You’re Not Just a Member: Valuing Membership in Organizations

I’ve facilitated quite a few conversations over the past few weeks with student leaders on my campus about the “state of their organization”. These dialogues encompass a wide variety of things ranging from purpose statements, visionary thinking, setting goals, moving forward, and a whole list of other things. However, even among some of those more difficult conversations, those conversations that take time to make happen, the core of the discussion has relapsed to membership; younger members, older members, executive board members, alumni members, and beyond. I’ve realized that our members are the purpose of what we do. We develop our members, we devote everything we do, the sole purpose of who we are, to our members. Our members make up our organizations. If they are so important then why do we so easily forget about them? I jotted down a few quick observations and ways we can meet our members in the middle.

To the new member:

You are valued. Your insight is imperative and you bring new perspectives that may have never been brought to the table before. Your experiences are often times unique and you are the future of the organization. Don’t let the intimidation factors, the traditions of your organization, or the “way we have always done things” stop you. Take initiative and lead your organization. You were brought into your organization because they saw potential. Don’t “wait until the right moment” or “for the next executive board”. Embrace the value that you bring to your organization and challenge the process. Advance the state of your organization so that you can have the best experience possible.

To the apathetic member:

C’mon bro. You’ve got to get on board. Do you see the opportunities passing you by? Do you see the potential that you have to influence your organization? Do you see your time passing by? Hop on board and realize that now is the time to make great things happen. You are holding down the entire organization and you are a key to making it successful while setting it apart. Think about WHY you joined the organization. Take time before each meeting to remember why you are there, the value that you bring to the other members, and the reason why you joined the organization some time ago. Take initiative to sign up and volunteer for things. Set the example because others are watching your every move. You are blessed with the “fish bowl” effect and members see you as a leader. Embrace that leadership potential and lead your organization.

To the executive board member:

Breathe. Everything is going to be okay. Sure, running an organization is insane and takes a lot of time and energy. The paperwork, bureaucratic system, unhappy members, conflict, event planning, organization, time management, and everything else that could possibly go wrong is going to be a component, but you’ve got it under control! Take a step back, level the playing field, be willing to listen to your membership, and find the purpose of why you are doing what you do. Set goals that are attainable for yourself, your executive board members, and for the members of your organization. Take it one step at a time, and realize that you will be successful. Also, think about the legacy that you are going to leave. The members to come and the memories and connections you are instilling in your members right now is irreplaceable. Remember to respect your membership and spend quality time with them outside of your “duties”. Lastly, exemplify your values because your members are watching. The easiest way to lose your credibility as a leader is by losing respect and becoming a hypocrite. Acknowledge your role and do it to the best of your ability.

To the older members:

You are still shining bright and because of that, you are lighting the way for the future. Sure, it is easy to sit back and criticize the new executive board, to examine the values of each younger member and pull out their flaws. Don’t do that. Walk beside them, extend a hand, give them advice, show them their potential and value. I promise it will inspire them. Listen to their story and help them with life. You are important to them and the organization should still be important to you. If it isn’t then you should rethink your membership. You, ultimately, shape the future of your organization and you have a lot of weight in decision making. Then again, you have been in every situation mentioned above. Perhaps you were afraid to join the organization. Someone most likely saw potential in you to step up on the executive board, and older members guided you along the way. Inspire others to carry the organization long after you are gone. Identify your role and pursue it so that you can further the organization.

In all of the organizations I have met with, this has been the resounding message. I think as student leaders we end up moving so quickly to the next thing. We are looking for instant gratification. We get distracted. We want change to happen overnight and we get overwhelmed. We forget about the relationships we are forming – the relationships with our members. I encourage you to open dialogue with your members about how they feel the organization is operating and whether or not they feel valued. Help them find their purpose in your organization, remind them why they are valued. I promise that it will set your membership apart and excel your organization.

How can we maximize our effectiveness in organizations without forgetting about our members and their needs?

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