The acquisition of industry or profession knowledge, today called Knowledge Management, has been and will continue to be, a primary driver for individuals and companies to hold membership in your member-ROI-centric organization. Efficient and effective knowledge management, (how your organization develops, archives, and makes specific knowledge available to members), should be a member-only benefit.
Most non-profit organizations will define their knowledge management activities and resources as keeping tract of, and making easily available, industry or profession knowledge. This typically includes:
- Policies, standards, and guidelines
- Best practices
- Trade press/scholarly journal articles
- News releases
- Other industry/profession specific documents
- Expert opinion
- Availability of, and access to, subject matter experts
- Peer review committees
- Safety and occupational issues
- Knowledge sources created by staff
- Collective industry/profession stakeholder knowledge
Chances are that a large segment of your members are not aware of the knowledge resources you make available to them. This is a sad situation because so much of the potential member perceived, return on investment (ROI), can be demonstrated in this line-item member benefit. However, this is also an amazing opportunity to accelerate your member awareness efforts. There is also an even stronger chance that non-member industry stakeholders are also bankrupt in the awareness of this benefit—or are they?
Determine Real-Dollar Value of Knowledge Management
The true real-dollar member benefit from your organization’s knowledge management practice must be calculated by members based upon:
- Total knowledge availability
- Member awareness of available knowledge management
- Uniqueness of proprietary knowledge management
- Ease and speed of access to specific knowledge
- Resource acquisition time saving in hourly measurement
While many of the above elements of calculation might at first glance appear to be nebulous, nevertheless, all can be measured. Proprietary knowledge can be valuated in real-dollars by the cost of acquisition through non-member benefit (outside) sources and/or the cost to the member’s organization of not having access to the knowledge.
The ease and speed of access should be valuated yearly, based on the time savings in hours, calculating the member’s hourly compensation or that of their clerical assistant. Multiplying the yearly hours saved by your member’s (total) hourly compensation is an exercise that is quite revealing—you’ll be amazed at the number. While it is true that much knowledge is currently accessible through public knowledge management systems like Google, the length of time that it might take one to do the search, read through the numerous sites, and aggregate the needed knowledge could be daunting and very time consuming.
Unintended ROI Killer
If your organization makes industry knowledge management available to non-members, my bet is that you are metaphorically shooting yourself in the foot every day. If non-member, industry stakeholders, can access anything more than “industry headlines” through your web site or from headquarter staff—why in the world would they invest in membership?
Your organization must put a high value on your knowledge management activities, reserving all but the most basic “industry headlines” for members to access through password protected, members-only sections, at your web site. Headquarter staff must also be instructed in the fine art of only giving away a “taste” of knowledge—not the whole meal.
While I continually hear from association and society leaders, the worn out justification of giving knowledge away so non-members MIGHT see the value of membership and join, you and I both know that if they have not joined by now—they’re never going to join. Rather, these industry parasites are going to continue to bleed you dry if you allow them to do so. Sorry, parasites might seem like a strong word, however if you think about it—it’s appropriate.
Quit Giving Knowledge Management Away
When your organization allows non-members to access your knowledge for free, the clear message you are giving to non-members is that you really do not value your knowledge or your knowledge management systems and processes. So why should they pay for membership? Also, the clear message you are sending to your (paying) members is that there is no membership ROI for this line-item. Why no ROI? It’s simple; since you are giving it away free to non-members, your current members could relinquish their membership and still acquire the knowledge management if they wanted it.
Your organization delivers yearly sustainable real-dollar value to members in several areas; I call them line-items. By encouraging your members to measure each value proposition line-item (user generated content), they can easily see for themselves, through real-dollar ROI, why membership in your organization is a good business decision. Your members will believe and support what they help create, and hopefully become member recruitment evangelists for your organization—convincing the industry “parasites” to make a new decision, and join.
*Association/Society generated surveys inherently are subject to legal antitrust scrutiny. Registration of intent with the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice can mitigate some liability. Conforming to the National Cooperative Research and Protection Act, in methodology and intent is advisable. An excellent resource is the Association Law Handbook, by Jerald Jacobs, published by ASAE; 2007.
Ed is the Founder and CEO of the 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, Cigar PEG Philanthropy through Fun, and president at Rigsbee Research which conducts qualitative member ROI research and consulting for associations and societies. He has been called “the dynamite that broke up our log jam” by association executives—rarely politically correct and almost always provocative—and from a dozen years as a United States Soccer Federation referee, Ed calls it the way he sees it. Exceptional resources at www.rigsbee.com.
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