Fundamentals of Chapter Management: Section 6 - Membership Development

Recruiting and Retaining Members

INTRODUCTION

Without a doubt, membership development - recruitment and retention of active, involved members - is the lifeblood of your chapter. With a strong, committed member base, at both the chapter and national levels, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) can continue to represent emergency medicine effectively and develop programs and services that meet member needs. Active, involved members provide:

  • Increased revenue for your chapter
  • A larger, unified voice for local and national legislative and regulatory issues
  • Better networking and support for all emergency physicians
  • Broader base of volunteers to support chapter and national efforts on behalf of all emergency physicians and the patients they serve

ACEP has dual membership: Members who join at the national level also become members in a state, Government Services or Puerto Rico chapter. Dual membership increases the return on both ACEP and chapter membership development efforts.

Make no mistake, adding new emergency physicians to the rolls through membership recruitment efforts is an excellent tactic to grow your chapter, but keeping members involved is just as crucial. Recruitment and retention are vital components to the effort of membership development.

Recruiting and Retaining Members

Members often re-examine the value they gain from their membership each time they receive a renewal notice. And, they often ask themselves: "What's in it for me?" Emergency physicians want and need to understand the true value of their membership in both your chapter and in ACEP, and how it personally affects their lives.

One of the chapter's most effective tools in attracting and retaining members is an ongoing record of involvement and member service - in other words proving your value to the individual emergency physicians you serve.

If emergency physicians know that the chapter represents them effectively and meets their needs, they'll want to join and stay active. Membership will be perceived as a valuable investment. How can you enhance member value? Try these ideas:

  • Survey your members and nonmembers to determine activities, meetings and services that will meet their individual needs
  • Encourage your members to take an active role in chapter programs. Invite them to chapter events, board meetings, and ask them to serve on committees and in work groups

At the national level, ACEP has recently completed a Member Needs Assessment, and has identified member needs nationwide. Interestingly, many members reported that they are most interested in ensuring that they maintain a good work life balance, are able to keep up clinically with their peers and meet ongoing CME requirements, participate in opportunities for interaction among their peers, and succeed in their personal development. All of those topics are areas in which your chapter can help address your members' needs.

For members to feel satisfied about chapter activities, regular communication from the chapter and ACEP is important. ACEP provides information to members about national activities and products in a number of ways. Annals of Emergency Medicine, ACEP News, and Emergency Medicine Today - a newly redesigned and updated electronic communication that features the latest news from U.S. News and World Report - are designed to help members see the return on their dues investment. In addition, national ACEP is focused on ensuring an up-to-date web site. Physicians who understand the real benefits membership provides are more likely to join and renew.

The chapter has the same challenge. Regular chapter newsletters and mailings are valuable tools to help members understand how the chapter meets their needs. Several chapters have produced promotional membership brochures that explain ACEP and chapter benefits to current and prospective members. There are more suggestions about chapter communications in Section 5, Keeping Members Informed.

Ideas That Work
There are many techniques the chapter can use in recruiting and retaining members. Choosing the ones to use will depend on a number of variables - including financial resources available, staff support, and the number of prospective members.
Here are a number of proven ways the chapter can attract and retain members:

ACEP's Prospect List
Each month the Member Services Department sends to chapters a listing of physicians who have been added to the membership database. The list includes the physician's name, address, and telephone number, if available. A code is assigned to each prospect so the chapter knows the resource for the prospect. For example, some are diplomats of the American Board of Emergency Medicine, some have contacted ACEP directly for information on membership, and others have attended a national meeting as a nonmember.

We encourage you to contact those individuals to provide them with further information to join. While ACEP sends follow-up details of membership, the chapter can provide important information for local networking and benefits of membership. Further direct mail solicitations are appropriate. A personal call from the chapter's membership committee or a chapter leader can affirm the potential member's value and importance to the chapter.

Whether writing or calling a prospective member, be prepared with concrete facts about chapter and national activities. Provide updates to help members understand the return they receive on their investment in ACEP membership.

ACEP & Chapter Campaigns

ACEP encourages chapters to develop ongoing membership recruitment and retention campaigns and has designed several ways in which to help you gain and retain members.

Planning
Planning is a key component in any successful membership campaign. Here are some key points to remember.

