Experiences working for membership organisations

Hi all

In the last ten years I’ve worked for membership organisations. I can see that all three would really benefit from using Web 2.0 technology. Many organisations still think that tangible membership benefits like journals and other publications are their unique selling point. In reality, when you talk to members they invariably join for professional recognition and contact with like-minded people.

If you do engage with an organisation’s membership, I would suggest that you bear in mind that members are often reluctant to express what they really think of the current services. This is because a membership organisation is also often the profession’s regulatory body. In such circumstances the majority of members will just keep quiet and reluctantly pay their subscription each year rather than rock the boat.

There are many membership organisations that are well run and forward thinking. I am sure that they will recognise the benefits. It may be worth looking at typical journal’s printing/postage costs and estimate the costs of e-newsletters or RSS feeds to fresh web content instead. Membership bodies often feel that journals are a regular, tangible reminder of membership but I can assure you that many members view publications as a waste of paper.

In terms of online networking, I know of one organisation where a student committee formed a Facebook network so that they could continue discuss things in between their face to face meetings. They also used Facebook to get to know each other and chat about what life was like at each of their universities. Rather than use this medium to contact potential members, a senior manager instructed the students to stop using Facebook because she did not feel that the organisation should be associated with such sites. I think young people nowadays expect employers and membership bodies to provide these tools not ban them!

I wish you luck with this and hope I can contribute further.