Are the associations with the golden handcuff structure luckier than at-will associations? Some professionals have to become members to maintain their certification or license. Some professionals have to join to get the conference discount. Some professionals join their association because that is just what people like them do. For these associations, retention rates may be high, and these organizations may seem lucky. But, how does this translate to real engagement?
People who are required or coerced into joining might look more engaged on paper because they have to fulfill particular requirements. But, if we asked them, how would they rank their engagement? Some members would probably rank their engagement very high. Many others might say no, they are not personally engaged in the association at all.
Recently Mary Byers and I had an interesting conversation about duty versus desire. Duty and desire are Mary’s words, and a great moniker for the different ways associations handle engagement.
Consider the experience of the member who desires to join. They likely want to learn all about the organization. They may be super interested in connecting with other members. They may want to dive in and try the organization’s benefits. They will be on alert for ways to interact. They will pay close attention to the member culture and try to fit in. They might look for opportunities to give back. They may set aside time every day to connect in with the association. As time goes on, they may start to think of the organization first whenever they have a question.
Now consider the experience of the member whose duty it is to join. They might focus exclusively on ticking off the transactions that fulfill the requirement.
Duty engagement is tricky because the usual metrics can look great. Renewals, usage, attendance, and logons may all be very high. Nothing may look amiss. But members may be getting resentful. They might start to analyze the value their membership provides. The fees they spend each year may start to irritate them. Duty can be a dangerous strategy.
Associations with the duty model have a tremendous opportunity to develop strategies that create desire rather than more duty.
To hear Mary Byers and I discuss duty versus desire, the culture of hospitality, and the open window of opportunity for associations head on over to her podcast Successful Associations Today.