Years ago, I attended a conference for one of the associations I was working with. While waiting for the speaker to begin their presentation, I overheard the woman next to me having a heated conversation on the phone. At one point, she blurted out, “Don’t they understand that without our organization, they wouldn’t have anyone advocating for them? What would they do without us?!” My curiosity was piqued, and I quickly learned that she worked for an association that helped set food safety standards, and she was frustrated about legislation impacting her industry. Her background was fascinating, but what most intrigued me was her passion and urgency.  

That encounter marked a notable shift in my mindset and prompted me to ask one question about the organizations I was involved with: What would happen if they didn’t exist? 

For many organizations, this thought hasn’t entered their minds. Still, I’ve found that thinking this way invites meaningful discussions and forces leaders to reevaluate how they are engaging with their members. In other words, it drives them to think about the story they are sharing with members and whether it is being communicated with passion and relevance. The story you want to share with your members is your “value proposition.” And it needs to matter to them. 

A value proposition is a targeted and concise promise or statement to your members and a cornerstone of your organization. The purposes of this message are threefold: 

  • It should clearly explain what your association will deliver.  
  • It should communicate why members should join. 
  • It should describe what your members will experience or benefit from their membership. 

Unfortunately, many associations make the mistake of creating a value proposition tailored to the masses – not their specific membership interest. Their statements are too broad or ambiguous and frequently will confuse prospective and active members, leading them to look elsewhere and join other organizations. In my experience, there are two common mistakes that associations make when constructing a value proposition: 

…It’s outdated! 

Our world is constantly evolving and changing – and so should your association! Your value proposition should be reflective of the times. It must be meaningful and relevant to the members you are attracting, so understanding their needs and interests is imperative when coming up with your message.  

…It’s hard to understand! 

I’ve seen countless value propositions that have a “Goldilocks Complex.” They are either too complicated, too vague, or too dull. A quality value proposition will inspire and engage your members (and prospective members), leaving them wanting more. A good value proposition is outcome-based and results-oriented, tapping into what your members want and need. Think about the type of story you want your association to tell. Consider how to get people to binge that story – or in this case, binge on what your association has to offer! 

Consider what your community, your industry – the world, even – would be missing if your association didn’t exist. I challenge you to revisit your value proposition and determine whether it imparts the message you want with that scenario in mind. Remember, you are the author of your association’s story – how will you make sure your members keep turning to the next page? 

If your organization is ready to take the next steps to share its new value proposition with the world, let’s work together and make it happen.