Earlier this year, I had a terrific opportunity to share my thoughts about Matterness with associations on a webinar hosted by Wild Apricot. (You can watch the full recording of the webinar here. Go ahead, it was great fun!)
We had lots of participants in the webinar really digging in deep exploring ways to strengthen their relationships with their members. I was delighted to work closely with Wild Apricot (they’re terrific!) and to get to know their members better.
On the webinar, I shared the basic outlines of Matterness with the hundreds of attendees. We talked about how it can be challenging to look at their efforts through the eyes of their members, why it’s critically important to work with their members through back-and-forth conversations not broadcasting at them, and, finally, the opportunity to find places to experiment with a new approach in the new year.
In just a few months of our practice we have already learned an amazing amount.
Here are the three key things that we are learning in our deep engagements with organizations:
- Matterness is at the heart of donor and member retention. We all know that it is far less expensive to retain current supporters than find new ones, and yet organizations routinely lose customers/donors/members at an alarming rate. Matterness is about remaking the relationship between people and institutions, and our consulting work is beginning to demonstrate that by doing so, organizations increase their retention rates.
- A little Matterness goes a long way. Everyone is frantically busy, but it is that very busyness, the intense focus on process and to-dos, that too often pushes stakeholders away. When you ask people when have they felt like they matter, like we did on the Wild Apricot webinar, are very small, fundamentally human recognition. A thank you call. A quick and personal response to a question or problem. A connection made to other people and resources. And this is where the board can come in. There are wonderful opportunities to engage board members as your Matterness ambassadors. Ask them to call members and thank them for their participation. Have them host lunches at their offices for local members. Encourage them to participate in efforts online to highlight the work of individual members. Whether you are a tiny organization or one with thousands of members, you can reach more people by recognizing that the responsibility for making people feel like they matter rests with the board as well as the staff.
- Need to shift the leadership lens. Even though acts of Matterness can be small, even these efforts require a culture shift for a lot of organizations because it requires a shift in focus away from what the organization does and towards how members feel. Everything the organization does has to be focused on whether and how we are making members known, heard and empowered. The only way to ensure that organization maintain this focus is to measure it on a regular basis. We measure what we value, and there we have to measure how effective we are in making our members feel known, heard and empowered.
We are just beginning to understand the causality between making people feel known and retention rates. We are in the process of developing a Matterness assessment tool to start to develop measures for understanding and improving Matterness over time. (And would love any thoughts any of you have about that.) I look forward to again sharing what we are learning in a few months!
In the meantime, you know, just in case you missed the plug above, feel free to watch Wild Apricot webinar and learn the key principles of Matterness!