Member Research and Strategic Planning

Member Research and Strategic Planning

How Does Member Research Contribute to Strategic Planning?

Here are four ways in which member research contributes to long term planning. 

1.  Member-Centric Approach - Member research gives your association direct access to the “Voice of the Member”. By understanding the needs, preferences, and expectations of your members, you can align your strategic objectives with their interests.

2.  Informed Decision-Making - Member research provides data-driven insights that inform strategic decision-making. It helps you make informed choices about programs, services, initiatives, and resource allocation based on member feedback and input. This reduces guesswork and increases the likelihood of success.

3.  Anticipating Member Needs - A member survey helps your association stay ahead of member needs and emerging trends. By identifying evolving preferences, industry developments and challenges faced by members, you can proactively address these factors in your strategic objectives. This information positions your association as a relevant and valuable resource for members.

4.  Contributes to Member Retention and Recruitment - Meeting the needs and expectations of your members through research-driven strategic objectives contributes to member retention. Satisfied and engaged members are more likely to renew their memberships and recommend your association to others. Positive word-of-mouth and a strong reputation can aid in member recruitment efforts.

What Questions Should I Ask My Members in Advance of Strategic Planning? 

While the questions will be specific to your association, here are four high level topic areas to consider.

1. Overall Measures – You will want to ask at least one question that provides an overall evaluation of your association. This might be “Overall Satisfaction” or “Likelihood of Recommending” your association to a colleague. The key is that this question can be repeated in subsequent member surveys. This allows you to compare results to see if you’re association is moving up, down or sideways.

2. Importance and Satisfaction with Specific Programs and Services – It’s useful to ask your members to rate your various offerings on an “importance” and “value” scale. This will allow you to create a gap analysis by placing results into quadrants. For example, consider a service that is rated to be very important but with low satisfaction. Clearly this represents an improvement opportunity. 

3. Member Challenges - Anticipating member needs is difficult. It’s tempting to simply ask members what the association could be doing in the future. We’ve found that asking about current challenges and headaches is a superior way to ask about future needs. Once we have a laundry list of challenges we can group them together into a handful of categories. By looking at the groupings your association can examine ways of creatively addressing these needs. 

4. Member Perceptions - We tend to limit our use of open-ended questions. Having said that, there are several questions that can generate useful responses for strategic planning purposes. These questions include: 
    •  What is your primary reason for being a member of (your association)?  
    •  What is the one thing that (your association) has done particularly well over the past 12 months?  
    •  If (your association) could improve one thing in what it does, what would it be?

Bottom Line
Member research will make an important contribution to your strategic planning process. While the questions you ask will depend on your association we have suggested four areas that you will want to consider. As always, happy to answer any questions that you may have. 

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