Sometimes it can be hard to remember that outside of the association world, most people don’t know what an association really does. And while that’s understandable, it doesn’t help your case when it comes to attracting new members to pay dues for your association’s membership.
Let’s take a step back and look at three major stereotypes that are often connected to associations so that you can know what to avoid for prospective members!
The “Charity” Stereotype
Believe it or not, it’s a common misconception that charities, nonprofits, and associations are all the exact same thing. And while we all know that there can be overlap within each of these categories, it’s key that you know it may be one of the first impressions someone may have about your association.
So if we break this down, what does that really mean about their perception of your association's focus? The answer is fundraising. There is a large misconception that association’s are based upon choosing a focus and exclusively spending their time raising money for their focused cause.
How to break this: Make sure you focus on promoting how your association is a membership organization (not a mission-based) that focuses on providing benefits and connections to your members within your specific industry.
The “Clicky” Stereotype
One of the most common stereotypes about associations stem from the fact that most professionals might get the impression of being an outsider with your other members, especially if they don’t know much about your association.
This misconception may lead your prospects to see your association as a social club that has no room for newcomers as opposed to a growing community of industry professionals. Not only does this stigma perpetuate the air of an “exclusive” or “elite” group, it may also hint that your association doesn’t actually provide any real impact in your industry. Ahh!
How to break this: Don’t worry - this fix is easy! Within your association’s promotions and marketing efforts, make sure to include your new member and volunteer initiatives (meetups, shoutouts, orientations) as well as any other efforts your association has been putting forward to create a positive impact within your industry. These highlights will remind those unfamiliar that the goal isn’t a social hour but to help build a strong industry together.
The “Baby-Boomer Only” Stereotype
Outside of the association industry, it’s commonly believed that most associations are composed of only baby boomers (born between the 1940s to 1960s) and beyond. And while there is often a large percentage of baby boomers in most associations membership base, we all know that this exclusivity is by no means the reality.
In addition, this misconception has also implied that most of these associations don’t take part in upcoming technologies or new trends for their industries. This belief otherwise translates into your association being known as a little too “old-fashioned.”
How to break this: The first step is to make sure you are using photos of show the diversity (and inclusion!) of your association. Photos sometimes speak louder than words, so using this approach should hopefully clear some of the prior misconceptions. In addition, make sure you are promoting your young professional initiatives (mentorship, up-and-coming leadership opportunities, luncheons) to show you care about growing your member base!
With more and more Baby Boomers approaching retirement, it's becoming crucial for associations to recruit and retain younger members. Check out our guide, The March of the Millennials: Tips for Engaging the Next Generation Now, to find out what you need to know about acquiring Millennials!