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Engaging members is not easy. Or is it?

Associations are facing a major challenge today. This challenge is centered around obtaining the conscious awareness of members and keeping them motivated to participate over time. As you know, failing to keep members motivated and participating has a major domino effect that ultimately leads to increased member attrition and lower revenues making it harder for you to achieve your mission. The good news is that there is a proven strategy you can deploy to overcome this challenge. Let’s dive in…

Find out what motivates members

Let’s face it, members are being bombarded from all angles of social media and email from others that are trying to capture their time and attention. How relevant you are makes some difference in getting members engaged. However, how you motivate members makes all the difference in how you not only get members engaged, but also keep them engaged over a longer period of time.

Before you can get and keep members engaged through motivation, you need to understand what truly motivates your members.

I ran across an excellent article from Life Hacker that talks a bit about the psychology of motivation when it comes to implementing gamification – a reward system for completing tasks usually in the form of digital badges or real life prizes. The first part that the article shares how rewards release dopamine into our brains and keep us motivated. The other part of the article I thought was relevant to motivation are the elements that keep us motivated: autonomy, value and competence.

To sum this article up and put it in context for associations, you need to understand what external factors (tangible items) and internal factors (feelings) your members value. What drives them? Is it the feeling of empowerment through advancing their knowledge (internal factor)? Is it making more money (external factor)? Is it making them feel more connected (internal factor)? These are important questions to ask in order to understand how to create a reward system that keeps members motivated over a long period of time.

Build a reward system (i.e. Gamification) the right way

When you do your homework first and understand what motivates your members, creating a reward system to keep members motivated can be simple. What’s important to understand here is by keeping members motivated through a constant state of achievement (i.e. Gamification), you will be creating a dopamine (feel good chemical) delivery system. This keeps members motivated to participate.

Understanding the psychology behind what members want to be rewarded for and knowing that it’s not just a mental, but physical reaction, will mean all the difference when it comes to member engagement and retention.

One of the best places to create, manage and execute gamification is in your association’s online community. For example, within our very own Associations Connect community, we’ve developed a reward system for members to complete tasks that ultimately improve the health of the community and remind them that the community supports their motivations.

Below is an example of some of the badges we use as part of our reward system:

Associations Connect Badges

The key in the kind of rewards, or badges, you choose plays both on the motivation of the member (why they joined your association/community) and your desired result. For example, we want to incentivize contributors to share content to help deliver value to members and to trigger interaction. We created badges such as “Rockstar Contributor” and “Community Sparkler” to reward such activities. We also want members interacting directly with each other. Thus we created badges such as “Super Connector” and “Friendly Neighbor” to reward such activity.

To take your gamification system even further you can attach a point system to each badge that is earned. Provide REAL incentives to tap into their external and internal motivation. For example, if they earn 100 points you could reward them through free advertising (great for chambers of commerce where members are motivated to get in front of other members), tools that they can use in their business or even something as simple as a discounted renewal rate if that’s something members value.

If members value internal motivation more than external, consider sending them a real plaque with the badge graphic along with a letter sharing your appreciation for their participation. A few bucks for a plaque and a postage stamp is a small price to pay for member loyalty. Not to mention the effect that an act like this has on word of mouth to attract new members.

Another key factor of a great gamification system is how you weigh your rewards. For example, we really want members to show up for live events and webinars so we have a badge that gives 50 points to members that RSVP and actually attend 3 events.

Knowledge Sponge Badge

We also want members to spark discussions within member groups. Thus we created the “Community Sparkler” badge for 75 points.

Community Sparkler Badge

There are many ways to mix earning badges and points. The key is creating the system to deliver on all of the factors (both externally and internally) that motivate your members. The exercise of understanding motivations first gives you the right focus to assure what your association is delivering is in alignment with that members want/need and will continue to pay for in the future. When you look at gamification in this way, it becomes more than just fun and games, but the driving force behind achieving your mission.

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