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Top 10 Ways European Associations Are Harnessing The Web

In the first of two guest posts, we caught up with association professional and chair of the MemberWise Network, Richard Gott. By day he is the Head of Membership Development at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and by night he develops and runs his 1,400 association professional-strong (free to join) network.

In the first of two guest posts, we caught up with association professional and chair of the MemberWise Network, Richard Gott. By day he is the Head of Membership Development at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and by night he develops and runs his 1,400 association professional-strong (free to join) network.

A key issue facing associations is the provision of great member value in return for annual subscription fees. Over the past decade we have seen a significant shift from tangible/physical member benefits (e.g. journal/newsletters) to ‘virtual’ benefits (e.g. digital magazines and email updates) facilitated via the Web.

So how can we continue to provide REAL value when a lot of tangible benefits are disappearing and the world is becoming much more VIRTUAL?

In late 2012 we thought it was about time take a ‘temperature check’ to see what the top ten uses of the web actually look like and how these  generate online member value (OMV).

In total, 316 associations responded to our dedicated online survey and the top 10 uses include:

  1. Website
  2. Online information/advice
  3. Regular email updates
  4. Online social media presence
  5. Selling products/services online
  6. Online event registration
  7. Market membership via email
  8. Publish journal/magazine online
  9. Online joining
  10. Dedicated member area

Your first response will probably be that there are now surprises here. Correct. However, it is what is not here that concerns me. Where do online membership renewals feature? Answer – Not here!

We all understand that making online renewal journeys simply/straight-forward will almost certainly have a positive impact on member retention. However, I suspect online renewals doesn’t feature because of legacy processes/systems (e.g. membership databases) and limited budgets.

In the medium term we will really need to sort this out!

Get mobile

One area that is really taking off is the ‘mobile web’. Associations will need to ensure their online offerings are ‘mobile friendly’ in response to members wanting to access content whilst ‘on the move’. A similar belief was held about online social networking, however with only 1 in 10 members actively utilizing these services associations are starting to believe the social web ‘isn’t all that’ any more.

At present many associations remain skeptical about the ‘mobile web’ with only 15% agreeing that it currently helps them to retain and recruit members. Only a quarter are convinced it currently enhances member engagement, however many agree this will change in the near future.

Value for members?

One worrying finding was that some associations don’t actually know if their online benefits are generating value for their members. Online surveys, focus groups and online crowd-sourcing isn’t ‘rocket science’ so if you don’t have a handle on what is working and what is not there is a real need to find out dam quick! Getting it wrong will be costly.

So, if there is a need to focus on providing more value where should we focus our attention?

Our research indicates that members want access to high quality and relevant information and advice (at home and on the move). Some wish to network online and wish to access career-stage and special interest specific content. They want flexible online CPD/eLearning opportunities and also access to up-to-date region-specific information, advice and events.

My killer question to you – Is the above reflected on your website?

If yes – Fantastic! Hopefully member research and structured use of analytics is helping you to hone content to make it even more valuable to your members!

If no – There’s time to evolve! You first need to go back to basics. What are your members online ‘needs’? How can they be met? Are your systems and processes (e.g. CRM/CMS) up-to-scratch? Is a structured and actionable digital strategy/plan in place?

Hopefully there is some food for thought here. You access the full Harnessing the Web to Drive Membership Value and Growth survey summary report by joining the MemberWise Network (completely free-of-charge)

Zs came of age in an era of disruption

In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.

For example:

  • ‍Zs were born into a “modern family era” in which highly involved dads help out at home, and the nuclear family model (two parents, married, with children) represent only 46% of American households.
  • ‍Zs are the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent.
  • From the time they were infants, Zs had access to mobile technology. As a result, their brains have been trained to absorb large amounts of information, and Zs are especially adept at shifting between skills and subject matter.
  • Zs tend to have crystal-clear memories of sitting up for the first time at six months old because they can easily and quickly reference the photos and videos their parents shared on social media or saved in the “cloud”. 

Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.

Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.

Zs were raised to be competitive

In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.

With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.

Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.

Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.

Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.

Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.

In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.

Zs are career-focused.

While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.

The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.

Zs are seeking financial security. 

Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results.  Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.

Zs value leaders who are positive and trustworthy.

When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.


Zs want to be challenged.

Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.

Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.


Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.


Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.

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