Four Ways to Put Members First When Navigating Change

Change is inevitable, and it usually affects members. At the Yoga Alliance, member engagement and the creation of a feedback loop has helped the group undertake the process of updating its yoga teaching standards while maintaining members' trust.

Sooner or later, associations must be ready to embrace a change agenda. It could be ushered in thanks to a new CEO, critical member voices, or a broader organizational goal to tap into innovation and transformation.

At the Yoga Alliance, all of these factors played into the decision to revisit and update its yoga teaching standards.

“A change was needed,” said YA President and CEO Shannon Roche. “We had a regular review of the standards conducted by a standards committee of volunteers, but it had not, in large part, implemented the pieces of information surfaced.”

With more than 100,000 members, YA now finds itself on a timeline to implement and use a new set of standards for the first time in over a decade.

The association also recently reached an important milestone in the process—after nearly 18 months of review, YA released findings from its Standards Review Project, which will help evolve the Registered Yoga Teacher and School credentials.

“We took to many different channels and many different touchpoints and opportunities to engage with members,” Roche said. Here are a few member engagement strategies that helped YA move forward on a change agenda.

Working groups with many voices. Not all members were on board with changes to the yoga standards, but Roche knew that YA shouldn’t tune out voices of dissent.

In many instances, Roche invited detractors to the table to serve in volunteer positions, including on working groups that helped spearhead the standards review process. “We wanted to make sure everyone felt heard,” she said. “And we ran working groups with voices from members and nonmembers, those who come from within and outside the yoga community.”

Remote and virtual roadshows. Typically, a member roadshow or listening tour makes stops in major metropolitan regions or geographic areas where member concentration is highest. While YA stopped at major cities across the United States, it also aimed to reach members in more distant places virtually. “Recognizing that we have more than 100,000 members in more than 100 countries, we wanted to make sure we weren’t always binding ourselves to physical locations or time zones,” Roche said. “We also intentionally made roadshow stops in smaller cities.”

Accessible member surveys. Too often associations limit member participation in an online survey by adding structural constraints. YA not only designed a member survey in seven different languages but also gave members several months to complete the form online. “We worked really hard to meet people where they were and to hear from them where they were,” Roche said.

Constant feedback loops. Throughout its listening, YA also created several feedback loops where members could send their ideas and opinions directly to the association, and Roche and her team could respond using several communications channels.

“It was quite an elaborate and purposeful expedition to cast a wide net for feedback,” said Catherine Marquette, vice president of marketing and communications. “We created a number of different touchpoints so people could see, hear, feel, and even flag if something wasn’t quite right.”

That includes a dedicated email where members can reach staff; Twitter chats using the hashtags #yogaalliance and #yastandards for members to post questions and receive answers, and several videos, including a recent update from Roche reporting on key findings from the Standards Review Project.

“Change isn’t a one-way street or us saying, ‘We told you so,’” Roche said. “It really has to be an intentional effort for us to engage all along with the community, so that we understand not only what [members] want and need, but how they feel about where we are going.”

(oculo/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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