Insights to shape your tomorrow


Shaping tomorrow’s associations

from Nikki Walker
Global Vice President Engagement – Associations & Communities
MCI Group


Transformation is everywhere, and so are the opportunities!

The last eighteen months have brought massive transformation to the way associations interact with their community and we at MCI have been focused on helping our clients with tomorrow’s solutions.
Our brand refresh earlier this year reflected this shift – we are Tomorrow’s People striving to be one-step ahead of the immediate need. Welcome to the first print edition of IN THE LOOP (our rebranded FOCUS newsletter) where we share insights on consulting and community solutions, strategic and digital communications, and live and virtual events to help you shape your
tomorrow and unleash the power of your community.
In this issue, read how many associations have understood the opportunities accelerated by today’s digital reality, what is driving their success, and how MCI has helped them to transform and thrive in tomorrow’s world.


What does engagement really mean?

In a cluttered, competitive digital space, how can associations drive value and enhance their brand?

Providing a high-quality member experience is an important component of an association’s engagement strategy, and while member engagement is something many associations strive for, they often have difficulty defining and pursuing it.

Associations are not exempt from the consequences of today’s consumer age, when countless organizations offer an overwhelming variety of products and services through multiple channels. Having the right value proposition alone is not a guarantee for successfully capturing prospects and turning them into engaged members. Indeed, for the purposes of engagement, it’s helpful — and in some ways crucial — to think of your members not merely as members but as customers. Engagement is simply the depth of the relationship they have with your brand; it is the result of many interactions between the member and the association. Hence, your association’s engagement strategy must focus not only on service offerings but also on the customer journey and the interactions and experience that build a meaningful and deep relationship.

Relationship strength

When it comes to relationship strength, it’s particularly important for your association to think not just of members but also of customers. Why? Because you have customers outside your core membership. The question then becomes, why are these customers not members? How can your association build a relationship with them and convert them into engaged buyers, members, and contributors?

The multiplier effect

In addition to being loyal, engaged members and customers act as multipliers. They tell their colleagues and friends about the work their association does, the value they derive from it, and the products and services they consider invaluable. Referrals are the most impactful — and the most economic — promotional tool any organization can have. As part of our research for the Global Engagement Index, MCI talked to thousands of members of associations and found that few associations could claim a substantial number of multipliers among their members and customers. While associations could boast 31 percent of “loyal” members, only 8 percent of member respondents could be classified as “multipliers,” meaning that they serve as positive brand “promoters.” A stronger relationship generates engagement, which in turn generates multipliers, which in turn generate more members and more customers — who are potential members.

Five drivers to build engagement

We have identified five specific categories that contribute to driving engagement as seen from the user’s point of view: overall perception, benefits and value, offerings and customer services, communications and information, and products and services. When your association understands the importance of these drivers to creating total engagement, you can develop a specific engagement strategy to enhance the relationship and loyalty of your members and customers. This in turn will lead to increasing your brand “promoters,” converting the “passives,” and lessening the effect of the “detractors.”

Technology as an enabler

In the increasingly connected, customer-driven, hyper-personalized world, the relationship between members and associations is changing rapidly. Membership and engagement models will need to reflect the needs, preferences, and customer journey of the connected and distracted consumer. Rigid membership models must adapt to the need for inclusive association communities in which members and customers have access to value through multiple online and offline channels. One possibility is that membership models will evolve into subscription models, giving access to products, services, and interactions of choice. Putting added pressure on this is the COVID-19 crisis, which has accelerated the digital transformation of the world economy and radically altered traditional notions of member-based organizations. For many associations, a reset of value creation, engagement, and relationship building will result. Big data and artificial intelligence (AI) will transform associations and online communities into powerful marketplaces, enabling highly personalized interaction, content, and services. Digital relationships, virtual interaction, and AI-driven access to customized content will live alongside the “new” experience of live and hybrid meetings and conferences. At the center of it all will be the engagement you build with your members and customers.


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Meeting goals in a realistic and sustainable way

The “Experience MLA” campaign raises member retention numbers above its target objectives

While associations have always been important to the people they serve, the pandemic has further intensified that relationship, with more members now considering it critical to belong to their association, whether they need to reinforce their professional skills, network, or gain access to certification opportunities. And with more online and virtual options, it is not just the members but the entire professional community that is engaging. With this in mind, the Medical Library Association (MLA) recently launched “Experience MLA” — an open membership month with two goals: to encourage current members to renew and to recruit new members.

