All Hands on Deck for a Smooth Membership-Model Relaunch

By: Joe Rominiecki

When the American Alliance of Museums unveiled its new, tiered membership structure in September 2012, a fully trained and engaged staff was ready to make the transition easy. (Titled "Final Countdown" in the print edition.)

Members of the American Association of Museums would be excused if, upon returning to work after Labor Day weekend, they suddenly didn't recognize their organization. It got quite the makeover.

On September 5, AAM announced a name change (it's now the American Alliance of Museums), a new brand and logo, a new website, a new membership structure, and a new association management system (AMS) underpinning it all. The overhaul was the culmination of three years of member surveys and strategic planning, but the most intensive work happened in the last few months, as AAM's 50-person staff prepared on multiple fronts for the relaunch.

"It's been a really fast pace," says Janet Vaughan, senior director of member services at AAM. The new AMS went live July 4, so staff were trained on the new system in June. They were updated on the new membership structure throughout development and received FAQs and talking points in the two weeks before the rollout.

"They mostly wanted to feel like they understood the details of it so that they were confident talking about it," Vaughan says. "Even if they don't have it committed to memory, they have ready access to the information."

Involvement throughout the planning process helped build staff enthusiasm for the change, as well.

"We had a lot of different task forces and teams and committees working over this last year so that virtually everybody was involved in some aspect of the rethink," Vaughan says.

A few weeks after the change, Vaughan reported an overall smooth transition.

"I think everybody is ready for a breather and a bit of vacation time," she says. "But because we did involve so many of the staff in various components of it, I think there is a sense of real ownership, that we are the alliance, that we created this together."

Institutional Membership: Benefits & Involvement

The American Alliance of Museums rolled out a new tiered membership structure in September. Virtually all AAM staff were involved in the development, and they received FAQs and talking points in the final weeks before the relaunch.

Tier 1: The Basics

Tier 2: Enhanced Access

Tier 3: Full Suite of Benefits

Joe Rominiecki is a senior editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC. Email: [email protected]

Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki is a contributing editor to Associations Now.