November, London. The great and the good among membership organisations met to hear an impressive line up of panellists share their stories of how they are effecting transformation.

Q&R secured a panel, three quarters of whom were women, along with our partner for the event James Jeynes, Founder, MemNet and CEO, Oracle user Group. We were also joined by Sean Riches, Founder, Erskine Nash who led an interactive exercise on helping delegates and panel alike to acknowledge where they were on the transformation curve – beautifully illustrated by sticky masking tape marking out the four stages on the floor.

Imogen Osborne, Co Founder and Chief Digital Officer, Q&R, chaired the panel and kicked off by sharing the results of the Pulse Check we conducted among over 1000 MemNet members prior to the event before handing over to the panel for their opening remarks.

Q1. Which one of the following, if any, makes your members really happy?

  • 11% Effective lobbying
  • 30% Networking with other members
  • 4% Easy access to the membership team
  • 0% Regular and relevant communications
  • 7% Listening to member feedback
  • 37% A combination of all of these
  • 11% None of the above and here’s why…

One respondent commented:

“Feeling able to deliver really great services to our beneficiaries, which in practice means good communication, good engagement and consultation and as little admin as possible”

Q2. Which one of these, if any, has the biggest impact on membership retention?

  • 4% Access to industry insight
  • 8% A dedicated membership helpline
  • 20% Understanding individual member needs
  • 20% Offering services that match their business’ requirements
  • 8% Access to industry influencers relevant to their business
  • 20% A combination of all of these
  • 20% None of the above and here’s why…

Another respondent added:

“The perceived value of membership has the biggest impact on membership retention.”

“We see large swathes of members leave in the first year as their needs are not meet within the organisation structure.”

Audrey McCulloch, CEO, Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) explained the challenge she faced was moving the perception of the organisation from small and colloquial to a modern and globally recognised entity. A major challenge has been ensuring the CRM is fit for purpose to answer the many needs of members.

CRM issues were the unifying theme with only one panellist, Ruth Marvel, Deputy CEO, Girl Guiding UK (GGUK) confidently stating she was happy to date with the new system that had been adopted. Ruth’s advice for effecting transformation was to be crystal clear about the value you are offering members.

She then gave a fascinating account of the structure of GGUK and the challenges this presents, namely:

  • An organisation composed of 110,000 volunteers
  • Nearly half a million girls and young women (aged 4-25)
  • Just 400 salaried staff
  • GGUK needs to stay relevant in our rapidly developing world in order to deliver on its mission to make the lives of girls and young women better
  • Using the rock face as an analogy, she described the importance of taking risks and challenging sacred cows, but to be mindful about tying yourself on as you reach each milestone and take stock
  • She also pointed out the value of identifying your allies who back the change and then give them your total support to effect change
  • Listening, agility and evolution were key words in her summing up

Karen Dee, CEO, Airport Operators Association, outlined the delicate balance between meeting the different needs of different types of members from the large corporates to smaller supplier businesses. Change at AOA has been focussed on continuing to build on the work that has answered members’ desire for a stronger lobbying voice.

And finally, James Jeynes, has been focussed on ensuring the internal culture at Oracle is right. In particular, ramping up the focus on customer service at every touch point with members, from answering the telephone to types of interactions at the annual conference. He too described CRM being an issue and with his MemNet hat on, described the number of calls he has had with member organisations in need of ’CRM therapy’.

Annabel Dunstan, Co Founder and Chief Insight Officer, Q&R sums up: “CRM software seems to be one of the biggest bugbears among member organisations undergoing transformation. Since members expect to receive timely communications across a number of channels, it is critical the communications backbone of a member organisation is in good shape.”

Note: For the full set of results of the Pulse Check and accompanying comments please email with the subject header: Effecting Transformation Nov 2017.