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The psychology of membership


Psychologists will tell you that good interpersonal relations, a sense of social necessity and attachment to others are fundamental to the human condition. In short, we all feel the need to belong – but what impact does that have on those responsible for retaining and growing membership groups?

When running a membership organisation, your ability to satisfy this need can help determine the health and overall usefulness of your group.

In this article, we’re going to look at how innate human requirements can empower your ability to bring about change and ensure longevity within the organisation.


The heart of a community lies in a common set of values. If a membership organisation is associated with quality and a strong common purpose, the act of joining can help fulfil a desire to be elevated by the principles and standards identified with the group.

For that to work, however, the organisation must have a clear and definable purpose. It must be sufficiently agile to reinforce its mission through its activities and the moments at which it engages with current and potential new members.


What does an organisation offer that will enhance the individual member’s experience? What does it offer that other groups don’t? These principal questions drive membership and strengthen the sense of an organisation’s exclusivity.

It could be an offer of training credits for certain key professions or the opportunity to have their opinions and interests represented in an authoritative and respected member publication. Even something as simple as providing a great place for like-minded individuals to meet, exchange ideas and simply socialise adds benefit.

Understanding what makes an organisation seem exclusive – and nurturing that – is the key to garnering loyalty from the membership.

Group marketing

Whether a group is built around high-quality credentials, exclusive training, thought leadership or a mixture of those things, the willingness of the members to contribute truly helps determine success.

So how do you harness your membership and encourage meaningful engagement from them?

There’s much to be said for simply providing an environment in which like-minded people can get together. This can be as straightforward as providing a message board, Facebook page or LinkedIn group where discussion can take place, or organising real-world events such as conferences, awards evenings and breakfast meetings.

Whether virtual or physical, events and social forums such as these help forge relationships between members, help them feel satisfied in their professional connections and can strengthen the overall unity and purpose of the group.

Influence and listening

In group marketing, a great deal of capital is invested in ‘influencers’: those members who engage fully with the group, interact the most or hold great sway in online groups. Smart organisations nurture their key influencers to strengthen group identity and promote important messaging.

Just as important as the influencers, however, is the ability of the organisation to listen to conversations. What are members saying on Facebook? What sort of groups are they setting up on LinkedIn? How are they interacting on your social media groups?

Taking the temperature of the membership in this way can help an organisation ensure it offers its members appropriate events and activities.

There’s also something to be said for asking your members directly – through social media channels – about the big stuff (what is the right direction for the organisation?), as well as the everyday (should we have more prawn sandwiches on the buffet at our training days?).

This kind of feedback loop can prevent an organisation simply forcing the agenda and providing members with offerings they don’t want or need.

Keeping these areas in mind can help a membership organisation build a vibrant sense of community and in turn satisfy some innate human requirements of its members.

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