Tim Ebner is former senior editor of Associations Now in Washington, DC.
There are several data sources that tell associations a lot about their members. But do you share what you learn in a feedback loop?
Mark McCormack, Ph.D., says member feedback is one of the most “critical currencies” an association needs to stay competitive. As senior director of analytics and research at EDUCAUSE, a higher-education technology association, it’s his job to know what members are saying and doing 24/7, then to share that information back with them.
His three go-to sources for member feedback—surveys, behavioral analytics, and focus groups—result in a near-constant stream of data that he collects and analyzes. Later, McCormack publishes the research findings, giving members a clearer sense of how membership and the higher-education IT industry are changing.
“We’re injecting more opportunities throughout the year to collect member data and share it back,” McCormack says. “That includes collecting new types of member profile information, analyzing subsets of survey responses, and meeting with members.”
McCormack’s latest survey findings, published in July, focused on how EDUCAUSE membership is growing and evolving. “Historically, our audiences were associated with the chief information officer or IT leaders on college campuses,” he says. “But now, we know that there are others like frontline IT staff, IT managers, librarians, or teaching and learning faculty.”
The research also shows that member needs often vary with the size or scope of an academic institution.
“And we’re leaning into a personalization focus that shapes operational things like content creation and delivery,” McCormack says.
To gain a deeper understanding of members, he suggests breaking apart an annual member survey into smaller chunks spread throughout the year. Or adding questions to online member profiles that can be answered in real time to update the member’s record.
“It’s also important to focus on actual member behaviors,” McCormack says. “Because while survey data can give us broad-stroke ideas about what members want, online behavioral and tracking data tells us what resources are actually being used, when, and where.”
Finally, he says, don’t lose sight of valuable face time with members. At EDUCAUSE’s annual conference, McCormack and his team reserve rooms for several focus groups.
“We know that we’re going to have thousands of our members and constituents there in one place,” he says. “Members are always happy to share feedback when they know that you’re sitting down and listening.”
[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled “Feedback Loop."]