September 13, 2016
Every association deals with various complex issues and challenges. It’s safe to say that the association world isn’t always filled with sunshine and daisies - and that’s OK. Decisions need to be made every day, and sometimes they are difficult ones. Since your organization handles memberships, the decisions you make directly affect others - no pressure, right? Associations that offer memberships often have to make adjustments that can rock the boat, but they are often necessary. Does your association know how to properly deal with these membership difficulties?
New trends and fads are hitting many associations’ membership models. It’s no longer standard to have a traditional one-size-fits all model that leaves members with no alternatives. Many associations have found that members want choices and flexibility when it comes to their commitment level. So where does that leave your association?
That means that your staff will have to implement a new membership structure, and that’s a hefty job. For starters, your members are accustomed to a certain membership style. It’s not easy to go against the grain and change your methodology without any pushback. It will be your job to keep your members at ease and assure them that their membership experience will not falter.
The final question remains: Does your association know what new membership model to implement? It’s important to understand which membership structure will best benefit your entire organization. How do you know what will work and what won’t? What do members want? This transition causes for many questions, and it’s your job to figure them out. Luckily for you, that’s where data comes into play. If your AMS has robust reporting capabilities, you will be able to understand your members needs. You will be able to pull reports and analyze your findings - allowing you to lay the foundation for your new membership model.
Another strategy to gain insight into what your members want - just ask them! By polling your members, you will receive direct feedback on what initiatives work, and what don’t. You will be able to understand what benefits members value and implement that information in your new membership arrangement.
As stated above, the right AMS will make it easy for you and your staff to retrieve and extract useful data. However, just because you can pull data, doesn't mean you necessarily should. If your association is looking to advance, it will need to become a data-driven organization. By analyzing quantitative data, you will be able to make strategic decisions to better your organization as a whole. To make your memberships the best they can be, you need to genuinely understand your member. But are you measuring the right metrics? In order to understand your membership structure and memberships in general - you need to analyze the appropriate data. By pulling general member information (demographic information, overarching characteristics, etc) you can gain insight into your member type. Another important element is to understand what makes members tick - what initiatives keep them engaged. Take a look at your event registrations, see what sessions had the most attendees and review the topic being discussed. By surveying these data points, you can structure your memberships accordingly.
This one can be tricky, but hear me out. If your association offers 20+ benefits and only a few are truly being valued, why even bother? At this point, you are just adding more work for your staff and exhausting valuable resources. To alleviate this issue, associations need to match their benefits to their target demographic’s needs and wants. By conducting a market analysis, you will be able to align your benefits to your members. Depending on your industry, membership structure and target market - you will need to match all components. In the long run, it’s probably better to cut the benefits that are collecting dust and keep the ones that members truly value. These are the benefits that entice members to join - the ones that they can’t anywhere else. Again, it’s crucial to analyze appropriate data to give you these insights. Conducting polls and surveys is another intuitive way to listen to your members.
Nobody said the association world is easy. There are difficult decisions that need to be made on a daily basis - tough stuff! When dealing with memberships, you are directly affecting the experience of your members. It’s important to understand what to do when things get tricky. Every association deals with difficult membership processes, but with the right mindset and understand of your members - you can overcome anything.
To learn more about transitions in the association space, check out our blog, "Embrace the Association Change".