Why They Don’t Join (and How to Change That) – Part 1 of 4

Feb 12, 2020

Raise your hand if you’ve ever wondered why the heck people think that what your organization does is brilliant, but they still don’t become a member.

Go ahead, raise those hands. I’ll wait.

If your hand is now raised, you are in good company. In fact, getting interested people to decide “yes” is something that challenges a lot of membership-based organizations. There may be hundreds of potential members who sit on a mailing list, attend an organization’s hosted events, and keep an eye on what’s happening without ever officially becoming a member.

Equally problematic are the potential members who sit out there, struggling with the same problems that they’ve always struggled with, without ever recognizing that the organization can actually help them get out of that state of struggle.

This stage of “sitting” is what I call “Contemplation.” It is the second stage in the overall Member Experience, coming immediately after Discovery. In a nutshell, as soon as someone discovers that your organization exists, they’ve moved into Contemplation. They are faced with the choice about whether they should join. They can actively or passively participate in this stage, but if they know that you exist and they haven’t taken action to join, they are in Contemplation.

As a membership growth consultant, I often hear leaders say things like, “people just aren’t joining associations anymore,” “membership is one of the hardest things to sell,” “the people in our industry just aren’t joiners,” etc.

When I hear this sort of thing, I know that their people are getting stuck in Contemplation.

There are a number of really common reasons why this happens. I’m going to share a few of them with you over the next 4 weeks in a series called, “Why They Don't Join (and What You Can Do About It).” 

This week, I want to talk about one of the most common reasons why people don’t join:

They are already getting what they need without being a member.

This problem happens a lot for organizations that:

  1. are early on in their development so they place emphasis on having as many people as possible participate, even if that means giving away too much; or
  2. may be further along in development but tend to believe that people will naturally want to join after they’ve had a sample.

The problem with both of these beliefs is that over-delivering backfires. While it does show people how wonderful your organization is, it also doesn’t leave them wanting more.

Imagine being invited to a cool new hotspot in your town. You’re excited about going. It sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun. When you get there, you see there’s a line to get in. So, you’re standing in line, waiting to get in. You hear people talking about the live music, and the food, and the awesome conversations that are happening inside. You can’t wait to get inside to experience all that, right?

Now imagine that instead of standing in line outside, you get invited into a posh lobby just outside the main entertainment space. In that lobby, they are passing out hors d’oeuvres and drinks, while the music from inside plays over the loudspeakers, plus you’re meeting some great people in the lobby.

Is it the *same* experience as you’d have inside the main venue? No, but it’s plenty to keep you satisfied.

The same thing happens in membership organizations. Often a “lesser” experience is delivered to non-members, but it’s still enough to satisfy them. It doesn’t create the “I want to get inside” kind of feeling that you want people to have.

I’m curious if you see any of this happening in your organization. How is it that you are communicating with and interacting with people who aren’t yet members?  Are you giving them a reason to come into the venue?  Or are they getting their needs sufficiently satisfied while they stay outside?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Let me know below.

Have a great rest of your week!

Hey there.  I’m Joy Duling, Founder and CEO of The Joy of Membership.

Clients hire me to help them design and deliver exceptional member experiences. If you lead an association, trade group, or membership-based nonprofit, you can find FREE resources to help you run and grow your membership organization by visiting here: http://joyofmembership.com/help

I look forward to connecting with you there.