Engagement Report Card Shows Members Where They Stand

Three years after building a full-scale member-engagement dashboard, one association shares how that effort is paying off, including a new, external iteration it hopes will spur more member activity.

As mentioned here a couple weeks ago, in-depth member engagement tracking and scoring is a common goal for many associations, but without a clear playbook, most are still in figuring-it-out mode.

It’s been that way for several years, though, which means we’re starting to see associations that have, in fact, figured it out. And the ones that got there early are now realizing long-term results of full-scale engagement tracking, and they’re evolving those efforts even further.

Case in point: the International Association of Plastics Distribution, which we profiled here at Associations Now in 2013. IAPD’s homegrown Excel-based engagement tracking drew a lot of attention for its breadth, cost-effectiveness, and seeming replicability (for trade associations, at least). Three years later, IAPD CEO Susan Avery, CAE, says the engagement-scoring process has become a pillar in IAPD’s organizational decision making, and this month the association is in the midst of rolling out the progeny of its original tool: a member-engagement report card [PDF] for each and every IAPD member company.

The International Association of Plastics Distribution’s new member engagement report card shows a member company its past activity and how it compares to top members. [Click to view PDF.] (Source: IAPD.)We want an active, engaged membership, not a bunch of companies that are sitting on the sidelines taking resources.

Avery says the new report card emerged from a combination of the member companies’ interest in their own engagement levels and the association’s desire to raise their awareness of additional avenues for engagement. Each member report card lists the member company’s engagement level in every activity that IAPD tracks, grouped into four categories (Training Your Employees, Promoting Your Brand, Making the Right Connections, and Engaging in Solutions). It shows their data for the past three years and, importantly, includes a final column showing the average engagement in each activity of the top 25 member companies, for comparison and competition.

Avery says early feedback has been positive. Some of the top companies got a sneak peek, and 70 executives who attended a CEO forum at IAPD’s annual meeting this month received their companies’ engagement report cards in person. The rest of the membership will receive theirs soon. One executive Avery spoke with, for instance, learned how his company could get more bang for its buck by engaging in beyond just paid promotions.

“I said, ‘You know, you’re spending $40,000 a year, but you should be taking advantage of the free stuff.’ And they automatically locked onto that. I think they find it really helpful. Again, they’re all competitive by nature,” Avery says.

Avery shared the sample of the report card in a discussion in ASAE’s Collaborate forum [member login required] a few weeks ago on whether to share engagement scores with members. IAPD strikes a balance on that question by sharing engagement data with members and comparing them with their industry colleagues, but the report card for members leaves out one key component of IAPD’s internal tracking report: grades of A, B, C, or D that it assigns to members based on their overall engagement level.

“We don’t feel that has value to them,” Avery says. “It has value to us internally, but we think at that point, you get into giving a value judgment and companies taking it the wrong way.”

Avery says she’ll learn more about the report card’s value as it’s rolled out to IAPD’s full membership. By its initial appearance, the report card looks to be a good combination of guiding members toward more value and boosting usage of association benefits. (And it will be a nice reminder around retention time for engaged members about all the value they’ve received through the year.) And it’s all built on top of IAPD’s existing engagement-tracking engine—with just five or six hours of developer work needed to build it, Avery adds.

Ripple Effects

The engagement report card isn’t the only way IAPD’s work has evolved since it began its full-scale engagement tracking.

Incentives for positive actions. In an effort to “reward the behavior that you want to see,” Avery says, IAPD established awards for members who reach certain engagement levels in particular categories, such as training staff or promoting environmental sustainability. “First we needed to know the level of participation and consumption that we had,” she says. “So, we used the dashboard information to help us identify what some of those critical areas were, and then we would use the dashboard to track the companies.” Three months before the awards deadline, IAPD staff contact companies to let them know, based on their tracked engagement, how close they are to achieving the awards.

Right-sizing of membership categories. The engagement dashboard revealed that one category of membership was costing IAPD far more to serve than the members were returning via engagement. When a dues-restructuring time came around, that category was adjusted to require a greater investment from members. “We did lose some members, but it was almost intentional,” Avery says, “the philosophy being that we’re not about the numbers but about the engagement. We want an active, engaged membership, not a bunch of companies that are sitting on the sidelines taking resources.”

New revenue opportunities. IAPD’s engagement tracking shows some of its biggest member companies what they aren’t able to track on their own: how much they’re investing in IAPD across all of their branch locations around the country. And now, Avery says, some of the association’s largest members are inquiring about potential custom arrangements of benefits if they were to increase their total spend. “It’s changing the conversation with them, and we’re looking at how we can rearrange our internal processes to offer them that more boutique style of membership benefits,” Avery says.

What benefits has your association realized—or what does it hope to see—from member-engagement tracking? Could IAPD’s example be adaptable to your association? If you’re at an individual membership association, what additional challenges or needs do you face? 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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