How’s your first-year member retention rate? Not that great? You’re not alone. First year retention is a challenge for most associations, maybe because they spend much more money on acquiring new members than on guiding them into the association. Last week I suggested several onboarding ideas, beginning with the application and welcome touches. The next touch: orientation.

New approaches to orientation

Many associations still run orientations the way the Pennsylvania School Boards Association used to: “We talked at new members — the ‘It’s all about us’ approach.”

Turn the focus around and make the new member reception (more appealing than ‘orientation’) about them. Hold it before an event to encourage participation. Allow plenty of discussion time. Ask veteran members to learn more about the new members, answer questions, show them around the website and advise them on membership paths.

Invite new vendor members to a marketing workshop where a veteran member panel explains how to market and develop business within the association. Send tips on association networking and relationship-building to all new vendor members.

Please read the rest of this post about new member onboarding at the Avectra blog.

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Photo by Global X/Flickr

There’s a restaurant saying, “turn ‘em and burn ‘em.” Get customers in the seats and back out the doors as quickly as possible. Although turning tables helps the cash register, you risk alienating customers if they think you’re only interested in their money, not their dining experience.

I thought of “turn ‘em and burn em” recently when I read this in MGI’s Membership Marketing Benchmark Report: for every dollar spent on recruitment, associations spend only 27 cents on new member onboarding and engagement. Why is so little dedicated to new members, the ones most at risk for not renewing?

Do you know how it feels to be a new member? Think about the first time you joined a gym. Like new association members, you had membership expectations and goals. Membership would be good for you, but only if you made it part of your life.

Like successful gyms, we should make it easy for members to fit this new habit (membership) into their lives. If they see early results, they’ll be motivated to keep coming back.

Please read the rest of this post about new member onboarding at the Avectra blog.

associations new member onboarding association orientation retention

Photo by Ms. Phoenix (Flickr)

“I wish I could, but I don’t have the time.”

Are you hearing that more frequently? As life becomes more complex, members have more options for spending their time and, consequently, more demands on their time. Juggling their work, family, and social lives with association service isn’t as easy as it used to be. The traditional membership experience—volunteering for committee and board service—requires a commitment of time and energy that many are no longer able or willing to give.

“The younger generation will change the dynamic of the membership and volunteer experience,” predicts Jill Eckert McCall, director of the ABA Center for Continuing Legal Education and past chair of the Chicago Bar Association Young Lawyers Section. “We want to engage and serve in ways that are very different than generations before us. We don’t just give lip service to work-life balance; we actually go out and get it.”

Bar associations have the opportunity to provide an alternative volunteer path for those of all ages who want to get involved, give back, and have a meaningful membership experience, but on their own terms.

Read the rest of my article about microvolunteering at the American Bar Association’s Bar Leader magazine website.

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Photo by Tim Pierce (Flickr)

I hear you. “Games, yes! It’s about time we looked at games.”

And I hear you too. “Games? You can’t be serious. Not at my association.”

Full disclosure, I’m not a gamer, so this is all a bit foreign to me too. I first started paying attention to games two years ago at a TEDx conference where I heard an IBM game designer talk about using games for training and education. Ever since I’ve been intrigued by the idea that game thinking can help associations deliver a better experience.

I’m not the only one. Game dynamics was the topic of last week’s #assnchat.

It’s tempting to dismiss any consideration of games by saying members are serious professionals and wouldn’t go for those shenanigans, but they do.

Games are the most downloaded apps. 72% of households play computer or video games. The average gamer is 37 years old. 42% of gamers are women. 55% of gamers play on their phone or hand-held device.

Here’s what I’m wondering: how can we leverage the principles of game design to make the membership experience or professional development journey more meaningful, or encourage online community participation?

Please read the rest of this post at the Avectra blog.

Next week I plan to go offline for an at-home retreat. I envision lots of reading, thinking, planning and creativity exercises. That means I’m finally digging into Patti Digh’s Creative is a Verb and some writing books that have been wooing me. I’m starting the week with a massage on Monday. Isn’t that how all retreats start? Life and work may get in the way, and if so, I’ll roll with it. But if I’m extra quiet, now you know why.

