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  • Writer's pictureNick Brimley

Cultivating member engagement: A guide for nonprofit leaders

As a nonprofit leader, one of the most rewarding aspects of the role is witnessing the incredible dedication and passion that your members bring to your association. Their commitment drives your organization forward and empowers it to make a meaningful impact in either your community or industry. However, cultivating this engagement can be tricky. Key to success is flexibility, focus, leveraging specific skillsets and of course being mindful of expectations.  


Embrace Flexibility: Flexibility is the cornerstone of thriving member engagement. We understand that our members lead busy lives, juggling work, family and outside commitments. It’s very possible your members may even be involved with several other associations or organizations outside of your own. Therefore, we must be flexible and accommodating with our time and scheduling. Whether it's offering alternative meeting times, providing remote participation options, or allowing for other asynchronous engagement, flexibility ensures that all members can actively participate and contribute.


Be Present and Focused: Whether we are in a meeting, at an industry event, or even on a brief phone call with one of our members, it's essential to be fully present and focused on their needs and concerns. By actively listening and engaging with members in the moment, we demonstrate our commitment to addressing their priorities and advancing our shared goals. Focusing on key association concerns in the “now” allows us to make better informed decisions and drive meaningful progress.


Practice Mindful Expectations: As leaders, it's crucial to be mindful and self-aware of the expectations we place on our members. Recognizing that our members are often volunteers with obligations outside of the organization, we must set realistic goals and timelines. By avoiding overburdening our members, we can create an environment where they can succeed and contribute meaningfully while maintaining balance in their lives.


Foster Empathy and Understanding: Empathy is at the heart of effective member engagement. We must recognize and appreciate the diverse backgrounds, experiences, and responsibilities of our members. Understanding their unique perspectives and challenges allows us to offer support and encouragement when needed. By fostering a culture of empathy and understanding, we create a welcoming environment where members are more likely to contribute and be productive.


Leverage Unique Skills: Everyone brings unique skills, talents, and experiences to the table. As nonprofit leaders, it's essential to be proactive and leverage our strengths to benefit our members and to the organization. For example, at the Slag Cement Association, we identified an interest from our members to update their regional sales office information quickly and conveniently. This led to the development of an interactive map on our website that our membership can utilize to review and promote their sales offices. Whether it's your graphic design skill, industry connections, or ability to provide relevant resources, we have a wealth of opportunities to empower and uplift our members.


AOE has extensive experience in mobilizing members for association success. Engaging members requires a thoughtful and holistic approach that prioritizes flexibility, presence, empathy, and collaboration. By embracing these strategies, we can create a vibrant and strong organization that successfully serves its mission. Reach out to AOE today to brainstorm ideas that work for your organization.

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