Something I often hear from organizations I’ve worked with is that increasing membership is one of their biggest challenges.
However, it can be hard to know how to do it.
Which ways will actually help you attract new members… and which ideas are just a bust?
That’s why I put together this guide, which features real-life examples from other small membership organizations.
I’ve included over 100 ideas that your club, association, or nonprofit can use to attract new members — many of which I’ve seen used to great success throughout my time at Wild Apricot.
Here are all the categories, in case you want to skip through to a particular section:
Or, just keep reading to see every way I’ve seen used to increase membership — and how you can use them too!
Get Help from Current Members
Host a “bring a friend” meeting
Encourage members to bring someone. This could even be a recurring event so that new members are continually bringing new friends!
Reach out to former members
Some people might be ready to come back.
Encourage members to share your newsletter
Especially if they’re featured in it!
Invite members’ families to events
Spouses, siblings, parents, and (grown-up) children are all potential members (depending on the type of membership you offer).
Help members develop an “elevator speech” about their membership
Why are they members? What’s the biggest benefit of membership? Can they explain the purpose of the club?
Ask your members for recruitment ideas
They may have an idea you haven’t thought of before, or know about opportunities within their own social networks.
Offer club business cards to your members
It’s an easy way for them to point people to your club and share more easily with their network. Tyler Matlock Wright of Fort Worth Mothers of Multiples says, “Member referrals are a big source for us. We give our members “business cards” to hand out to prospective members when they meet them. The cards have a line for the referral source so the member gets credit for referring someone new.”
Offer an alternate meeting time to attract people with different schedules
Is your meeting time leaving out a whole group of people, like those with 9-5 jobs or early bedtimes? Switch up your offerings to attract more people.
Volunteer as a group
You’ll get to do good as well as meeting other volunteers in your space.
Coach members on creating a welcoming experience
Getting potential new members to attend meetings is only half the battle! Remind current members to greet newcomers and avoid club jargon when there are visitors.
Ask members to list their membership in their professional bios
It gets your club name in front of more people, builds your organization’s prestige, and reminds members to talk about it.
Create an invitation email template your members can use
Make it easy for members to send invitations by doing most of the work for them.
Give members a button or pin and encourage them to wear it
Make sure it’s stylish so members will be more likely to wear it, and people will ask what it’s about.
Conduct exit interviews with departing members
When you know why people are leaving, you can start figuring out ways to keep them
Create perks for club members who recruit new members
Little perks and freebies can really motivate people. Think about gift certificates, a shout-out at your next meeting, or even reserving a coveted parking space for members who bring in new blood.
Create a promotional video
Members can share it with their contacts, and you can share it on social media.
Thank your members regularly
There are a few different ways you can do that. Here are just a few:
Create a video thank-you message from the leader of your organization, and publish it video on your website, your social media profiles, and your email newsletter.
Each year, make a list of all the events, services, and educational opportunities that were made possible by your membership fees. Publish the list on a separate page on your site, and link to it on a regular basis in your online content and email campaigns.
Host a yearly event to say “thank you” to your members. Consider a member brunch, picnic, pool party, or other fun gathering.
Write handwritten thank-you notes to your members. In our digital age, a personalized note is even more meaningful and memorable.
Assign especially engaged members a “recruitment role”
You can also hold special recruitment meetings to give these members tools and encourage them to recruit new members — or give them a few minutes in every meeting to announce their results and ask for help.
Film member stories and testimonials
Publish them to your website and social media so you can give prospective members a visual reminder of just how engaged your current members are.
Personally follow up with every prospect
This is the strategy of Sarah Rintamaki from Connecting for Kids. “When somebody signs up on our website for our event, either at that event or afterwards, I will follow up with each one of them personally and ask them if they want to join… Probably about 95% want to join after that.”
Launch a direct mail campaign
If you can acquire a mailing list, or if you reach out to lapsed members, you might see success!
Launch a telephone outreach campaign
The Association of Talent Development: Greater Philadelphia simply made a goal to reach out to all the prospective members in their contact database. They simply made a list of all the prospects and contacted them one by one over the phone.
By the end of the year, they gained over 100 new members through this initiative.
Website Recruitment Ideas
Create a club website
As long as your potential members are able to find you online, even a simple site can do the trick!
