When members aren’t happy with a change you’ve made, how do you respond? Do you have systems in place to help you understand how they react to changes? On a recent episode of the Member Engagement Show, Joe DeLisle, Director of Council Relations at American Medical Group Association (AMGA), walked us through how he and his team changed up their community events to keep their very smart, very busy members coming back again and again.
Keeping Member Communities Connected as They Grow
AMGA, a trade association that works with medical groups, health systems, and other organized systems of care, has two types of communities: Leadership Councils that are based on role, and Special Interest Councils based on demographics.
In the past AMGA’s Councils were an add-on. A group would join, but then if individuals wanted to join the communities, they had to pay a separate fee. But as it became obvious how valuable the Councils were to members, the association decided to include them as a membership benefit.
Participation in the Councils exploded. Meetings that once had 25 participants grew to 75. Some meetings started getting more than 100 registrations. Clearly opening up this new member benefit appealed to members, but it also created a challenge.
Before the change, the meetings had a small, welcoming feel. Everybody knew each other during the face-to-face meetings, everyone was getting a chance to talk, everyone was able to connect with and learn from each other. And that experience helped develop a lot of real connections with peers.
Now AMGA faced the challenge of bringing back that small, intimate feel with booming participation numbers. Their post-event surveys showed members still got a lot of value out of the meetings, but they missed the feel of the old ones.
For example, a meeting would have a general session with a speaker, and then the different Councils would break out into smaller sessions to discuss. With the increase in council participation, not everyone got to be heard in the breakouts.
So how did they solve it? Joe walked us through the thought process:
”We created roundtables with five people per table where you talked about the topic with the people at your table. This worked, but we went further by asking ourselves why it wouldn’t work? What if no one at the table knows how to start off the conversation? Our answer was to provide a couple of easy starter questions to get the ball rolling.
Next problem…what if people at the table just don’t feel like sharing? 35 minutes is a long time to sit there in silence. Our solution was to do 10-15 minute table sessions, then ring a bell and everybody changes seats. You’re never stuck at one table and you’re always meeting new people.
This approach allowed us to recapture that small church environment where everybody feels they know everybody. It worked; everybody loved it and still does.”
AMGA was able to make that successful change because they surveyed members, listened to the feedback, and adjusted accordingly—all steps key to making positive changes and keeping members happy. As Joe said:
“We’re not just changing things on a whim. There’s always a logic that’s based on member feedback and observed actions. We do tap into quite a bit of behavioral science to pull some of the different tactics and approaches, but we’re constantly looking towards individual members to figure out what they want from the communities.”
Joe understands that for many associations, making changes can be uncomfortable, but to keep up with the member needs and expectations, associations have to evolve and grow.
“A challenge specific to associations is the need to look at the sacred programs and say, this isn’t necessary anymore. We can let go of this. We can do this other program people value and that members want us to do.” – Joe DeLisle
Innovating Brings Reward Both Organizationally and Personally
AMGA’s Councils are their largest and highest-rated member programs, and that popularity only grew throughout the pandemic. By listening to member feedback and adapting, Joe helped retain members and keep them satisfied. Joe said, “I can’t think of a single time when we lost a member group where the primary contact was an active community participant.” And it shows in the numbers:
- 90+% retention rate for groups with primary contacts who are active in the Councils.
- Net Promoter Scores are always higher for Council members compared to members who aren’t in the community.
Personally, Joe loves hearing from the members who say that, because of the association’s work, they were able to do their work better and be of more value to their patients. “Some of the messages we got have been amazing and very humbling to hear. A CEO or CMO would say they couldn’t have gotten through the pandemic without the support of the AMGA community, the Zoom sessions we’re putting on and the connections we were able to help facilitate. That’s been hugely rewarding.”
A Season of Opportunity
Joe says a paradox of management is people rarely get fired for saying no to something, but you have to say yes to new things if you want to stay relevant and stable. How can you help cultivate this at your organization?
- Encourage a culture of exploration, change, and innovation in your association
- Be the champion of the future
- Innovate smartly, based on member desires and expectations
- Start small then go big
- Test and view each “failure” as a victory of learnings
Try these things, and you might see a big change for the better in your association.