“Why is this even a question?” you may be asking yourself. For most small staff associations, it would be a dream to have a “too many members” problem. But if you think about it, having a huge influx of members could wind up being a big problem, especially if they’re not all exactly on target with your association to begin with.
How do you know they're not on target with your association? It's more than wanting to do things differently. If you feel new members' ideas and demands fall outside of the primary goals of your association, it could mean the members are well-meaning and enthusiastic, but not necessarily the best fit for your association. There could be some problems ahead, but never fear! There are solutions!
“What kind of problems could there be? More members would be great!” True, more members do bring a new crop of emerging leaders, more engagement, and different types of people at your events. But it also…
Puts more strain on you as a leader.
Creates a demand for more and varied events and meetings.
Could guide the association away from the core mission, if the new members aren’t quite a good fit for your association.
Allow for some friction between “the way things work here” and “the way things ought to be,” which is never a good conversation to have.
Any of this sound familiar? While all of these things are not necessarily huge problems, and can be handled relatively easily, it’s still a strain on a small staff association executive, who is already strapped for time and resources. So here are some ways to handle it:
You could just let the situation go, and let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes it’s not a great idea to get involved with every conflict. However, if the demand is for more varied events or there are some serious complaints from the board, it’s your job to intervene. You may look dismissive if you don’t. Besides, “it’s always worked this way” is rarely a good answer, especially when there are changes happening.
You could hire more staff to help you out. Probably a dream come true for you, right? And you do have more money coming in with all the new members… but another staffer is expensive and long-term. That’s going to require some serious number crunching.
How about answering everyone’s demands? If they’re in direct conflict, you might have to play politics a little, but everyone likes being heard. You can tow the line between traditional members and new members by having a taste of both in your association’s events, but that’s a lot of work on you.
So why not empower some willing volunteers to help out? New members are often charged up and ready to go with volunteering and involvement. Capture that energy and put it to work for you!
And for the future, consider allowing members who have a focus that’s not exactly in line with your directives to form a special group within your association. It would be a great exercise in delegation and allow for those voices to be heard and exercised while keeping true to your association’s mission without derailing it to fulfill another agenda.
And think about what may have attracted some people to your association who aren’t a perfect fit? Was a promotional campaign or event not quite on target? Did you inadvertently appeal to a demographic that doesn’t fit your association?
As always with associations, the more the merrier, right? There may be a few bumps and growing pains, but ultimately your association will come out stronger in the end!