The challenges of membership

A seminar at NCVO's Annual conference in February 2009 looked at the future of membership. The chair of the seminar, Matthew Taylor is chief executive of the RSA, an organisation with 27,000 members. He wrote on his blog that three points particularly struck him:
  1. Organisations find it very hard to be honest about the task of managing and engaging with their membership. It was only after I was very open about how challenging this is at the RSA that other delegates started to open up. It turns out that the issues are very similar in many different types of organisations. Change involves simultaneously confronting barriers (such as activist capture, cumbersome governance and stuffy inward looking cultures), building capacity (finding new ways – particularly on-line - of engaging people) and developing new content propositions (what are we asking members to do and how can we make this an attractive and rewarding proposition).
  2. Creating a new culture and set of expectations among members and in the relationship between the centre and localities can be a major, time consuming and resource intensive change management process. Many organisations lack the confidence or resources to confront the issues, so they are continually brushed under the carpet.
  3. Very few new charities are creating democratic or quasi democratic membership structures. New philanthropists and social entrepreneurs have seen the hassle that can be involved and tend to plump for much leaner and more centralised forms of governance.
Does membership matter? Membership and association in the new decade.
Presentation and links from the February 2009 seminar.

Join us to explore the future of membership
NCVO and the RSA are bringing together a consortium of leading charities from across civil society to shape a new vision for the role and practice of membership in the future.

Membership in the future
A think piece by Megan Griffith Gray written in April 2008 on the drivers shaping the future of membership