Betting can begin on whether I can abstain from Twitter. I’m dubious myself. For those who can’t get enough of me, that means you, mum, here are some of my recent posts for other blogs.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

Despite all the mentions on TV by hosts and anchors trying to sound hip, only 8% of online Americans use Twitter, according to The Pew Research Center. Only 53% of that group check Twitter once a week or more for updates. How do your members compare? Have you asked them lately where they go online to find news, information and conversation?  Read more at Avectra…

It’s Time to Award Innovation in Associations

Most association awards programs are pretty ho-hum, unless, of course, you’re a nominee. ASAE and state SAE award criteria are predictable. The recipients are usually active long-time members who have ‘paid their dues.’ Don’t get me wrong, the ASAE and SAE award recipients do deserve the recognition. But are awards like these sufficient? Why not use awards programs to inspire new ideas and practices in addition to recognizing the good work of others?  Read more at Avectra…

A New Association Position: Director of Member Engagement

Did you know last week was National Volunteer Week? It didn’t get much play in the association world. The lack of celebration might be the symptom of a larger issue: many associations don’t practice good volunteer management.  Read more at Avectra…

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Image by Mike Licht, Notions Capital

How to Make Time for a “Small Bite” of Community

Social media pioneer Chris Brogan wrote earlier this year about online communities and “platform fatigue.” “We want to connect on maybe two or three networks tops. One or two of these will remain the “commons” services like Facebook or Twitter. The rest of people’s interactions are going to fall into smaller communities, often private or self-selected in some way.” Our time, attention span and dedication are limited. How much can we spare for a new online community if we’re already spending time on Facebook, Twitter and other sites? What about your members?  Read more at SmartBlog Insights…

Association Exercise: What If We Have a Shutdown?

A big sigh of relief was heard in Washington DC and beyond Friday night when Congress finally took action to avoid a government shutdown. But the whole debacle got me thinking, “what if?” What if your association shut down at the end of the week? What if it shut down not only inessential services, but everything? And taking this scenario one step further, what if it shut down not just temporarily, but forever?  Read more at Avectra…

“Ubercoolz” Member Testimonials

Member testimonials can be awfully predictable — a flattering repetition of membership brochure features. Yawn. Imagine instead that your association is the main event and your members are reviewers giving one-word testimonials as in this New Museum exhibition advertisementRead more at Avectra…

If Mitchell of Modern Family dances in a flash mob, they must already be passé, right?

associations membership experience

Hells no! I’m still a sucker for a really good flash mob, especially the artsy ones, and I know I’m not alone. This food court performance of the Hallelujah Chorus still makes my eyes water. You want more?

Why are flash mobs so powerful? My latest theory is they bring us into the right now — this present moment. The present, strangely enough, isn’t a place we always hang out, unless we’re advanced yogis. We’re more likely reworking the past or speculating about the future. We live in the present when we’re in the ‘zone’ or caught up in the ‘flow’, for example, while writing a blog post, chopping vegetables, painting, climbing a rock wall or experiencing a great work of art.

Flash mobs take us by surprise and let us share exuberance together. Is it some communal Dionysian urge? Who knows, but it’s joyful. We’re knocked out of our routine, thrown a bit off balance. “Wait, what the heck is going on here? Who are these people? Why are they doing that?” And then, “Wow, this is pretty awesome.” You’d have to be a lost soul or curmudgeon to not smile a bit inside when you see a flash mob happening around you.

Even the Knight Foundation, usually focused on promoting journalism, can’t resist the allure of the flash mob. They’re sponsoring Random Acts of Culture in the communities where the Knight Brothers owned newspapers. They “strongly believe in the potential of the arts to engage residents, and bring a community together. Hearing Handel, or seeing the tango in an unexpected place provides a deeply felt reminder of how the classics can enrich our lives.” It’s part of their effort to encourage folks to regularly enjoy a concert, visit a gallery or see a dance performance by giving them a taste of that goodness.

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I’m going to somehow bring this discussion back around to associations. What possibly could be the connection? Well, there is the fun flash mob we did last year (some of us without any rehearsing, ahem) on the trade show floor at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Association Executives. But that’s not where I’m going.

Here’s my question. Maybe the Knight Foundation is on the right track, and flash mobs expose folks to great art and get them thinking that they might actually like the symphony, ballet or opera. They give them a taste of what that experience is like. It’s all about the experience!!

Compare an arts experience to a typical association membership experience:

  • a one-way mailbox relationship
  • a semi-productive committee meeting
  • an educational session or conference that provided a few handouts but nothing permanently imprinted in the attendee’s brain
  • an endless trade show floor of needy vendors

Count me out; I’ll be at the opera.