Add a “Join Us” section to your website
People need to know you’re accepting new members and how to join you. You can also include convincing elements like testimonials from current members and the benefits of joining your organization.
Set up Google Analytics or link tracking using Goo.gl or Bit.ly
This will help you find out the most effective methods for getting new website traffic so you can double down on them.
Make online registration as easy as possible
If you include online member application forms, anyone coming across your website will be much more likely to register than if they have to mail in a paper form.
Refine your member benefits
Make them as clear and enticing as possible in your website copy so that prospective members can’t help but be impressed.
Create member-only sections on your website
Including a section on your website that normal visitors can’t see can help generate interest — they’ll come across it and wonder what more they’re missing out on.
Event Recruitment Ideas
Invite guests to meetings
Let prospective members see what they’re getting into by inviting them to your meetings.
Create a welcome packet for guests
Include things like the mission, calendar, and contact information, as well as information about becoming a member.
Follow up with guests
Send an email or postcard, or make a phone call thanking the guest for attending, and asking if they’re considering membership. Sending out a post-event survey can also help you see what went well and what you can improve for next time.
Sponsor a local event
Include your club name and logo on promotional materials, and make sure event organizers have your club information for anyone who asks.
Give a talk about your club at other organizations
Share your mission and activities with other civically-minded people.
Host activities for members and non-members alike
A group activity is an excellent way to meet new people. Something like a beach clean up or other community service projects can attract a wide range of prospective members.
Walk or build a float for town parades
You’ll put your club in front of the whole town — and look good doing it!
Host seasonal meet-and-greets with a fun activity
Think about a fall hayride, a winter hot cocoa party, a spring nature walk, or a summer ice cream social to attract new members.
Have a booth at a fair or festival
Give volunteers talking points to introduce your club to the community.
Have a meeting in a public location like a park or square
It draws attention and is a low-commitment way for curious potential members to check you out.
Host a guest speaker
Guest speakers attract non-members who share your interests.
In fact, this is the single strategy of TED — the nonprofit that spreads ideas through powerful talks of 18 minutes or less. Over the last 30 years, they’ve brought in nearly 100,000 speakers to speak on everything from beatboxing to self confidence. This has been so effective that on their YouTube channel alone they’ve already garnered over two billion views.
If you’re thinking of bringing in a speaker at your organization, but don’t know where to start, we put together a simple guide that can help you out.
Host a charitable event like a run or walk
You’ll raise money for a good cause, and introduce your club to new people who also support the cause.
Host a business spotlight event for local businesses
Local business owners will learn about each other, and about you!
Hold diverse events to appeal to a variety of age groups
If all your events appeal to one group of people, mix things up by hosting an event to appeal to a different one.
Never underestimate the power of free food to bring people to an event.
The Nacogdoches County Chamber held a “Taste the Chamber” free luncheon for members. All members had to do to attend was bring a non-member friend. The chamber also encouraged members to attend by giving them $100 if their friend ended up becoming a member too. Besides providing a delicious lunch, the chamber gave a 30 minute presentation at the end, which talked about the benefits of joining the organization. At the end of the luncheon, 50 new members signed up. On top of this, the additional membership dues of $12,000 more than covered the cost to provide lunch and give away the $100 incentives.
Kelly (name changed for privacy), the Executive Director at a small cycling club held a charity cycling event in her city. During the registration process, new participants had the option of paying an additional $15 to become a member of the organization (a 50% discount from the club’s regular membership fee). She even beefed up the registration forms with an overview of the club and testimonials from a few current members.
By the time the event was over, not only did the club raise over $50,000 for a local charity, but Kelly welcomed 37 new members into the club.
If you’re not a cycling club, but want to run a similar event, it turns out that Fun Runs are the most popular way small nonprofits maximize funds, increase member participation, and minimize coordination costs.
Every year, the Collegiate Information and Visitor Services Association chooses a new city to host its annual conference. This allows them to advertise the event to different communities. During the event, they promote the benefits of joining the organization. This strategy helps them grow nearly 200 members a year.
Consider attendance options
Are your attendance requirements onerous? Experiment to see if a more flexible policy is more attractive.
Host low commitment meet and greets at a local coffee shop
Invite prospects to come for a coffee on you, simply to learn about your club and meet your members.
