Among our engaged members we have Givers and we have Takers. In society we look down upon the Takers but in our associations Takers are just as necessary as Givers. In fact we can’t have one without the other. In nearly every case association member Givers were once Takers. When we know who is a Taker and who is a Giver we can serve them much better.
Members who are Takers
These members consume what the associations offers. They are very interested in the association’s professional development opportunities. They register, they pay attention, they ask questions, they translate what is taught into solutions for the problems facing them at the moment. These members are deeply grateful for the new knowledge, they latch on to mentors when someone suitable agrees, they feel they have a lot to learn and they are soaking it all in.
While professional development is a key value of the association, these members turn to the association for answers in other ways as well. They read the latest publications, they search the site for topics they have questions about, they may ask questions on listserves or in online communities. They actively read white papers, position papers and the latest research reports trying to learn as much about the profession, the industry, the environment and their own jobs as they can.
Members who are Takers tend to be new to the profession, or new to their career or new to the association. They are new and they know they have a lot to learn. But some Takers are not new, instead they are challenged. These members are trying to survive. Maybe there is a new regulation, maybe a big change with their own employer, maybe the industry is going through a revolution or maybe a technology is changing things so profoundly no one knows which way to go. These Takers are holding on with their finger nails hoping to catch a life ring of a good idea as it sails by.
Whether new or consumed by their own problems, Takers are not ready to be Givers. Whether their perception is wrong or not, Takers do not think they know enough to contribute. Or they just cannot spare the time and attention. Targeting Takers with Giver messaging isn’t meaningful to the Takers. Instead what they need is help finding the answers to the unique problems they are having right now.
Members who are Givers
These members, in partnership with the association staff, help provide what the association offers. These members give in a number of ways. They may be speakers or authors. They may be called upon to sit on panels, or mentor or answer the questions on listserves or in online communities. They volunteer their time and insight by talking to staff, working in committees and sitting on the board. They ensure their staff is involved with the association and help other young professionals discover the association’s value.
These members are at a place in their career and they have the organizational stability that allows them the time and attention to teach, lead and think about bigger issues. Not just about the issues that impact their organization but issues that impact the whole profession or industry. They may want to influence policy. They may want to help develop industry best practices. They may want to be part of a think tank that gets ahead of issues of critical importance. Or maybe they want to teach and help others.
For many Givers the messaging that appeals to Takers is ho-hum. They’ve been there, done that. They may see the content as old or stale. They are ready to move on to the bigger problems, meatier problems, issues with more substance. These members are ready to advocate for the good of the profession in a way that Takers just cannot.
Some Givers are engaged in the organization contributing in the way that is most meaningful to them. We also have a group of potential Givers. Members who are ready to give but do not know about the opportunities or find the association’s process of standing up and volunteering as too laborious or out of reach because they are not in the in-crowd. We can serve Givers and potential Givers best by making contributing easy while matching their passion with the opportunity.
The more we can meet members by need or behavior, the better we can serve them. Understanding the Giver and Taker profile gives us one more way to meet them where they are. When we understand where members are we can develop strategies, marketing and innovations that serve members better as they progress through their careers.
Segmenting member populations is one key way to offer exceptional member value. We tend to segment on very rudimentary measures, demographics like size or title or location. Better to go layers deeper and consider member groups by behavior, or opinion or challenge. Find more articles like this by Amanda Kaiser on her blog for association professionals or follow her on Twitter @SmoothThePath. Amanda is a member researcher who helps associations define member segments so we can develop meaningful strategies, marketing plans and innovations.