The value of benefits and services have likely increased since the onset of the pandemic. The members, as well as media and government, rely on the association to be a trusted resource.

The Next Normal

I listened to Mary Byers, CAE and author, speak to the Associated General Contractors of America on the “Next Normal.” She explained, “We’ve heard a lot about the new normal — this is what happens to you. The next normal is what you choose to happen.”

To design the next normal, make time to assess and communicate value during a crisis. This article suggests eight ways to improve member awareness through existing platforms.

“One thing we’ve learned through the COVID-19 pandemic is that our members need us now more than ever, and the association needs to be there for them when the need us most. Associations are responding, and the commitment of our volunteer leaders and staff to the mission has never been stronger,” said Ryan T. Conrad, CAE, RCE, CIPS, chief executive officer at the Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS®.

Communicate Value

Don’t wait until the next dues cycle to improve awareness of association services and achievements.

Members are inclined to ask, “what’s the association done for me lately?” And, “Show me the ROI on my dues.” These are fair questions.

A chamber of commerce CEO said, “We ought to send dues renewals now because members have ‘short memories.’ They are pleased with our work during the crisis. If we wait until the winter, they may forget how we rallied for them during the crisis.”

Review all the work you have done since the pandemic’s onset. How has the leadership rallied; what intelligence have you delivered to members; how did advocacy efforts designate the members as “essential?” By now, the association should be the indispensable partner.

Value Platforms

Communicate increased value in varied formats, such as an infographic, town-hall virtual meeting, impactful PowerPoint, performance metric reports, and video testimonials, for instance.

Conrad at NVAR added, “In addition to regular updates to members through video, email, social media and our website, we took the opportunity to document our association’s response during quarantine in a digital brochure. We looked at is a milestone document — something to demonstrate the association’s efforts to support our members — but also to serve as a historical document that future generations of leaders could look at as a model for action should something like this happen again.”

Associations have existing platforms upon which they can build a value message.

Mission Statement: The mission statement conveys the reason for existing. Use it to remind members of the association’s commitment to them and how initiatives during the pandemic fit within the mission.

Strategic Plan: A roadmap guides the board, committees and staff. Let members know of its existence and how the crisis situation fits within the goals of the association. A good plan communicates value to members.

Guiding Principles: With time, guiding principles emerge in the organization. Examples include, “member-driven,” “respect for diversity,” and “innovation in solving problems.” Remind members about the guiding principles and how they have driven decisions.

Board-Staff Team: The board-staff team are a powerful force. Let members know of the dedicated people who rallied during the crisis.

Social Responsibility: Members will judge the association on how it responded during a crisis. Let them know if the organization has been a leader in recovery efforts and how it has been a catalyst for philanthropy. It is easier to join an organization that supports social responsibility and equality.

Timeline: Every association keeps a calendar. Record the virus news, for example announcement of the pandemic, limitation of 10 persons in a meeting, staff transitioned to remote work. Then add the association’s efforts in the form of webinars, virtual town hall meetings, advocacy efforts and virus-related initiatives through the same period.

Dashboard: Associations rely on measure progress with performance metrics. Create a visual dashboard to demonstrate impact; for example, 1,341 calls to staff averaging per month with the average call and follow-up time being 30 minutes and 1,753 registrants participating in weekly webinars.

Return on Investment: Your association does more than most members know. Directors often say, “we are the best kept secret.” Create a value calculator to demonstrate savings. Inventory every event, service, benefit, activity and relationship, assigning a subjective worth to communicate the return on investment.

Dues are a sizable portion of budgets. Find ways to communicate the added value in a pandemic to maintain a strong membership.