Here is the problem with surveys: (a) people do not know how to do them (b) self-selection bias and (c) most members will not respond. So how does an organization who is about to make a major shift in services, providers/vendors, governance, or strategy get adequate member buy-in?
- Timing- if the board is considering a major shift member buy-in strategies should be put in place a full 6 months before the change, one year is better.
- People want their opinions to be valued; ask, ask and ask again.
- We all know member communication is difficult- follow the cardinal marketing rule 6 x 6 x 6 x 6. First 6 different ways and please don’t just arbitrarily select 6 methods. If you are operating in today’s digital age you should know the demographic composition of your membership. If you don’t please consider that you most likely have the following member segments: millenials, gen x, baby boomers, and the great generation, new members, and brokers. Develop 6 different messages for each group, example below. Determine 6 channels specific to each group to gather and disseminate information. So, if I am messaging to my baby-boomers my channels will be: email, website, in person focus group/meeting to gather & disseminate information, texts. Please note there are several very affordable means to push out group texts of thousands or more. Now each of those 6 messages should be pushed out through each of those 6 channels a MINIMUM of 6 times. This isn’t overkill (and yes some involved members may say enough already) but this formula is based on marketing theory and has multiple studies (evidence ) to support it. Remember that this communication must first be used to gather member information input, then to communicate results of the input, and then as prepatory messaging for the launch of the shift.
- Gather data from multiple sources and always include both quantitative and qualitative evidence. I am a big believer in focus groups and yes if you want participation you need to pay. The average payment for a 1 hour focus group presentation is $100. Boards toying with the idea of a major shift need to budget for membership buy-in and stakeholder management. I have been successful in the past with $25-$50 Starbucks and Gas gift cards. Putting the question out on social media can be effective but only if you have a large following otherwise consider the input as ancillary data. Member information gathering meetings can be very effective but I highly recommend hiring a professional facilitator to conduct a large member information gathering meeting. I highly recommend (if you are in real estate or technology) Marilyn Lund, of the WAV Group as a facilitator or if the shift is in strategy or mission Melynn Sight of ‘N Sight Marketing.
- Use an outside objective party to craft your survey (again I recommend NSight Marketing for this). As well-meaning as we are, it is human nature to slant survey questions to the desired result if you have stake in the game. Ask qualitative and quantitative questions. Then conduct analysis don’t just assume you are connecting the dots. Best analyses for qualitative data (the open ended tell us what you think questions) are frequency analysis and cross-occurrence analysis. The simplest analyses for quantitative data are correlation analysis, ANOVA, and regression. If there is no one on leadership or staff who is familiar with data analysis please hand it over to a professional. Association Yoda offers a full analysis of your data on a sliding scale dependent up on the volume of data. You will receive a power point presentation (with notes to help your board understand the analyses) along with printed reports inclusive of graphs and charts. Analysis is not just reporting results; its about dissecting the results, finding outliers, determining confidence levels in the data results, looking for variances of data and correlation between data sets. In qualitative data its about assessing and evaluating the data to bring it down to core concepts (phenomenological analysis).
- Finally, if your board is going to analyze survey data please understand self-selection bias. People who select themselves to respond to a survey tend to fall in to two groups, those who are highly favorable to the change and those who are highly against it. This is why it is critically important to randomize who is sent the survey (Excel has a Random feature to help you do this) and to ensure you have enough respondents to have at least a 95% level of confidence in the data, you will also need to include the interval level. A good target interval figure is 5 , this means you are willing to accept that the end result of the data will be within 5% overestimated or 5% underestimated. Here is a great free tool to help you determine how many responses are needed to get a result that you can be 95% confident represents the general population of your membership take or minus 5% (if you cannot get to that number disclose to your board the actual confidence level from the smaller sample and ensure that they understand that additional data collection is needed): https://www.surveysystem.com/sscalc.htm
The lesson here, truly, is do not assume anything- gather evidence and present/communicate it to the membership often. Think of it as a loop. Ask for input, analyze the input, communicate the input analysis back to membership, 6 x 6 x 6 x 6. Is this a lot of pre-work. I’m from Wisconsin, so the answer is, You Betcha! However, is some work and expense at the forefront worth avoiding anarchy and angst from your members? You Betcha!