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How Your Association Can Grow While Sticking to a Tight Budget

Membership, Recruiting Audra Hopkins

With the new year approaching, most associations are gearing into budget building mode and preparing to cut costs. But does a tight budget mean that your association has to miss out on prime growth and development opportunities?

According to Statistic Brain Research Institute’s statistics on business failure rates, one of the top reasons a business fails is because of incompetence- more often financial incompetence. With that being said, creating a solid budget for your association is vital to the success of your association.

But oftentimes, associations can take budgeting as a means to halt further growth.

While it is true, sticking to the budget you’ve made is a must if you’re looking to cut back on expenses, there are many other ways your association can promote its own growth without going out and spending a fortune.

Don’t let planning your budget steer you away from increasing your association’s success in the long run. Let’s take a look at some ways your association can make moves towards growth while sticking to the budget plan it has going for the upcoming year.

 

Staff training: A budget’s worst nightmare?

Creating a strong and well developed association team can make success for your association a breeze. But staff development training and other courses can come at a cost.

With a small budget, you may have to leave those expensive development courses behind you. But that doesn’t mean you should put your staff development on hold altogether. When resources like time and money are at risk, your association needs to be fast on its feet and think creatively in order to get its staff on the right track with development.

When it comes to staff development on a tight budget, a lot of the hard work will have to come from your association’s board. It’s up to you to identify the weak spots in your staff and analyze what they do well with, and what they might struggle to grasp.

Once you can pinpoint what it is you’d like to see improved, it all comes down to communication.

Getting together with your staff for at least one hour a week will allow you all to sit down and talk about the things that are bothering both yourself and your team. You can hold open discussions, or even come up with different communication strategies (think in terms of pre-made topics or question games to get your staff warmed up and ready to share)

Even just a simple communication strategy can help your staff express what they’d like to work on and allow you to come up with cost effective ways to assist their learning. You can offer them mentors, suggest free content material like audiobooks and training videos, and even just give them advice on their next step.

 

Create more no/low-cost content

For any association looking to grow its membership, content is key. And creating content is a smart move for any association trying to increase member rates while sticking to a budget.

According to a study by Kapost, content marketing has lower up-front costs as well as more impactful long-term benefits as opposed to paid search. This is great news for associations on a budget who want to provide more value for members and attract new audiences. Knowing that content is such a valuable asset to members allows you to give them more of what they’re looking for while sticking to your cost.

But why content? The answer is simple: Because it works.

According to LinkedIn Technology Marketing, 72% of B2B marketers have a content strategy. However, only 30% of marketers have a documented strategy, meaning the remaining 42% have an undocumented strategy. Content is a great source of value for members because it gives them information and insight without having to put in much effort.

You can create diverse, informational content that your members can use to learn about industry news and updates. Consider incorporating video content into your content plan to deliver information in a much more visual way (and keep your members engaged). You can also create text documents and even blog posts to help express value for members and get your association’s point across.

Creating content can keep your association on budget while growing and engaging its members.

 

Use social media for member acquisition

Searching for members to recruit to your association can sometimes require your association to spend money. And if your budget doesn’t allow for you to splurge on member acquisition tools, you may still benefit from using free tools to find new audiences to attract.

So, if this is something that you’re interested in, it’s time to say hello to the value of social media.

Chances are, you’re no stranger to the social media world. It seems like everyone participates in some form of social sharing these days, and the value behind having channels like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for your association is so great it’s almost palpable.

SproutSocial reported that 30% of Millennials engage with a brand on social media at least once a month. On top of that, a survey done by Hootsuite shows that 48% of Americans have interacted with companies on at least one social media site. With all of that engagement waiting for you on social platforms, it’d be a waste of resources to not use your channels to acquire a brand new audience.

Have your association’s member recruitment team sit down and strategize a way to find social media audiences that fit your target audience. Having a social media strategy on deck can help your association prepare media campaigns and direct them at these audiences, saving time, energy, and most of all- your budget.

Similarly, you can also create an inviting social media space for new audiences by keeping your profiles up to date and content rich.

For example, let’s say an interested audience member sees your association has a profile, and decides to check it out to see if it’s something they may be interested in joining. If they find an outdated profile with only a handful of posts, they might be deterred from looking into your association any further. You can’t expect social media to be a valuable resource if you don’t clean up the digital cobwebs from the corners of your site.

With a well kept social media profile and a keen eye for target audiences, your social media channels can be a hub for no-cost member acquisition, allowing your association to focus its budget in other, more necessary places.

 

Strict budget? No problem.

Budgeting for your association does not have to be as limiting as you may think. While a budget may mean cutting corners and choosing between priorities and “nice to have” resources, it doesn’t necessarily mean limiting the growth your association can have as time goes on throughout the year.

Don’t let this fall’s budget planning dampen your mood about association growth. Take these tips and put them into your radar for next year, and you could actually see an increase in success for your association regardless of your cut costs.