Let’s face it: even the best of the best go through membership lulls. Your association, chamber of commerce, or membership organization’s regular recruitment efforts can only bring in so much. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of options: it might mean it’s time to plan a membership drive.

What is a membership drive? It’s a planned, concerted effort to bring in new members to your organization. Members don’t just find you over time: they’re drawn in, when and how you want them to be.

A drive combines marketing and member recruitment efforts to engage prospective new members, introduce them to your organization, and gain their support. Simply put, it means you’re giving them the extra push they need to decide they want to be a part of your organization. You’ll boost your numbers and create lifelong supporters.

How do you start planning? That’s what we’re here for. Keep reading for eight tried and true ideas for your next membership drive, including:

  1. Start a referral program.
  2. Host a free networking event.
  3. Organize a volunteer opportunity.
  4. Provide a free educational experience.
  5. Launch a social media campaign.
  6. Schedule a speaker series.
  7. Call prospective members directly.
  8. Infuse new member recruitment in all of your activities.

1. Start a referral program.

Who doesn’t love perks? Kick off your membership drive by leveraging one of the best tools in your kit—existing members.

Launch a member referral program that brings in new members by using an incentive. This type of program will incentivize your current members to encourage people they know to join, or to recruit new members. You could use:

  • A gift card
  • Valuable electronic item
  • A reduction in their own membership fee
  • A free ticket

To level up, turn it into a friendly competition to see who can help bring in the most new members! The winner walks away with a special prize.

But…you might not know what type of incentive will motivate your members. If you’re feeling unsure, go to the source. Ask your members what they’d be most interested in, via a survey.

Once you’ve determined how you’ll incentivize your program, it’s time to promote it. Send the details to your current email list and mention it at your upcoming events. Use any other existing channels to help spread the word, but especially utilize your email marketing tools

And don’t forget: if this is a limited time offer, let them know how long they have to take you up on it!

2. Host a free networking event.

Networking events are the perfect opportunity to give potential members an idea of what being a full-time member could be like for them. It helps them imagine themselves as a part of your organization, and gives them a chance to meet current members.

Networking events come in all shapes and sizes. This could be:

  • A formal luncheon
  • A laid-back meet-up at a local restaurant or bar
  • A meeting at your organization’s facility

If you aren’t quite ready to meet up in person, the networking event could be virtual with a meet and greet over your favorite virtual platform. There are tons of ways to interact, and your busier prospective members might even appreciate the opportunity to join from home.

3. Organize a volunteer opportunity.

Consider partnering with a local nonprofit or other community organization to host a volunteer day. For potential members who want to make an impact, this could be a great opportunity to show them that you want to make the world a better place. Try to tie the day of giving back either to your association or to a cause that many at your association are passionate about. 

Plus, a volunteer opportunity means that prospective new members will be able to mingle with current members in a casual, low-key environment. That means you can demonstrate your organization’s commitment to charity, which can be an enticing aspect for philanthropic-minded people.

Looking for some inspo? Check out these volunteer recruitment ideas before you plan your next volunteer opportunity. 

4. Provide a free educational experience.

One of the top reasons members will join your organization is if they know what’s in it for them. Education and professional development are key reasons they’ll be joining you!

But who would choose something when they don’t know what they’re getting? A free glimpse into your educational resources could do wonders for your association’s membership numbers.

For example, if you host an annual conference, consider opening a portion to the general public for free so they can get a taste of what you’re all about. Or maybe host a free training workshop. This helps establish your credibility and value to potential new members. As it turns out, free education could be the best rate of return for your organization! 

Give your prospects an inside look at your organization and leave them wanting to know more about the other benefits you offer. This is a non-salesy way to still put your best foot forward, but still gives you the opportunity to educate your audience. 

