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How to Craft Value Propositions

that Attract Association Members

⏱ Avg. Reading Time: 10 min



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    What makes a strong value proposition

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    Defining or redefining your value proposition

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    Questions to ask when building your value proposition

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    Conversations, data, and research to consider

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    Communicating a value proposition

For associations, having a strong, clearly communicated value proposition is essential to capturing the interest of prospective new members.

Often thoughtfully created, then launched with great fanfare, the hope is your organization will internalize your value proposition, and it will serve as a north star that guides strategy, aligning all stakeholders behind one goal as the association goes about its planning.

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If a value proposition is more than three years old,
it is past due to be revisited.

Your organization ideally has a vision. A great value proposition perpetually supports the path to achieving that vision, and along the way provides solutions to members’ largest pain points. It is a dynamic and shifting target, which means evaluation should be done annually.

The 3 Qualities of a Strong Value Proposition

1. It Focuses on Benefits and Outcomes

Why does your organization exist?

This question might seem unnecessary, but it’s a valid question that prospective members are likely to ask. Your value proposition should define why you’re here and what current, relevant industry pain points you’re working to solve. What are you improving in their industry? In their lives? And most importantly, why should they join? When value propositions focus on the end result for members, those members will be more inspired to join, engage, donate, participate in an event, or purchase a product.

2. It Uses Specific, Meaningful Language

Your value proposition should avoid meaningless jargon, phrases, and filler. Skip the generic platitudes. “We’re helping build a better world” is broad, vague, and unmeasurable. You must speak the same language as your members to show you understand and are listening. (Read the section “How to Learn What Your Members Really Want” for guidance on assessing member needs.)

3. It’s Not Just a Catchy Slogan

Yes, a value proposition should be creative, carefully thought out, pressure-tested, and formed using member testing and feedback. It should even be memorable. You should proudly and confidently include it on your website, your emails, and in all your other outreach efforts. And while it’s okay if it’s “catchy,” that can’t be its sole strength. It must also be substantive. It is, after all, the driving force behind why members join and stay.

Your organization ideally has a vision. A great value proposition perpetually supports the path to achieving that vision, and along the way provides solutions to members’ largest pain points. It is a dynamic and shifting target, which means evaluation should be done annually.

The 3 Qualities of a Strong Value Proposition

Defining or Redefining Your Value Proposition

As Tom Morrison, CEO of the Metal Treating Institute (MTI), explains in Redefining Your Value Proposition, value propositions “are solving problems for the largest pain points. If you solve those problems, your members will never want to leave.”

Tom’s go-to methodology for creating a strong value proposition is to use the ALIVE methodology. ALIVE is an acronym for the process MTI implemented in 2006.

  • Ask the right questions. This helps you discover your members’ highest pain points.

  • Listen intently. You should be listening for recurring themes from members.

  • Innovate with solutions. Come up with new ways to solve the problems they’ve expressed.

  • Value creation. This happens when you can provide good solutions to what members need.

  • Engage with excellence. Once these steps are in place, start communicating about your value, getting members’ feedback on your value, and continuing to engage them.

Do you need to revisit your member benefits?

If your research leads you to the conclusion that you need to revise your benefits, consider creating an online community for your members. Higher Logic Thrive, the leading member experience platform for associations, gives you built-in community software so your members can connect 24/7.


3 Questions to Ask When Building Your Value Proposition

Questions are powerful. They help organize your thoughts, surface the more pressing issues, and instigate debate and conversation in pursuit of a best answer. They challenge, and they demand that there be an answer. Framing value proposition strategy around arriving at answers to key questions is a productive approach. But it’s important that you’re asking the right questions.

What does your organization do especially well, and how does it help members?


This is about aligning the solutions you already have to the pain points or needs of your members. Some tips:

A. Avoid adopting a self-image as a “Jack of all trades.”

It’s tempting to say you have the solution for every problem you hear about, but you can’t do everything for everyone. Don’t be afraid of niches. Narrow down what you excel in doing for members. This makes it easier for them to quickly identify a value proposition that speaks to them.

  • What is the main benefit of what you do? Sure, there are sub-benefits, but focus on the main benefit in your value proposition. Example: In-person training for marketing professionals on creating videos.

    MAIN BENEFIT: Providing the strategy and skill set to create amazing videos that promote their business and attract customers.
    SUB-BENEFITS: Meeting others to brainstorm with, fresh ideas to promote your business, exposure to new technology or tools, etc.

  • If you have CEOs with 30+ years of experience, as well as entry-level professionals, and you’re serving both well, you likely have two different value propositions. The key benefits for these two different types of members probably isn’t going to be the same. So that calls for you to draft two value propositions, one relevant to each group.

B. Whatever you land on as your top strength, make it something you’re known for or that you clearly lead the industry in.

  • What are others in your industry excelling at that you don’t do as well? Understanding the strengths of these other organizations helps you get clarity on the areas in which your organization truly stands out. That will power your value proposition.

