Ask most people why they join an association, especially a professional association, and they will tell you that someone recommended it. An employer, a colleague, a friend. Usually, someone they trust.

A year later, when it’s renewal time, it’s often quite a different proposition. It doesn’t matter how much they trust the person who recommended the association to them, if they don’t believe they have had value, they are unlikely to renew.

The three main reasons people stay with an association are because of the education provided, great networking opportunities, and they feel like (or want to feel like) a part of the community.

How you provide value is one thing. Demonstrating the value is a whole other ballgame. There can be a gap between what the association believes is value and what members want. Added to that mix is the complexity of communicating the value. Too many associations assume communication to members has occurred because they have sent out an email newsletter. Which is great in theory, except your message isn’t communicated until the person it’s intended for has received it. And with the average open rate for email newsletters hovering around 20%, there is a pretty good chance your member hasn’t opened it.

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Effective communication, including social media, can help you increase renewals. Effective communication – and there are 9 ways to communicate with your members – allows you to demonstrate the value you provide.

And don’t just wait until it’s renewal time to engage with your members, stay connected throughout the year.

When a new member joins, call them and say thank you. Ask why they joined and what they want to get out of membership. If it’s networking, let them know when your next events are on and if there is a specific person in your membership they would like to be introduced to. Then facilitate that introduction. If it’s professional education, ask them what they want to learn and then point them in the right direction. Make note of what new (and existing) members want to learn, and if there are common topics add these to your list for content creation or future events. If they want to feel part of a community, let them know how they can get involved – and no, this doesn’t mean immediately roping them into a committee!

You can do the same when a member renews. Especially if it’s a member you haven’t seen or spoken to in a while. Pick up the phone and say thank you. Ask why they renewed. Find out what they want from your association over the next twelve months. Ask them to refer you to their colleagues.

How are you finding out what your members want from your association? And how are you communicating value?

If you’re struggling with effective member communication, contact Mel to find out how she could help – or sign up to one of her workshops in July 2018, How to Become a Social Association.

Mel Kettle works with associations, not-for-profits and businesses to help them communicate effectively and authentically so they attract, retain and engage their members and customers. To inquire about working with Mel, please email mel@melkettle.com or call her on 0404 600 889.

Order a signed copy of Mel’s book, The Social Association – 5 key skills not-for-profits need to increase member engagement, generate ROI and create a thriving online community, published in February 2018.

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