Over the past 2 months, I’ve spent an entire week with the Frisco Chamber of Commerce in Texas, more than a week with the North San Antonio Chamber, I’ve done three separate training sessions for Chamber executives in Pennsylvania and Texas, and I’ve worked with executives from well over 2 dozen Chambers. You know what stands out the most? The fact that ONE THING stands out…
No matter how many different scenarios I’m placed in, whether coaching or consulting, speaking or facilitating, virtually every situation comes back to that ONE THING that it seems most Associations and Chambers of Commerce are struggling with today. Before I share that ONE THING with you, let me list off just a few of the things I think this one solution will help you solve. See if any of these sound familiar.
“Our membership is in decline. Our members say they’re doing well and don’t need us right now.”
“Our numbers are static. We’re not losing ground, but we’re not growing, either.”
“Our retention rates aren’t anywhere near the benchmarks. We’re losing members too quickly.”
“I talk to every member who drops and they seem to always say ‘I didn’t get value for my money’.”
“We have a revolving door around here. I can’t seem to keep staff around for more than a year or two.”
“Our community leaders don’t respect us. We never have a seat at the table.”
“People stop me and tell me how sweet it must be to have that cushy city job at the Chamber!”
I could go on (and on and on) but I think by now you’ve already seen a few pretty common themes, not only among the statements themselves, but with the quotes from real Chamber and Association executives and your OWN organization. So what is that ONE THING we can start to do today that will help make all of these issues…and countless others…go away?
COMMUNICATE YOUR VALUE
Let me say it again: COMMUNICATE YOUR VALUE!!!
It’s time to stop saying “That’s how we’ve always done it” and start doing things differently. If our membership is going to grow, if our staff is going to stay, if our communities and industries are going to understand the value we deliver, it’s not up to THEM…it’s up to US! We own our voice and we own our history. It’s incumbent upon us, as leaders in the Non-Profit Management industry, to make sure that every one of our constituencies, from the Board of Directors to the staff, from the members to the volunteers, from elected officials to the public at large all know what we STAND FOR. Who do you fight for every day? Why do you fight for them? Why should we be behind you? If you can’t explain your mission to me in simple words that even “Jay the Plumber” can understand, then you’re going to keep quoting the lines above. Until we can focus 80% of our communications efforts on making sure people understand the real value of membership…the real value of the organization…we will continue to struggle with a whole host of problems. Spend the majority of time telling everyone you can at every opportunity about the benefits your organization brings to EVERYONE…not just the members…and watch how the conversations you have around the Board table and in your staff meetings change.
FOLLOW UP! I want to hear from you. Have you been successful at communicating your value? Are you struggling with it? Do you have a great story about how you made some of the changes we’ve talked about and really turned things around? Comment below and let’s share some positives!