Use your association’s online member community to open the door to non-members

How can your small association attract more members?

Here’s how your online member community can demonstrate the value of membership and convince more people to join.

Michelle Schweitz, YourMembership Marketing Manager

By Michelle Schweitz, Marketing Manager, Community Brands


Recruiting new members is a never-ending challenge. When I was working at an association, I know we were always looking for new ways to recruit new members to grow the organization and replace those members who left each year.

Increasing member recruitment can seem like an especially tall order when you have a small staff. The good news is that your online member community can be a big help.

Here’s why: The Community Brands Digital Evolution Study points to the top reasons that members join a professional organization. They include networking and staying up to date on news, regulations, and trends.

What better way to connect prospective members with peers in their industry and offer up the industry resources they’re seeking than your online member community? Giving non-members access to your online community is a great way to demonstrate the value of becoming a member of your association. It can give prospective members that extra nudge they need to join your organization.

Here are four ways to open your online member community to non-members and drive new memberships:

  1. Give non-members limited access.
    Giving non-members access to your online member community provides them with a taste of what it’s like to be a member of your association. But they shouldn’t have access to the entire online member community – that’s just for members. Be sure to use online member community software that allows you to limit what non-members can see and how they can participate in your online community.
  2. Start a discussion group.
    Start a discussion group in your online community for non-members/prospective members. Ask some of your most involved members to actively participate in the group, sharing tips, resources, and benefits of joining the organization.
  3. Connect non-members with members.
    Connect non-members to volunteer member ambassadors who can help answer any questions they might have about membership. Your online member community software should allow you to automatically make these connections.
  4. Schedule an “ask me anything” forum.
    Set up a forum in your online community for non-members to ask any questions they might have about your association and what it’s like to be a member. Be sure to assign staff and volunteer members (and even board members and/or your executive director) to participate in the forum and answer non-members’ questions.

Take the next steps.
YourMembership association management software can help you put these approaches (and more!) to work at your organization to recruit more members. Here are some resources to help you take the next steps:

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