Association membership meeting

Don’t break a sweat: Ideas to grow your association membership in 2022

Tahseen Kazi
,
March 2, 2022

In recent years, the meaning of association membership benefits has undergone a radical transformation.

Since the onset of the pandemic, it has become an oft-discussed topic at association team meetings. Benefits that were once attractive, are no longer appealing to members. Cocktail dinners, large-scale in-person events, and swag bags are out.

Now, members are looking for value that goes beyond mixers and they want to be able to enjoy that value from the comfort of their homes.

But before we discuss what makes good membership benefits in 2022, let’s define what they are.

Association membership benefits and membership strategy –  what are they?

Association membership benefits are the perks that an organization offers to its members in exchange for their membership fee. Every association offers similar basic benefits: professional networking, event tickets at a discount, access to industry resource materials, etc. These are all great, but they’re also part of the problem– if everyone is offering the same benefits, why should someone choose to become a member of your association over all the others?

That’s why a well-designed membership benefit strategy is so important. It will help you achieve three things:

  1. Attract new members by showcasing what makes your benefits unique.
  2. Engage existing members through carefully thought out programs and activities.
  3. Retain members by delivering on the promised benefits.

Let’s take a look at how you can upgrade your association membership strategy to stay relevant in 2022. Read on for a compilation of benefits that will appeal to this new breed of members.

10 membership benefits to offer in 2022

1. Online discussion forums

association-membership-benefits-online-discussion-forums

Online discussion forums facilitate asynchronous communication. Travel restrictions and social distancing norms have made such forums a necessity. Here are a few more reasons to consider this benefit:

  1. They’re a low-commitment way for members to connect and interact with the community from day one, anywhere in the world, at any time.
  2. Allow association members to network within the community beyond events.
  3. Members can check online discussion forums for industry updates.

Download this e-book and learn how to create a winning engagement that results in meaningful interactions for your community and business results for you

2. Professional certifications

Professional certifications enable members to upskill themselves, land a new job, get promoted, or take on new projects.

Unfortunately, professional certifications sometimes come at a steep price. Be sure to connect with external partners to provide industry certifications at a discounted price.

Here are some reasons you should include certifications in your association membership package:

  1. It’s a great way to show association members that you’re invested in their growth.
  2. It provides members with a cost-effective way to upskill themselves.
  3. It boosts member engagement and satisfaction, resulting in increased association memberships.

3. On-demand learning resources

Providing on-demand learning resources is another great strategy to grow association memberships. There are two ways you can offer these– you can create courses in collaboration with members who are experts in a subject. Or, you can work with external partners to integrate their courses into your association membership program. Learning resources offer the following benefits:

  1. Members can learn on their own time, pacing the course based on their grasp of the subject and their time availability.
  2. They can take control of their learning and development process by choosing courses most relevant to them. This will lead them to engage in a more meaningful way with the association.

4. One-on-one mentorship programs

Everyone needs a mentor. A brain to pick, an ear to listen, a push in the right direction. Association members are no different. They’re looking for ways to:

  1. Meet the right people and expand their professional network.
  2. Gain exposure to new ideas.
  3. Get advice on professional development and career advancement opportunities.
  4. Increase confidence in executing tasks they are not familiar with.

Be sure to organize your mentorship program in a structured way.

5. Exclusive access to networking events

It’s basic human nature to want to feel connected with our communities. Provide this opportunity to members by giving them access to networking virtual and hybrid events you organize. Through these events, members can safely meet new people, engage with them, learn from them, and form lasting relationships.

A few types of events that your association membership program can give access to are:

  1. Expert discussions to share knowledge with members. For example, panel discussions that answer the industry’s most pressing questions.
  2. One-off training and workshop events. For example, a niche software or machine training workshop.
  3. A high-value event that provides members with exposure to industry bigwigs.

Use these three best practices while engaging association members in 2022

6. Access to member directories

Networking is one of the main reasons people sign up for association memberships. By offering member directories, you give association members access to:

  1. Peers/advisors in the same field
  2. Potential clients and partners
  3. Vendors

They can also use this directory to identify members who can assist them with any challenges.

Directories help members find relevant contacts without the need for extensive research. A detailed, robust directory can be one of the star benefits of your association membership program.

