I’ve been thinking a lot lately about membership organizations. It seems everyone wants you to be part of their “club.” Like the Billy Squire song from the 80’s, EVERYBODY WANTS YOU! In my world that translates into trade associations, alumni groups and parent/teacher clubs. Membership involves paying the annual dues which in turns gives you access to people in the club. It also scores you invites to events organized by the club. Everyone wants a piece of you (and your money) so how do you decide which one gets your time, talent and treasures? I say focus on those that make membership meaningful!
A good membership organization values its members. I love it when I see members highlighted on Facebook, LinkedIn or the association website. As a new member, this tells me they value involvement and it also helps me get to know members. Sometimes you pay your dues yet it feels like no one knows you exist. How great would it be if each new member was hooked up with a veteran member? They could be a mentor for resources, as well as introduce them to others to help them get connected. This one-on-one attention might be enough to get them to come to your meeting next month (rather than doing one of the other four-thousand things on their to-do list).
A good membership organization creates opportunities for engagement. When I become part of a new group, I always look at the leadership. I want to know what they do, what support they get and all about the time commitment. I like to see how they use committees to get things done. After all, if a leadership role is in my future, I want to know it’s manageable. If leadership is burned out, that’s a sign that the volunteer pool is not too deep (or it’s under-utilized). There’s no better way to engage new members (or volunteers) than to invite them to become involved. It is true that we tend to support that which we help create.
A good membership organization provides opportunities to connect socially. It really is about relationships. Think about your alumni groups. It’s one thing to connect via social media with friends from high school or college. It’s something much deeper to attend an alumni gathering at your high school homecoming or college football game. The same is true with trade associations. Give me some professional development but also provide a venue for me to develop relationships on a social level. Those are the ones that seem to take root and translate into business and opportunities.
So as you sift through all the offers to join this group or be part of that club, ask the question, “Will membership be meaningful?“ Then once you become a member, ask yourself, “What am I doing to make membership meaningful for others?”. That answer probably lies in stepping out of your comfort zone: Greet new members. Serve on a subcommittee. Take on a leadership role. If we all do a little, we can achieve a lot.