  • Organize efforts. Set specific campaign goals and identify the strategies to meet them. Know what resources - both in volunteer time and money - the chapter can rely on.
  • Establish an active, enthusiastic membership committee or work group. Appoint a committee chair who is committed to work and has the ability and time to do a good job.
  • Know in detail the benefits of membership your chapter has to offer. Step back for a moment and think about what ACEP and the chapter do for members. Share information about these benefits with  prospective and renewing members.
  • Anticipate any resistance the chapter may have to overcome. Know the real reasons why nonmembers have not joined and why current members are not renewing, and be prepared to address their concerns.
  • Make sure the prospect list is as complete and up to date as possible. Don't waste resources trying to contact individuals who no longer live in the state or who have left the practice of emergency medicine.

Cost
The promotion cost to the chapter is minimal, but the chapter must be willing to commit time and enthusiasm to the project.

Ideas at a Glance

Host a new member Welcome Reception and Orientation at your annual meeting

Make the reception or orientation fun and emphasize the opportunity to get to know your chapter's leaders and meet colleagues throughout your organization. Provide the attendees with membership benefit information and direct them to the online membership orientation.

Serve free, light refreshments or lunch, and ask your Chapter president to briefly cover the benefits of belonging to your chapter and ACEP. If you have a membership booth, make sure you promote prize drawings and incentives for visiting your booth, and have strong recruitment leaders in the booth - the person in the booth selling membership is key to membership promotion.

Host a Membership Open House with a renowned emergency medicine speaker

Target specific hospitals or universities in your chapter area. Make the hours flexible, and, if possible, go to the hospital or university. Keep your presentation short and on target so doctors may drop by when they have a moment. Choose a hot topic in emergency medicine and ask the speaker to host a discussion forum during the event. Offer free refreshments or food, networking with ACEP and chapter leaders, overviews of chapter and ACEP benefits, or an incentive to join during the Open House.

Start an E-mail campaign
Many emergency physicians have previously been members of ACEP. You could consider an e-mail campaign targeted to previous members who have been cancelled for more than 12 months. Include your chapter and ACEP value statement and use the opportunity to invite attendees to your upcoming meetings. Keep your message brief and emphasize any incentives you choose to offer, and remember to direct potential members to our online application.

Try a mail campaign with postcards or letters
Contacting potential members via a postcard or letter may help you emphasize your chapter's value to its potential and cancelled members. Contact ACEP's Membership Marketing Manager for help with this tactic.

Finding prospects
The campaign begins using one of two approaches. The chapter can send the names and addresses of prospective members it has acquired from a variety of sources to ACEP, which in turn, cross-checks the list against its records of members and prospects. The second approach is for the chapter to review a list of hospitals in the state and verify or identify the names of emergency department directors. Using this information, Member Services Department staff will send a letter to the directors requesting the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of full- or part-time physicians who staff their emergency departments. A follow-up letter is sent several weeks after the initial contact.

As with the first option, ACEP cross-checks the names submitted against the ACEP active membership roll. Physicians who are already members are removed from the solicitation list. Nonmembers receive a special letter signed by the chapter president or designee inviting them to become members. A follow-up letter is sent a few weeks after the initial contact.

The next step gives the chapter another opportunity to be actively involved. ACEP will send a computerized listing containing names, addresses, and telephone numbers, if available, of potential members. The chapter's membership committee and interested officers and members use this information to make personal telephone calls encouraging potential members to join.

While telephone follow-up is not required for participation in the ACEP and chapter campaign, it is certainly encouraged.

Personal Telephone Contact
One-on-one telephone contact is the most effective recruitment technique available and one that can be handled at the local level. The chapter can target certain groups creating focused promotional efforts.

Promotion List
Each month the chapter receives a list of individuals in its state who have contacted ACEP for membership information or whose name was obtained from a variety of sources. A personal phone call or letter with information on the services they will receive from the chapter as members of the College will encourage them to become active members.

Emergency Medicine Residents and Faculty
Emergency medicine residents are the future active members and leaders of ACEP. A study by the American Medical Association shows that physicians who become involved with an association while they are young or still in training are more likely to retain membership and become involved in the activities of the association. Faculty provide the encouragement and leadership for residents to join and become active in professional organizations. If there is a residency program in the state, promoting membership among faculty and residents should be one of the chapter's top membership development priorities. Many chapters offer residents and medical students significant discounts on chapter dues while other chapters charge no dues for residents and medical students.

