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Improving Member Engagement in Your Association

Improving Member Engagement in Your Association

By Dave Neely

One of the hidden costs for every business is a lack of employee engagement. Similarly, membership engagement is critical if you wish to operate a successful association. Since membership is an association’s most important asset, care and support of these members must be a priority.

There are three types of members in most associations today.

  • Totally engaged members act with passion, feel a part of the organization, are innovative and work hard to improve the success of the organization. They believe in what the association stands for and help other members to focus on positive things that are happening.
  • Partially engaged or non-engaged members might seem to be putting in time. There does not appear to be a lot of passion or energy for the work that is being done. The appearance is that nothing extra is given. At best, these members become energized when there is a clear understanding that harder work will result in tangible increased personal gain. This is an untapped opportunity for any association to improve both membership and sustainability.
  • Actively disengaged members tend to recruit others into adopting their negative mindset. They may in fact feel that they are stuck in a membership that they do not truly value. Their focus ends up on any negative things that occur.


According to a recent Gallup Business Journal article, the percentage of truly engaged employees is low in most areas of the world today. It has been suggested that only about 30 per cent of North American workers are fully engaged at work, while 50 per cent are disengaged and 20 per cent are actively disengaged. The resulting organizational costs cannot be ignored. In my opinion, the same can be said for associations. The reality is that engaged members tend to stay with the association and recruit others to join. The payback is well worth the effort to improve the engagement of your members. 

The basic function of any association is to provide valuable information, appropriate training, and wider access to materials and industry information for its members.  

Although you may want to consider the list that applies to your association, some of the reasons to join might include: 

  1. Increased business growth
  2. Education opportunities
  3. A common voice to government
  4. Group benefits
  5. Support of a like-minded community


You should create your own list, but keep in mind that members will join your association for their own reasons. Member retention will be based on whether or not those expectations are met.  

There are two things that you should consider in order to improve the loyalty of your association members.

#1.  Member engagement survey

If current members are asked what it will take for them to become more engaged, it will be possible to focus on issues that will improve the results. Follow up to their suggestions will be expected by members or all credibility will be lost. Any resulting improvements can only strengthen your recruitment/engagement efforts. 

#2. Define and clarify membership engagement goals

Association leaders must make membership goals meaningful to their own employees’ day-to-day experience. A company should ensure that managers discuss member engagement at weekly meetings, in planning sessions and in one-on-one meetings with employees. They should work to make engagement a part of the daily interactions and activities so that they become a part of the association culture.

The results of these efforts will be well worth the effort and will demonstrate that your association genuinely cares about its members.

Dave Neely will be presenting the session Influencing Behaviour and Engagement in Our Members on October 26 at the 2016 CSAE National Conference. With the increase in using technology and the decrease in available time, there is an increasing human tendency to rely upon proven shortcuts. This workshop will help you to understand these shortcuts which can be used to improve your business. To register, click here

Dave Neely is a Professional Development Specialist based in Kingston, Ontario. He has worked with several Canadian associations such as CSAE, CPSA and COHA.



Membership, CSAE National Conference


Education, Events, Guest Contributor



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  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts about Membership. Regards
    4/20/2017 7:12:29 PM Reply

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