By Kimberly Butler, CFE
(Editor’s Note: Butler is president of the Heartland Chapter in Omaha, Nebraska. Butler has served on the Heartland ACFE board since 2008 serving as the Vice-President, Secretary and Training Director. As a result of a recent membership drive, the Heartland Chapter is one of the largest local chapters in the U.S. with more than 300 dues-paying chapter members.)
Over the last year the Heartland Chapter nearly doubled its membership from 160 members to more than 300 members. By having area professionals as members we can better expand our community outreach towards the prevention and detection of fraud. With the marketing and recruitment efforts we implemented we were able to double our membership in less than a year! Below are five key ideas that can help your chapter achieve similar membership growth:
1. Develop a strategic plan to increase the value and benefits of chapter membership
We increased the value of chapter membership by offering scholarships to our members to obtain their CFE certifications (they must be a chapter member for one year prior to being eligible to apply for the scholarship). We held a free training seminar during International Fraud Awareness Week for chapter members and provided significant discounts to chapter members for training seminars and meetings. To expand awareness of the chapter in the professional community we developed a door prize for meeting attendees, awarding the winner with a “Be Our Guest” certificate to bring a colleague to an upcoming meeting for free.
2. Know your elevator speech and chapter mission
Have members of the board of directors develop a 30-60 second elevator speech that they can use when networking opportunities arise, especially in community events educating about the prevention and detection of fraud. Have each of your chapter leaders make it a priority to meet your chapter members and new attendees. We do this by having all board members sit at different tables during our bi-monthly meetings and lead table discussion topics while attendees eat lunch and network. This is a great way for your chapter leaders to be in touch with what your chapter members want to gain from their participation in chapter events.
3. Develop a marketing outreach letter or email
To increase our membership, we sent these letters and emails out to ACFE members who belong to the ACFE but are not chapter members (using the member list from ACFE.com), business and criminal justice colleges, law enforcement agencies, prominent businesses with large internal audit and special investigation departments, CPA firms, law firms and private investigators. The communication provided information about chapter activities and the benefits of membership.
4. Increase your participation in joint training opportunities
We team up with other professional organizations that also have an element of fraud investigation in their standard practices such as the local chapters of the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), and Certified Insurance Fraud Investigators (CIFI). During the joint meetings we present information about each professional organization and the benefits of membership. You can even consider providing a discount to members who have joint membership with both organizations.
5. The more the merrier!
The Heartland Chapter provides discounts to companies for group memberships and attendance at our annual training seminar. We offer tiered discount rates for membership: 5-9 employees ($5 discount per member) and 10 or more ($10 discount per member). We also offer company discounts on our annual training seminar, and we recently changed that only members are eligible for discounts. For our annual training seminar we offer a promotion of “register five members and the sixth is free.” The group registrations then include a discount on the membership and also on the seminar registration fee.
In addition to the above ideas, it took a lot of hours and dedication to achieve our goals. But it has paid off in the end as we are now one of the largest chapters in the U.S.
Please share some of your own ideas for chapter growth in the comments below.