Most people, members and organizations are resistant to change. It’s up to us as association professionals to come up with a plan to make sure members are not only capable of dealing with an upcoming change, but that they buy into it and see the value it will bring to them as a whole.
My association, the Association of Water Technologies (AWT), has been working on restructuring their membership categories for over 3 years now. This may seem like a long time, but it has been intentional. When we first identified that the categories might need to be changed we had just completed a bylaws revision. At first, I think there was some frustration from volunteer leaders that we hadn’t recognized this need in time to have it incorporated in those bylaws. But, the timing actually worked to our advantage.
Once we identified that a change probably needed to be made, we developed a timeline to gather information and from there, if necessary, educate the members about the proposed change.
We started by conducting multiple survey’s online and in person. We asked questions about AWT’s vision, mission and member needs. From there, we did a lot of research into membership models, membership categories and dues structures. The Board and Membership Committee had many discussions about their goals and the mission of AWT. Finally, a draft membership restructure was developed. All of this took about a year and a half.
This past year and a half has been spent gathering more information and educating the members about the proposed change. We continue to conduct focus groups, in-person meetings, phone meetings and surveys about the topic. So far, we have received positive feedback on the proposed changes. We think this is due to the fact that we truly sought member input and spent time explaining why the changes were even being considered.
We’re currently in the process of revising the bylaws and expect to have a vote June. Since everything we’ve heard to date has been relatively positive or neutral, we expect the changes to be approved.