Giving members what they want

The campaign ran for a full month, with many incentives on the public page to encourage visitors to try the free membership as well as messaging for current MLA members to experience member value they may not be aware of. At the core of “Experience MLA” were the MLA communities, some 45 of which organized events during the campaign month, ranging from pure networking, to speakers, panels, and more. The strategy was to have individuals join communities and connect with members, all of for free. MLA sent weekly emails that identified all of that week’s activities, which made it easy to participate.

Making it easy with technology

By offering a seamless user experience (UX) and focusing on individual members and prospects vs. the organization’s objectives, the campaign exceeded MLA’s financial objectives. The support of the communities as net promoters via both their activities and peer-to-peer contact was also a key element in the success of “Experience MLA.”

Getting sustainable results

In just a few weeks, the campaign saw a 2-percent increase in renewals, with 27 new individual members generating a positive net revenue of 11.5K USD. The communities saw an increase of 3.7% in community participation and received 306 new community memberships. “Instead of focusing on what you get for membership, the benefits, we focused on why you should be a member in terms of what it will enable for you. In other words, we focussed on the individual vs. the organization. Our role was to make all this easy,” said Kevin Baliozian, Executive Director, Medical Library Association (MLA).


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MLA campaign in numbers
new members
11.5K USD
positive revenues
community memberships
increase in community participation


Webinar series grows ISSAID global community by 17%

The International Society for Systemic Auto-Inflammatory Diseases (ISSAID) challenged MCI to help the organization stay in touch with its community when its in-person biannual meeting got postponed due to the pandemic. MCI designed, produced, and promoted a series of short webinars delivered over a period of four months that enabled any individual with an interest in systemic auto-inflammatory diseases to learn, share experiences, and become more acquainted with ISSAID’s mission.
A digital marketing campaign supported this initiative and enabled ISSAID to increase its visibility and reach on a global scale and grow its community by 17%. This programme is part of a strategic approach for ISSAID to demonstrate value to its members, grow its community, and lead the way to a digital transformation.


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Moving from member-centric to community-centric: The new definition of the 4Ps

According to a recent study by Personify, 46% of association members interviewed said it was very important to engage with their associations to learn career skills and get certifications during the pandemic. That means that associations have a bigger role than ever to play within their community, which includes members, non-members, customers, participants, and stakeholders. It also means that it’s time to move away from the closed, members-only model and toward a more open, community-at-large model with 365/24/7 engagement. To that end, the traditional 4 Ps of marketing — product, price, place, and promotion — have taken on a whole different meaning for associations:

  1. Persistent
    Ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders.
  2. Persuasive
    Omnichannel dialogue to reach the community at large.
  3. Participatory
    Make community members part of the marketing story.
  4. Personalized
    Adapt dialogue based on community member groups.

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Online community establishes IFLA as leading industry resource

The Asia Pacific chapter of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) partnered with MCI to develop an online community for its 30,000+ landscape architects and related specialists and suppliers. The online portal that we created serves as a knowledge-sharing and educational resource center with the support and commitment of more than 200 active volunteer leaders to drive the community. Translated segments and navigation are also available to increase the community’s reach. Aside from sharing knowledge and facilitating networking, the online community also positions the organization as the leading resource serving the industry.


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SBCJ identifies new revenue opportunities with industry partnership

When the biannual congress of the Brazilian Society of Knee Surgery (SBCJ) had to be postponed from 2020 first to 2021 and again to 2022 due to the pandemic, the organization could not continue to operate on its reserves — or leave its members without educational content for two years. Moreover, the pharma industry needed
to communicate with knee doctors on the latest developments. To support the pharma industry, MCI conducted a Voice of Customer (VoC) analysis with pharma representatives, members, and customers to identify their needs as well as new opportunities to generate revenue by monetizing SBCJ content.

As a result, a co-created educational product was developed in partnership with — and sponsored by — the pharma industry. This new product generated new revenue opportunities for SBCJ while maintaining the link with its members and the industry.


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Hybrid events to boost event marketing and data


A tailored road map to thrive in the digital age

Bart Bosveld, Global Executive Director of SETAC and a F.A.S.T. by MCI® client


Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) is a worldwide professional organization representing 5,000 individuals and institutions in more than 90 countries, dedicated to the study, analysis, and solution of environmental problems, the management and regulation of natural resources, research and development, and environmental education. Bart Bosveld, Global Executive Director, shares with us how the F.A.S.T. by MCI programme has helped SETAC identify its priorities and develop a future-proof strategy to unlock its potential. Jeroen van Liempd, Director of Engagement for Associations & Communities with MCI Brussels, led the project.


What prompted SETAC to go through the F.A.S.T. by MCI® programme?
SETAC was in the midst of a process of reviewing its membership and governance model and was looking for alternatives that better fit the needs of the organization, which had expanded over the years. Then came the pandemic, which made us even more aware of the need to make adjustments to build a solid and relevant organization for the future. The combination of these three elements convinced us to go through the F.A.S.T. programme to accelerate the process and prepare for decisions with far-reaching effects for the organization.

