How To Build A Recruitment Strategy for Associations

With time, constant effort, and some smart planning, you can deliver an effective recruitment strategy for your association.

Companies and associations are very different types of organizations. A company is usually an incorporated entity with an explicit profit motive. Associations, on the other hand, are comprised of a group of members with a common purpose/interest, usually non-profit. Professional associations, trade bodies, and hobby groups are some examples of associations. 

But despite their significant differences, both associations and companies share a common imperative – recruitment. Companies need to constantly recruit new employees to fuel growth. Associations too need new members to expand their reach and influence, whether it is a trade association or professional association.

Building an effective recruitment strategy for associations is more challenging, as these bodies often don’t have the budgets available to HR departments in business organizations. But with time, constant effort, and some smart planning, you can deliver an effective recruitment strategy on a shoestring budget. Here is a roadmap of that process: 

The Building Blocks of a Membership Recruitment Strategy 

There are some basic steps all associations must undertake to create a long-term recruitment strategy. They include: 

Identify your target audience 

Before you can brainstorm ideas to attract new members, you need to thoroughly understand what makes them tick – their needs and preferences. An easy way to find out is by looking at your existing members. Ask them what attracted them to your association, and what you can do more to impress them. Analyze your existing membership and identify the larger market demographics to which they belong. 

Know your association

This step can be perfectly encapsulated by the phrase – “know thyself.” Recruitment involves selling your association as a product to your customers – or prospective members. To make an effective sales pitch, you need a clear-cut idea about the association. What is its core focus? How does it differentiate itself from other similar organizations out there? What are your long-term goals? Ultimately, the aim here is to figure out the value provided by your association to its members. 

Identify available resources 

As already noted, budget is often a major restraining factor at many associations. Powerful, well-funded industry trade bodies are the exception. But in most instances, you will have to be rigorously tight-fisted while planning your recruitment strategies and marketing tactics. Plan wisely and with caution. 

The Different Components of an Effective Recruitment Strategy 

The recipe for an effective recruitment strategy should contain multiple ingredients. You should never rely on just one tactic or marketing route when canvassing for new members. Try to craft a balanced approach that leverages the different resources and contact networks at your disposal. You may consider the following options: 

Existing Members 

Networking plays a massive role in membership recruitment for associations. Your existing members are a vital asset and it would be foolhardy to ignore this route. The first step here is to ensure that the members are content with the functioning of the association. Unhappy members make poor brand ambassadors. Create programs that incentivize members to bring new prospects to the association. 

Content Marketing 

Associations cannot afford to ignore the web – social media accounts, blogs, and a well-designed website are essential to increase the visibility of the association among prospective members. Create engaging content – guides, how-to resources, and articles/videos that provide some clear benefits to your target demographic. Delivering value and engagement is key to improving your online visibility. 

Paid marketing 

Spending cash on ads, particularly search engines, social media, and other online platforms can help in getting your association name out there. But this is one of the more expensive options in the mix. To get the most out of paid marketing will require budgets that may often be out of the reach of a smaller organization. 

Organic Growth

Organic growth is a long-term process. It involves creating an identity and presence in the market, through activities like networking programs, outreach events, galas, workshops, mentoring programs, and so on. Over time, these will bring more media coverage and exposure to the organization. And through sheer reputation and word of mouth, you should have no trouble in attracting new members. 

Tried and Tested Recruitment Ideas

These are some highly effective recruitment tactics used by successful associations around the world. You can incorporate them as part of a balanced recruitment strategy: 

Membership Fee Waivers – you can incentivize individuals who are on the fence about joining your association by providing an extra incentive in the form of membership fee waivers or discounts. Use this as limited-time offers, especially during outreach events and industry conferences. 

Streamlined Registration Process – many folks are easily put off by long and complicated registration processes. Avoid losing out on potential recruits by optimizing your onboarding process – ensure that users have quick access to all relevant information. 

Co-marketing – associations often exist alongside other organizations and businesses with compatible interests. You can harness such synergies by conducting co-marketing campaigns and events with other organizations where there is a clear potential for mutual benefit. 

Data Analysis – gather data from members and your target demographics using ethical channels – surveys, online user permissions, etc – and analyze these datasets using advanced AI software to gather valuable insights. 

Training and Mentoring – this tactic is extremely important for professional associations. Young professionals are always in need of career guidance and other veteran insights. Have senior members in your association conduct workshops and seminars to attract newer generations to your organization.


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