Jeanette Gass is an association executive focused on global partnerships and development.
While the need to diversify revenue sources has been top as mind as associations weather the pandemic and overcome financial losses, they must also focus on the personal connections that keep members engaged. A look at three ways to get started.
If we have learned anything over the past two years, it’s that the need for human connection (even if it’s virtual) is strong. This is good news for associations: People join them to find connections with like-minded peers and to grow professional and personal networks. They come to annual meetings to have those hallway conversations that we are having difficulty replicating online, and they volunteer for committees, task forces, working groups, and boards because someone asked them to or recommended them for the role. The conclusion is clear. Associations are personal. They always were and always will be.
While the need for nondues revenue and diversified revenue sources has been all the rage as association professionals continue to develop new ways of working and providing relevant services and information to members and nonmembers alike, the core of what we do every day is in service to the members. Without them, the association would cease to exist. Staff can keep operations going, but the members provide the experience and expertise to make the association relevant. Members direct the programs, sign up for the events, and are the network. In short, members drive membership.
While we need to consider the disruption of the traditional association business model and new revenue streams, we must also focus on the personal connections that keep members involved and coming back to the association. Here are some steps you can take to create personal connections:
Personalize your membership benefits page. Instead of just listing member benefits, showcase your members and their successes. People are more likely to join a group where they see themselves fitting in. Showcasing members through a member spotlight program like the International Association for the Study of Pain or creating profiles of members selected to be fellows like Optica is one way to let prospects and members learn more about the association on a personal level.
Personalize your automated emails. Most organizations have a general email address such as firstname.lastname@example.org or send automated emails from their databases. And many times, responses from these inboxes are signed “Name of Association Staff” or simply not signed at all. By adding your name to the email, members and prospects will know who is replying to their messages, which creates a personal connection.
While we need to consider the disruption of the traditional association business model and new revenue streams, we must also focus on the personal connections that keep members involved and coming back to the association.Personalize your website. In a world of algorithms, social media, and account creation for nearly every website, members and general visitors expect to see content they are most interested in. Associations can capitalize on this trend by implementing personalized web content, so that when a user signs in, they see articles or events that are most relevant to their needs.
Keep in mind that the need for connection and personalized content applies to both current and new members. And don’t dwell on ongoing discussions about how Gen-Zers don’t join associations: In fact, they do join and are most likely to when they have a personal connection to something and have an experience they value. In addition, many long-time members joined because of the personal connections they created and maintained through their membership.
In creating space for personal connections, associations create value for members of all career stages. Association professionals should seek to look past ideas of generational differences and think about what makes the association valuable to members—personal connections. As it turns out, we aren’t so different after all.