COOPERATIVES | What the Heck is Membership Engagement?

By Kyle White | May 09, 2018 © Co-operatives First

Part 1What the heck is Membership Engagement? Defining member engagement for a specific organization is often tricky. It can also be hard to measure. But defining member engagement for your organization and understanding how to measure it are two (not mutually exclusive) prerequisites to a solid membership engagement strategy. So, it pays to take the time to understand what membership engagement means for your co-operative.

Two types of membership engagement > Before getting too far into it, let’s first have a look at the types of member engagement available to co-operatives. Generally speaking, there are two types: financial and organizational. Here are their basic outlines: · Financial engagement is supporting the business of the co-op (i.e. shopping at the co-op, working at the co-op, or selling to the co-op). | · Organizational engagement is playing a role in the organization (e.g. volunteering, voting, and serving on boards) but also includes reputation management (i.e.: branding and how members talk about the organization).

Very successful co-operatives, like Mountain Equipment Cooperative (MEC) get both right. MEC delivers impressive organizational engagement, which is achieved through a variety of mechanisms, such as astounding images on Instagram, contests, promotions, values-based storytelling and sharing unique member experiences. Add this rich reputation management to their member-only policy and the 5 million+ member co-operative proves to be impressively agile and financially successful. This financial success in turn allows them to achieve even greater organizational engagement. Here we have one type of engagement feeding the other in an oscillating loop with new feeds being added all the time as existing members encourage new members to join. Let’s look at these two types of engagement a bit closer.

Financial Engagement > As we saw with MEC, successful co-operatives generally have solid financial engagement. If members use the co-op’s services or purchase its products, they support the business of the organization and it does well. When members do not financially support the co-op it has an immediate impact and can certainly weaken long-term sustainability. This is especially true for smaller co-ops or worker-owned businesses that rely on a smaller membership base. As a co-op leader, recognizing where your core revenue sources and supports are coming from and how to remain relevant and valuable to them is vital to the well-being of the co-operative. For example, if you’re part of a producer co-op, making sure to show members how you are benefiting their independent businesses and moving their product, as well as working to create new markets, is vitally important. If you’re a consumer co-op, reminding members of their ownership and ability to influence strategic direction might be important. And if you’re a worker co-op, perhaps clearly engaging membership in decision-making is most important. Whatever the case, make sure you know your core supports and revenues, and the financial objectives in engaging with your membership (increased donations, delivery rights, sales, production or labour, etc.). –

© Co-operatives First |


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