Association Membership is Not a Transactional Exchange.
It’s not often that I have time to write a blog post, but sometimes things happen that compel me to take a break and share something with whoever may care to listen.
This week I received a registration for an event that my firm is running for one of our association clients. The registration was from a non-member of the association, registering as a member. Members attend this event for free, while non-members pay a small fee. I immediately reached out to suggest that the registrant join the organization or, as a last resort, that he pay the small fee for the event.
This is a situation I deal with on a regular basis, typically resulting in a new membership and relationship or at the least, a non-member registration. This individual had other plans. He told me that he had been a member of this organization for a very short time several years ago and had only attended one association event as a member. He wasn’t sure he had “gotten his money’s worth.” He felt that I should allow him to attend the event for free as way of possibly “winning him back.” I disagreed but offered to take the cost of the event ticket off his membership if he decided to join later.
During this email exchange, the following kept going through my head: Association membership is not a transactional exchange. Yes – there is a fee to belong to an association and there are some things that the organization will list as member benefits. But belonging to an association is more of a relationship than a simple purchase. When an association is run well – and many are – your membership dollars work for you day in and day out without you even realizing it. Fellow members see you as a part of their inner circle and will seek you out if they need products and services you can provide. The association manager or executive director is always be on the lookout for connections for you – ways for you to interact with other members, to be presented as a thought leader in your area of expertise, or to become more deeply involved with the group. And the influence of the association often goes beyond the simple number of members listed in the directory.
The gentleman in question did not attend the event and hinted that he wouldn’t be joining the association because I didn’t comp his ticket. Professional associations have a lot to offer, but if you go into a new membership with a tit-for-tat mentality, you will be disappointed. Instead, join committed to the idea that you are at the start of a long-term relationship that can pay off with increased sales, exposure, access to talent or new opportunities, word-of-mouth advertising, friendships, mentors, ideas and knowledge.
Show your support. Volunteer for a committee. Sponsor an event. Invest in your association and you will receive far more than you put into it in return. It may be impossible to quantify your return on investment – but it will be worth it if you make the most of it. But that’s a story for another post.