Nonprofit membership managers have a unique juggling act to perform: first, retain members; second, grow the membership; and third, unhealthy keep up with trends in association membership in order to accomplish the first two goals. After working with many association executives, for many the key to accomplishing all three goals is an integrated, cloud-based membership management software that enables you to keep up with any new trend while not breaking the bank. In this article, I discuss some interesting trends in membership management to spark your mind to contemplate; What If?
3 Trends in Membership Management
Let’s take a look at three 2016 trends and how the right membership management software can support your association’s success in embracing these trends.
Managing members as valued customers
Let’s face it: explosive growth in online communications, from social media to a barrage of email marketing, has made it both easier to reach members and simultaneously harder to help members feel like they are special and appreciated.
A recent white paper published by Abila, the nonprofit software firm, cites a study which concludes that “38 percent of those who don’t renew their association memberships site a lack of engagement with the organization.”
After all, who really can feel special when you receive an email blast that you know has gone to thousands of others—even if it has your name embedded near the top.
So, what will it take for nonprofit associations to attract and retain members going forward?
- Generally, it will mean targeting both online messages and marketing to segmented demographics; for example, managing relationships with Gen Ys differently than Boomers. Perhaps your association will create not one member portal, as is typical, but multiple portals based on targeted member segments. Can your membership management software do that?
- Specifically, it will create new opportunities to help members connect virtually with the association in ways that the members themselves perceive as value-added. Added value could mean anything from the levels of membership to the timing and/or type of communications. It could mean increased opportunities for interactive communications. Perhaps personalized algorithmic suggestions would make the difference: “Joe, there’s a webinar you may be interested in next month.” What would your association members perceive to be added value? Ask them. Then link their answers to their e-file and create action steps for them.
Can your membership management software do that?
Creating new alliances to share resources and ideas
Amanda Myers, senior product marketing manager at Abila, developer of Avectra Membership Software, predicts that more associations will pivot to developing partnerships of all stripes, including linking up in some fashion with for-profit entities and other nonprofit groups whose missions may be aligned with or complementary to their own:
“Many organizations will also look more closely at revenue channels and partnerships as hybrid membership models continue to emerge, revenue from certification programs grows, and associations will form new and different partnerships. … All avenues, channels, and opportunities will be explored to connect with potential new members and customers.”
The numerous upside to alliances, beyond the increased visibility and access to new members that Myers points out, is also that it enhances member management by being able to offer members a wider array of membership perks. You now would be able to offer, for example, a free pass to an event or webinar, or ten percent off your next meal at Joe’s Grille when your members renew their membership.
Can your membership management software do that?
Myers alludes in her statement above to the fact that some associations already offer certifications as a revenue stream. But everything an association focuses on should have, as its ultimate goal, ways to attract and retain members. Appropriate certification programs that would boost your members’ careers falls squarely within that ultimate goal.
In fact, I venture to suggest that an association’s ability to offer training-based certifications will be more than a trend—it will become vital to the association’s sustainability in the near future. As Abila’s white paper points out, “Millennial members … will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2020.” The Gen Y and Gen Y populations won’t be far behind. These generations have grown up with the Internet and will place a high value on e-learning platforms that aid their career growth.
E-learning opportunities abound: there are webinars, online toolkits, events, and more. As a forward-thinking association, then, you might start now to create customized certification platforms and/or partner with organizations whose training programs align with your association’s membership needs.
Can your membership management software manage do that?
Identifying the best fit software package
If your current software falls short of supporting the work your association must focus on, there is good news: an integrated, cloud-based package that fits the size and needs of your association already exists.
As I noted in a recent blog post, “your question should not be solely product focused. Rather, the question should be, “Which software program is best for my nonprofit organization (our culture, our budget, our processes, our people, and our goals and objectives)?” Is it CRM you need or a traditional proprietary membership platform?
At SmartThoughts, our laser focus is the answer to those questions. Contact us for help with identifying that best fit package to support the key work of your association and its members.