Member Engagement

If you followed me when I blogged at The Hourglass Blog, you know that I previously chaired the Innovation Task Force of the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives (WSAE), and was the lead author on the White Paper on Innovation for Associations that the Task Force published.

Building on that foundation, WSAE launched something called Innovation Circles: informal professional networks where people interested in exploring innovative approaches to specific issues do so and share their experiences with the broader community.

I led one on Member Engagement. It was a focus that arose directly from the challenges facing my own association. When I came into the President/CEO position, I inherited an association that was already benefiting from high levels of engagement among a group of leaders on our Board of Directors and our key committees. And much of the success we experienced was a direct result of their dedication to our mission and their involvement in our activities. However, we came to realize that we were not building an appropriate pipeline of engaged members who were ready to step into the leadership positions of the future. As a result, our momentum slowed, and we started looking for ways to engage a broader pool of our members in our activities and the strategic and operational mechanisms that determine and create them.

The Innovation Circle was an opportunity to share ideas with peers who were facing some of the same challenges. We met roughly every other month by conference call to share war stories and help each other brainstorm possible solutions to specific challenges. For me, the result was ten member engagement solutions I was able to blog about (see index below) and apply in varying capacities to my organization. I also had an opportunity to share some of my ideas and lessons learned in a couple of webinars--the first archived here, the second recorded specifically for this blog here.

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. As I continue to tackle this issue for my own association, I'll use this blog as an opportunity to share information and add even more voices into the conversation.

Here's an index of the related posts appearing on this blog:

11/13/17 - Automation Is Not Always the Answer
10/30/17 - The Joy of Membership Interview
07/24/17 - Getting New Voices Heard at the Board Table
06/12/17 - Don't Be Misled By the Concentric Circles of Diversity
06/05/17 - Go Visit Your Members
04/17/17 - The Psychology of Trade Shows
04/10/17 - Changing Strategy and Member Engagement
03/27/17 - The Best One Ever?
02/13/17 - Be Sure to Thank Your Power Members
12/12/16 - The Busy Time of Year
09/12/16 - Your Approach to Working Committees Reveals Your Organizational Culture
09/05/16 - The Limited Power of the Ask
06/06/16 - Does Your Association Put Up Signs?
08/24/15 - You've Got to Meet the Decision Maker
07/20/15 - Getting Members Engaged Is Like Running a Maker Lab
01/05/15 - When Old Dogs Have to Learn New Tricks
12/15/14 - They'll Remember That You Let Them Down
10/27/14 - Yes. Really. Nights and Weekends.
05/26/14 - Should You Break Your Own Rules?
09/09/13 - Member Engagement? It's...Well, It's Complicated.
08/26/13 - In Praise of Past Presidents
08/12/13 - The Mission Driven Volunteer
06/24/13 - Member Engagement Starts at Home
06/17/13 - It Doesn't Scale
06/10/13 - Member Engagement and Association Building Blocks
05/13/13 - Getting Used to the Dark
02/11/13 - Recorded Webinar: What Does Member Engagement Mean to You?
11/26/12 - Member Engagement Solution #10: Member Engagement Is About Much More Than Just Volunteering

Being Member Driven

04/23/12 - Who Revolves Around Who?
I am a member of several associations. I get value out of my membership in each of them. I wouldn't belong to them if I didn't. But, emphatically, I am NOT a satellite that revolves around any of them. Quite the reverse, in fact. In my solar system, they are satellites that revolve around me.

Exceeding Member Expectations

07/02/12 - The Chairman's Gift
What is important is the look on our chair's face was the gift was presented to him. He was surprised. He was delighted. He was, I think, more than anything else, touched that we had taken the time to get him something unique, to think of him as an individual and not just as another in a long line of association chairs.

06/25/12 -
Trust and Association Nextpeditions
But the association I'm speaking of has something many organizations don't. They have the trust of their members, and it isn't a trust that's blindly given. It's a trust that's been built up slowly over time, by consistently and reliably exceeding people's expectations for fun and delight.

Member Engagement Webinar

11/05/12 - A Member Engagement Experiment
I gave a webinar on "What Does Member Engagement Mean To You?" Unfortunately, I was not able to complete the presentation, and so I promised to record and post to my blog some supplementary material about a member engagement experiment that’s going on in my own organization.

10/22/12 - What Does Member Engagement Mean to You?
My own presentation will be titled, "What Does Member Engagement Mean to You?" In it, I'll talk about the work I've been doing with the WSAE Innovation Circle on Member Engagement, especially some of the challenges and solutions that we've identified and discovered through our process.