Can a mix of face-to-face and online community participation make the association experience better by offering more opportunities for sharing and learning, conversations and relationship building? Can a more innovative approach to education make that experience better? Do your members depart from an association experience, whether it’s online or in real life, with a glow on their faces and, even better, in their brains?

Yes, we need to focus on the value or ROI that members get with their association membership. But perhaps we should also focus on their experience – that’s an intangible benefit that we shouldn’t overlook.

I’ve been a busy blogging bee lately. Here are a few of my posts on other blogs.

Give New Life to Your Press Release

With the rise of social media, some pundits have declared the press release dead. Others say that’s an extreme view; a good release still plays an important role. However, too many releases deserve the dustbin — poorly crafted, irrelevant and self-serving announcements disguised as press releases.

Read more…

The Power of Personal Learning Networks

It’s an exciting time for lifelong learners. Sources for news, information and knowledge were limited when I first entered the association management industry, but now, thanks to social media, options for learning are unlimited. As a result, we’re bombarded with words and ideas.

Read more…

Is Boomer Leadership Failing Millennials?

Millennials have been pushing my buttons lately, but in a good way. In my last post I looked at the online discussion about the value of association membership that Joe Flowers’ post provoked. This week I read a post by another Millennial blogger, Josip Petrusa – Attracting Millennials to Your Event and Why You’re Failing at It. He wrote of a recent PCMA conference. “It’s as if no one had a true grasp on who and what the Millennials are all about.”

Read more…

To Be or Not to Be, a Member

Last week Joe Flowers tweeted, “After a lot of thought, I decided to not renew my (ASAE Young Association Professional) membership.” I suggested he blog about his decision. His reasoning is probably shared by many association members so his peers would benefit from hearing his views. His post spurred a passionate conversation about associations and membership.

Read more…

Social Media and Political Action Lessons from Egypt

“Every Egyptian I talked to on ground this week laughed when I told them some think tech was not a vital tool for organizing.” Jared Cohen, Director of Google Ideas and an Adjunct Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, sent that tweet last week.

Read more when it’s published on Wednesday, February 9, 2011

associations social media press releases grassroots membership

Graphic by Mike Licht

I took a break during the holidays to enjoy time with my family and friends. I didn’t read much online but caught a few outstanding blog posts and conversations, particularly Joe Flower’s post and resulting comments about his decision to not renew his ASAE membership and a follow-up post by Maddie Grant. I’ll go into this topic further in my post this week at SmartBlog Insights.

The Blizzard of 2010 hit Massachusetts last week while I was visiting my family. My hometown got a foot and a half of snow so I spent several hours shoveling. Newark NJ mayor Cory Booker also spent many hours with his shovel and mobile Twitter application. Amanda Hite wrote about his tweets to constituents throughout the storm — a “new standard for politicians.”

I didn’t make official resolutions this year (yet) but I’m thinking about changes I want to make in my life: make my health a bigger daily priority instead of taking it for granted; and make more time to think, read books and nurture my creative side. I discovered some of Virginia Woolf’s resolutions, thanks to a tweet from Ayse. I especially like, “to fill my brain with remote books & habits.” What a cool glimpse into her head.

The Virginia Woolf tweet trail led me to Tracy Seeley sharing the LA Times’ list of the literary resolutions of 37 writers and readers. Here’s one I’ll steal for myself, “To converse more with my books. To write in the margins.” There are even more entertaining resolutions in the list. Do you know of any other historical or literary icon’s resolutions? I’m sure I could google this but rather hear about your favorites.

I bet many of you have at least thought about fitness or wellness in the last few days. “This year I’ll exercise at least 30 minutes a day,” or “This year I’ll get out into nature more.” If this sounds familiar, and if you live in North Carolina, you’ll love Joe Miller’s blog, Get Going NC. He writes about hiking, running, cycling and other fitness and wellness topics.

This is the best thing I’ve read lately on writing blog posts. Carol Tice gives 40 simple writing tweaks for better blog posts. Bookmark it and keep going back to it; I just did.

Ali Luke shares several good ideas on ProBlogger on how to improve your writing by getting outside the blogging bubble. Perhaps you’ll find some fodder there for New Year’s resolutions?