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Engagement: Clarifying an association’s focus

Every association I’ve worked with over the last 23 years has had a straightforward business model – engage members, prove your worth. Every one of them boils down to member engagement – engage members, and they’ll keep paying their membership fees. Show value in the trade or market segment and members will continue to renew. Host valuable events and conferences and members will come and continue to renew. May valuable inroads in policy and communicate that to members and members will continue to renew. Engage money, and market players interested in the same market will want to reach your members enough to buy advertising, attend events, and sponsor activities. Essentially “be a value, communicate that value, rinse and repeat.” I don’t say this to be glib but simplify simplify simplify. Your questions should be – how to engage and are we engaging? It should be – is this engaging? Every move you make … should center around these questions.

What I see though is small offices constantly being distracted by outdated technology, vague or confusing mandates and wrestling with clear communications and unclear strategic objectives. They don’t have a strategy. They don’t utilize their data. They don’t focus and refocus their mission and vision to align with their daily activities.

Whenever I engage a new association or non-profit I have this overwhelming urge to get a 30,000-foot view of the whole org, dig deep into all the dysfunctions and move earth and sky to get their strategy updated and aligned. This work isn’t easy, and I never envy the lives of my clients – but sometimes having someone come in and help you re-organize your life, your garage, the junk drawers of your organization – give you the freedom and oxygen you need to think and act clearly.

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