It might seem like your organization is treading a tightrope between the two poles that hold it aloft. On one side is membership engagement and retention, and keeping the rope taught from the other side is the opposing pull of non-dues revenue efforts. Providing and demonstrating value to your members is, of course, a fundamental task of any association, but you need to be able to stay afloat.

Seth Godin’s concept of the connection economy might offer a way out of this balancing act. In a connection economy, which he believes is the best way to describe our current economic environment, it is just as important to foster relationships and networks of trust as it is simply to sell a product. To create value, to market it successfully, and to get ahead under this new business paradigm, connecting with your members is fundamental.

Consider, for example, how people tend to respond to being bombarded with advertising. Obvious marketing strategies, and a suspicion they are being “sold to,” work immediately to turn people off. To sell a product or service to your members, it is crucial first of all to understand who they are, what they want, and why they joined your association in the first place. This knowledge will ultimately allow you to tailor your non-dues revenue services to your members’ needs, and to solve their problems while increasing your bottom line.

This would mean you aren’t caught on a tightrope, after all. In fact, focusing on your members, understanding their needs and striving to provide the best service to them will also help you to drive revenue: It is a human pyramid, rather than a tightrope, that is keeping organizations aloft in a connection economy.

Lucie has always been driven by teaching and learning. Masters degrees in philosophy and religious studies from Edinburgh and McGill Universities have proved to her the power of ideas, while two years building and growing a dedicated local membership for the children’s tuition centre she ran in South London was a lesson in turning shared ideas into an engaged and flourishing community.

Lucie has always been driven by teaching and learning. Masters degrees in philosophy and religious studies from Edinburgh and McGill Universities have proved to her the power of ideas, while two years building and growing a dedicated local membership for the children’s tuition centre she ran in South London was a lesson in turning shared ideas into an engaged and flourishing community.

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