At the majority of associations, member engagement takes a back seat to fighting fires and meeting budget expectations. Over time, member dissatisfaction, poor retention, or weak membership growth can prompt boards to ask the tough questions.
In several instances executives are demonstrating the direct linkages between their efforts, member outcomes, and their association’s business model. They understand that corporate and individual members view their participation with associations through a very different lens than when they had relatively few go to sources for information and knowledge sharing.
Change The Conversation
People value and make contributions to the activities that help them achieve something they (or their company) value. Continually generating more activities is unsustainable; it also creates an unfocused “all you can eat buffet.”
Member Contract: Focus On Member Outcomes
Corey Rosenbusch, President & CEO, and his team at GCCA (the Global Cold Chain Alliance), www.gcca.org worked closely with their largest member to craft a 3 year member contract linking the member relationship to their strategic business outcomes. In doing so, they moved the conversation away from “here’s what you get for your money” to “here’s the power of engaging with others in your industry/profession to create new, innovative solutions”.
ROI TO R.O.M.E.
Only when board/staff engagement and member engagement are high do innovative solutions surface through a “we” collaboration. Moving to a “we” focused community is about inclusiveness and being open to the possibilities that might surface. Increasingly, associations, including the Global Cold Chain Alliance, recognize the significance of “we” collaboration and strategic member engagement (see 2/24/2014 posthttp://bit.ly/1g8g1J2).
Selling or Engagement? Engagement drives the association’s business model, while enhancing the association’s influence, prestige, and competitive positioning. Discussions like these can completely change the conversations away from: “what do I get for my dues?” Associations looking to grow revenues and membership and improve engaging instead of selling could better position their organizations for longer term success using this approach.
“Impact ” VS. “Satisfaction”
Quite often, associations are tracking member “satisfaction” with their offerings. “Satisfaction” surveys have the explicit connotation of “we want to know if you as a member appreciate all that we are doing for you”. Often disappointed with satisfaction survey results, associations add more and more services.
Alternatively, impact and outcome survey data allows you to set priorities and minimize the activities that no longer provide sufficient relative value. This is also an opportunity to find out how various segments of members and non members prefer to be engaged, and which other organizations are trying to meet their needs.
Member Impact Strategies
Evidence that the member impact survey and corresponding strategies are taking shape and impacting operating results and performance at different organizations. In addition, Corey Rosenbusch, President & CEO, GCCA, (the Global Cold Chain Alliance) says that his organization is shifting away from a “member satisfaction” focus to a “member impact” focus.
Selling or Engagement?
Is there any correlation between the frequency of impact surveys and 3 year business model trends? The Strategic Member Engagement survey shows that those who conduct member impact surveys annually were far more likely to report an upward 3 year trend in their operating results.
Associations are the ideal organizational model to leverage a culture of “we”. But this requires a shift from today’s association structures and processes that are primarily built to push out offerings. Today, staff are reinforced for their efficiency, not for working innovatively with members to create better solutions. Strategic Member Engagementrequires aligning infrastructure at organizations including its culture, and resources.
“Up At Night” Issues
Members expect “line of sight” connections between what you are providing and their most critical “up at night” issues. This means that all employees must view themselves as collaborative partners, who, together with members, continually seek insights and new solutions that enhance the community’s success.
Members can sense when staff are in the boat rowing with them, versus standing on the shoreline; handing them an oar and conveying best wishes. Working together as innovators, staff and connected members provide resource fluidity and responsiveness to address rapidly changing member business priorities.
Associations and “We Focus”
Thom Dammrich, President & CEO of Chicago, Illinois based NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Association), fosters a collaborative and we focused culture which helps the organization in terms of aligning its infrastructure. Moreover, the Association though its performance management system keeps performance focused on strategic outcomes which support member advocacy and market expansion.
The successful association of the future will view its role as the stimulator, integrator, aggregator, curator, and enabler/facilitator; engaging members in ways that share and capture knowledge. Association communities will create innovative solutions to address their challenges and opportunities.
For many associations this requires that staff enhance their skill set, competencies, and cultural mind-set. Performance development, recognition, and rewards will focus on achieving member outcomes, not pushing outputs out the door on time. Staff need to know that members value their efforts.
Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” for Association Executives available upon request at www.potomaccore.com
Game Changing Accelerator.How do you build a connected community that positions both your organization and your constituencies for long term success? Having a strategic board to help Associations connect and maintain the member outcome focus can be a game changing accelerator.
Thom Dammrich, President & CEO of Chicago, Illinois based NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Association), utilizes his board to position the Association as a strategic partner driving industry results in the advocacy and business expansion arena. Industry Leaders and NMMA continue to collaborate to drive both industry and member success.
