Creative Membership and Sponsorship Structures

Associations are changing.  Traditional models formerly used to grow membership in associations have become obsolete. Attracting professionals to become a member means more than just having them fill out forms, pay an annual membership fee and receive a monthly journal.

Words Patrizia Semprebene Buongiorno, AIM Group International

 Transformation in the world today is coming from all directions, we are looking at disruption in many sectors, from the effects of the sharing economy to the far-reaching changes in technologies. No business or organisation will be exempt. In this fast and ever changing environment, associations will need to redefine “membership” if they want to be competitive and shift from a closed membership model to an open professional community.

More and more we see associations making an effort to be more relevant to their members. The value of associations is today defined more by the stakeholder than by the organisation. This is the reason associations are now offering “levels” of membership, a kind of à la carte option that serves different needs varying from full service to being able to pick and choose those products/services they need. The menu list is long and includes congress participation, traditional training, certification, participation at special members’ interest groups, digital membership, on-line education, and more. This catalogue of options allows each member to play their role within the association according to time, money, interests and professional age. The golden rule of any association is to understand what your members need and how to meet those needs.

Some may be interested in becoming directly involved in governance while others will pick and choose their activities. Yes, the core of the association remains those all-important full voting members, who pay for the full package of services and contribute to strategies and leadership. While the others may choose to benefit from selected services and programmes offered, they are no less a member and feel part of the community. This model summarises members’ behaviour in a phrase, “levels of engagement”. Associations who have adopted new membership structures say they did it not only from necessity but to make them more relevant and valuable. This process is not implemented over night. It takes time but by offering new options they provide flexibility and stay competitive in an increasingly tight market.

The same approach must be taken with association sponsors and corporate partners by offering customised corporate services aligned with the company’s needs. Sponsorships can introduce new audiences to your organisation, particularly if you choose your sponsorship partners carefully. While traditional packages have value, there are ways to creatively add value. And if we think of the opportunities of the sharing economy and technology, changes mean more opportunities for new types of sponsors.

Read the rest of this article in the latest issue of Boardroom – you can download it here.

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