We talk a great deal in the association and chamber space about engagement. In fact, I suspect most organization management professionals have accepted the fact that in order to continue to deliver value to our members, we have to shift our focus toward creating what I call a “culture of engagement” within our organizations. But while we have pretty much come to a consensus on that point, many of us aren’t exactly sure what action steps we should take to get started. Below are four proven steps to help you commence.
Train your staff: Engagement starts with training those inside the organization to think and act differently. I encourage you and your staff to stop using sales words like “recruiting” and “retention.” Those are both things we do to a prospect or member, as opposed to becoming engaged, which is the action the prospect or member chooses to take based upon their own rationale for joining and staying. It may seem like semantics, but when we make a conscious effort to stop using those words and find other ways to talk about our membership, magical things start to happen.
Train your board: I believe that we get the board we build and we deserve the board we get. The days of begging folks to serve and talking them into it by assuring them they only have to attend 9 or 10 meetings a year are long over. We should be interviewing them and asking them what they bring to the table. Why should we choose to offer them the honor of serving on our board instead of one of the other remarkable candidates we’re considering? If we show them from day one that serving on our board is a privilege and not a right, they’ll be far more likely to treat it that way throughout their service.
Train your volunteers: I recommend setting aside 10 minutes out of every agenda to ensure that you are training, teaching, coaching, and educating your volunteers on one aspect or another of what you’re doing behind the scenes; the stuff you do that everyone thinks “just happens.” Talk to them about how important it is that the association has paid lobbyists working on their behalf and fighting for their rights at the State Capitol or in Washington. Explain to them your efforts in workforce and economic development; what you’re doing to close the skills gap, and what those efforts mean to them directly. The time you spend educating your volunteers (and your staff and your board, as well) will pay huge dividends when those renewal invoices go out.
Train your prospects: It’s time for a new story. We can’t simply rely on what we’ve always done when it comes time to market to our prospects. Start from that “culture of engagement” mindset when you begin discussing membership with them. Ask them about their needs, find out where their pain is, and they’ll tell you how they’ll use their membership in your organization. Focus on engagement instead of selling. Doing so leads to longer-term members. If you can get them to show you the proverbial thorn in their paw, all you have to do to get them engaged is remove that thorn. Best of all, they’ll value your relationship a great deal more when you offer them a solution that helps them immediately.
How has your association or chamber had success building a “culture of engagement?”