How to Attract New Members: Members as Influencers

You want your members and supporters to feel like they’re a real part of your organization and not just an email address on “the list.” Promoting your members nurtures your relationship and gives them opportunities to shine. Here’s how nonprofits can leverage influencer marketing – inside their organizations – to attract new members.

Whether your nonprofit or association is brand new or well-established, your members are the lifeblood that keeps it going and makes it viable. The way you welcome them into the fold, interact with them from the main office, and nurture them throughout their membership reflects your mission, values, and brand. Or at least it should.

For many membership organizations, “onboarding” new members = the delivery of a (virtual) membership card and a member number. Others will send a glowing welcome email from the president, only to pass by member inboxes a few times a year – such as for the annual conference, membership drive, and (maybe) Giving Tuesday. Still others send bland updates every month that are eventually routed to spam folders. Truly, in many cases, your members have a more meaningful relationship with the cable company.

Do your members really matter?

Of course they do. But do they believe that? If all of your interactions are transactional in nature, your existing members could be paying their dues just so that they can list your organization on their LinkedIn profile. That’s not winning either of you any awards. It’s not going to help you attract new members, either. Maybe you have amazing events, so they keep you around for the discounted member rate. In any case, the relationship could stand to be more useful to you both.

Do you know your members?

Depending on the size of your association, this may seem to be a trick question. I don’t mean can you call up any member and meet for lunch in an hour – although that would be fantastic. I mean, is your member database – fed by your signup form and subsequent member profile updates – easily searchable and therefore useful to your organization? You’ll need to be able to answer this question in the affirmative to be able to continue effectively. Being able to see themselves and their peers as fellow supporters is a great way to attract new members to your group.

When you set out to attract new members, remember: Membership = Marketing

Membership is Marketing. Marketing is Membership. Sit with that for a minute. If these two functions in your organization are separate (and unequal), you’re probably having a hard time recruiting, nurturing, and retaining members. Once you appreciate that building a relationship with your members and encouraging them to view that relationship as part of their identity is the same as in any other business and its clients/customers/stakeholders, you’re ready to leverage marketing tactics that work.

Promote the rockstars in your back yard.

Social media is now table stakes for businesses of all types. Whether or not your association’s voice is heard over the crowd is a different story. Users who have developed a community – not just a following – are increasingly in demand for corporate brands who want to reach a particular demographic. Think of celebrities where we somehow know everything about, or new media personalities who are suddenly everywhere and you’re not quite sure why. When these users speak, their community listens. This is word of mouth in the digital age, otherwise known as influencer marketing. Community leaders with smaller, but authentic even more dedicated audiences are called microinfluencers. This group of personalities and leaders have built real relationships with their community and are invaluable for true connections.

Here’s where your database takes center stage. If your registration forms are really working for you, you not only have contact info for each of your members, you have their social media handles, blogs or websites, and professional interests. You have authentic sources of expert content for your social networks, authors for your newsletters and blog posts, and of course, speakers for your events. You can scan social profiles to see who’s growing their communities.

Look for members who are taking pics at monthly meetings and sharing various experiences throughout the week. They’ll be pretty easy to find because they’ve probably tagged your organization in a few posts already. These members already consider their association membership part of their identity.

The next step is to review their expertise and interests and see where they fit in with your mission, goals, and values. A formal invitation to write a guest post or teach a webinar is something that many professionals would be happy to participate in, at no cost. After all, it’s flattering when someone acknowledges your efforts and asks you to talk about what you know.

This is not a random “Member of the Month” post. You want valuable content that actually generates traffic to your association website and at the same time, shows off the member as the rockstar they really are. Even the strictest social media policies must allow for sharing original content from within your organization. Indeed, this content is what your members – current and potential – are looking for when they follow your network accounts. If your association’s policies do not allow for this usage, it is certainly time to explore why.

Keep in mind that you’re not only singling out members that are already industry thought leaders commanding keynote fees. You’re creating opportunities for all members to be promoted as valuable and visible.

Close the loop

The goal of implementing this influencer marketing tactic is to encourage existing members to tighten their ties with your community, as well as encourage new members to join you. That means that this can’t be a one-off effort where you keep up with it for a few weeks and give up. Start with your goals, develop a plan of action, and work out what needs to happen so that you can have at least 90 days’ worth of content. It will take about that long to have analytics worth measuring for comparison’s sake. Once you have those numbers, you can make an informed decision on the next plan of action, whether that is getting outside support to keep your content flow going, or dedicating a committee or team to managing that role.

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Nonprofit Marketing
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