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Practical Guides

Evolving your membership organisation in 2017

Our world is going through a period of rapid, unpredictable change, especially since the UK's decision to leave the EU – and your members need your guidance and support more than ever. Whilst this is a challenge, it is also an opportunity – both to enhance member value and to attract new members.

One of the best ways to navigate through change is to ask yourself the right questions. 

Below are our recommended questions to ask yourself and if you like what you read, please get in touch and we can discuss how Agile Rose can help you further.

1. How is your membership model changing?

Many membership organisations were formed decades ago, operating as a unique, informed resource for their members, offering traditional communications channels of magazines, events and networking opportunities, and typically a life-long member commitment.

As the dominance of digital continues to accelerate the ways members communicate with their membership body and fellow members continues to change radically, and the power has shifted outwards to individual members. So…

  • What changes do they perceive in your organisation’s role and value?
  • What assumptions about your model and membership perceptions are you making?
  • How have the perceptions of your members changed over the last 1-3-5 years, across key demographics such as age and membership level?
  • Have you validated these insights with your membership, to stay relevant and close the gaps?

It’s important to ‘play back’ the assumptions you’re making about your organisation’s role, and to seek further independent validation or clarification.

Ensure your feedback isn’t only from the same outspoken sources.

2. What value do your members place on membership?

Given the increasing availability of free resources and nimbler competing membership opportunities, what value do they place on your membership offer?

  • Has this changed recently?
  • What gaps do they see in your offer?
  • Are these gaps the same as those perceived from an internal perspective?
  • Who they see as your competitors? Why?
  • What percentage of your membership would refer your organisation?
  • Why would they refer – or not do refer?

It’s worth asking yourself ‘what if we were starting this organisation today, with a blank sheet of paper, what would the membership experience look like?’ And to explore ways to close the gap between the current and idealised ‘what if?’ state.

3. How are your members consuming information?

Social media has disenfranchised old membership models, and members can increasingly self-serve and access their own information, when they want, and create their own connections – for example creating their own LinkedIn or Facebook groups, for free. So…

  • Over and above the information you give them, what other channels and sources do they use?
  • What do they actually do with the information they consume?
  • Has the relevance of what you deliver – both in terms of content and channels - changed, in their view? Why?
  • Are there patterns that you can identify and leverage from their answers?
  • Are you part of the key “conversations” not hosted by yourselves?
  • The temptation is to ‘keep doing what we’ve always done’ but in our always on society, it’s important to stay on top of evolving changes in how your members consume information.
4. Who are your members’ real influencers?

Your organisation’s role as the authority in your sector will doubtless have changed in recent years, largely in part to social media. So…

  • Do you know who the real influencers and spokes people are, both inside and more importantly outside of your organisation?
  • How large is their audience, and who is in it?
  • Why are they popular?
  • What do the external influencers offer to your members that you do not?

As the old, centralised models of authority break down, you need to take a fresh look at the map of influencers your members operate in, and explore ways to harness external voices, for example through joint events, giving them opportunities to contribute to your newsletters, for example.

5. What do your databases tell you about your membership?

Data is typically under-invested in by membership organisations, making it hard to base decisions on facts rather than guess-work. So…

  • Do you have a clear, stratified view of your membership?
  • Do you know how many join, and how many leave, in any given year?
  • Do know why?
  • Do you have one unified database – or multiple ones?
  • How clean, up-to-date and relevant is your data?
  • Can key members of your team easily access and interrogate the database(s), without getting bogged down in vast spreadsheets?
  • It’s important to take an honest appraisal of your data and how it is leveraged. Typically, most of the answers to the big strategic questions lie in having a clear understanding of the information you already hold, but it well need cleaning up.
6. How well do your teams understand the organisation’s plan?

Membership organisations are quite political internally, especially where there is a policy division working alongside a commercial division. It’s vital that each team member understands the big picture of where the organisation is heading, and why. So…

  • Are there regular updates on progress given verbally to all staff?
  • If asked, can each one describe the key current initiatives?
  • Are their appraisals linked to the successful delivery of the same plan?

When President Kennedy visited NASA, he asked a janitor what he was doing. The man famously replied ‘helping to put a man on the moon’ and the same sharing of the organisation’s vision needs to apply to your organisation.

Agile Rose, 100-106 Leonard Street, London, EC2A 4XS
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