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Much like traditional businesses rely on customer data and potential customer data, professional associations rely on member data and the data of potential members in order to not only provide the right services, but also to entice potential members to join. The process of gathering and using this data, however, can be fraught with difficulties.

SEE ALSO: Attracting & Retaining Members with a Great Content Strategy

Asking for too much data can deter a potential or current member from answering as doing so may seem invasive. On the other hand, not gathering enough pertinent data can leave your association without the right tools to offer services that members or potential members are looking for. In order to strike the right balance, consider the following four tips:

1. Make Your Privacy Policy Clear

When asking for data, especially in the age of spam emails and identity theft, people across the Internet are leery of giving out too much personal information. It seems every single day, a new story is coming out showing that a data breach has cost someone a ton of money and time after their personal data was stolen or mishandled. As a result, make sure to make your privacy policy regarding data collection, maintenance, and usage as clear as possible. While your actual privacy policy may need to be somewhat complex in order to cover your association in a variety of circumstances, consider providing a condensed version when asking for data that describes how your association uses and protects member and potential member data.

2. Just the Facts

Prior to inquiring about someone's personal data, stop and think about what information your association really needs in order to achieve its goals. It can be tempting to go above and beyond when asking for data with the thinking that you'll find a way to use it later, but asking for too much, as mentioned above, can deter people from opening up. Instead, set out clear objectives for a campaign or for the coming quarter or year and then base your questions on these objectives. Using this process, your association will be able to show exactly why a certain question is being asked, and this can go a long way in building confidence.

3. Don't Be Demanding

When you ask for data from members or potential members, don't require anything of them. While, yes, you want to gather as much relevant data as possible, avoid web forms that have required fields. Forcing someone to either give information they don't want to or click away from the form will likely lead to that person clicking away. Put yourself in that person's shoes and think about how you would feel.

4. Keep Up to Date

Finally, consider sending out an annual questionnaire that asks for updates on personal data from association members. Many people have changes in address, profession, and more throughout the year, and having updated data can help your association to make smart decisions regarding focus of services. This can be done through an email, but you can also send out a questionnaire through the mail as well.

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