Belonging is More Than a Transaction

A professional will initially connect to your organization because it aligns with the industry where they are employed or do business. They will have a transaction when they find a product, program, service, or experience that presents a solution to their specific problem. They may even join – whether for a discount or from the recommendation of a colleague. Most often, associations want the stakeholders to take the next step – and belong.
Belonging is a feeling. Belonging means that the member feels that they are a part of the association community. It is the delicate balance that recognizes that each individual comes to the table with the perspective of a unique personal story and need but can rely on the collective history, wisdom, and experience to help them succeed. It is feeling that the organization recognizes and appreciates their participation. In short, it is the ‘Norm’ experience from 1980’s show Cheers – being able to walk in and have everybody know your name.
Those members who belong, who feel part of the association community, are more likely to renew, and if higher retention numbers are a priority, then an increase in the sense of ‘belonging’ should be part of the association’s strategic goals. Here are some places to start:
1. The Face of Your Membership
If a picture is worth a 1,000 words, how are you showing who makes up your membership community, and not just describing it:
  • Member of the Month – Sharing a picture with a quick bio on your site can be a great, free recognition tool for anything from uber-volunteers to welcoming a new member. You can align who you recognize with the member segments that your organization has prioritized in its strategy, and for those just coming to your organization for the first time, they will see that individuals are recognized within the larger membership.
  • Quarter in Review in Pictures – Take a look at your organization’s calendar over the next quarter. Include everything you are running – from conferences, leadership meetings, educational sessions, or hill days, and include those events that are taking place locally, as well. If you were able to get one, captivating photograph from each of those events, you could assemble at the end of each quarter a presentation/publication capturing the accomplishments of your organization through the eyes of its members. Ask for pictures, recognize who takes them, and utilize social media streams like Instagram and Facebook to find those authentic, member engagement moments at your association activities.
  • Community Highlights – Associations that have a private, social community can still provide insight into the activity and value taking place past the firewall by recogniing on the organization's public site those that are leading key converations. Some organizations will even share the topic areas under discussion - though members then have to sign in to see the full dialogue or learning piece.

2. Meeting Connections

Attending your association's conference can be a make or break experience, where a member can walk away energized with an expanded network or having not had a single meaningful conversation. As associations program the top-notch content that will help develop their industry professionals, they should be giving similar priority to helping create easier connections between colleagues. Here are a few approaches:

  • Who's at the Meeting? - While a meeting can be a powerful networking experience, they can also be overwhelming for those who get past the registration table and are suddenly in the sea of thousands of colleagues, perhaps withou