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  • Writer's pictureChelsea Killam

Insights On A Dime

Cost-Effective Strategies for Collecting Member Feedback

Written for and originally posted on the Mariner Management & Marketing Blog.

With the start of a new year, associations have the opportunity to harness fresh insights from their members, shaping the roadmap for the months ahead. Even with limited resources, there are lots of creative, accessible ways to engage with members and learn about their needs and preferences – many of which lean into the engagement tactics you’re already using!

When it comes to research design, the study sample—the individuals from whom you’re gathering information—can have a huge impact on the validity and reliability of your findings. However, for more routine decisions, e.g., choosing a theme for the annual meeting or selecting newsletter topics, it’s not as necessary to be so selective. Here are a couple of feedback ideas for low-stakes situations:

The Social Media Scoop: Utilize the polling features available on many social media platforms to engage members and foster additional interaction by allowing them to view collective responses post-voting. If polls aren’t an option, leverage existing functionalities, like voting with emoji reactions or encouraging discussions in the comments section.

Make the Most of Meetings: Host networking events, like coffee meetups, happy hours, or virtual hangouts, to encourage open dialogue or leverage existing events to gather feedback: appoint volunteer ambassadors to pose pre-defined questions to attendees in casual conversation, then hold a debrief to discuss learnings.

You may not always have a specific question to answer or a decision to make, but keeping the pulse of your community’s needs and preferences is still important. In this case, look to tools that offer access to ongoing feedback:

Suggestion Box Solutions: Implement a virtual suggestion box for anonymous feedback. Promote them regularly across your communications (e.g., add to your marketing email footer), and make it a point to acknowledge and act upon the suggestions received. Digital tools for this purpose are readily available, but a monitored email inbox works, too. Occasionally advertise themed solicitations for feedback and watch for recurring themes to investigate further.

When facing high-stakes decisions with broader fiscal or organizational implications, adopt more structured feedback methods that ensure a selective and diverse population of participants. Think through what characteristics may influence participant perspectives and do your best to recruit individuals across those cohorts. Factors like member type, career stage, who pays for their participation with your organization, prior engagement levels, and volunteer involvement are common influencers in the association space.

For these high-stakes decisions, consider these approaches:

Community Connections: In your online community, form an invite-only group of select members for continuous, meaningful discussion. Manage engagement actively by monitoring participation, offering incentives, and fostering dialogue.

The Power of Personal Outreach: Sometimes, direct contact can yield profound insights. Ask a common set of questions to a targeted list of individuals and invite them to a 30-minute phone call. If possible, recruit a colleague to listen to recordings of these calls and then compare notes on themes and impactful insights.

Moving into 2024, these strategies offer practical options for associations to connect with their members and inform a year of meaningful, member-driven decision-making. By choosing the right approach for each situation, your association can maintain a robust link to its community, ensuring that every member’s voice contributes to the collective strength and direction of the organization.

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