Benchmark Reports

Association VP of Membership: Position Benchmark Reports

Posted by Mitch Corlett on June 10, 2015

When faced with a stack of resumes, what's the best way to differentiate the top performers from their peers?

Based upon hundreds of interviews with hiring managers and candidates, this Position Benchmark Report will help you identify the factors that are most likely to drive performance in a role like this.

What does a typical association VP of Membership role look like in this market? What should you expect to see from a Top Performer?

The requirements of Membership jobs vary widely, but are based primarily on the type of membership an organization supports. A membership composed of organizations, affiliates, chapters, or federations is quite complex and vastly different than a membership composed of individuals. Likewise, a trade association and an advocacy association will each have unique membership fulfillment requirements. The resulting experience and skills required of the VP of Membership will depend heavily on these factors.

Another key factor affecting the magnitude of a leadership role in Membership is the organization's primary source of revenue. If most of an organization's revenue comes from dues, the membership function is central to the organization's business plan. However, if non-dues revenue streams provide the lion's share of an organization's revenue, the membership function can vary between working strategically to diversify revenue streams to supporting the organization's revenue drivers such as certifications, education programs, or trade shows to being the voice of membership.

The career path to a senior level Membership position often strays from a strictly membership background. Exceptional candidates often have backgrounds in business development, marketing, public relations, event coordination, or communications. Likewise, the candidate pool is not limited to professionals from associations or nonprofits -- there are many commonalities with corporate work in this area.

Clearly, membership is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Yet employers usually tell us they want to see some combination of the following from candidates (note that hiring requirements vary widely and are unique to each employer’s situation):

  1. Does the candidate create and deliver their organization's value proposition? Can they articulate why an individual or organization would want to be or remain a member? Have they developed initiatives, outreach, and programs around that message?
  2. Can they break individuals or groups out in categories to identify different segments they can bring in? Have they identified and targeted subsets or special interest groups with customized strategies to meet their unique needs? Do they have the ability to form consensus among staff and existing members when they bring new member groups in?
  3. Do they know what their organization's membership wants and needs? Are they conducting surveys, developing relationships with members, doing market research?
  4. Have they created strategies to involve and engage important or influential members?
  5. Do they represent their organization at trade shows and exhibits? As a liaison to committees? Do they work with volunteer leadership?
  6. Do they work across the organization to identify and develop new revenue opportunities? Have they spearheaded initiatives to bring new programs, services, and benefits to members? Do they develop pricing strategies? Are they fulfilling members’ needs?
  7. Are they leveraging the AMS database? Do they track what events members attended, what they bought, what education programs they registered for? Are they using the data to engage and retain members?
  8. Are they an active member of the executive leadership team? Do they routinely advise the executive team on membership and what members are saying and doing?
  9. Do they manage a staff or lead a team? Are they responsible for setting priorities and evaluating progress toward performance objectives?
  10.  Are they creating and using metrics to inform their membership development strategies? Do they actively track, monitor, and report on trends?

In addition, if they are competing for a position with a membership that includes affiliates, chapters, or federations:

  1. Are they experienced with facilitating relationships, conversations, and agreements between groups with differing interests and agendas?
  2. Do they understand contracts? Affiliate agreements?
  3. Do they have experience structuring and articulating the value proposition to convince independent associations to join the national parent?
  4. Are they politically savvy? Do they understand state and local laws as they apply to their membership?

What are they key factors that distinguish Top Performers from their peers?

The most common reason candidates do not move forward in this kind of role is because they are perceived as not understanding the unique needs and requirements of the association's membership.


So, as a hiring manager, what can you do to make hiring more personal?

How can you get the attention of top candidates? As the job market tightens and recruiting becomes more challenging, how can you update your hiring process so you are not trapped in the land before time? How can you organize your recruiting efforts to appeal to the most selective people?

Most job advertising budgets are wasted on ineffective ads that don't reach the right people. Effective job postings attract the right people for the right reasons, so you spend your time interviewing people who will fit into your culture and stay long enough to deliver results.

Download “6 Steps to Writing Job Descriptions that Attract Great Candidates to learn how to make your job postings twice as effective:

How to Write Job Descriptions to Attract Great Candidates

Topics: Position Benchmark Reports

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