How would you describe your overall member growth strategy?
We started from the inside and worked outwards. We’ve spent the last year or so building a strong foundation so that as an organization we have the tools to work better together and the tools to reach out to current and new members. Improving our own communication structure has enabled us to increase the frequency and quality of how we communicate with both members and potential members. And once dentists are aware of the great work we do at all three levels of the tripartite, it’s hard not to choose membership, right?
We’ve also been researching career segments and improving what we do for each group as we go. For example, we’ve placed a big emphasis on students—going upstream to grow awareness of the tripartite and the value of membership. We include student leaders in our event planning for each semester to make sure we’re delivering the exact opportunities they need. We’ve been gaining a lot of momentum with our dentists 0-10 years out of school and just had our biggest New Dentist Conference last March. We’re also planning to increase the new dentist and new member events we do at the component level to help engage and retain this group.
In December, we realized that there were a lot of retired or about-to-retire dentists who were unaware of the different retirement and life member statuses. We’ve since published information that expands and clarifies what you can find on the ADA’s website and have had some lovely phone conversations with happy members (especially retired life members who didn’t realize they were one form away from free membership!). While we’re still working on improvements for dentists at the beginning and end of the career cycle, we’re now turning our attention to mid-career and senior practitioners so that we can improve resources and member value for these groups as well.
What do you think Virginia Dental Association did particularly well in 2017 to gain new members?
We identified good volunteers (be they ambassadors, event volunteers, or just people who took time to come have a chat with us), we gave them a job, we armed them with resources (which sometimes involved where information was missing and creating resources to fill the gaps), and then we did our best to hold them accountable. We did the same with our local components. We wanted to mirror how the ADA works with us—they develop programs, we execute. We identify roadblocks to membership and the ADA troubleshoots with us to solve problems. As our components understand that the VDA is here to support them, and they come to rely on us as a resource, we can all do more for our members. After all, there’s more work to recruiting and retaining new members than we can do at just the state level. Understanding how we could employ the tripartite structure for the benefit of our members and of the staff and volunteers assisting them has been key.
What do you think Virginia Dental Association did particularly well in 2017 to retain members?
We haven’t always done a good job of sharing wins for our organization. Now that we’ve made improvements to our communications (both in structure and in targeting content), we’re more intentional about the information we share (and hopefully, therefore, more successful in getting through to members about the benefits of membership). Identifying and positioning resources, products, and services as member benefits has helped members understand the value (in-kind and intangible) of membership.
What key stakeholders have played a role in impacting your overall member growth efforts?
In short, everyone. We’ve done a lot of research with our leaders, members, and staff in the last year and have made a concerted effort to become collaborative and transparent. For example, before our annual meeting last September, I sent an email to everyone that had registered with updates on the projects from my first six months on the job. Giving members “backstage access” to my work helped members feel like stakeholders and helped identify me as a person they’d feel comfortable contacting if they had a problem or an issue. So, it wasn’t a matter so much of which key stakeholders had a role, but how we have included the audience in our program planning. This has made all members feel like they are important stakeholders in our organization.
What plans do you have for increasing or sustaining member growth in 2018?
We’ve already had a great start! We had another record National Signing Day year and have plans to roll out a new grad/new dentist 18-month communication plan by the end of June. We also used the Member-Get-A-Member program to recruit graduate students and, for the first time ever, all 70 current graduate students are active members (about 30 of whom were non-members!). Additionally, we’re adding accountability to our Ambassador Program and will be employing our ambassadors not just to welcome new members, but to use their expertise to assist with non-renew outreach, non-member recruiting and new member engagement.
For more information on Virginia Dental Association’s member growth efforts, please feel free to reach out to:
Contact Name: Sarah Mattes Marshall, Membership Advocate
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