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How can events be more effective as a membership recruitment tool

Our latest blog explores how membership organisations can use events to help grow the membership of their organisation.  It explores whether or not members and non-members should have the same, or similar experiences at events, and identifies a few “quick win” tools that associations can use to help them grow membership.

Why do we need new members? 

New members are very much the holy grail of any membership organisation.  Membership retention for most associations is at its absolutely best 90%, which means that all organisations need a minimum of 10% new members per annum just to retain the status quo.  Some studies carried out over the past twelve months (2020-2021) indicate that membership organisations have seen an overall decline in membership, which means that now more than ever it’s so important to have a clear strategy on how to use your events programme to recruit new members.

Events are fertile ground for new members 

When I trained in sales (let’s not count the years) we spoke about when the best time to “ask for the business” is…that’s a point where you ask a lead to sign the contract.  It’s usually when they can see that you as the suppler can solve their problems for them.  If someone’s enjoying themselves at an event and they can see value, either through knowledge or networking, they are a prime target for conversion.  

Furthermore, communicating membership value is a whole lot easier in person, so what better way to show prospective members the power of membership than showing it live in action?

Should non-members have the same event experience as members? 

We tend to prioritise the needs of members above non-members.  Quite right too.  Members are the lifeblood of the organisation, they are your community.   I would therefore argue that the answer is “no”.  

Non-members need to be able to see the benefits of membership, one of which is the “full” membership experience.  Creating “member-only” sessions are a great visual way to do this.  Nothing says FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) like being excluded from part of an event because you are not part of the club.   

I do hear that sometimes this can create a bit of friction but I would counter-argue that this is a great way to create leads for membership.   

Disadvantage of “member-only” events 

So there’s a clear argument for making parts of events member-only, but there are distinct disadvantages in taking this too far. By banning non-members from an event full-stop you run the risk of having nothing to tempt your pipeline with. 

How to convert event attendees to members 

Here are a few ideas and methods of touch points you can use to encourage joining as part of your event: 

  • A “Join Us” button as part of a “non-member” registration workflow.
    A quick to action button, without having the need to fill out “yet another form” could be a good way to convert a few interested attendees. 

  • Try to bundle registration and membership together as a product.   
    This can work well, particularly if it ends up saving the attendee money.  However there’s a lot to be said for “actively” rather than “passively” becoming a member of an organisation.  The last thing you want are a bulk of non-engaged members that send your retention rate through the floor after 12 months. 

  • Discount at badge collection.
    Brief your registration staff to incentivise onsite signup for membership. 

  • Run a “non-member” orientation session.  
    Just as you can run “member only” events, there’s every reason to run “non-member” only events where you focus on key membership benefits.  You can even invite a couple of current members (the nice friendly ones who are naturally engaging) to help move things along.
About Brightelm

Brightelm offer specialist event services, both live and online, specifically focussed on the needs of associations and not-for-profit organisations. 

Visit to find out more.

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