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How Research Can Help Boards Achieve Desired Outcomes
There are many strategies and tools to help association boards of directors ensure their organizations remain relevant and continue to deliver value to their members and other target audiences. Research projects, including member surveys, are powerful options and their results—whether qualitative data (information about qualities that cannot be measured mathematically) or quantitative data (information about quantities that can be measured mathematically)—can provide board members with critical information necessary for short-term and long-term strategic planning.

Following is a list of several impactful ways to implement these options and how the resulting data can be leveraged.

Member Needs Assessment

A member needs assessment is a qualitative tool used to understand what your organization could or should be offering with regard to new education programs or member benefits. This approach is especially helpful if your organization is looking to gauge the interest level of members—current, potential and lapsed—regarding new products and services. This is not to be confused with a member satisfaction survey, where members are asked to assess existing offerings.

Member Satisfaction Survey

A member satisfaction survey is a quantitative tool used to assess member awareness of and engagement with current association programs and services. It can also help identify potential enhancements to those offerings and determine how their overall value compares to competitors’ offerings. When repeated at regular intervals, this data allows boards to benchmark and monitor perceptions over time.

Brand Discovery and Development

Your association’s brand encompasses more than its logo and visual identity. To assess how to evolve and strengthen your brand and position it as a leader within your respective industry, it is recommended to implement a brand discovery project that employs both qualitative and secondary research (existing data sourced from external sources). The objective is to gather critical marketing information and insights from key stakeholders within both your organization and your competition to create—or enhance—your association’s brand platform.

Product Portfolio Review

A product portfolio review is an analytical approach, typically driven by a combination of quantitative and qualitative research—including a financial analysis—that examines the products, services and operational assets that contribute to your association’s revenue. The outcomes are recommendations regarding which products or services the organization should invest in for the future, those in which it should maintain existing investment levels and those in which investment should be limited, or even withdrawn.

When tackling your next research project, be mindful not to go beyond its original purpose. For example, it could be tempting to combine multiple projects and surveys into one, but you would then run the risk of confusing participants and therefore collecting inaccurate data. It is critical for boards to clearly identify specific goals and desired outcomes at the onset, and then be specific and deliberate with the implementation of the research projects.
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JANUARY 2016 EDITION
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Board Forward is published 10 times a year by SmithBucklin, the association management and services company more organizations turn to than any other. SmithBucklin has served volunteer board members for more than 60 years.

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