Skip to main content
Intro to AI Webinar

Members come to your organization with three distinct needs: for community, self-esteem, and opportunities to reach their full potential. Throughout the course of their membership, members will cycle through these needs, and search for any solutions your organization can offer.

How do you keep them around? An old middle school lesson actually offers some tips.

Remember Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? In 1943, Maslow, an American psychologist, proposed a new theory of human motivation. He observed that meeting basic needs can uncover new desires, dubbed “higher” needs. If someone is well-fed and sheltered, the theory goes, they’re more likely to prioritize the social or intellectual fulfillment that can make life richer.  

Since then, his hierarchy of needs has appeared in practically every psychology textbook. At the pyramid’s lowest levels, basic needs for physical safety and health form a foundation. At the top, self-actualization or transcendence represents the pinnacle of human achievement. 

In reality, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was never meant to be a step-by-step progression. People often experience multiple needs simultaneously, or satisfy needs only to revisit them anew at a later stage. 

That’s where membership organizations can provide a powerful service. 

Here’s how viewing these goals through the lens of Maslow’s theory can help your organization attract and retain loyal members. 

Welcome members into a community

When people are disconnected from one another, it can be difficult to find motivation. For many, joining a membership organization is a viable solution to the isolation and loneliness that come with working in the modern era. 

But if membership organizations fall short of building authentic, engaged communities, loyalty may quickly fade.

To meet the need for community, membership organizations should use every available tactic to grow communities online and in person. Popular examples include:

  • Conferences, events, and meetups
  • Virtual classes and webinars
  • Private groups hosted online (especially on social media)
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Coordinated hashtags and campaigns

By offering many opportunities to discover and build community, you’ll be able to serve a wide variety of members as their desire for community ebbs and flows.

Hold members’ contributions in high regard 

People enjoy feeling included in a community — but they also want to know that their contributions matter. Membership organizations are well-positioned to support this deeply human need.

Publicly celebrating members’ accomplishments is one step in the right direction. When a member publishes a book, wins a notable award, or appears in the media, your organization should recognize and amplify their stories.

It’s also wise to regularly consult members about the organization’s future plans. Focus groups that include many different perspectives can yield invaluable insights into what members desire from the organization. Surveys about possible future offerings are a simple way to gather feedback at scale.

As long as your organization listens to and incorporates feedback in meaningful ways, members will feel the pride and ownership that comes from directly shaping the organization’s future. 

Help members achieve their full potential

Everyone wants to learn, grow, and improve through the course of their career. People crave the insights that come from experience, and the innovation that comes from keeping pace with emerging trends. 

Membership organizations can support these goals, cutting through the noise to deliver the information members need. Rather than presenting members with a mass of complex resources, make it easy for people to find and digest the information they need. 

If certain membership benefits are under-utilized, challenge your organization to rethink how they’re presented. A poorly attended event could become a cornerstone of your calendar by simply shifting it to a virtual format.

When accessibility is a priority, members will be better equipped to make the most of what your organization has to offer. With time, this can help them ascend to the next level in their careers and their lives.

Heather Nolan
Post by Heather Nolan
October 19, 2020
Heather a skilled communicator with expertise in social media and marketing strategy, brand management and journalism. She uses storytelling and audience growth skills to help companies showcase their brand and expand their reach.