Learn how to make the invisible…visible.

Written by Sheri Jacobs, FASAE, CAE

(Image: Adobe Stock)

How do you make the invisible visible? Give members an orange bow tie.

A few years ago, an association wanted to encourage its members to recruit their friends and colleagues. Some members eagerly responded to their calls to action, but many did not. Past attempts to grow the organization through member-get-a-member campaigns usually fell short of their goals – until they launched the orange bow tie program.

The color orange represents adventure, happiness and social communication. Color experts believe that orange is both mentally and physically stimulating – so it gets people thinking and talking. It also stands out in a crowd.

To generate buzz and recognize members who helped the organization grow, the association sent orange bow ties (or a lapel pin shaped as a bow tie) to a group of members to wear at an industry event that attracted more than 1,000 attendees. To receive the bow tie or pin, a member had to recruit at least one other member during the past year.

The orange bow tie became the most talked about topic of the night. Members took photos of each other at the event and posted them on Facebook and Instagram. Individuals who earned the bow tie actively encouraged others to spread the word and “earn” their own bow tie. The sense of pride was clear. It also leveled the playing field for younger members who wished to get noticed by their peers. Anyone, regardless of their experience or tenure, could earn an orange bow tie.

Immediately following the gala, the organization launched the orange bow tie campaign to encourage others to earn the distinction and the reward.

The result? Participation in the member referral program grew – as did membership in the organization. In the past, referrals were an invisible transaction. This association turned the act of making a referral into a highly visible and valuable social currency.

If you want to create buzz and encourage participation in your association’s events and activities, look for ways to make the invisible (e.g., donating, recruitment, volunteer leadership) visible.

Sheri Jacobs, FASAE, CAE, is the author of The Art of Membership: How to Attract, Retain and Cement Member Loyalty, published by ASAE and Jossey-Bass (January 2014).

Posted on April 15, 2014