Like other successful Associations, NMMA also engaged a highly strategic board to effectively position itself as a “we focused solution community.” However, having the right skills sets and focus on your Association Board is essential, notes NMMA CEO Dammrich.
Strategic Boards with busy CEO’s insist upon the right focus and at times insist upon course corrections.
Focused On Industry Success
Strategic Board guidance and the organization’s focus on member success is proving to be a game changing accelerator of member engagement at NMMA.
Game Changing Accelerator
Very highly engaged boards who are strategic in focus and have a very high degree of understanding and strategizing about average member needs reflect two of six key capabilities that help drive Association Business Models. These Organizations report upward trending 3 year operating results, are far more likely to better understand member up-at-night issues, and engage members in acting upon those needs.
Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” for Association Executives available upon request atwww.potomaccore.com
Competitive Positioning and Engagement. As domestic and international for profit competitors attempt to eat into services and product offerings once only delivered by Associations, Competitive Positioning (http://bit.ly/1g8g1J2)is a must. However, a key first step forward is knowing and understanding member “up at night” issues.
Up at Night Issues
Whether obtained in surveys, focus groups, interviews, roundtables, online community dialogue, social media tracking or other mechanisms, it’s essential to understand how the association is currently impacting member objectives. This requires securing actionable data about member perceptions of their environmental and operational challenges. Associations must structure their organizations to fluidly address rapidly changing member needs.
Rapidly Changing Priorities
Actionable data and fluidity opens doors to help Associations shift gears and respond quickly. Working together, staff and connected members provide both fluidity and responsiveness to address rapidly changing member business priorities. These shifts increase relevance and help make the case for increased engagement.
For profit competitors are real and Associations should take their threat seriously. For example, ACCA, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America,www.acca.org, is increasing its capacity to quickly learn and adjust. Paul Stalknecht, President and CEO, and his senior team are leveraging what they’ve learned about member “up at night” issues to adapt and magnify the Association’s impact with more online educational programming. Competitive Positioning is Key Member Perspective Identifying “Up At Night” Issues Shift to Online Educational Programming.
Competitive Positioning And Engagement
Knowing Member “Up at Night” Issues Accelerates Association Growth & Positioning (http://bit.ly/ThjGjy). Having a firm grip on Member “Up at Night” Issues has game change potential for Associations. Aligning organizations with the things that their members really care about enhances their competitive position, accelerates engagement, and favorably impacts operating results.
Knowledge Sharing And Engagement. In a knowledge economy, it’s all about having just in time sources that help members drive their business and professional outcomes (http://bit.ly/1g8g1J2). With more information and knowledge sharing sources, corporate and individual members can vote with their feet and connect somewhere else.
With today’s new norm, how do Association’s differentiate their organization from all of the alternatives? Moreover, how do organizations:
Have the information tonight for the member question they need to answer tomorrow morning?
Create a differentiating “experience” that makes members think of your organization first (before they Google or Bing for other sources)?
Build a connected community that positions organizations and their constituencies for long term success?
Members only care about “outcomes” that address their business and professional challenges and opportunities. Change the conversation from selling and testing satisfaction to engaging members in ways that facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration with other members and watch what happens.
ACCA, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America,www.acca.org, invested in and recently expanded its online sharing capabilities. President and CEO Paul Stalknecht sees an increase in engagement in their knowledge sharing portals.
Knowledge Sharing And Engagement
Evolving technology capabilities are rapidly, and cost-effectively enabling effective knowledge sharing among members. Increasingly, associations are recognizing, especially when facing in particular stiff competition, that member engagement strategies can be their true differentiator and game changer in the marketplace.
Members value and make contributions to activities helping them achieve something they care about. Treat each member as having a piece of the puzzle and the association’s job is to facilitate 24/7 knowledge sharing which will lead to innovative solutions and increased member engagement.
Strategic Association Boards? New CEO’s who want their association boards to have a more strategic posture are more likely to be successful if they’ve first demonstrate their business and operations expertise. Having balanced budgets, a focused staff team, and satisfied members help newly minted CEO’s earn the trust they need. Once this is accomplished, they can focus their board’s attention to important strategic issues like member engagement.
Time Of Dramatic Change
New CEO’s recognize that today’s corporate and individual members view their participation with associations through a very different lens. They also understand that associations have experienced wide swings between the good times as they try desperately to identify new sources of short term revenues and to be perceived as relevant. However, getting their arms around complex and dysfunctional operations is the first order of business.
Trust From the Board
Although boards had confidence when they hired their new CEO, they want their hiring decisions confirmed. This is best accomplished with balanced budgets and sound business operations says Christopher E. Laxton, CAE, Executive Director, AMDA, www.amda.com,The Society for Post Acute and Long Term Care Medicine:
Move Association Boards to Mission Focus
With a solid foundation, boards are more likely open to conversations about strategy and the mission. After having earned trust and confidence, CEO’s are ready to ask questions to redirect the board’s focus from tactical to strategic outcomes. As Board Members and Staff are busy putting out fires, CEO’s can now ask the “why?”, “why us?,” and “what’s the relative impact?”
