The first is the Circle-The-Horses path. The organization pulls in and conserves resources, much like a hibernating bear. All extras are cut from the budget, every penny is counted, and staff members underspend to realize end-of-year surpluses. Even though members continue to receive value through the core benefits, they feel the change. In little ways, ways they probably cannot articulate, the experience is less lovely. From publication graphics to interactions with association staff, something feels off.
The second path is the Fire-Sale path. Instead of pulling in, the organization tries to boost revenues by discounting dues and non-dues revenue streams. We see deep discounts on conferences, meetings, research, guide books, membership, and more.
Neither of these two paths is sustainable. When organizations Circle-the-Horses, they degrade the experience. When organizations host a Fire-Sale, they degrade the value. Both strategies harm member engagement because experience and value are essential ingredients of engagement.
It is better to pick the third path. The third path focuses on spending more time with members to understand their goals, worries, and challenges. Then staff teams reverse engineer the insights they learned from members to develop product ideas. The best product ideas get tested using few resources. The tests that receive the most member interest get launched. This path is very similar to the way taken by most startup organizations.
If retention dips, or when revenues fall, or even when attendance is low, try the Start-Up path.
- We know we have to change; now we have to do it
- We need to get better at decoupling our emotions from outcomes
- Are you disillusioned about change at your association?