One Mistake Not To Make When Engaging With Members (Advice From the Experts)

Alice headshot“If your membership organisation were a car, engagement would be the gasoline”.

I couldn’t agree more with Higher Logic (a cloud-based community platforms provider)  in their comment about engagement [1]. I might be biased as the Head of Membership Engagement, but engagement really is the life-blood of a membership organisation. Without your membership, your organisation wouldn’t exist, and if you don’t engage with your membership, then they might have the inclination to leave.

Alice Dartnell, Membership Engagement Manager at the Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA), shares her research into member engagement no-nos.

There is so much advice out there about how to engage with your membership, but instead I want to share with you one thing that you categorically should not do when it comes to engaging with your membership.  To help, I have enlisted the support from some industry specialists from membership organisations. They have shared their one piece of crucial advice.

James Cross, Communications and Engagement, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

 “Assuming that one approach fits all. Too often we use categories we have determined internally (Member, Associate etc.), when in reality our customers consider themselves as specialists in their particular field first – not a ‘membership category’. Their career is far more fluid and progressive than our categories, therefore we need to ensure we listen and learn so we can engage and provide continued tailored support at important career milestones (e.g. new leaders, approaching retirement) that may not fit into our traditional structures.”

Kerrie Fuller, Head of Membership Development, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts

“I would say the biggest mistake is assuming that all the members in one segment want and need the same thing. We are complex human beings that cannot easily be put in a box to make things easier for organisations.”

Roisin Sweeney, Member Engagement Manager,  The Royal College of Pathologists

“Relying on just the membership survey – surveys are useful tools for gathering reporting metrics, justifying new initiatives and helping make some members feel heard – but losing the personal touch is ever increasing. I have always found the most beneficial feedback, information sharing and idea gathering I have gotten has been from relationships built with the members I know, I see, I speak to, I individually email. Building that business-personal relationship with as many members as you can reach is invaluable to informing your projects and filling volunteering vacancies. Increase that travel budget, get a work mobile, improve your name memorising skills and get out to see them in their own working environment – understand their day to day so you can find ways to improve it.”

Ewelina Kolaczek, Membership Engagement and Marketing Assistant, Royal College of Anaesthetists

“Don’t assume. No matter how much you think you know your members or how many members’ personas you have created, never assume you know exactly what your members would like or need. Ask them directly, use social listening, do surveys regularly. My example for this one is very simple and yet was a tiny reality check for me. Speaking at the medical fair about promotional gadgets with the anaesthetists and medical students, I got a very clear indication of what they didn’t need, and what they’d find useful. “

Sebastian Emig, Director General, European Snacks Association 

“Taking members for granted. In today’s times when zero cost budgeting is echoing through the corridors of companies, if we cannot clearly and continuously present its added value for its members, we will become obsolete very quickly; this is one reason why I don’t talk anymore about members, but about clients. The key challenge for us is remaining relevant, and this is how I infuse this approach within my team: always ask yourself before you engage in an activity, is this relevant for my clients? Every time before you send an email, ask yourself, would I as the client find this email relevant?”

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

[1] 10 Elements of a Winning Member Engagement Strategy, 10 Elements of a Winning Member Engagement Strategy, by Higher Logic

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