Member ROI

Build it and They will Come? (440 words)

Membership growth through value and return on investment (ROI)

Membership Growth

My work in non-profit membership growth since the late 1980’s has revealed to me that if the member perception of value is paramount. What members (or prospective members) believe is all that matters.

Associations frequently do a good job of creating member value, but not such a good job of communicating that value in a way that matters to members. It is a particular skill set to be able to write influencing (sales) copy. Most association marketers write about the features of membership but forget to tell the member or prospect how those features will make their life better. (It is all about me :>) Everyone wants an exceptional return on their investment (ROI) of time and money, but how many association marketing and/or communication pieces clearly demonstrate that. (Not many.)

What many association executives do not understand for sustained membership growth is the relationship bank issue. Making no, or few, deposits throughout the year equals bankruptcy–but at the end of the year association executives try to take a withdrawal (ask for renewal) when there’s nothing in the bank. Crazy, isn’t it? How can you expect to drink from an empty glass? Funny how some think they can.

Qualitative research, specifically the Member ROI Valuation Process reveals member perception of value…helping association staff and volunteer leaders to determine what products and services to sunset and what to keep. If something you do only benefits a very few, why are you spending resources in that area? Invest your organization’s resources (time and money) in things that benefit MOST of your members.

Build it and they will come is important for membership growth…but only if you build it correctly (member expectations) and do an excellent job of communicating why it is in their best interest to come (not the association’s best interest). In my book, Developing Strategic Alliances I when into great detail about relationship bank deposits. Key for this discussion is an understanding of what creates value for the other? If you develop something your members and/or prospects do not want–you get frustrated that they do not take advantage and they get frustrated because your are shouting from the rooftops about something in which they have no interest.

To earn my Certified Association Executive (CAE) credential, I had to understand the SPIE model: Scan, Plan, Implement, Evaluate and so do you. Scan what your market offers and what your customers (members) want. Then develop a plan to build it. Now build it. After you build it, review–did they really want it? Did you build it correctly? Did you market it correctly?

The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.

Effective Non-Profit Interdepartmental Partnering (829 words)

Developing Strategic Alliances

Divisive in the world of non-profits are the employee and executive adverse reactions to anything entrepreneurial. This operating philosophy must be buried with the other relics of the Twentieth Century if Twenty-First Century non-profits are to thrive. The natural outcropping of this (should be) dead paradigm is silo mentality.

Are you having challenges with internal departments unwilling to collaborate? Do you believe this lack of cooperation is costing your organization time, resources, and money? Here is an idea that I’m sure will serve all leaders of today’s non-profits: put your suspected “Lords of Lesser Corners” under the microscope and call them out—privately, of course.

Do you have “Lords of Lesser Corners” in your organization? Be honest now…I’m not trying to be mean however, let’s call things by their proper name. These “Lords” are persons with some amount of authority but are emotionally small people. They are in constant fear of their jobs and area of influence. They lead by Draconian methodology. Their standard method of operation is protectionism. They live their non-profit organizational lives in constant fear and other erroneous beliefs.

Are these “Lords” bad people? Generally not, but they have a huge need for updated education in organizational success and personal success. “Lords of Lesser Corners” can be identified by their unwillingness to change, progress, and embrace new opportunities.

Exploring the Cost of Devastation

The disarray these Lords bestow upon your organization is omnipresent. The protectionism is so insidiously woven into the fabric of their silo’s culture that it is like a cancer in need of chemotherapy. Are you dealing with these challenges?

  • The very bright talent leaves.
  • The deadwood lingers.
  • The bottlenecks are everywhere.
  • Interdepartmental relationships are severed.
  • Interdepartmental sabotage is rampant.
  • Internal customer deadlines are ignored.
  • The organization is completely constipated.

What’s a Chief Staff Executive to Do?

Before you can scan the landscape, you first have to take off the blinders and be completely honest about your situation. You can no longer play ostrich with you’re your head in the sand. Take a close look at your “Lords of Lesser Corners” and explore this question deeply, “Do they add any value to the organization?” Consider the following:

  • Do they possess a talent so specialized that they are impossible to replace?
  • Are they so loved by large segments of your membership that their departure would cause a retention problem?
  • Are you so understaffed that you are willing to retain those that impede?
  • Is it just too much trouble to make a change?
  • Are they a family member?
  • Are they blackmailing you?
  • Do you have the will to lead well?

Strategy for Successful Retention

  • Re-educate the “Lord” as to your expectations of how they operate in the organization. This is the best option. If you can help your Lords to better understand their place in the greater scheme of things, they might consider a behavior change. For internal partnering to be successful, every manager/director must understand how their department’s behavior, performance, and cooperation affect all the other departments and ultimately, the members’ experience.
  • Re-organize your company’s silos and relocate the “Lord” in a section where they will do less damage through their provincial thinking. This is the easiest path but least effective. Your “Lords,” if not re-educated, can and will still spread their darkness.
  • Realize you, the Chief Staff Executive, might be part of the problem for allowing the isolative behavior to continue. You may not realize it but through your non-action, you have been rewarding the behavior you do not want. Ultimately, whatever happens in your organization generally emanates from your management style and behavior.
  • Adjust your departmental director review process to also include their accountability for the whole organization’s effectiveness and success in serving members.

Tools, Skills & Motivation

Relationship management tools will be at the foundation for improvement in interdepartmental partnering. One effective tool is to associate salary, bonus, or incentive pay for managers and department directors with interdepartmental relationship improvement. You can use a number of 360-style measuring instruments—an application you might already own—for measuring improvement. Connect pay to improvement and you’ll be pleased with the results.

An additional collaboration tool is to develop a staff committee (a representative from every department) of “Interdepartmental Collaboration,” answering directly to the Chief Staff Executive. I use the term collaboration as it conjures a different and more beneficial vision in the minds of most, from that of cooperation. This committee will be charged with, and rewarded for, the quality of interdepartmental collaboration.

While it is completely true that the Chief Staff Executive sets the culture for any non-profit—this person cannot be everywhere all the time. Your collaboration committee might just save the careers of your “Lords of Lesser Corners” by helping the “Lords” to better understand how they can contribute to the success of your organization as a whole, and not just their department.

The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.