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Member Engagement With Purpose

Membership Engagement....Two words many have tried to define and measure effectively over the last few years. I've seen many definitions and attempts at technology measurement of it, and believe we are over complicating the key elements and purpose of measuring engagement.

If you add up all of the expense that some are investing in; in technology to measure it, people to monitor it, and the on-going maintenance, I wonder if the investment even makes sense? Is there a more cost effective means? ...especially if you are a small to medium sized association. I feel that we are too caught up in the process, and not focused enough on the purpose of member engagement.

I believe that the #1 reason for measuring member engagement should be to understand the level of engagement by members. This is done so that we can categorize them, allowing for specific messaging, rewarding active engagement, and encouraging those not actively engaged. With "lack of member engagement" year in and year out being the #1 reason that members don't renew their memberships, it is critical to figure this out. Maximizing membership engagement solves everything in an association. Here's how we do it:

Our association has made member engagement our #1 priority over the last 10 years, and it's why we have:

  • 97% retention (industry average 80%)

  • 81% of members engaged in at least 1 program (industry average 64%)

  • Over 1,300% growth in net reserves over that time

I share those numbers to illustrate the impact that it can have when you make member engagement a priority, define your touch points (value proposition), measure effectively (data collection), and then ACT on the data.

I'm here to tell you that with an effective AMS and an Excel spreadsheet, anyone can measure member engagement. It's all about connecting members to your value proposition. To define and measure engagement down to the member is "analysis by paralysis"...and very expensive. It doesn't mean that it isn't valuable and that you shouldn't do it, it's just expensive. Our engagement data strategy is simple and garners high rewards, as our key performance metrics mentioned above illustrate.

Following you will see how our association has measured member engagement over the last several years. I break our member touch points into 3 categories and 4 levels of engagement (see below). The process I go through every 4 to 6 months takes about 3 hours, and from my Excel spreadsheet I know exactly which category and level every member falls into. We track everything in our AMS that our members can participate in, volunteer for, and attend. I download that data once a quarter to analyze it in the following ways:

  1. Informational Members (members who access any products that we provide for free)

  2. Transactional Members (members who actually spend money to purchase anything; excluding meetings)

  3. Emotional Members (members who attend meetings or volunteer)

Here's a full example of our touch points:

Informational Members:

- Annual Wage & Benefit Study

- Semi-Annual Ops Cost Program

- Monthly Sales & Forecasting Program

- Nadcap Audit Database

Transactional Members:

- MTI Online Academy

- Ad Purchases in Quarterly Magazine

- Sentry Business Insurance Program

- APPI Energy Program

- Purchased Training/Publications

Emotional Members:

- Attend National Meetings

- Attend Regional Meetings

- Enrolled Executive in YES Management Training Program

- Board Member or Volunteer in any capacity

We give each member one point for each of the touch points participated in. We do not give any

higher weight to any category. Many like to give higher weighting to certain activities. We don't believe that a Board member who is involved in 2 programs should be considered more active than a member involved in 6 programs, but doesn't volunteer. I think it makes us think too highly of our Board members, when many of them are only active at the Board level, but aren't as active in the day-to-day programs of the association. We fall prey to believing that if you are "seen" in the association at meetings or volunteering, then you must be "highly engaged"...not true. I find that most Board members are fairly engaged, but there are also non-volunteers who are more engaged on a daily basis.

Once we have all the points assigned for each touch point, we then sort the members from highest point total to lowest point total. With 13 key major touch points of engagement, we draw the following lines:

  • 5+ programs - highly engaged

  • 2 to 4 programs - actively engaged

  • 1 program - engaged

  • 0 programs - not engaged

Having the spreadsheet allows us to look at the % of engagement in each program, what % of members fall into our 3 types of engagement mentioned above, and the level of engagement.

With emails downloaded on this spreadsheet, we can then send out specific messaging to each of the levels of engagement categories through our email marketing system. We typically send "Thank You's" to those who are highly engaged, and promos to those that are lesser engaged.

I don't believe in getting caught up in the time or expense of technology for engagement, because no one system will ever meet all association needs...or at least I haven't seen one. I try to never say never in technology, but I need something that can work for me now, and is simple to use and interpret. My way is FREE, and only takes about 3 hours each time you do it.

Managing this process once every 4 to 6 months for about 3 hours, allows me to know exactly what our membership engagement looks like, and we can take appropriate messaging and marketing steps to move members from not actively engaged to actively engaged.

The last comment I will make is that you will notice that we don't make online community networking a part of our engagement touch points. It's because, like the newsletter, it's a value and communication media available to everyone, but is not what drives the association or the member. When someone makes a post in an online community, they come and go...they forget about the post a week later. Our physical programs generate the highest level of value because they are focused on maximizing the member's productivity and profits so they can enjoy a thriving business for their families and employees.

Remember...I don't do this with any futuristic, high-tech program. It is a download from our AMS (Abila Netforum), an Excel file, and about 3 hours of my time. ANYONE can do it. Take the time to do it, and your member engagement strategy will take off.

If your association is looking to do a Membership Engagement Strategy Session, I professionally perform these all across the country. Feel free to contact me at if you would like more information.

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