How Can Societies Retain and Grow Membership?

By Livia Melandri, SAGE Publishing

Growing and retaining membership is one of the leading goals—and biggest challenges—many learned societies and associations face. A strong membership is a great way to engage researchers, early career scholars, authors and advocates for your association.

A partner of more than 500 societies across the globe, SAGE is here to share some tips that can help organizations develop their membership and make it as international and inclusive as possible.

What can you do to ensure engagement and healthy renewal of your current membership base?

  • Keep members informed on the activities of the society: ensure you regularly produce and send communications out to your members, especially during the recruitment and renewal times of the year. Maintain an up-to-date news section on your website, as well as create a digital bulletin or newsletter—these could include a dedicated section where members can read about activities from other members around the world.
  • Send member surveys: these are a great way to measure the engagement of your membership while giving them the opportunity to weigh in with their feedback on the society’s activities and objectives.
  • Appoint a social media officer to strengthen the society’s online presence.
  • Promote new articles or issues on a relevant SAGE discipline channel with the help of your SAGE editor.
  • Grow a program for early career scholars (ECS): for example, have an ECS representative on your executive board, establish awards and/or create a mentor/mentee scheme where early career scholars can be tutored by more experienced researchers.
  • Organize Membership Meetings or ECS meetings during the most relevant conferences.
  • Give annual/biennial awards for lifetime achievements and contributions to the discipline.
  • Celebrate success: have a dedicated space on your website to mark books published by your members or key journal articles with high impact or Altmetric scores.

What can you do to grow your membership in underrepresented countries?

  • Invite people from targeted regions to sit on the editorial board of your journal(s), especially if they already are active authors or reviewers.
  • Appoint regional coordinators with a focus on the regions that are underrepresented. They will be the local reference point for members and prospective members in that region and will be able to help with the organization of any activities that the society would like to pursue locally.
  • Produce vodcasts and podcasts to showcase your activity to new potential members. Consider producing vodcasts in different languages to be promoted in specific regions to grow awareness around your society’s ethos and activities.
  • Set up manuscript development workshops in focused regions with the help of your local regional coordinator. This is a very good opportunity to recruit new members, new potential authors and reviewers for your journal(s) and to create a strong sense of community.
  • If you organize regional workshops, encourage participants to join the society for that particular year or multiple years.
  • Offer multiple-year membership with a discount for those who join the society for longer.

In addition to this, don’t forget—SAGE’S global presence. Offices in the U.S., Europe, India and the Asia-Pacific region provides us with the ability to reach out to institutions around the world, expanding the global reach of the journals we publish on behalf of our society partners, which in turn aids the global reach of the societies themselves.

A healthy membership base not only raises the profile and circulation of the work that the society is committed to but also increases its impact and visibility, which creates a vibrant and stimulating community that advances research and knowledge.

Livia Melandri is a Senior Publishing Editor at SAGE working in Humanities and Social Science journals. She has been working in academic publishing for over 5 years, and has managed extensive portfolios of journals across different disciplines including Sociology, Education, Language and Linguistics, and Business and Management.

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