To have an association, you must have members, and to have members, you must recruit members.  Sure, that group of five or six people who thought up the idea of organizing into an association to begin with are a good start, but to really accomplish anything, growth is essential.  A few people will hear about your association and decide on their own to give it a try, but you have to both keep them and bring in more in an active manner.  A well-constructed membership drive is the key to bringing in the members and volunteers your organization needs to thrive.

            There are four, basic parts to a member campaign – Ready, Aim, Fire, Follow-through – and each part has steps of it’s own. Let’s look at those, point by point:


I.          Ready

            This is where you focus energies and begin organizing.  Form a membership committee, of you don’t have a standing one. Set up a calendar with goal dates, start and end dates, and progress checkpoints.  The committee will create membership materials incorporating benefits of joining your association, with easy-to-follow instructions on how to join. (you’d be amazed at how many groups forget that part!) If electronic application is a possibility, make sure your website is ready, or there are sufficient staffing and resources to handle an increase in incoming mail if paper applications are used. Some kind of prize or incentive will help motivate current members to participate; for example, the member bringing in the most new members wins half-off one year’s dues, or a free registration for the next conference/meeting/workshop.


II.         Aim

            Find your target demographic for membership – students, practitioners/professionals/owners, whoever is appropriate for your association.  The membership committee should assemble, or purchase, the contact information for the group(s) you want.  If students are involved, enlist the aid of whatever faculty or administration at the academic institution might be able to help with supporting membership.  Some schools will even pay dues for students, depending on the field or industry in question.  Once you have a good, solid contact list, you’re ready to –


III.        Fire!

            It’s go time! Send out your letters or packets or emails. Be ready to answer questions by phone and in person, and be approachable and enthusiastic when you do. Keep application forms handy and know how any on-line application system works so you can help if asked.  Know some of the benefits your association offers (you should, you know, those same benefits attracted youat some time.) 


IV.            Follow-through.

            You can’t just stop, once you hit the end of the campaign. Make contact with all those new members – develop a year-long schedule of contacts, offering a little more information every time, about six weeks apart. Start with a simple “Welcome! You made a great decision by joining!” note (everyone likes to be told they’re smart.)  Next, a short, informal phone call to see if the new member has any questions.  After that, whatever is appropriate for your association – special edition newsletters with association history, invitations to join committees or other participation, whatever. The point is to give your new members a full year of attention, let them know they bring value to the organization, and that the organization appreciates it.  By the new members’ first anniversary, they should be fully invested and involved with the association, and ready to participate with zeal in the next membership drive.