5. Launch a social media campaign.

Do you have an active social media audience? Then take your membership drive online! Throughout your drive, take to your social accounts to remind your prospective members:

  • Who You Are: What are your roots? When did your membership organization begin and what’s the history behind it? What do you stand for? Make sure to include some of your background to give prospective members an idea of what you’re all about. 
  • How Your Members Benefit: “What’s in it for me?” is the likely question from your prospective members. Don’t make them hunt for the information! Instead, offer it up in the “about” section of your page, and every now and then post benefits on your timeline. Consider having your current members talk about their favorite benefits, or featuring recent events.
  • What They Can Do: Your audience may not be completely sold yet based on their initial search, which is normal. To help reel them in further, give them an idea of how they can join in on events and continuing education opportunities. It may be helpful to give them access for free before they pay for their membership. This helps give them a “test drive” of your membership organization.

As an added bonus and for even more credibility, ask your current members to film short testimonials you can share on your social media pages. Or, encourage them to fill out a review if the social platform allows for it, like Facebook.

Want to kick it up a notch? Launch a digital ads campaign across Facebook, Linkedin, and/or Google (if you’re a nonprofit, you could even get a Google Grant!). 

6. Schedule a speaker series.

Expert speakers come with their own networks, and if you partner with those speakers for organization events, they’ll bring those audiences with them! Ask several accomplished individuals in your field to host talks or Q&A sessions with current and prospective members. 

Once you’ve hooked your audience with the original speaker series, you can let your prospects know they can attend the rest of the series if they choose to join your organization. That’s just another added benefit to boost your membership count! 

Even better: run this alongside your referral program, and let members bring prospects to these events as a part of the recruitment process.

7. Call prospective members directly.

Text messages reign supreme. Your inbox is overflowing.

But we’re offering an old-school approach to boosting your membership numbers. Pick up the phone and call your prospective members. This tried and true tactic stands out in a world where digital is the norm.

It may take extra effort. But that effort is a great way to show your prospective members that you care about them joining your association! 

Prospects feel seen and heard as individuals and they will appreciate that you’ve taken the time to personally check in with them and answer any questions they may have about joining with a simple phone call. Just make sure the call is personalized, and you’re familiar with the prospects you’re reaching out to.

8. Infuse new member recruitment in all of your activities.

Your membership drive can be a concerted effort. But the concept of a membership drive should be baked into everything you do: driving member numbers is about more than just an event here or an incentive there.

Strategy is what keeps your membership numbers continuing to climb. Take the lessons learned from your membership drive and infuse the most successful elements into an ongoing recruitment strategy. Ask yourself:

  • Did you hit your goals? Why? Why not?
  • What worked? How can you infuse that into your day to day?
  • What could use some more fine tuning? How do you test that out?
  • What are new opportunities for acquiring members?

Then consider:

  • Should you make your referral program permanent? (Consider the advantage of a deadline vs. having it as a permanent program)
  • Offering occasional free educational opportunities to interested prospective members
  • Creating regular speaker series

As well as how you’ll monitor the benefit of offering ongoing free opportunities, versus members-only experiences. Make it routine to ask yourself how you can infuse new member recruitment into every activity that you plan. After a while, this will become a habit that comes easily!

Conclusion

Getting new members to join your association is no easy feat. Luckily, you’re armed with membership drive ideas that will help you boost your numbers over time. Try them out and see what works for your association today, what you could add in the future and where you find success. Remember that education plays a huge role in driving new members, and that you can easily give prospects a taste of what your association has to offer.

If you’re looking for ways to find new members so that you can include them with your new membership drive ideas, make sure to check out this article on 10 Association Membership Recruitment Ideas for 2021. Plus, this article has a real-life example of who is doing each idea well. 

Then, once you have those members, it’s time to welcome them! Use this article for 9 Ways to Welcome New Members to Your Organization. We’re talking welcome letters, welcome packets and more. And as a great association, you know that retention tactics never stop after you welcome new members. That’s why you’ll need to know these 9 Member Appreciation Ideas to Retain More Members. Find ideas like appreciation events, special social shoutouts and so much more.