Dr. Rick Goodman is interviewed on the concepts of his book titled, “The Solutions Oriented Leader” by Ed Rigsbee. Topics covered are: leadership assessment, positive thinking, hiring correctly, communication, feedback, mastering emotional thinking, organizational culture, and conflict. Contact Dr. Rick Goodman at https://www.rickgoodman.com/ or 888.267.6098.
Conventional Wisdom about Millennials
Is your conventional Wisdom about Millennials accurate? Just as bald white male baby boomers are not all the same—neither are millennials. One would be wise in considering this in member recruitment and retention. To paint such a broad-brush stroke is to leave many behind. While everyone, every generation, every color wants value from their membership—not all are viewing your membership organization from the same kaleidoscope of value.
For several years now I have been reading the endless fountain of articles on understanding Generation Y. These articles talk about millennials growing up with hovering (helicopter) parents and being immersed in technology. They want among other things:
- A seat at the C-suit table—NOW
- Inclusion for all
- Meaningful work within their jobs
- Prefer cause related organizations
- Entrepreneurial opportunity
- Extreme experiences at corporate, association and society meetings
- Online supported relationships near and far
- A sharing economy rather than ownership of stuff
Well now, who wouldn’t the above? Let’s face it, all generations (painting with my broad brush) desire the above—but do they?
Raising Millennial Children
First up, I have two millennial sons and I’ll categorically state that the above is not their job or association shopping list. Sure each might desire some of the above and yet each has different perspectives and desires. Heck, two millennial men from the same household do not agree on all of the above. With that, how in the world can the “generational gurus” state “millennials want X, Y and Z”?
In raising our Y Generation sons, my wife and I relied on authoritative help in “understanding age-appropriate behavior” which was also a broad-brush perspective. The assumption was that the child was being raised in a nurturing North American home. For the first year or two, the information was helpful but after that “child’s personality and parenteral influence” had a greater influence on behavior thereby leaving the authoritative help—less helpful.
Today’s Millennials Are Diverse
Generation Y, perhaps more than the generations that were before, have had easy opportunity to learn from far more resources that that of traditional education. As such, some embraced the opportunities and others did not. Some became aware without education, some unaware with education and some aware and educated. Each of the three paradigms delivers different perspective to the workforce. Add to that geographical, gender, athletics and other various endeavors and you have quite a diverse generation. To state that “millennials want X, Y or Z” is to speak from a lack of knowledge and understanding. Humans are individuals.
Regardless of whether you are hiring a millennial to work at your association or attempting to influence them to join your organization the core truth is this—not everybody is the same and to paint people with a broad-brush is to make erroneous assumptions. Value means different things to different people. Keep this in mind as you make the decisions that will affect your association, its staff and members.
The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.
Member value proposition is what most new and current members want. Your member value proposition is determined by the beliefs, perspectives and emotional connection of members to the organization, its staff and volunteer leaders. The other side of that coin is how the industry, in general, perceives your organization. If operatives in your industry thought membership in your organization was a great deal, then they would already be members.
Member Communication: inform or influence
This is an area where every organization can improve. The vast majority of stories in your Member Communication fall short of influencing members as the stories mostly inform. The difference is in how a story is written, most of the stories are not written through the window of “what’s in it for the member” and therein we find the rub—this angle is what can cause a member’s perception of value to change for the positive—or the negative.
How to Write Benefit Copy
Just offering a superior member value proposition is not enough. Your organization must clearly communicate your member value proposition in order to attract new members.
- First determine what is being sold. It should be one of 4 things for your Communication: product, event, member recruitment or member retention
- Then determine which feature of membership (from your member benefits web page) the thing being sold is.
- Next determine which buying motive is at play: profit/gain, fear of loss, avoidance of pain, love/affection, comfort/pleasure or pride/prestige. Many times there can be more than one buying motive but pick one for simplicity.
- Now write copy explaining the “what’s in it for the reader,” why they should care and include a call to action statement.
