Rethinking the Membership Experience in Social Organziations

Membership driven organizations are struggling. Membership engagement, recruiting of new members, providing value to current members, all issues during normal years have been increased exponentially when having to be done 100% virtual. How can organizations restructure as opportunities arise to have social gatherings? The need for a hybrid model is apparent for the foreseeable future.

Membership organizations historically are built upon social gatherings. Networking events, educational gatherings, and in-person fundraising events are commonplace. From BMI events weekly where members are allowed to speak about their services/products to business organizations that host monthly/quarterly education events, the key is socialization. Many companies will gladly cover the cost and allot for the the time for associates to attend events where they are exposed to many others.

Another key to membership organizations is fundraising for various programs and initiatives that membership alone doesn’t account for. Most of this fundraising happens during the events and programs that are occurring on a consistent basis. Also, special fundraisers like auctions were most successful because of those in attendance to events. All these factors have become null with the COVID outbreak.

With COVID making in-person events non relevant during the past year, many organizations tried to replicate their events in a virtual way. But, as we know, there are serious issues with trying to have the same level of engagement. This decrease of engagement was somewhat based on the remote nature that many peoples’ work, and their employers unwillingness to allot the time they did before because of the the implications that working remote was already a less productive and/or associates feeling they are being less productive. Those who wanted to be engaged were turned off by the sheer volume of meetings in a virtual environment. The third caveat is some organizations just lack the technology and/or knowledge of how to move to a virtual state.

From our standpoint, the next evolution as we reach a point where in-person activities are available, is how to have the option of a virtual engagement. This hybrid era could be transformational. How to cater to members that span the spectrum of interactions is key. At the end of the day, how to create interaction that is beneficial is the key. We are looking at experiences that appeal to both. Could there be in person events that have virtual elements that have the interaction and engagement opportunities that make people want to be apart of something new? A key element is addressing employers concerns about the value of the engagements, as most individuals will not be engaged if their employers are not providing the means to do so. Can we create more opportunities to reward participants with something, such as certificates for continuing education, a points system that would give someone more opportunities to address potential clients, etc?

There is definitely no one size fits all solution. Reevaluating the goals for the experiences you offer and really focusing on the engagement and needs of your members will put you on a path to surviving these times and maybe even thriving in the future for some.

A new perspective can make all the difference.