“The practicalities of making membership engagement work”

Alice Dartnell, Head of Membership Engagement at the Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA), discusses the practicalities of membership engagement and how to do it effectively and productively.

You have written an engagement strategy. It is an amazing strategy that is going to take your organisation into the bright new shiny world of fully engaging with your members. You are about to enter a new, bold world where your membership value proposition is spot on, and you have surveyed your members extensively to find out what they need and want. However, before you charge ahead implementing your strategy, there are a few basic ground rules you should be mindful of. Here are four practicalities of making membership engagement work that you need to know.

  • Don’t work in silos

I am a strong advocate that the championing of membership engagement shouldn’t be left to just the Membership Department and that true engagement with members will only work when all staff and teams contribute to it. This means that whilst it might be the responsibility of the Membership Team to instigate, coordinate or lead, it needs to be a collective effort of the whole organisation to truly engage with your membership!

All staff should have a firm understanding of the membership journey, membership personas, membership benefits and the basic principles of good customer service. It is also vital that you work collaboratively across projects. For example, perhaps you are looking at how to expand your benefits offering? Well don’t just leave that for the membership team to explore and decide on – make it a collective effort where all teams can chip in ideas.

  • Sharing is caring

Leading on from breaking down the silos, it is important to share your knowledge within the organisation, whether this is what works, what doesn’t or member feedback. Don’t keep that within your membership team only. Develop mechanisms in-house to share feedback, even if it is just formal. For example, if you have recently conducted a survey to assess member satisfaction, share the outcomes to all staff. And I don’t just mean to senior management but to everyone, because as I said, we ALL have a part to play in improving membership engagement. Look to see what you can learn from one another for the benefit of your members.

  • Be adaptable

As Charles Darwin said, “it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”. If you want to stay relevant you need to keep up, especially at the pace of how things are moving forward these days. This means keeping up with how you communicate with members, how you harness technology to make their lives’ easier, what benefits you offer, etc.

Even if you have a niche sector that you are serving, your membership is probably still one that is diverse and requires you to be relevant and current. If you don’t have the room for flexibility (and no matter how well we plan our strategy, things change) then you are not going to engage with your members and you’ll lose that connection. Be adaptable to change and to the needs of your members.

  • Ask, ask and ask some more

I hope that you have already engaged with your members when creating your strategy and ops plans in order that it is a true reflection of what they need and require, now and in the future, rather than a second guess and assumption from staff. However, even doing this, you have to still touch base with your membership to assess their needs and satisfaction. You can’t ask the once and then think that’s it – this is not a tick-in-the-box exercise! For example, perhaps you can use the annual survey to assess the needs and satisfaction levels of your members. With the survey results however, perhaps you can drill down even further, utilising a small focus group or committee to further explore and interrogate the feedback to find ways to improve. Engagement is an ongoing activity.


Words by Alice Dartnell, Head of Membership Engagement at the Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA)

Connect with Alice on Twitter @alice_dartnell

Alice has been working within the membership sector for over six 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.

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