You can find literally dozens of association communications software solutions at http://www.capterra.com/association-management-software/. As well, MailChimp allows you to send two-thousand newsletters at no-cost.
An easy way to fool yourself into believing that you are engaged in two-way communication is offered by additional survey software solutions; some of these tools are even free, for example, SurveyMonkey and QuestionPro.
Online surveys are wonderful tools if the answers to the questions can be limited to “yes-no” and multiple-choice answers. An online survey can tell you how your members would react to a 10% increase in membership fees or when would be the best time to hold a meeting.
If you want to know what additional services/benefits would be valued i.e., what would they be willing to accept an increase in fees in return for, then perhaps a chimp or a monkey are not the best tools to use.
Making Listening To Your Members Easier
Listening to your members is harder than talking at your members. Talking at is a one-way process, while effective listening to is a two-way process that requires interaction—not just mouse clicks.
It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to engage your members in meaningful conversations; it does require an investment of time.
If your association has paid staff, then it is easy to delegate yet one more “additional duty as assigned”.
Divide and Conquer: Sample vs. Census
To learn the answers to important questions about your association it is not necessary to ask everyone. Asking everyone the same question is called a “census”; it results in accurate answers at a very high cost.
The Gallop organization “samples” 500 people every day, in the United States, to provide its clients with results that are accurate 19 times out of 20 with an error of plus or minus 4.5%-that’s one in every 436,000 people over the age of 18.
If your association’s Board feels that it lacks enough information to make a decision, then each person on the Board could be asked to call one-person per week, whose name is selected randomly, before the next meeting.
A better approach might be to delegate this responsibility to the committee making the recommendation. A part of the delegation process could be the requirement that a committee “sample the membership” before making any recommendations to the Board.
Sometimes it does make sense to call everyone.
For example, calling every new member to welcome them and engage them by finding out their special interests, inviting them to consider joining an appropriate committee, or attending an upcoming meeting makes perfect sense.
And on the other side of the membership spectrum, it definitely makes sense to interview every member who is not renewing his/her membership.
Talking and listening are both valuable tools for any association – the real trick is in using them appropriately.