Arnout de Koster Country manager View profile

Membership is the alpha and omega of an EBMO: high levels of membership brings representativeness, legitimacy and the resources to serve members well while low levels of membership creates a vicious circle for the EBMO which is difficult to escape.  Accordingly for all EBMOs, be they active at national or sectoral level, membership is an on going priority and concern.

A publication on how to boost membership is therefore welcome as it represents a much-needed tool for many EBMOs, their leadership and their staff. Membership strategies and policies – A Manual for EBMOs fills a resource gap by taking an original and highly practical approach to the topic of EBMO membership.  Until now, guidance on membership was limited to a number of more academic publications or could be found in a multitude of blogposts – All very useful in themselves, but by their nature, scattered and not always easy to practically apply to the diverse and very specific challenges faced by an EBMO.  

This new manual tackles the issue of membership in a holistic, systematic and multidisciplinary way. Tips and tricks are highlighted for sure, but all are presented in a coherent way that combines long term strategic thinking and planning with best practice. This manual borrows heavily from marketing theory, from which best practice is taken and applied to the particular strategic challenges of an EBMO.   It invites the EBMO to adopt long term thinking in developing their strategies and to weigh their options with respective pro’s and con’s, risks and benefits. The focus is not only on theory: a practical perspective is added, highlighting the many practices that exist and which have been applied by EBMOs across the globe, with varying success. It hence gives strategic insights to the real experience of EBMOs where different approaches have been tried, combined with practical tips and helpful actions that may be undertaken. 

The text pulls together a joint body of knowledge and practice on membership, gathered by the 3 specialist authors who have worked for many years for the ILO, ITCILO, national or international EBMOs and DECP: Jeanne Schmitt, Paolo Salvai and Arnout de Koster. It reads also as a summary output of learning’s from many training programmes and exchange of practices on that topic with EBMO partner organisations from all over the world: many examples represent cases from diverse EBMOs representing all continents and serving as practical illustrations of success and sometimes of failure.

The content covered is wide providing for a systematic overview of all issues likely to arise when thinking about EBMO membership: Who can be a member? What are typically the different categories of members? Why do companies and associations join and why do some leave the EBMO? Which strategies to are the best to develop? What value proposition can an EBMO develop – and for which segments of their target market? How best to brand an EBMO? How to structure member fees to the greatest benefit and what variations exist along with their pros and cons? When recruiting new members, what are the different steps and stages and how to go about this in a practical way? How to retain members? How to engage exiting members better? How to get all levels of the organization working effectively and contributing to successful membership policies? The Membership Manual concludes with practical templates for the development of strategic and integrated membership plans.  

This manual is directed at a diverse audience, at different levels of involvement with the EBMO: the executive directors who determine membership strategies and supervise them; Board members, who are interested at a high level in the membership strategies of their organisations; the staff members of the EBMO, responsible for day to day implementation of membership actions, and who may be inspired by a global and coherent look at the topic with some very practical examples contained in this manual which perhaps can be applied to their organization.   Finally this manual may be of interest to observers and scholars of industrial relations and social dialogue, for whom it may reveal some insights to issues relating to membership which are important and vivid within employers organisations, and of which the analysis can help in understanding their behaviour as social institution.

In summary, this important publication is a must for anyone interested in or concerned with membership development in EBMO’s.

This membership manual is available for free download from the websites of the two organisations responsible for supporting the initiative, both with a long history of being strongly involved in capacity building and supporting EBMO’s : the Employers Activities programme of the ITCILO  and the DECP .

Direct downloadManual Membership Strategies and Policies


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The authors

Jeanne Schmitt, Senior Programme Officer, ITCILO                                            Paolo Salvai, Senior Employers Specialist, ILO


                                                                                 Arnout de Koster, Special Advisor, DECP