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Our Member’s Decisions to Engage are Evolving

By: Amanda Kaiser | Mar, 3 2023
Education Strategy & Learning Design

This guest blog post is provided by Amanda Kaiser, Member Engagement Strategist.

71% of association leaders are worried about the number of new members who join and never use their benefits (New Member Engagement Study, 2022). And we are not just worried about new members. We are also concerned that volunteerism is down. Perhaps fewer members are answering the call for speaking and writing opportunities. Maybe you can measure declining engagement in your metrics, or perhaps you sense that energy is waning.  If it seems more difficult to engage members these days—you are right. Don’t worry because I’ve got a whole passel of solutions for you!

What changed? Well, time changed. Or maybe a better way to say it is our collective societal busyness has gone through the roof. You might have noticed that we have to pack much more into our 24 hours than we did 20, 10, or even 5 years ago. I can barely get through the things I NEED to do, like email, laundry, and chauffeuring little sprout around to a 100 million activities. So I have no time for what I WANT to do, like exercising, reading, and eating chocolate (well, eating chocolate doesn’t take up that much time, so I find ways to fit in that little indulgence.) Does that sound familiar? Your members, attendees, and volunteers feel the same way. 

Of the 477 in-depth member interviews I’ve conducted, one response hundreds of members echo is, “I know I need to carve an hour or two out of my schedule and sit down, surf their website, and learn about the association, but I just can’t seem it get around to it. It is my fault, really, that I’m not taking advantage of my membership.” Actually, it is not their fault; it’s just the way human brains are wired to make decisions.

We love to think that each decision is carefully calculated with Spock-caliber logic. Unfortunately, it’s just not so. Many decisions are emotion-driven. All the points at which a member or an attendee decides to engage are also emotion-driven. Most organizations, not just associations, focus on appealing to the logical side of their stakeholder’s minds with problem-solving benefits and value stories, but that’s not always so helpful when making an emotional decision. 

So what appeals to the emotional side of our member’s minds, helping them make all those big and little decisions to engage? Positive experiences! A positive experience can be as little as a smile from the person working the registration table to as big as the spectacle of the opening keynote. We can infuse positive experiences into every touch point, benefit, event, and even something as mundane as emails.

Members and attendees have experiences every time they interact with our association. Those experiences can be very positive, paving the way for engagement, or neutral, which is forgettable, or negative, which throws up barriers to engagement. When we don’t actively focus on experiences, members get a potluck assortment of bad, good, and meh.

I’ve been inviting everyone in the association community to become a CEO—Chief Experience Officer. Start focusing on creating great experiences for your members and see engagement grow! 

My new book, Elevating Engagement: Uncommon Strategies for Creating a Thriving Member Community, is your practical playbook for improving engagement at every stage of your member’s journey. 

Amanda Lea Kaiser is a Member Engagement Strategist. As a researcher, author, keynoter, and co-creator of the Incubator Series and the New Member Engagement Study, she is at the forefront of exploring how member and attendee engagement is rapidly changing within professional communities.

Photo approved for use by Amanda Kaiser 

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