A directory is a critical part of every membership organization. The directory provides information regarding the organization, its members, and membership categories. The importance of a directory cannot be underestimated. It is one of the most powerful tools that an organization can have. It plays a significant role in helping an organization distinguish itself from its competitors, boosts engagement with members and stakeholders, is crucial for networking, and is essentially the most effective way to increase business revenues.
The directory will also be a company’s leading resource for promoting memberships to potential members. It is generally the first thing potential members will see before deciding whether to join the organization or not. The information provided in the directory will often vary depending on the specific organization.
This article will discuss the directory in detail, including what it is, its types, the benefits of using it, and what to include in a membership directory to maximize its effectiveness.
Membership Directory Templates
A template is a web-based document that can be used to create a standard directory quickly and easily. It typically consists of pre-built fields for keying in specific details. The template also provides pre-set features for designing a directory that suits users’ unique needs and preferences. Pre-made templates are standard among most organizations as it saves them time and effort creating a suitable directory from scratch. To make the most of this practice, utilize the free templates to create a practical directory in minutes.
What is a Membership Directory?
A directory is a unified list of all organizations’ or businesses’ members. The directory provides details about the members and their roles in the organization, allowing them to connect.
The primary purpose of a directory is to allow members to search for and find other members for networking purposes or for meeting potential new business associates. Therefore, organizations should strive to have a detailed directory. This includes essential information such as each member’s name, role, contact information, and any relevant aspects of their membership, such as the membership level, the benefits they receive from it, etc. Directories should also be organized to make it easy for members to find people with specific interests.
Membership directories can either be physical or digital. A physical directory is a printed book containing the organization’s details that is usually made available on the business/organization’s premises. A digital directory is a single file made available on the organization’s website or intranet portal, usually in PDF format.
While both the physical and digital directories are effective, more businesses are choosing to use digital directories due to their portability and ability to be updated quickly. Digital directories are also preferred because they allow users to participate in groups and provide feedback on every profile.
Types of Membership Directories
There are two primary types of directories: public and private. A public directory is one that anyone (i.e., members and the general public) can access. In contrast, a private directory is a directory that only the members and stakeholders can access. This directory type is usually reserved for internal use or sharing with specific groups.
Nevertheless, remember that both private and public directories are searchable. This means that other members or the general public can view them and see who belongs to the organization and their roles.
Reasons/Benefits of Using Membership Directory
The idea of a directory has existed for a long time. However, in the past, organizations often managed their membership information using spreadsheets or in print format. This made it difficult to update, manage or navigate through the directory resulting in unavoidable inefficiencies. The latest technology has made it possible for organizations to implement digital directories that are user-friendly and easily adaptable to change.
As a result, most membership organizations now have updated portable directories for increased engagement with members and stakeholders while expanding the company’s bottom line.
Other benefits of using digital directories include:
They are easy to use
Digital directories often make it easy for users to navigate the directory and find the members they are looking for. The process of creating them is also not complicated and often requires no technical expertise. Additionally, the existence of advanced features and functions, such as directory plugins, search filters, etc., in the Content Management System of most websites further enhance their usability, making it convenient to update and manage web content.
Allows members to stay in touch
Effectively organized directories make it easy for members to stay connected with others. For example, a member’s information is typically listed alphabetically, geographically, or based on expertise. In addition, online directories allow members to create customizable announcement posts that they can use to inform other members of upcoming activities and important news.
With updated membership information that is searchable, organizations develop an image of professionalism that helps them garner trust and establish themselves as credible organizations, particularly new companies.
In addition, a directory highlighting the organization’s total number of members, position, and expertise makes it easier to convince potential investors, partners, and third-party service providers of the company’s value propositions. It also helps in convincing more clients of the organization’s capabilities. Moreover, well-designed directories can also help determine the organization’s value and worth if displayed on a website that the public can access.
Helps business grow
Directories are effective in growing the organization’s network. In addition, they allow businesses to promote themselves through online marketing and enabling them to reach a broader target audience. This is especially useful for organizations trying to position themselves as industry leaders. A directory will enable them to demonstrate their leadership by professionally showcasing their members’ information.
Strengthens your presence
A public directory enables organizations to become more visible online and increase their reach through search engines. This is particularly important for relatively new businesses or those yet to establish their industry reputation.
Helps members feel valued
Membership directories help members feel valued and indispensable to the organization. This is often accomplished by highlighting the members’ names, expertise, position, and field of work. This enables them to be seen as important stakeholders. In addition, increasing their visibility and promoting their importance within the organization may also go a long way in securing better commitment and loyalty from them.
However, before making this information available to the general public or other members, it is essential to seek the member’s consent. Therefore, developing a privacy notice and policy is highly encouraged to protect members’ confidential information.
It legitimizes your organization
By integrating digital directories into the company’s website, organizations can provide more information about the business and its operations. Consequently, they can communicate their value propositions to prospective members and stakeholders. Ultimately, this enables the organization to establish a legitimate presence in the market and makes it easier for prospective members to make an informed decision.
The member directory is 100% safe
Digital directories are highly secure because they are posted on the member’s website or the website of a third-party provider. This makes member information secure and safe from outsiders and unauthorized access or tampering. Moreover, members can customize their privacy settings and control how their data is shared with external parties.
