Wow that’s scary.
According to the ASAE – American Society of Association Executives, in 2009 they had 90,908 Trade and Professional association members and 1,238,201 philanthropic or charitable association members. That’s an awful lot of people.
But hang on a minute. Let’s examine the individual’s motivation for joining an association. For tradespeople and professionals it may well be that they are unable to practice without membership or affiliation; or that the letters they receive after their name are the kudos they need to get the job. Within philanthropical or charitable associations the incentive is clear, an individual may be driven by personal circumstances or a desire to affect change in a certain area.
What we must examine is just what proportion of the membership actually participates in the activities of the Association and therefore has a real relationship with the organisation it gives its annual fees to. At a recent conference we asked a roomful of event managers from Associations what proportion of their membership came to their conferences, meetings and other events. There was an audible gasp when one individual said 50%. Not in horror, but in awe. Because no one else in the room was able to quote a figure above 5%.
Which means that for most Associations, the events, educational seminars and other niceties they spend the membership’s money and their time on creating are failing to engage 95% of their target audience. If you have 5000 members therefore you can only really rely on 250 people when the chips are down.
Why bring this up? Because if you are an Association you need to understand that unless you offer something that your members absolutely can’t do without, then they can go elsewhere, for free. Social networking enables the creation of special interest groups, the ability to get expert advice from verifiable experts and be able to create meetings in venues that are convenient to all. If you want to make sure that you are delivering something different, tangible and valuable then you need to embrace the new virtual technologies, like 6Connex, to create ongoing content, events, comment and advice that puts you right at the heart of your membership.
Otherwise, quite frankly, they are just going to go someplace else.