Planning Your Association Membership Drive: Six Tips for Success

Planning Your Association Membership Drive: Six Tips for Success

With spring approaching, many associations are getting ready for annual membership drives. Here are our top six tips to make your drive a success.

Pick the Best Time for a Drive

Certain times of the year are better than others for membership drives. Any time that evokes a feeling of “starting fresh” is ideal, such as the start of the school year, the new calendar year, or springtime.

Just be sure the time you pick for your membership drive doesn’t conflict with other heavy demands on staff, board members and others who are involved in the process. Also, avoid competition with other major drives, like the United Way, as well as busy times for your industry (e.g., tax filing season if your members and volunteers are accountants).

Set Goals Before You Start

Set your goals for the drive clearly from the beginning, whether you want to bring in more revenue and new recruits or to focus on retaining existing members. Maybe you’d like to be more competitive with a similar organization or roll out new membership tiers, benefits or payment methods. 

Use the SMART way of setting goals, which research shows increases achievement:


Instead of identifying a goal as, “We want more members,” consider “We would like 100 new members” or “We want to bring in $100,000 in membership dues revenue.”


When you quantify your goal, you make it measurable. Did you reach 100 new members or your income goal?


Don’t set impossible goals. A hundred new members might be attainable, but 1,000 may not be.


Keep in mind your staffing, resources, current state of your industry, etc. It’s better to set a smaller, more realistic goal and crush it than to set a wildly unrealistic one and fail.


Set a time frame, such as 50 new members in the first six months of the drive. Don’t wait until the six months is up to evaluate progress; check in once a month or another benchmark period to see how it’s going so that you can make tactical or strategic changes if necessary.

Put Together a Committee

Member recruitment shouldn’t be left to one poor board member. Create a committee so that you can split up the work and assign people smaller, more manageable tasks. Include a few new members to your association to get the perspective of someone who just joined.

Make sure those participating understand the value and benefits of membership. Build a budget for the project so that the committee has the resources it needs for things like printing or advertising. Schedule check-in meetings along the timeline you have developed for the drive.

Don’t forget to designate a few people to handle thank-yous and welcome packets. Some ways you can recognize new members include: 

  • Feature their profile on your website
  • Tag them in social media posts
  • Send a personalized note with a gift card
  • Offer something with your association logo, like a t-shirt or tote bag
  • Send a goodie basket or swag bag (especially for top-tier memberships!)


Examine Your Current Membership Process

What has been working and not working with your existing membership process? If you’re not sure, survey members to find out. Even better, gather a focus group and offer to buy dinner. You will gain a richer, more nuanced perspective of what’s going well and what’s not. Are the sign-up and payment steps clear and easy? Do you offer rolling renewal periods or prorated membership to keep the drive going all year long? (Here are some pros and cons listed for MIT alumni organizations, for example.) Do you ask how new members heard about your association?

Consider a Variety of Methods

Decide which methods you’ll employ in marketing your membership drive. You’ll likely want to choose at least a few of these common tactics:

  • Email
  • Direct-print mail
  • Social media
  • Website banners and popups, plus member testimonials
  • Targeted ads and trade-journal notices
  • University outreach
  • Partnership with a related organizations or corporate sponsors
  • Trade show and convention hospitality
  • Incentives for existing members to bring a friend
  • Virtual events, like free classes or social hours
  • Community activities, such as sporting events or luncheons for the chamber of commerce or service organizations (Rotary International, Kiwanis, Lions Club, etc.)

Make Sure Your Website and Other Infrastructure Are Ready

Finally, be certain your website is up to the task of increased traffic and has all your new membership information ready to go. Do a run-through to ensure the payment process goes smoothly and quickly. Address any concerns about data security to prevent financial or ID theft.

Some organizations use membership software, similar to customer relationship management (CRM) programs. However, this can be pricey and requires a learning curve. This is where Jaffe Management can help you.

We provide assistance with membership administration as well as many other related association and nonprofit services, like meeting and event management and website design. Call us at 212-496-3155, or send us an email at to let us know how we can make the most of your membership drive.