By Guest Blogger: Jonathan Alder


Brand specialist at Unified Digital Solutions


To build trust with your members you need to deliver value. It’s not just about practical value – useful benefits – but emotional value too: Giving them something they care about. To do that you need to understand why people join your organisation in the first place.

There are two reasons why people become members of an organisation: Because they have to, or because they want to.

Membership can be driven by necessity. In order to gain access to something, individuals – or organisations – need to become members. Membership is something they need, rather than something they want, so it is often a reluctant commitment.

Membership can also be driven by desire. The organisation offers something that people care about, so in order to get more of it they choose to become members. Membership is something they want, rather than something they need, so they are usually willing to make the commitment.

Whatever the reason for joining an organisation, there is an expectation from the member that they will get value from their membership. In this situation there are two kinds of value: Practical value and emotional value.

Practical value is usually something tangible. Although not necessarily physical, it may be visible; a title, a badge or a name on a list. It’s often something that can be measured, even if that measurement is anecdotal – increased access, credibility or recognition, for example – rather than finite.

Emotional value is intangible. It’s the way members feel about the organisation, so as such it can be hard to measure. But the effect of it can be seen, and heard, in the language members use when they talk about the organisation, either online or in person.

The challenge for membership organisations is getting the balance right. If members feel they are only getting practical value, their commitment – and engagement – will always be limited. This will usually create an organisation that feels cold or sterile. Useful, perhaps, but not enjoyable. Emotional value will ensure that members enjoy being part of the organisation. But membership will not be a priority. If there’s any pressure on the time or cost commitment required, membership will be hard to justify and will be sacrificed as a result. The better the balance of these two elements, the better the experience for members.

It’s the quality of the ‘experience’ that’s fundamental to building trust with members. The ‘experience’ of being a member is influenced by every interaction that a member has with the organisation, whether physical or digital. Managing those interactions, and the experience they create, is the greatest opportunity, and also the greatest challenge, for an organisation when it comes to building trust.

The impending implementation of GDPR legislation in May will give the member experience even greater significance, as organisations will need to gain consent from individuals in certain circumstances to contact them via email.. Skilful management of the member experience and maximising every opportunity to deliver both practical and emotional value, will build trust in members, and a willingness to receive information.

In an environment where trust is an increasingly rare commodity, the ability to nurture it will become more and more valuable for organisations. A focus on delivering value to members – both practical and emotional – will create the member experience necessary to build that trust.


Unified Digital Solutions have been designing & building websites, intranets, extranets and e-commerce solutions for over 20 years. Jonathan is a brand specialist, working with ambitious organisations to help them communicate more effectively. He has 28 years experience in the design industry. Learn more @Jonathan_Alder_