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Growth and Positioning Strategies for Associations

During the late fall of 2013 we conducted a survey of approximately 307 trade association and professional society executives to learn how leading associations are re-thinking their member engagement strategies to accelerate their association’s impact on members, differentiate themselves in the marketplace, grow membership, increase member retention, and drive new revenues.


This survey focuses on Strategic Member Engagement as a game-changing accelerator to your growth and positioning strategies. While increasingly a hot topic in executive circles, there appears to be a vast range of perceptions about member engagement, and confusion about implementing related strategic initiatives. For example, this is not about touchy- feely member interfaces, short- term sales strategies or administering tracking reports.

Our research is surfacing that strategic member engagement has huge implications for an association’s business model and its long- term, sustainable impact on its profession or industry. Whether you are an executive of a professional society or a trade association, we are confident you will be interested in how your peers are experimenting with new approaches and demonstrating how these are driving their long- term impact and organizational health.


Vertical Leap Consulting, icimo, LLC, and Potomac Core Consulting collaborated on this research. Profiles of each organization are at the end of this report.

Core Principles of Strategic Member Engagement

This survey instrument was built around what we believe are the core principles of strategic member engagement. At the heart of these principles is the association’s value premise. Associations are perfectly positioned to bring together constituencies to create new solutions that drive member value and shape industries and professions. Collectively, members achieve outcomes that the individual members could not effectively do on their own.

This means viewing each member as having some piece of the puzzle; with the association bringing them together in effective ways (in- person and virtually) to share knowledge and to make that knowledge available 24/7. We call these “pull” strategies. To achieve a powerful level of knowledge sharing, members must perceive an opportunity to impact something that they personally care about. In fact, people most value those activities in which they personally participate. When their contributions and collaboration are valued and recognized, there is a compounding effect; they are far more likely to feel connected to the organization and to exhibit other behaviors that also support the association’s business model.

This provides a different lens for viewing what you identify, strategize, track and measure. Strategic member engagement is much more about understanding member “up- at- night” issues and the “outcomes” that members seek (versus merely focusing on member satisfaction with the association’s current “outputs”). And then, it’s about stimulating member engagement behaviors that deliver those desired outcomes.

Please complete this form to request a copy of the Impact Survey White Paper

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During a complementary interview, we seek to understand your objectives & current momentum, brainstorming potential process approaches.