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Membership Directors

Why is it so hard for my club to find a membership director?

It’s difficult to find what you’re looking for because the title does not always define the role. Prior to 2007, a membership director fulfilled the role by way of processing member applications that were judiciously anointed to only top contenders. Today, the role of the membership director involves two critical yet independent elements—one clearly strategic and the other very much tactical. Few candidates can do both excellently and those than can earn significantly more than candidates that can be successful at only the latter.

Critical for all stakeholders is having an approved, executable marketing plan that all stakeholders affirm and buy into, and includes a vision, strategy, understanding and leverage points around the business along with clear deliverables, methodology and target time lines. Does the club need to replace 10 members a year or require an immediate infusion of 100 new members? Each requires very different approaches to attaining that respective goal, would have very different expense models, and each could very well effect the future and culture of the club. Top marketing talent can create such a plan, think about it strategically both short- and long-term, get stakeholder buy-in and then execute the plan to achieve those objectives on a sustainable basis. This talent costs considerably more than the tactical membership director.

Much of the available membership director talent available today are solid tactical sales people who with a defined, executable plan in hand can deliver. Sales is very different from marketing and both need to be thought through in strategic and tactical ways. That said, day in and day out membership sales is about working lists, forging relationships, cultivating and converting member referrals, retaining members and working with management to define services, programs and amenities that resonate with the current and future members.

Regardless of how the position is defined, don’t dilute it with other responsibilities. Many clubs and club managers bundle tertiary responsibilities with the position, which weakens accountability to the real goal of selling memberships. Communications is a very different function and generally should reside in the membership department but not with the one and only sales person. So, are you looking for a starter, a finisher, or both?

Dan Denehy is president of DENEHY Club Thinking Partners, an executive search and management-consulting firm that has positively influenced the member/guest experience at more than 220 clubs and resorts on more than 500 projects. He can be reached at [email protected] or learn more at