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June 18, 2020
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By Bob Harris, CAE

For months associations have reacted to the pandemic. It is time to transition from the virus to communicating value. 

Demands from members for solutions and services have increased two-fold during uncertainty.  Staff and volunteers have rallied to serve and protect members.

Dues renewals will be distributed soon.   How will the association communicate value?  Members should be reminded of the ROI – return on investment compared to dues paid.

Appoint a team to determine value and what may have changed.  Some programs have been cancelled or postponed as new services, bulletins, education, and advocacy initiatives have been added.

Value Calculator

Demonstrate value by adding an interactive calculator on the association website.  It automatically tallies savings on tangible and intangible benefits.  Develop the calculator with these steps. 

Sort the Services – Appoint a team to identify every activity, benefit, and service.  The list could be over 100 items when they consider access to expertise, digital bulletins, performance reports, research, etc.  

The list will include conferences, education, and advocacy among the myriad of benefits.  Sort the list by categories such as education, advocacy, solutions, and connections.  Alignment with the goals in the strategic plan would be smart.

This may be the time to determine if any benefits and services no longer have value.  Activities that do not advance the mission statement might be abandoned or adapted.

Assign Worth – Identify the value of services, realizing much of it will be speculative.  Every service and solution has a value.

Make your best guess, including costs of operations, overhead, time, etc.  Distinguish the costs between members and non-members.   Realize that even your most mundane services have value for the people calling for help. 

Some of the value may include how the association advice can save a company from fines for non-compliance.   If a member calls staff for help and talks for an hour, what would that value be?  If a program has potential to save a member thousands of dollars, try to estimate the value.

Beyond ROI, consider return on relationships (ROR).   Associations connect members within their community.   They facilitate access to experts, leaders and offer mentoring.

Ben Bolusky, CEO at the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association, says, 

“Though it may be challenging to ascribe value, recognize even your most seemingly intangible benefits or services have some real tangible value.”  

Integrate Technology – The exercise can result in a letter or brochure about the value of membership.  It is more effective to turn it into a live calculator.  

It will communicate the reasons to join or renew along with the savings associated with each benefit.   Members and prospects can use the calculator to determine association value and opportunities.

Members will be considering renewal soon. Be prepared by updating or creating a customized value calculator that indicates ROI and ROR.

Examples of value calculators are found at FNGLA and TMA.

http://www.fngla.org/membership/roi

https://www.texmed.org/roi/

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Note:  Bob Harris, CAE, provides free governance tips and templates at www.nonprofitcenter.com.