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10 tips to keep your membership organisation fighting fit

How to keep your membership organisation fighting fit

In this latest guest post from membership sector expert, Richard Gott, we look at how membership organisations are adapting their offerings to meet the needs of members today, and give 10 practical tips to enable change.

If you were able to completely rebuild your membership organisation (and its current systems and processes) from scratch, would it look the same as it does today?

I pitched that question to 10 senior management team members from a range of established membership organisations and associations. All (without hesitation and a few with a knowing look) said no.

Many UK membership organisations and associations were set up decades ago, to meet the very different member needs of yesteryear.

Then, professional and trade bodies provided mostly intangible status-driven offerings. Benefits offered to members were physical (e.g. books/journals) rather than virtual, membership was exclusive (a club), rather than an inclusive community, and members were generally happy to ‘simply belong’.

Times have changed and we now have a big fight on our hands. We need to maintain relevance, meet higher member expectations, both online and offline, and deliver (tangible, measurable and positive) member-focused outcomes in a robust, structured and future-proof manner.

As my quick poll illustrated, many organisations understand the problem. Having spent more than 20 years working for leading membership organisations and associations, I believe membership organisations have been held back for a mixture of reasons:

  • Unempowered senior management teams with low appetites for change
  • Operational consensus, driven via mechanisms that are geared-up for more strategic purposes
  • An aversion to risk in sometimes blame-driven cultures. i.e. Keep your head down.
  • A lack of understanding and insight into new technologies based on outdated knowledge and capability
  • Restrictive and sometimes unrealistic budgets

Appetite for change

It’s not all doom and gloom though: the membership sector is starting to change.

The catalyst is a new generation of members with very different needs and expectations, which cannot be met by outdated legacy processes and systems. What’s more, external pressure from the forthcoming general data protection regulation (GDPR) is helping to focus hearts and minds.

Members today demand instant value in return for membership and this needs to be delivered any time, in any place and on any device. There is an expectation of online self-service and personalised content aligned to their specific needs.

These demands have brought about a raft of inspirational digital transformation programmes, programmes to re-engineer member benefits, rebrands, re-naming and cultural and organisational change programmes. There has also been a marked shift towards improving member experience, engagement and journeys (online and offline).

This appetite for change is reflected in the number of membership organisations and associations that are searching for new digital platforms or CRM systems:

2015 – 3 in 10
2017 – 4 in 10
(From the Digital Excellence 2017 Research Summary Report)

As long as this increased appetite is fully aligned with appropriate budget and resource, forward thinking organisations will achieve ‘fit for the future’ status.

10 tips to stay fighting fit

Membership organisations and associations that are ‘fighting fit’ share the following 10 key traits:

  • They transition from annual to rolling membership subscription scheme types
  • They increase the uptake of flexible methods to opt out of membership-fee collection (including incentives)
  • They automate key membership subscription communications and emails
  • They adopt a CMS system that generates dynamic content linked to online behaviour/interaction
  • They adopt of a more powerful industry-standard CRM system
  • They unify systems and processes that streamline core functions and operations
  • They offer products and services in value-driven ‘packs’ (enabling wider cross and upsell)
  • They take a structured approach to online social networking/campaigns
  • They take a robust and structured approach to optimising member engagement
  • Staff are given clear, measurable & achievable targets, goals and key performance indicators (KPIs).

I hope you found this article interesting and if you are looking to drive digital system and process change within your organisation, why not join GoCardless at our forthcoming national digital focused conference, Digital Excellence 2017 on 31 October in London.

GoCardless is bringing Direct Debit into the digital age, offering our professional membership organisations a streamlined and fully-automated payments service. With GoCardless you can set up new members online within minutes - leaving them to fully enjoy the benefits of your organisation hassle-free.

Read Richard's post on how to optimise online new member acquisition

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