“The place that I think it gets a little dangerous is when we turn membership into a transaction.”
- Elizabeth Weaver Engel, Spark Consulting

Rethinking What it Means to be a Member with Elizabeth Weaver Engel

Session 06

This week we get a chance to explore how relationships are changing in association membership. Professional and trade associations have historically thrived on dues-paying members. Elizabeth Weaver Engel, an association veteran and current head of Spark Consulting, challenges the idea of what membership can mean. Beth and Elizabeth discuss how to re-focus attention, services and potentially business models on what a member needs from their association rather than the other way around. We look at what member-driven organizations can learn from the donor-focused communications that fundraising organizations use to build affinity with their audiences. Like other nonprofits, associations are looking at how they generate revenue and how to give their community a value exchange. Elizabeth shares her thoughts on the opportunities for new ways to create this value:

  • What is it that our audiences value in their interaction to us?
  • Shifting what we pay attention to, track and reward
  • How the donor-centric model of fundraising could be applied to other membership organizations
  • Changing our understanding and expectation of relationship, membership, community, how people want to interact
  • Why is membership the only relationship we really seem to care about?
  • What is a ‘mailbox member’ and what does having them mean for an organization
  • Evaluating the benefit of membership growth vs revenue growth?
  • Avoiding “false positives” from asking the wrong questions
  • Using data and tracking to learn what members really want from an organization, and how to act on it

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