Tag Archive for: member benefit

Associations Must Either Partner or Perish (1059 Words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Associations Must Partner or Perish

The reason for any professional or trade association to exist is for the purpose of synergistic and mutual improvement of the persons and organizations involved is a particular industry or profession. I believe an association to be a gathering of people with similar interests and goals. This gathering must be a multi-faceted partnering alliance between members (including associate or supplier members), officers and paid staff.

In every association with which I currently hold membership or have held membership, I’ve have experienced a class structure. While I believe this class structure is generally unintentional, it is none-the-less destructive and at cross-purposes to the associations’ stated mission. The officers usually make policy and the rules for all to follow. The staff works hard to serve the officers, more so than the membership. This is because they believe, or have the perception, that they hold their jobs at the pleasure of the board of directors. While operational staff generally works under, and is hired by, an executive director or executive vice president, the staff people see their jobs as being at risk when they inform board members on things the board members do not want to hear.

Elected officers try to do their best to run the association so it will best serve the membership, but they must also run their own business. Some of the challenges that frequently occur are:

o    Individuals seeing the world through his or her own filter or paradigm. This can cause people to only see what they want or to only see the world through their situation. If one selects to participate as an association leader, this is a luxury one cannot afford.

o    The ability officers have to pork barrel can drive a wedge through any industry, especially between the buyers and sellers in the industry. The association must create value for all dues paying members, regardless of their status.

o    Elitism, planned or inadvertently occurring. This is the most insidious of value dismantlers. While it is human nature for offers that select to donate an unusually huge number of hours to socialize with one another at meetings and events, there still is a responsibility for officers to individually reach out to the general membership. Additionally, those same people that donate the hours sometimes feel entitled. Entitled to what you may ask? The list is limitless; from questionable association resource spending to policy making that only serves the selected few.

o    Participation burnout of officers is common. People that care about the success of their association and industry as a whole, can acquire the Savior Complex, thinking that the entire industry will stop if they don’t do it all. Then they get bitter about the time they feel obligated to donate.

o    Personal ownership disassembling synergistic results. When certain “entitled” people believe they own the association more than others, based on their personal standards of participation and history with the association, they can unknowingly push others away.

Over the past decade I have been helping organizations to see the world through the window of others. The system I offer is that of Total Organizational Partnering System (TOPS). Many associations in which I have come in contact have or could benefit from TOPS. The decision to adopt the multi-faceted partnering model is not always easy. It is unfortunate that many associations are encumbered with persons flexing their personal and sometimes hidden agendas.

Is it possible in association life to have cooperation? Absolutely, I see it frequently. Working with others for a mutually beneficial solution is what should be at the foundation of any association. Partnering is the redeemer necessary to successfully carry an association to new heights of success in serving its industry.

Today, many associations are faced with the fallout of consolidations within their industry; both regular members and associate or allied supplier members. In some situations, in order to survive and serve their membership, even associations have found it necessary to merge. There will always be the members that support their association, regardless of the value they believe they receive. And, there will always be the people in an industry that do not believe it is worth their time or money to belong to their industry association.

What every association (staff, boards and members) must explore is the middle mass. These are the industry players that will only belong to, and participate in, their industry association if they believe they can get more out than they put in. This is possible through collaborative synergies developed through TOPS. Association leaders must partner with this critical mass in order to have the number and financial support to do the work necessary to keep their industry alive, healthy and growing.

Never allow the situation to develop in which members or potential members say, “I want to be part of the system. I want a piece of the pie, but I don’t believe it’s possible.” Be cautious not to treat less participative members as second-class citizens. I know there is some truth to this because I, myself, have felt like a second-class association member in times past. Was I really a second-class member or was it just in my mind? Since my perception is my only reality, what do you think? Does it matter what others think? No, because my perception is my reality, and it is for your members too.

Members, retained and new alike, are the lifeblood of any association. If you are an officer and keep that in mind daily, your association will not only survive but it will prosper. Listed below, are ten of my partnering principles that I believe association officers, staff and members need to adopt.

Ten Partnering Principles

  1. Partnering means learning the needs, wants and desires of others.
  2. Partnering builds confidence and trust.
  3. Do not take too long to act, as there are others that may beat you to creating valuable partnerships.
  4. Partnering strengthens your image and defines your culture.
  5. You must deposit into the Relationship Bank before you may take a withdrawal.
  6. Word-of-mouth is the best advertising available, and you must earn it.
  7. People have short positive but long negative memories.
  8. Partnering allows for immediate feedback. Ask, “How are we doing?”
  9. Partnering creates an environment of possibilities.
  10. Partnering is a subtle and successful form of marketing.

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

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Member Recruitment in a Down Economy (1226 words)

The trade associations and professional societies, especially ones that serve mature industries have been hit particularly hard the last couple years with their membership rosters. Unfortunately, the old member value delivery and recruitment formulas seem not to be working like they once did.

First Explore Belonging

While there are numerous reasons to belong to an association or society, most fall into one of two categories: career/business improvement and industry/profession affiliation.

