By Mark Levin, CAE, CSP
In the old days they were called “community service projects,” now they are better known as “Social Responsibility Programs”. Whatever name is attached to them, these programs provide a lot of opportunities for associations, Chambers, and other membership organizations beyond the “right thing to do” quality.
There are a number of tangible and intangible benefits to undertaking an organized Social Responsibility effort. These include:
It’s o.k. – in fact, it’s actually good – for an organization to stand for something in addition to what’s written in its bylaws and mission statement. Sometimes political issues can be too controversial for organizations to undertake but social responsibility programs often can bring together members with disparate views.
-developing new partnerships
Social responsibility programs can produce all kinds of partnerships among organizations that might not otherwise seem to have much in common. This includes private and governmental sector partners as well as other membership organizations.
-member engagement opportunities
Getting some of those “borderline” members to participate in traditional programs and services is always challenging. An active social responsibility program provides a very unique engagement opportunity, especially for members seeking ways to be more involved.
Remember that when members have that renewal notice in front of them, their decision to renew is based on an overall membership “experience.” If part of that experience is a feeling that their organization is making a difference in some meaningful way, the chances of them signing up for another year increase.
-new member recruitment
Organizations have been complaining for years about the difficulty of attracting younger people to membership, and studies done by ASAE and other organizations show that today’s young people put a high value on “making a difference” and doing socially responsible things. Why not give these young people a chance to fulfill some of their social responsibility wishes while at the same time providing a wider variety of member benefits to all potential members?
-potential fundraising In recent years, it has been getting more and more difficult to convince organizational sponsors to continue funding events, social activities, golf tournaments, and even educational efforts. Economic conditions have everyone cutting back, and paying closer attention to all expenditures (including dues, contributions, etc.). Social responsibility programs give organizations opportunities to seek support outside of their normal funding sources, and give previous supporters another option on ways to participate
-direct member benefit
Some programs not only provide an outlet for organizational impact, they also can (as seen in the following example) serve as an actual member benefit. By supporting or participating in social responsibility programs, member can accrue such specific benefits as tax credits; continuing education credits; certification points; lower insurance rates; community service credits; etc.
All organizations have some element in their Charter about creating a better profession, industry, and/or community. This “greater good’ aspect is what makes these organizations so valuable to their members and to society in general. Social responsibility programs can become a personification of what this greater good can look like.
As everyone has to continue dealing with reduced resources and ever-increasing member expectations, it might seem as though there is no time right now for your organization to take on any new programs. However, if you consider all the benefits of including social responsibility as part of your organization’s “brand” you might find that the effort will be well-rewarded in the form of higher retention, greater member involvement, and an enhanced image for your organization.
Mark Levin, CAE, CSP is one of the world’s most highly respected association professionals. He has over 35 years of experience, including service as a local Chapter Director for one the largest membership organizations in the United States, National Membership and Chapter Relations Director for a major trade association, and Chief Staff Officer for three associations. He is also one of the world’s most sought-after speakers on association leadership, membership development, and strategic planning.
Mark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 301-596-2584.