- Last, write the title of the story or promotional copy using one of the following perspectives: shocking, ask a question, offer data, create a value statement or reveal a secret.
Qualitative Focus Group Research
To find out what your current members believe is the member value proposition that they receive in actual dollar numbers you will want to conduct a series of Member ROI Valuation focus group sessions utilizing qualitative research methodology. This is an excellent starting point for boosting your value proposition.
Strategy Mapping Exercise
The strategy mapping exercise is your next step of discovery as you want to compare your organization’s member value proposition to that of competing organizations. This exercise allows leaders to compare with the various competing organizations—those that also compete for membership dollars, mindshare and value perception of people in your industry. Ideally, in contrast to the below example, the lines would not track but rather demonstrate vast differences.
Features Framework Exercise
The third step is to conduct the features of membership framework exercise—first with staff—then with volunteer leaders and overlay the three pieces. This will create visual impact for staff and volunteer leaders as to what is helping and hurting your organization’s member value proposition. The step-by-step “how to” can be found starting on page 88 of The ROI of Membership.
Getting all the Departments in Alignment
Every department at your organization must use new decision filters. The important filter to add is the “decision filter” of how the actions considered will affect positively or negatively the organization’s member value proposition, return on investment, member retention and recruitment. Each department has to align toward making your organization more member-ROI-centric.
The Hard Truth
Accepting change and shifting your organization’s culture is something that will be difficult. Sure, the volunteer leaders and paid staff give the member value proposition idea lip-service and “embrace” the new but when push comes to shove, they fall back into their “non-productive” comfort zones and eschew the necessary change. This is the fulcrum point where you might be currently failing. This is where all the above work becomes mute, meaningless, and a waste of time as the players in your organization thinks they are changing but in reality is only getting ready to get ready. What most people in this situation are really saying is that they agree that others should change but they themselves want to hold on to control because they know better than the others.
Embrace Change Management
If you truly desire to push past the current “failure point” and move into a new era of high-level member value proposition, everyone from the executive director and president to the newest section leader needs to be on-board because membership is everyone’s business. Now here’s the difficult part of the equation, if there are volunteer leaders and or staff pushing back—there is no longer a place for them in the organizational chart. Yes, a staff member that is not willing to play the new game must leave the organization and for the volunteer leaders—they must give up their positions. Are you willing to go to these lengths to grow? Think hard before you answer as you will be held accountable—not by Ed Rigsbee—but by your conscience, integrity and morality.
The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.
Learn the Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process for non-profit membership growth.
For trade associations and professional societies, identifying the value your members want without the Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process can be a bit like threading a needle in the back of a Jeep, while crossing granite boulders, at 40 miles per hour—but it doesn’t have to be. Associations and societies exist to serve the interests of the participants or stake holders in their industry or profession—it is that simple.
Yet, extenuating factors, erroneous or not, frequently muddy up the waters of association or society focus. A very good argument could be made for the idea that too many association or society activities serve merely the vocal few in leadership. A convincing argument could be made for the idea that associations and societies focus too keenly on self-perpetuation. I am not going to make arguments in this article for these ideas but rather share my observation from two decades working with trade associations and professional societies.
Large associations tend to have a turnstile of employees. Young wide-eyed graduates with diploma in hand, go to work for associations or professional societies with dreams of making a difference. Then, they either become disillusioned or move somewhere else for career advancement. Frequently these young staffers start in member services department. Hence the problem—by the time they learn their job, they have moved on. The Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process can solve this problem by having stable and usable member value numbers for all staff and volunteer leaders.
Conversely, in the small associations, run by the executive director and perhaps a couple part-time staffers, there just is never enough time to follow up on those inquiries of potential members. Either the interested party must join on their own accord by filling out the membership application found at the Web Site by clicking the “Join” button or move on. This two decade old observation was painfully reinforced recently. The example I’m about to share, believing it or not, did occur.
