Velma Knowles is a leadership expert and membership strategist who works with organizations to drive sustainable growth.
Asking members what they want isn’t enough if you’re not listening to what they say and are disconnected from who they are. Find out two ways to really connect with them to boost engagement and build a meaningful relationship.
You already know member engagement matters. Everyone touts it as the silver bullet to save associations. But time and again, it is frustrating to see members lapsing or leaving because of a lack of engagement. Here’s the thing: Member engagement has less to do with getting your members to do something; it’s more about creating a feeling of connection.
There are two critical steps for driving outstanding levels of engagement with your members and getting them to stay.
The critical first step to help drive member engagement is focusing on your members and what they need. To drive outstanding levels of engagement, shift your focus from what your organization wants to what your members need. The best way to make that shift is to listen and pay attention to what your members are saying.
Be fully present with your members because they will know if you are not listening to them. Act on what you learn about what your members are saying. Members will tell you what they want if you ask, listen, and respond. One way to start a member-first focus is to have board members, leaders, and staff, roleplay a day in the life of a member.
To drive outstanding levels of engagement, shift your focus from what your organization wants to what your members need.
Step into their shoes and experience what it feels like to engage with your association. This will help you gain a better understanding of your member value proposition. Your member-first culture is foundational for positioning yourself to better drive outstanding member engagement.
Tip: Member engagement is not an activity—it’s a connection.
The second step to engage your members is creating a “genuine rapport,” which is a sympathetic and empathetic connection with another person. Accomplishing this requires showing concern for your members by putting yourself in their shoes.
A good way to start? Identify something you have in common with them rather than inviting them to your next conference or asking them to sign up for your newsletter. For example, one way you can identify something in common with your members is to ask them. Relationships don’t happen without conversations. The moment your members reach out either in your online community, social media networks, or when they complete their online profile, they are looking for you to have a conservation. Reach out and send them a private message with a nice welcome. Start by sharing a few things about yourself such as, “I like Italian food, taking photos of wildlife, and exercising. How about you?”
This one small step will open the door for your members find common ground with you and to get comfortable with your organization. Moving forward, they will be more willing to share what they need and how your organization can provide the solution. Before you know it, you will move from a conversation to a relationship and your members will feel like they belong.
While encouraging your members to use their benefits is essential, building a relationship with them is just as important. Relationship-building will provide you with the insights you need to ensure that your benefits and offers are relevant to each specific member.
Tip: Personal connections build member engagement—not products.
Armed with a member-first focus and a genuine rapport, you are ready to open the door to drive massive engagement. Imagine having your members feel so connected to you they always want to be a part of your community. Then, think about them raising their hands to volunteer and serve your organization’s cause—not because you asked them to, but because you now have a strong connection with them.
Now picture your members renewing, again and again, because they can’t even imagine not being a part of your organization. If you engage them well, you will not only have members who feel like they belong, you will have members who believe.