Strategic Association Boards?
Without question, having a strategically focused board magnifies an Association’s positioning and impact. Highly engaged and strategically focused Boards have a very high correlation to the Association’s operating results (see 3/19/14 post) http://bit.ly/Uh09AY.
Engagement Drives Results. The degree to which leadership understand and strategize about member issues and engage members in creating new solutions has far greater correlation to the following 3-year operating results: Member Retention, Annual Operating Revenue, Registrations to the Primary Annual Meeting, Annual Revenue from Fee-for-Service Offerings, and Timely Membership Renewals. Research provided through the Strategic Member Engagement Survey indicates there is strong evidence that strategic member engagement can be an accelerator to Association growth and positioning strategies.
The fact remains that organizations who perform well frequently report very highly engaged and strategic boards who have strong understanding and strategizing about average member needs.
Strategic member engagement has huge implications for an Association’s business model and positioning. So much so that Christopher E. Laxton, CAE, Executive Director, AMDA, www.amda.com,The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, has consistently utilized strategic member engagement and a strategic board focus to accelerate his organization’s competitive position in two prior roles as CEO.
In his current and former roles as CEO, Laxton works to focus volunteer leaders on members success and create opportunities to facilitate strategic board discussions about member objectives.
Engagement Drives Results
At the majority of associations, member engagement takes a back seat to fighting fires and meeting budget expectations. However, with members navigating the rapids of economic, technological, and political turbulence, Laxton and other CEO’s are strategically engaging their boards. The focus must be big picture and on long term impact. The successes achieved as a result of strategically focused boards by Laxton and other Association CEO’s reflect a definitive trend leading to Strategic Member Engagement.
Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” for Association Executives upon requestat www.potomaccore.com.
Is Association Member Engagement About Selling Stuff?Imagine the discussion that took place when an association’s founders first convened. Did they say: “Let’s go hire some staff and ask them to sell us stuff.” Likely not at all. Why? Intuitively, founders understood that people seek out others who have a common interest, and become most engaged with those who express appreciation for their contributions. Ultimately, Association founders recognized they could achieve more powerful outcomes collectively than individually.
Defining Strategic Member Engagement
In the eBook (http://bit.ly/Q9SUI4 ), Strategic Member Engagement is defined as “Creating unparalleled and sustainable value by bringing people together in ways that they find meaningful and practical, because they perceive an ability to impact something they desire, individually and collectively.”
Christopher E. Laxton, CAE, Executive Director, AMDA, www.amda.com,The Society for Post Acute and Long Term Care Medicine applies principles of Strategic Member Engagement to keep his organization focused on the mission and future positioning. Leveraging a strategic board and focusing on the needs of the average member, Laxton encourages his Board to keep their eyes focused on the mission:
Is Association Member Engagement About Selling Stuff?
At the majority of associations, member engagement takes a back seat to fighting fires and meeting budget expectations. Few association executives describe it as a “differentiating strategy”, a “growth accelerator”, or “game changer”.
There are early indicators including AMDA, and NIRI (National Investor Relations Institute), www.niri.org (http://bit.ly/1jUQESa) of new ways to think about member engagement. Executives Like Laxton, and NIRI President and CEO Jeff Morgan are demonstrating the direct linkages between their efforts, member outcomes, and their association’s business model.
Moving away from selling and testing satisfaction with Association “outputs” to engaging members in knowledge sharing and collaboration is crucial. The process begins with a highly engaged and strategically focused Board.
Association CEO Moves the Needle
Understanding the complexities and realities facing Associations Christopher E. Laxton, CAE, Executive Director, AMDA, www.amda.com,The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, uses a strategic board approach.
Driving Toward Member Outcomes
Associations really get into trouble when internal discussions infer “we know what’s best for our members.” When members don’t feel that they can impact something that they care about, they form their own coalitions, forums, and online communities outside of the association. Knowing these pitfalls; Laxton and other CEO’s utilize a strategic board focus to ground their organizations in member outcomes:
Will Engagement Change the Association Conversation?
For Laxton, strategic member engagement is a potent resource that positions his Association for long term impact. Notably, the member outcome focus sets the stage for AMDA members to contribute and collaborate in developing new solutions to achieve their objectives.
Does Member Engagement drive the Association’s business model? Although just eighteen months in his tenure, Laxton reports 6 years of operating deficits were replaced with a 6 figure surplus.
The free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available for all Association Executives upon request at www.potomaccore.com.