Digital Marketing Recruitment Ideas
Experiment with Facebook or Google ads
Online advertising can target demographics precisely, putting your club in front of the people who are most likely to be interested. If you’re a registered nonprofit, you can also apply for a Google Ad Grant of up to $10,000 yearly.
Create a content marketing strategy
Starting a podcast, creating a webinar, or writing articles that are on topics your potential members would be interested in and sharing them out can help generate more interest in your organization.
Start focusing on SEO
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of optimizing your website so that it’s more easily able to be found by Google. If you want to learn more, we have a guide here.
Create a complete Membership Funnel
Give potential members offers at every stage, from those who are just starting to learn about your organization to those who are already on the fence about joining
Create an email marketing campaign
Once potential members have come to your website, ask them for their email in exchange for something they want (for example, if you have a beekeepers’ association, offer them a downloadable guide on selling honey). Then, continue emailing them with ideas and tips so that they can see the value of joining your organization.
You can learn more about how to do this in our on-demand webinar.
Create retargeting ads
Ever wondered why you keep seeing ads for the same store online after you visited their website? Those are called retargeting ads, and you can set them up too for your organization!
Send a win-back email to lapsed members
This can also include a discount or other incentive to rejoin.
Create an online community
Make it easy for others time find and join for free, then add other incentives to join your organization. Facebook Groups are great for this!
Run online promotions during peak sales times
For example, you could host a Black Friday sale and promote it across your social media channels.
Social Media Recruitment Ideas
Create a LinkedIn profile for your organization
This is particularly good for professional associations. If your members can add you to their professional profile, your organization can more easily attract other people with similar qualifications.
Create or update other social media accounts for the club
This will help prospective members find you, and let current members easily share about the club with their friends.
“Facebook is a big source for us,” said Tyler Matlock Wright of Fort Worth Mothers of Multiples. “By using our public Facebook page and also by finding prospective members in various groups, we can reach out to them directly to recruit them.”
Encourage members to share club activities on social media
Create a photo release package so that you get permission to tag them in pictures. This will ensure the photos show up in their friends’ feeds as well.
Create social media packages for members comprised of graphics, posts, links, and resources they can share
This is a strategy used by CIVSA every time they plan an annual conference. People are much more likely to share out your information if you’ve given them a clear plan on how to do so.
Use emotional storytelling
See Rosie’s Story as an example. By the end of the week, 150 people donated to the shelter (a total of 3% of their followers) — proving just how effective condensing a story into a scannable post for Facebook can be.
Traditional Marketing Recruitment Ideas
Put up flyers around town
Look for community bulletin boards and high traffic spots like grocery stores and coffee shops.
Create an informational brochure about your club
Include the club’s mission and activities, as well as contact information.
Place club materials at related businesses
If you’re a group of knitters, put your information at the yarn store. If you’re a bunch of sportsmen, put up a flyer at the bait and tackle shop. Think about where people who share your interests are likely to be.
Share club information with new residents
Do local realtors give welcome baskets when someone moves to town? Ask to include your club information.
Announce club meetings in local newsletters
Look for neighbourhood and special interest newsletters, whether online or on paper.
Put all meetings on community calendars
Usually you can submit your information quickly online, and get listed quickly.
Submit your club information to local directories
Your chamber of commerce or other local groups may publish a directory — list your organization!
Place an advertisement in the local paper
Paid advertising can pay off if you select publications potential members read.
Put a PSA on the radio
Let the community know about your club or its events in a short radio message.
Send media releases to local outlets when your club completes a project
Learn to write a press release so you can attract media attention to your club.
Networking Recruitment Ideas
Network with other clubs
Work together to increase your visibility. Consider hosting a club mixer to get to know each other.
Visit a Chamber of Commerce meeting
Connect with your local movers and shakers — some of them are looking for clubs to join, or will be willing to share your information with others.
Introduce your club to local businesses
Send a letter or stop by and introduce yourself. Bring along your informational brochure and club business card.
Introduce your club to local government
Send a letter or make an appointment to introduce yourself and share your informational materials.
Put up a stand at a conference in your industry
This is what Jenna Bingener of Fort Worth Mothers of Multiples suggested: “We have also had booths as a vendor at events that potential members could be at.”
Reach out to universities and colleges in your area
Students may be interested in joining, or you can partner with them for events.
