Recently I had the good fortune to help with strategic planning sessions for an extraordinary association. From the outside, this association is very much like many others; there are members, chapters, special interest groups, and conferences. The surprising bit is volunteer leaders run this association. The leadership structure is super interesting because the association is global, large with nearly 17,000 members, and vibrant because they are at the forefront of thinking about how their profession is going to change in the future.
There is no professional executive staff. Volunteers are doing all of this. When the association needed a new website a member lead the refresh. A member will be developing the association’s new member onboarding program. A team of members is putting together a new product plan. There is a tremendous amount of work, and time, and thought, and care that goes into pushing an association like this forward and right now, members do it all.
Why are the members of this association willing to do this? Why are they willing to devote so much time, energy, and even money to this cause? Because, for some members, this association’s mission is their cause.
One of the ways the Oxford dictionary defines the word ’cause’ is, “a principle, aim, or movement to which one is committed and which one is prepared to defend or advocate.”
Talking to members, I have found that there are many different ways in which members think of their association as a cause. So what are the different flavors of causes? Here are a few:
- My profession is important. I have been able to significantly contribute because of the nature of my job. It is vital this profession continues to grow, and through the association, we can expand and improve.
- My profession is relatively new, and because of our association, we can raise the level of the profession to grow demand with organizations for professionals in this field.
- I was the only person in my profession at my organization, and it was life-changing to find my people because of this association. This association fulfills the vital role as a connector for me and the many other professionals in a similar, somewhat lonely, situation.
For the members who think of the association as a cause, how should you change the association’s strategy, innovation plans, and marketing to meet their needs?