Joining a club is a great way for people of all ages and backgrounds to get involved in their community. It offers a built-in social network of like-minded individuals who get together for the same cause or reason, providing an enjoyable way for you to do what you love with others.
Whether your club is a recreational sports league, a networking group for professionals in a certain industry, or a book club, two things you need to focus on are increasing membership and retaining members.
Strategies to increase membership range from using word-of-mouth and digital marketing to keeping your current members satisfied and being transparent about your membership fees. Here are 30 actionable strategies to get more people to join your club.
Use Jotform’s membership application templates to gather new club members online — for free!
1. Establish an online community
Even if your club meets in person, it’s important to have an online community where your members can thrive. Jonathan Zacharias, founder of GR0, a digital marketing and SEO agency, stresses the importance of knowing who your members are and what they want so you can create personalized content that responds to their goals, interests, and values.
When to use: When you want to bring people together with personalized content online
Pro: Whether it’s on a website, a Facebook group, or a WhatsApp group chat, create an environment where members want to be. “Personalized content gives prospective members a reason to browse your Facebook page, spend time on your website, and sign up for your email list,” says Zacharias.Con: It can be difficult to capture the attention of people online because the space is already so crowded. Some people may join the community initially but not participate, while others may join and quickly leave if they don’t get immediate engagement from your club.
2. Use word-of-mouth marketing
People must know about your club in order to join it. Membership marketing is vitally important to the success of your organization. Word of mouth is the most powerful way your existing members can drum up interest. Make it clear to your members who the club would like to recruit. For example, if you’re part of a recreational sports team, then your club can focus on potential members who can make practice and games on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 7–9 p.m.
When to use: If your membership base is a tight-knit community or group of people who value personal references
Pro: It’s easier to build trust with prospects when current members vouch for your organization. Encourage your members to share information about the club and to tell their friends and family that you’re looking for new members. If members are willing, they can even share via email or social media.
Con: Word-of-mouth marketing only works if the reviews are positive. If current members don’t have good things to say about your organization, it will work against your goals.
3. Create an elevator pitch
Sometimes, your existing members or club leaders may want to invite others to the club, but they’re not sure what to say to prospects — after all, communicating effectively is a learned skill. Give them a script they can use to talk about the club in order to entice new members.
When to use: When your club has a complex message or one that’s difficult to articulate in just a few words
Pro: Having an elevator pitch handy lends confidence to your existing members and leaders when they need to talk to others about the club. Plus, it’s also useful for marketing materials.
Con: You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink! While you may be able to create the elevator pitch, you don’t have any guarantees that others will use it to recruit members.
4. Build a user-friendly website
Potential new members will most likely find their way to the club’s website, which should be as welcoming as possible. The site should also be appealing and clearly state important information, such as what the club is about and how to get involved.
The club membership application form should collect an applicant’s name and contact details. (Check out these membership application templates for ideas on how to get started. All of Jotform’s templates are fully customizable.)
When to use: When you invite new members to join at any time and on an ongoing basis
Pro: You can reach a wide array of people through your club’s website, as anyone can access it on the internet.
Con: If your organization only recruits certain segments of a demographic, this method may not be the most efficient.
5. Have a membership fee fire sale
Who doesn’t love a big sale? Consider dropping your membership fee by a significant percentage for a limited time in order to convince prospects to join your club.
When to use: If your club has a high membership fee
Pro: This strategy may quickly convince prospects who are on the fence about joining.
Con: You may lose revenue if you use this strategy too many times or for too long. Be sure to keep it going for a limited time only, such as two weekends a year, for example.
6. Keep your current members satisfied
Retaining engaged, happy members is key to increasing membership. This is common sense, but should not fall to the wayside in favor of recruiting new members.
People stay in a club that makes them feel like they belong and adds to their lives. Build a vibrant social calendar where members can get to know each other on a deeper level. It will foster greater camaraderie and a commitment to the organization.
When to use: When you want to get more referrals out of your existing members
Pro: When your current members are fully engaged in the club, they’ll be more inclined to participate in recruiting efforts, such as organizing a “bring a friend” day or bringing their families to club events to learn more about the organization.
Con: It’s not always easy to know what will appeal to your members, and you may get things wrong from time to time. It’s vital to ask for member feedback to make sure you’re on the right track. (More on that later!)
7. Be transparent about all aspects of the club
Communicate with members about membership dues and where the money goes. This can build trust in the organization, start a dialogue, and ensure members that they’re getting value out of their participation.
If the club conducts fundraising, be sure to share the intended purpose(s) for all raised funds. Being open and transparent about fundraising and budgets makes members and potential members feel more invested in the group.
When to use: If the organization conducts events, fundraisers, or other initiatives that involve funding requests
Pro: The more open you are about how the organization operates, the more trust you build with potential and current members. Communication between all members and leaders should be crystal clear. Give members plenty of opportunities to ask questions, contribute to ideas, and give feedback, whether anonymous or not.
