Top Association Leadership Tips Straight From the Industry Experts



Membership Development Tips from the ExpertsOne great benefit to working with so many association CEOS is the chance to see their perspective on leadership. Here are three of the most influential association leaders and what they’ve learned about building and strengthening membership in their organizations:
Susan K. Neely, President of the American Beverage Association, provides leadership to help the beverage industry face serious new regulatory and public relations challenges.
“A strong membership at all levels is critical to any association”

  • As a leader of your association, ask how you can make the team reach its full potential. Everyone has a stake in something, and your challenge is to figure out what your members can contribute. Your goal is not a result that reflects the lowest common denominator. Create a team that is committed to your vision and your strategy, and appreciate the different contributions from everyone.
  • Do not take for granted any part of your membership or business. Your members, just like you, are working harder and trying to do more with less. Remember that when members are extremely busy and resources are tight, this is when they need your help most.
  • Information overload is a problem that associations can help solve for members, by delivering well-focused communications. Members don’t have time to read, sift through and act on all the news that impacts the industry. Turn all the news and information into concise, actionable intelligence. Get highly relevant updates to members promptly so they don’t need to go anywhere else.

[Tweet “Remember that when members are extremely busy, this is when they need your help most. @Susankneely”]
Sharon Kneebone, Director of Membership for the Institute of Food Technologists, helps the food science community turn knowledge into solutions that benefit people around the world. She stresses the value of knowing your members well.
“Not everybody wants to engage in the same way”

  • Rethink the membership model. The primary reason that people join the association is to advance their careers. But how IFT delivers on that must change, because member expectations are more diverse. The baby boom generation accepted a membership model where everyone got the same set of services for their dues. But newer members expect the IFT to be able to customize what it can provide.Among many changes, IFT is studying pricing at different levels to provide the engagement that members are looking for.
  • Look for new offerings to fill the most pressing needs of members. The industry is seeing is a gap in business skills as a generation of food scientists retires, and new people enter the workforce. They are well trained in their scientific disciplines, but many lack business skills such as how to deal with office politics, manage projects, and bring different groups of people together. As training needs evolve, IFT is taking a leadership role in finding new ways to engage members by helping both employers and members fill the gaps in business training needed to advance professionally.
  • Make the association message more accessible, and more specifically targeted to distinct types of professionals. IFT has now integrated its membership data, and now it can look at 53 geographic sections around the world. They learned that not everyone wants to engage with IFT the same way. To open up more touch points for prospects, IFT launched an open platform for friends of IFT to build connections and conversations. To connect with these global members, IFT created a collection of videos telling their story about their work and why they are a member. IFT can better connect with diverse prospects by using videos that represent a range of member personas.

[Tweet “3 Top Association Leaders share their best tips for membership development”]
Robb MacKie, President and CEO of the American Baker’s Association,suggests what associations can do to help members.
“Having somebody focus solely on membership development is critically important.”

  • Put a focus on membership development. Association CEOs don’t often have resources to devote exclusively to contacting members, analyzing membership feedback and data, and reviewing the messages to members. Working with a qualified membership development consultant helped ABA examine its strengths, its value proposition, and members’ perception of value.
  • Focus on your strongest message. In order to attract members, it is critically important to hone the membership message down to its strongest elements. This has a high impact on the bottom line in your ability to attract new members. You want not only to attract them, but also to engage them right from the beginning.
  • Look at value delivered to members ahead of membership numbers. We never want to be complacent about providing value that engages our members. From my perspective, the strength of the ABA is the engagement of the members.

[Tweet “To attract members… hone the membership message down to its strongest elements. @ABAPRES”]

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