What drives members to join associations? This question keeps membership staff up at night and constantly striving to discover the best ways to attract and close on potential members. Here, we present the top six reasons members join industry or trade associations, according to the recently released 2014 Small Membership Survey Report from Wild Apricot and the summarizing blog post “Snapshot of Small Membership Organizations in 2014.” These reasons are:
- Networking- This one is fairly obvious. In the great race to the top who you know matters, and industry and trade associations are filled with potential contacts. These associations give members a chance to connect and create relationships, making them fabulous networking opportunities for members who want to strengthen ties with clients or colleagues in their industry, hunt for jobs, or make long-term beneficial connections.
- Events- Industry and trade associations usually hold events on a fairly regular basis, as a way of engaging members and creating value for their membership. These events can be networking happy hours that give members a chance to form valuable connections, trade shows that help members stay up-to-date on with industry developments, and seminars and workshops to provide continuing industry education.
- Professional Development- Continuing education and professional development is key if you want to succeed in your profession. Trade and industry associations not only provide professional development opportunities in the form of workshops, seminars, and classes, they also provide the opportunity to learn from other members. The peer-to-peer learning and potential mentorship opportunities that associations provide allow members to pool their knowledge and take advantage of each other’s experiences.
- Learning best practices- All industries have best practices specific to their line of work. If you’re new in the game and don’t have much experience, ignorance of best practices can pose a serious business and reputational risk. Trade and industry associations provide a forum for promulgating industry-wide best practices, and becoming a member of your industry association gives you a resource to learn what best practices govern your chosen field. It can also give you a head start on compliance if best practices are amended or change.
- Information/news- Becoming a member of an industry association gives you a fast pass to any noteworthy news or developments in your industry. Not only do association members talk to each other, associations often provide curated newsfeeds or informative resources to their members as a way of adding value to the membership. Staying up-to-the-minute on industry news allows members to take advantage of changes or developments that might otherwise have passed them by.
Finally, members join organizations because they…
- Support the organization’s mission- Trade and industry associations give a public voice to groups that might otherwise be ignored, support the development of industry professionals, and act as a watchdog for the well-being of the industry as a whole. Individuals may join an organization because they believe in and support the mission of the organization and the work the organization does, even if they don’t use or need the other opportunities it provides. After all, members have often dedicated their professional lives to that field – they want it and others in it to succeed.
As you can see, developing your member numbers is heavily dependent on providing value in your organization’s membership. To gain and retain members, your programs and resources need to provide opportunities for your members to grow in their fields. Taking these six reasons into account when developing and revisiting your membership programs and benefits can have a lasting and positive impact on your membership numbers.