Con: There’s such a thing as sharing too much information. Ensure you have guidelines around what information is confidential, restricted, or proprietary.
8. Offer an incentive to existing members
Offering perks to members who bring in new prospects, such as a discount on their annual fees, is a good way to improve recruiting efforts.You can offer discounts, swag, and other reasons to sign people up.
When to use: If you have the budget for rewards, discounts, and incentives
Pro: This is a good way to get current members involved in recruitment activities because it offers them something for their time, effort, and connections.
Con: Unfortunately, any kind of incentive comes with a cost, whether it’s a club hat or a membership discount. This can affect your organization’s budget.
9. Give back to the community
Just like no person is an island, no club can operate on its own. Whether you’re part of an athletic community or a chess club, it’s important to show community members that your club cares about people.
When to use: If your organization is located in a particular community where there are opportunities to volunteer or partner with community organizations
Pro: Activities like volunteer days show the community that your club cares about others and that your members are active and engaged. Volunteer in partnership with other clubs, donate time and resources to organizations that help people in need, or attend community events with members of your group.
Con: There are no drawbacks to helping people in your community! However, these activities do require members’ time.
10. Host a family night
The parents, siblings, spouses, and even children of your existing members may be prospective members for your organization. Put together a family-focused event where existing members can bring their loved ones to experience everything your organization has to offer.
When to use: If your organization’s demographic spans age groups
Pro: The opportunity to experience some membership perks with their loved ones may be just the incentive family members need to sign up to be part of the group.
Con: Throwing events, especially ones to accommodate large groups of people, can be costly and resource-intensive.
11. Share membership details in your newsletter
A weekly or monthly newsletter is a great way to get the word out about your goals to increase club membership. You can share the perks of membership and any incentives your members may get for referrals.
When to use: When you have the contact information for enough people to develop a distribution list
Pro: This tactic works well for getting referrals. You can also include details about existing members within the newsletter, such as a member spotlight, so they’ll be more inclined to share the newsletter with others in their network.
Con: If you don’t have a newsletter distribution list, it can take a while to build one.
12. Give new members immediate access to perks
Sometimes people need to see immediate returns on their investment (regardless of whether that investment involves money). Provide member merchandise like hats and T-shirts to new members or offer certain benefits with their membership they can’t attain in another way (such as VIP access to content).
When to use: If you have the budget or resources to offer incentives
Pro: Rewarding new members with perks is a great way to build loyalty and engagement right away. If new members see the benefits of joining within a few days, they’ll feel compelled to continue participating in the club — and they might even spread the word.
Con: Many perks have price tags, especially merchandise and discounts. However, some perks, like shoutouts in the newsletter, don’t cost anything.
13. Host a bring-a-friend night
People often share interests or hobbies with their friends. Holding a recurring bring-a-friend event is a great way to increase membership, as current members can invite pals who may be interested in joining the club.
When to use: If your organization is centered around a specific, niche interest
Pro: This is a great way to show members’ friends what the club is all about and to introduce them to like-minded individuals who share their passions.
Con: This strategy will only work for certain types of clubs and certain types of people. If the potential member’s friends don’t share an interest in the organization’s focus, they’re unlikely to join the club even after attending the event.
14. Gather feedback from your members and community
To increase membership in your club, you have to ensure the club is something people actually want to be part of. Asking your members and your community for feedback is a great way to get insight into what people think.
“Digital media can be a critical tool in gaining member feedback and is an extremely effective way to stay top of mind with your current and prospective members,” says Zacharias.
“These mini-feedback sessions could be Twitter or Facebook polls or a single question in an email. These are most effective when they’re timed around an annual event or a membership drive.”
When to use: If your organization is concerned with making continuous improvements
Pro: This strategy is a great way to build trust with prospects and current members. Once you know how your club is doing, you can improve upon any weaknesses and show current and prospective members that your club is something they want to be part of. Get started with inspiration from these feedback form templates.
Con: Critical feedback can be a tough pill to swallow. Plus, not all feedback is helpful. You have to know how to spot useful feedback and actually implement it.
15. Share member testimonials in your marketing materials
Regardless of whether you have a website, social media accounts, brochures, or other materials, it’s important to share testimonials from current members of your club in order to build trust with prospects.
When to use: If your club actively creates and distributes marketing materials
Pro: Testimonials can cover a range of topics, from the benefits the member receives from the club to the camaraderie they feel within the organization. They’re excellent marketing tools.
Con: Some members may not want to share their testimonials on public-facing marketing materials. In these cases, you can make their testimonials anonymous.
16. Reach out via direct mail
These days, people don’t get a lot of print mail, so a direct mail campaign may help you capture prospects’ attention.
