Working in the non-profit and association industry, there is always that one question that you get asked. The question that, in all reality, is the basis for why our organizations do what they do: What value does your association bring to its members?
We all think we have that perfect elevator pitch we can rattle off to prospective members or even just to answer a random inquiring mind. But does your answer truly represent the value that you bring to your members? This question is something that must be answered with 100% certainty if you want your organization to continue to be successful, especially in a time where members expect clear and concise return on their investment of time and money.
Here are Five Ways to Find Out What Value Your Association Truly Brings:
- Surveys: This is probably the most obvious and measurable way to get a true feeling of the value that your association brings. You’re able to send it out to your entire membership database, segment by multiple influencing factors like industry (if applicable), how many years they’ve been a member and even job title. You’ll be able to find some very interesting correlations between various segmentations. One thing to keep in mind about this tactic is that the way you write the questions for the survey typically have huge impacts on how people answer. You want your questions to be very non-influential.For example: Don’t have a question about what is the biggest value they see in being a member of your association and then give a multiple choice answer key. Leave that question as an open blank so they can answer in their own words. If you guide their answers, you’re likely to get the answer you think you already know.
- In-person “interview”: One of the most effective ways to get some very personal feedback is to do some informal, in-person interviews of various members. The key here is to choose a diverse selection of members. You want to choose members that have been with you for a long time, as well as new members and everything in between.Be sure you make it very clear to those you’re speaking with that you want to hear the good and the bad. The bad feedback you get from members may be the most valuable information you get during this project. Where can your association improve and fill holes in programs, conferences, etc.? Let your interviewees be very candid. Tell them to not hold back and to tell you like it is. You may not like what you hear immediately, but you’ll love the actions it will provide your leadership moving forward.
- Check your referrals: This is one of the more unique ways of checking the value that your association brings, but it can also be one of the most effective. Take some time to meet with people that have become members through a referral of another member, as well as those who were the referrers. When a current member refers a new member to your association, it is absolutely because you showed them some type of value. They felt that their time and money was well-spent with your association because of some type of perceived value.It could potentially be a goldmine for your association if you can get to the bottom of why they referred someone else. It’s also important to talk to the person who was referred, because that will give you an idea of the perceived value the referrer gave them, and if that perceived value was correct.
- Annual onboarding check-in: Every time you have a new member join your association, you should make a point to contact them directly one year after they join for two reasons. First, you’re obviously interested in member retainment. You want to keep those members who you worked so hard and spent so much time on converting.The second reason is because it’s a great way to make sure that the value they thought they would get from being a member is being fulfilled. There is really no better source for an honest assessment than a member that is new. If they feel like they’ve wasted their money by becoming a member, they’ll tell you by not renewing. They have no vested interest because they haven’t been a member long, so value is truly what becomes the deciding factor to renew or not (besides the cost of dues, of course).
- Talk to members who didn’t renew: This might sound a little odd, or even intimidating, but reaching out to members who didn’t renew can be an incredibly valuable way to figure out where your organization does, and does not, offer value. Again, they have no vested interest because they’re no longer members, so you should be able to see where your association fell short and where it excels at bringing value. Don’t ever miss an opportunity to find weaknesses in your association, because fixing those weaknesses may be the key to stopping membership loss.
How does your association find out what value you are bringing to your members?