Great expectations and your stakeholder communication plan


Does ‘great expectations’ remind you of your high school Dickens reading? Maybe—but it might also resonate if you work for a non-profit or association that relies on paying members to stay afloat. If that describes you, you might have sometimes wondered whether there are any strategic communications approaches tailored to fostering member engagement.

While most principles of effective strategic communications planning hold across all types of organizations, there are some particulars specific to the job of keeping members informed and engaged. For instance, a key way that membership organizations know if they’re doing a good job in member communications and engagement is by looking at member satisfaction. And naturally, a satisfied member can be had only by matching what your organization delivers, on one hand, to what your members expect, on the other. So understanding member expectations must be front and centre in your stakeholder communication planning.

Member‐driven organizations today face demanding expectations not only because of the diversity of their constituents but also due to fast-changing external factors. One of these is demographics: evolving interests, career changes, lifestyle shifts, ethnic and cultural diversity will shape what members want and expect in return for their dues. New generations want more flexibility and short‐term rewards. Diverse social groups are expecting to see their presence reflected. And all members are expecting instant service, convenience and tangible returns on their investments in time, volunteerism and money.

That’s why a successful stakeholder communications plan depends on ensuring that member expectations are actively monitored, with salient demographic changes in mind. It’s not enough just to tabulate those results, of course—those learnings must be communicated and acted on too.

Shaping communication around member expectations is all about the key principle of adapting to change. This mindset lets you be tuned into evolving member demographics and the evolving patterns of behaviour and attitude that come with them. Expectations – focussed membership engagement – means being prepared to alter outreach practices to dovetail with member needs. It might even call for tailoring the membership experience itself.

Not a small challenge—but one that has its own great potential for success built in.

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