When to use: If your club has a large mailing list of prospects
Pro: It’s an unusual marketing tactic for this day and age, so it may be more attention-grabbing.
Con: Print mailing isn’t very popular because it’s costly. You need to have the budget to print and deliver your campaign materials.
17. Streamline online registration and payment
Ensure your membership registration and payment process online is easy, intuitive, and quick. If it isn’t, you may be turning prospects off. Interested parties should be able to sign up, pay dues, and learn about club perks without any headaches.
When to use: If your club accepts registrations online
Pro: Online registration optimizes resources because it allows prospects to serve themselves for the most part. Plus, all paperwork is digitized and easy to store and track.
Con: Finding the right online club registration form software can be challenging. Check out Jotform’s online registration forms and see how easy they are to use. Jotform also integrates with 30-plus popular payment gateways to make collecting fees a seamless experience.
18. Have a password-protected members-only website section
A great way to make club members feel special — and to entice prospective members — is to give them something that’s only for them. Consider creating an area of the website that’s for members only, protected by a password, to access VIP information.
When to use: If your club has access to (or can create) proprietary information that you can easily reserve for certain audiences
Pro: This is a great way to build intrigue around the club and get people excited to join.
Con: Some less tech-savvy people may have trouble accessing a password-protected website. Setup may also be complicated.
19. Have a booth at a community festival or event
Sometimes the best way to increase membership in your club is to get your club in front of people who may be interested. If your community hosts farmer’s markets, festivals, or similar events, purchase a booth for your club.
When to use: If your club operates in a specific community or location
Pro: You not only get a chance to inform people about the existence of the club and what you do, but you can also bring prospective members to the booth and talk about all of the benefits of joining. It’s a great way to build trust.
Con: Booth costs may be high for some events, making this strategy impractical for certain clubs.
20. Review membership attendance options
Some clubs have onerous attendance requirements, such as physically attending a meeting once a week. This may be a barrier for some prospects, so think about how you can make attendance easier, such as removing minimum requirements or making virtual attendance an option.
When to use: If your club has strict physical attendance requirements
Pro: Reviewing your attendance options gives you an opportunity to determine if your current requirements are actually working for you or against you.
Con: In some types of clubs, physical attendance minimums may be necessary and difficult to remove.
21. Craft your messaging carefully
Whether you’re using flyers to get the word out or focusing your attention on social media ads, it’s important to think strategically about how you want to attract people.
“If you’re working on building gym memberships, for example, your message should be one of wellness, community, and vitality,” says Zacharias.
“In your marketing, highlight the positives of exercise and make that attractive to potential members. Once they see that you can offer these benefits, they’ll be more inclined to join.”
When to use: If a club wants to increase membership — which makes it great for almost any club
Pro: You have an opportunity to cover a number of topics. The message shouldn’t be just about joining the club; it should also convey to members what value they’ll get from being part of that community. Will they find friends with similar interests? Will they get better at a specific activity? Will they learn new skills? These are the kinds of messages that attract people to join a club. You can also use your key messaging to help members craft an elevator pitch about the club that they can use in their recruitment efforts.
Con: If the messaging is too internally focused, you won’t appeal to your target demographic. Ensure you write the messaging from an audience-first perspective. It should be all about what your audience can get out of your organization.
22. Place club flyers at related businesses
Print marketing materials can work for certain types of clubs. Place flyers about your club at strategic locations in the community, especially businesses that your target audience frequents. For example, you can leave flyers about your cycling club at the local bicycle repair shop.
When to use: Ideal for clubs that have related businesses nearby
Pro: You can capture the attention of prospects who are passionate about the topic of your club if you find the right places to share your flyers.
Con: This strategy may not work for certain types of clubs or certain target audiences.
23. Network with similar clubs
Partnerships have advantages! You can try to increase your club’s membership by getting in touch with other clubs that are similar to yours in nature (or at least overlap somewhat in their interests). They may open doors to new members.
When to use: If there are other local clubs that share a target audience with yours
Pro: People who are interested in a similar club may also want to join yours to expand their horizons. You may also be able to host partnered events with the other club, optimizing your resources.
Con: Some of your target audience may not want to join more than one club that focuses on the same topic.
24. Create different tiers of membership
Not all club members want the same things out of your club. Consider setting up different tiers of memberships with different fees and different benefits.
When to use: If your club offers a range of perks and benefits
Pro: You can entice different target audience groups this way, especially those who want to pay a smaller fee for fewer privileges or those who don’t mind shelling out for all the perks.
Con: This strategy only works if your club has a multitude of benefits to offer that you can group in different ways.
25. Have a membership trial period
If you’re finding that prospects aren’t sure they want to commit to an annual or monthly membership, think about whether a trial period may be what they need to help convince them to join.
