Engagement? It’s not that simple.

Leigh Wintz


Many associations are having dialogue around what it means to have “engaged” members. Often there is a parallel conversation about the need to differentiate between members and customers and what products and services should/could be “unbundled” from dues or available only to those willing to pay more.

A robust conversation about either topic will include a description of four segments: core members, members, customers and stakeholders of the association. If an association does not keep up with the rapidly increasing segmentation of those it serves and those it seeks to engage, it runs a risk of becoming irrelevant in the eyes of its core members. Without a clear sense of who the association’s core members are and the ways THEY desire to engage in the association, there may be an unintended change in the nature and character of the enterprise—a potentially dramatic shift in both mission and identity. By actively seeking to engage those who are not members in the association’s work, the infrastructure changes from a “membership structure,” to a “stakeholder structure.”

Successful boards are able to access all relevant insights of strategic importance to its members. Governance that has the will to govern well is able to access timely and intelligent insights from all perspectives that have strategic relevance to members AND customers. It is able to create the space for alternative views in dialogue, while still protecting the ability of the association’s core membership to make decisions about direction, program, and policy. This is often accomplished by separating the membership structure from the governance structure—creating a situation where various segments of members can participate in the thinking and programs of the organization without jeopardizing the critical mass of decision power of the actual owners of the enterprise—the core members.

How does your association define these four segments of the organization?  Is each segment appropriately, and strategically, engaged in the work of the association?

See more from Paul on member profiles:

Who Does Our Association Serve? from Tecker International on Vimeo.


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About the Author

Leigh Wintz

Leigh is a Principal Consultant with Tecker International. She has 25 years experience in association management. She has led international organizations and guided US organizations with international expansions. She has expertise in healthcare, hospital administration, fundraising and corporate sponsorship.