aamse recap

AAMSE Recap – Member Satisfaction is NOT Member Engagement

aamse recap

Last week, LRC had the privilege of co-facilitating a discussion at the American Association of Medical Society Executives (AAMSE) annual meeting in Baltimore.  My co-presenter was Jane Aguirre, Vice President of Membership & Alliances with the American Academy of Ophthalmology.  Jane has been our client contact as we have conducted member research with the Academy over the past two years.

The focus of the conference was solely on medical societies and the audience consisted primarily of management and membership-oriented professionals.  Keynote speakers spurred conversations, breakout sessions were full, and the discussions bled over into the common areas in our hotel before, during, and after each of the sessions.  In an industry that has become increasingly competitive and territorial between “generalist” and “specialist” practitioners, the underlying theme of the conversations was “how can we help each other be more successful?”

Jane and I presented a topic on how and why “Member Satisfaction is NOT Member Engagement.”  A link to the case study (which was the foundation for the presentation) can be found here.  Jane kicked off the presentation with the Academy’s experience with constructing a Composite Engagement Score (CES) to measure real-time, behavior-based engagement.  I followed, showing how conducting “voice of the member” research can be made even more powerful when linked to an internal measure, metric, score, or index, like the CES.  The marrying of the two can be incredibly powerful for near-term and long-term management and monitoring of member engagement.

The demand for actionable information on this topic was obvious:  our session was standing room only and additional attendees were turned away.  Hearing table conversations prior to the presentation, it was apparent that while some attendees believed their organization was in a good place, it wasn’t good enough or something was missing.  Others were struggling.  Struggling to understand how their members’ professional needs are evolving, discerning and communicating the organization’s real value proposition to its members, and whether they are truly relevant.

The points that seemed to resonate with most everyone in the room were the “development lessons learned” that Jane discussed.  In constructing the measures and collecting the data tied to member engagement, the process:

  • Takes longer than you think to do it right;
  • Needs to be inclusive of staff across your organization (marketing, membership, event management, advocacy, education, IT, etc.);
  • Relies on data quality, which means checking and double checking all data sources for completeness and accuracy;
  • Should err on the side of simplicity, not becoming too granular of an approach and recognizing when it is “good enough” to start making decisions;
  • May require outside help – don’t be afraid to ask other organizations, consultants, research firms to be a sounding board or to directly assist with your effort.

Although not nearly to the extent that we see in the corporate world, several of our attendees admitted to “drowning in data.”  From membership application information, to transactional data capture, to member survey data, their association management system contains everything they need to take action; however, they are experiencing what is known as “paralysis by analysis” – unable to make decisions because of over-thinking a situation, challenge, or problem.

Other attendees have never taken the leap into research, data, and analysis.  Some mentioned limited budget or staff resource as the reasons; others had the same fears that have paralyzed their peers in the room.

We were asked a question about whether a smaller, state organization could undertake an effort that required almost two years and a significant financial investment from the Academy.  The short answer:  yes!

Any organization can get started with a basic Excel spreadsheet that you use to maintain your membership list:

  • Start by entering membership application information (demographics, dues and non-dues payments, but also opt-in groups, committees, chapters, publications and communications).
  • Over time, capture transactional information (conference attendance, course registration, PAC donations, etc.).
  • Meanwhile, you can be tracking the information you collect to verify subjectively if your “strongly engaged” members (volunteers, leaders, regular meeting attendees) are scoring more favorably in your data than your “weakly engaged/disengaged” members. The more data you collect, the more sophisticated your analysis can become.

At the beginning of the presentation, Jane shared that it was at an associations’ conference like AAMSE where she heard from another organization that was willing to share how they had developed an internal measure.  Years later, Jane was standing before her peers sharing her own similar success story.  It was a great experience for both of us and it epitomized the collaborative conference experience that AAMSE put on for its members.

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