Joe Rominiecki is a contributing editor to Associations Now.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association holds its member recruiters in high regard, and rewards them nicely. Its "Top Hand Club" members are also driven by knowing their crucial role in supporting the health of the industry.
In the agriculture industry, community is still crucial. "There are really good opportunities for one-on-one engagement just by nature of this business," says Kate Maher, senior director for member and affiliate services at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. "Somebody stopping by to pick up a bull or somebody stopping by to drop off some feed."
It's those interactions that Maher and NCBA try to put to use in recruiting new members through the association's member referral program, the Top Hand Club. The package of incentives and recognition offered to those who recruit at least three new members in a year aims to prompt dedicated members to share their passion for the NCBA community with others.
"The Top Hand Club members that make the program work are the ones that have been engaged and seen the policy process and the lobbying process in DC, to where it's very personal to them," Maher says.
Prizes for Top Hand Club members range from belt buckles to $15,000 toward agriculture equipment, and the top three recruiters are recognized at NCBA's annual awards banquet. Throughout the year, NCBA membership staff communicate with club members to keep awareness high, share tips from fellow recruiters, and update recruiting standings. "It creates a little competition, too," Maher says.
Hence the name Top Hand Club, inspired by industry lingo more apt to resonate than "member-get-a-member." Says Maher: "If you name it something else and make it seem a little bit elite, too, some people really like being part of something a little bit different."
State affiliate associations are involved, as well, to carry members' engagement with the national association through to their local, face-to-face interactions with fellow farmers and ranchers. "There's a sense of community within the industry that helps give our recruiters opportunities to talk about membership," Maher says.[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Tell Your Friends."]