Wider Member Eligibility Calls for Fresh Engagement Methods

By: Joe Rominiecki

When the American Neurological Association opened membership to a broader segment of the profession, it had to rethink how it communicated and engaged with members unlike those it had traditionally attracted.

Neuroscience is a busy field these days, with $100 million in federal research funding earmarked last year alone. The American Neurological Association (ANA), which serves academic neuroscientists, wants to make sure its community is equipped to lead the way.

That meant letting go of a highly exclusive membership model—with rules tied to tenure, volume of published articles, and even letters of recommendation—in 2013 and opening its doors to a wider cross-section of academic neurology.

In a year, it added 300 new members, about 16 percent of its 1,880 members at the end of 2013. Now it's working to engage these new, often younger, members. Here's how:

  1. Be repetitive. A change so foundational doesn't resonate with everyone overnight. "We're communicating quite a bit online, through our e-newsletters, and going to conferences of peer, allied organizations, so that chairs of these institutions know that their more junior members of their departments are eligible," says Jessica Smith, director of education and member services at ANA.
  2. Build career-development benefits. ANA added new career-based programming to its annual meeting and launched a mentoring program to help "move up the junior faculty and get them a leg up through the association," Smith says.
  3. Get new members on committees. Much of ANA's work is guided by member committees, and those groups have "a really good mix of young and old, folks from institutions all over the country, and that wasn't the case before," Smith says.

Joe Rominiecki is a senior editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC. Email: [email protected]

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "New Members, New Energy."]

Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki is a contributing editor to Associations Now.