Getting Married to Membership May Require Engagement First

It used to be that you had to pay to play: join an organization and then you can get involved.

But a recent Twitter exchange with David Gammel, an association executive and author of Maximum Engagement, reminded me that a major shift may be underway.

Perhaps you now have to play before you're willing to pay.

With many companies and nonprofits offering some degree of value under a freemium model, potential members and customers may only be more likely to invest in the cost of membership only after becoming involved in some of the benefits of joining organization.  But this needs to be more than the old 90-day free trial.  The engagement needs to be specific, personal, and intentional.

Professional associations have long touted networking and community as one of the primary benefits of affiliating.  But as described on the website or in a brochure, it's an abstract, impersonal concepts.

But when experienced in person, its benefits become real, tangible, relevant, and meaningful.  And when I experience meaning, I am much more likely to commit monies.

Perhaps just as in real life, people are more likely to get married (to membership) only after a period of engagement.

How would you adjust your recruitment and involvement strategies to capitalize on this potential shift?

And let's not forget that playing is a way of paying.  When we are present, engaged, and contributing, we help create the content and community that people value and that our organizations market.  That can be easily overlooked by those leading the organizations, both staff and volunteers.