Expand Engagement Before and After Membership

As a follow-up to my definition of member engagement for associations, I’d like to discuss the idea of broadening your engagement strategy beyond membership.

If you accept that engagement occurs when someone invests time or money with the organization in exchange for value, you can then consider opportunities to do so before becoming a member as well as after. In fact, membership could be just another station along an engagement progression path, rather than the ultimate destination.

Examples of pre-membership engagement could include:

  • Viewing content on your website, blog, twitter account, etc.;
  • Paying attention to a PSA or press coverage;
  • Sharing content from your website or other publication;
  • Buying a product;
  • Attending a conference or event;
  • Applying for a job via a career center.

Examples of post-membership engagement could include all of the above, plus:

  • Writing or speaking;
  • Volunteering for a committee or task force;
  • Serving in a leadership role;
  • Awarded Fellowship or other achievement status;
  • Spending significant money on sponsorship, advertising, exhibit space, etc.

The important concept here from a strategy perspective is to plot out what lower value engagement activities and options will feed into higher levels and how you can progress people through them.

Imagine professional baseball without the minor leagues. Moving from high school to pro teams for all players (not just the rare exceptional talents) would be very hard to do well from both the player and team points-of-view. The minors provide an important talent channel for the majors. While I’m not suggesting you develop a minor league association, you do need to consider how people will progress through your organization as their relationship with you matures.

Organizations with an efficient flow from low to high value engagement will tend to be healthier from both revenue and mission fulfillment perspectives.

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