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The topics discussed here grow out of the bread-and-butter issues that confront my consulting and software clients on a daily basis. We'll talk about prosaic stuff like Membership Management, Meetings and Events Management and Fundraising, broader ideas like security and software project management, and the social, cultural, and organizational issues that impact IT decision-making.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Membership Managment?

A lot of times in our business we hear the phrase Membership Management. We even call one of our modules Membership Managment. But what the heck is Membership Management? In a posting back in August, I quoted from my friend Esther Merves, who after a seven-year stint as a Membership Director in an education association, complained that all the software she looked at to help her "manage" her members offered very little to help her retain members or attract new members.

We reconnected with Esther after many years recently, when she decided that to prepare for hanging out her new shingle as an independent consultant, she needed to call all the software vendors in the known world and find out what we were up to. This had led to a number of very interesting conversations.

There's another missing area in most organization's handling of Membership Management, according to Esther. This is Outcome Tracking. "Most software lets me keep track of my outputs, but not my outcomes" she says. What is the difference?
"Outputs are: members of our association sent an average of six staff people to association events this year. We held 30 workshops and seminars, with a total of 3245 registrations."
Outcomes are, "of the 3245 members who attended our workshops, 2800 said they felt better prepared to deal with new regulations regarding blah blah blah. Indeed, 72% of our members report changing their policies regarding yada yada specifically because of information gained at our meetings"
Your first thought might be: "Great idea! To do this all we need is a survey module. There's lots of those. No problem!" But really, where you record the data is almost the last step, not the first. The process begins before each activity of your organization. The process involves trying to articulate the goals of each aspect of your program as measurable objectives, and then carrying out these assessments.

Your members do not want to be managed. They want to know that your work is furthering shared goals. Public Health programs have known for years that they cannot really attract funders unless they try to document a measurable impact on their communities. Esther thinks the rest of us would gain traction by incorporating this approach into our membership programs.

Further discussion: TechSoup article on outcome tracking.

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