Credentials & Certification

Organizations that offer valuable credentialing tend to lock members in on both of the above reasons. The idea of value in certification and credentialing is important to explore. As an example, the American Society for Quality offers a credential to its members that actually translate into an additional yearly income of approximately $5,000 for the member that hold the credential.

Conversely, many other organizations offer credentials but invest no money in the promotion of the credentials to the marketplace thereby rendering the credential of value only to the person that holds said credential. Value is the key. Just developing credentialing and certification programs without investing in the market promotion rarely offers actual real-dollar value to members. This old formula no longer works.

Membership for Business Improvement

Generally most persons that join their trade association or professional society do so with the hope of securing ideas and help in business and career improvement. Or put another way, “Show me the money!”

Members need and want to learn but unfortunately, in the name of “industry specific,” much of the education that is offered to members during recessionary times is more incestuous than innovative. The reason for this is that organizations can get “free” programming form suppliers and consultants. And, the organizations actually, truly, and erroneously believe that the industry consultants and suppliers will not “sell” during their education sessions.

Doing what you have always done and expecting different results is the age old definition for insanity. Looking within an industry in difficult economic times is just that—insanity. The innovation and new answers will come from outside. This is where organizations must look to offer true value to their members rather than be tightfisted with their financial resources.

Membership for Affiliation

As mentioned earlier, credential availability is an important reason for association or society membership.  Another “soft” reason is simply the desire to participate and assist one’s industry or profession. This was a primary motivator for the Baby Boomers and those that came before. However, today’s emerging leaders are focusing more on some sort of a return on their time and money investment. No longer is affiliation in itself enough of a reason.

Political Advocacy

Traditionally one of the important reasons for membership that encompasses both business improvement and affiliation has been to demonstrate strong political voice. Associations and societies are effectively the most important collective that business and professional persons can and should join. These groups, when demonstrating great numbers can truly affect legislation at the federal, state, and local levels.

The current problem is that so much of the advocacy work done by membership organizations delivers value to an industry or profession regardless of membership. Many have discovered that they get the same value as members without holding membership. This phenomenon greatly diminishes the return on investment of membership. The double edged sword that many organizations are currently facing is that they need more members to do more advocacy but larger numbers of industry players are sitting on the side-lines enjoying the value without investment or participation.

Are there answers? Sure there are. One answer that many organizations have employed is through their credentialing and certification programs, where those that hold the credentials or certifications enjoy increased business while those that do not, do not! In this area, a restructuring might be in order.

Members through Members Verses Incentive

This is an age old dilemma, one that is currently getting plenty of play in board meetings across the landscape. The easy approach is to offer incentives or commissions to members and paid staff to recruit new members. Regrettably, more frequently than not, is the fact that this method simply delivers a turnstile of members as opposed to long-term member retention. Anybody in sales that has been successful over the long-term will attest to the fact that it is less expensive to keep customers than to find new ones. So goes membership organizations.

The best approach for long-term member retention is the grassroots approach where members invite colleagues. This method gets a better class of member and had the built in member retention system; one-on-one mentoring. To successfully adopt any grassroots member recruitment campaign, the current membership has to be armed with the proper tools. The most important tool with which an organization can arm their membership is the yearly sustainable, or reoccurring, real-dollar value of membership return on investment (ROI) number. This is where most organizations fail miserably.

Member Benefits Verses Features of Membership

Through extensively researching the web sites of membership organizations I have discovered that few understand member benefits. Benefits are the things that make the members’ lives better. The features of membership are the items available to members to utilize or ignore. As example, access to an affinity program is a feature of membership. The member benefit that the affinity program is that it delivers more business, more money, cost savings, etc. to the member.

So many organizations that I have worked with offer affinity programs similar to those that are offered from outside the organization. If the price benefit ratio is not substantially greater with membership, for this membership feature, there is no value. This is the case in so many situations because the organization is enjoying a revenue commission from the affinity program provider which frequently eliminates the financial benefit to members. When an organization espouses that members should support their organization by participating in a particular “additional value-less” affinity program, that is old paradigm thinking and one of the important reasons for lack of member renewals.

Organizations must find products, services, and programs that deliver real-dollar value to members—far beyond what non-member industry participants may enjoy.

Hidden Gold

Membership organizations’ boards of directors and paid staff should regularly mine for gold. Most organizations have assets that are of value to industry players; access being an important asset.  As an example, if an organization offers member access to non-members, the differential between member and non-member price is the honest member value that can be computed into member ROI. Most likely that differential will be a small number. However, if that same access was available only to members, or the differential was greatly increased, the perceived value of membership would also increase. Take this idea throughout all the silos or departments or your organization and I guarantee that you will find gold; more possible member value.

Getting Them to Join

The documented reason for over 70% of members that do not renew their membership is due to their lack of perceived membership value. The number one reason industry stakeholders do not join your organization, is not because of the answer most offered; lack of time, but rather because of their perceived lack of value in membership.

The way to get industry players to join and retain membership in difficult economic times is to offer unarguable and easily demonstrated high membership ROI. It truly is easier than you think.