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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.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A model approach to Membership Management

I was chatting the other day with a friend who works as membership director for an association of universities. The discussion, of course, got around to software, and she said, "Most vendors' membership modules seem to be built around the idea that their main purpose is to help me keep track of my members."

Well, if that was a crime, we were guilty - what else would the main purpose of a membership module be?

"Most of a good membership director's work is not about tracking members" my friend explained. "It's about making sure existing members are being served, about retaining members, and about winning new members. The software needs to have tools that allow me to model the approach I take to member service and member sales."

Looking at it this way, I see that membership management is a lot more like fundraising and grant management than I had thought - all three involve specialized forms of relationship management. In our MEMBERS ONLY software, most of the features needed to manage these relationships are not in those specific modules, but right in the core CRM.

In our early meetings with new users, I hear a lot of oohing and ahhing over features in our CRM software that can assist in this area. I'm thinking of lists and list folders that can help you catagorize people and organizations into key consitutnet groupings. I'm thinking of ticklers with specific task types and topic assignments that can assist you in knowing the next step with each membership prospect. And of course the blast emailer that lets you communicate directly with any subgroup of your community.

But I think these capabilities are rarely used to their full advantage. That's because there is another piece of planning work an organization needs to do first. My friend the membership director mentioned the key to this planning in describing what the software needs to do - it needs to model her approach.

How can you do this?

  1. Articulate your model. You may have never laid it out this clearly before, but you already have a model.You need to begin by analyzing the way you actually think about servicing your members and courting your prospects. What logical groups do they fall in? How do they move from group to group? What actions do you take for people in each group? This is your model.
  2. Create Lists for your consituent groupings. Once you have articulated a systematic way of classifying your members and membership prospects, create MEMBERS ONLY lists so you can flag the members of each group. Also, think about whether any of these lists can be set up from queries, and create and save those queries.
  3. Define Key Tasks. Your model was built on groupings and actions. Define task types for these in MEMBERS ONLY dropdown maintenance, so you can add specific ticklers for these tasks with scheduled dates. Now using the query or list browser, you should be able to target your work to specifc constituent groups.

What steps do you need to take first to be able to use your system this way? And how can we help you take a general set of tools for Community Relationship Management and turn them into a focused approach to membership development?


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Comments on "A model approach to Membership Management"


Blogger Alexis said ... (April 23, 2007 at 10:43 AM) : 

I believe you are spot on with this issue. Another way of stating this is that its not the tools that are lacking, its the model. I have sat through many meetings and trainings where a specific function such as lists or phases are discussed, but a model is never developed. The cycle is doomed to repeat itself until the group decides on who or what kind of constituent they are looking to cultivate so that meaningful numbers can be developed.

Have any models on member cultivation been released? How do you typically recommend the models be designed?


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