Increasing Member Participation in Volunteering

Volunteers play a crucial role in associations, and getting the right members engaged in the right volunteering activities can help to achieve your purpose and goals. Whether you are looking for Board members, speakers at your next event, or an extra pair of hands to help out, here are a few ideas to increase member engagment in volunteering opportunities …

Clearly define roles and responsibilities

Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of volunteers to ensure that they understand their tasks and expectations. Consider creating job descriptions or outlining specific tasks and outcomes for each volunteer position.

Match skills and interests

Match volunteers’ skills and interests with appropriate roles and tasks to ensure that they are engaged and motivated. Consider offering training or development opportunities to help volunteers build new skills or expand their capabilities.

Provide ongoing support and communication

Provide ongoing support and communication to volunteers to ensure that they feel valued and supported. Consider offering regular check-ins, training, and networking opportunities to help volunteers feel connected to the organisation.

Foster a sense of community

Foster a sense of community among volunteers by regularly engaging with them and seeking their input. Consider hosting events or creating online forums where volunteers can connect with each other and share their experiences.

Recognise and reward volunteers

Recognising and rewarding volunteers can help to increase motivation and retention. Consider offering incentives such as a certificates, awards, or other perks to acknowledge the contributions of volunteers.

Make volunteering convenient

Make it easy for members to get involved in volunteering by offering flexible scheduling and opportunities that fit their schedules and interests. Consider using technology to facilitate sign-ups and communication with volunteers.

Promote volunteering

Promote volunteering opportunities to your members through multiple channels, including email, social media, and in-person events. Consider featuring stories and testimonials from volunteers to inspire others to get involved.

If you would like to connect with other Association Professionals and Industry experts to discuss association specific topics – just like this one – take a look at the Answers for Associations online community. The Answers community is a place where peers can connect and discuss sector related topics, share ideas, experiences and resources, explore opportunities, and more.

Leverage Your Components to Improve Member Engagement

In the vibrant world of associations, the term “components” is used to denote the various subgroups that exist within an association. These may take the form of branches, specific interest groups, or communities of practice.

There are four types of components that can coexist within a single association. Each type is designed to help different members realise the unique value they seek from the association.

Not all types of components are relevant to every association, and it often becomes a strategic choice to determine which ones align best with the association’s goals and its members’ needs.

Let’s delve into the four main types of components:

  1. Regional Components: These refer to parts of an association grounded in specific geographic areas. Structured often as chapters, branches, or divisions within a larger national or international association, these components cater to regional interests and needs while maintaining cohesion and unity at the national or international level. For example, a national teachers’ association might have state branches, each focusing on issues pertinent to teachers in that state. An emerging trend is the increased use of digital tools to foster connection and collaboration within these components, breaking down geographical boundaries and enhancing regional activities.
  2. Demographic Components: These components cater to the specific needs or interests of a subgroup within the association, based on shared characteristics, interests, or demographics such as gender, race, or age. For example, within a large engineering association, there might be a group specifically for women engineers. This subgroup offers a platform to address unique challenges, share experiences, and advocate for issues relevant to the subgroup within the larger professional community. Recently, there’s been a growing recognition of the importance of diversity and inclusion, leading to a rise in these demographic-focused components.
  3. Expertise-Based Components: Focusing on specific technical or professional areas within a broader field, these components cater to the diverse specialisations in a profession. For example, a medical association might have groups for cardiologists, neurologists, paediatricians, etc. These groups enable a deep focus on specialised areas, encouraging the sharing of advanced knowledge, best practices, and advocacy for issues specific to those technical areas. In response to the rapid pace of industry-specific developments, these components are becoming more dynamic and adaptive, frequently evolving to accommodate emerging trends and new areas of expertise.
  4. Operational Components: These components fulfill specific purposes or roles within the association. They are instrumental in carrying out the core functions of the association. For example, the Board is typically responsible for oversight and strategic direction. Committees may be set up to handle specific tasks such as advocacy, policy, governance, finance, etc. These groups collaborate to ensure the association operates effectively and achieves its mission and goals. An ongoing trend is the growing importance of transparency and member engagement in these operational components, as members seek greater involvement in the governance and strategic planning of their associations.

A strong component strategic is key to driving the strength and versatility of an association, making it capable of addressing a broad array of member needs and industry challenges.

Identifying which components best align with your association’s purpose is key to driving strong member engagement, positive member experiences, and sustainable success for your association.

At SMS we specialise in helping associations to build sustainable membership programs. This includes support to ensure your membership model and component strategy is aligned to your purpose. If you are looking for support to optimise your membership programs, please contact us to set up a time to speak further.

The Key Elements of An Association Membership Model

Associations have played a significant role in connecting people for thousands of years. From hunter-gatherer societies to modern professional organisations, associations have taken many forms and have had a profound impact on society. In recent years, rapid changes in technology, economics, and culture have necessitated a transformation in the way associations operate, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated this shift.