A resident can join ACEP and the Emergency Medicine Residents' Association (EMRA) for $105, plus chapter dues in some areas. ACEP-EMRA membership entitles residents to special discounts on ACEP meetings, subscriptions to Annals of Emergency Medicine and ACEP News, and several publications. Joint membership in ACEP and EMRA is required.

The chapter can request a list of all nonmember emergency medicine residents from ACEP's Member Services Department. Consider telephone calls, special mailings, and even personal visits to these residents. ACEP makes several promotional mailings to residents in an effort to encourage membership. At the direction of the board of directors, ACEP developed a residency leader visit program. For more information, call the Academic Affairs Department.

Remind members of the chapter who are involved with residencies as directors or faculty to encourage residents to join ACEP and EMRA. Lists of residency programs in your state can also be obtained from the Member Services Department or on ACEP's Web site.

Promotions at Educational Meetings

Physician-to-Physician Contact
Enlisting chapter members to encourage nonmember colleagues to join ACEP can be one of the chapter's most effective membership development tools. If members are enthusiastic about chapter activities and share that excitement with their colleagues in their groups and hospitals, your membership will grow. The chapter can help members become effective "recruiters" by providing information and materials about ACEP and the chapter.

Encourage your members by asking them to:

  • Keep membership applications on hand
  • Provide a list of emergency physicians they work with
  • Identify nonmembers and share facts about chapter benefits and opportunities
  • Call colleagues, and take the time to simply ask someone to join.
  • Follow up with colleagues by inviting them to a chapter meeting or educational program and asking them to help in some way.

Promotions to Physician Groups
ACEP's new group billing and recognition program is a great way to market membership in your chapter. Groups not only receive recognition of their participation in the 100% Club or Circle of Distinction, but they also can ease administrative costs and ensure that all their emergency physicians are part of their specialty organization. Visit our Web site and click to more information about Group Membership www.acep.org/grouprecognition.

Welcoming New Members
Give new members a warm welcome to build member satisfaction and encourage future membership renewal.

Members who have recently joined the chapter may be new to the area and eager to get involved. The key is to make them feel a part of ACEP and to encourage their long-term commitment and active participation. Use the list of new members ACEP sends your chapter each month to make contact with these newcomers.
Here are a number of new member ideas to consider:

  • Create a new member orientation package. Include a letter of welcome, a description of the services offered by the chapter, and an announcement of the chapter's next board meeting or educational program. If the chapter publishes a newsletter, include a copy of the most recent issue, and let the new member know when the next issue will be published (sample letter).
  • Provide recognition. Publish the names of new members and their cities in the chapter newsletter. Match a new member with a current member for introductions and interaction at an upcoming meeting.
  • Make personal contact. Ask the chapter president, membership committee, or interested members to call each new member. A personal telephone call is the best way to establish a relationship with the new member. It gives the new member an opportunity to ask questions, and gives the caller a chance to provide information about chapter and ACEP services.
  • Provide information about chapter involvement. Tell new members about committee service and other opportunities for chapter involvement. Include a brief questionnaire that asks new members to identify their areas of expertise and interests. Include information about the chapter's priorities and long-term goals. Follow up with those who respond by asking them to do a specific task, serve on an active committee, or help plan a chapter function.
  • Remind new members of their value to ACEP and to emergency medicine. In all new member efforts, emphasize that through ACEP membership, emergency physicians can strengthen their profession while gaining valuable personal benefits.

Targeting Nonrenewals
Each month ACEP's Member Services Department provides the chapter with a list of physicians whose membership in ACEP was cancelled because they did not renew. They received several renewal notices from ACEP, but they are still prospects for membership efforts. Follow up with these physicians quickly and encourage them to reinstate their membership.

By Mail
Send nonrenewing members a personal letter.
Remind them of the benefits they'll miss without ACEP membership. Highlight developments reported in the chapter newsletter or articles published in Annals of Emergency Medicine and ACEP News. Provide updates on legislative and practice initiatives under way by the chapter and ACEP.

By Phone
Call cancelled members. Surprisingly, many cancelled members do not know their membership has lapsed. Making phone calls to non-renewing members requires some time commitment on the chapter's part, but personal contact is one of the most effective ways to let members know that their continued membership and involvement in ACEP is important.

