Reimagining the AWCI Membership Experience

Chris Williams, CAE / May 2022

This month we have a special guest columnist, AWCI Director of Membership Chris Williams. In this column Chris highlights AWCI’s new association management system. Look to hear from other AWCI headquarters staffers in the coming months.

As I sit here at the airport (masked, of course) awaiting my flight to this year’s AWCI Convention & INTEX Expo, I can’t help but appreciate the nervous energy and anticipation that surrounds the industry’s first in-person, nationwide event in three years. All of the planning, preparation and execution that has gone into this year’s show is about to culminate for a week of learning and reconnecting with friends old and new.
    
This year’s convention is even more exciting as it represents the official debut of AWCI’s Member Central, the association’s new Salesforce-based membership management system. This new, multi-layered system represents a complete reimagining of the AWCI member experience—one that started with a simple question two years ago: How do we connect with our members?
    
Construction is rooted in tradition and proven practices, an industry that subscribes to the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” When AWCI staff began evaluating the association’s membership systems, that adage rang true—the systems, now 20 years old, still worked. So why undertake a complete rebuilding of both the internal and external membership experience?
    
The answer came from AWCI members.
    
In the age of Amazon and BIM, AWCI’s membership experience was stuck at AOL. Sure, members could participate in their AWCI membership, but they couldn’t control it. Once the form was submitted and dues were paid, that was it for the year. There wasn’t an easy way for members to change their company information, to add employees so that they could access member benefits, to connect with fellow members to engage in meaningful connections beyond AWCI’s two in-person events per year.
    
The system wasn’t broke, but it also wasn’t serving members any more. So in mid-2019, AWCI staff and leadership began the process of reimagining how AWCI and its members connected. By March 2020, AWCI had selected Fonteva, one of the leading association management technology developers, to create a Salesforce-based membership management system that would serve as the nexus of everything AWCI for both staff and members.
    
Then the pandemic happened.
    
What should have been a 12-month discovery, development and implementation process involving numerous in-person meetings among AWCI staff, members and Fonteva engineers became an 18-month process where the teams never met in person—even with our offices only 6 miles apart.
    
In many ways, this experience benefitted the process as it allowed both AWCI and Fonteva to dig deep into the nuts and bolts of the member experience and spend more time understanding the complexities of integrating the entire association’s operations into a single system. Both teams spent the time wisely—AWCI staff examined their internal operations and discovered inefficiencies that hindered the growth of programs. Fonteva engineers grappled with AWCI’s intricate governance and membership structure, developing a platform that integrates the needs of staff with members’ desire to control more of their AWCI membership experience and increase their ability to connect with each other.
    
After months of testing, the system was quietly launched Sept. 12, 2021. The results were immediate. Within the first three weeks, 10% of AWCI members had logged in to AWCI’s Member Central (www.awci.org/membercentral) and began exploring their newfound environment. Members purchased Doing It Right education courses, which are reflected in their member records, and were given immediate access to the programs. The first AWCI community groups were set up for AWCI committees and the Emerging Leaders Program, which kicked off officially in November 2021.
    
Momentum (and usage) has continued to build since that momentous first day, and AWCI staff continue to fine-tune the environment to meet members’ needs. More and more community groups are coming online for members to connect and share ideas and experiences. And, after AWCI’s convention concluded, the next big leap forward for both members and AWCI: online membership renewals. (Annual memberships expire June 30.)
    
While that may seem like a trivial experience considering that we live in an Amazon world, it’s a tremendous leap forward as it allows members to control how and when they renew—or set up auto-renew—to maintain their support for AWCI and access to member benefits. It allows AWCI staff to track renewal rates and reward members for their engagement. It allows both to connect virtually between events and learn more about each other, maximizing member benefits in AWCI and helping AWCI in its mission to serve its members.
    
Much has changed in the last few years, but through it all, AWCI has remained as a source of information, benefit and support for our members.
    
Now, we’re doing it even better.