Measuring Engagement: Connect the Dots in Your Data

Measuring Engagement: Connect the Dots in Your Data
Forum Magazine cover

In the November/December 2014 issue of FORUM magazine, published by the Association Forum of Chicagoland, McKinley’s Mike Norbut and Alyse Kittner, Director of Membership and Marketing for the American Organization of Nurse Executives, a subsidiary of the American Hospital Association, discuss taking member and customer engagement to the next level. See below for an excerpt from the article “Measuring Engagement: Connect the Dots in Your Data.”

Learn how to deepen member engagement with your association through data mining

A key buzz word in association circles these days is “engagement.” The more an individual is involved, the more likely he or she will be a long-time, loyal supporter of the organization. Not everyone can be a board member, however, and not everyone will be motivated to win your next member-get-a-member contest. In fact, while the concept of the “checkbox member” can cause heartburn and insomnia among association executives, some members feel perfectly engaged just by reading their magazine once a month.

So, what separates your most visible leaders from your “checkbox members”? What is the engagement “sweet spot” at your organization? What activities are more likely to lead to a deeper level of commitment among members? Do professionals even have to be members to engage with your association?

The answers to these questions likely reside in your data. While engagement always is a key goal of associations, a more recent trend is understanding why some individuals choose to get involved while others don’t, and how organizations can do a better job of compelling that involvement. Every association has an engagement pathway, and some activities are simply more likely to lead to future involvement. The key is knowing what those activities are and when members or customers might be more likely to act.

For the American Organization of Nurse Executives, the answers did, indeed, reside in data—28 separate files, to be exact. By connecting the dots between these disparate files, AONE unearthed a wealth of knowledge about how individuals interact with the organization and their true engagement level. For example, individuals who pursued a certification with the organization were more likely to also be involved in more exclusive leadership activities, while voting in board elections—often disregarded by associations because of low voter turnout—indicated a willingness to get more deeply involved.

Making Sense of Data

If your association is like AONE, it probably does a good job of tracking transactional data—who joined the organization, who registered for a meeting or a webinar, who purchased a publication or book in the last year, etc. If there is an activity offered to members or customers, chances are your organization has documented the interaction.

The problem, however, might be that none of these files are connected. For example, the membership department may have excellent demographic and tenure data, but it probably doesn’t know how often certain members have attended the annual meeting in the last five years. Likewise, the meetings department may know what in-person education sessions a member has attended, but not whether that same member purchased other publications or resources on similar topics.

Since 2010, AONE has experienced tremendous growth in membership and educational offerings. With such rapid growth comes great risk of attrition during the early stages of membership. Though AONE staff had anecdotal information on the member “pathway”—how and when members get engaged in certain activities—it did not have a comprehensive plan for members to follow. AONE’s next step was to research member behaviors—not just demographics—to define this pathway. Continue reading…