Most associations serve a wide variety of members. As a result, many lose sight of the individual in the process. In order to build lasting relationships, associations must strive to get to know their members on a more personal level.

Strong Connections Build Trust

“Strong connections build trust,” says Patrick Galvin, chief galvanizer of The Galvanizing Group (Portland, OR), a marketing communications and brand strategy firm. “Trust leads to member investment and involvement, and ultimately helps build the organization through qualified recommendations and referrals.”

Galvin is a strong proponent for building relationships one member at a time. He says that doing so will not only bring sharper focus to an association’s brand identity, but this tactic will also generate a diverse pool of loyal members who will work together to sustain the organization.

5 Tips to Grow Your Member Organization One Relationship at a Time

Galvin offers his tips for cultivating stronger relationships with existing and prospective members.

Put facetime first. “Face-to-face interactions are underutilized, yet they are essential to the health of any member-driven organization,” Galvin says. “The best strategy is to ask members about what the organization is doing well and what it needs to improve upon. Only by speaking directly with members and listening closely to what they have to say will you discover whether there is a ‘brand disconnect’ between what you think your organization is and how it is actually perceived.”

Be a follower. “One of the smartest things you can do as an organization is to follow your members online and offer support, encouragement and congratulations for their accomplishments,” Galvin says. “The digital world is not unlike the real world: To build strong relationships, one must talk less and listen more.”

Get organized. “You need a good CRM system,” Galvin says. “You can’t manage what you can’t track.”

Focus on storytelling. “Stories are an essential part of messaging, but they also play an important role in the relationship-building process,” Galvin says. “Member submitted stories also help keep communications real in the sense that they avoid ‘marketing speak’ and industry jargon.”

Keep it customized. “Be prepared to talk about the practical skills and tangible benefits that make your organization worth joining,” Galvin says. “For trade associations in particular, professional networking as an incentive is no longer enough. The way that people network and gather information has changed, and associations must adapt by offering a tailored experience to members in order to survive.”


This article was written by Patrick Galvin for The Membership Management Report and published in the August 2017 issue. The Membership Management Report is a monthly electronic publication for professionals who work with or manage member programs, including trade associations, museums, chambers of commerce, alumni associations, arts organizations and more.