With the NFL playoffs just around the corner and the Superbowl only weeks away, football fans are more energized than ever, eagerly anticipating how their respective teams will perform and whether they will take home that coveted championship title. My family supports the Minnesota Vikings, but I was part of a Chicago Bears household growing up. Not a football fan? Maybe there is another sport or team you support. Sports teams provide us with electrifying energy, excitement, and a sense of belonging.  


We all want to be part of a winning team.   

I want you to think about the following scenario: what if your favorite team added other skill sets to its repertoire? For example, if the Bears or Vikings suddenly announced they were also going to play baseball, volleyball, or some other sport in addition to football, they likely wouldn’t have the same value to their fans. We support specific teams because we consider them the best at their craft, not because they do it all.   

Membership associations aren’t much different. Your members will typically join your organization because you provide something others don’t.  


That one thing that sets you apart from the rest is your “niche” and is the secret to long-term, sustainable success.   

Unfortunately, when challenges arise, many associations tend to overcompensate by trying to be accessible and available to everyone by offering too many services. This reaction leads to confusion, frustration, and burnout amongst your board and members alike. Associations in these situations quickly lose focus of their niche and, ultimately, their purpose. What many organizations don’t realize is that there is money to be found in niches. By carving out an area of expertise and being the ‘go-to’ resource, you will attract more members, and thus, more funds.  

In today’s marketplace, your organization needs to offer access to something of incredible value to eliminate your competition. To help find your niche and maintain it, I recommend regularly doing two simple things: 


Identify problems your members are facing.  

Once you have figured out the challenges affecting your member base, provide up to three specific services to help remedy them. Any more, and you will likely become overwhelmed and lose focus of your purpose.  


Create a truly remarkable experience for your members. 

Make your members feel important. Remember, they have joined your association to be part of a community and should be reminded of their valuable role in your organization.  


Don’t lose sight of your mission as you start to incorporate these practices into your organization. Continually ask yourself: 

  • What is our purpose?  
  • Who is our target market?  
  • What is the one thing we can do better than anybody else? 


As we learn how to grow membership in today’s era, I urge you to be the best at something, not everything to everyone. By honing in on your niche, you will continue to score points with a more engaged member base that is proud to be a part of your winning team. 

For some organizations, this is easier said than done. If you’re wondering how to narrow down your association’s area of expertise, let’s team up and find the answer together.