One of the most fundamental changes many associations are considering is their membership model. An association membership model is the foundation of an organisation, underpinning all aspects of its operations. It is essential that this model is the result of careful consideration and aligns with the purpose and goals of the association. The includes consideration of the following elements:

Association Purpose

An association is a group of people who come together to achieve a shared goal. Its primary function is to work towards this goal, rather than to attract and retain members. A clear and defined purpose is essential for guiding the actions and decisions of the association, as well as for measuring success and navigating through changes. To ensure that the association is aligned and motivated towards its purpose, it is important to define its vision, mission, and values. The vision is the desired outcome or impact that the association hopes to achieve. The mission describes the actions and services that the association provides to achieve its vision. The purpose is the reason behind these actions and serves as the driving force for the association. The values are the core beliefs that guide and motivate the association and its members.

Association Type and Structure

The type and structure of association will influence the membership model. There are various types of associations that can be classified based on their goals and objective such as philanthropic foundations, environmental and animal protection organisations, hospitals and health services, social services, religious groups, international aid organisations, educational institutions, cultural and recreational clubs, advocacy and political organisations, business and professional associations, and labour unions. Within each of these categories, there are subcategories that further classify the association based on specific characteristics. The structure of an association, whether it is a single entity operating nationally or internationally, or a federation of independent organisations, will also impact the development of its membership model.

Who the Association Serves

It is important to identify the specific individuals and businesses that an association should focus on serving and engaging with, rather than simply attempting to attract as many members as possible. A clear understanding of the purpose of the association can help to clarify which groups are most important and should be prioritised.

There are five types of stakeholders that an association may interact with: those it exists to serve, those it engages with to further its purpose, customers who purchase its products and services, those who are targeted as part of a specific campaign, and vendors who provide products and services to the association’s community (stakeholders will fit into only one of these groups).

To determine whether an association is serving or engaging with a particular group, it is helpful to consider whether members of that group should have a governing role in the association. If the answer is “yes” that group is more likely to fall into the cohort of members you serve.

How the Association Serves

It is important for associations to carefully consider their activities and prioritise those that will have the greatest impact on achieving their purpose. This can help to avoid wasting resources on activities that are not aligned with the current goals of the organisation. There are five main ways in which associations can serve their stakeholders: representing the interests of the group to external parties, mobilising people or organisations to take action towards a specific objective, providing products, services, and other resources to assist stakeholders in achieving their own goals, creating opportunities for participation and excellence, and fostering a sense of community and connection among members. The choice of functions that an association undertakes can have a significant impact on all aspects of the organisation, and it is important to make these decisions intentionally rather than simply continuing with activities that have been conducted in the past. 

How the Association engages with stakeholders.

An association’s engagement model outlines the way it communicates and engages with its members and stakeholders. To effectively develop this model, it is important to understand the current and ideal methods of engagement delivery and the gap between the two. This includes considering the type of engagement tools being used, such as traditional, modern, or online methods, as well as the association’s ability to effectively utilise these tools, ranging from developing to advanced. It is at this state that an association would consider the role of chapters, special interest groups, and components in achieving the purpose of the association.

How to make the model financially sustainable

The association’s financial sustainability is critical to its long-term success. The full range of revenue streams, of which membership is only one, should be carefully considered to ensure they align with the other elements of the membership model. Factors that will impact this decision include current reliance on membership fees, cost of delivering the membership program, whether fees are appropriate for all membership categories, current capacity to execute the ideal state revenue streams, and resources available for change.

A final note – the difference between a membership fee and a membership category review.

It is important to note there are two main types of membership reviews: membership model reviews and membership category reviews. A membership category review involves finding a better way to structure existing membership categories to offer value to different market segments, while a membership model review involves examining the entire membership model to ensure it aligns with the association’s purpose and meets the needs of its members.

Undertaking a membership model review can be a complex process, but it is essential for the long-term success and sustainability of an association. By adapting to changing circumstances and staying relevant, associations can continue to make a meaningful impact on society.

If you are looking for support to maximise the success of your membership program we can assist. Email Belinda Moore for more information.

Effectively Leveraging Branches and Chapters

Chapters and branches can play a vital role in building relationships and achieving association goals. However, effectively managing and supporting these local groups can be challenging, especially for associations with many chapters and branches. Using some of the following ideas, associations can maximise the effectiveness of their chapters and branches:

Clearly define roles and responsibilities

One key element in maximising the effectiveness of chapters and branches is clearly defining roles and responsibilities. This includes outlining the purpose and goals of the local groups, as well as the expectations for their activities and participation. By providing clear guidance and support, associations can help chapters and branches to operate efficiently and effectively. For example, an association could develop a set of guidelines for chapter and branch leadership, outlining their responsibilities and providing resources and support for their work.

Foster communication and collaboration

Another way to maximise the effectiveness of chapters and branches is to foster communication and collaboration among the local groups. This can involve providing opportunities for chapters and branches to share ideas, resources, and best practices, and encouraging them to work together on projects and initiatives. For example, an association could facilitate regular conference calls or webinars among chapter and branch leaders, or create a networking platform where local groups can connect and share ideas.

