By: William Lessley
A small state trade association celebrated their 50th anniversary last year. Many associations, upon reaching such a milestone, will blow out their anniversary year and then retreat the following year. Often, they are recovering from the amount of money they spent celebrating. This is a mistake! You spent an entire year building momentum for your association and then just stop? Did the association cease to exist after this magical milestone was passed? Then, why would you go backwards?
Instead, this is your opportunity to show your membership just how far you’ve come – seize the moment, don’t backslide into obscurity! Your newest members joined during the high fever of your celebration because they wanted to be a part of what you were doing. Your existing members looked on with pride at what the organization they supported had accomplished. Instead of turning away from all of this energy, embrace it and take your association to the next level.
Our small trade association recognized the opportunity they had after spending all of 2013 building the excitement of their 50th anniversary and decided to visually show their members how far the association had come by updating their membership materials. There was no budget line item for producing a more visually appealing membership kit, but staff evaluated the existing budget and found small amounts from the other line items to fund the remodeling. We also turned to our volunteer leaders for help – never forget that your membership is your greatest resource. A member created a new logo showcasing that our organization had been in existence for more than 50 years. Their dedication to the association saved us time and money!
Membership and meeting staff worked together to make sure that this year’s Annual Conference theme was carried across to membership materials. Even though we work in different areas, never forget that all staff are one team! Communication across departments is key when developing marketing materials. The meetings staff came up with a great theme for the conference and combined it with the colors that the membership staff chose for the new kits – yes, the tradeshow bags match the theme, too!
The information in the membership kit was up to date but visually unappealing. Using basic office software like Microsoft Word and Publisher, we updated the look of the handouts to include call out boxes, color graphics, and accents. We had a professional graphic designer incorporate our theme’s tagline and new logo into graphics that we printed on letterhead, #10 envelopes and large mailer envelopes. For years we had opted for single color printing on #10 envelopes and mailer envelopes for our membership kits. This year, we purchased slick black folders and had special embossed stickers made with our new logo. All of our updated materials were printed in color for the member kits and mailed in our new full color mailer envelopes.
When we started the renewal cycle in April, we used our new full color #10 envelopes to catch the attention of our membership. Even though 2014 is not a license renewal year for our members, we have seen an increase in membership renewals so far – over 10%. Printing the full color envelopes was not free but it wasn’t as expensive as you might think, either. We paid only $35 more per box than our single color version. Printing the materials in color versus black and white comes at a cost, too. But the small increase in price is more than worth it to hear our members compliment us on their packets when they arrived and to see the jump in membership retention.
Taking your association to the next level doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Nor does it need to be months or years in the making. Small steps can add up to big changes. What is one thing you can change right now to make your association better?