Have you ever stopped and thought about how remarkable cell phones are? With so many new models emerging on the market, it’s easy to take for granted how much of an impact they’ve had on our lives. With this small, powerful tool, we have unlimited access to networks, information, and relationships – all in the palm of our hand. Technology continues to shape much of who we are as a society today, and your association is no exception.

In the late 1990s, Larry Page and Sergey Brin were two Ph.D. students at Stanford, who began collaborating (in their garage!) on a new piece of technology after it appeared to Page in a dream. When they started telling others about their revolutionary idea for a “search engine,” they were mocked and often disregarded by corporate investors.

Despite the lack of faith and support, they persevered. Three fundamental beliefs would drive Page and Brin as they began to expand their company:

  1. People want to do meaningful work.
  2. They want knowledge about what is happening in their environment.
  3. They want the opportunity to shape that environment. 

For those of you familiar with this story, you know that Larry Page and Sergey Brin went on to found Google, pioneering the field of search engine optimization. Their invention would have a resounding impact on the workforce and pave the way for other tech companies. Today, Google is widely considered to be one of the happiest (and most productive) workplaces in the world. Following Google’s launch, corporate giants followed Google’s model, vowing to put their employees first. When we look back on these models today, they make sense, but we have struggled to adapt many of the practices to our membership organizations. 

Many associations like to think that they put people first, but in actuality, they have lost sight of their membership mission. It’s time to ask yourself: is your organization truly member-focused?

To answer this question, you may be searching for the answers (perhaps even on Google!). Association technology companies have started to help provide answers by specifically creating content on how to build community, recruit members by creating a membership strategy. This, of course, is helpful, but if you think about the fact that a future-focused approach is working for so many companies, the solution may be more obvious – start mirroring what they are doing. You can begin by adopting the mindset of Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s and applying their three key principles:

  1. People want to do meaningful work.

Undoubtedly, people in associations want to connect to something meaningful. This is your cause, your mission – the reason your members join your community.  

  1. They want knowledge about what is happening in their environment.

Your members want to be informed about what is happening within your association. Create open lines of communication using a host of channels, including online tools and platforms. Be sure to update your website regularly and create opportunities for your members to learn more about your organization’s mission. 

  1. They want the opportunity to shape that environment.

Putting your members first means giving them a seat at the table. By volunteering for leadership roles and serving on your board or committees, they want to help shape the environment within your organization. We must be willing not just to let them take a seat but also to allow them to shape the culture and direction of the organization.

The first associations were founded in the 1600s, and it could be argued that their initial model hasn’t changed much since. Board members or leaders held their seats for long periods, and members who had “paid their dues” would be ushered in as the next generation of leaders. Many organizations are used to hierarchies and traditions, ultimately becoming conditioned to rely on dated systems. To make sustainable change and truly put your members first, you have to be willing to innovate, modernize, and collaborate. 

Bring on new leaders who can bring fresh perspectives and ideas to the table. To stay a generation ahead, you want your leadership to be representative of your entire membership community. Survey your members regularly or get insight via interviews, think tanks, or task forces. No matter what you do, remember that your members’ voices should be louder than any other. 

It is a critical time for your association to consider the following: in every area where you interact with your members, in every aspect of your offerings, your value proposition, your mission – are members the priority? With a few simple changes, they can be. I guarantee that as a result, your organization will be one step ahead of the rest and on track for a more prosperous future.

Consider working with us to make your organization one that members flock to.