Life Cycle IV -- Interdependence


In previous Life Cycle posts, we talked about the membership relationship beginning with awareness. I went on to discuss the importance of pro-active recruitment because of the “push product” nature of membership and the powerful contribution of engaging a new member to move them through their conversion year of membership.

The next season of the membership life cycle is interdependence. This level is the step above a simple transactional relationship. It is helping a member move to the point where his or her identity, livelihood, or safety is tied to your organization.

For a moment think of the association, charitable group, or faith organization with which you feel the most closely aligned. Why do you feel that alignment? Chances are because you are held by one of three 'glues' of interdependence.

I believe that these three elements or glues that build interdependence can be defined as: 1.) Common Vision, 2.) Reward, and 3.) Recognition. I have come to a better understanding of these over the past year through conversations with my colleague and friend Bill Jerome.

Common vision is a very powerful force that ties many of us to an organization. Many charitable groups are fully supported by selling their vision. Because we believe in the cause so much, we are happy to donate money with no expectation of reward or recognition.Have you established a common vision that you and your members are striving to accomplish together and that they can believe in and help you achieve? Members who are sold on the vision are interdependent with your association.

One of my colleagues at the United States Naval Institute once said to me: 'We don’t want someone to pay $39 to our organization solely to get a magazine, but to pay $39 because they also believe that through their membership, USNI is contributing to a better national defense for the United States of America.”

Reward is something that we all want. It is getting something back for our dollar.

The reward of membership in AAA that keeps renewal rates high is that if my car breaks down on a rainy night, someone will come and give me a tow or a jump. The 'towing' benefit is something that we would all like to have for our association.

Other organizations have succeeded in establishing interdependence through a very economically based reward system. One group accomplishes this deeper dependence through certification. Certification is required to practice in their field, and membership is required for certification. Clearly, interdependence exists here that has resulted in very high retention of members.

The most common reward that members look for from their professional association – according to Decision to Join -- is valuable training and information resources. Be sure to measure how your members think you are doing in these areas in order to establish their interdependence with you.

Recognition means that you know me, and I want to be known as one of you.It can be as personal as the great feeling of getting together with old friends at the annual convention or as technological as Amazon telling you what additional books you may want to purchase based on your previous selections. But the fact is that you are known, and this deepens your commitment and interdependence to the association.

Social media and Web 2.0 are perhaps the tools that will best help members connect with their association and build recognition going forward. Sara Costello, Manager, Global Strategy and Programs with the Society for Human Resource Management recently shared a great example of this on the ASAE International Listserv. She highlighted the just completed World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland which used blogs, flickr, You Tube, Podcasts, and Webcasts to build participation and recognition into the meeting.

Associations that have effectively applied all three of these glues of interdependence to their membership model have thrived.

How have you seen associations move from essentially a mailbox relationship to one of interdependence? Feel free to share your examples.

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