Membership organisations are an important feature of any society because they organise individuals and unite them around a specific goal or purpose.
This empowers the members to be impactful as a collective than they would be as individuals. Member organisations vary from professional organisations, political organisations, labour organisations, religious organisations, clubs or voluntary organisations. One way or another, most of us have been part of a member organisation, whether a sophisticated one or not so sophisticated. We must not take for granted the power of a member organisation and its value adding capabilities to both individuals and society if managed effectively and appropriately.
Managing a member organisation effectively and appropriately is about getting the value creation model right with all its governance structures and knowing your member needs. Key to knowing member needs is studying member emotions because emotions are what matters most. We know from behavioural theorists that 70% of human decisions are emotional and only 30% are rational. Therefore, it is more important to know how your members feel than what they think.
Asking members if they are satisfied with the services offered will not assist much because it appeals to their rational assessment, but asking them how they feel about the services reveals their emotional connection to the organisation, which will assist in driving member engagement. Since member engagement means different things to different people, you must outline the characteristics of all members and segment them properly. Segmenting members demographically and attitudinally helps to have a more targeted approach to member servicing.
As a member organisation, the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) is no different. 60 years later the organisation is still committed to protecting the rights of composers and authors by ensuring that their creative output is sufficiently accredited and compensated for.
The organisation is standing strong because it has remained true to its purpose and is adding value to music composers and authors by giving them space to focus on being creative and creating music, while the organisation protects their intellectual property and ensuring that royalties are paid for works used commercially. This is the value creation model that must be managed at all times for the effective and impactful running of the organisation.
The question is, has SAMRO and similar member organisations been able to adapt to the changing characteristics of members to be able to serve their needs impactfully?
Can the African National Congress (ANC) as a member organisation for instance, confidently claim that it is impactfully managing member expectations? How have these member expectations changed over time? This is a question that can be answered by going back to the base of your membership, understand member emotional engagement and then commit to driving high member engagement.
This is easier said than done. It is a question of, can a 60-year-old eagle renew itself? The answer is yes it can, provided that it can go through the painful process of plucking out its old feathers. It requires absolute commitment from the leadership to execute effectively. SAMRO is currently at this renewal phase and the following ought to be done for maximum impact:
- The role of the board must be well understood by board members themselves and all stakeholders. The role of the board is to drive growth for the organisation. Growth is not only measured in revenue or membership growth but in improved outcomes for the organisation. The board must adopt and drive a strategy that supports collective interests. That is, employees, members, partners and all stakeholders. The board must be effective at communicating success factors underpinning the vision and provide tangible and measurable outcomes to organisational aspirations. The future must be painted for members but also ensure that members understand and embrace the strategy to get to the future.
- Develop member centric leaders. Leaders must make decisions driven by member value. If a choice has to be made between revenue and the member, the choice has to be the member. Leaders must follow through on ideas to drive service excellence. Silos must be dismantled to unite the organisation towards a singular member focused vision. Technology can be an enabler to member centricity by improving and simplifying member service. However, while introducing technology or better operating systems is beneficial, the most important is to listen to what members are saying and feeling. Get in touch with member emotions by understanding their emotional attachments. Only introduce changes that build emotional connections with members.
- Build a member centric work culture. Employees must be aligned to the leadership vision for member centricity to build meaningful relationships that drive member engagement. Managers must bring out the best in employees by creating a sense of belonging in the organisation. Employees perform better when they feel accepted and connected to the organisation. Everyday interactions with peers, managers and executives must inculcate a sense of belonging and acceptance.
This must all be done while balancing the value creation model to ensure a sustainable organisation. Value can only be created for members if there is consistent and healthy revenue generation. We must be in a position to identify and leverage all potential revenue streams to be of real value to members. This must be balanced with well understood cost structures to keep the cost to serve down and ensure the bulk of the revenue end in the pockets of members.
The role of the Social, Ethics and Governance committee (SEG) of the board is crucial here because all these activities must be well governed, ethically and with care to maintain a symbiotic relationship amongst them and drive a memorable member experience at all times. The SAMRO leadership is up to the task despite all the challenges and noise often levelled at the organisation.
The eagle is ready, we simply invite all our stakeholders to fly far above the clouds with us.