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The world is more than 'members' and 'non-members'

image Chelsea Brasted image imageApril 21, 2020 image image3 min. to read
The world is more than 'members' and 'non-members'

If there’s one thing the last couple of months as global citizens has taught us, it’s that things are a heck of a lot more complicated than we may have liked to think at the beginning of 2020. 

Even going to the grocery store to pick up some extra milk isn’t as straightforward as it might have seemed before the novel coronavirus worked its way into our global lexicon. Now we’re all becoming more aware and informed about supply chains, what it means to be an “essential” employee and even epidemiology. 

In the association space, another thing that’s gotten more clear is how we can no longer look at people through a binary lens anymore. No longer is someone just a member or a non-member; our organizations should instead be thinking of the fuzzier lines between our groups of stakeholders and how, in this new future, we can provide value to all of them. 

Take, for instance, a restaurant association: Thinking of its audience as just members and non-members would leave out the service staff, bartenders, dishwashers, suppliers, farmers, fishers and even diners who routinely frequent the establishments they all want to survive this massive interruption in business. 

More than ever, it’s clear that associations need to move forward with an Open Garden approach to understanding its audience. 

This approach, which was defined in Amith Nagarajan’s “The Open Garden Organization,” throws out the window the simple binary member vs. non-member definition of your audience. 

Instead, Nagarajan suggests you split this group into four. 

Those four sections would include volunteers, the people most deeply committed to your organization; members, the general batch of folks who pay dues and maybe even subscribe to your materials; interested people, which includes the people who support your efforts and may even give of their time and money on occasion; and the general public, which includes the people who may occasionally have interest in what you do, depending on the news cycle, but aren’t invested enough to regularly pay attention. 

The goal in revising your view of your stakeholders in this way is to redefine your offerings, allowing space to rethink how you provide resources and to whom you offer it. 

As Nagarajan wrote, “You have to let people into the organization first so they can see the value in being part of it.” 

The world’s been totally turned upside down by the coronavirus’ impact on our health and economy. In order to set things right again, it’ll take turning our own understanding of how it works to find a pathway forward for both our personal lives and our organizations. And starting with how we think of the world is the first step. 

Try it for yourself: Go here to download your very own FREE step-by-step worksheets to help your organization rethink your association audience.

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Chelsea Brasted is the writer and editor who serves as general manager for Sidecar. A former reporter and breaking news editor for The Times-Picayune, she lives in New Orleans with her husband and two rescue dogs.

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Ashley Neal joined the Sidecar team in March of 2020, right as the COVID-19 pandemic began to shut down life as we knew it. Having to adapt, overcome and predict the changes needed to survive in the new normal, Ashley now has the skills needed to juggle any obstacle thrown her way. A graduate from Southeastern Louisiana University in the field of Strategic Communications, Ashley spends her days balancing her work with her love of dogs. Taking her large pack of dogs to restaurants, hiking trails, vacations and even participating in dog shows and sports is the highlight of her weekends.

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