  • Is there something that both you and others in the industry do well? If so, you should define how you approach it differently (and hopefully better). Sometimes a different approach or philosophy is all it takes to attract certain members.

C. Evaluate your programs and services for their positive impact on members.

What are the areas in which you can demonstrably show you made a difference? Where have you not had an impact? Sometimes we wind up with products that no longer address the worst pain points most members have. You need to be willing to let those go if they are no longer relevant. Remember, value proposition strategy is about linking offerings to member goals.

Who is your ideal audience(s)?


Your organization most likely serves several different professional levels, areas of interest, and constituencies. One size does not fit all. These should be segmented and viewed as different audiences who will value your association for different reasons. Their wants, needs, and current problems/pain points will be different.
A CEO might value your young professionals’ group because it provides growth and guidance to their newer employees. A young professional might value that same group because it will help them advance, be better at their job, and make connections. Should your content play to the CEO or the young professional? Some things in this area to keep in mind:

  • Having just one value proposition likely won’t work with multiple audiences. You can mean a lot to some people or try to mean a little bit to everybody. You’ll be developing multiple value propositions to gratify each of your audiences. Write out the various needs for each type of audience you serve: member, donors, sponsors/exhibitors, students, chapters, etc.

  • Once you understand you can’t effectively be all things for all people, you can focus on setting who your organization’s ideal audience(s) should be. Maybe you don’t go after everyone in the construction industry, maybe you just focus on construction CEOs. Or Project Managers. Or plumbers. Each value proposition should connect to a specific type of member.

  • Demographics change, and every generation has their own world view, their own preferred way of working, their own pain points, and their own set of priorities. Think about how you’re addressing and appealing to various demographics like Boomers, Millennials and Gen Z. Tastes and preferences vary from generation to generation in every aspect of life, and your association’s content is no exception.

What is the strongest value proposition we can offer each audience?


Now that you’ve established what your organization does best and it fits with your different ideal audience types, it’s time to connect the dots and start crafting your value propositions. Here’s a handy guide:

This is your answer from Question 1. It is the thing you do best, or the thing you approach in a different and improved way than others in the industry.

Select an audience and cite their main problem or pain point. Take demographic preferences and other variables into account.

Match your industry-best solution to the appropriate pain point.


  • Think of the experience; how someone might feel after engaging with you.

  • Focus on the benefit to the member, not the features. “Give me the gooey oven-fresh cookie, not the recipe.” Members want to know how it helps them, not what’s in it.

  • Feature Example: “The certification is great because it has 7 modules!” Benefit Example: “The certification is going to help you gain advanced skills a CEO needs quickly in order to lead a successful company, as opposed to time spent learning by trial and error.”

  • Remember, when you don’t have a superior solution, don’t try to force it and be everything to everyone. Explore other solutions for other audiences or create a new solution for that audience. Also be prepared to jettison anything that strays from the mission and vision of your organization.

How to Learn What Your Members Really Want

The 2021 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report from MGI asked associations how compelling they believed their value proposition was. Here’s what respondents said:


believe their value proposition is very compelling


believe it’s compelling


believe it’s somewhat compelling


believe it’s not very compelling

< 1%

believe it’s not at all compelling

That’s what associations think… but what do our members think?

How well do you know your members? What do they want? What motivates them?

Do you know? If you’ve spent all your time thinking about what you want to say to them and not very much time setting up tools and processes for listening to members, you are executing that age-old strategy of throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks. You’re guessing.

To create an organizational shift from talking at your members to listening to your members, two-way conversations must be enabled. Your association needs ways to hear from members. The best way is to set up tools and processes for two-way communication.

Without technology, you can’t scale your conversations to service numerous association members. Maybe you’ll talk to them at a live event, but that’s often a small, skewed subset. And events are too far and few between to establish quality relationships. Digital tools are going to be your main method to engage and get the most out of your value proposition.

Email is likely the number one tool you use to communicate with your members. But are you tracking the other side of the conversations? Your members communicate back to you by opening emails, clicking on emails and subscribing or unsubscribing. There is a treasure trove of information in responses to your emails.

An online member community brings your members together in a central digital location where they can network with peers, help solve each other’s problems, find mentorship, access resources, and more.

By participating actively in the communities that you set up, you’re breaking away from the one-to-many exchange of information to organically hearing what the membership has to say back to you. Little is wasted. Nearly every conversation and interaction gives you new data about what your member base really wants from you. And sometimes they’re going to surprise you by bringing things up you never even considered before.

In the absence of in-person meetings, you can still have face-to-face options. For example, you could set up a virtual town hall style meeting so anyone can participate. To keep the flow of the meeting going constructively, make sure the agenda is well planned and of value to attendees, not just your organization. Use a moderator and give attendees an easy way to ask questions and add their own insight. At the end of the town hall, everyone should feel they had a chance to be heard.

You could also set up focus groups with a narrower audience, like an advisory council or committee. By asking the same questions of smaller, more niche groups, you can achieve the intimacy of in-person interaction, but with a higher level of conversation. After the meeting, send out a follow-up report of the discussion and how it’s being used to influence decision-making, so participants know that their time was not wasted, and their views are valued by the organization.

