Membership Managers’ New Year Resolutions

A Membership Manager’s Resolutions

In the past few years, with all of the economic challenges, much has been written and spoken about managing programs to the best of one’s abilities dealing with external forces. For many managers and programs, the focus may need to turn to managing the internal challenges of a membership program.

Now that there is some fluidity in the job market again, some managers are in new positions themselves, or found themselves with new bosses, directors or board members. A big part of any membership managers’ jobs is marketing the program internally, training other staff about the intricacies and needs of the membership program, and literally fighting for the needs of a successful membership operation. So, in the spirit of a fresh new year, here are some membership resolutions you may want to make to ring in the New Year….

Manage Up! Just because someone is your boss, does not mean that they know what is best for a membership program. Although everyone (board members, directors, development or marketing directors) think they know how to run a membership program, does not mean that they do or that they know more than YOU, Membership Manager or Director! You live and breathe membership, you attend conferences that explain what is working in explicit detail, and, you stay abreast of what is working in other successful programs.

A current challenge is membership staff who report to development or marketing directors who have never had experience with membership programs. Membership is a unique animal – a bit of a hybrid of marketing and fundraising. It is your job to educate and train new bosses, especially those without membership supervisory experience.

So stand up for what you know is right for your program! This means educating others higher up the food chain on what is needed, what is working, what your stats are and how those stack up to the rest of the membership world. Be heard!

Own Your Projections. Membership goals need to be based on hard, cold numbers. Forecast your membership projections for the new year on what you know you will be doing, and what you have been funded to do. Doing direct mail acquisition? Know what the response rate should be? Plug those numbers into your projections. Do you have a major opening or exhibition coming? You know what your on-site sales team is capable of – so plug those numbers into the projections. Have a very successful gift membership program, or going to try to improve it this year? Plug those numbers into the mix. Know what your actual renewal rates are and plug those into the equation. These are the numbers you know you can rely on. Do not accept projections that are a simple percent increase assigned to your program from someone who does not know how membership works or how the numbers add up. One of the biggest fatal flaws in membership revenue projections are goals created without the input of the membership manager and without the funding for making the numbers happen. The enemy of membership projections is someone with a magic wand who simply wishes or commands the numbers and the dollars to appear without a plan to make it happen in the real world!

Set the Tone. You need to be the person that sets the expectation institutionally on how your members will be treated. Members, rightfully so, have an expectation of special treatment within your organization. It all starts with how you and your membership staff respond to requests from members. Deliver excellent customer service to your members. Make sure that other staff and volunteers who deal with your members receive the information and training to deal with your members in ways that make the membership experience a positive one. That may mean training sessions, customer service training, communicating changes in the program, FAQ’s, and membership issues with other staff so that everyone is prepared. You will know that you have been a success when membership becomes an institutional priority – which it needs to be to truly be a success!

Be an expert! Stay on top of your numbers and stats for the membership program. Run monthly reports. Prepare a concise, monthly report that can serve as your membership dashboard. Then meet with your superiors regularly to communicate those numbers and status. Get on the agenda to meet with the Director or the Board to make a membership presentation. Showing your knowledge and expertise and educating decision makers is an important part of your job.

Be an advocate. Feel free to weigh in at key times to advocate for your program. Prepare a wish list for your program for the coming budget year. Show what your program needs to continue to grow. Put your own budget and revenue projections together and distribute. Don’t wait to be asked or let anyone do this for you. Advocate for your program and your budget. Whenever changes are being made institutionally – exhibits, admission increases, etc. – give the view from the membership perspective. Members are an organization’s best “customers” and all decisions must be made from a customer’s view in mind!

Best wishes in 2012. And much success managing your internal resources!  Share your resolutions here….