aLearning Blog

Online Learning for Trade Associations

And Another Thing….

Posted by Ellen on March 8, 2009

Thanks, Cynthia, for a great post about what NOT to do when appealing to members for renewals. Trainers will tell you that excellent “non-examples” — examples of what not to do — are as effective, maybe even moreso, than examples of desirable outcomes.

So to piggyback on Cynthia’s post, I offer this membership overture experience.

First: I receive a very complimentary letter from an association telling me I’d been “accepted for membership.” The letter made it sound so exclusive to get in that when my executive director saw it, he was impressed with how my professional reputation was spreading. Indeed, it seemed I’d been recommended, and vetted, and voted on.

I was impressed, too!

Second: I received a phone call from a staffer at the association, asking for a bit of my time. They like to feature new member profiles and I was an ideal candidate. Wow! Of course I had time to answer a few questions. So we talked for about fifteen minutes, all the while I was feeling embarrassed yet honored, and thinking, “This is certainly a tactic we’ll have to remember!” I felt special and appreciated. As if the association was about to fall apart except they now had me as a member.

Third: Then she managed to bring up membership dues. So that I can spare myself the pain of re-visiting one of the most awkward conversations I’ve had since becoming an association professional, she said I qualified for their highest level of membership. Let’s just say that I now have four memberships for less than dues for that one association would have cost. Four!! Per year!!!

Fourth: I went from feeling elated and honored and flattered to feeling bamboozled and insulted (okay, so, yes, pride does goeth before a fall). I’d been schmoozed then railroaded. I was the ultimate mark, or at least I was feeling like one. So I told her — as politely as I could — that as a staffer with a non-profit, we just didn’t invest in professional memberships at that level. Amazingly, she had a lower level of membership. Then an even lower one. Now I was starting to wonder about the credibility and ethics of the group I was dealing with. So I pointed out that their letter had not implied any of the obligations she was describing, and that I was feeling as though a sort of bait and switch was going on.

Fifth: She got irate with me. “Do you know who we are? Really? Have you even heard of our organization?” she asked. I said I had, but it didn’t matter, because clearly we were not a goot match, that I didn’t appreciate their tactics, nor that they had just wasted a lot of very valuable time during my day.

Harumph!

What NOT to do to increase membership. Even if I’m someday able to afford their membership fees, I’ll invest my dues elsewhere.

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