With the advent of Web 3.0, the value of an organization’s components – affiliates, chapters, affinity groups and other member communities – remains an asset in changing times. What once was easily defined through the sharing of exclusive members-only information and events, the value of belonging to any organization as a member or as a customer is shifting as you read this. Few things remain constant anymore, but components help anchor an organization during this seismic shift, helping it to remain vibrant, relevant and resilient, positioning it optimally for the future.
Here are five digital age game-changers::
- Expertise is democratized; there are no proprietary pathways to getting ahead
- Opportunities are the key benefit; young professionals want to engage and be engaged
- Belonging is a moving target; communities self-select, form, disband and re-form
- Joining isn’t assumed; professionals get in and get out where they can make a difference
- Member retention isn’t guaranteed; the value proposition must be at the core of the member experience
How do components address these realities for associations, nonprofits and other businesses?
- Components flatten and open your organization
As your organization morphs from a top-down model to a knowledge ecosystem, staff are freed up to receive input from your membership base and industry intelligence, figuratively opening the windows and letting in fresh ideas and new perspectives. It makes your organization more inclusive by enlisting member input and involving members in your important work. As this takes root, your company becomes more agile and responsive to member needs, as well as industry trends.
- Components extend sustainability
During economic downturns, organizations with mature component programs weather a recession more robustly than those that do not provide member communities or affinity groups. Associations without component programs cut staff and services and even merge with like-minded organizations in order to remain solvent. In extreme cases, these organizations close their doors because they cannot maintain the value proposition that initially attracted their member base. Components help organizations last through their economy of scale and direct connection to members on the ground.
- Components personalize the membership experience
Your company’s mission is the proclamation that attracts followers, but it does so at a 30,000 foot level. Professionals today seek tailored experiences that give them a sense of being personally involved in the organizations with whom they identify. The larger your base, the harder it is to create this sense of personal connectedness for each member. Components customize your member experience through local names, faces and events that promote professional learning and career advancement opportunities where members live and work.
- Components provide two-way intelligence
Often organizations assess the value of their components through their ability to deliver messaging and content. In truth, effective components also bring valuable member and marketplace intelligence back to headquarters, via two-way communication. This data from the field keeps companies relevant and responsive in current work and in planning for future growth. There is no cornering the market on business intelligence anymore, and tapping into your components’ ability to provide energy and ideas helps to future-proof your organization.
- Components create context
Global organizations provide a solid foundation for the work to which they dedicate themselves, and their goals are crafted to be purposely broad to attract a wide range of members. Components interpret these goals to fit a member context, plugging into local values, priorities and issues. While members join the organization for its overarching reach, they stay because of its everyday relevance. Components provide this local context, while ensuring a clear connection back to the parent organization.
- Components foster engagement
Local by definition, components are able to engage professionals on an ongoing basis, compared to their sponsoring organization that provides impact from a distance. This ability to engage members on the ground provides customized services and support, learning by doing, chances to lead, and difference-making in the community that headquarters simply can’t. The granularity of focus is a unique value-add that only components can provide, and that members cannot find anywhere else.
- Components nurture innovation
Organizations are often slow to make change, because of the scale of their operations and because they tend to build upon existing success. While this provides stability and continuity for the company’s brand, it makes it difficult to remain agile in the ever-changing marketplace of ideas. Only those organizations that are receptive and responsive survive. Components are smaller in size and more readily adaptable to new ways of thinking and doing, so they serve as excellent incubators for innovation. As components launch and learn from different initiatives, the parent organization benefits, replicating and scaling out successful programs for its larger audience.
- Components feed a leadership pipeline
While staff are hired centrally to perform the everyday work of the organization, there is also opportunity to build a vital leadership pipeline from grassroots membership. Component leaders gain experience and hone their skills locally and eventually climb upward to serve on committees and boards at the national level. Through this process, the organization has multiple opportunities to vet rising leaders and groom them for new opportunities to lead. Grassroots leaders grow into leaders of the entire organization.
- Components energize your member base
The number one driver for joining a member organization is its ability to help professionals solve problems and support their professional aspirations. Connected in the community, component groups are well-positioned to champion causes that promote the needs, interests and priorities of their members. Whether it is regional practices, policies, regulations or legislation, components can motivate and mobilize members to speak and write on behalf of the organization, raising funds and voting for worthy causes. Energized members give back to organizations that help them to learn, grow and make a difference.
- Components build member loyalty
Components are not transactional in nature, and attempts to monetize them betray a misunderstanding of their value. They do not exist as a revenue stream, but they do help to ensure a healthy bottom line, through contributions of time, talent and commitment from their well-connected and ultra-engaged members. The component pay-off to the organization is a member base that remains engaged and energized as the landscape continues to shift underfoot. Member loyalty is the coin of the realm in successful organizations.
Component programs sustain organizations, nurturing a vibrant, loyal member base that serves its long-term interests. Building thriving affiliates, chapters, affinity groups and other member-based communities is an effective strategy for maximizing your organization’s capacity today and in the future.