Image of a little robot excavating through layers of value

"Join for networking," is a clause I've found at the top of many associations' membership offers. It's an interesting benefit to focus on, because I've never met someone who actually likes networking. It's sort of like saying to a potential member, "Come to a party where you don't know anyone."

So why is networking highlighted? It's because associations are communities and much of the value you offer is through being a community. What do you do in a community? You network.

Here's the thing:

There's a difference between the means and the ends. People are motivated to take action for the ends and not the means. In this example, people don't join for networking, they join for what networking provides them.


Many years ago, I joined Toastmasters. One Sunday afternoon I went and hung out with a group of people I didn't know and who weren't like me because I wanted to be a better speaker. I joined after I saw a Toastmaster give an excellent evaluation of another member's speech. I remember thinking, "I can learn a lot from these people."

Participating in that community was how to become a better speaker (means), but it wasn't why I joined. I joined to enthrall stadiums of people with witty observations on my world-wide speaking tour (ends).

Why someone would join your association depends a lot on who they are and who you are, but here are some possible reasons:

  • Connect with senior level people who can help advance their career.
  • Collaborate on problems affecting their industry.
  • Talk shop with people as invested as they are ("nerd out" is the technical term.)
  • Learn from others who have been there and done that.

Just remember that people don't sign up for networking. There's a reason one or two levels deeper. Your job is to mine that gold and surface it to the top of your membership offer.

John Hooley
President, Steward

John is a graduate of 10,000 Small Businesses, a certified Customer Acquisition Specialist, and a Zend Certified Engineer. He speaks and writes on connecting digital strategy to association goals. Outside of work he's an avid traveler, climber, diver, and a burgeoning sailor. He also volunteers with Rotary and Big Brothers Big Sisters.