I’ve been talking with associations of all sizes to find out what they are doing to attract younger members. The first step is clear, whether the association is big or very small, they are collecting member insights before they develop their young member strategies. But there seems to be a debate among associations on how to collect those insights or more precisely who to collect those insights from.
Many will ask, “shouldn’t we look outside the association and talk to non-members first?” There’s two schools of thought: solicit insights from non-members or solicit insights from members. It seems logical to lean toward getting insights from non-members but that doesn’t work. Members are better equip to give us insights to help us attract more members like them. Non-members on the other hand may lead us away from our core value.
Non-members May Not Care
Non-members are notoriously hard to recruit. Why would they want to give us their valuable time? They have no vested interest in the outcome. When we do get them on the phone they may lie. Not out of maliciousness but out of expediency. Let’s make this fast, they think, so we can get back to our lives.
The Non-members We Talk to May Never Become Members
There are non-members who will never be members and there are non-members who are prospects. What if we accidentally talk to non-members who will never be members anyway? Their insights may be very biased. It is very hard to tell if you are talking to a potential member or not. Just because they are in the industry or profession does not necessarily make them a good candidate for member. Insights from this group may lead us away from our core value.
Current Members Can Tell Us How to Attract New Members
Our most engaged current young members are the the best group to tell us how to attract, engage and retain more new members just like them. They will take the time to thoughtfully discuss their professional problems, their career path, their needs and their opinions of their member experience. Not only can our most engaged young members share insights that can help us succeed in the future, engaged long-time members are also a great source of insights for both young member and regular member strategies.
Talking to our most engaged current members, no matter whether young, new or long-time always yields the best results. These invested members happily share insights that become our building blocks for creating a strong community, more innovative offerings and a welcoming environment for our future leaders.