“Why isn’t my membership growing?” “Why isn’t my membership more active?” “Why are my events not getting the attendance I think they should?” In order to answer these questions, I think we need to start with a more foundational one: What problems are you trying to solve for your members?
- Information Resource
- Professional Education
It’s true that you are trying to solve all of these problems for your members. What’s also true is that your members may not be looking for you to solve all of these problems.
In the class I teach for IOM titled “Events: Strategy & Operations,” I educate leaders about value belonging to the beholder. This means that your organization may be doing great work in many areas, but not every company needs to be involved in every area. When organizational leaders try to deliver value to their members in areas which their members aren’t looking for or don’t see value, they aren’t helping anyone. Instead, they should be encouraging their members to lean in more deeply in the specific areas they value most.
Recently, in our Chamber, I participated in one of our networking groups that is doing remarkably well. They revolve, however, around a particular industry—real estate. For those who work in that industry, this is an exceptional group. I realized that my ideal client didn’t exist here so I had a conversation with our Chamber president about starting a group that focuses on professional services (finance, lawyers, coaches, insurance specialists). He encouraged me and acknowledged that this new group would serve me better and deliver more value on my membership.
In helping members to connect in the areas that serve them best, you have a better chance of them referring more members, and a much better chance of those members staying with you. Value is in the eye of the beholder.
Casting a wide net seems like a really good strategy, but let’s borrow an analogy from medicine. We don’t want to see a general practitioner when we have a heart condition; we want a cardiologist. In the same way, members want to be involved in the areas that they can be served best. When is the last time you have asked a potential, or better yet, a 20-year member what value they are getting from their membership? It’s easy for leaders to assume what they are doing is valuable, but the kind truth is that it is only valuable in the eye of the beholder.
So what do you do? Here are some action items I’d recommend:
- Survey Members to find out what is most valuable and what is least valuable.
- Ask if what is least valuable is worth continuing, and then take action.
- Connect members who are gaining the same type of value, and ask who else they know would benefit in the same way they are.
- Be clear when scheduling events or asking people to participate in an event how it will serve them.
- Diversify your board to ensure that you have visibility into all the different types of members you are trying to serve.