The phrase “member engagement” is big in the association world. But what does it really mean, and how do we measure it?
Member engagement runs deeper than member satisfaction. You would use the word “satisfaction” to describe a member’s attitude toward your organization. But engagement covers both attitudes and behaviors, and gives you a measure of your relationship with your members. Retention is all about building strong relationships, so it’s really important to know where you stand with your members.
Recently, the Loyalty Research Company (LRC) did research to determine the key indicators of member engagement, and found that engaged members are more likely to:
- Consider renewal an “automatic” decision – translating to a 90% retention rate and ensuring a committed long-term membership base, and dependable cash flow.
- Serve as ambassadors and refer their friends and colleagues in the industry to your organization. This is your best and lowest-cost form of marketing.
- Participate through meeting and event attendance, and purchasing fee-based products like publications or training sessions. These members drive non-dues revenue and make it more predictable in tough economic times, when it can tend to drop off.
- Establish themselves as leaders in the organization, starting by volunteering, and then getting involved on committees, task forces, or on your board.
It boils down to this: a strongly engaged member equals higher non-dues revenue and strong participation. A weakly engaged member is less likely to buy “extras” and rarely participates.
You should know who your highly-engaged and moderately-engaged members are, and what aspects of your membership value proposition are most important to them. That information should drive your business strategies. You’ll want to put the most effort and resources into the initiatives that are most important to these groups because that’s how you’ll keep them, and attract new members.
So how do you determine an engaged member from a non-engaged member?
You check in with them through surveys and other forms of member research. Matt Braun from LRC says when it comes to measuring engagement in surveys, it’s not a one-question solution. You’ll want to include questions that cover:
- The perceived value they get from membership (what they pay and what they receive in return).
- Their likelihood of speaking highly of your organization and referring colleagues and friends.
- How likely are they to renew their membership next time it comes due.
The combination of responses to those questions will tell you whether the member is strongly engaged, moderately engaged, or weakly engaged.
If your members’ behaviors don’t seem to be matching up with the answers they provided on the survey, that’s a sign you may need to dig a little deeper to find out what’s going on. But this is a good place to start.