Membership has transformative power.
From ancient craftsman guilds to today’s trailblazing professional associations that advance important causes, people benefit when they band together as a community. Membership groups fulfill an important human need, but to do it effectively you have to understand your constituents and what makes them tick. As a mission-based organization, you are in the business of taking care of the people you serve, and that means you must address their common challenges in order to attract, engage, and retain them.
What are your members experiencing?
If you haven’t looked at your association through your members’ eyes, now is the time to do it. To get a feel for their experience, you might start by navigating your website in detail, identifying glitches and exploring ways to create more interesting and valuable customer experiences. Take time to ask staffers for their member observations and look for solutions to shortfalls, as well. As you assess this relationship, there are plenty of things you can and should do to get to know your constituents better.
Here are four principles to help you build and maintain valuable long-term member relationships that are mutually rewarding and beneficial:
- Heed their words and examine their actions, too.
Sometimes you have to look at behavior more than what is being said. What messages are your members listening and reacting to? What events are they attending? Which links are they clicking on? Which pages of your website are they visiting? People may do things that are in direct conflict with what they say or how they respond to survey questions. That’s why analytics play such a vital role in revealing your members’ true interests and motivations.
- Demonstrate value.
Many associations get lost in the numbers. Any decrease in membership prompts a knee-jerk reaction to slash the budget. Number crunching is critical to maintaining your budget, but if you are losing members, you need to get out of the weeds and into the minds of your membership. People join associations because they believe it will help them solve a problem. They want the money they are forking out to do more than provide a directory listing and a discount on car rentals. Stop counting pennies and start thinking about ways you can really help your members. Offer a robust list of free benefits that aren’t available to the public and resist the urge to charge extra. If you want to attract and retain more members, give them more reasons to join.
- Be intentional in building member relationships.
How focused are you on member engagement? It’s the glue that holds everything together so make it a priority. When members make a connection between what your organization offers and the things that are critically important to them, they go from being mere participants to being loyal members, donors, and champions. Include digital and in-person engagement opportunities so you can appeal to a wider audience, such as:
- Online member portal: Provide a space for members to connect with others in their community.
- Community message board: Encourage members to actively engage with each other through forums, collaboration on files, and comments on each other’s ideas.
- Learning management system: With an effective LMS, you can offer convenient online courses and classes for members to further their education and gain valuable certifications.
- Events: Host conferences, presentations, and networking sessions to engage members and offer opportunities for interaction. These can be in-person, online, or a hybrid of the two.
- Create a culture of community.
Community spirit is that intangible thing that binds associations together. You can’t measure it but you can easily tell when it’s lacking. Many organizations are now choosing to define their identities in terms of the entire online community rather than just the association. Staffers use “we” in speaking about staff and members collectively, rather than “we and they”, which implies division. Simple gestures like this support a unifying culture of like-minded individuals who are working cohesively toward common goals.
IBC delivers elite consulting services and award-winning software solutions to membership organizations of all types and sizes. Please contact our experts to find out how we can help you too.
About IBC: At IBC, we have a deep understanding of the critical business needs and processes specific to associations, non-profits, and unions. We ‘get’ your culture, your goals, and what drives you, too. Focused exclusively on and dedicated to delivering the most effective AMS, LMS, and Cloud Financial Software for our clients, we’re well-versed in identifying and applying the integration techniques that will save you time and money. Since 2001, our cutting-edge products, unparalleled responsiveness, and award-winning services have helped organizations like yours increase their operational and financial performance by leveraging best practices and proven solutions. For more information about IBC, please visit the website at www.ibconcepts.com or call 443.603.0215.