It was back in 2001 when I had a light bulb moment.
I was reading the ’Exploring The Future’ report from the ASAE. It stated that one ofthe seven strategic conversations that associations should be discussing in the boardroom was ‘Meaning Matters’. It highlighted that the enduring quality that would attract and retain members was to make sure you were relevant.
Fast forward to 2011, and the race was on. Out came the book ‘Race for Relevance’. This showed five radical changes membership organisations needed to make to become relevant. It was a very popular book.
A few months ago I spotted relevance take centre stage in the annual reports of major associations on both sides of the Atlantic. In the annual report of the ASTD, on the cover taking centre stage was the word ‘relevant’. It was circled in red and in a huge font size, dwarfing all the other words listed. In the report of the IET, the first bullet point in the list of seven strategic priorities was ‘…to demonstrate relevance…’.
I have spent many years training in member recruitment and retention. I wonder, if we got really focused on being meaningful, relevant and valuable, would the constant recruitment and retention campaigns be less important?
If you are not relevant, Associations are ‘toast’ according to the thought provoking, innovation strategist, Jeff de Cagna. He says it’s not about racing for relevance. If you have to race you have already lost. You need to be relevant now. Relevance is the price of admission, not the end game. Your energy needs to focus on value creation.
So should we stop thinking about numbers? Should we start strategically thinking about how to creates real value from helping set members and stakeholders up for success, today and tomorrow?
For me, my focus has turned to discovering and communicating the real value of membership – from the members’ perspective.
- Who is discussing the meaning and relevance of membership in your association?
- What is your value development process?
- If you asked members, what are the important outcomes and truly useful experiences of being a member, what do you think would they say? How might this differ between different member group or segments?
- Over the next five years, what should be the most important type of value to focus on developing?