It's April 16 and I paid my renewal in the United States (Association) yesterday. Its a sliding scale dues rate based upon net earnings. I got about $5.00 back so that most likely says alot about my income group.
I was musing on association models the other day and thought about how similar our citizenship is to a very complex association. As long as I pay my dues (taxes), I can enjoy the benefits of membership: free speech, persuit of happiness, the right to move around this great country unencumbered by police (for the most part), an educational system for my son, the right to work where I can earn the most (or at least try to work there), and so on. If any of you have traveled, you personally know how great this country is. And, if I decide not to abide by the rules that govern this association, I will be banned from using these benefits.
So, are there any lessons here for us as association professionals? The biggest one to me is clearly stating the benefits of membership and keep reminding our members of how great it is to be associated with such a great organization. Provide messaging for every opportunity to promote your membership (ie: National Anthem sung before every sporting event; nightly news promoting the work of leaders, openly celebrate your national and regional heros and those who have sacrificed for your cause, etc.).
Taking an aggressive messaging stand like this opens you up to also taking some shots, but in the end honesty and transparency is rewarded (ie: Bill Clinton comes to mind). But isn't this the kind of 'engagement' we all want from our membership? Honesty. Open debate on important topics so that the best idea for the majority of people can be implemented.
What is a great association? Well, my thought is one that openly confronts major issues, supports debate and provides those who want to particpate, the opportunity to participate.
Needless to say, I think this is a great country to be associated with and I would not change my membership for the world.