Blog | Walsworth

How to See Your Organization from Your Members' Eyes

Written by Alex Blackwell | August 6, 2014

Perhaps you’re having a tough time recruiting new members to your trade organization. Or maybe the association member retention rate has hit the skids for your society organization. You know your organization is extremely beneficial; otherwise you wouldn’t be helping to run it. But your members may not think it’s valuable to them.

What gives?

Two things may be going on with trade organizations, society organizations and other associations that are having difficulty with member engagement, recruitment or retention. And the key to solving them both is viewing your organization not as a bigwig leading the pack, but as member who is part of the group’s very core.

You need to see your organization from your members’ eyes. Three strategic tips can help.

Make the value obvious. Really obvious.

Even if you have a long list of benefits that come with the annual membership fee, you can add more weight to the list if you actually translate each benefit into a dollar amount.

Let’s say the annual fee is $100, and it comes with access to your networking platform and member-only resources, a subscription to your monthly association journal and weekly webinars. Break each item down into a solid dollar amount to show the annual fee is well worth the investment.

Let's say a year's subscription hits $60, with your journal going for $5 each month. Webinars are usually $3 each, and 52 of them come to $156. The membership fee is already more than covered, and you haven’t even added in the exclusive access to networking and resources yet.

Don’t rely on member input alone.

Asking members what they need from your organization might seem like an easy way to add value to your organization. But actually, it’s not. For starters, it’s the lazy way. Asking members what they need and leaving it at that is putting the entire burden on their shoulders.

Associations Now Senior Editor Joe Rominiecki points out members most certainly have their own jobs to do. Don’t make them do yours.

Another important point is noted by international consultant Glenn Tecker. He says when you ask people what they need, they’re likely to tell you what they want. The two are very different animals.

Do some digging.

Finding out what your members really need typically takes some digging. Tecker advises asking members to describe their world, at which point they’ll uncover important aspects in it. Once you figure out what’s important to them, you can be better prepared to figure out how your association can help meet member needs.

Let’s say a member tells you his world is stressed out because he promised to make his kid’s ballgame but missed it due to working late. You may nod in agreement, even offer up your own personal anecdote about missing your daughter’s ballet recital. But to figure out what members need, you’ll have to do much more than agree.

The member’s simple statement illustrated both family and career are important to him, as is trying to find that magical balance between the two. Perhaps you can offer up resources on your website, an article in your next association journal or a blog on the topic of life-work balance. Maybe you can somehow include kids or daycare services at your next association event.

Get creative. Get crafty. Get to the bottom of what members find valuable and then ensure they receive it from your organization.