Member Recruitment

04/30/12 - Everyone Is Responsible for Member Recruitment
"Everyone," he said, "is responsible for member recruitment." When he said it, I have to admit, it sounded like another platitude to me, like something you might read in a consultant's book. But he was serious, and he has given this platitude real teeth within his organization. Everyone there is responsible for recruiting 2-3 new members per year. Not just the membership manager, but everyone. It's part of their yearly goals. It's discussed as part of their performance evaluations. Compensation decisions are based on it.

Volunteer Participation and Recruitment

05/14/12 - I Don't Want to Serve on Your Committee
This may come as a shock, I know, but I don't view it as an honor. I view it as a timesuck, and it's not clear to me what kind of value (if any) I'm going to get out of the experience. I barely even know who you are, and the blanket way you approached me tells me you barely know who I am either. Do you want me to volunteer? Do you want me to get engaged with your organization? Here are some quick DOs and DON'Ts for your consideration.

04/09/12 - Bucking the Trend
For every issue, the overall trend is down. After peaking in 2009 or 2010, every issue shows fewer and fewer people expressing concern. Except one. There's only one issue that bucks that trend, where association professionals are growing more concerned as the economy recovers. Volunteer participation.

WSAE Innovation Circle on Member Engagement

11/12/12 - Member Engagement Solution #9: Discourage Non-Performance by Rewarding Performance
Many associations struggle with volunteers or volunteer committees that don’t perform useful functions for their associations. And yet many provide recognition and rewards for all volunteer positions, even those that have not contributed. Although it may be difficult, it is essential to publicly reward only those behaviors that provide positive contributions to what the association is trying to achieve.

10/29/12 - Member Engagement Solution #8: Effective Orientation and Interaction is Key
Most new association members (and some old ones) have no idea what their association does and how to get engaged with it. On-going and individual orientations are important, not just to educate members on what is meant to be accomplished and how, but to learn more about the members with an interest in participating and what their individual motivations are.

10/15/12 - Member Engagement Solution #7: Advisory Groups Can Be Tremendous Win-Wins
One zero-commitment engagement opportunity that appeals to many members is to serve on an advisory group for a particular association program or function. These are not committees with decision-making authority, but a group of talented and interested volunteers who are willing to respond to questions and provide feedback on possible new directions.

10/01/12 - Member Engagement Solution #6: Provide Structure, But Not Too Much
Increasingly, associations are finding that members want to direct their own volunteer efforts. They want to engage, they want to develop their own skills, they want to help the association advance. What they don’t want is to be micromanaged with a lot of association-specific rules and regulations.

09/17/12 - Member Engagement Solution #5: Don't Waste a Volunteer's Time
Association members are under increasing time crunches like everyone else. Since less time is available for association work, it is essential for the association to make the volunteer interaction as productive and as valuable as possible.

09/03/12 - Member Engagement Solution #4: Manage Volunteer Transitions
Don't lose the talent and enthusiasm of a long-serving volunteer just because their term of service comes to an end. Work to find new ways to engage them in the organization. Their understanding of the association's history and strategy is invaluable. They can often achieve far more than any newly-recruited volunteer because of it.

08/20/12 - Member Engagement Solution #3: Recognize Volunteer Contributions
It is critical to find the time and appropriate mechanisms for recognizing the work of association volunteers. They are not paid for their contributions, and can easily fall away if they perceive that their efforts and are not valued and appreciated.

08/06/12 - Member Engagement Solution #2: Recruit with a One-to-One Philosophy
A personal approach is best when it comes to connecting interested volunteers with the tasks the association needs them to perform. A blanket call for volunteers may play a role in identifying interest, but connections should be personal and tailored to the motivations, expertise and time availability of each person.

07/23/12 - Member Engagement Solution #1: Don't Forget the Fun
To be truly engaging, association activities and volunteer tasks must include an element of fun. Volunteers and members are people. By making the tasks you want them to perform fun, you have a better chance to engage their innovation and creativity.

06/18/12 - Issues with Member Engagement
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.

03/19/12 - Innovation Circle on Member Engagement
I'm leading another innovation effort for WSAE. They are launching something called Innovation Circles: informal professional networks where people interested in exploring innovative approaches to specific issues do so and share their experiences with the broader community. I'm leading one on Member Engagement. As I tackle this issue for my own association and hear what other folks in the Circle are doing, I'll use this blog as an opportunity to share information and add even more voices into the conversation.

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