Does Your Association Bring Value to Its Members?
Is your industry association bringing value to its members? Answering this question should be the touchstone for every decision made by an association's leadership. Moreover, it should be the foundation for a successful strategic plan. This plan will be a living document that establishes the key benefits of membership and the roadmap for delivery.

Who are your members?
Understanding your organization's target audience is the first step in ensuring that you can provide a viable and sustainable value proposition. You can't be all things to all people. Therefore, defining your demographics, and member profile enables your organization's leadership to build a strategic plan that addresses the needs of its members.

What do you offer your members?
A membership in an association is not unlike other products or services we buy. It must satisfy a need or solve a problem. However, unlike other items or services, an association membership can grow and evolve in its value. So, while there is a financial cost (membership dues), it is an investment. Therefore, identifying ways in which that investment grows is the challenge of all organization leaders.

For example, a professional trade association may want to offer; (1) Industry standards of operation, (2) access to industry resources, (3) a platform for the exchange of best practices, (4) a vehicle for education & training, (5) and the facilitation of networking opportunities.

When, where, and how to contact your members.
You can't reach your members if you can't find them. It sounds simple, but contacting members has changed over the years. There was a time you called members and volunteers on the phone to invite them to meetings. You sent direct mail to their homes or offices. And, the majority of your continuing education occurred face-to-face at annual events.

Now, you need to be more creative and more strategic in reaching your members. You compete for their attention with work events, family commitments, and digital noise. That said, you can make contact on the social platforms they use. Your websites need to have resources that are important to them and encourage them to return frequently. And, you need to find easy and cost-effective ways of training and educating.

Accordingly, you should consider; (1) Informing members of changes and activities within their industry and business community through industry reports, blogs, and news feeds, (2) and informing members on the association's activities through a monthly newsletter, regional events, and annual conferences.

How do you meet the needs of your members?
Your association members are now dispersed throughout the country and around the globe. Many jobs require travel, and our workforce is often officed remotely. Frequently, budgets for travel to and from association meetings are limited and time away from the office means a backlog of projects and deadlines. Consequently, we must meet the needs of members through the effective use of integrated technologies.

The Internet has expanded our reach beyond geographic boundaries. Through web-based training, webinars and videos, social media discussion forums, and advanced website technology, you can "meet" your members anywhere. With technology integration, members can "attend" virtual conferences, "live-tweet" during events, network via mobile apps, and share in a conference experience that's rich in content and relationships.

In summary
Bringing value to your association members in an ongoing process. Keeping your finger on the pulse of their needs is critical to ensuring your organization's growth, longevity, and vitality. Associations must continue to evolve and deliver a strong value proposition. The best method for knowing what your members want and need is simple. Ask them what they want and how you can better meet their needs.