One of my avocations is being the CEO of an IRS recognized non-profit public charity https://cigarpeg.com/. I recently decided that it would be good for me to join a related association so I called two California State Associations, one for association executives and one specifically for non-profits. As of the writing of this article, I have joined neither.
One of the two, I called and left a message with the membership person; she returned my call and left a voice message. That was the last time I heard from that association and it has now been a while. The second, I chatted with their membership person and am still waiting for an information package she promised to “get right out” to me.
In the situation with the first association, would it not make sense to you that the director of membership make a second attempt to contact a prospective member that called for information about membership? I just got busy and didn’t call her back. Had she called me back a second time, I believe I would have joined instantly.
As for the second association, I was amazed that when I asked the membership person about the value I would receive from being a member, she asked if I was joking. I was not, and was less than impressed with her lack on knowledge as to the benefits of membership. I have been even more unimpressed with her lack of follow through. I really did want the prospective member package to help me decide which association to join.
The issue is twofold, first how association and society membership departments track their prospective members. Many folks just need a little nudge, and they will join. However, when ignored they will put membership on the back burner, frequently forever. The second issue is knowledge. If a staffer has no idea as to the value that the members derive from their membership, how in the world can they influence industry participants to join?
Today, the model for business and professional persons is that they are looking for a return on their investment (ROI) rather than participating in their industry simply because they should. Yes, times have changed.
Conduct the Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process for determining the yearly sustainable real dollar value of membership at your next meeting? The American Society for Quality did so, three years in a row, at their annual meetings and discovered that their members receive over $50 in benefit and value for every one-dollar invested in membership. For anybody, that’s huge ROI! The National Air Duct Cleaners Association learned that their members benefited to the tune of $17 received for every dollar invested. For the National Frame Builders Association we revealed that their members received $10 in value for every dollar invested in their membership. It’s all about return on investment, that’s something no association or society executive, staffer or volunteer leader should ever forget.
The most significant reason for my belief in the need for urgency—urgency for every association and society, globally, to conduct the Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process at their next meeting is recruitment. Why wait to plug up the leaking dike of member loss when you can do something about it now?
The Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process is, or should be, the cornerstone for your next member recruitment or member retention campaign. The single most important activity, resulting from the Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process, is for your association or society to develop a marketing brochure for your members to handout. This brochure will easily demonstrate why it is a good business decision to join the association or society based on intelligent ROI.
The number one reason, in my experience, why marketing and recruitment collateral materials and campaigns are not successful is because real benefits are left out. Too frequently, when I review the marketing materials of associations that are intended for use in gaining new members, all I can identify is features, rather than the bottom line benefit to the prospective member. As I stated earlier, most people that join an association or society in today’s business environment are looking for ROI, and not the warm and cozy feeling of serving their industry. However, too many paid association staff and volunteer leadership are still stuck in the old warm and cozy paradigm. Read my lips, it is ROI!
Follow the below listed steps and I assure you that you will not be sorry you did.
- Conduct the Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process at your next meeting. For more information on how to conduct this process, there are several articles at https://rigsbee.com/articles/association-growth/
- Association or society board of directors and paid staff review the specific value line items resulting from the process. Determine if more service and value can be offered to members under the most valued categories.
- Board then approves the changes and allows paid staff to implement. (Important note here, volunteer leaders need to “keep out of others’ rice bowls” and tend to their own, or nothing will ever get done.)
- Member recruitment brochure is to be developed based on the Rigsbee Member ROI Valuation Process results. These brochures should be held for the next membership meeting, like the annual convention.
- Keynote presentation on industry collaboration should be scheduled for the meeting where the brochures are distributed. The job of your keynoter is to get your members excited about what is possible for their business through accelerated collaborations resulting from increased association or society membership.
- Keynoter announces the new membership recruitment campaign and asks for a commitment from each member to personally give out 10 brochures to colleagues and industry participants.
- The question of prizes for membership recruitment is frequently posed by association leadership. I am neutral on the subject; however I would recommend that you consider this: Do you want your members recruiting for tangible prizes or for the benefits they will receive through increased industry collaboration?