9 Tips to Help You Plan a Successful Membership Drive [2020 Update!]

October 6, 2020

By Mitch Colleran

Software Developer / Founder at @JoinIt, membership software NGOs & SMBs.

View other posts by Mitch

This post was originally shared in February 2019, but we’ve made some additions and updates to this 2020 edition. Enjoy! 

A successful membership drive can attract interest from your target market and recruit new members. It can also strengthen your existing members’ loyalty and engagement, leading to better member retention and more opportunities for future referrals. 

But how do you set up your membership recruitment program for success? This article will share our most valuable tips on how to plan and run a successful membership drive. 

Our Top Membership Drive Ideas and Tips

As you plan your next membership drive, here are some of our top tips to keep in mind. They cover everything from goal setting to making the most of your talented members so that you can plan for success. 

1. Set Clear Goals

One of the most significant factors in a successful membership drive is setting the right goals. Once you're clear on what you want to achieve, it's easier to plan, execute, and make progress against your goals. 

It can be tempting to have an overall goal of increasing your membership. This makes a lot of sense for most organizations, but it's hard to measure success with such a general objective. 

Instead, look for ways to turn your aim into a SMART goal. This involves giving yourself a specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound target. 

For example, instead of saying you want to gain new members, try something like, "We want to increase membership by 15% by the end of the quarter." You'll find it easier to stay motivated and evaluate your progress with this new, more specific goal. 

2. Keep It Simple

Planning and running a membership drive can get complicated quickly. You'll need a strategy, help to spread the word, and a way to organize everything from budgets to materials. One of the best ways to help you stay on track is to keep it simple. 

Most people appreciate simplicity, so don't be afraid to cut down on the amount or volume of activity in favor of more targeted, thoughtful communications. Give potential members the information they need to form an opinion about whether you're the right club or group for them, and nothing more. Apply the same principles to your new member experience, ongoing communications, and events to help you streamline both your experience and theirs. 

3. Know and Communicate Your Value

Before you can go out and begin a membership recruitment drive, you need to be able to communicate exactly why someone should consider signing up. 

If you've been around for a long time and have a strong set of group values, this may come easily to you. For newer clubs and organizations, this can sometimes be a struggle. To help you build a clear set of reasons why someone should become a member, ask your current membership why they joined. 

Identify what makes your organization interesting or different — whether you have regular charity events or a robust online community. Make a list of ways you support members and your local community, as well as any discounts or benefits members can enjoy. Bring everything together with clear, concise messaging that gives potential members a compelling reason to join. 

4. Perfect Your New Member Experience

A successful membership drive can bring an influx of new members to your doorstep. To help things go smoothly, you’ll want to test and perfect the new member experience. 

When someone joins you as a member for the first time, they'll be looking for a simple, user-friendly experience. Give your new members an easy way to manage their membership with a simple member portal

You'll also want to make sure new members receive all the information they're expecting, like their membership details and how they can get involved. A great way to do this is with a strong new member welcome email, regular communication, and friendly follow-ups. It's also a good idea to think about the opportunities you can offer new members and whether you need to schedule a welcome event after your drive ends. 

5. Get Others Involved

Running a membership drive requires a lot of energy and dedication, so bring others in to help. 

If you have a membership committee or board members, this is the perfect time to involve them, as they're some of your most loyal and involved members. If not, gather a team of people to help drum up support and make your club or organization successful and sustainable. 

Don't be afraid to ask your members to get involved. You'll be surprised by how many people jump at the opportunity to give back to a community that has supported them. Use your team’s talents for anything from graphic design to public speaking and encourage members to rally around your membership drive. 

6. Understand Your Numbers

One of the best ways to stay focused and pave the way for a successful membership campaign is to be clear on your numbers. Without oversight of the financial side of recruitment, you can easily overextend or go over budget. 

If you know how much it costs to recruit a member in the first year and the value they'll bring back throughout their membership, you can work out a sensible budget for your drive. 

Consider the costs of staging a membership drive, from refreshments for event attendees to commissioning promotional materials and membership cards. Also, factor in how much time this takes you and whether this takes you away from other income-generating activities. 

On the flip side, it's important to understand the value that a member will bring you over the lifetime of their membership. Identify how long members typically stay and how much this is worth in terms of membership dues and other benefits. If a member is typically worth $400 over time, you'll know you want to spend less than this on both recruitment efforts and retention. 

7. Create an Incentivized Referral Program

Your current members are always your best advocates, especially if they've personally felt a strong return on investment from being part of your organization. Use this to your advantage and make recruiting new members easier by introducing an incentive program to encourage word-of-mouth referrals. 

While many loyal members will sing your praises to non-members, giving them more of a reason to do so can accelerate your membership growth. It's nice for members to feel rewarded for their loyalty, especially if you choose attractive benefits for your membership base. 

Plus, a program with a points or ranking system can encourage even more referrals for those ultra-competitive members. 

8. Consider Your Marketing Efforts

Long before you host a recruitment event or send out flyers, you'll want to have a solid idea of how to use marketing and advertising to attract new members. A carefully planned membership drive is more likely to deliver results than a more relaxed approach to marketing. 

Think about where your prospective members spend their time, both online and off. This should be the place where you focus most of your efforts. You'll also want to consider your members’ characteristics and build an ideal customer profile to target your marketing effectively. 

Knowing your target members will help you decide on the right marketing techniques to attract them. Some of the most popular ways to recruit new members include: 

  • Telemarketing
  • Digital marketing and social media campaigns
  • Networking events
  • Charity or community events
  • Annual conferences and trade events
  • Talks from guest speakers
  • Trial memberships 

Use a combination of these activities to build a membership recruitment program that suits your needs and attracts the right kind of people to your club or membership organization. 

9. Always Be Thinking About New Member Recruitment

With membership drives usually focused around a set time frame, it's easy to only think about recruitment when the drive is taking place. To help you grow your membership throughout the year, bring some of these principles with you into your day-to-day activities. 

Members are the lifeblood of every club. Every organization and group is reliant on sustainable membership to stay at its best. With an always-on mindset about membership recruitment, not only are you ahead of the game when it comes to planning your next drive, but you'll also be able to identify ways to improve your processes and referral program throughout the year. 

10. 2020 Bonus: Consider Going Virtual! 

Though they might seem overwhelming, virtual events are a great way to continue your membership drive while making it more accessible to potential members. 

Of course, virtual events make sense during the COVID-19 pandemic, but virtual events also make membership drives more accessible outside of the pandemic. It expands your reach so that potential members don’t have to be in your zip code to get membership benefits! 

Manage Your Membership Drive With Ease

With the right strategy and a handle on your goals, you can transform your membership drive. Rally your members to support the drive and enjoy the benefits of a healthy, connected community that cares about your club or organization. 

A successful membership drive can lead to more referrals than you might expect. Manage your influx of new members with ease with simple membership management software. With technology on your side, you can streamline your processes and focus on what matters most: recruiting new members and giving them a positive experience.