At the core of every professional association, trade group, or society, is its members, and while the quantity of members is certainly important, the strength of an association should be measured in the quality of its members. One way to evaluate quality is through member engagement. The most engaged members are those who renew year after year, refer others, and view their membership as an invaluable resource. Those members who lack engagement with the organization are less likely to renew and now force you to take on the expense of acquiring a new member to replace the lost member. But how does an association identify and measure member engagement?
The Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI) started with data. Key data on member engagement should be readily available and easily accessible through conference registration records, membership profiles, online store purchases, virtual content such as webinars or downloads, and more.
BSCAI conducted a conference data analysis and found the member attendance percentage was lower than expected, explains Chris Mundschenk, CAE, a Smithbucklin executive director who serves as executive vice president of BSCAI. So, the board, working with Smithbucklin staff, developed a plan that included providing alternatives to the face-to-face live event to engage more members. As a result, BSCAI developed online courses and content, webinars, and access to recorded content from meetings. “The engagement data gave our board some really interesting insights to think more broadly about how we're providing educational and networking value to our members,” says Mundschenk. Analyzing the conference data was just phase one for BSCAI.
Taking the data analysis project one-step further, BSCAI realized member engagement was traditionally measured by each member company’s financial transaction as part of its company membership versus an individual’s interactions with the organization. Instead, BSCAI outlined non-financial metrics such as individual member tenure, volunteerism, peer group sign-up, webinar attendance, application to awards programs, and more to gather an individual’s engagement data, rolled it up into the company’s rating, and then assigned point values and ranked the engagement based on a number of criteria, called Key Engagement Indicators (KEI).
“By leveraging the data we already had, we were able to identify those members who were least engaged and those who were our most loyal members,” said Mundschenk. “For the least engaged members, we activated a plan for additional targeted marketing with multiple touchpoints from staff and the membership committee, and even offered incentives to engage with the organization. We started recognizing and rewarding our most engaged members through things like handwritten notes and slide recognition at events. It also helped us pinpoint the next generation of volunteer leaders for the organization, too.”
Once associations start compiling this data annually, boards can look at year-over-year data to determine long-term trends and make strategic decisions about what to invest in, what to focus on, or what to sunset. “It starts with the board analyzing its strategic goals and objectives to determine the key performance indicators (KPIs) that matter to the association and working with staff to set goals and determine engagement levels for each one,” states Mundschenk. “Then have a board-level conversation about how to improve upon the ones [KPIs] that you think are prioritized to have the most impact for your group,” Mundschenk concludes.
Ande Leslie is in Marketing & Communication Services at Smithbucklin.