We often hear examples of how societies across the research spectrum run into difficulties when it comes to growing membership from outside academia. These potential members might be teachers or social workers, they might work in healthcare or industrial fields. Each of these potential members works in a field that is directly influenced by the research that these societies publish. And in many of these fields, the connections between researchers and practitioners vary widely.
From our Society Member Survey, we learned that those who work at universities or colleges are more likely to be current society members, and they are also more likely to join a society in the next year. So how can we reach potential members who work in adjacent fields?
Explore diverse member benefits
Member benefits need to be tailored to your current community and any community spaces that you’re trying to grow. When it comes to applied or practice-based fields, member benefits need to offer a variety of networking and career opportunities that will have a positive impact on the professional lives of these individuals.
Networking and community-building is consistently a top reason why members join societies. This remains true for professional members. They want to connect with other professionals in their industry, and many will also be motivated by fostering connections with researchers in their fields. Global community and career advancement are still important to those in fields outside of academia. Societies offer opportunities to bridge the research and practice gap, where the two can connect on shared concerns and come together to solve problems. These networking activities can also lead to professional opportunities later.
Members need to see the professional value of society membership, as well as feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves in terms of a society’s community and mission. Benefits like certifications, or learning tools such as podcasts and webinars offer tangible professional development and incentivize potential members to join.
Show the relevance of your research
Based on our Society Member Survey, there is a strong correlation between engaging frequently with research content and joining a society. Those outside of academia are less likely to produce their own research. But they are still very interested in attending meetings, using research to help inform their jobs and staying at the cutting edge of their fields.
Those who don’t work in academia are still very interested in content, but they engage with it less frequently than those in academia. They have a greater need for other content formats such as professional practice publications or magazines, however. In lieu of practice-focused publications, there may be opportunities to explore blogs that focus on research applications to help attract professional members.
The value of your publications for potential members in applied fields should be clear. These potential members may not always have time to search extensively for what they need or have the time to devote to long literature reviews. Diverse types of content will help readers understand the value of research to their professional lives, in turn encouraging membership.
Overall, members outside of academia are attracted to societies for some of the same key reasons: access to the publications and the opportunity to attend the conference. Potential members won’t join if they have a sense of feeling unwelcome or not invited to a society. Actively encouraging the diverse perspectives of professional members to your society can go a long way in making them feel that they’re not only welcome, but also an integral part of the society’s future.
How do you feel societies should encourage professionals to join? Let us know in the comments below.
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