meetings and join.
- If you have a chapter brochure or flyer, distribute it to local healthcare offices, clinics, and the like. To make it more compelling, consider developing a useful fact sheet on one side with a membership offer on the other.
- Host a “getting to know us” networking event locally or at Clinical Nutrition Week.
Membership development does not have to entail phone drives or huge marketing campaigns; it can be as simple as having a friendly discussion with a colleague over lunch or during rounds.
Engaging Current Members
The other side of the coin is keeping members. Association research1 confirms that perception of member value rises with involvement and the lack of involvement is one of the top reasons for leaving. Involvement might be thought of as the life blood of an association. As a bonus, involved members are your best recruiters of new members.
Overall, for a chapter to be successful in its mission, it is important to have members who are active and engaged in the chapter’s activities. In addition to attending meetings, activities can include:
- Developing content (such as topical brochures, newsletters or special websites);
- Creating special interest groups;
- Communicating with members via social media;
- Participating in polls and surveys;
- Mentoring other members;
- Speaking, presenting at, or hosting events;
- Building sponsorship programs;
- And more.
For more ideas, check out Mobilizing Volunteers.
1Note: The Decision To Join and Decision To Volunteer is based on research conducted by the ASAE Foundation for Advancing Association and Nonprofit Leadership.