Monday, October 30, 2017

The Joy of Membership Interview

I was recently interviewed by Joy Duling of The Joy of Membership blog, for The Movement Summit, an online event she is creating and hosting, which will be happening live next week, November 6-10, 2017. Click on either of the links above if you're interested in learning more or perhaps participating.

My interview, along with many others that Joy is collecting for the event, is on the often thorny problem of member engagement. In it, I elaborate on some of the related themes that I've explored on this blog.

For example, the importance of defining the rules of engagement:

You really have to define the rules of engagement with your members. In a very professional, but very transparent and above-board kind of way. Member engagement is a term that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people and so you have to be really clear about it. Are you talking about increasing attendance rates at your conference? Are you talking about increasing the number of members that serve in your leadership structure, either on committees or on task forces? Those are two very different kinds of things.

My own focus is primarily on that leadership angle. Trying to get more of our members involved in the different aspects of our committees or our task forces or, yes, even on our board of directors. In that space, it's really important for you to be, again, above-board and transparent with the member that you're bringing in, about what job it is that you're asking them to do. What is the time commitment involved? What are the expected outcomes that their involvement are going to have? They have to understand what they're getting into from the very beginning.

And the value of interpersonal connections:

I've come to rely more heavily on the value of interpersonal connections. There is no limit to amount of email you can send to a member. There is a limit to how many emails a member is going to choose to read. Those are two dynamics that often work at cross purposes in the larger objective of  increasing the level of engagement with your association. It's kind of like fundraising. If you want somebody to give money, you have to ask them to give money. You have to reach out with a personal appeal and see if you can connect them into an engagement opportunity. It's important for you to be a face rather than just an email or a text message coming through. 

But, this powerful tool also has a limitation to it, because you can only ask a member to do so many things. Like most associations, our association has at least dozens of opportunities, whether they're leadership opportunities or member programmatic opportunities, for people to get engaged. And, to pretend that someone's going to get engaged in more than three or four of those things is probably unrealistic in a lot of ways. And yet, again, many of our structures are designed to blast messages out to everybody. Even those who are already engaged with this laundry list of things that people can get engaged in. I've just not seen a lot of success driving up engagement numbers with that kind of broad approach.

And the fear that many associations have of trying something new:

In a lot of the associations that I've had experiences with there is a hesitation to experiment with either a new program or a new twist on an existing program because there is a fear of losing face in front of the members. This is a half-baked idea, and we're not sure how people are going to react to it, and it's important for us to maintain the reputation of this association, so we better not do that. I just feel the opposite. That, in most of my experiences when you do attempt something new or unique or innovative or different, yes, it's not always going to resonate with people, but, almost always, the people that you're pitching it to appreciate the creativity and the effort that went into it. And that helps build bridges to further conversations and new opportunities to find a project that actually will work for them.

It's a great conversation and I had a good time recording it. I hope you'll give the interview a listen and let me know what you think.

+ + +

This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

No comments:

Post a Comment