Association relevancy. Member engagement. Revenue. These are the words and terms that creep into our nightmares and keep us up at night. The pillars of an association: conferences, professional development, content and research are no longer just the domain of associations. For-profits, some with very big budgets, entrepreneurs and consultants, can pull off many of the same experiences that associations can. Worse yet, they may offer a better experience or a cheaper or free experience. Where does this leave the struggling association?
Technology is moving our cheese and the competition is eating it!
I predict that in the next decade the associations using the same model they have been using for the last decade or so will not make it! Just like technology pulled Smith Corona’s typewriter business right out from under them in the mid-1980’s, technology is doing that to us today.
We all know and fear this yet changing is very hard. The dilemma for most association staff is how do you change, innovate and meet members newest needs when we are so busy delivering member benefits (that members paid for), conferences and other products (that still provide revenue).
The associations who are closest to their members will win
“Our organization needs to be member-centric not membership-centric”, this is a quote pulled from Greenfield Services latest e-book. It is a summary of the most important insights from their 2014 Engaging Associations Summit; a summary that I read with interest because the focus was on the future of associations.
The concepts of member-centric verses membership-centric are very critical for us to think about. There are two opposing mindsets when it comes to membership. The first is ‘I serve the association by managing membership’ and the second is ‘I serve members by managing the association’.
I serve the association by managing membership. This model of membership is administratively focused. The emphasis is on doing the required job well. Fulfilling the position description roles and responsibilities. Every day is a frantic rat race where we pull out last year’s plan and execute it over and over again. Sure we make improvements maybe many improvements but we keep layering on more and more for the poor person in this job.
I serve members by managing the association. This model is quite the polar opposite of the former. With this mindset we step into our members’ shoes. We listen intently to their problems. We then go back to our association colleagues and solve those problems. We use every tool at our disposal: strategy, innovation and marketing. We create, we test, we edit, we tell the story members need to hear and we find out how helpful we have been. Then we do it again. Over and over we uncover and solve our members’ problems.
Perhaps taking the focus off of relevancy, engagement and revenue for a little while and putting all of that focus on members can actually help us solve our issues with relevancy, engagement and revenue.
Many associations fear they are becoming less relevant. Become more relevant by solving members’ problems. But how do you know where to start? Have focused conversations with members to uncover their opinions and problems and learn how you can become indispensable. Find more articles like this from Amanda Kaiser at Smooth The Path or follow her on Twitter at @SmoothThePath.