You may even be able to offer this as a member benefit. “We have a relationship with our local university, University of Central Florida Continuing Education, who gives educational credits for our qualified programs,” said Carol Emmett of the Greater Orlando Organization Development Network.
Organizational Recruitment Ideas
Put up a sign at your meeting place
It’s amazing how many people discover organizations by simply walking or driving past their sign.
Report on your membership numbers and goal progress
Keep the members up to date on how recruiting is going to motivate them to help.
Consider the affordability of dues and events
Consider if the dues and event prices are a barrier to potential members. Tiered membership or special rates may result in more interest. You can also reorganize your membership model to better reflect different membership values.
Make sure your contact information is up to date on national and organization-wide directories
Often these are posted and then forgotten. You may have information out there that isn’t correct.
Remove barriers to attendance
Think about what might stand in the way of joining, and try to resolve those issues. For example, you could meet near public transport, or provide childcare to members during meetings.
Create a club bumper sticker
Put your name out on the road!
Consider membership tiers
If full membership requires too much commitment, maybe a lesser commitment (with fewer privileges, but also lower dues) would appeal to new people.
Offer a trial period for new members before they pay dues
If there’s no cost for trying it out, potential members may stay long enough to see how much they like your club.
Create a membership drive budget
Ads, events, and promotional materials all cost money. Prioritize your membership drive by budgeting for it.
Offer online registration and payment
Make it easy to join your club without paper forms or checks.
Give away something free to new members
The chance to win a prize always attracts interest.
Create a structured yearly recruitment plan
Check out the Boy Scouts of America for an example of what this could look like.
Create new programs that might entice more diverse members
For example, if you have a professional association, you could create a mentorship program for new employees in the space.
If your organization is more on the creative side, you could create a feedback program. The writing association I’m part of hosts a writing competition with all entries getting professional feedback, and it’s a big draw for new members.
Finally, you could offer educational courses that are related to your central mission.
Make membership free
Sarah Rintamaki of Connecting for Kids made their membership completely free or by donation. This helped membership grow over %300 in just 3 years.
“What we did was an experiment which actually turned out to be very successful. We dropped the membership fee for families and made it free and sent out a donation campaign which said, ‘We are asking everyone to donate $25, but for $50 you can not only pay for yourself, but offer for someone else to pay for your services.’
“With all the ones that we waived, we actually made more money in the donation round. ‘Hey, it’s a free membership, please join us and we’ll ask those who can give to give.’ That worked really well for us and we’re raising $25,000 just from that campaign. Many people are giving $100, $200, $500.”
Designate a Welcome or Membership chairperson
Increasing membership is a worthy effort, so appoint a team captain to head it up.
Set a membership goal
A concrete goal encourages members to recruit new people, and puts everyone on the same page.
Talk to other similar organizations to see how their membership efforts are going
For example, CIVSA hosts regular growth check-ins with regional chapters to share strategies.
Use Membership Management Software to automate your admin tasks and free up your time for member engagement and growth
This was the strategy from Kim Elliot of the Klamath Rental Owners Association. Once she no longer had to devote so much time to managing members, she could come up with better member recruitment ideas.
Track how new members join
That way, you can assess the effectiveness of your membership recruiting activities. Cut ineffective ways and pour more resources into the ones that actually work.
Create better benefits and resources
If you can be something that people can’t get anywhere else — and something that is really special — your membership will flourish.
Look into points of friction or contention for new members
Is it as easy as possible for new members to join? For example, if filling out a paper application and mailing it in is required, you might gain more members simply by shifting to online member application forms.
Unconventional Member Recruitment Ideas
Stop doing anything to get new members
Instead, focus efforts entirely on your own members. Pour all your marketing resources into giving current members a better experience — and word of mouth will likely increase.
Or, in other words, “find a market of people needing something and give it to them (in relation to the type of organization you are)”. For example, if you’re a sailing club? You don’t offer sailing lessons, you offer an exciting weekend adventure. Writing association? You offer the blueprints to becoming a bestselling author.
Offer discounts to members only
This works as an ad for membership to prospective event attendees to become members to receive the discount also. You can even include some math like “Thinking of attending 3 or more events? Become a member to save XYZ…”
Do you have any other strategies to increase membership that you’d like to share? Or have any of these ideas worked well for you? If so, comment below and let me know!