As leaders of membership organisations, you are focused on growing your membership and engaging members. Of course, the two goals go hand-in-hand as you are unlikely to succeed with the growth agenda if you do not engage with members effectively. You will want to maximise engagement at election time, but it is a year-round ‘thing’ which requires a strategic approach to data management, research, communications and voting.
At a time when many of our clients are planning the year ahead, we are drawing on our extensive experience of working with membership organisations to offer our insight with a few recommendations, which we hope you will find useful:
PUT YOUR DATA TO WORK
Whether you are a new organisation or a long-established one, your data can be extremely revealing. Assuming that you have satisfied the requirements for data protection under new GDPR, data offers a wealth of opportunity for gathering valuable insights and then issuing highly targeted print and digital communications. There are many ways to look at and segment your data, from the obvious questions about role and location to specific areas of interest or levels of engagement i.e. who attends what events, who is reading/viewing what content or who votes on what. The more questions you ask of your data (within the confines of a strategic plan), the more insights you will have to work with.
How much do you know about your members and their needs? Do you know (really know) what they want? If not, it could be time for some research.
KNOW YOUR MEMBERS
There is no doubt, it is more of a challenge to really know your members now. Membership numbers in most organisations have grown over the years but competition for share of voice has intensified. Technology is an opportunity and a challenge; if you know how to make effective use of it and put your data to work, you can get ahead. If you don’t, your competitors could steal a march.
With actionable insights, you can strengthen your membership engagement plan by tailoring communications that provide timely advice and add value to your membership offering. All you need is a fit-for-purpose research plan, which will reveal insights. You can pose questions to your members at meetings or in online surveys, structuring them for qualitative and quantitative outcomes.
ENGAGE, ENGAGE, ENGAGE!
Membership engagement is multi-faceted. Content is King, but you also need to strike the right balance between print and digital communications and provide choice when it comes to voting methods for elections and ballots.
You will know what content goes down well with your members but as you approach another annual cycle of engagement, what could you do better? Are you giving your members enough reason to look to you for authoritative comment? If not, what issues could you champion as part of your ongoing thought leadership?
Your membership demographic and engagement metrics can influence your approach to communications. Experience shows us that a combination of print and digital channels remains important, however and not surprisingly, more and more of our clients are making effective use of video. Whatever channels you use, measurement is key.
And then there is the vote…
Analysis of previous votes and voter profiling will inform your approach to enabling votes at election time. There is no doubt that more of our clients are reaping the benefits of online voting, as it reduces costs, is more sustainable and saves time through automated processes. But, it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing decision; the right combination will depend on the demographics of your membership. And you can run an online vote alongside printed ballot papers and the vote on the day at the AGM. Find out how well this worked for The National Trust, a client we have worked with for 30 years.
Electoral Reform Services is the UK’s leading independent supplier of ballot, election and voting services. Experienced advisors help hundreds of institutes, associations and membership organisations to engage their members and deliver good governance around key issues and decisions.