What do potential members think when they look at your association? Do they feel included? Do you have membership appeal?
Have you ever received an Evite and made your decision whether to attend the party based on a peek at the guest list? We all do it. It’s human nature to seek comfort in familiar surroundings. When you don’t have anything in common with the other invitees, you’re more likely to decline the invitation, even if the event looks fun.
Take a look at your association’s membership roster. As you invite professionals from a variety of age groups, ethnicities, genders and life experiences to become part of your organization, do they want to come to your party? Will they feel included? Do they see others like themselves represented?
Making sure your association values a wide range of voices needs to be a part of your strategic plan. Many associations are struggling to grow or even maintain their membership numbers. Being intentionally inclusive helps potential members feel welcome and interested in being part of the organization.
Show and Tell
Creating an inclusive organization doesn’t happen magically. You first need to understand who is in your industry, and then make a focused effort to create programs, content and groups that meet the needs of your targeted membership. Then, when potential members research your organization, the benefits of joining and participating will become apparent.
Research – To appeal to a broad range of members, you need to figure out who you are serving or who you want to serve. What are the demographics of your industry? How does your current membership compare? What does each segment want from your association? The answers to these questions can help you set goals for inclusion and demonstrate the unique content and programs available for your wider audience and specific groups.
Programs/Content – Armed with your marketing research, what updates can you make to your events, online content and educational programs so they are relevant to the entire membership and smaller sub-segments? Can you highlight members on your website that represent your key membership segments and let them tell how they benefit from the association’s programs? Tailored programming and content is where you can really shine and prove your association understands what’s going on in the marketplace, and in society.
Specialty sub-groups – For decades, the American Medical Association (AMA) was THE association for medical professionals. In recent years, the group has lost some market share as physicians look to specialty organizations that address their specific practice areas. In the same way, individuals in your industry may be looking for an organization that provides input and support for the specific issues that are important to them. Certainly, this could include industry segment, but it may include others factors such as gender, ethnicity, charitable interests and much more. Are there opportunities for your organization to establish communities that speak to your membership segments?
Your association is extremely valuable to your profession. By opening your doors to a wider audience, you may be in a better position to serve their needs and maintain your organization’s influence for the benefit of your entire industry.