As we enter the fourth quarter of the year, many of our client organizations are either wrapping up their annual meetings, preparing to send out membership renewals , or beginning to plan for the next year. For most organizations, it has been an unusual year: we’re all striving for normal with “normal” still frustratingly out of reach.
I have had a post-it note stuck on my desk for years with some advice from a board meeting from an organization I was serving at the time. Our organization had had a very successful couple of years, followed by a couple of years that were a struggle. Our national director offered some great advice for reconnecting with our members and for finding our footing as we recalibrated our priorities for the future. The key points of this long ago pep talk have given me a framework for many elevator pitches and for spotting potential opportunities for communicating the value of belonging to a professional association.*
Here are four key messages for communicating the value of membership:
1. Social Opportunities and Networking
The value of an active community of people sharing a common interest really cannot be overstated. More than networking, friendships and collaborations happen when people have the opportunity to develop relationships with others in their field. This may be one of the values that have been most affected by the pandemic, but at the same time, there many more ways to interact with each other via social media and virtual events than ever before. No matter what form your social opportunities take, try to cultivate a welcoming environment for newcomers and keep the lines of communication open with all of your members.
2. Information and Professional Development
Can your members rely on you to share news within your industry? Are your members looking for professional development opportunities? Depending on your profession, your association might be one of the few ways to stay informed on latest best practices and changes in the field. Even if your organization can’t offer a robust professional development program, cutting through information clutter and delivering the most relevant information to your members is a worthwhile perk.
3. Demonstrating the Value of Your Profession
Association membership is one way to show that you are serious about what you do. Does the public know why your profession is important? Having a whole organization that is developing standards of practice, referral networks, and public outreach helps create value and demand for your area of practice.
Do your members know why your profession is important? Remind your members of the impact they have collectively. This larger perspective can help reinvigorate veteran members and can give purpose and a wider appreciation for the industry to newer members.
4. Advocacy for the Profession
At first glance, this is really similar to the previous message, but has a narrower focus on public policy. Groups of people can have more impact to collectively elevate their profession. Educate your members about legislation that affects them. Support and encourage members that are actively engaged in working with government entities. Actively promote legislation that furthers your organization’s mission and benefits your members. Encourage your members to share their expertise with the public.**
After all is said and done, an association is about being better together. I hope you can take a small nugget from this long-ago pep talk to help communicate to your organization how working together towards a mission is beneficial for all involved.
*Many thanks to Ric Grefe, who was the leader of AIGA at the time. Making the time outside of the normal work day to video conference (before that was the norm) meant a lot to our group of volunteer board members.
*Our board used to joke that our parents didn’t know what we did. (graphic design) If the people closest to us didn’t know, how likely is it that the local city council member would?