Are your membership numbers decreasing? Not sure what to do? There are several factors that could influence the decline of membership.
Associations were introduced as far back at the 1800s where individuals would come together to discuss mutual concerns. The earliest association on record was the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York, in 1768, formed by a group of merchants: which still exists today. In Canada the Halifax Board of Trade was founded in 1750, 17 years before the formal Chamber of Commerce in New York.
Associations have been around forever, they have changed and evolved but their initial intention has never wavered; to help groups of people leverage similar issues and opportunities.
The average age of an association member is approximately 50+. So does the association model need to be updated?
If we consider this concept, it would serve us well to get back to the basics. The intention of associations was to help, protect, and leverage groups of similar interests. So if the goal is the same, maybe the approach needs to change? Are you using an approach that is 50+ years old, because it is ‘tried, tested and true?”
Factors to consider:
1. Value Proposition: is your “value of membership” clear to your multiple audiences? (Baby Boomers, Generation, X and Y). Do you have a value proposition for these different groups?
2. Communication Styles/Tools: are your communication plans all encompassing? Are your plans flexible to change as needed depending on trends?
3. Technology: are your systems current on how you operate and deliver membership value to your various audiences?
4. The Members Voice: do you ask, listen and implement member’s feedback?
5. Knowledge is Power: does everyone on your staff, volunteers and board, understand and fully support the association benefits?
These five questions will provide you will a different filter when you look at your association model and is a good place to start the conversation with your board and staff.
Contact us, we would be more than happy to help you with this conversation and process.
Advocacy, whose responsibility is it?
Many not for profit organizations struggle with this question. Whose responsibility is it to advocate on behalf of the profession?
Is the responsibility of the Executive Director/CEO or the staff that work for the organization? Is it the responsibility of the Board of Directors? Or is it the responsibility of the members?
If you were to ask each of these groups this question, you would get varying responses. So let’s take a look at what answers we may hear. Then let’s look at what the correct answer is, where the intention is to garner attention from the public, media and government, ultimately moving the profession forward.
CEO and Staff
If you were to ask the staff of a not for profit, their answer may sound something like this “well it is in our job description therefore it definitely resides with us, but, there needs to be an understanding that with a limited budget, it is hard to make an impact”. They are 100% correct. It is their job to create a plan (based on strategy set by the board) and work with a limited budget to raise the profile of the profession. When staff are dealing with small budgets, they need to get creative, and most of the time, ‘short on money campaigns’ yield very little awareness.
Board of Directors
If you were to ask the Board of Directors they may respond “it is the responsibility of the staff to bring forth a plan that makes good use of budget and resources”. They would also explain that it is the Board’s responsibility to push forth the advocacy plan to its members, and they themselves would and should participate in any advocacy efforts. Therefore it is a joint role, staff and board. "The perfect scenario would be to involve the membership. Getting members involved would be ideal, but it is difficult."
What would members say? It might sound something like this “we pay our membership dues for a reason, so it’s the Board of Directors and Staff responsibility." Any logical person would agree with this thinking. "Moving the profession forward, making it a priority is something that the “paid” people are supposed to do. "
Do any of these explanations sound familiar? Maybe these are some of the conversations that happen in your organization. Finger pointing becomes very common when there aren’t clear expectations, and roles and responsibilities.
So what is the right answer: Advocacy is everyone’s responsibility? The Board of Directors will set the strategic plan. The staff will create the operational plan to support the strategic objectives. In order for the strategic plan to be successful you need to involve your membership somehow. When people feel connected and involved they will realize the value of their membership. With advocacy this is simple. Create an advocacy plan that involves members. There are many economical options that could include members at the local level.
So whether you are a national, provincial or local city chapter, advocacy is everyone’s responsibility. If you are looking for ideas on how to make this happen, feel free to give me a call. I would love to discuss it further.
The MLT's at South Shore Regional Hospital were natural actors during our commercial photo shoot this past weekend. Great work with Format Films.