By Rick Whelan
I read an interesting and timely blog posting on this site from an “about to be” former member of ASAE. The writer states the many reasons he did not find the benefits of membership to have been worth the dues, and therefore will not renew his membership for 2011.
As a membership marketer (not employed by ASAE, but a longtime ASAE member myself) it got me thinking about the formal or informal process a current member uses to decide not to renew.
It goes to the heart of many an association’s membership problem – the growing number of people who never join, or who join, only to leave in the first year or two of their tenure.
In simple terms, it’s the association’s “value proposition,” or “the gets” of membership that many times drives the decision to un-join.
So how can an association be better armed to intercept –and then reverse– the decision to un-join?
First, associations need to realize that they are not the only game in town for professional information. As the blog writer says, there are dozens of sources for info.
Growing competition for time, attention and dues dollars is the chief impediment to association new member growth.
Not only does all that information available – much of it for free — take a toll on our time, but it often leaves us on overload. As a result we shut down to new sources of information, or offload sources to give ourselves some breathing space — in this instance web sites and blogs won out over an ASAE membership.
Second, associations need to treat different members differently, so the fact that this member self -identified as a young professional meant they had developmental career needs that should have been address proactively by the association. Certainly a look at the ASAE web site shows that it has lots to offer YPs.
Third, ASAE should have reached out to the YP as a new member asking what he needed or making suggestions that would have help keep him engaged.
Prospects are not sure “what the association has to offer” or have seen “no compelling reason to join” in the first place, and new members are not sure what they are getting for their dues, so it’s easy to let the membership lapse.
I suggest my clients become “career partners” with their members changing and modifying the offered member benefits and services as the member’s need change over time.
If the company pays for membership, most of us would probably let our membership continue almost indefinitely. But this member, who first used his boss’s membership and then decided to pay for his own, didn’t think the $100 paid was worth it.
Even that tells me that at some point ASAE membership did have value, but something changed after joining.
Companies’ moving association membership from company-paid to personal-paid is a growing trend, and one that is already causing problems for some of the biggest trade groups and membership societies. This will require, even more than in the past, that the association makes clear the membership benefits and meets professionals right where they stand. Increased communication, letting them know you’re still there for them, will become key.
Sadly, not only was the member at fault in this case, but the association, too. There was no way that after only one year the member could have possibly explored all the value available at an association like ASAE, and he should have recognized that and extended his membership.
I have been a member for 10+ years and still find value in many of their offerings that I did not know even existed months before.
And ASAE was at fault for not recognizing and then addressing this member’s particular need as a “Young Professional,” which would be very different from what I may look to ASAE for.
Please understand I am not picking on the member or ASAE, just using them both as examples here.
Since ASAE is the premier association for associations, it would be interesting to know if this member will ever rejoin as he may move along and upwards in the association profession.
Rick Whelan is president of Marketing General Incorporated (MGI). For 32-years MGI has helped hundreds of associations grow brand awareness, new member recruitment, member engagement, renewal and reinstatement programs. Visit MGI on the web.