Short answer: a lot of skills.
Last week’s #assnchat – the Twitter chat for association professionals hosted by KiKi L’Italien every Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. Eastern – focused on core competencies for membership professionals. You can read the entire chat on the #assnchat Storify page.
Without a doubt, the membership department is a great place to develop the skills and knowledge needed for an association management career. The chat participants, many of whom are (or have been) membership professionals, identified the core competencies required to be successful:
- Social intelligence, caring and amiable personality, and aptitude for building relationships both in-person and online.
- Member/customer service and listening skills.
- Marketing, communications and brand advocacy expertise.
- Ability to identify and develop programs and services for multiple membership segments and lifecycle phases.
- Data analysis and technical expertise.
- Knowledge of association mission, vision and policies, and about your industry and market.
Successful membership professionals have a high level of social intelligence. They intuitively know how to connect with people and make them feel welcome and comfortable. They understand individual and organizational relationship dynamics, and how to lead, motivate and persuade.
Marketing skills are also critical, yet many people enter the membership department without a solid understanding of marketing fundamentals. Membership pros must be able to learn what motivates people to click, purchase, belong and engage. They must know how to listen, research and deliver what members need now and in the future.
New times require new skills
Technology has freed membership staff from many time-consuming administrative tasks, and given them the tools to better understand, communicate with and engage members. Membership pros have been inspired by economic, technological and generational trends to change the way things have always been done and work with “a more open mind.”
The Membership 101 handbook looks a lot different now than a decade ago. The #assnchat participants would include new chapters on how to:
- Recruit and engage volunteers in new ways.
- Use digital, social and mobile platforms to build relationships, community and awareness.
- Identify, collect and analyze member data.
- Understand different membership segments and know how to market and develop programs and services for them.
- Be nimble, “adept at responding to change” and able to learn new skills quickly.
Moving your career forward
The #assnchat crowd had plenty of suggestions for helping membership staff further their professional development. Setting aside time to participate in #assnchat was mentioned by many, as well as setting aside time every week to reflect and strategize.
Don’t rely on your employer for professional development. Take charge of your education. Unlike in years past, you can find many inexpensive or free educational resources on the Web. Identify the skills you need to do your job and to advance your career. What work or volunteer activities will help you develop those skills?
The challenges faced by membership professionals make a daunting list. However, collaborative, creative and flexible people who are “big-picture thinkers” are well-positioned to take them on. Today’s membership professionals must be prepared to:
- Engage with members, prospects and others both in face-to-face and virtual environments.
- Involve all generations, including members on the periphery of the association, in building “a culture of community.”
- Identify and develop new sources of non-dues revenue.
- Demonstrate the membership value proposition in the face of growing competition for attention, loyalty and wallets.
- Deal positively with constant change and “see the need for change as an opportunity, not a challenge.”
What do you think? What else does it take to be a membership professional? What skills have you developed?
Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer and former membership director who collected an odd assortment of skills during her association years.
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