4 Strategies for Recession-Proofing your Membership Base

March 9, 2009 at 3:30 pm 2 comments

reno_mountains-ii(Below is an article I wrote which was recently published in the March issue of the ASAE Membership Section Council eNewsletter)


I would like to begin this review of recession-proofing membership strategies with a message of hope… never forget we are all in this together.  From coin laundry operators to brain surgeons, we are all weathering the impact of the current economic storm which presently has both a direct and indirect stronghold not only on our country, but the entire world.


Regardless of how prepared or unprepared your association was for this calamity, there are fundamental ways in which the negative effects of recession can be countered in fortifying your membership base.  While navigating the short-term, bear in mind the importance of retaining clarity and vision for the long-term.  As you proceed, be cognizant of the unexpected opportunities which will arise amidst these dark days.    


To jumpstart your efforts, below are 4 strategies to get you on the road toward recession-proofing your membership base:          




STRATEGY #1 – Implement a “Call-to-Action” Messaging Strategy at All Levels

The ASAE Decision to Join Study revealed that association members place a higher importance on “good-of-the-order” association activities, which support and advance the profession, compared to personal benefit.  At the end of the day, if your association is not there to advance your members professional and industry-based interests, then who will? 


In these turbulent times, multiple pressure points are threatening all industries and professions.  Further, competition for attention and influence at the local, state and national level is fierce.  As a call-to-action for member support, Be certain to continually reinforce and communicate your association’s advocacy and public relations agenda/accomplishments to members as well as the challenges that will be facing them in the future.     


STRATEGY #2 – Place Strong Emphasis on the Value of Membership Networks and Resources

Whether the individual member need is monitoring up-to-the-minute trends,  identifying industry-specific strategies for weathering the recession or conducting a job hunt, there is no better time to promote the value of the resources, information and human connection your associations provides.  Be certain to position your association accordingly placing a strong emphasis on the specific ways in which membership is your member’s best ally during recessionary times. 



STRATEGY #2 – Master the Art of the Emotional Value Proposition

Behavioral economics teaches us that the majority of economic decisions people make are based more on emotion even when rational facts are available.*  The degree to which a member is emotionally engaged in your association may be the difference in determining whether or not she writes that check during tough economic times. 


Simply put, we want our members to develop an emotional connection with our associations.  Often, the difference is made not by what you give members, but in how you make them “feel” about themselves and their professional calling. 


Beyond the practical value proposition of membership, cultivate an Emotional Value Proposition (EVP) which speaks to the heart of each member.  If you’re not sure where to start, here are some ideas to consider:


§      Cultivate a deep understanding of the psychological motivation of your members in their professional pursuits as well as the impact of their profession/trade.

§      Cultivate pride by telling compelling stories about your association’s history, its accomplishments and the crucial role that each member plays.

§      Highlight and reinforce the importance of your members’ profession/trade in society.

§      Gather testimonials of people whose lives have been touched by your members’ profession/trade and develop emotive ways to present these stories.  

§      Help your members become re-inspired in reconnecting them with their original calling to their profession/trade as well as highlighting the difference they make on a daily basis.

§      Demonstrate how your association brings together the collective emotional energy and potential of each and every member to achieve a higher common purpose.


(* see Behavioral Economics:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behavioral_economics )

STRATEGY #4 – Leverage Volunteerism as a Recession-Proofing Strategy

Regardless of the scope or duration of the opportunity, volunteering represents both a personal and emotional investment in your association.  Positive volunteer experiences strengthen a sense of belonging and ownership between member and association. 


ASAE’s Decision to Join Study not only illustrates the correlation between volunteer involvement and member loyalty, but also shows how involved members are more likely to be promoters of the association.  Having a strong membership base of loyal promoters can make a significant difference during tough economic times.


Entry filed under: Managing Change, Organizational Management.

Tips for Overcoming Leadership Ambiguity in Associations Responding to Challenges in Volunteer Management

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Peggy Hoffman  |  March 10, 2009 at 8:54 am

    Enjoyed the read and the ideas! It prompted by 4th Truth about Volunteering: http://tinyurl.com/b79j4w

  • 2. Deirdre Reid  |  March 16, 2009 at 7:51 am

    This is a great post! Associations should use this as a jumping-off point for their own retention strategy.


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