Engagement Metric

Zero In On Your Unengaged Members

One association's key engagement metric answers a simple question: How many members' engagement score is zero?

Last week I asked what an organization-wide member engagement metric would look like. This week we have an example, from the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and it is elegant in its simplicity.

PICPA started building a “Composite Engagement Score” about 18 months ago and rolled it out in February. It measures members’ engagement on a scale of zero to 100. With those scores for its 21,000 members in hand, the key metric PICPA is using breaks members into exactly two groups: zeroes and nonzeroes.

It doesn’t get much clearer than that, a binary code for member engagement.

“Zero and nonzero just seems to be a nice, easy cutoff that people can get their head around,” says Heidi K. Turley, CPA, MBA, CGMA, chief financial officer and VP of operations at PICPA. “You can drill down into the next level and talk about average scores per person, but really the most simplistic level is ‘Were you in or were you out?'”

One of the things organizations struggle with the most is, now that you have all this data, what are the right questions to ask?

PICPA found that 42 percent of its members were zeroes on its engagement score. The activities it chose to measure in the score are interactional, Turley says, meaning engagement like event attendance, purchases, volunteering, and social media interactions are included but more passive activity like opening an email newsletter is not. (The score captures activity for the preceding two years.) That partly explains what might be viewed as a high percentage of zero-engaged members, but nonetheless, Turley says the metric was “enlightening.”

She and her colleagues are taking a positive approach, calling the the zero-scorers “mystery members” rather than “zeroes.” It has given the association added incentive to reach members it hadn’t been reaching before.

“What we’re trying to do now is employ some strategies and come up with some creative programs based on where they live and where they work and see if we can move them on the engagement scale,” Turley says.

Analysis of the mystery members confirmed what PICPA staff had long believed anecdotally, that their members working in accounting departments (corporate CFOs and comptrollers, for instance) were much less engaged than their public accountant members. The data led PICPA CEO and Executive Director Michael D. Colgan, CAE, to realign his yearly slate of firm visits to more business and industry clients, Turley says. “It’s easy data mining being able to say let’s target these companies because they have a high concentration of members who are not engaged with us,” she says.

The association will also try to engage mystery members in “lighter” ways, Turley says. A PICPA group trip to Hersheypark in April, for instance, drew about a quarter of its participants from those with zero engagement scores.

PICPA has also shared the zero/nonzero ratio with its 11 local chapters in the state. The Erie chapter, for instance, leads the group with just 8 percent of its members scoring zero on the engagement scale. “There’s a little bit of competitiveness now that’s starting to go on with the chapters, which is great,” Turley says. “So, that’s giving them some ideas and a different way to think about things. They’re not just sitting around at a meeting going ‘OK what should our strategy be this year?'”

Giving leaders of the organization an easy way to understand engagement is part of the beauty of an engagement score. It quantifies something that is otherwise a vague concept. “Now you have yourself a number to hold yourself accountable to,” Turley says.

PICPA will compile its engagement scores and zero/nonzero metric every six months in the future, with the hope that its efforts to better engage mystery members will drive its level of zero scores downward. Meanwhile, all the engagement tracking it built into its Aptify association management system to enable the score to be calculated is proving useful in day-to-day work for the staff. Turley says a lot of member activity that had previously been visible only to certain staff is now captured in member profiles for everyone to see.

But, at the organization-wide level, zero versus nonzero will be the key metric to follow. “There’s so many ways you can look at the data. I think one of the things organizations struggle with the most is, now that you have all this data, what are the right questions to ask and what is your strategy going to be?” Turley says. “We thought an easy way to approach it was just to see if we could make some inroads with these people who have just not engaged with us.”

What percent of your association’s members would you call “mystery members”? How would a metric that tracked that portion of your members help guide your engagement strategy? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Joe Rominiecki

By Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki, manager of communications at the Entomological Society of America, is a former senior editor at Associations Now. MORE

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