Membership Q&A: Who Makes the Call?

Four people talking to each other

Who should make contact around things like joining and renewing: other members or staff?

Member-to-member (or member-to-prospect) communications can be very effective, IF you can persuade your members to actually make the calls.

We’re often tempted to ask volunteers to call lapsed members – in fact, that can be a stated requirement of serving on a membership committee. However, that is the hardest call to get volunteers to agree to make (and actually follow through on), because unless your lapsed members just forgot, they lapsed for cause, and facing an angry or disgruntled member is scary for volunteers.

It can even backfire, if the volunteer who’s placing the call is the combative type. “I was upset with the association for X reason, so I let my membership lapse, and then Member Y called and started an argument on the phone with me,” is not good for your association.

I recommend starting with something easier. So what IS easier?

The best place to start with a member-to-member contact campaign is welcoming new members. While you can certainly restrict those new member calls to your board of directors and/or your membership committee, it’s not complicated to do (particularly if you provide a simple script), so it’s an excellent micro-volunteering opportunity for any member.

What would a script look like?

Start by – if possible – matching up a new member with an experienced member who is located physically near them, which allows for an in-person meeting if both members are amenable. Your volunteer starts off by introducing herself and welcoming the new member to the association. Then she asks for two pieces of information:

  • How did the new member find out about the association?
  • What caused him to join?

Then your volunteer shares a few things she likes about her membership, highlights one thing the new member can expect to see soon, and, if appropriate, invites the new member to get a coffee or lunch.

That’s it – easy and fun for both your welcome wagon volunteers and your new members.

Moving up a level in complexity, you can run a Member Get a Member (MGM) or Member Get a Lead (MGL) campaign.

There are MANY resources on how to run an MGM campaign. The keys are to make sure you have a good tracking mechanism, make sure you provide your member recruiters with plenty of sales support, and keep your expectations in check (every single member will not recruit one member – a tiny percentage will be really into it, and everyone else will ignore it). MGM can be challenging because people who aren’t salespeople as their profession tend to fear sales. Even people who are salespeople as their profession may not be comfortable selling your association.

Because of that, I often encourage clients to start with MGL, which is a lot less pressure on your members. All they have to do is introduce the association to a colleague and ask if it’s OK for someone from the association to follow up with more information, then your members submit those warm leads for association staff to follow up on. It makes tracking a cinch – you know exactly where a lead came from, because the members submit them directly – and takes the pressure to “close deals” off members.

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