Focus on the Cause, Not the Club


“As we enter the one-year mark of the isolation, WFH, no in-person meetings and lots of new Zoom relationships, what will your members think, feel and do differently this year that they’ll attribute to you?”

~ Don Neal, Founder & CEO, 360 Live Media


Abraham Maslow taught us that people seek belonging, connection, a common bond, and being part of something—the community, a solution to a problem for many, or a movement that creates transformational and lasting change for the future. By 2030, the workforce will be dominated by Millenials and Gen Zs. Research shows that younger generations are purpose-driven. They want to make a difference and know that it mattered.

Over time, member-based organizations have developed exclusive clubs with coveted benefits provided. The value proposition is to join the tribe to gain visibility, to have their voices heard, and to have a competitive edge in the market.

But for tomorrow’s members, they want to belong to a tribe that creates communities of mutual interest and drives change around issues that matter to them and goes beyond the membership base.


Mission Over Membership

Organizations that focus on membership will always be relevant to a smaller group of stakeholders, but not necessarily essential to a community or an industry. Member-based organizations need to think bigger, act bolder, and change how they operate. Sheree Ann Kelly, President of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, shared in her keynote address at the ACCE Summit that the future of chambers relied on embracing three pillars:

  1. Focus on Mission — to make an impact, not just for members, and help solve the greatest challenges facing communities.
  2. Lead with Courage and Purpose —and convene stakeholders to solve problems, to be the sane center among competing interests, and to serve as catalyst for change.
  3. Adapt the Business Model — by funding the mission and diversifying revenue beyond membership to support community-based work.


Move From Relevant to Essential | Hight Performance Group


Unite Around Common Cause

What is the shared experience you can create that will unite members and a broader audience? Bringing people together around a common purpose is more in demand than ever before. You can activate them, engage them, and unite them based on the community work your organization is undertaking. And people will overcome the isolation, the lingering fears of coming together, and find ways to engage with you online, in person, or in community clusters. Engagement needs to take on a whole new purpose.

As Don Neal illuminates in his blogpost, The ONE THING That Will Get People Back Together Again at In-Person Events, you can drive engagement if you:

  • Address the elephant-in-the-room issues that your audience deeply cares about. Take on the politically sensitive topics, take on the real pressures your members are dealing with, and bring forth the speakers, thought-leaders, provocateurs, outsiders, and people from every walk of life that can address the concerns, opportunities, and issues that will get your audience out of the home offices, onto a plane, and to your event. Ignite the fires that care.


  • Use your digital events, social media platforms, discussion forums, and all of your member communications to create small groups who are deeply connected and agree to attend your event as a unit. Help make connections that have been lost during this year of isolation.


  • Forget the traditional cocktail receptions, networking breaks, and other homogenous, vanilla, awkward social gatherings, and instead create new ways of getting people together in shared experiences that are more authentic and intimate, and that appeal to introverts and extroverts alike.


As Don Neal eloquently summarizes, “In-person events have all the potential to be better, more enjoyable, more engaging, deeply meaningful, and wildly successful if we seem them through a new lens of human-centric design. Mass-marketed, mass-designed, massive general sessions, and massive swarms of people all in one place but not unified in the shared experiences is not the future. Events that are curated by you, inspired by common needs and interests and organized for true human connection are going to be the game-changers we all need.”


Cathi Hight helps organizations manage constant change, develop customer-loyalty and “work smarter, not harder”. She is an organizational development consultant and president of Hight Performance Group and the developer of The Member Retention Kit, A New Approach to Tiered Membership and the Work Smarter, Not Harder program. Learn more at



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