Best Practices for Developing and Launching Member Councils – Part 1



A common theme most associations wrestle with is the question of how increased engagement can lead to renewal and acquisition growth.  While there are many avenues to pursue on this topic, the concept of launching new membership councils is yet another strategy to drive relevance, visibility and, yes – growth, within your association.
What is a council? It can be interpreted in many ways; however, I define a council to be an association within an association, with its own governance, leadership, membership, initiatives and dues.  The following illustrates why councils can be a significant strategic ‘play’ and, Part 2 will touch on how to launch with success.
Why Member Councils?
#1 Embrace the Power of ‘The Club’  
It’s a simple formula – councils can be successful because they bring together like-minded professionals who share common objectives and who want to solve collective issues.  By nurturing the ‘club’ through initiatives, networking, etc, not only will members see participating as a good use of their limited time, it will eventually be a critical part of their role.
There is an old saying within our Human Services Council that I think illustrates this best – “if you’re not at the dinner table, then you’re not eating.”
#2 Differentiate – Don’t be a ‘Me Too’
To be the industry leader in any respective discipline, launching a council can help an association innovate and differentiate by focusing on unique initiatives that no other industry groups are addressing. A ‘me too’ strategy is doomed to fail.
For example, given its unique position as being a part of a large tech association, the Space Enterprise Council has positioned itself to focus on the convergence of space, data and innovation technology.  This over-arching theme guides us in the initiatives and programming we pursue.  Doing so gives us a unique position in the space sector that no other association is addressing, and our membership has responded positively, as a result.
#3 Playbooks are for Quarterbacks
On that same theme of not being a ‘me too’, NOT having a rigid playbook allows the opportunity to be nimble to address issues each year that are timely and relevant.  Moreover, it enables the ability to pivot toward addressing new issues that emerge.
What if you have a tier 1 prospect who should be ‘at the table’ but isn’t because their main priority isn’t being addressed.  Having the ability to stand-up a new working group or committee that addresses their top issue can be a powerful recruitment tool. It’s also effective when you offer them the opportunity to shape and steer that initiative.
I get it – there are many avenues to pursue to drive engagement, relevance and growth. I challenge associations to think outside of the box and consider launching new councils as part of their growth strategy.  Stay tuned for Part 2, “Now What? Strategies That Work When Launching a Council.”
Moery Guest Blogger, Peter Kaminskas is Vice President, Member Relations – Public Sector & Advocacy at CompTIA. Contact him via email or connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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