In part one of this blog series, I made the case on why associations should consider launching member councils. The formation of these groups is a great strategy to drive relevance, visibility and, yes – growth. But, how can you make your council launch successful? I have a few recommendations
#1 “Walk the Walk” on Being Member Driven.
An often-used cliché in the association world, being ‘member-driven’ can be a competitive advantage if executed appropriately. Through sub-committees and working groups, let members drive initiatives and an overall agenda they put into place. Doing so deepens ownership and can flip many members from being passive to active participants. Support them, but also let them do the work.
Each of our councils goes through an annual planning process to identify priorities for the coming year. Our Human Services Council takes it a step further by identifying individuals from the Executive Council to lead each of the committees/working groups. This approach has proven to be effective in ensuring accountability and, ultimately, driving results.
#2 Right People, Right Job, Right Now.
This may be obvious, right? Put a premium on hiring the best people to lead your councils. While this may sound like a ‘no-brainer,’ it is more complex than it may appear. Leading a council requires a unique balance of skills that include (to name a very few):
- Subject matter expertise
- Meeting facilitation
- Public speaking
- The list goes on….
An important element of standing-up a new council is assessing whether you have the right staff lead to execute the plan. Hiring someone who is strong in one discipline and weak in others or assigning an existing staffer simply because ‘they’ve been around,’ are very risky. I say this from experience as I have made these mistakes. Believe me, realizing that our staff leads weren’t the right people for the role and having to make changes was hard on many levels. Don’t experiment – get the right people onboard from the outset.
#3 Governance as a Strategic Advantage
Often time, governance is viewed as a barrier. Rigid guidelines handcuff a group’s ability to get anything done. Moreover, the rules are written to allow for little change, which often means the same group leading the same, stagnant issues, year after year.
We have found that writing governance terms that promote change, notably in the leadership roles, coupled with driving a ‘leave your logo at the door’ culture, has led to increased membership numbers, engagement, and overall council relevance.
We have worked hard to create a culture that allows all members to participate equally. For example, with set term limits and annual elections, there are processes in place for aspiring leaders to pursue leadership roles. Also, it truly resonates with prospects that the councils are not run by the few and the mighty. The market has responded to this culture, as seen through our tremendous growth over the past few years.
There are many strategies to consider when trying to enhance member engagement and drive growth. By bringing together like-minded professionals, allowing them to set initiatives and by enabling an inclusive culture under strong leadership, launching councils can be an effective way to drive growth and, ultimately, reach your goals.