by Jan Yuill
I was recently working with a non-profit organization that was wrestling with membership issues. Why were members not more actively involved? Why were they leaving all the work to the board? Why were they silent in meetings? Why were they not responding to requests for help? Why were some members not coming to meetings at all?
All good questions! (You may be asking the same ones about a certain organization that you know and love, as well.)
For 2 hours we sat together discussing membership participation. Lots of history was shared. Excellent observations were made by board members. Great ideas were raised to help ‘turn things around.’ But what to do about it?
We turned to the Organizations Alive! Model for insight.
In this case, because it is a professional organization, members are in both the Customer Service quadrant (i.e. those served by the organization) and the Membership Potential quadrant (i.e. those serving).
The focus of the meeting was on Customer Service. Who are the primary customers of the organization? How are they described? Who are the secondary customers? Tertiary? And what do they all expect, want, and need? What are they thinking and feeling? Are they happy with the way things are going?
In addition to these questions about Customer Service, the conversation also went to the three quadrants influenced by Customer Service – i.e. Strategic Vision, Resource Management, and Membership Potential:
- What is the Strategic Vision of the organization? What are its guiding principles? The legislation that governs it? The mandate? Are these clear to members? Are they understood by everyone in the same way? Do members contribute to the Strategic Vision? Are they invited to be part of the planning and steering of the organization? What else could the organization be doing?
- What do members think of the methods, products, and services provided by the organization (i.e. Resource Management)? Are they getting what they want and need? Are things ‘working’ for them? How effective are they for all of the money, time, and energy they spend?
- What would it take to get members involved in serving others (i.e. Membership Potential)? Would it be meaningful and important for them to become involved in the work of the organization, and not just to be served by it? Are there things that ‘uninvolved members’ might like to champion? What gifts, skills, and passions do they bring?
The board members acknowledged that they needed to speak to the members directly, before they could ever hope to answer any of these questions. And it could not be through e-mails and phone messages! They needed to have a conversation. They needed to get personal. They needed to form new relationships. They knew that this was where the new ideas and new energy would come from. This was where they needed to start.