It’s no wonder that Board of Directors and Executive Directors all over the nation are worried. Concern about membership, both retention and acquisition, is not new. One thing making retention of members a critical issue nowadays are those darned baby boomers. It’s that generation who arguably invented the networking we’ve known for decades. And, they founded most of the existing associations. They are leaving the workforce faster than we can collect data. Retiring from work = retiring from their associations.
No problem, right? The next generation will pick up the spear and lead. Not so fast. The reasons to join an association are not particularly clear for those in their 30s, 40s and even 50s. Our ever-present friend/crutch/resource the Internet – that thing you have a love-hate relationship with – offers so much of what associations used to provide. And, now it’s all virtually free.
Importantly, looming large is the work-life balance goals that result in more and more employed people leaving work behind at the end of the day then focusing on family, hobbies and serious downtime. Many now perceive work-related organizations to be, well, work.
Why give the enemy any space here? Because it’s wise to identify the true problems. Having devoured dozens of books and articles written over the last five years, the steps of a membership campaign may be planned. First considerations:

  • Who’s the target? (Might be broader than you think).
  • What is your competition? (Other industry groups, the chaos of today’s over-communication)
  • What can you offer that your target wants – and isn’t already available on the Internet?

These are not easy questions. Answers will differ widely by industry. Take time to work on these before we plow to the next step.

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