If you lead an association, you know its important that your members play a role in shaping your strategy and priorities....but being member-driven is just half of the battle. The other important and often overlooked piece has to do with communication.
It can be hard for organizations to make 'tooting their own horn' a priority, but the ability to communicate successfully to members about the results they are achieving on their behalf can spell the difference between good and outstanding in the association world.
Following are a few rules of thumb to consider when you're wrapping your head around how best to educate your members about all of the great things your association is accomplishing.
1. Show members that you are listening and that you actually care about what they have to say. Let them know that you've heard them and plan on taking action based on their needs:
Example: “The membership survey told us that you think we’re doing a great job providing relevant professional development programming but that we’re falling short in providing you with enough opportunities to network with your peers. We’re listening and are working on a plan to raise the bar in this critical area.”
2. Demonstrate how you are taking action. Tell members in specific terms how their input is going to be used to turn their vision of the association into a reality:
Example: "Based on your input, we’ve updated our education program to include opportunities that are more relevant to your needs. These will be launched this coming January and will include X, Y, Z."
3. Show members the measurable results you have achieved: Keep your members up-to-date with your progress related to the goals you have set. Celebrate your accomplishments when you reach your targets and be honest and accountable when you fall short.
Example: "It has now been six months since we asked you to speak your mind in our member satisfaction survey. Since that time we set several ambitious goals designed to address your key concerns. Here’s an update on what we’ve achieved so far.
Government Relations Goal: Get a seat on X regulatory board by 2012.
Media Relations Goal: Members and/or representatives of the organization to be called on for expert advice at the national media level 12 times per year.
Status: Ahead of schedule for 2015 with the association and its members appearing in national media 8 times in the first quarter.
Education Goal: Develop and fill six new workshops on the impact of the economy on our profession.
Status: First three workshops have been completed and were a great success. All were sold out. The remaining three sessions for this year are already 75% full."
4. Do your homework.
Make sure you understand what balance of communication works with your members. In other words, not only do you need to know what channels your members want used (email, social media, snail mail, MMS etc.), but how often they want to be touched by your association (once a month, weekly, daily). You also need to understand what type of messaging is most effective for the different segments of your membership.
5. Tell them, tell them often and tell them again.
Communication to your members about what is happening in your association cannot be something done once or twice yearly. Depending on what you learned from #4, communication needs to be sent on a regular basis using different channels and with variety in the messaging to make sure the message ‘sticks’ to your various member groups.