Membership Hack: Free Digital Access

By Tim Ebner | Associations Now

A new complimentary, digital membership is adding some much-needed buzz to member recruitment.

How to hack it? The American Beekeeping Federation saw an opportunity to create some buzz for member recruitment with a free one-year, digital membership. ABF’s Executive Director Regina Robuck says her members are “busy bees”—professionals or hobbyists who routinely access and use digital tools and networks. “We decided that a free one-year membership could help us grow and convert beekeepers into full-fledged members,” she says. “This promotion had very little budgeting impact and showed the value of membership with free access to our webinars, articles, member directory, newsletters, and archived content.”

Why does it work? The free membership sweetened the deal for those thinking about joining ABF. This recruitment offer brought in about 4,500 members, and Robuck says more than 300 became dues-paying members. ABF also saw a boost to conference attendance. “Right before our early-bird cutoff, we offered these new members a special discounted rate,” Robuck says. “Out of the 70 or so new members that registered, more than half came from the free membership category.”

What’s the bonus? Many of these new members have turned into ABF evangelists. Robuck says five members have gone on to become key volunteers, and many more are remaining engaged through word-of-mouth networks and ABF’s Facebook page. “Our membership has grown by more than 50 percent in one year. So, as far as return on investment, this has been a significant gain for us,” she says.

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