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Benchmark Reports

Association Director 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 should you be aware of about the evolving market landscape for the association Membership function?

The membership function has experienced a significant shift in the past 5-7 years, evolving to be closely tied to the critical revenue-driving activities of the association. It's a very strategic position, working in conjunction with other functional areas like marketing, education, conferences and events, and publications. Job titles frequently reflect this new, broader focus -- Director of Marketing and Membership, Director of Membership and Conferences, VP of Membership and Operations, for example.

The scope of Membership's role in an organization is further shaped by the organization's business plan. If most of an organization's revenue comes from dues, the membership function may primarily fulfill its traditional customer service role. 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.

The requirements of Membership jobs can also vary widely based on the type of membership the 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 Director of Membership will depend heavily on these factors.

Depending on the strategic goals of the organization, a membership professional at the director level may come from a background of operational strategy, marketing and communications, business development, education, events and conferences, or even fundraising. Likewise, the candidate pool is not limited to professionals from associations or nonprofits -- there are many commonalities with corporate work in this area.


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

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 have a seat at the table? Are they front-facing — in front of the board, in front of senior leadership? Do they contribute strategy and ideas? Do they report on the status of the membership to senior leadership?
  2. Do they think strategically about how to find potential members? Have they identified a new membership category that both grows membership and supports the mission? Have they developed a strategic plan to achieve market penetration?
  3. Do they think in terms of what makes people or organizations want to be members? Are they properly targeting groups and continuously assessing needs to identify ways to provide value and achieve renewals for each member category?
  4. Have they identified areas of collaboration with other organizations of similar interests and missions? Are they aware of their competitors’ offerings?
  5. Are they managing the strategy and the day-to-day fulfillment? Do they develop and implement programs collaboratively across the organization?
  6. Do they have experience mentoring and managing staff and volunteers to meet membership program goals? Do they have a role in selecting volunteers to be committee members? Are they responsible for committee or leadership development?
  7. Do they know how to leverage the membership database to meet goals in marketing, communications, and financial areas?
  8. Have they managed a department-level budget? Do they know how to develop an annual budget based on the strategic plan?

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 have experience structuring and articulating the value proposition to convince independent associations to join the national parent?
  3. Are they politically savvy? Do they understand state and local laws as they apply to their membership?


What are the 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 having broad enough experience in the operational or revenue-driving aspects of the association's strategic plan.

Also pay close attention to these factors:

  1. Looking across their current organization and broadening strategically into another functional area. They may be developing a strength in a revenue-driving operation where they can lend their expertise with membership to expand or enhance their organization's reach.
  2. Proactively expanding the scope of the membership function within their organization. They may be engaging with senior leadership to craft strategies in support of building their organization's brand. They may be working collaboratively with other functional areas to develop and execute strategic ideas around membership benefits and services.

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