Associations oscillate between two different trust states with members. Building trust and exchanging trust. We spend time building trust with our members, and then when we ask for something from members, we exchange that trust.
There are so many things that build members’ trust in an association. It starts when another member recommends the association and continues as each prospective member samples the association’s benefits by attending a chapter meeting or browsing the website or reading an article. Trust increases when the design of the site and the organization’s materials inspire confidence. Warm welcomes from colleagues like them increase trust too.
Once a new member joins, the trust continues to build as they interact and receive value. Soon they realize that the association is the trusted place to turn with questions about the profession, field, or industry.
Exchanging trust happens when we ask our members to do something. We exchange trust when we ask members to do something small, like to fill out their profile. And we exchange a lot of trust when we make big requests like asking someone to be the annual conference chair. Asking members to attend an event, get certified, buy a research report, or volunteer initiates a trust exchange. The ask is often successful if the association has built up a reserve of trust and unsuccessful if the reserve of trust is depleted.
This concept explains why asking for too much from new members doesn’t work. The association has not built the requisite amount of trust. You also see an imbalance in the trust equation with associations that are not doing well; they spend more time exchanging than building.
Every time we ask for something from members, consider whether the association has built up enough trust to support the ask. Tip the ratio of trust in favor of trust-building activities.