Monday, November 26, 2012

Member Engagement Solution #10: Engagement Is About Much More Than Just Volunteering

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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.

I've previously posted on some of the member engagement issues people in the Circle are wrestling with. Now, I'm sharing a some of the solutions the group is coming forward with--strategies that have been demonstrated to work in at least one association environment. This is the tenth and final post in that series. Previous posts include:

#1: Don't Forget the Fun
#2: Recruit with a One-to-One Philosophy
#3: Recognize Volunteer Contributions
#4: Manage Volunteer Transitions
#5: Don't Waste a Volunteer's Time
#6: Provide Structure, But Not Too Much
#7: Advisory Groups Can Be Tremendous Win-Wins
#8: Effective Orientation and Interaction is Key
#9: Discourage Non-Performance By Rewarding Performance

As always, I encourage you to add your thoughts and comments.

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Member Engagement Solution #10: Engagement Is About Much More Than Just Volunteering

There are many forms of engagement, and volunteering is only one of them. Joining, participating, advocating are all forms of engagement, and none of them should be neglected when it comes to thinking about increasing membership engagement in your association. By letting members define how they wish to be engaged and then removing as many barriers to that engagement as possible, and association can experience an across-the-board rise in all forms of engagement.

I'm going to take exception to this one. That may seem crazy, but this series has been about concepts discussed by the people in the WSAE Innovation Circle on Member Engagement, and I'm not going to agree with everything everyone says. That's okay. Not everyone is going to agree with me, either. So here goes.

Member engagement IS all about volunteering--about members volunteering some portion of their time and talent to help the association achieve goals it has set from itself. You may want to call something else you're worried about member engagement--membership growth, for example, or conference participation, or sales of your association products--but none of these are truly about member engagement. If you call them that, you're missing the point.

Joining an organization isn't engagement. Going to one of their conferences isn't either. And neither is buying any of their products. These are all transactions--an organization providing a valued service--and there isn't anything unique or special about your association when it provides these services. Your members may value these services, but if they find the same or better service offered by someone else for the same or lower price, they'll jump ship in a minute. They will because they're not really engaged in your association. They have no skin in the game.

That all changes when they take on a volunteer role in your organization. They stop being a customer and start being a creator--part of the way the association develops and provides those services. Now they're on the inside, not the outside, and that's ultimately where you want them to be. Because now they will have allegiance to your association. They will truly view themselves as part of it, and they will look to it to improve and will want to take an active role in helping it get better. It's no longer them. Now the association is us.

This is what I think about when I think about member engagement--and it's the objective to which all of my member engagement strategies are aimed. I don't want more customers. I want more creators helping me build the association they need for tomorrow.

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