It’s Important for Association Executives to Interact with Members – Here’s Why
Association members need a lot of attention. They should be made to feel they are involved in an active community – not alone in a void. The emptier your community feels, the less chance members will stick around. The bulk of member interactions will be handled by your professional administrators. No one knows your members at a grassroots level like your administrators. Their role is to be knee-deep in the day-in, day-out comings and goings of the association, so it only makes sense they shoulder the greatest load when cultivating healthy and active relationships with members.
However, as important as it is for administrators to maintain the highest frequency of interactions with members, it cannot be overstated how important it is for association executives to strategically interact with the membership (and sometimes, specific members). While they can’t reasonably be expected to interact all of the time, chiming in here and there matters quite a bit to the overall health of the association.
Why is this? Why is it so important for association executives to stay in the conversation at the member level? What is the impact it has? Below are some of the ways your membership (and association overall) is positively impacted when executives and leaders stay relevant and visible.
- Accessible at All Levels
- When an association executive interacts directly with one or many of the members, it makes a fantastic statement. It establishes the perception that the entire association (from top to bottom) is available and open to the membership. There are unfortunately associations out there that, because of their lack of communication, feel shut-off and compartmentalized away from their members. Don’t let this happen. Have your executives prove through example that your association builds no walls. Through simple and brief interactions here and there, your executives can show your members that no one within the association is out of reach. If the newest member feels that the CEO is in the fold, the message will be clear – everyone attached to this association is completely invested and involved.
- Each Member Matters
- There’s nothing wrong with being made to feel special. A strategically placed interaction from a member of the executive team can do that. Associations can get pretty big as they grow. At times, a member can feel lost in the shuffle. Even if a great amount of value is being provided, a member’s get-up-and-go to make use of those resources may wane if they begin to become disassociated from the community just because they aren’t receiving the attention needed to keep them all-in. Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to get them back into the fold. Executive members of your association should plan to strategically send out a specific number of brief emails each month, to show individual members that they matter to the executive team.
- Growth Matters to the Association
- New members to your association need a relatively large amount of attention sent their way at the beginning of their membership. Most of it can be completed by administrators. They need a welcoming message, the provision of valuable resources, and guidance on how the community functions. While all of this communication is necessary, it will not impart to the new member how important they are to the health of the association. That’s why, right at the start of someone’s membership, another message they should receive is a welcome from the association’s leadership. By an executive reaching out to new members to welcome them into the community, a very important message will be sent. Those who make the decisions for the future of this association care about its growth. Each new member represents advancement. They should be made to feel that’s the case. The best way to accomplish this is for executives to extend a welcome.
- Passionate About the Industry
- When you join a community, you want to believe that the people you will be surrounded by will be as interested and passionate about the industry as you are. If you happen to join an association and come to find that there’s a lack of fervor within the community, it can really take the wind out of your sails. All that excitement you had to join a community of like-minded colleagues that are keen to discuss the comings and goings of the industry just vanishes. It’s very important, throughout a member’s tenure within your association, to continually instill in them that your community is the most passionate and engaged epicentre related to your industry. As with everything, an organization’s messaging and identity comes from the top. Having an executive interact with the members on specific industry topics goes a long way in exemplifying that the association (as a whole) is invested in the future of the marketplace. The executive team members are the main representatives of your association, so their visibility and perceptible passion are key in showcasing the association’s dedication to the industry. When executives have the opportunity to discuss industry topics face to face with members (e.g., during events), seize that opportunity. Members will have no choice but to wholeheartedly believe that the leadership is passionate about the industry they are involved in.
- Community Building
- The only way to continually build your community is to know your community. And, the only way to know your community is to stay acquainted with the people within it. Executives have to stay familiar with the people who see the value in maintaining a membership with your association – so they can keep it valuable. Executives need to strategize the direction they should steer the association in. However, the worst mistake they can make is to strategize in a vacuum. In order to plan the association’s future effectively and to ensure the community continues to grow and adapt, executives need to have as much information as they can reasonably get their hands on to make informed decisions. Of all the resources executives draw on to determine their next move, the membership may be the most valuable. They have a direct understanding of what works and what doesn’t within the association, and they are most likely entrenched in the comings and goings of the industry for which the association exists. What’s more, the nature of an executive’s relationship with members is one where information can be shared and flow freely back and forth. So, garnering the thoughts on this or that from members will not be painful to mine. The best way to identify what does (or would) make your association attractive to people operating in your market sector is to ask those that once were just prospects and are now full-fledged members. Executives should continually go to the source to understand what is valued within the community.
- Showing Association Cohesion
- When it comes to messaging provided to your members, presenting a united front is very important. In order to build your brand, identity and community – repetition is the order of the day. Your administrators will be your boots on the ground as no one interacts with the membership more. However, there’s a great opportunity to solidify their messaging by executives echoing it strategically. You want your members to feel the association is talking the same talk and walking the same walk, from top to bottom. Executives should keep a healthy dialogue going with their administrators to understand what types of conversations they’ve been having with members recently. Staying informed on the topic of the day will empower executives to stay relevant in the eyes of members and will prove that no matter what level of the association they are interacting with, they will hear more of the same – whether an administrator or an executive, their messaging will be in lockstep. Showing cohesion throughout the organization will build confidence in the members. The only way this can happen is if executives inject themselves into the conversation from time to time and support what administrators are saying.
- Online Presence
- Your association can only plan so many in-person events in a calendar year. And, without question, when you have the opportunity to have face to face interactions with your members, capitalize on it. There’s nothing more valuable to your association than executives and administrators alike putting faces to names when the opportunity presents itself. That said, you can’t get in front of your members all of the time. Frankly, the majority of your interactions will most likely occur during the in-between times, bridging members from one association event to the next. Fortunately, this can be easily accomplished with the use of an association management system. Executives should exploit the access they have to members through this system. As an executive, you shouldn’t be a ghost to your membership outside of events. Be present with your association and the people that make it a community by maintaining an online presence through your AMS. It’s extremely simple to keep a healthy level of communication going through member management software. Make sure whatever solution you invest in; it allows you to interact without any complication. Guild is an AMS solution that connects administrators (and executives) to their membership like no other. If you’d like to discuss the Guild AMS with a member of our team or, would like to schedule a live demo, click here.
Executives need to show members they are just as invested in the industry (for which their association was established) as members are. It’s so much easier for members to buy-in (and continue to dedicate themselves) to the community and culture of an association if it’s clear that those who lead the way are involved and passionate. You’re a member of the executive team for a reason – because you’ve displayed that you care about what it is the association is trying to accomplish or instill. Don’t hide that passion away – showcase it to your membership.