“I decided to join because I was asked to attend a meeting. I really liked it and one of the current members asked me if I would join.”
“I would never have thought I was ready to present a session but then I was asked to, so I decided to do it.”
“A committee member asked me to take the lead on an event, I got involved and formed some great friendships. Because of this experience I decided to get more involved in the association.”
“The out-going chapter board president asked me to join the board.”
Sometimes, but rarely, I run into a member who feels put upon. They were asked too many times. They give their all and they are tired. Mostly I talk to members who want to get more involved they just don’t know how.
- Members want to volunteer but either don’t know what the opportunities are or they don’t know how to sign up.
- They want to speak but never get picked.
- Members want to be on the board but get passed over.
- They want more value from the association but they don’t know all the benefits available to them.
- Members want the association to be better but no one has ever asked them how.
Associations have many more opportunities to ask for help from members than we think we have. Perhaps our notion of serving our members is all wrong. Perhaps instead our job as association professionals is to sit on the same side of the table as members and together work toward a common goal. If we want to do this, work toward a common goal, we’re going to have to do a lot more asking.
Some thoughts before we start asking:
Know Our Members
Each association has its own unique member culture. Some associations have members who are willing to work for the good of the association while others will only work for the good of the profession or industry. Some members are willing to offer much of their time and talent. Some members can only spare a tiny bit of time and talent. Some members will only be interested in talking about the big picture while others enjoy getting tangible things done. When we get to know our members, we will get a good feel for what we can ask of them.
Understand What We are Asking For
Ask me to do something that provides value to something I care about and I’m happy to say yes. But ask me to do some thankless task that I don’t understand or see no value in and I will probably say no. We know why we are asking for something but do we know the value of that request from our member’s point of view?
Learn How to Ask
Members may not hear us ask unless we tell a story.
- The words we use.
- What we are asking.
- How we ask.
All of these tells a story. Stories create a connection. The connection creates the motivation to participate. It may take some time and practice for the organization to learn how to get good at asking. Amanda Palmer in her new book The Art of Asking, says:
Asking for help with shame says:
You have the power over me.
Asking with condescension says:
I have the power over you.
But asking for help with gratitude says:
We have the power to help each other.
Many associations have critically important missions. If we want to fulfill our missions, matter to members and make the world better, we need to be willing to ask for help, for information and for partnership.