March 09, 2021   |   Vol. 20   |   Issue 3
Tony Rossell, MGI Senior Vice President

Empowering Your Membership Recruitment

For many associations, the past twelve months represented a time of fiercely trying to hold onto your members. For others, they have seen an alarming decline in membership counts.

But there is a reason for hope. Our decades-long benchmarking research shows that the very best years for new member growth have come right after a time of disruption. That is because potential members realize the need to improve skillsets, stay on top of the rapidly changing developments, and network in their professional community.

To help you restart your membership efforts, our just-released book, Membership Recruitment: How to Grow Recurring Revenue, Reach New Markets, and Advance Your Mission, guides you through the crucial steps needed to grow your membership.

The driver of membership growth is establishing an ongoing and effective membership recruitment program. In Membership Recruitment, we present an in-depth look at the five pillars that support growth. The recruitment pillars are:

  1. Understanding who is the target market that the association wants to reach. The single most significant predictor of marketing success is targeting the right prospects. The top prospects include lapsed members, non-member product buyers, and website cart abandons. But for substantial growth, an association needs to reach beyond those in your database. Third-party lists and databases can be mined to help get entirely new potential members and open new markets to an association.
  2. Determining what special membership offers will encourage a prospect to respond to a promotion. Joining an association is available 24/7 through your website. So to motivate someone to act now requires an incentive. Strong new member incentives include a dues discount, product voucher, or free months of membership. Associations that have conducted detailed analysis find that the right new member offer leads to more members and revenue in the near term and ultimately more members in the longterm compared to not using recruitment incentives.
  3. Defining how to reach prospective members through the many marketing channels now available. The days of relying on a single channel to gain members are over. Those groups that depended on getting members through registrations at an annual meeting saw significant declines because of canceled meetings with the pandemic. Others who rely on email see diminishing open and click rates through overuse. Today, best practices follow an omnichannel approach coordinating mail, email, phone, and digital ads. Associations that successfully coordinate these channels find exponentially better results than relying on one or two methods.
  4. Creating messages on why a member should join an association. Good membership marketing defines a focused, unique selling proposition that speaks to potential members’ needs and aspirations. You can refine your value proposition through market research or regular testing to identify the most compelling member benefits. Strong recruitment messages include testimonials, proof that what you promise is accurate, and a call to action moving to direct a prospect to take the next step in joining.
  5. Developing where a membership marketing program should go in the future through testing, tracking, and analysis. Any marketing effort that does not regularly test is bound to underperform. All of the recruitment pillars – lists, offers, channels, and messages -- lend themselves to testing. A simple A/B test of a single variable will result in a winner that can be replicated and a loser that can be abandoned. By testing, tracking, and analysis you create an exciting marketing laboratory that maximizes the return on investment for every marketing dollar you spend.

For detailed strategies and case studies on building a membership recruitment engine for your association, look at our just-published book, Membership Recruitment: How to Grow Recurring Revenue, Reach New Markets, and Advance Your Mission. It is a minimal investment with powerful insights to guide the growth of your membership. Membership Recruitment is available on Amazon as both a print publication and as an eBook.

If you would like more information on strategies to grow your membership, contact Tony Rossell at

Request a Membership Consultation