7. Job boards for members

Access to a job board allows job seekers to find viable opportunities. Members hiring for various roles can post job ads and search for suitable candidates. You can also post job openings from external recruiters. This gives job seekers a broader pool of jobs to consider and apply for.

association-membership-benefits-job-board

8. Volunteer programs

Organize volunteer programs for members to take part in. This is a good membership benefit to offer for several reasons:

  1. It brings together like-minded people, encouraging member engagement and networking in an informal setting.
  2. By participating in good causes, members cultivate a positive image of themselves while also building their social skills.
  3. It helps you strengthen your association’s positive brand image with existing and prospective members.

9. Exclusive industry research and trends report

Industry research papers are usually hard to find in the public domain. Access to these reports usually comes at a steep price. Your association membership can give members exclusive access to industry reports and help them:

  1. Get a broad view of the latest industry trends and gain access to credible sources.
  2. Make business, professional, and investment decisions based on recent data.
  3. Identify threat areas and mitigate the associated risks. Identify available opportunities and gain a competitive advantage.

10. Discounts and perks from partners

One of the biggest strategies to growing association memberships is to offer member discounts and perks through corporate brand partnerships. Some benefits that can be a part of your association membership program include:

  1. Discounted tickets for partner events.
  2. Discounts on platforms, tools, learning, and certifications with partner brands.
  3. Offers and discounts on everyday use brands like Target.
  4. Holiday discounts for members on specific items.
  5. Complimentary gifts from the association or partner brands.  

Use these proven strategies to attract and engage sponsors at virtual events

Things to focus on while providing association membership benefits in 2022

Leverage virtual

In-person events are slowly coming back, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty. New COVID-19 variants and travel restrictions are constantly forcing organizations to change their plans. Also, audiences have gotten comfortable with virtual interaction. According to UTA, 75% of consumers surveyed said they plan to attend virtual music or gaming events post-COVID-19.

It’s time to invest in virtual platforms from a long-term perspective. Leverage virtual solutions to attract members and keep them engaged year-round.

Invest in member growth

Education and training is the second-highest reason for members to join an association. The remote world has given people more time to invest in themselves and their growth. They are choosing learning and growth opportunities more than before.

Make sure to provide opportunities that ease this growth. Connect with partners. Provide discounts. Provide insight from expert speakers. Do whatever it takes to show your members you care about their growth.

Offer innovative networking opportunities

Networking is the number one reason people choose association memberships.

Provide association members with ways to identify and reach out to relevant people. You can do this through virtual event platforms that provide detailed attendee profiles. Giving members a member directory is another way to ease networking. You can also organize entertainment-focused events to break up the monotony of remote work.

Focus on safety

Safety is a major concern for both event organizers and attendees. That’s why event organizers must take ample precautions and make safety a top priority. Smaller-sized events, on-site rapid testing, no-touch registration, and emergency health services are some ways to make a live audience feel safe.

But wherever possible, plan for virtual events rather than in-person events. This will eliminate the need to spend more money on safety planning. Also, it takes out of the equation the risk of needing to cancel an event for safety reasons.

association-membership-benefits-safety

Plan for asynchronous

Asynchronous communication is not new. Emails have always been a form of async communication. But now an increasing number of people are choosing asynchronous communication. One of the reasons for this shift is that many people now work remotely and they have started to feel the pressure of being “always-on.”

Incorporate this behavioral shift into your larger strategy to grow association membership. Members are likely to respond better to activities that allow them to engage in their own time. Online discussion forums, weekly newsletter updates, and on-demand learning programs are examples of asynchronous activities you can organize for your members.

Bottomline

So next time you’re left wondering, “How do I grow my association’s membership in 2022,”  think of it in these ways.

Association membership strategy is all about providing tangible benefits. Benefits that give members a return on their investment and accelerate their professional growth. The key to growing your association’s membership is reaching the right audience, encouraging them to sign up for these benefits, and creating an offer they can’t refuse.

Author
Tahseen Kazi

Tahseen is a marketer by profession, a storyteller at heart, and a tech geek by education. She has previously worked as a software developer and client partner. However, creating meaningful content is what she likes best. When she's not writing, she's reading. She's also a self-designated casting director - in her head, she casts people for characters in imaginary movies and tv series.

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