Engaging your Association Membership Community

I love the word ‘engage’.  It just sounds exciting ~ engine engaging the drive shaft and something’s happening fast! ~ 

However, when it comes to engaging members too often the clutch slips and sometimes your communication engine does not make it to the member.  

If only it was as simple as adjusting the clutch.  

There are two big parts in member engagement: one is what comes from you and the second is how it's being received. Unfortunately in this day and age community is often taken for granted and consequently bonding relationships don’t happen.

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What you might be doing to perpetuate your Association is 'selling services'. Truth is, selling services is important because, beyond the sense of a moral and social bond among your 'special interest' community members, it’s all you've got. So your services better be ones your members need and will consume with an economic-market focus on a regular basis.  

As to loyalty to the Association and responding to slowball pitches for engagement with no service attached, you need to pull at their sense of community – be part of the team, a member of a group with mutual experiences and a desire to support and share with fellow members. The social benefit is what a community is about; people, relations, and friendships.    

Those social benefits came as a side effect of the ‘reasons' for associating in the past which were information, education, and best practices. All are less needed than ever from Associations, although Associations are now being competitive in their effort to supply them and continue to stay viable for that.

If it is community that will enhance response to engagement attempts then getting members to share stories, becoming friends and colleagues will be what brings people together and strengthens 'their community' that you (their Association) works for.  It is what supports them emotionally, keeps spirits up, or at least lets them know they are not alone. That last point is particularly poignant these days when we stare at monitors, or simply work on our own so much of the time.  

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So if you want people to respond to your Association as a focal point of what defines them, then the social side – the people side – is what makes them respond. With technology and efficiency as never imagined, what makes us people is not system perfection – we’ll leave computers and robots to continue to encroach on those areas – it is the who we are and not what we do! It does sound soft, but the story of the Emperor’s clothes comes to mind if you want community. It’s about people, not what they do, and engaging people is where you find loyalty and your own strength!  

{Jamie Brougham is a CSAE Business member who’s engaged in local communities, his industry association, and wonders how a Carleton U, political science graduate finds himself running a successful small business for the past 30 years!} 

Jamie Brougham