Helps you build a real community
A well-designed directory allows members to interact with one another and build a more inclusive and compelling community. This is crucial in helping the organization develop a community among the members. It also encourages members to engage with the organization and share their expertise, thereby creating opportunities for mutually beneficial relationships.
Information to Include in a Membership Directory
The information to incorporate in a directory will vary based on the nature of the business and the organization’s target audience.
However, custom directories will often include the following information:
First and last name of each member
A well-designed directory must display the first and last names of all members of the organization, arranged in alphabetical order. This is essential, as it allows members or interested parties to easily search and locate any individual member based on their name.
A professional directory also displays the members’ job titles and positions in the organization. This is often used as an indicator of their level of expertise and can help determine their value and worth in the organization.
The organizational member’s contact information should be provided in the directory, including their email addresses and mobile phone numbers. It is essential to include this information in the directory as it allows for easy networking.
Social media accounts
Where applicable, include links to the member’s social media pages and accounts such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. This helps member engagement through communication. It will also help improve the overall branding of the member’s profiles and boost the company’s online presence through search engines.
An influential directory must have a professional photo of every member displayed next to their name, position, and expertise levels. This promotes greater visibility of the organization’s members and makes it easier for prospective members to recognize their peers when looking for someone with similar interests or expertise.
Displaying the date members joined the organization is often a very effective way of showing its growth over time. In addition, it will enable prospective members to see how long the organization has been operational and how long the individual members have been with it.
Note: Membership directories may also include additional information to reflect the nature of the organization. The additional information to incorporate in the directory may vary depending on the organization and industry type. However, it is essentially a good idea to include all the information in the organization’s current membership cards to display consistency and uniformity. Additional fields to incorporate in the directory include professional status, physical members’ physical addresses, the organization’s name, membership status, membership fees, and members’ availability for questions from other members.
Optional details in organizational directories include members’ family details, academic details, discount or coupon codes, and the specific industry.
Directories for more specialized industries like Associations, the Information Chamber of Commerce, and Tiered Membership organizations often include other specific details. These additional details can be instrumental in displaying a more comprehensive profile of the organization, its members, and its value propositions. Some of these fields are as specified below:
It is paramount to display a complete association profile to give members a clear picture of each association’s benefits and value propositions to the market. Therefore, in addition to the primary directory information listed above, association directories should contain relevant fields such as employment information, membership level, and affiliated organizations.
Information Chamber of Commerce Directories
The Chamber of Commerce is the organ that helps promote and protect the interests of a given industry or sector in a particular geographic region. These chambers often operate as consultative bodies, local business alliances, and networking groups. Information chambers are crucial in connecting businesses with critical stakeholders who can help them grow their operations.
Chamber of commerce directories should be as detailed as possible to enable visitors to select the right member easily, find their exact business address or make it easier for members to connect. The required additional information includes the specific member’s business information, such as their physical business address, coupon or discount codes, key industry served, or sector.
Tiered Membership Directories
Tiered membership organizations provide different services and value propositions to their members based on their membership status. Therefore, tiered directories should be designed to display specific additional information relevant to each level. This enables members to differentiate themselves from competitors within the directory.
Beyond the basic directory information, tiered directories allow for customization of member profiles by using different colors, including the business logo, setting up custom links to the member’s physical address/location, or even displaying the member’s resume on the website’s career center.
Promoting a Membership Directory
After creating an online directory, organizations need to ensure that it gets noticed by others. There are several effective marketing/promotion strategies that organizations can implement to ensure their directory receives the required attention.
The simplest way to ensure the directory gets noticed is to make it known to prospective members and people interested in joining. This can be accomplished by sharing the link with other members, organization leaders, and key stakeholders and encouraging them to share it on their social media accounts, emails, or website to create awareness.
Promoting it on social media platforms
Another effective strategy to ensure the directory is noticed is posting links on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. But, again, the content should be designed so that people feel the need to click on it. This can be achieved through posting provocative titles or in-house content that inspires others to take action.
Sending emails or newsletters to prospective members effectively boost awareness of the organization’s directory. However, like social media platforms, the content should be designed, so people feel compelled to read it.
Speaking at public events
Another way to get people’s attention is to spread the word by attending public events and mentioning the organization’s directory. Then, after the speech, distribute business cards or other marketing materials and encourage people to examine them or enroll as members to access your online resources.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is my information safe?
Members’ information in online directories is 100% safe. All personal information is usually stored in secure servers, protected against unauthorized access. Besides, digital directory programs often include advanced features that enable members to customize their information and set privacy settings to control who has access to it.
Should I use a print or online directory?
Both print and online directories can be practical tools for managing membership information and facilitating member interactions. However, online directories are the most preferred as they are readily accessible and easy to update. Similarly, they are easy to use, can help users save on postage and printing fees, and are environment-friendly.
What is the best way to collect member directory information?
The most effective way to collect member directory information is using an online program that allows members to create a profile connecting to the primary directory easily. Nonetheless, this may not always be possible for some organizations. In such cases, organizations can collect the directory’s information by assisting members with the initial profile set-up or ensuring that each member’s name and status are automatically listed in the directory.