As a membership organisation, you are there to serve and support your members. This might be through lobbying policy makers, ensuring industry standards are maintained through exams or setting guidelines and guidance. Some membership organisations might be a straightforward membership organisation there for professional development but some organisations might also have an extended remit to this too. For example, you might also be acting as a union, or perhaps as a professional body and charity, you might also need to consider who the profession you represent is for (perhaps it is for the public’s benefit and safety, for example).
Whatever service you are delivering, it is vital that you are engaging with your members. After all, it doesn’t matter how great the work you are doing is if no-one knows about it or uses it.
Alice Dartnell, Membership Engagement Manager at the Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA), joins us as our new guest blogger. Read on to find out what you should be asking yourself when assessing member engagement.
Managing Matters, a Canadian member and events management agency states, “a satisfied and active membership base is the core ingredient of any successful association.”
When considering how to improve engagement throughout your membership organisation, there are four key questions you should be asking yourself in order to optimise engagement. Just for the record, if you are asking yourself ‘how often should I be thinking about how to engage with my members’ then the answer is ‘always’.
Question 1: How does this add value or benefit the member?
Whatever you are producing or creating, always ask you how this will add value to the membership offering. Be honest when you answer this. Does this really benefit the members? Whether it is an event, a journal article, social media campaign or guidance, if it doesn’t add value or benefit, then don’t do it. You can’t just host an event for example, market it to your membership and think that is engagement done. It has to add value to your member.
Question 2: How can I repurpose this content?
With a vast membership, probably spanning generations and various career grades, it is important to take in the many personas of your membership and their preferred channel of communication. Therefore, ensure you use a variety of channels to communicate with your membership, from your organisational magazine to Twitter.
However, repurposing content is not just about using a multitude of communication channels.
Think about how you can use the same content in different ways to optimise the message to your different members. For example, take the content of your key events and re-work it into podcasts, a handy ‘top ten tips’, a magazine article or an interview with the speaker. Same content, reworked, but with wider engagement.
Question 3: How can we involve the members?
To enhance engagement with members you need to ensure that you are involving them. Engagement isn’t passive. Rather than just ‘doing to them’ or broadcasting information out via a one-way channel, consider how you want your members to interact and be involved.
For example, do you want them to help spread your social media campaign via retweeting? Or perhaps you want to hear their opinion on a topic? Your members should be able to actively and positively get involved whether they have ten minutes or ten hours a month – this can be from helping to share your information, to volunteering on a committee. Remember, the more involved your membership is, the more likely they are to be advocates!
Question 4: How can I make it easier/simpler?
As an organisation I know we want to make things easier, simpler and cheaper but how can you translate this to the membership? Remember, the organisation is there to support the member and that does include making things better for them, even down to the small things, such as how easy it is to book on to an event or navigate the website.
The more friction you put in the way, however small, the more likely you are to hamper their efforts to engage with you and increase the difficulty for them to complete tasks.
As David Halpern, Chief Executive of No.10’s Behavioural Insights Team says in his book, Inside the Nudge Unit: How Small Changes can Make a Big Difference, “humans have a deep-rooted tendency to take the line of least resistance”.
In one of Halpern’s experimental works, the HRMC found that they increased the number of people paying their taxes on time by a huge 22% when they removed just one single click to access the tax form. Just moving from two clicks to one click on a website had this huge impact. It is evident that however small a friction may seem (e.g. just one click), it can make all the difference in how easy or hard we make things for our members.
As a membership organisation that is a professional body and charity we also need to consider who the profession we represent is for, and our public benefit i.e. improving patient experience and outcomes
How can you make this work for you?
These questions are not intended to just be considered when creating a strategy or annual plan. These are designed to help you in your everyday work. Every time you write an article, update your website or review your processes, ask yourself these four questions. Apply it every day and apply it now!
If you have some of your own ‘must ask’ questions, please share them in the comments below!
Alice has been working within the membership sector for over 6 years and is always seeking ways to improve engagement and value. Alice is currently the Head of Membership Engagement at the Royal College of Anaesthetists where she is responsible for improving the strategic aim of broadening their inclusivity and engagement with members.
Connect with Alice on Twitter @alicedartnell