Ongoing ACEP Membership Efforts
In addition to the joint ACEP and chapter membership campaigns mentioned earlier, ACEP implements a comprehensive membership development plan including promotion and retention activities. Some of these efforts are focused on emergency medicine residents, meeting attendees, publication purchasers, and other targeted groups.

Meeting Promotions
ACEP gives nonmembers who attend any national meeting opportunities to join the College. Applications and membership brochures are available during the meetings. Scientific Assembly registrants are offered a refund of the difference between the member and nonmember fee if they join before the end of the meeting, and nonmembers receive a letter and application in their on-site registration folders. All registrants also receive a letter after the meeting with an invitation to join.

Emergency Medicine Resident Promotion
Each year, ACEP contacts all approved and non-approved emergency medicine residencies for the names of the physicians involved in their programs. The residencies are asked to give ACEP the name and the postgraduate level programs of each resident as of July 1.

ACEP verifies the information received from each residency and cross-checks the ACEP membership roll to determine which residents are nonmembers.
Each nonmember receives a joint promotion letter from ACEP and EMRA and several follow-up letters.

Membership Renewal Efforts
Even the best membership promotion campaigns will not increase the total ACEP membership count unless emergency physicians who have already joined continue their membership.

Annual Dues Billing Process
One of the most effective ways ACEP encourages members to renew their membership in the College is through the annual dues billing process.
Here's how the process works:

Partial Payment Collection
Occasionally, ACEP members submit only partial payment of dues - an error may have been made when remitting dues or the members may not wish to pay specific but required portions of the dues, such as chapter dues or portions allocated to Annals of Emergency Medicine. Or they may not know the amount to remit if their chapter or status changes. ACEP works hard to retain these physicians as members, using the phone, e-mail and a special series of letters tailored to the situation to explain why full payment is needed for membership. If a financial hardship is identified, ACEP attempts to convert the partially paid member to an installment plan. If the member references chapter dues or actions as a reason for submitting a partial payment, chapter leaders receive copies of the correspondence and are asked to respond to the questions and request full payment. ACEP asks to receive copies and documentation of chapter letters and calls to these members (sample of the ACEP member dues statement is included).

Installment Collection
At the request of the Council, ACEP implemented an installment plan to ease the financial burden that national and chapter dues may place on members. The installment plan offers the member quarterly charges for both national and chapter dues to a specified charge card for the current year. Bank drafts are also accepted. Assuming arrangements are made prior to the member's anniversary date, the first installment is completed approximately 10 days prior to the due date (anniversary date) and then every three months thereafter. For those who make arrangements after the due date, the first installment is completed immediately, and the next follow the schedule as indicated by the member's anniversary date. Members who agree to pay by installment are considered renewed members.

Effective after April 30, 2008, members and nonmembers may pay on monthly installments. Because this program is not yet fully developed, the details will be forthcoming in later communications.

Board Contact Program
Members of the ACEP Board of Directors and Membership Committee respond by phone to member questions and concerns about the College that cannot be resolved in discussions with ACEP staff. The Board Contact Program gives national leaders a chance to explain College priorities, programs, and services and to encourage continued membership. Board members also gain valuable insight into member needs and opinions nationwide.

Membership Materials Available From ACEP
ACEP provides recruitment materials and monthly membership statistics and reports to the chapter to assist with membership development efforts. Information on these resources is available from the Member Services Department.

Brochures
The College offers brochures and materials to help chapters attract and retain members. A form to order these materials is included. For additional information, call Member Services.

Monthly Membership Reports
Each month the Member Services Department automatically sends reports detailing membership activity that occurred in the chapter during the previous month.
 
Here is a summary of the categories these reports capture:

Chapter Change Report

  • Moved Into Chapter - provides the member's ID number; name; the chapter from which the member moved, status, type and transition; all addresses and phone numbers on record; an indication of the preferred mailing address and phone numbers; and sections to which the member belongs.
  • Moved Out of Chapter - provides the same basic member information and includes the member's new address in the new chapter.
  • Cancellations - provides all basic information on members who were cancelled for non-payment of dues or who resigned during the month and includes the date of cancellation.
  • Reinstatements - provides all basic information on members who were once cancelled and have reactivated their membership through payment of past dues and includes the date of reinstatement.
  • New Members - provides all basic information on new members and includes the date of membership activation.
  • Applicants - provides detailed information on applicants for the month and includes the date on which the prospect became an applicant.
  • Member Count - provides a summary of members within the chapter by type and transition. Indicates those in the chapter with primary and secondary chapter status and the number who are fellows of the ACEP.

