We do a lot of work with trade and professional associations helping them increase membership and retention, get record attendance at their events, and find sources of non-dues revenue.
One way in which we do this is by speaking to the leaders of the associations’ state and local chapters. That way, we’re able to share our strategies with as many as 100 individual groups, giving them the opportunity to try things out locally and share results and best practices with their peers.
Our Members All Look the Same!
When we start talking about membership challenges, one that comes up frequently is the lack of minority members.
Curiously, this came up as an issue in one such program, where in a room of over 150 people representing the association’s local leadership, all but five of the attendees were white, middle-aged men. Hmmm…
The fact that some segments feel ignored, disenfranchised, or outright abandoned has led to the creation of specialty associations like NAMIC (National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications), SWE (Society of Women Engineers) and NSHMBA (National Society of Hispanic MBAs).
Let’s Try to Be Inclusive Instead…
Because this situation is surprisingly common, I was thoroughly delighted with what I saw at a recent conference. I was speaking for the Annual Leadership Forum of the American Academy of Family Physicians in Kansas City.
Running concurrently with that program was the National Conference of Special Constituencies (NCSC). This is AAFP’s leadership forum to address member issues specific to women, minorities, new physicians, international medical graduates, and GLBT physicians.
This is important because AAFP recognizes not only the importance of including these groups, but also the fact that these groups have historically been underrepresented. And not only in general membership, but also in leadership positions.
Customize the Value Proposition
We all know the importance of the message-to-market match. This is when a message appears to be written directly for the recipient.
For groups that have felt like they were being ignored or marginalized, the fact that they are not alone is important.
It makes them feel like they’re a part of something bigger and gives them a sense of community.
One other reason this is so essential with this group is the nature of their work. They’re not just physicians-they’re family physicians. The fact that they’ve chosen this specialty (as opposed to surgery, neurology, or cardiology) shows they understand the importance of “community.”
They work in community-health centers, small towns, and larger practices. They see multiple members of the same family. They sometimes see patients from birth through adulthood.
If their professional organization goes out of its way to create a similar sense of community, they’re far more likely to join, stay, and become active members.
Do You Make It Just for Them?
If you can find a way to create a community of some sort with your customers, clients, and members, they’ll be far more likely not only to stick around for a while, but actually to become your strongest advocates.