'Best Practices': Local Chapter Membership Management

Sharing an email reply that I gave recently to the BDPA St. Louis chapter vice president in response to his statement, "Its interesting that the Cincinnati club has doubled their enrollment in the past 6 months. You guys are obviously doing something from a programming and interest gathering stand point that is attracting that many new members in such a short period of time and what ever it is, it should probably be packaged as a Best Practice and distributed to other chapters. Especially ones trying to establish or re-establish themselves after years of stagnation We are very interested in knowing how you are attracting the masses, for begging and the programs we've been putting out haven't yield anything close to what you guys are witnessing."

My hope is that the national VPMM will become more visible and proactive in her interaction with local chapters in the coming weeks and months. I can offer nothing more on the issues that your chapter has experience with the national membership database.

I agreed to serve as the local chapter VP-Membership Management this year for a simple reason. My chapter president asked me to. I guess there was a second reason. I respect my local chapter president based on his actions as it relates to BDPA. I could see that he was *serious* about putting in the work to grow BDPA Cincinnati chapter.

So as we began this calendar year ... we had 86 members (5th largest chapter in the nation). Today, we have 172 members (2nd largest in the nation). That is a 100% membership growth in CY-2014. Why? We are happy to share our story. Do you want it shared here via email? Should we do it during the conference? Should we set-up a Skype or conference call? Tell me how you want us to share the story and we're happy to do so.

I can tell you that the process is not difficult. The process can be replicated. The process works in Cincinnati, so I'm comfortable in can work in any of the other 45 chapters.

I'll let you in a secret ... *NUMBERS MATTER*! Over recent years I've heard more and more BDPA leaders at local, regional or national level make the statement that they aren't concerned about membership numbers (quantity). The indication is that they are more concerned about the ‘quality' of the membership numbers. Personally, I consider that to be nonsensical. If I have 176 members in my chapter ... I'm fairly certain that I'll have more ‘quality' than the next chapter who has 52 members. I'll also have more ‘active' members in my chapter than the smaller chapter. People love a winner. If your chapter is a growing and active entity in your community you get more media attention; more corporate sponsorship; more volunteers ... everything is better when you accept that *NUMBERS MATTER*!

I'll give some of the process to you here:

1. Goals. We established at the beginning of the year chapter strategic plan that included membership management goals when it came to recruitment and retention.
    a. RECRUITMENT: 135 new members in CY-2014
    b. RETENTION: 65 (75%) retention of the 86 members on our roster as of 12/31/2013

If we accomplished those two goals then we would have 200 members on our chapter roster by 12/31/2014. What are the recruitment and retention goals for BDPA St. Louis chapter? Do you have a copy of the specific names of people on your chapter roster as of 12/31/2013. Tracking retention is impossible via the membership database *unless* you have your chapter's roster as of 12/31/2013.

2. Retention. As of 6/30/14, our chapter had 98% retention of its 2013 membership (expired: Larry McCullough, Tasha Love). Each month the Contact Management department director (Michael Pulliam) and I meet (by phone) and specifically identify the names of any members scheduled to expire in the next month ... and we talk about our strategy to get them to renew. Most members renew when reminded to do so. Often the reminder has to be a phone call vs. the simple email reminder sent out by the database. We know that two memberships (Dylan Gunn and Itobore Odje) are scheduled to expire in the month of July. Do you know what BDPA St. Louis members are scheduled to expire in July 2014? August 2014? I contend that you can never get high retention numbers if you are not tracking your retention numbers. I contend that few of the local BDPA chapters are tracking retention.

3. Recruitment. Here are two simple things that we do in this are to increase our chances for recruitment.

   a. Wholesale is better than Retail. I'd rather make one sale that results in 20 new members; than 20 sales that result in one member each time. In other words, we aggressively seek out corporate sponsorships that include corporate memberships. We aggressively respond to any of the ‘membership challenge' opportunities shared on the BDPA Facebook page from sponsors around the nation who offer up paid memberships for college students. As a result we had some great growth spurts when Cincinnati Bell invested $2,500 sponsorship ($1,500 used for 60 college student memberships); Procter & Gamble invested $5,000 sponsorship ($2,750 used for 25 adult professional membership and 10 college memberships). Two sales brought us 95 members. Those two sales alone would have made our chapter the 6th largest chapter in the nation.

   b. Every monthly program meetings is a membership drive. In March 2013, we made a commitment to MEET EVERY SINGLE MONTH on the 3rd Wednesday @ 6pm. It wasn't optional. It doesn't stop in August for the conference or in the summer months or any other time. BDPA has a physical presence for the adult IT professional EVERY SINGLE MONTH. The average attendance has been in the neighborhood of 20 people per month. We have meeting speakers and topics lined up well into CY-2015. Our Membership Management business area treats each of those meetings as a membership drive. We track the number of attendees; number of non-member attendees ... and then we contact those non-member attendees to see what it will take to get them to write a $100 check to become a member. This ‘monthly membership drive' initiative began in earnest in 2Q-2014. We had 58 monthly meeting attendees in that quarter. 29 of the 58 were non-members. Eight (8) of those 29 non-members have since joined the chapter. This initiative doesn't work if your chapter isn't meeting monthly. This initiative doesn't work if your chapter isn't tracking the names of everyone who attended the monthly meetings.

4. Contact Management. We download, print and work to massage (clean-up) our chapter's portion of the membership database each and every month. We download the chapter database each month ... and then we sort/filter that spreadsheet in four ways - Alpha, Expiration Date, Employer Name, Member Type. Each month we work with Adrienne Thomas (national VPMM) and Jaime White (national database manager & webmaster) to clean up aspects of our chapter database. We fill in the blanks on expiration dates; we correct expiration dates when necessary; we standardize the spelling of employer names; we strive to ensure that member types are accurate. Each and every month we seek to reconcile our chapter directory. Nobody else is doing it. You have to do it for your chapter. We have developed a relationship (especially with Jaime White) that means that our chapter directory is getting cleaner and cleaner each month.

Lionel, I'll stop here. Hopefully, you get the gist that the membership growth in Cincinnati isn't by accident. We are doing things *ON PURPOSE* to recruit and retain members. Let me know if this is helpful.

I must admit that most of what we're doing hasn't been documented in one place. However, attached is a copy of my monthly status report shared with the local chapter board of directors last month. It may give you some idea of our process. Feel free to reach out by phone or email if you want more information.

Wayne Hicks
Twitter: @BDPACincinnati
(513) 284-4968

Replies to this Topic

BDPA Cincinnati chapter president Dalric Webb added, "Lionel, et. al,

I will only add briefly to the exceptional response from Wayne to say that one of the key components for success is team-building. Conversely, what I'll say is that a chapter's success cannot reside on one or two individuals.

It may seem simplistic, but if the leaders of the organization can embrace a shared vision of their own mutual success, with reachable and defined goals and objectives, every chapter will thrive!

You also need someone with the ability to steer the course when the waters are troubled, in other words, when the folks on the left side of the boat complain they are tired of rowing, that person has to help them find the motivation, courage, and sometimes focus, to put their oars back in the water and stroke with the rest of the team.

Build the team, shape the vision, execute to the shared plan, and drive towards success.

In the words of one of my mentors....


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