Chapter List with Contact Changes
This report identifies any change to a member's records. Old and new record information are provided. The new data is identified with an asterisk (*). For identification purposes the report provides the member number, name, status, type and transition, join date and expiration date.

Delinquent Dues Report
A list of delinquent members in the chapter is available on a monthly basis if requested by the chapter. It includes the member number, name, address, telephone number, the last notice mailed and amount due for members in the chapter who have an outstanding full or partial dues balance with the College. The notice indicated is usually notice number four. By the time the chapter receives this report, the member may be 40 to 45 days past due. Note that cancelled members appear on the Chapter Change Report. Each year we request the names of individuals you wish to receive the reports. You may call the Member Services Department at any time to change the mailing arrangement. For additional information, simply call 800-798-1822, ext. 5.

SUMMARY

The chapter can reap benefits by making membership development a priority. Understanding member needs and working to meet them is the first step. ACEP and the Member Services Department and Membership Marketing will assist you with its membership development efforts to strengthen the chapter, ACEP, and emergency medicine.

How ACEP Welcomes New Members

ACEP now sends all its new members a Member Guide based on whether they are a medical student, resident or new member. Each kit contains specific information about the members chapter, sections of membership and members of Congress. In addition, ACEP also offers and online member orientation that takes new members through the Web site.

ACEP Communications with New Members

 

Initial Invoice  75 days prior to the member's anniversary date, a dues statement, a personalized letter, the section membership brochure, EMF and NEMPAC Brochures, and CME information (when applicable) are mailed, with any other appropriate letters of information which may include chapter PAC letters. Please note that Chapter PAC letters and other materials may be included in mailings at any time during the dues billing process.
E-mail 1 60 days prior to the member's anniversary date, an e-mail message is sent reminding them to renew. This e-mail directs members to their member record for easy renewal online.
Second Invoice 45 days prior to the anniversary date, the member is mailed a second dues statement with a notation line reminding the member this is a second notice with a personalized letter.
E-mail 2 At the first of the month before the due date, members receive a third e-mail message directing them to their online record for easy renewal.
Annals Reminder On a member's next to last and last issue mailing of Annals of Emergency Medicine, members receive a notice that their membership is about to expire with directions for renewal.
Third Invoice 15 days prior to the anniversary date, the next dues statement is mailed with a notation line reminding the member this is the third notice, a personalized letter, and a copy of Highlights
Telemarketing Call 15 days after the anniversary date, the member receives a phone call from our telemarketing service to assist members in renewing their dues.
Fourth Invoice 7 days after the anniversary date, the member is mailed the fourth notice, a personalized letter and a list of ACEP accomplishments.
E-mail 3 30 days after the members' anniversary date, the member is e-mailed a message about renewal and receives an online survey to tell us why they are not renewing.
Fifth Invoice 30 days after the member's anniversary date, the member is mailed a fifth notice and a personalized letter.
Final Notice 60 days after the anniversary, the member receives a postcard reminder.
Survey 75 days after the member's anniversary date, those who do not renew their membership are cancelled and sent a last dues statement with a survey to determine the reasons they have not renewed.
E-mail 4 90-180 days after the member's anniversary date, those who do not renew receive a final e-mail reminding them of their membership status.
Letter 120 days after the member's anniversary date, those who do not renew their membership receive another letter.
E-mail 5 Six months after the member has been cancelled, those who have not renewed receive a final e-mail reminding them of their membership status.
Letter 135 days after the member's anniversary date, those who do not renew their membership receive a letter.
Telemarketing Call At the end of the fiscal year, all members who have cancelled in the past 16-18 months receive a phone call.
Acknowledgement As soon as members renew, they are sent a thank-you letter acknowledging their payment with an updated membership identification card.

Benefits of ACEP Membership include:

  • Annals of Emergency Medicine
  • Daily e-mails with breaking emergency medicine news via Emergency Medicine Today in partnership with U.S. News and World Report
  • Educational programs
  • ACEP News
  • Insurance programs including medical, disability, life and travel insurance
  • Credit Card program
  • Practice management information and referrals
  • Advocacy for emergency medicine
  • Clearinghouse of information and assistance securing funds to support research

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