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The End of Membership as We Know It

28 June 2012 No Comment

By Michael Barratt, CMP
Senior Vice President, Meetings & Event
Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association

Membership and the reason individuals belong to associations has shifted over the years. Speaker Sarah Sladeck of XYZ University identified three main reasons for the decline of membership during “The End of Membership as We Know It” session at the PCMA Education Conference on June 12.

  1. Economics and the declining economy overall
  2. Changing technology – there have been more changes in the past 5 years then in the previous 50 years
  3. Demographic shift – by the year 2015 there will be more Generation Y employees in the workforce than any other age group

If you factor in all of the above you realize that the face of associations and professional societies are changing as a result of changes in culture and behavior . It is our responsibility to prove ROI because individuals scrutinize how they spend every dollar and want more personal and professional value for the money they spend. In the past people attended meetings or joined associations because it was the right thing to do. From this point forward individuals won’t attend or join without proof of value.

After attending this session, I realized we need to keep in mind our members’ needs and work to establish an emotional connection with them. The only way to eliminate the competition and corner the market is to identify our niche to maximize our association’s value. Some other tips:

  • Always provide relevant and useful information.
  • Work to identify ways of providing something they can’t get anywhere else and be specific about what you have to offer.
  • Define your culture especially with regards to the type of customer service you provide.
  • Make every experience you offer authentic and exceptional and you will strengthen your membership base.

If you haven’t already initiated conversations with younger members, start now. Get to know Generation X, and Y as they are your future members. You will discover they want a membership that provides access and action. Your future members see technology as a defining member value so you cannot afford to fall behind in this arena.

Beyond serving changing demographics, you need to ask yourself some difficult questions to ensure you are serving your membership. How does your association make a difference in your members’ lives? What would happen if your association no longer existed?  These are not easy questions but in the end you will have the answers to make your membership benefits focused and prove ROI to your members.

One thing that I found really interesting from this session was the fact that Generation Y, unlike previous generations, will promote an association or a convention to others when they receive a recommendation from a peer even without personal experience. That is a pretty powerful tool if we can learn to use it.

Looking for more? Read the PCMA Education Foundation Research released 6/26 on Millennials and meetings.


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