Association Learning: Does your Story Inspire Members?

Sometimes it’s nice to take a step back from all the news, busy work days, our hectic social and family lives and take some time to reflect, refocus, and refresh. Conferences can be a great place to do this, while also reconnecting with your peers, sharing experience, and learning about new ideas.

This week we were motivated by the keynote session of the Higher Logic Super Forum, where we heard Ken Schmidt of Harley Davidson describe the power of storytelling in creating a passionate member community that will champion your brand. The results that Harley Davidson have achieved by leveraging the stories and passion of their community are incredible, and are outlined in this Harvard Business Review article. The Twitter conversations during this session also sparked some interesting thoughts about how associations can inspire their member communities to become passionate about what their association has to offer.

Posting each week on #TransformationTuesday, a day on which many social media users post about their progress toward achieving personal goals, our blog often focuses on how associations can use their education and certification programs to achieve specific goals, including:

Association Learning: Does your story inspire members to engage? Like Castells, working together to achieve a goalWe know that a good education program can be a valued benefit to offer members, helping to increase member engagement. We have also posted in the past about how to successfully market your association learning management system to appeal to members and potential members. This week, however, we want to inspire you to reflect on the story your association education programs tell your members. Is it a story that inspires your members to champion and recommend membership of your association to their peers? Or do you need to refocus and refresh the brand story for your association learning programs?

With that in mind, let’s turn to some of the greatest minds in history and their thoughts on learning and education.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  

Nelson Mandela

Whether your association is a trade association or professional society, don’t forget to remind members that a key part of any association’s mission is to provide education and/or certification programs. These programs are continuously changing to adapt to the changes that occur in any profession or trade as society develops, such as the introduction of new technologies that may redefine the skills and knowledge required for certain occupations. Associations are at the forefront of providing professional education, as these organizations can adapt programs to the needs of employers and societal changes in a much shorter timeframe than traditional academic institutions. Members can always rely on the fact that association education programs will provide them with the most relevant, up-to-date skills required for a changing world.


“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”


When promoting your education or certification programs to learners, remember that while you need to describe the learning outcomes and available credits of a course in the course catalog, this is not the whole story. To meet short term goals, your learners will choose specific courses, webinars or conference sessions to align with a certain learning pathway or to meet requirements for accreditation. However, your overall education program should paint an aspirational picture to help learners visualize who they will be, once your program helps them to achieve their long term career goals. One of our favorite recent quotes about association education programs is from Shelly Alcorn, CAE: “The kind of member loyalty that you have always said you wanted to create? I don’t know of any better loyalty than ‘They helped me get a job, keep a job, and get a better job’.” Does how you describe your education program help tell a story about what your members’ future careers might look like? What will your education program help your members to become?


“All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education.”  

Sir Walter Scott

Associations would not exist without their members. Associations work to develop and advocate for a shared profession, trade, or interest on behalf of their members. In order to do this, members must have the opportunity to communicate their concerns, interests, and feedback to the association leadership, helping to shape changes to education programs, based on their experience of learning and of applying learning in their professional careers. When reflecting on your education programs, you might want to think about the opportunities you provide to collect and encourage feedback from members.

How do you currently facilitate communication from members about your education programs? Surveys issued after course completion are one way to collect feedback, but they will relate to a specific program. You might want to consider incorporating more opportunities for online communication through social media? Or for more protected and private channels, perhaps a discussion forum in your LMS, or an online community platform would encourage more open dialogue? Online communication enables you to reach a wider audience, generate conversation with geographically dispersed members, and collect feedback in real time. If members feel they have contributed to effective changes in your education offerings, they will feel valued and more passionate about both participating and recommending your programs to others.


“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.”  

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Does your education program inspire your members to want to further their knowledge and skills? How do you motivate them to participate? Discounts and bundle offers are great motivation for a quick sale, but do your members understand the long term benefits of the different pathways, certification programs, or special interest sessions you offer through your LMS, webinars, or conferences? Does your education program help members to see how they can grow and develop their careers?

This quote should also inspire you to look at the type of programs you are offering, to review feedback from your member community, and to find room for innovation and change. For example, if you only offer education through conferences, could you look at incorporating some technology? If you are currently offering webinars, but struggling with tracking participation and administration, could you benefit from implementing an association learning management system?  Your members will be motivated by your openness to trying something new, and that tells an inspiring story about your association identity and brand. How can your association embrace change to help it grow?


On this #TransformationTuesday, we hope we have inspired you to think about how your education and certification programs contribute to your association’s story for your member community. WBT Systems has been working with associations for over 20 years - Let us help you to inspire your members with world-class association learning solutions that inspire member engagement and a passion for learning.


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