By Velma Knowles
This post is the first in a series related to the strategic goal of growth for member-based organizations. Your association, trade organization, cooperative or credit union has invited you, and a host of other membership leaders, subject matter experts, and key partners to participate in strategic planning meetings to set your company’s direction for the next three to five years.
The plan that the board ultimately agrees to fund will likely include goals for growth, technology and service improvement. Every goal will have at its core the delivery of superior Member Experience. Members are the reason associations exist. The association business model appears in virtually every profession and across a myriad of industries. But how do member-centric organizations thrive and endure? How do they continue serving the members who joined them for the value membership offers?
The simple answer is they grow their scale. They actively seek new members to forge new alliances and partnerships. Member-centric organizations increase the scope and quality of their services, and deliver ever-increasing value to members. They negotiate favored-nation pricing with providers and pass along those savings to members. And finally member-centric organizations invest in the well being of the association for the future.
But growth is a broad term. Growth means attracting more members or subscribers, keeping current members happy and loyal, making members aware of the access they have to an increasing menu of services and continually focusing on removing friction points from their relationships and member touch points.
In most associations and member-centric organizations, many of the strategies needed to achieve growth and higher revenue typically falls on the shoulders of the Membership Leader. I can tell you from my experience it is a far bigger effort than one person can reasonably accomplish. Rather, it takes a collaborative team. For over two decades, I worked inside member organizations wearing many hats related to membership growth, just like you. I believe some of the valuable lessons I learned can help in your day-to-day activities to implement, manage, expand, and grow your organization’s growth strategy.
Consider three lessons to help you lead the membership growth strategy for your organization:
Lesson 1: It’s a team effort.
Membership is not a department. The entire organization is responsible for membership growth, but too many times the responsibility for growing membership falls on the shoulders of just a handful of good men and women.
In my association, we had our greatest success when everyone came together to push the team forward. If you are the only one carrying the weight of growing membership at your club, chapter, association or cooperative, then consider how you might be able to form a cross-functional team. One of my smaller clubs used this very strategy and leveraged the collective thinking of each team member to identify opportunities, set priorities, execute, and win together.
Lesson 2: Plan your work and work your plan:
It is a cliché, but like most, it is a truism because a goal without a plan is just a dream. We have all heard that song before. In the world of the Membership Leader, it is even more essential. Planning carefully what needs to be done, and implementing the plan ensures that everyone has a clear sense of direction. Because so many things must move all at the same time, and in sync. A membership growth plan provides the organization with its “true north” and helps keep the focus where it’s needed. The plan sets the priorities, and ensures that what needs to be done is on the radar. Additionally, the plan helps to allocate the resources and identifies any gaps in scope.
At one of my club locations, we would do an excellent job every year creating our Membership Plan. There was a really nice-looking PowerPoint – but the big gap was: it really had no real power and, in most cases, it was missing a point. We were so focused on achievements compared to budget that we sometimes laid our plan aside. We would spend most of our time trying to save money, put out fires, and put added stress on the team. It was not until we realized that plans are really designed to provide direction that our thought process changed. While every plan plays a critical role in the organization’s overall success; the plan must also be flexible to react to changes in the environment. But plan we must because in the absence of a plan, everyday activities become just that, activities.
As the Membership Leader, you know that Membership is all about results and the best way to get results is plan for them and envision the reality of their success.
Lesson 3: Count is king.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure. We must know where we stand relative to the numbers. Knowing what is working and what needs to change is vital in the life of the Membership Leader. There is great benefit to having a Membership Dashboard with key performance indicators [or KPIs] that tell the story of how the organization is doing compared to its growth goals. Keep in mind though, to be careful not to get too caught up in the analysis.
One of the key takeaways for me was centered on having a good understanding of how the numbers were calculated. Now, I am by no means a mathematical person. In fact, I always say, “I can’t add my way out of a paper bag.” What I do have, is a great analytical mind. Numbers speak to me, and I love to dig into the data and find the hidden stories. The data analytics reveal the insights we need to help us most effectively serve our members. “Listen” to the stories your data is telling you. See how you can apply your new understanding to test and refine your results.
Join me and tip your hat to all Membership Leaders. These are the champions that help us all serve our members first. These are the individuals that in the end keep the wheels of membership turning.
Next Up: Watch Out for Members, They Are Everywhere: How to Get and Keep Their Attention
Velma spent her career-growing members, engaging boards and building high-performance teams for multi-million member-based organizations such as AAA – American Automobile Association and BNT – Bahamas National Trust, both nationally and internationally.
Now, she works with organizational leaders and their teams inside their associations and member organizations. She joins in with them and guides them in translating strategies into actions. Velma brings proven techniques and systems that any member organization can use, regardless of their membership size and budget.
Follow Velma on Twitter @LeadersPathway