Being Engaged with Members Is NOT the Same as Attracting Engagement

Sep 23, 2020

Engagement is not a foreign topic to most who are in the business of growing memberships. It’s likely that your organization talks about it quite often. I recently did a search for “association engagement” jobs in the United States and came up with 7,025 results on

Just a few of the jobs posted were:

  • Strategic Communications and Community Engagement
  • Donor Engagement
  • Community Development, Outreach and Engagement
  • Global Community Engagement
  • Social Media Engagement Manager
  • Corporate and Community Engagement
  • Vice President, Government Relations and Community Engagement

We are an industry that is hungry for engagement. We recognize the importance. We recruit countless positions around it.

Still, many organizations struggle to achieve it. They struggle to understand what their audience wants and how to deliver it. 

I believe this is because there is a significant disconnect. Despite our best intentions, we focus on attracting engagement, instead of being engaged

This is SO MUCH MORE than nuance.

It is an entirely different way of thinking about and planning for recruitment and retention.

If you’ve ever been on a “bad” date, you may have experienced the difference between attracting engagement and being engaged.

Let’s imagine two scenes.

In the first scenario, our hero is concerned about how his date will perceive him. He’s concerned about the right things to say, what to wear and what destination might be impressive. He dominates the conversation in hopes that his date will find his banter witty. He talks about the many things that he’s done that he believes makes him interesting and appealing.

You can almost imagine the date shuddering, can’t you?

In the second scenario, our hero listens more than he talks, he shows interest in his date, asks great questions and shows that he’s listening. He seems truly intrigued by her goals and interests.

Which scenario do you think would be more likely to gain a second date?

The problem with most engagement efforts today is that they are so focused on what WE want out of the relationship and not focused enough on what our member (or prospect) wants.

Growing our organizations really depends less on drawing others toward us and more about leaning in toward them. It’s less about kindling interest and more about understanding the future that our audience wants and helping to support the creations of that future together.

This week’s podcast guest understands that well. Listen in as she describes how she’s been cultivating a sense of shared purpose – not by trying to convince members to buy into the organization’s purpose, but by aligning with the member’s purpose.

It may sound like a simple concept, but it’s rare to see organizations do it well.

You can catch my interview with Anita here!

I’d love to hear if YOU are leaning in to hear what members need.

How MY Team Has Been Helpful This Week:

In the spirit of focusing on helpfulness, I’ve started closing out these weekly emails with a snippet of insight into the kinds of things my team has been doing to be helpful to clients. This is by no means exhaustive, but just a quick peek into the many, many ways we help clients:

  • We compiled reports out of several software systems to make it easier for an association’s bookkeeper to process the monthly transactions.
  • We prepared minutes for an association’s board meeting.
  • We created email communications regarding upcoming webinars.
  • We coordinated the judging of a client’s annual photo contest.
  • We helped a client resolve issues with the website’s security certificate.
  • We pointed a client to several resources for grant funding that would be a good fit for their area of focus.
  • We handled the transfer of a client’s domains to a new registrar so that they could streamline all of their services.
  • We made updates to a client’s site that their in-house team didn’t have time to do.

Want to talk about how we could be helpful to you and your organization?

Let’s set up a time to talk:

Hey there.  I’m Joy Duling, Founder and CEO of The Joy of Membership.

Clients hire me to help them design and deliver exceptional member experiences. If you lead an association, trade group, or membership-based nonprofit, you can find FREE resources to help you run and grow your membership organization by visiting here:

I look forward to connecting with you there.