Members are the lifeblood of an association. Fully engaged, they make our associations thrive, have impact and offer a meaningful experience. But having active involvement can be hard – and when it dips, so do membership, morale, finances and results. So, how to boost engagement?
We’re investigating engagement strategies – what’s your association doing to ensure members grasp your purpose and are able to participate in your causes? Do you have a platform in place that makes collaboration easy? Are your members making progress together? How do you promote their contribution?
Dianna Steinbach speaks with Jeffer London about serving the diverse needs of members. As the Vice President of Corporate Development at ISSA – The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association, Dianna’s work has helped us all live with better hygiene, thanks to her membership engagement strategies.
PURPOSE How do members make sense of your raison d’être?
ISSA is committed to change the way the world views cleaning. We do this by providing members the tools, data, education, certifications, accreditation, networking, and public positions to make the business case for cleaning as an investment in human health, the environment, and an improved bottom line.
PARTICIPATION How do your members get involved?
ISSA’s team spends significant time engaging member’s end customers – the facility management world – to understand their needs and connect the dots between cleaning and how it can support their goals. The best way we can help our members is to regularly bring them together with their customers to learn from one another and collaborate. This focus enabled ISSA to quickly develop new training, accreditations, and free advice when facilities around the world had to mobilise protection protocols. We engaged industries we had never worked with before where we knew they needed our help to understand how to safeguard their employees and building occupants. This enabled us to position ISSA’s members as thought leaders and critical solution providers to a constantly expanding network.
PLATFORM How do your members connect and collaborate?
I believe that an association needs to create concentric circles of connectivity because there is no single type of member, nor one single way they prefer to interact. ISSA is a full-industry association, serving different company types and a variety of decision makers who each have their own needs and wishes. Therefore, we provide a wide array of platforms from exhibitions and member networking events to focus groups, roundtable discussions, expert groups, committees, councils, social media groups and more. ISSA has over 60,000 social media followers, more than 103,000 website users and more than 250,000 people 42 who have gone through its training programmes. Our focus has been to create channels of engagement that allow these individuals to repeatedly return to ISSA to learn, share best practices and connect.
PROGRESS How do your members move things forward?
Our goal is to create thought leader opportunities where members and their customers not only advise us in committees and expert groups, but identify what knowledge is needed next in the industry, and then crowd-source best practices and advice to share through industry reports, webinars and roundtables. When I was expanding ISSA’s global reach, I chose to include non-members in many of our activities because it helped them to touch and feel the value ISSA brings, and it contributed a larger set of perspectives that we could communicate back out to the industry. You can’t be afraid to engage non-members, for fear of diminishing the value you provide paying members. By engaging the right decision makers, you expand the sphere of influence for your members, which they value quite highly. There are, of course, levels of access to the resulting knowledge, between public and member-only content. This is where you can categorize consumers of your knowledge from non-member to member – or unpaid to paid – if they don’t fit your membership classification, yet find value in what you offer.
PROMOTE How do you recognise member’s talents?
In the past, we’ve done award programmes to recognise outstanding members. We have a very successful Innovation Award programme in the US, that allows customers to vote on which products and services are most innovative. This has been duplicated in other regions. We publicise all entrants to attract votes, so even if they don’t win, they benefit from the exposure. ISSA’s international team runs focus groups with members to discuss key issues and, together with invited subject matter experts from other industries, strategies are outlined. We turn the results into market reports. Our thought leadership webinars are also growing in popularity because members want to be associated with trends and leaders in our panel discussions. We also gather research data that our members produce, and curate it into infographics and presentations which we spread to a wide network. Every time I and other ISSA team members speak publicly, especially when addressing end customer segments, we usually refer to some of the data points. Those points often help the audience make their own internal business case for investing in cleaning. This then drives an interest, which brings members and their customers closer together, with ISSA as the conduit. We have some great success stories where one member used another member’s data, which resulted in their customer gaining additional budget for cleaning.
POSTSCRIPT Any other advice for creating engagement?
You need to constantly be creative with how you engage members and non-members. Even popular programmes should regularly be questioned to ensure you aren’t becoming complacent in your approach. Member’s businesses and marketplaces are evolving constantly and, if you want to remain relevant, your association engagement tactics need to evolve to match or stay ahead of those trends. You also need to distinguish the difference between what members want and need. Sometimes they don’t know the difference, but it will become evident when you ask them to commit time or money. Want is interesting, but need is what they will pay to access. Another thing to consider: we often partner with other associations, event organisers or training providers, sometimes direct competitors, if we think it can create the right outcome for our members, and drive engagement and revenue. You need to maintain confidence that your value proposition and your creativity will strengthen your relevance, which reduces the risk of testing new strategies. Being the first one in your market to suggest crazy collaborations or new concepts distinguishes you as an industry leader willing to do what is necessary for its members. Even when you make a mistake, they are more forgiving, because your successes will always outweigh your failures.
Jeffer London is on the board to the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) and hosts the Facilitation Impact Awards. More info at jefferlondon.com or @jefferlondon.
The IAF promotes facilitators and all who use facilitation to help people work together effectively. Looking for better facilitation? Check out IAF-world.org or talk to Jeffer directly about facilitating leadership teams and association-wide engagement initiatives.
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWEE
Dianna Steinbach is the Vice President of Corporate Development at ISSA – The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association. ISSA has more than 10,500 members in more than 100 countries representing the commercial cleaning industry, from manufacturers and distributors to cleaning service providers and in-house facility managers. Find them at @ISSAworldwide.
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