Member satisfaction can be a fragile thing. Imagine that a few stakeholders fail to see the value in going to the big meeting and decide not to attend. Other members notice their absence and think maybe the meeting isn't the big deal it once was. Then, when renewal time rolls around, a few more members start to waffle. In time, the overall effect on membership can be substantial—and worse, it can be years before an association staff notices a serious problem.
According to Randy Park, founder of the firm Decision Advancement, small changes in member satisfaction can have broad effects on an association's overall health. When member satisfaction declines even by 5 percent, he wrote in a recent white paper, membership numbers can rapidly decline.
To keep that vicious cycle from accelerating—or to prevent it in the first place—Park proposes that associations perform a thorough audit of the value of their benefits. A worksheet he created asks associations to identify their main benefits and rank their value on a scale of 1 to 5 in six categories:
Audience. Does this benefit appeal to a narrow or wide range of members?
Monetary value. For members who want this benefit, is this a low-value or high-value financial benefit?
Nonmonetary value. For members who want this benefit, is this a low-value or high-value benefit?
Longevity. How long has your association been providing this benefit?
Expectations. Regardless of the audience size or value to members, have they come to expect this?
Delivery quality. Is this benefit provided in a responsive, well-run manner?
From there, participants give each benefit an overall ranking of its potential to increase member satisfaction. There's no magic number to reach, but Park believes the exercise helps associations ask the right questions, and that it is an improvement over efforts to boost membership without providing much value.
"An association could be increasing its visibility and member numbers, while member satisfaction is going down," says Park. "You can create a false sense of success."