Every association has them: members who pay their dues, show up to meetings and events, but whom just sit quietly in the back, or even the front, and appear to take in the event but whom leave shortly after without much engagement.
This is both a blessing and a point of frustration for the small staff association executive. One one hand, you have a reliably participating member who regularly pays dues and registration to events. On the other hand there doesn’t seem to be much engagement. So what do you do?
Leave him or her alone.
While it may be tempting to draw the quieter active members into big socializing groups or put them in situations you think would spur their engagement, they already ARE engaging. Think about it: they head to your events on their off time when they could go home. They allocate funds to your association’s dues and events where that money could certainly go somewhere else.
Personality styles come in to play here, too. Not everyone is comfortable with what people would call “networking” which, when you think about it, is really a bunch of strangers or casual acquaintances standing around trying to find something to talk about. You certainly don’t want to shove anyone outside his or her comfort zone! You then run the risk of cutting off the engagement you do have with the individual.
Besides, you don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes. It’s possible that he or she is making a lot of contact with other members and may not be comfortable having lengthy conversations in person. Remember these days a lot of connections are made online through E-mail and social media days, weeks, and months after events.
Plus he or she may be the best ambassador for your association behind the scenes. If he or she is a repeat attendee, clearly the events are a hit. You don’t know how many new members or first-time attendees are referred by the “non engaging” member. Remember that valuable engagement doesn’t have to happen on association time.
If you want to connect with this strong, silent type yourself, go for it! That’s a great idea as an association leader! But be strategic about it. If it seems like the member avoids large, crowded situations that seem to be high-pressure socially, don’t force them into it. Try approaching them one on one in a casual way or even reach out through E-mail. Be sure to ask what they like and don’t like about the association and its events and gather that feedback. It’s often the quiet ones who take the most in.
Then find out what he or she considers to be the future for the association. Just because they may not be outgoing doesn’t mean they won’t be a great leader. Find out the interest there, and see if he or she would be interested in taking on a more active role. If so, that’s great! If not, that’s ok too!
Remember it takes all kinds of people to have a successful association. While it may seem frustrating that certain members may not necessarily engage, it doesn’t mean their value is any less or any more than the members who jump right in!