Associations tend to gather a lot of data, but they don’t always consider how to segment or combine it to generate meaningful key performance indicators (KPIs), says Lynda Carlisle, partner at the communications consultancy CS-Effect. Silos are often the culprit and can prevent associations from building an effective engagement and revenue plan.
“You may have membership data on renewals or lapsed membership that the CFO alone is looking at from a revenue standpoint,” Carlisle said. “But those numbers can help the organization identify what they need to create a communications strategy and messaging that will resonate with a member.”
A focused dive into member behavior has helped the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians identify shortfalls in event attendance among particular segments and then develop methods to better attract them to ACOFP events. “We’ve expanded our KPIs to look at registration for member segments that are the future of the profession,” said ACOFP Executive Director Bob Moore, CAE.
The association has offered free conference registration for those members, which has doubled student engagement. It also monitors a group of nonmember attendees that it offered memberships to in 2019. “We have tracked this cohort and have been able to maintain just under half of these physicians since,” he said.
Any meaningful work around KPIs should begin with a discussion of what strategic goals the association is trying to meet, says Megan Cruz, CAE, practice director at McKinley Advisors.
“The organization should be defining the problems that they’re trying to solve, and the data they’re collecting should be providing insight into the effectiveness of the organization at solving those problems,” she said. “Before data collection can start, you should have a thorough, achievable, and measurable operations plan.”
That plan is particularly important with new products. When prototyping a new idea, she says, associations should monitor engagement with it to plan speedier adjustments . “We believe in the minimum viable product approach—looking into what is the most solid product you can build with the fewest features,” Cruz said. “The benefit there is that you can test that pilot product and you can adapt it based on actual performance.”