When to use: If your club has a high membership fee or requires long-term commitments
Pro: With this strategy, prospects can see if they like being part of the club without too much of a commitment.
Con: It can be difficult to track trial memberships and remember to revoke privileges once the trial is over and the prospect doesn’t join the club.
26. Remove barriers to membership participation
Whether it’s cost, time commitment, or something else, pay attention to why prospects say they aren’t able to join your club. Then, work to remove those specific barriers for your target audience. For example, if your target audience is new moms but they can’t join because they don’t have babysitting for their kids, consider hiring a babysitter who can come to the club meeting and look after the kids while the moms participate in the meeting.
When to use: If your target audience consistently tells you about a specific barrier in their way to joining your club
Pro: This strategy shows prospects that you hear their concerns and are willing to help them however you can.
Con: This strategy works best when your target audience has one main barrier to membership that they need help getting through.
27. Offer member-only discounts
Often, prospects want to see some financial benefits with their membership. Partner with other relevant organizations to get discounts only you can offer your members. For example, all members of the cinephile club could get 10 percent off movie tickets at the local theater.
When to use: If your target audience is driven by financial benefits
Pro: This isn’t just a great way to provide your prospects with a benefit; it’s also a great way to partner with relevant businesses and organizations.
Con: If your audience isn’t interested in discounts, this strategy won’t sway them.
28. Set up a recruitment committee
Dedicating resources to member recruitment may be just what your club needs. When you task a group of people with increasing club membership and give them goals, strategies, and funds, they often come up with some creative ideas.
When to use: If your club has members or leaders who are specifically interested in being on a recruitment team
Pro: A recruitment team centralizes all of your recruitment initiatives. It can optimize the way you use resources and time to increase your membership.
Con: The people on the recruitment committee must have a genuine interest in participating in recruitment activities in their spare time.
29. Distribute club merchandise
Magnets, hats, pens, stickers — these and other items are perfect for club branding. Include your club name, website, phone number, and logo to get the word out about your organization. Hand out merchandise at community events or in sponsorship grab bags. You never know who may see the merchandise and take an interest in your club.
When to use: If you want to promote your club to a wide audience
Pro: This strategy works well if you’re not targeting a specific demographic — because you can reach a lot of different people this way.
Con: Merchandise costs money, so your club will need to have funds dedicated to this initiative.
30. Segment recruitment communications
You can’t communicate with all prospects in the same way if you really want to grab their interest. Some prospects will want to know more about membership benefits, while others will care more about meeting times and activities, for example.
When to use: For clubs with different audience segments
Pro: You can cater to all your audiences’ different needs with highly targeted communications that get to the heart of their interests.
Con: It can be difficult and resource-intensive to segment communications and deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time.
Tips for measuring strategy effectiveness
Regardless of which membership-increasing strategies you use, it’s important to measure how well they’re working. Consider incorporating these practices to help evaluate your tactics:
- Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) for each strategy. For example, if you’re using your website to promote membership, establish how many page views or how many leads you want to get in a certain period of time.
- Track the KPIs regularly. Review the metrics you’re following on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis so you can keep on top of progress.
- Pivot when necessary. If the KPIs are on track to meeting your objectives, you may not have to make any changes to your strategy. However, if the KPIs are lagging behind where you want them to be, it may mean you have to make some adjustments. Changes can be as minor as tweaking the messaging or as significant as using a different strategy entirely.
3 strategies to avoid
If you’re in charge of increasing membership in your club, you’re likely under a lot of pressure and have a lot of responsibilities. However, don’t let that push you into trying strategies that simply don’t work. Here are three strategies to avoid:
- Using pressure tactics: Never force anyone to join your club or organization. Exerting unnecessary pressure won’t lead to a long-term membership increase. People may join initially, but they’ll likely leave shortly after.
- Forcing people to stay: Some clubs make it very difficult for people to leave once they’ve joined. For example, they may continue charging a membership fee even after the member has expressed their desire to stop being a part of the organization. This can cause legal — and reputational — problems for your organization.
- Misleading people about the membership: You may find yourself making lofty promises to get people to join the club, but this can backfire if you’re making false claims. Once people join and realize the club has lied to them, they’ll surely leave.
These types of troublesome tactics can cause more hassle than they’re worth, ruining your organization’s reputation and credibility. Stick to tried, tested, and honorable tactics — like any of the 30 we’ve mentioned above.
Jotform: A great tool to help you increase membership in your club
Jotform is a leading form-building platform that can support you with many membership-growth strategies. With templates for hundreds of membership forms at your fingertips, you can use Jotform to sign up members, process membership fees, sign membership contracts, and more.
Each Jotform template is fully customizable, so you can edit the text, structure, and visuals with ease. Plus, you can manage and track the data you collect through the forms in Jotform Tables, a spreadsheet-powered database. Give Jotform a try today!