Do Members Really Know What They Want?

Dec 3, 2018

“We just aren’t sure what to do at this point… it feels like we’ve tried everything.”

There was clear frustration in her voice.

The association had tried a variety of different learning programs. They did member surveys. They upgraded their website. They spent more time on social media.

Still, she didn’t see much difference in growth or engagement.

As I listened to her story and reviewed what had been done so far, it became clear to me that the organization had done many things right, but something was still amiss.

“So, what is it exactly that members want?” I asked.

She started down a list that sounded a lot like training topics, adding that people rate meetings high and that they say they like the networking opportunities that being part of the association offers.

Wait. That’s not what people *want*, I pointed out.

When was the last time that anyone actually said, “Ohhhh, I really have to get me some more of that training”?

It’s not training that we want.
Or networking meetings.
Or a zippy new website.

We want the outcome of those things.

We want professional advancement.
We want to look smart in front of other people.
We want opportunities to make more money.
We want less stress in our lives.

And so forth.

The really big problem for most membership-based organizations is that what was provided in the past doesn’t necessarily translate to a new reality where members are focused on outcomes.

This isn’t something that most members are even going to be able to tell you in surveys or focus groups, unless you ask the right questions.

Instead of asking, what can our organization do for you, ask questions like:

What would you like to be different this time next year?
What feels really hard for you right now?
What problems are you Googling to find answers for?

The answers to these questions will reveal deeper desires. Then, once you understand these desires, you sprinkle responsiveness to these desires throughout all 8 stages of the member experience.

By tying everything you offer to the deeper outcome that people want, your offerings feel more relevant and less business-as-usual.

I’d love to hear about your experiences in this area. Drop a reply in the comments below and let me know.


Joy Duling is Founder and CEO of The Joy of Membership.  Since 2005, Joy and her team have helped associations, trade groups and membership-based nonprofits run their programs more easily and deliver exceptional member care.

You can find FREE tools, tips and training to help you run and grow your membership organization in The Joy of Membership Help Hub.



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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.