ASSOCIATION EDUCATION AND CERTIFICATION: BEST BENEFIT EVER?

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BY MICHELLE BRIEN

What benefits truly increase value for association members, increasing engagement and ensuring that they renew their membership? It’s a question that many associations ask when planning benefit programs and communications to members. How do you make your member benefits both appealing and valuable to entice renewals and new membership subscriptions? What is the best benefit ever?

Interestingly, Associations Now, the information resource for association executives from ASAE, has a long-running series of articles called “Best Benefit Ever“, which highlights what innovative associations are doing from a benefits perspective to attract new members and reward membership renewals. There are lots of great ideas in this collection, and one theme that runs through the collection is that of innovative association education and certification programs that have been tailored to the specific needs or interests of the association membership. You can scroll through the entire collection on their website, but we have picked out some examples from the collection to inspire you as you consider how to sell and market your association education and certification programs to members.

BEST BENEFIT EVER = ASSOCIATION EDUCATION AND CERTIFICATION PROGRAMS

The American Music Therapy Association offered an online disaster-response course covering the core principals of psychological first aid to both members and non-members, with free access until the end of 2016. This innovative idea showcased the expertise and types of resources available from this association, both to learners in the field of music therapy, but also to interested parties in other industries, who may provide a new market for the AMTA’s educational resources, and thus a new source of non-dues revenue. The limited-time free offer grabbed the attention of new learners, and the quality of the educational resource then displayed the value of the education programs on offer from this association. For more ideas on how to reach new audiences, read about America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) success with expanding their association education and certification programs for members and non-members, or how the National iMIS User Group (NiUG) grew their association membership by increasing online access to their education programs.

The International Virtual Assistant’s Association leverages their online community to enhance their three certification programs with networking opportunities for members through regular events which allow them to speak with and learn from experts in the field. As virtual assistants normally work as contractors, providing this opportunity for focused communication with peers enhances the value of their certification programs for members. If you haven’t considered the benefits of online communities yet, find out three ways online communities can enhance learning in association education and certification programs.

APICS offers a benefit with dual-purpose and appeal for new members and veterans alike. a mentoring program offers new members opportunities to advance their careers and learn from more experienced members, while becoming a mentor offers a rewarding volunteering experience for veteran members, and helps to deepen their engagement with your association. Many associations incorporate mentoring programs into their association education and certification programs, benefiting both the membership and the organization itself. To learn more about practical ways to do this, read “Mentoring Millennials for Leadership and Association Growth“.

While it is clear from the diversity of examples in Association Nows’ “Best Benefit Ever” series that the way in which member benefits are structured in associations will differ from organization to organization, a poll of Association Adviser readers taken in early 2016 identified continuing professional education as a “top member priority” for over 80% of associations.

So how do you make your education or certification program appear to be the best membership benefit ever? A strong, engaging education program is a key benefit that can help deliver more value for members and keeps learners coming back for more training. Make sure when promoting your association and education programs that you tell a story that inspires your learners and members – read some of our tips on how to do this in our blog.

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