Any combination of the above listening opportunities will pay dividends. Again, it would be extremely difficult to put together truly effective value propositions for ideal audiences if you’re shutting them out. Revisit those value propositions often, and perpetually check in on membership wants and needs so you’ll be ready when the time comes to put pen to paper (or keyboard to screen).

Evangelizing Your Value Proposition


Before you communicate your value propositions to the membership, it’s a smart idea to test them. If there are any tweaks required, you want to surface those before you communicate the value proposition to everyone, as opposed to having to communicate changes later. The reaction to that can unfortunately be, “Gee, let me know when you guys have this figured out.”

You’ve created targeted messaging to your ideal audiences. But how can you be sure those messages will land with your audience and result in the desired Call to Action? The answer is testing, which can be done in several ways, including:

  • A small email send to a representative sample of your audience for A/B testing. See which proposition your audience best responds to.

  • Just ask outright. Post the options in your online community or send them through email and ask members to vote for the value proposition that resonates with them most. Ask them to give feedback on what they’d change.

6 Ways to Get the Message Out

Now that you’re confident about your value propositions and are ready to share them with the world, you’ll want to use some tried and true communication channels to do so:


You’ll find several places to include your value propositions on your website. If there’s an industry-wide value proposition, lead with that on the homepage. Why? Think about how fast you scroll through websites. Some users only give a site a fraction of a second’s consideration. That’s why the value proposition must be up front and crystal clear.

For other, more targeted value propositions, there should be navigation tabs that quickly let members know, “this is for you.” Again, once they click on that tab, their value proposition should be delivered quickly and clearly.

Instead of “Sign Up for Our Newsletter,” try something less generic like, “Sign Up for Updates About (who or how your organization helps – as it pertains to the value proposition)”.

For donation requests, instead of “I Would Like to Give a One-time Gift,” try more effective phrasing such as, “Donate to (who or how your organization helps),” or “By Donating to (organization), You’re Taking an Active Role to (vision statement).” Again, tie all these CTAs back to your value proposition.


Email is not going away. It’s a highly effective way to reach out to many members at once, while employing personalization and segmentation for a more one-to-one communication feel. Emails can play a key role in regularly reminding members what the value proposition is, which aids in retention and develops member prospects.

A few email tips:


Active board members are usually champions for your organization. They’re there to help and want to be of value to you. But in the immortal words of Jerry Maguire, “Help me help you.” Arming these board members with strong and clear value propositions will help make them better advocates. In fact, if your own board members don’t understand your value propositions, you obviously have some more work to do.

Remind them to focus on the results, benefits, and outcomes for members, not just feature details. This will help them successfully recruit new members and sponsors. And don’t let them “wing it” when it comes to the association’s messaging. Make sure they have clear statements available whenever needed.


Social media remains a powerful way to reach audiences on the platforms of their choosing. Adhere to long-held social media best practices by concentrating on images and/or video that showcase your value propositions. Establish a social media editorial calendar so that posts support current areas of focus and initiatives, be they events, membership drives, donation drives, or product promotion.

As long as someone is holding a laptop or mobile phone (and who isn’t?), you have an always-on open communication channel to your membership. Some social media content tips:

  • Be personal. Take a value proposition statement and connect it to a member testimonial for reinforcement that the benefits are very real. This can cause member prospects feel like they are missing out and could also benefit.

  • Keep it short and use imagery. The social media world has become largely about “short.” Keep social media content small and quickly digestible as users rapidly scroll through their social media feeds. Again, strong images are one of the few things that will make them stop and dwell longer on your content.


Just as you’re providing value propositions for your board member champions, organizational leaders and executives will also need to be armed with these propositions to use as talking points should they land a media interview, or if they’re invited to give a presentation at a conference. Having the anchors of the value propositions will keep all media appearances consistent and cohesive.

If a member has an opportunity to discuss you in the media, encourage them to come up with a personal story that directly ties into a value proposition. When writing press releases, apply the same rules as emails—make sure the messaging resonates with your value proposition.


In all your communication channels and touchpoints, make sure the message is consistent. Sometimes association marketers feel like they’re just repeating themselves and feel an obligation to shake things up. But repetition is not a bad thing. The Rule of 7 states that people need to hear a message seven times before they even start to remember it. In today’s world, recent research says that can be as many as 20 times. So yes, feel free to be creative, but do not stray from the root of the value proposition.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should just email your value proposition to people over and over. But make sure the emails you are sending are targeted on what your value proposition can do for the recipient.

TIP: Name your programs based on how you describe the solution and not just what the product is.

Example: A “Better Policy for America” program instead of "A Legislative Affairs" program by Sean Kosofsky



Amy Hager, CAE, IOM, is a consultant with more than 15 years of experience working with local and national nonprofits. She works with volunteer and member-driven organizations to create revenue-generating engagement strategies.