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Do Your Members Feel They Matter?

Lori Halley 25 March 2015 2 comments

People join associations, clubs and non-profit organizations for a number of reasons – to network, to learn, but mainly to feel part of something. This means that as members, they want to feel their efforts and their opinions are valued.

But is that the case at your organization? Do your members feel they really matter and their individual voices are heard?

In our recent Expert Webinar – Making Members Feel They Matter – we heard first-hand how members, volunteers and supporters are feeling left out, abandoned and unheard both inside and outside of their membership organizations.

As Allison Fine, our webinar presenter (and noted author) explained to our webinar participants, “in an efficiency environment, we use tech to “bundle people up” and treat them like a large batch of donors, volunteers or members instead of treating them as individuals.”

There is an urgency to change – "social media has taken the walls down"

Author of Matterness: What Fearless Leaders Know About the Power and Promise of Social Media, Allison suggests:

Social media have catalyzed this shift by enabling anyone, anywhere to speak, critique, organize, protest and start a business. Customers, clients, donors, volunteers and other constituents who are now empowered by social media are speaking, but no one is listening. The organizations that hear them and make them matter will be the ones who do well in the future.

The solution is to embrace what Allison calls “Matterness”.

Key webinar takeaways:

Here are some of the key takeaways, “ah-ha” moments and lessons I learned in the webinar:

  • Social media has “taken the walls down”

    • We can all see behind the “Fortress walls” so organizations and leaders need to realize that they are now visible to the world.

    • When you develop strategy in a windowless room (or behind a “fortress” wall), you lose the opportunity of connecting with the creativity and ideas available to you.

  • “Changing this culture begins with a premise that people are smart, generous, kind and waiting to help."

    • People are wired to be kind and generous and when we are asked to be our best selves it feels great – for the participant and the asker!
  • Instead of a culture where staff and volunteers are “serving members”, associations should create a community of people with a common purpose.

  • Change people from passive doers to active participators and “co-creators”.

    • People and their stories matter! Organizations need to help people (members, supporters, volunteers, etc.) tell their own stories.

    • Ask your members, supporters, volunteers: What do you think about this idea? What would you do?

  • Just moving quickly is not the same as being effective. Taking the time to send a personal thank-you has such an enormous long-term impact.

  • Don’t let fear stop you from listening to, connecting with and involving your members.

    • 70% of complaints to specific companies on Twitter go unanswered.  The natural human reaction is not to want to hear complaints or respond to them.

    • What makes people angry is feeling they don’t matter.

    • But once you listen, those who complain can become your best ambassadors.

  • There is a great over-emphasis on trying to seem to be perfect. The pretense that everything goes right or we know all the answers.

    • Worrying about making mistakes in public can be paralyzing.

    • We’re not all perfect – “we’re human” - not well-oiled machines

    • The more human (and vulnerable) we make ourselves, the more attractive we become.

If you can’t measure it, is it important?

Allison reminded us that “organizations value what they measure.” She noted that this usually comes down to:

  • How many people attended?
  • How many emails were sent?

These are the metrics that are used to define the success of the organization. But you also need to measure “Matterness”...

  • Are you in conversation with people?
  • Do they feel listened to?
  • Do you know who we are inside the organization?

Steps to help your organization start embracing “Matterness”

Here are the steps Allison suggested you start with:

  • Infuse your work and your organization with “Matterness”

    • For example, start conversations with your members and ask them what Allison calls “Matterness questions” such as: What does it feel to be a member here? Do you feel like a person or a number? When do we feel distant and when do we feel intimate?

  • Identify your default settings
    • are we open or closed?
    • afraid or fearless
    • make people known or unknown
  • Use scenarios to create conversation starters not stoppers
  • Try 3 new and fun ways to thank people this year
  • Enable people to tell their stories.

Additional insight from the webinar:

  • “The Churn” ("the obsession with internal processes at the expense of relationships, and even common sense") can suck the enjoyment out of doing things. Remember that engaging with other human beings has got to be fun!

  • Don’t broadcast, have conversations. When we go online (on our website, social media, blog, etc.) we need to switch from broadcasting to having a conversation.

  • If we’re going to re-humanize ourselves, we need to “step out from behind the logo!”

    • Train staff to be out on social media.

    • You may feel alone a lot on social media and feel that no one is answering your questions, but be sure you are asking questions that people can actually answer.

Our webinar participants matter – stay tuned for Allison's answers to your questions

There were a lot of great questions at the end of Allison’s presentation, so we will be publishing a follow-up post of Questions & Answers from the webinar participants. So stay tuned for that post!

Webinar video and presentation available

In the meantime, if you’d like to watch the 1-hour webinar video or read through the slide presentation, you can find both here. (as well as on our YouTube and SlideShare channels).

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 25 March 2015 at 8:30 AM


  • B. Reilly said:

    Thursday, 02 April 2015 at 12:08 PM
    How can we learn more about managing our membership with WA?
  • Farhad Chikhliwala [Professor Apricot] Farhad Chikhliwala [Professor Apricot]

    Farhad Chikhliwala [Professor Apricot] said:

    Thursday, 02 April 2015 at 12:21 PM
    Hi B.

    Have a look at the "Membership Management" tab under the "Tour" section on our site: https://www.wildapricot.com/membership-management

    Also, feel free to contact our Sales Department, they can walk you through the whole system and answer any questions: https://www.wildapricot.com/wildapricotcontact
Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.

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