You are a new Executive Director of an association or chamber of commerce, now what? Here are 5 tips all new Executive Directors need to know about membership to be successful.

Membership is the force that drives any association or chamber of commerce. Members are the ones putting in the time, money and energy necessary to make an organization exist. They are the beating heart that helps an organization thrive and carry out its mission. To start, ask yourself – why would prospective members give you their money and limited time, versus another organization?

Tip #1: Set the right tone. Make it a priority.  Be a vocal leader.

The Executive Director needs to set this tone and make sure staff and your board of directors (not just your membership team!), make membership growth and engagement a priority.


Tip #2: Membership is like a house plant.  It has to be cultivated.  A lot.

It is not uncommon for organizations to struggle with membership retention and engagement or handwave it away as something that is ‘solved’ by the right pricing and structure. Membership should be carefully tended to and reexamined on an ongoing basis. It’s all about recruitment, onboarding and consistent engagement.


Tip #3: Understand the value of your membership.  And why you want more.

Suppose someone asked you, “Why do we need more members?”  What would your answer be? Just to have them? Would you be better off having more members, and why?  This begins with understanding your current and prospective members. Establish a two-way line of communication with your members so you can understand what they want from their membership, and how you can best serve them.

Tip #4: Nail the elevator speech.  Seriously, practice it with people.

Anytime you represent your organization, whether at a partner meeting, a conference, or at the legislature, you need to have the answer down tight as to what your value is and why people should join or engage.  And what makes you different from others.

Tip #5: Understand the difference between membership ‘features’ versus ‘benefits’. And then make sure all of your staff understands too.

A membership feature is the ‘it’ that you offer your target audience. The membership benefit is the ‘value’ your target audience receives. For example, the feature may be ‘networking’, but the value statement could be ‘connect with professionals committed to the highest professional standards for support and advice.’ These messages need to be incorporated throughout your website, marketing, and communications.

What else do you need to know to be successful in your new Executive Director role?  Check out our new book – Executive Director: 101 What Execs Need to Know for SuccessIt’s an easy read with helpful hints, secrets for success and best practices for Executive Director success across 14 different topic areas ranging from membership growth, development and engagement to strategic planning and financial management.  This book will help you be the best leader for your organization.