Losing Members?

5 Jul

I just had a quick glance through the MGI Benchmark report on association membership trends. Two numbers pretty much jumped out at me. The first was the top reason that individuals chose to join an association: 24% indicated that their motivation was to network with others in the field. The second was the top reason that individuals chose not to renew their membership: 36% indicated a perceived lack of value associated with their membership.

Putting 2 and 2 together, it looks to me like a fairly significant problem faced by associations is that people join expecting to get connected with other members, but for many of them that sense of connection never occurs.

To a certain extent this is yet another example of the traditional horse/water conundrum, that is, you can’t force members to connect with each other. But what you can do is try to create an environment where such connections are easier to find and establish. This is one of the main reasons behind having local meetings — get a whole bunch of people in the same room, maybe along with a little free food and drink, and people will eventually start to talk to one another.

Online communities have the advantage that you don’t need to be physically close by or have the right evening free in order to participate. The drawback is that most people find it a little harder to make those initial introductions. Fortunately, software for online communities often has ways to help: profiles help us to see what other people are interested in and blog postings give us a specific topic over which to initiate a connection.

AssociCom has a feature that I think works out really well in this context. We call it our relationship browser. Basically, it gives you a graphical presentation of all the ways someone has interacted with the system. So, you can see what documents they’ve shared, what comments they’ve made, etc. Even more interesting, you can start to see connections between people. For example, I can browse to one member, see that they have shared a document, and then see all the people who have commented on that document. With the relationship browser you can find people with common interests and use that as the starting point for an ongoing connection.

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