Are your association members truly engaged?
It’s a question that’s top of mind for association executives, but the answer is often unclear. That’s why Amith Nagarajan and his team at Aptify, an association consulting and technology company, have developed a methodology to quantify member engagement.
“While engagement is indeed a popular term in the industry, it is defined in a way that is very much scattered,” says Nagarajan, chairman and chief executive officer at Aptify and author of the e-book Scoring Member Engagement. “People think of engagement in different ways.”
In his book, Nagarajan defines engagement as the measure of the alignment of the individual’s to the organization’s overall strategic goals. He also outlines a formula he calls the Composite Engagement Score, which allows associations to define the parameters of member engagement and score it from 0 to 100.
Step 1: Identify Key Performance Indicators
The first step is to identify key performance indicators—activities that members engage in that are most aligned with the strategic objectives of the association. One might be the number of meetings and events attended over a given time period. One might be total revenue generated from the member, while another could be years as a member. Another could be the number of committees on which the member has served. There are dozens to choose from, but it’s critical to pick the three to five most important KPIs so the focus is not diluted, he says. The KPIs should be selected by looking at the strategic objectives of the association and choosing the activities that most support those goals. They would differ from association to association.
For example, if one of the strategic goals is industry education, then a KPI might be attendance at meetings or educational credits obtained. If a KPI is industry advocacy, then maybe a KPI is letter-writing or visiting lawmakers in Washington.
Step 2: Weight the KPIs
Once the KPIs are established, they are weighted for importance and assigned a point total so that all add up to 100. If there are five KPIs and all are equal in importance, then each would be assigned 20 points. If, on the other hand, they are not equal, then event attendance might be assigned 40 points, while advocacy is 20, years as a member is 15, revenue generated for the association is 15, and volunteering is 10.
Step 3: Assign Points for Activities
Next, points are assigned for activities within each KPI. So, for event attendance, points would be assigned based on how many meetings a member attended within a given time period. If the member attended one association meeting in the past three years, he might earn 10 points within that 40 allocated to the KPI. If he attended 2 to 3 meetings in the last three years, he might receive 20 points. If he went to more than 4 and volunteered or sat on a panel, then he might get all 40 points within that KPI.
Step 4: Tally Up the Scores
After point totals for each of the KPIs are added together, the member will have a Composite Engagement Score that quantifies his level of engagement.
Step 5: Use the Data to Engage
An association can use this data in several ways. It can aggregate the data to arrive at an average engagement score, which provides the organization with a benchmark on which to improve. Association executives can drill down into each of the KPIs to identify strengths and weaknesses. For example, if the average engagement score for meeting attendance is lower than the others, then leadership knows that steps must be taken to get more people to the meetings.
Association executives can also track the individual scores to see which members are engaged and which aren’t. They can then reach out to individuals in either group to find out why—and what needs to be done to improve the product or experience and engage members. “It’s also a warning system for people who were once highly engaged but over time have become less engaged,” he says. Most of the time, executives figure out when someone’s engagement has waned only when it’s too late and they already have dropped their membership.
Washington, D.C.–based Aptify has started measuring the engagement of some of its clients, including ASAE. However, associations don’t need the Aptify software to use the system, says Nagarajan. Association executives can adapt their own systems or use Excel to input the data and tabulate member engagement scores. “We wanted to make this a strategic conversation and implementable anywhere,” he says. “Our goal is to give back to the community and hopefully provide what will become a standard definition for engagement and the tools to measure it in a way that matters.”