Does Your Association Approach Member Engagement Tactfully?


Regardless of the brand, genre or philanthropy, all associations seem to have the same common-denominator conversations when discussing the goals for a successful year. Get bigger. Become more marketable. Retain members.

How many of you put “addressing membership engagement” at or near the top of that annual goals list? Some say they do, but do they really?

During an important association board meeting to kick off the new year — calendar year, fiscal year, whatever — there are particular topics always brought to the table. Many times, membership engagement is something that is assumed, yet almost viewed as a moot point by a board — when, in actuality, it’s extremely important to the success of your association.

Three questions always seem to come up: How can we build growth? How can we retain members? What are our primary objectives to push to the masses? All important questions, nonetheless.

But let’s be clear: With many associations, tactfully driving engagement is an underrated prelude to the aforementioned. It’s an act that must be prioritized from the top of the board all the way to the newest member of the association.

“In my experience, many organizations jump straight to trying to score engagement, through mostly transactional touchpoints like attending meetings, buying products, and volunteering on committees,” Maddie Grant, consultant at WorkXO, told ASHP. “But they often find this to be either complex and difficult, or ultimately meaningless, because that first step of defining engagement for them has not been done.

“The process of defining tells the association what truly matters, which then makes things easier to score.”

Elizabeth Rison, membership manager for the Texas Society of Association Executives, called proper membership engagement “the formula” of a successful association. She said she makes it a priority to track the strategy, goals and measurements but also not be afraid to try new things in an effort to engage members.

In her words, “The formula is key!”

“Have fun with member engagement,” Rison said. “It’s such a great feeling when you know you are helping your organization.”

Hester Ndoja, vice president of membership and development for the Florida Society of Association Executives, believes a successful membership engagement strategy must revolve around personalization. A problem with some association is the opinion of what member engagement should be may be only shared by a couple of the people at the top of an association board. Everybody should count, especially when everybody is working to better the association.

“It’s human nature to first ask, ‘what’s in it for me?’ and ‘how will this help me?'” Ndoja said. “We are all so busy, and if an association can make a member’s life easier and more efficient, the association becomes part of their toolkit” when they need something.”

Paying attention to the views of all members is vital. Also important is understanding realistic goals in the effort of increasing and retaining membership. When outlining strategies, it is a must to involve a thorough plan in that a board understands — and is able to counter — every speedbump in the proverbial road.

Membership engagement is a task that should never be overlooked. It’s essential to be considerate to all of your members. It’s also key to be strategic in your plan of action for the good of your members.

“You don’t want to continue something that isn’t reaching members or isn’t engaging them,” Ndoja said. “You will want to figure out what is working and strengthen and build off of those successes.”

Make the strategy simple. The more engaged your members are, the more feedback, testimonials and referrals you’ll see. All of that will lead to growth. Make member engagement a priority to better your association.

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