A professional membership body has a breadth of members to serve and support, from those at the start of their careers to highly experienced members. So, it’s no surprise that membership bodies work hard to tailor their services, information, and guidance to members at all different career stages.  

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but some of the reasons why people join membership bodies include: 

  • It’s a requirement for their profession to belong to a representative body  
  • For legal advice and guidance 
  • To network with their peers 
  • For continuous educational development 
  • To get help and guidance from experts to learn and develop their skills  

Challenges facing membership organisations  

It’s clear to see that members’ needs and requirements change as they advance through their careers and understanding these are vital for your membership body to deliver value and impact to your members. Through our work with membership bodies, here are some of the common challenges we see facing the sector:  

Delivering quality content and support 

  • Is your public facing content on your website and social channels up to date and relevant? Consider how personalised your content is to appeal to different types of members and what their user journey looks like when they encounter your website.  
  • Make sure your members feel supported when they do reach out to contact you. Is it an easy process for members to engage with you, what’s your response time, how is this done?  

Departments within examining, accrediting and regulatory bodies require different systems, whilst members expect a more personalised, digital, and streamlined service 

  • Systems are needed to ensure your staff can do their jobs but do ensure they’re the right ones and that they support your teams to deliver their work whilst enabling them to work efficiently and effectively. Think about whether there’s more you could do to empower your staff to give them a “single view of the truth/member”.  

Understanding the data and how best to utilise it 

  • Recognise that the data you hold about your members is your most important strategic asset! This is the foundation of any form of relationship with them so in your member or engagement strategy, consider how you’ll store the data, keep it up to date, and what you’re going to do with it and how.  
  • Keep up to date with GDPR guidance and ensure you have a means of ensuring your data is reviewed regularly, cleansed, and accurate.  

Moving to ‘on demand’ learning and away from paper and desk based 

  • The move to digital based education has been on its way for several years now but we’ve seen the pandemic accelerate this more quickly. It’s not just for exams and testing that we’re seeing the move to digital for, but also accreditation, personalised training, access to certificates.  
  • Members want simple, easy access to their learning and educational information optimised for easy viewing or download across all their devices.   

Offering career learning and not just basic membership 

  • Consider how you can offer more than just basic membership whilst being realistic with what you can deliver with the resources, systems, and information you have. For example, if you currently send out newsletters to your whole audience base, can you personalise or segment these using the data you hold to ensure they’re giving your members dedicated support at each career stage.  

The needs of your members and you!  

We know that it can be a challenge to find time in the day job to take a step back and review how you’re engaging with your members. However, factor in creating a member journey map and you’ll find the process will help you understand your members’ experiences with you. 

A member journey map is a visual storyline of every engagement or touchpoint that they have with you. It can help identify areas for improvement and where you can help make a member’s experience with you more connected, easy, and seamless!  

Specific benefits of a member journey map can include:  

  • Helping you see where members interact with your association 
  • Focusing your organisation on the specific needs of your members at different stages of their engagement and therefore the services/products you need to offer them 
  • Identifying whether the journey your members follow online is in a logical order 
  • Showing the gaps between the desired member experience and what they receive 

When mapping out the ‘journey’, think about the career stages your members are going to follow and the requirements at each stage – from student, graduate, newly qualified, certified to experienced and even maybe alumni / associate membership.  

For example, what members want 

  • Students want knowledge and help in starting their career  
  • Newly qualified professionals look to build networks 
  • Certified professionals want to build their experience 
  • Experienced professionals want to enhance their profile  

What you want  

  • A Student to follow the profession and join their representative body 
  • Newly qualified professionals to go on to seek certification 
  • Certified professionals to stay with you throughout their career, to explore and develop specialisms 
  • Experienced professionals to contribute back to the industry, and to their professional body 

In amongst all the above, there’s always the topic of recruitment and retention. All while the sector is facing increased competition from non-traditional training and education bodies including low-cost training providers and free community sites.  

Students and members have evolved into the modern, digital learner or even consumer so staying on top of how you can support them is critical. If you’re not providing a personalised, streamlined service, then you might find that there are other providers who will!