Should everyone be a member or should someone be a member? Of course not everyone can be a member. Associations are by definition exclusive. We are organizations for an industry, a profession, a portion of the population or for even a cause. Even though we have this orientation we, association leaders, tend to want to be more inclusive than exclusive. The more the better.
We tend to think the audience we should attract is much broader than it really is or really should be. We think that by expanding our audience membership will grow. Member growth is good, to a point, but then with too much growth we dilute.
Is an association really for everyone in this profession? Is the association able to even serve everyone in the profession? Think about these very different groups:
- New-to-the-profesion and long-timers
- Beginners and advanced
- Those from the largest organizations and those from the smallest
- Members with great resources and members with few resources
- Professionals who want to belong and professionals who have no time or inclination
- Those who need training and those who want to focus on advocacy
- Givers and Takers
When we have conversations about member growth we ask just that, how do we get more members? Perhaps we should ask what kind of members do we serve best? What kind of members are engaged, contribute and evangelize? What kind of member gets the most value from our association? The answer is, our best members. When we know who our best members are then we can ask how can we grow membership with this kind of member. How can we serve our best members better? How can we help our best members be more engaged.
If we pursue the other path, growing a membership of everyone soon we will have membership for no one.