What have membership organisations and puppies got in common?

An unbelievably bizarre analogy occurred to me the other day while I was visiting my daughter and her lunatic dog, Bella. In advance of some more serious governance activities which I will be telling you about in the next few weeks, I thought I would share it with you.  We are, after all, approaching the silly season.

Bella is super-friendly and shows me how much she loves me every time I see her, to the extent of not being able to greet anyone else until I have shown her that I love her right back.  Seeing her when I visit is always a pleasure.  But I’m also aware of how much work is needed to keep the mess and chaos she is able to create down to a dull roar. 

It’s the same for membership organisations.  The best ones will always make you feel incredibly welcome.  The best of the best, however, can make you feel like you are their most important member.  Bella makes me feel like I’m the only person in the world who can save her from starvation so I give her dog biscuits even though I know for a fact that she has a perfectly balanced diet which keeps her healthy.  I know that the associations of which I am a member would not fall apart without me but I know that the more involved I am, the better off we both are.  I am a sucker for Bella’s big brown eyes in just the same way that I am a sucker for an organisation which makes me feel unique or in some way special.

Are you feeling the analogy yet?

Even before I reach the front door and am able to see her, I can hear her making welcoming noises and it makes me smile. Then the first thing I see is her tail wagging furiously and then she rushes up to greet me, waiting to be cuddled.  So, there is all the effort you make to reach out so that your members will put themselves in the place where they can continuously benefit from your services.

I know she’s there, waiting to give me her special greeting, even if I don’t see her that often.  And I know I will get enormous pleasure from the lavish attention she will shower on me. Even when I’m talking to someone else, she will sidle up and nudge me till she gets my attention and then demands that I pay attention to her for a while.

Now I know my daughter is working furiously in the background to keep it all tidy but it’s her choice to have a dog in first place and she makes sure that I don’t see the mess – just hear about the funny bits. This is definitely the best of all worlds.  Well-run organisations make sure that members think it’s seamless.

Bella is reliable in her affection for me and always grateful for my attention to her.  A perfect symbiosis.  Even if she or I unintentionally let the lovefest get out of hand, someone else is always around to clean up the mess. There’s that analogy again.

So, how good is your two-way relationship with your members?

Incredibly, it seems that membership associations and cute puppy dogs have an amazing amount in common. Who knew? Just how much surprised me.  I hope the analogy raises a smile next time you think about your relationship with your members.

In the meantime, if you need help with any governance, strategic or operational issues in your organisation or you are not sure what to tackle first, just call me and we will get your show on the road together.