At a recent event hosted by a non-profit organization, I caught up with a friend who serves on the organization’s board.
When I asked him why I should join the organization, he couldn’t convincingly describe the value I’d get out of membership. Unfortunately, his response was similar to those I received from other association directors and staff throughout the evening.
This represents a huge problem, and is one that we see again and again with associations of all kinds. Many are challenged by a lack of member engagement, but are at a loss to properly describe their Member Value Proposition (MVP).
If you don’t properly understand why people should join, and stay with your association, it’s likely members are having the same problem.
So in this article, I’ll help you get to the bottom of what your true value offering is, so you can better communicate your MVP current and prospective members.
Why Is Member Engagement So Important?
Engaged members are passionate, active, and invested in the association’s success. They’re more likely to recruit new members, and create meaningful connections with current ones. They’re your best advocates, both inside and outside the association.
Conversely, disengaged members can spread negativity to others in the association. And they may speak unfavourably about it to those in their personal networks. This can result in a damaged reputation, lower recruitment numbers, and a lack of cohesion with the organization.
How to Define Your Membership Value Proposition
The first thing to remember is, members are humans. Sounds obvious, but sometimes we lose sight of this if we’re too focused on the numbers. And just like every other human weighing a decision, members want to know “What’s in it for me?”
You should already be in touch with what your members want and what makes them tick. (If you need some help with that, check out: 6 Steps to Transform Your Member Engagement Strategy.)
The core message of your MVP should:
- speak to what members find important
- clearly communicate what they get out of membership
- indicate why members should choose your association over another
What does a great MVP look like?
Your MVP is a succinct, compelling description of the value of membership to the member, not a list of what the organization does.
There are three key elements every MVP should contain:
1. A compelling headline that describes the core benefit of membership
2. A short paragraph that details what you offer, who you’re offering it to, and why it’s valuable
3. A visual element (like a video or image) that serves to enhance your message
Here’s a great value proposition example from our client, the Jewish Community Centre of Vancouver:
The J is a place where we come to express ourselves and enrich our lives. Feel a sense of curiosity. Connect. Share laughter among friends. What will YOU experience here?
We recently redesigned their website, which gave us the opportunity to redefine how they communicate with their members. We included their MVP right on the homepage, to attract new members, and continue to inspire current ones. The site is also full of rich and engaging imagery that emphasizes the message of fun, camaraderie, and lasting friendships.
Now it’s your turn to create a compelling value proposition. Let’s get started.
5 Questions to Ask When Defining Your Association's MVP
These questions will help you understand why individuals value membership in your association.
1. Who are you targeting for membership?
Determine the ideal type of member you want to attract. Start by addressing the basics:
- How old are they?
- What is their industry and job role?
- What are their most important values?
- What are their current work or personal challenges?
- What benefits or results are they looking for in association membership?
Examining your current member data, along with what you already know about prospective members is essential in this step. If you’re not sure, ask! Send out surveys, ask questions on social media, or start discussions at live events.
2. What value does your membership provide?
Really drill down into what value your association provides members. Consider how your membership motivates them. How much do members “need” the membership? What emotional value does it provide?
For example, is it about helping them develop relationships and expand their networks? Is it about giving them satisfying opportunities to participate in fundraising?
3. What are your competitors doing?
Do some research to determine who your competition is, what benefits they provide, and what they charge for membership. How can you communicate your association’s value in a way that’s unique, and helps you stand out?
4. Can your MVP be quantified?
Aside from the services you deliver, what quantifiable value do you offer members? Do they receive a significant discount on events, education, certification and other services?
5. How much can a prospective member afford to pay?
People pay more for membership in an organization that has credibility and visibility. What’s the visibility of your member services within the community you serve? If you properly communicate the value you deliver in your MVP, that equates to a membership that is worth more.
The next step is taking the time to document, and articulate your MVP in a way that inspires members to engage. Include it in a prominent place on your website, and on your social media channels.
Share the vision with your team. They’re the front line and the face of your organization. Directors, staffers and volunteers all need to clearly understand the association’s MVP.
They should be able to deliver the MVP convincingly—and without hesitation—when asked by a prospective member. And really, everyone you speak with is a prospective member.
Ultimately, your MVP should help you find members whose personal needs align with the true value of your association’s offering. Having a well-documented value proposition will help you better engage members, attract new ones, and thrive as an association for years to come.
Principal & Marketing Strategist A results-driven creative thinker, Perry is a marketing management professional with a proven record of achievement in Strategic Planning, Team Leadership, and New Concepts Development.