Creating a sustainable association requires a four-prong strategy – member acquisition, member engagement, member retention, and member referrals. One strategy without the other will keep the wheels turning but all four together will help your group operate at optimal efficiency. Over the past few months, we’ve written articles about growth strategies, acquisition methods, loyalty programs and retention ideas.

Check out our series, Improving Your Member Retention Rates here

But today we’re focusing on how to create a successful member referral program. Referral programs are great enhancements to your member strategy because once established, they operate with little intervention, meaning less work for you. To get started, check out our 4 tips below.

Your ideal recruit

Before you dive into a strategy, identify the ideal member type you’re trying to recruit. Perhaps your member base is saturated with professionals of a certain profile and you need to diversify. Or, maybe your associations lacks a strong base of Millennials so you should be targeting a younger audience. Establish these qualifications up front and use them when planning your strategy.

Pick the prize

Now that you’ve got your ideal candidate, pick the incentive for the recruiter and the member being recruited. Typically, a double-sided prize (like the one we just mentioned) works the best. It provides more incentive and has a higher chance of conversion. Here at AMO, if you convince a friend to sign up, we’ll gift you and your friend a $25 Amazon gift card. Interested? Email us at to get started.

Other incentives for members could be discounts on event tickets, membership swag, special sponsorship options, or even a discount on membership for the new signup. If you can’t afford financial gifts, think about other freebies that cost you next to nothing like an ebook or industry whitepaper that could still be a great incentive for members.

Program tracking

To ensure you’re accurately collecting all referral data, set up tracking codes on your referral forms. Then you’ll know exactly how many memberships are stemming from referrals and if the program is worth continuing or if you need to make changes. If you can’t afford software to automatically track this data, at the least, be sure to collect who referred new members to your group by adding a text field for “referred by” so you know who to thank.

Test, analyze and recalibrate

Now that you’ve got your referral program up and running, make sure you’re consistently analyzing your metrics. Is your form converting? Are you meeting your goals? If not, it may be time to make adjustments and try again.

Referral programs take time to work. Don’t be discouraged if you’re not seeing results right away. Follow our suggestions above and always be analyzing your metrics before making drastic changes.


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