Provide resources and support

In order to be effective, chapters and branches need access to the resources and support they need to succeed. This can include providing financial resources for local initiatives, as well as offering training and development opportunities for chapter and branch leaders. For example, an association could establish a grant program to support chapter and branch projects, or offer leadership development workshops for local leaders.

Encourage member involvement and participation

Another way to maximise the effectiveness of chapters and branches is to encourage member involvement and participation. This can involve providing opportunities for members to get involved in local activities, and recognising and rewarding their contributions. For example, an association could develop a volunteer program that allows members to get involved in chapter and branch initiatives, or create an awards program to recognise the contributions of local members.

Foster a sense of belonging

Creating a sense of belonging among members is an important factor in building strong relationships and achieving organisational goals. Associations can foster this sense of belonging by creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for chapters and branches, and by providing opportunities for members to connect and build relationships. For example, an association could create a member directory or networking platform that allows chapters and branches to connect with one another and with other members, or offer social events and activities that allow members to get to know one another.

Support leadership development

Effective chapters and branches require strong leadership, and supporting the development of local leaders can help to maximise the effectiveness of these groups. This can involve providing training and development opportunities for chapter and branch leaders, or offering mentorship and coaching support. For example, an association could offer leadership development workshops or webinars specifically tailored to chapter and branch leaders, or create a mentorship program that pairs experienced leaders with newer leaders.

Evaluate and measure success

Finally, to maximise the effectiveness of chapters and branches, it is important to evaluate and measure their success. This can involve establishing clear performance metrics and tracking progress against these benchmarks, as well as collecting feedback from members and leaders to understand what is working well and what areas need improvement. For example, an association could conduct annual surveys of chapter and branch leaders and members to gather feedback and identify areas for improvement, or develop a set of performance metrics to track the progress of local groups.

Chapters and branches play a vital role in building relationships and achieving organisational goals. Effectively managing and supporting these local groups is critical for associations to maximise the effectiveness of their association’s chapters and branches and help them to achieve their full potential.

If you are looking for support to maximise the success of your membership program we can assist. Email Belinda Moore for more information.

JOURNAL: Associations Evolve: 2023 & Beyond Journal Released

We are excited to announce the release of Associations Evolve: 2023 & Beyond Journal, a compilation of articles from over 50 association thought leaders from around the globe.

This journal offers a unique perspective on the future of associations and the role they will play in shaping industries and communities. From innovative ideas for growth and sustainability to strategies for adapting to changing environments, the articles in this journal provide valuable insights and inspiration for association professionals.

As the association landscape continues to evolve, it is important for professionals to stay informed and stay ahead of the curve. The Associations Evolve: 2023 & Beyond Journal is a must-read for anyone looking to drive positive change and impact within their organisation. Get your copy today and join the conversation on the future of associations.

JOURNAL: Associations Evolve: 2022 & Beyond

Forty-six association experts from around the world have collaborated to produce a collection of articles showcasing contemporary thinking on governance, membership, revenue, events, and much more.

This is a great resource for those looking for inspiration and motivation to make 2022 your best year ever. It makes great holiday reading for those who are feeling particularly enthusiastic (tip: this publication pairs well with red wine and cheese).

Download “Associations Evolve: 2022 & Beyond”

This publication is part of our Associations Evolve project which looks for ways to help associations to thrive into the future. 

Thanks to Beau Cummin from Visual Traffic for his fabulous work designing this publication, Northern Territory Business Events for their great support of this project, and all our wonderful contributors.  

We hope you will find this collection of articles from experts in the association space as informative, inspiring, and motivating as we did. 

All the best for a fun and relaxing break over the festive period. I hope you arrive back at work refreshed and ready for an awesome 2022.

Warm regards,

WHITEPAPER: Association Apocalypse

The operating landscape of associations is undergoing a seismic shift. Associations need to act now to ensure they can navigate these shifts to emerge stronger and more relevant than ever before. In my new whitepaper, Association Apocalypse, you can read more about the:

  • Six fundamental shifts occurring in the association operating landscape,
  • Three key models associations will need to re-invent, and
  • Eleven core operational enablers associations must get right along the way.

This whitepaper has been designed to assist association leaders to understand the scale of the change coming and create a platform for productive discussions within their associations about appropriate pathways forward. If you have more questions please feel free to contact us to find out how we can assist.

Read the whitepaper.

BOOK: Membership Managers Handbook (2018 Edition)

Are you looking to effectively manage a membership program for your organization? Look no further than The Membership Managers Handbook! This comprehensive guide covers all the essential aspects of membership management, from acquiring and retaining members to developing member benefits and creating a successful membership strategy.

Filled with best practices and real-world examples, The Membership Managers Handbook is a valuable resource for anyone responsible for managing a membership program. It includes tips on how to engage and retain members, as well as strategies for growth and innovation.

Whether you’re a seasoned membership manager or new to the role, The Membership Managers Handbook is the perfect tool to help you succeed.

Download the Membership Managers’ Handbook free of charge.