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Respond to Me Already!

Probably the most frequent answer to “what’s your biggest challenge” from both association executives and volunteer leaders is communication. It’s simply a conundrum to figure out a way to get members to engage with their associations by simply being responsive. Even volunteers active in the association are sometimes slow or never respond to requests to confirm a meeting or vote on an issue, etc.

I recently sent a survey to over 1000 association executives from multiple-sized associations and received fifty-eight responses. (That, in and of itself is a symptom of a lack of responsiveness, sadly.) The vast majority (64% had memberships between 500-2500), and second was between 150-499 at 24%.

Questions. I asked just two questions – their membership size and, “What is the most successful approach you've experienced in getting your members to respond to important emails or texts when they've failed to do so initially?” Here’s a summary of their responses. Many of them depended on the subject matter and timing.

Email was clearly the most popular answer.

  1. If the first email didn’t work, a follow-up was sent later.

  2. “Bombardment” was a word one respondent used.

  3. Highlighting key text in the message works for some, too.

  4. Trying not to inundate members with emails is important.

  5. An alternative is to send emails from the committee chair or president

The last communication survey I saw from NAR and in my own surveys of specific associations, email remains the most popular way that members say is the best way to get messages from their associations.

Text messaging was mixed. Some associations said they used it and others said their members don’t opt in to such messaging. But, they also often miss, ignore, or delete emails before reading.

Contacting principal brokers and asking them to get the word out was mentioned as effective by several as was posting something on the MLS sign-on page.

Using a contact system such as: Constant Contact, Survey Monkey, Google Groups, closed Facebook pages and others were popular choices, as well. Facebook Live was listed as a way to remind members to check their in-boxes or texts was another idea as was using software called OneCallNow.

Using catchy subject lines and using few words such as: Final notice, Termination Notice, Last Chance, High Priority, Late Fee, Only x seats left!, Important Legal Alert, etc.,work for many.

Direct phone calls when the numbers are low enough to call.

Other ideas. Incentives, auto voice mail systems, catch them in person at education classes, for example. Using early registration discounts also helps some.

Four Tips

1. Determine the method of communication based on the audience. Some examples:

your board of directors

a committee

a general membership meeting

an education course

a segment of your membership (for example, younger or newer members, all volunteers, those interested in specific areas like global, technology, etc.) This means you need to know what your members are most interested in, which can be determined by a member-segmented survey analysis, but that’s for another blog. Each of these would require a different approach, a different subject line, and different types of follow up.

2. Give your members a “pause.”

I stole this phrase from a recent Associations Now article and think it makes a lot of sense with member communication. We all experience our own frustrations with overwhelming numbers of emails and delete them before we even open them. Why would members be any different? Many organizations and businesses will give their customers options for message frequency. I love this idea – why not divide your membership into segments based on how often they’d like to hear from you in general messaging, or, just send those general information pieces that aren’t urgent to a finite number of members each time. Track their responses. See which ones work best.

3. Develop and follow a communication plan!

It doesn’t have to be detailed (but it could be!). Determine who your key audiences are, the number of times you need to contact them and why, and develop some common messages. Tie these all into a calendar with reminders. It makes your efforts more focused and easier to manage.

4. Respond Yourself!

Develop an internal policy that states the maximum amount of time staff members in which they respond to a direct phone call, email, or text from a member (or a consultant - heehee).

If you have other ideas that have worked well for you, I hope you’ll share them with us. And, as always, let Ginger and me know how we might be able to help you in this and other topics. has a full list of services and solutions.

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