A Survey Leads to a Membership Growth Strategy

By: Toyin Tofade

By asking the right questions, the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists developed a strategy to re-engage current members, bring back those they had lost, and attract pharmacists who had never joined before. (Titled "A Survey Yields Seeds for Growth" in the print edition.)

Associations cannot exist without members, and for many, retaining their current membership numbers is success enough. But to grow, associations must engage individuals who have never been members or bring back former members. Last year the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists was looking to grow: Only about 25 percent of pharmacists in the state were NCAP members, and we had seen that figure increase only slightly in the last five years.

We started the process by surveying pharmacists statewide. Using a database provided by the state's Board of Pharmacy (BOP), we emailed the survey to three groups: current NCAP members, former members, and never-been members. In addition to collecting demographic information, we were looking to find out what would be valuable to them, their reasons for renewing or not renewing membership, and how we could better serve them in the future, and we wanted general feedback about the association. We also asked the never-been members what we needed to do in order for them to join the association. Among almost 1,500 responses, the three groups were equally represented. Here is what we learned:

Current members. More than 85 percent of this group said their expectations were met. Many listed the following reasons for joining and renewing: involvement with the association, networking, support, residency-related programming, job postings, discounts, journal, networking, e-news, and practice-forum meetings. Members also said they would like more of the following: lobbying; representation in BOP, legislation, and Medicaid; hospital-board representation; advanced, live continuing education specific to all practice areas; networking opportunities; and support for all practice areas.

Former members. Those who chose not to rejoin indicated these reasons: no time, continuing education is easier somewhere else, scaling back on memberships, financial reasons, company no longer pays dues, not enough benefits to outweigh the cost, forgot to renew, and not enough focus on certain practice settings.

Never-been members. The most surprising information we received from this group was that many were not aware the association existed. Never-been members also said we would have to do the following before they would join: make NCAP more visible to all pharmacists, offer more to specialized pharmacies, change locations of meetings, offer more affordable meetings, develop free local continuing education, market the job of a pharmacist, and promote and share benefits of NCAP widely.

Survey results were presented to the board, and then NCAP's membership committee developed these specific recommendations, which were also put forth to the board:

  • Consider improvements in communication efforts to members and nonmembers to demonstrate organizational activities more visibly.
  • Offer different types of educational offerings beyond the conventions and throughout the state and the year. Some should focus on specialty-practice needs.
  • Engage members in legislative and advocacy issues, and routinely query members regarding their concerns. Teach members how to participate in advocacy and help provide more opportunities for involvement.
  • Institute automatic-payment options for pharmacists who may forget to renew annually.

In addition, the membership committee is putting together an advertising plan to increase NCAP's visibility statewide. The board is excited about the recommendations and is confident they will enable NCAP to grow its membership.

Toyin Tofade, MS, PharmD, BCPS, CPCC, is clinical associate professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Eshelman School of Pharmacy and coordinated the survey design, deployment, and collation process. She would like to thank her colleagues Morgan Norris, PharmD, Jennifer Gommer, PharmD, MBA, and Fred Eckel, MS, PharmD, for their contributions to this article. Email: [email protected]