What were the outcomes for SETAC?
We knew the organization was operating on a model that was lacking flexibility and that members’ needs and expectations had shifted. F.A.S.T. helped prioritize the pain points that needed immediate attention and push them forward to make them happen. The main outcomes were focused on member engagement, member benefits, and our governance structure.
The traditional SETAC member has become a different person over the last 20 to 30 years. Members are looking for much more flexible options. SETAC has a solid membership base on all continents that experiences diverse environments and has different needs. These members are looking for more customized and flexible benefits.
The programme has helped us put all the pieces of the puzzle together, with a strong process that brings leadership and staff together. We gained a vision from within the organization and prepared a set of recommendations to shape our future. It made us aware of the direction we needed to go.

How relevant was the F.A.S.T. methodology for SETAC?
The way the programme is set up with membership surveys, stakeholder interviews, and F.A.S.T. reading materials was really helpful to bring everyone into the same mindset to discuss the future of the organization. It is an intense, 12-week, virtual programme which requires serious commitment from the leadership and staff. We
had a group of 12 people that had to come together every week at odd hours because participating volunteer leaders came from across the globe. It was really demanding
for some of our volunteer leaders, but this was the only way for our group to stay focused. In the end, everyone enjoyed the time they have put into it. It really helped us to come up with conclusions, and I think this is the main benefit of the programme — that it pushes you to the end, really focused on an outcome.

What are the next steps for SETAC?
One of the recommendations made was to improve our online appearance and our membership management system. We needed a more flexible system that would
help us offer customized benefits to each member segment. This is all related to the association management software we are using. In fact, we are now working on a
migration of our system to a more agile solution to better serve our members. Another recommendation that came out was the implementation of a more flexible membership model. We also reviewed our governance, strategy, and operations, and identified that clearer and better-defined roles and responsibilities needed to be set, whereas the Council and the Board should focus on the strategy and the staff should focus on the execution of the strategy. Our roadmap, which includes a set of recommendations, needs to be translated into an operational plan for the next three years. We have already started implementing part of it, and we plan to work with MCI to make it more concrete. That is a very immediate effect of the F.A.S.T. programme. It has been an accelerator to help us identify priorities and push their implementation.


F.A.S.T. by MCI® is a 12-week virtual consulting programme that helps organizations remain relevant in the post-COVID digital age. The goal is to emerge from the
pandemic in the best possible position to serve your members as the leading voice of your industry. More information at:

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SETAC in numbers
individual members and institutions in 90 countries
titles in the SETAC Store
subscribers to the SETAC News


Data – Are you leaving money on the table?

Do you know how much data your association is sitting on? What is your strategy to use it efficiently and effectively?

Associations collect massive amounts of data from members, participants, and customers — and have been for years. Turning this data into actionable information can be a real challenge, but with the right strategy, processes, and tools, you can improve engagement and generate growth.

Does your association speak data?
How many people in your organization understand data? With the growing trend of digital business models, everyone should. Only those with a data-literacy mindset will
have the sense of ownership and understanding along with the right set of skills to best leverage the power of your data.

Making better use of data collection
Data is coming to you from multiple sources and technology platforms, and to get the most out of it, you need a data intelligence strategy. The reality is that data disrupts conventional thinking by revealing inefficiencies as well as business insights that can lead to unexpected, uncomfortable, and inconvenient outcomes based on business realities. The right use of data analytics will help solve them.

Data and big data
Every physical and virtual action generates data, with the analysis of data collected at events generating the first level of immediately actionable information. While this is a useful set of outcomes, it remains quite basic and logistical. Big data and artificial intelligence (AI) offer a second level of information that can unlock much greater potential such as predictive analytics. By combining the two levels of data analytics, associations can transform assumptions into facts, understand how their products and events are consumed, and gain access to precise figures to improve operations, decision making, and customer offerings.

Technology and experience
Associations need to find ways to use data to improve their communication and user experience. Technology can help with segmentation, personalization, and customization of messages that are relevant to your stakeholders’ needs and expectations.

Clean data and AI
Clean data is crucial to an effective marketing campaign. As the flow of information continues to increase, the challenge will be to filter out the least relevant information. AI has the potential to solve this. By learning the preferences of your members and customers, it can identify trends, offer recommendations, and provide the right information at the right moment to the right target.

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  1. Adopt a holistic data analytics mindset throughout the organization
  2. Set clear and realistic expectations with the right set of systems and tools.
  3. Correlate and aggregate insights from data collected. Great data = great campaign.

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