An association’s board had been talking about how young professionals were the least engaged of all the member segments. Much to the dismay of the staff, the board surprised them by voting for free membership for each young professional’s first year of membership. I can imagine the conversations leading up to the vote. Can’t you? It probably all sounded so logical at the time. But the strategy they ended up with was mismatched to the problem they were trying to solve. In fact, offering a free first year of membership has unintentionally created more problems for the association and its newest members.
There are many strategies that sound like a good idea. These strategies might even be working well for other associations. But some of these strategies may not solve the problem that you are trying to solve.
Before investing time and effort into a new strategy, define your association’s problem. Make sure everyone is crystal clear on what the problem is and why it is happening. A good place to start is to determine where is the biggest point of friction is between the association and your members. Is it:
- Early engagement
- Overall engagement
- Long-time member engagement
Then find out why the point of friction exists. Here is a hypothetical example to illustrate how you might think about your association’s problem. Many potential members are not hearing about the association anymore. Long-time members are not spreading the word like they used to. Long-time members are reluctant to spread the word because they do not feel they are getting much value from the association. In this case, as usually happens, the problem seems like an awareness problem but dig in and you find that this fictional association really has a value problem.
So the next time someone says, “Hey, let’s try this strategy that is wildly popular at that association down the street!” make sure everyone knows what the problem really is, and then decide if that strategy is going to solve your association’s problem.