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What Do You Want to Know From Your Membership Peers?

Click to enlargeBack in December we offered a first “Sneak Peek" at the results of our Small Membership Insight Survey that we conducted to gain insight into small and largely volunteer-led membership organizations. We’d like to thank the 559 respondents who participated in our survey and provided us with a wealth of insight.

We are now compiling a full survey report and will offer highlights of our findings
in a number blog posts this month. In addition, we’ll be creating infographics based on the survey data – the first of which we’ve included here offers a snapshot of the survey respondents.

Keen insight into the challenges small organizations face

The first insight we wanted to share from our survey involves an open-ended question we asked:

What is the one thing...that you’d most like to find out from your peers
at other small membership organizations?

While the survey offers a wealth of rich data, we feel that the response to this question alone offers us keen insight into the challenges facing small membership organizations. 

From the response, it appears that small membership organizations certainly have a lot they want to discuss with one another!

The respondents provided a list of 172 topics that they'd like information on from their peers. And while we can’t share every comment or question in this post, we did take the time to categorize all of the answers into general topic areas and tally the number of respondents in each category.  

Top 3 topics: 

Not surprisingly, the top three topics of interest to small membership volunteers and staff were:

    1. Member Recruitment and Retention
    2. Administration, Budget and Financial issues
    3. Member Engagement concerns   

What do small membership volunteers and staff want to know from their peers? 

Here are the subject categories and a sampling of the questions respondents wanted to ask their peers. We’ve listed these in ranking order, but recognize that while some of the comments and questions (e.g., #12 about burnout and #13 about forming a user group for small orgs) may only have been raised by one or two respondents, they may well be pertinent to many small membership volunteers and staff.

  • Topic #1: Recruitment & Retention (31 responses)
    • What's the benefit that really draws in members?
    • What is the number one tool you use for member outreach?
    • What is your "best practice" for member retention?
    • As a volunteer organization are you able to attract younger members or is your organization growing more gray?
  • Topic #2: Administration / Budget / Funding issues (30 responses)
    • What are ways you manage your org without any dedicated staff (volunteers only)
    • Whether and how they use contract staff or a part-time employee to do some of the work of the organization (vs. only using volunteers)
    • What are some ways that you generate non-dues revenue?
    • How do you attract partners, sponsors and vendors?
  • Topic #3: Member Engagement (22 responses)
    • How to engage members so they participate more?
    • Ideas as to how to increase member involvement in an organization scattered over a huge state
    • How do they use their website to engage members more?
    • How frequently do you connect with members?
  • Topic #4: IT / Technology (15 responses)
    • What level of technical skill do you have on your board to implement web applications?
    • Do you find a majority of board members are still reluctant to embrace new technologies, such as Wild Apricot?
    • Are any groups using shopping carts or auctions and if so how successful have they been?
    • What survey programs do you currently use to get feedback from your members?
  • Topic #5: Boards (14 responses)
    • How do you attract board members that bring substance to the table? We end up with 'nice' folks - that's nice - though they don't have the experience to drive the organization into the future.
    • How active is your board? We have trouble getting quorums at meeting and getting people to follow up on tasks
    • How to develop good leaders?
    • Strategies for board recruitment in an all-volunteer organization
  • Topic #6: Membership – general (14 responses)
    • Would like to know more about what other small organizations provide in terms of benefits, affiliate services/discounts, etc.
    • We would like to know more about the percentage of their members who participate in educational or networking events (as well as how much they charge). This would provide valuable benchmarking info.
    • All functions are shared between our part-time staffer and volunteers. There is not one part of the organization that doesn't involve both. Be interested to hear challenges from other small arts groups.
    • Proportion of non-paying supporters vs. paid/up members
  •  Topic #7: Communication / Social Media / Social Networking (14 responses)
    • If you have a traditional more "old school" type organization, are you still trying communication tools like Facebook and Twitter?
    • Maintaining lively online forums
    • What types of information is stored in member-only pages - your content, links to websites, papers, webinars, etc.?
    • How can you monitor social networking sites with volunteers?
  • Topic #8: Member Value (12 responses)
    • What is the most important value your members feel they received by joining your organization?
    • What other organizations are using to increase perception of membership value.
    • How do you show membership value?
    • What incentives do you offer members?
  • Topic #9: Volunteers (7 responses)

    • How large is the volunteer base for other small organizations?
    • How do other organizations fare with succession planning for volunteer, elected officers? We are having a very hard time.
    • How do you engage your members to volunteer more? It's the same people volunteering over and over again?
    • How do other clubs reward their volunteers?
  • Topic #10: Events (6 responses)
    • How to build attendance for events in a down turned economy with Gen Y'ers who won't attend anything they must pay for?
    • Offering one or two large signature events per year can help provide financial sustainability. How do smaller organizations meet the volunteer requirement to plan and execute these events?
    • Have they changed expectations when it comes to meeting attendance and face to face networking time?
    • How important are in-person events for you, and what size events do you offer?
  • Topic #11: Non-profit Issues (5 responses)
    • Pros/cons of being non-profit vs. for profit entity.
    • Does anyone have a membership-run nonprofit? A special 501(c)(3) type, not board-run, but membership run?
    • Best practices in curriculum, program and policy development as well as best practices related to fund development
    • How do other organizations encourage members to also become donors to the organization?
  • Topic#12: Burnout (2 responses)
    • How do they manage the expectation that you engage in social media (and every other shiny thing) and mobile marketing when you are already stretched to keep up the website and publish a newsletter, plus manage education programs, membership and financial records, etc. with only occasional staff?
    • I wish you had asked questions about isolation and burn out for solo employees.
  • Topic #13: User Group / Forum (1 response)
    • Can we form some type of user group forum to compare how we address certain common challenges?

With so much great insight into the challenges and questions that small membership folks have, we’ll be sure to focus on these topics in preparing future blog posts and Membership Knowledge Hub resources. We’ll also include some of these topics on our Small Membership Insight Survey for 2013! 

Stay tuned to this blog this month for additional posts with highlights from our Small Membership Insight Survey.

Still time to register for the Small Member Insight Survey Report

If you'd like to receive our Small Membership Insight Survey Report (which will be available later this month) and haven't registered yet - you can still request a copy here: 
Small Membership Insight Report registration.

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]
Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]
Published Thursday, 10 January 2013 at 10:57 AM

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