Five Ways to Develop Member Advocates
Member advocates – those volunteers who will work selflessly to drive membership growth for associations and professional societies – have personal and emotional connections to their profession or industry that staff simply cannot duplicate. Their existing relationships and influence with prospects also allow the advocates initial access to targets and significantly increases the likelihood of success. Most importantly, member advocates have a heightened level of credibility and thus their personal success stories regarding the value of the association resonate with nonmembers. What most volunteers don’t have is extra time and thus staff must compliment their efforts by doing their part.

How do you develop an active pool of member advocates who are ready and able to work in tandem with your staff to proactively drive new member recruitment? Here are five actions board members can focus on:

1. Profile: Identify qualified members to serve on your advocate team. They should be highly engaged and tenured members who have a compelling story to tell. They tend to be motivated by two things — a desire to help others and an understanding that they and others will benefit if the membership base increases.

2. Invite: Not everyone is ready to proactively volunteer their time but many will if asked. An invitation from a board member has extra impact and influence. Take the time to review the list of potential advocates who fit your profile and encourage your fellow directors to extend invitations to select individuals to join your sales team.

3. Arm: Provide your advocates with the proper sales tools. They should use consistent messaging that is clear and concise. Keep it focused on the benefits of membership, not its features. Provide an outline of why joining your organization is a good business decision or a wise career development move. Let them add their own personalized story to the pitch but ensure that they are comfortable with the highlights of your organization’s value proposition.

4. Recognize: Forget contests with prizes or monetary incentives. Nothing is more effective than public acknowledgement by the board of directors of those advocates who deliver results.

5. Lead: Show advocates how it’s done by ensuring that all of your directors are practicing what they preach. Make certain that incoming directors understand that new member recruitment is an expectation. Hold directors accountable and, over time, a commitment to membership growth will develop as part of your board culture.

New member recruitment for most associations is critical. There is a role for professional staff to play in the process, but great results occur when a team of passionate member advocates are working on the organization’s behalf, delivering highly personalized and extremely powerful appeals to those in their networks.

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Board Forward is published 10 times a year by SmithBucklin, the association management and services company more organizations turn to than any other. SmithBucklin has served volunteer board members for 70 years.


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