6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive in 2020

Part 1: The Cause

Part 1: The Cause

So you need more members. And more non-dues revenues. And you’d like to boost engagement while you’re at it. To reach your goals and truly thrive, you’ll need more than a nice website or a great social campaign. You’ll need six key elements working in harmony: a cause, a plan, marketing assets, prospects, engagement, and non-dues revenues. In this six-part series, we’ll cover all these essential elements so you can get maximum results for your association. Part 1: The Cause.

How a Cause Helps your Association Thrive

Get attention in a world of endless spam, robocalls, and popup ads

Do you ever wish you received more email spam, robocalls, or popup ads? Of course not. And your members don’t either. We all get too many emails and phone calls. We’re sick of slick sales pitches and impersonal advertising. By now your audience is hardwired to ignore most marketing messages—even the ones that could benefit them.

Considering all this, how can you get attention and compel people to join, attend, renew, and engage?

You need a cause. Give people a reason to care. Help them feel like they’re making a difference. If you can engage people emotionally in your cause, there’s almost nothing they won’t do to support it. If they feel needed and valued within your community, they will stick around year after year to work for your cause and sustain your organization. They will look forward to your communications and tell others about your important work.

Before you even consider your next marketing message, campaign, or platform, you need to determine your cause.


What a cause is and isn’t

Your cause must be a simple, powerful idea your audience can relate to and rally around. It’s more than a marketing theme, campaign, or tagline. It’s more precise and tangible than your mission or vision statement.

A cause is not simply donating a portion of your proceeds to charity or organizing a food drive. These might be worthy undertakings that contribute to your cause, but they’re details and they’re short lived. A cause is a big-picture, long-term value proposition that explains why you do what you do, what drives your organization, and what you’re passionately willing to work hard and even fight for.

Examples of great causes
  • REI: Get more people outside.
  • ServiceMaster: Because your customers and employees deserve a clean, safe and healthy environment.
  • American Heart Association: Save and improve lives by fighting heart disease and stroke.
  • Apple: Enhance lives through innovative technology.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness: Build better lives for Americans affected by mental illness.
  • National Association of Manufacturers: Support the more than 12.8 million men and women who make things in America.

How to determine your association’s cause

Determining your association’s cause boils down to just two considerations: who you help and how you help them. Explore specifically who your audience is—job titles, location, age, gender, years in the profession, company size, etc. Then think about their biggest pain points and ultimate goals. Brainstorm how you solve these pain points and how you enable those goals. What is the most powerful resource you can offer people? How do you make a difference in their lives? Don’t get too wrapped up in minutiae. Think about the big picture, the 10,000-foot view of your industry.

For help on this process, download our free guide: How to Determine Your Association’s Cause. By answering just five questions you’ll pin down your purpose and articulate your cause.


Do you really need a cause?

The other day at the grocery store, I walked down the cookie aisle looking for a snack. Thinking of maintaining my healthy diet, I left without purchasing anything. Then I got to the exit, where a group of adorable young ladies were selling Girl Scout Cookies. I bought five boxes to support their troop. That’s the power of a cause. It transcends logic and taps into emotions to compel people to act. Only when you know your cause can you craft an effective plan for the rest of your marketing. More on that next time.

Need help determining your association’s cause so you can get attention and rally people to action? Download this guide and answer just five questions to get started.

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