Recruit the Whole Person

I was recently chatting with the smart and talented Andrea Rutledge (Executive Director of the National Architectural Accrediting Board) about membership recruitment.

Andrea’s been a volunteer with ASAE’s research committee, which supports the work of the ASAE Foundation, and we specifically got talking about the Future of Membership project. She said that one of the things that had most struck her and has been on her mind since the reports came out was the concept, raised in the University of North Texas study, of “recruiting the whole person.”

The UNT study was a bit different than the other research projects: rather than doing surveys or case studies, the UNT team did in-depth ethnographic-style dives into the lives of a handful of international graduate students. What they discovered in all cases was that the Decision to Join was not an individual one.

It’s easy to dismiss this finding: small sample size, people with different (possibly less individualistic) cultural backgrounds, in the limbo land of being a grad student, where you’re no longer an adolescent, but you’re maybe not quite fully an adult yet either.

In short, “that’s nice, but doesn’t reflect the reality of my association.”


Do your members pay their own dues, or do their employers pay?

Even if they pay their own dues, do they make financial decisions in a vacuum, or do they have spouses/SOs/dependents who are involved in those decisions as well?

Are they entirely and solely in control of how they invest their time, or do bosses or elderly parents or kids or other commitments influence whether it’s acceptable for them to be gone for conferences or committee meetings?

We think that the join decision is a simple one: Mary, we want to offer you X benefits that will help you in Y ways for Z dollars – yes or no?

In reality, the decision to invest the money and time in our associations, rather than the myriad other ways those resources could be invested, is likely not being made by individuals acting completely alone, uninfluenced by anything other than our shiny marketing materials. You may also need to convince a supervisor that the money your member is requesting for membership will return something that will make him better at his job. You may also need to convince a spouse that the time you’re asking your member to invest will provide enough career benefit to merit his absence from family and community activities.

Is this even on your radar? What are you doing to “recruit the whole person”?