A definition for “engagement” is really difficult to determine. Just like we say, “if you’ve seen one chamber, you’ve seen one chamber,” everyone has a different idea about what member engagement really is and really, if you’ve seen one member, you’ve seen one member! Not only is there a variance in ideas about engagement, but during different life cycles of an organization, engagement may look different for that organization. It has to be fluid and change as the organization changes, as values change and goals and objectives change. It cannot be narrowly defined as “involvement” because some members just don’t get involved. Engagement is more qualitative in that it is heavily rooted in emotional attachment to some value the organization is offering. If the emotional attachment isn’t there, then the reasons for engagement disappear. So, the bottom line is you have to be strategic in identifying ways to quantifiably measure engagement.
If we were going to take a quantitative approach to member engagement, what valid metrics could we use?
- Number of events attended.
- Number of volunteer hours served.
- Participation on committees.
- Number of years as a member.
- Dollars invested during the course of a year.
- Participation in surveys.
- Ratings of the organization following an event or action on a business issue.
Are these metrics adequate for all? Absolutely not. The majority of these only address members that are engaged as a sponsor, attendee, or volunteer. Remember participation does not equal engagement!
What about the member that is interested in advocacy? Is there a way to measure their engagement?
- Number of responses to advocacy calls to action; letters to legislators, phone calls to legislators.
- Visits to City/County council sessions when there is a business issue on the table.
- Attendance on State House or Washington trips.
With the strengthening of organization presence on social media, online engagement provides very clear tools for measurement:
- Commenting on organization social content; sharing it on their own social media sites.
- Visiting and using their “member only” organization website tools.
- Opening organization emails.
So many of the things an organization does for its members are what I call “tangible, intangibles”. It’s not like analyzing revenue or retention. Engagement is a mutual exchange of value. We have something members need and we need the member. The only way we can adequately measure our effectiveness is to do the work of analyzing member engagement individually. It sounds daunting; it is daunting. However, it is work that will yield long term results. I would suggest the following as you try to keep your members coming back and adapt to new needs as they arise.
- Use, use, use your database.
- Establish some sort of scoring system for engagement using your organization’s primary objectives and how aligned members are to those objectives. Call this a Member Engagement Ranking.
- You must ask them what they need in order for their business to succeed. If you do this, you will find out what is most relevant to them, identify a solution from your organization and get them engaged in a way that will build their loyalty to you.
- Continue to evaluate the success of your programs, events, benefits and advocacy. It must be fluid to meet changing cycles, economic shifts, demographic changes, etc.
We understand that measuring engagement is difficult. It’s individual and it requires both an analysis of the data you have and face time with your members. Everything moves so fast now. The instant you become irrelevant, that member moves on to something that will provide the solutions they need. If you are going to maintain relevance in this space, you are going to have to do this work.
Measuring the engagement of each and every individual of your organization may be the hardest thing you will ever do, but probably the best thing you could ever do for keeping your organization strong and sustainable.