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The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

About 20 years ago I began my first job as membership director (I had previously been a communications director and marketing manager). I was working for a small association with roughly 500 organizational members. Like many associations with company-based membership, my members ranged from small “mom and pop” organizations to Fortune 500 companies.

And as most membership professionals know, when working with company memberships, it’s absolutely critical to understand how engaged the entire company is, not just the primary contact (i.e., the one approving the membership invoice). So I worked very closely with my IT director to develop a report from our membership database that would show all the activity individuals from a given company were engaged in. From event attendance to product purchases to committee service, anything that showed engagement (we didn’t call it “engagement” at the time) would show up on this report. We called this the “company report card” and we ran it whenever we needed it, which was typically at membership renewal time.

Fast-forward 20 years, and measuring engagement is all the rage. Many AMS products now come with automatic engagement measurement tools that will essentially measure engagement much like I was doing 20 years ago.

So what has changed? Speed, weighting, and aging.

Speed: With these new tools, what was once a complicated report that took hours to create and might take several minutes to execute, now is available in real-time. As I view an organization’s record, I can see their level of engagement right on the screen. This allows me to react to the information in the moment, rather than having to think about executing a report and then actually running it. And if I’m on the phone with the primary rep, I don’t have to make them wait to get that information. It’s there immediately.

Weighting: With my original report card, I grabbed all key data related to the organization, without regard to the data’s importance. That is, meeting attendance and committee service were essentially the same. With these new tools, not only can I decide which activities should be included, but I can decide how much weight a given activity has. For example, if an individual is serving on the association’s board of directors, I can give that a higher weight (or more points, if you prefer) than attending an association event. Weighting allows me to see which individuals or organizations are engaged in a way that the association deems most valuable and meaningful.

Aging: Aging allows me to deduct points from a total engagement score as an activity gets older. For example, if an individual is serving on the board of directors currently, I might give that activity 10 points. If they served on the board three years ago, I might give that only five points. Like weighting, aging allows me identify which individuals and organizations are engaged in the most meaningful and valuable manner.

Since the dawn of associations, membership professionals have been trying to measure engagement in order to ensure that members who are members remain members, and non-members who are actively engaged become members. Technology is now allowing us to do this in ways I could have only dreamed of two decades ago.

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