We’ve all witnessed a magic trick at one point or another in our lives. Whether it’s a card trick, a rabbit being pulled out of a hat, or a disappearing act, all of these illusions are meant to do just that – create the “illusion” or mirage of something real. If you had your own magic wand, what type of magic would you cast upon your association? Would it be an increase in membership, a boost in revenue, or enhanced value for your stakeholders? Believe it or not, you can accomplish all of this (and more!) with a few key changes to your membership approach – no trickery or magic necessary.

Many organizations think they understand why members join their community, but nine times out of ten, they’ve got it wrong. When someone joins your association, it’s not for the networking or programming opportunities, the advocacy you provide, or perks you offer. Rather, people are joining your association because they believe you can help them solve a problem they personally identify with. No matter what type of organization you are (professional, trade, community, or social), your target audience will be driven to your doorstep if they think that you hold the solutions to the challenges they face.

To understand the problems you should be solving, its best to begin by understanding what kinds of problems your members are currently dealing with. The most powerful piece of advice I can share with you is this: what is happening within your membership is reflective of what’s happening in the workforce. Many associations fail to recognize this, and are suffering the consequences in the form of disengaged and declining membership. The good news is that there are solutions that can help reverse this trend.

In order to understand how we got here, we must go back in time. Membership decline was a phenomena first reported in the mid-late 1990’s at a time when workforce decline was also happening simultaneously. A major social shift was underway, underscored by emerging trends in technology, customization, and globalization. Suddenly, people weren’t joining the associations their elders once did. Instead, they looked for communities tailored to their interests and where they felt like they belonged. At the same time, a similar trend began to take root in the workforce and as a society, and we have never fully recovered.

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In 2000, Gallup, an analytics and advisory company, reported for the first time that 70% of the workforce (yes, you read that correctly) was disengaged. They pledged to update that data point every year and share their findings. Over the next decade, that statistic would remain same. In 2010, some companies began to recognize that this issue needed to be addressed. Employers began to reconsider the perks and types of work environments they offered their workers in hopes of re-engaging their employees. Although they were clearly aware of the problem at hand, they couldn’t come up with the right solutions. 

So how do we prevent this cycle from continuing? The answer is twofold. 

First, stay current on what is happening in the workforce. To some degree, all of your members are facing a workforce problem, whether it be recruitment or retention, critical skills trainings, engaging NextGen demographics, etc. There is a direct correlation between the trends occurring in the workforce and the trends impacting your members – it’s all intertwined. Think of it like an illusion – one hand is doing one thing, while the other hand does another to make the magic happen. 

Second, create space for constant dialogue with your members. Find out what specific problems are keeping your members up at night. There are a host of tools you can use to gather this information. Whether it be a quick survey, or taking the time to chat over coffee – keep the dialogue continuous. This will give you a clear picture of what challenges your association can help address. When you stop solving problems, you lose value, members, and ultimately, revenue. 

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By implementing these practices, I guarantee you will start to see a major change within your association and the overall happiness of your members. So what’s holding you back? Start working some membership magic!

For more strategies to engage, retain, and grow your membership, reach out to us, and let’s work together.