The Association Leaders’ Membership Aberration

This scene is repeated every day during the school year.

Moms walk their young children to preschool. Together, they greet the teacher at the door. Moms hug their children and say, “I love you. Have fun.”

Their children enter the classroom and begin to play. Moms linger for a moment and then turn to begin the rest of her day.

At the end of the school day, the children see their Mom waiting for them. Some of those children might think that their Mom has been outside all day waiting just for them.

It comes as a surprise to learn what all of us learned: our parents have lives apart from us.

Yes, we matter to them. But they have their own lives filled with work, joys and hobbies.

So do our spouses, our neighbors, our families, and in time our children themselves. None of us have exclusive claim to others.

The Nonprofit Delusion

Many nonprofit CEOs, Executive Directors and boards want to believe that the members are theirs alone.

That their members stand in their corner waiting only for them. That their members only support their organization. That their members only believe in what their association is doing.

Their members have always paid membership fees, attended their annual meetings and bought their education programs. And therefore, they will always do so in the future.

These association leaders latch on to past trends that suggest exclusivity. They accept this aberration as truth. Why change what has worked for the past 10 or 20 years?

They want to believe that their organization, and theirs alone, is their members’ only option. Their organization is the chosen one. They are the apple of their members’ eye. That all other choices are worthless compared to them.

They fall into a delusion that their members don’t have any other alternatives.

Association Abominations

The idea that other pathways to advocacy, information, education, likeminded people, networking, programs, research and services might exist is anathema to these association leaders.

How could members find similar resources that didn’t come from their organization?

How could competitors like social media and self-formed online communities provide any value for their members?

How could other communities and organizations support those that find meaning, purpose and resources outside the boundaries of their association?

In the association leaders’ mind, their nonprofit is the go-to-organization. The one-and-only association with accurate research. They are the holy tribe. There are no alternatives.

The Mirage Of Exclusive Members

This view of members is a mirage. It stunts the relationship with members. It is short lived.

This thinking is grounded in self-absorption. It is the limiting pinnacle that blocks professional growth of all involved. Narcissism can turn these organizations in to monsters.

It is an arrogant claim of exclusivity. It is an aberration that will ultimately lead to the demise of the organization.

Childhood, after all, is a condition we are meant to outgrow. As mature associations, exceptionalism and entitlement are ugly.

It’s time for a reality check.

How can we help association leaders and members see today’s competitors? What does nonprofit CEOs, Executive Directors and their boards need to awaken to the fact that their oasis is an illusion that can quickly fade?

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1 comment
  1. […] good pieces from Jeff Hurt, both related to association membership: one on the myth of exclusivity and the other on membership and […]

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