Monday, March 31, 2014

Effective Association GROWTH is SIMPLE MATH: BI + SE * WF = MME + FS

As we end the first quarter of 2014, as a fellow association executive, I want to ask you a couple of questions:

Is your membership engagement strategy better, the same, or worse than it was 1 year ago?  2 years ago?  3 years ago?

Is your association building BELIEVERS, or just a roll of dues paying members?

Are you just providing services, or are you forging a MOVEMENT/ REVOLUTION within your industry?

In order for your members to truly be believers and to become part of your "association movement", they must be engaged at some level.  That engagement builds your movement, increases revenue per member, volunteerism, and helps you achieve maximum member engagement.  When maximum member engagement is actualized, recruiting becomes easier and retention rates rise leading to financial security for your association.

You see, if you have any set of members that are not engaged at some level within your association, they are, what I refer to as, "at risk" members.  These are members who have no real buy-in to your association.  They have been paying dues for any number of reasons, but have chosen to NOT engage in any programs, services, or volunteering.

These "at risk" members on any given day, can, and do, make a choice to non-renew their membership to save money and dedicate their resources elsewhere.  The next question for you is, are you tracking membership engagement in any fashion to be able to identify your fully engaged, somewhat engaged, and not engaged members?  If not, you should be.  It allows you to target  your messaging to each category of engagement, so as to draw your members closer to you.  There is no reason to send a company or an individual who is engaged in 80% of your programs, a letter to get more engaged.  They need a THANK YOU letter.   Someone who is only a "newsletter member", should not get a letter thanking them for all their participation…they aren't participating.  Rather, they need to get an encouraging letter asking them to get more engaged in programs, while also thanking them for their support.

Our association has actually established an Annual Engagement Award, which recognizes all members who are engaged in 75% or more of the association programs, and volunteering at some level.  We want to put those members on display to inspire others to be more active in the association.

If your current membership is engaging in your member programs, meetings, and volunteering, you have a great story to tell those who are not members.  If your member engagement is lacking, why would a non-member want to be a member if current members don't even participate?

For this reason, I believe associations should put focus on member engagement FIRST, and everything else will follow.  This leads me to my simple math equation for effective association growth in membership, revenues, and financial strength:

Board Innovation (BI) plus Staff Execution (SE) times Wow Factor (WF) equals Maximum Member Engagement (MME) plus Financial Security (FS)

For associations to sustain themselves long term, they must have maximum member engagement and financial security.  If you lack either one, your association will perform average at best.  If you don't have a good level of member engagement, many will say you don't represent enough people to speak for your industry.  Or your benefits and services appear to benefit just a few, and not the full membership or "why join, your current members don't see any value?"  If you don't have financial security, then you don't have the financial resources to take risk for your members and fund the necessary programs to meet your mission.

So what are the three things necessary to have MME and FS?  You can make a list a mile long if you would like, but it really boils down to 3 categories which all others fall into:

Board Innovation (BI)
Board innovation comes from having a business savvy mindset from your Executive Committee and CEO.  This group must lead the way for the rest of the board to get outside the box and think creatively about how they can engage the members in new ways.  They must create programs and meeting structures that hit at the heart of their member needs.  It's critical for the board to, at least every two years, analyze the question, "What can we do together for our members that they can't do for themselves effectively?"  Answering this question is the key to maximizing your value proposition.

Staff Execution (SE)
Once the board has a sound direction for the association to take, the next phase is staff execution.  This is a blend of staff working with the key volunteers (when needed) to execute each program, service, committee work, and meeting to empower your members to accomplish the association mission.  When people see real change and results happening within the membership and their own experience, they become excited and tell others.  Members want to see excellence within their staff.  They want to have a confidence that the staff is passionate about their association, and that they take pride in doing it with excellence.

WOW Factor (WF)
This speaks for itself.  In everything that your association provides for your membership, does it exemplify excitement, passion, and an emotional experience that draws them into your association?  This is everything, from the way you answer the phone at your association offices, to the entertainment you provide at your conferences.  Members should feel your membership…not just purchase it.

Bottom line, do you have an effective membership engagement strategy?  If not, you should.

Remember:  BI + SE * WF = MME + FS