Monday, June 18, 2012

Issues with Member Engagement

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I've mentioned previously that I'm leading another innovation effort for WSAE, something we're calling an Innovation Circle. Ours is focused on member engagement, and you can get an overview of what it is and what we're trying to achieve with it here.

Since I'll be out all this week at my association's strategic board retreat, I thought it would be a good time to post some of the notes I've been taking during the Circle's on-going series of conference calls. These notes are from our first call a few months back, when we were just trying to identify some of the questions and challenges we'd like to tackle as part of this effort.

Here are some of the issues that were on our mind, some big and some small:

1. What are the benefits of using multiple choice vs. open-ended questions when collecting feedback from members through a survey or online community? In the experience of the participants, response rates were generally better with multiple choice questions. If seeking detailed suggestions regarding actions to be taken, however, open-ended questions often provide more diversity of response, and may provide introductions to new members who can get engaged in design and implementation of the actions.

2. How do you get committees to design and take action within the overall strategy determined by the board? Lots of good suggestions here, especially with regard to providing committees with clear messages not just about the objectives to be achieved, but also the metrics by which success will be measured. Also make sure they understand and have appropriate control over the resources at their disposal.

3. How do you use social media to engage members? More challenges than solutions here. Some are struggling to find the right combination of social media outposts (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) to engage with their members. Others have taken to helping their members learn how to use social media in their professional lives, allowing the association to be the "practice zone" for new ways of interacting and learning.

4. How do you encourage the sharing of ideas in development? Some struggle with culture change issues around sharing half-formed ideas and engaging a broader cross-section of members throughout the program development cycle. The outside world moves so fast the association world sometimes has a hard time keeping up, and the concern about launching programs before they're "ready" often puts us out of touch with the evolving needs of our members.

5. How do you encouraging greater risk taking among board and committee members? How do you encourage "out-of-the-box" thinking without jeopardizing the natural allegiance and protectionism that dedicated volunteers have to their associations? No one want to destroy the organization, but a willingness to experiment and take greater risks is needed to meet future challenges.

Of these five issues, #4 really resonates with me. Which, if any, are on the top of your list? I think it's safe to say that given the generational, technological and economic changes that are actively reshaping our environment, the question of keeping members engaged in building productive leadership capacity for our organizations is one of the central challenges most of us are facing.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section. If you're interested in participating in our on-going discussion, we'd welcome you to join the Circle.

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