Start with a Bang

Peter Bird
Peter Bird | 14 February 2017

Start with a Bang

Whenever a toolkit is delivered, and provided to support strategic development, the feeling is always something akin to that of having an Allen key and some wood glue thrust in your hand, and being told to get on with assembling the flat-packed furniture for your own house. Disheartening.

In truth the MemberWise Member Engagement Hub, from which the Member Engagement Toolkit can be obtained, offers some more interesting content than this. It has merit too; the ideas are also ideas shared by many membership organisations. Too often and too much though, membership strategies focus on the drive to change numbers: the number of participating members, the total income and the build-up of designated funds. There is often too little focus, not specifically but generally, on shift in outcomes: the number of participants who can define and fulfil their objectives; or the long term purpose and outcome of fund investments.

Perhaps fulfilling objectives is a concept that is easier recognised and addressed by some organisations than others. The adventure organisations that we know of, like The Outward Bound Trust and Guides, perhaps, can identify goals or the challenge of adventure that are appealing and easily translated into achievements that can be rewarded and raise self-esteem.  Membership organisations that deliver educational courses and assessments, which result in qualifications that are not only in themselves a reward, but also yield opportunities of employment, like The British Horse Society and the Association of Accounting Technicians, are also very successful in this way.

But for others, a royal society, an institution of engineers or a college of physicians for example, it may be more difficult to pin down the singular objectives that will provide its members with a clearly defined, easily recognised membership journey. Perhaps the diversity of careers, even within a given profession such as that of Doctor, makes this self-fulfilling, but if you yourself are a member in, or part of, such a membership organisation then you may feel otherwise. You will know that they support their members in other ways. Two specific ways to mention on this occasion.

First, through professional development, mentoring, and revalidation. Sometimes to endorse personal achievement, sometimes to advance a career and sometimes as a legal requirement. The organisations and institutions that are accredited to oversee particular career groups have a responsibility to give assurance to the public, to employers, and specifically in the case of revalidation of Doctors, their patients. People appreciate this.

Secondly, by example. The newly qualified aeronautical engineer who has aspirations to follow in the footsteps, and to better the achievements, of her father, a professor of aeronautical engineering. A senior bridge designer thrilled to have the opportunity to describe, in terms of wonder, the construction of an iconic bridge, so much so that the appreciation of the wonders is shared with all the other guests staying in the same Guest House (the secret is in the shuttering by the way). A surgeon or a doctor, an inspirational designer or teacher, or any individual able to inspire tens or hundreds of like-minded professionals, colleagues, students and others will sometimes show the way. You meet these people in work, in life or in the course of your travels and they can be inspirational. Membership organisations know this and they are welcomed as supporters, and heralded as Patrons, Fellows, mentors and shining lights for others to follow. Sometimes they even make their way to CEO.

Talking this through led to this blog. People and the culture that they engender are at the heart of most membership organisations, and so it is that these thoughts resonate with an earlier post; in fact, the earlier post in this series: A Cultural Commitment.

The ideas that foster cultural commitment bind people, teams and organisations together and enable them to improve each other and keep improving. If you read the previous post and you haven’t already established a Kudo box or run PechaKucha style presentations then these are things to try.

Any organisation about to embark on a period of studious contemplation, aiming to build a strategy for growth or improvement, should first ignore the toolkit and focus on its people. Consider ways it can draw out qualities of leadership and inspire its members to start with a bang. Perhaps by eager effort to achieve personal development and steps in life that are key to flourishing as an individual.

But membership organisations already know this, don’t they? You would think so.