In the first part of this blog, I discussed the one fundamental but crucial and fatal flaw to the “multidisciplinary” membership approach many financial services associations have adopted: the professional educational meeting is the anchor of the local chapter experience for most associations, and the professional education meeting is an absolutely terrible way to facilitate networking for multidisciplinary members. I also discussed the three primary reasons, which were content, sponsorship and networking time.
The cumulative result of these problems is that while the associations may get a short burst of membership when they hang out the shingle of being “a multidisciplinary networking association,” the end result is that the majority of affiliated professionals don’t renew, as they find the content and sponsors irrelevant, and that the meetings allow virtually no time to actually network.
Furthermore, as the content (and sometimes sponsorship) becomes torn between core members and affiliated professionals, the core members may begin to let their membership lapse if they feel resources are becoming divided (leaving less of the pie for core members than when they were the sole membership focus) and membership meetings are becoming less relevant than ever (if the content shifts to a non-core focus).
And in the meantime, sponsors begin to lapse as well, as the chapter meeting attendance shrinks significantly due to both core and affiliated professional membership attrition.
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So what’s the solution? If the organization wishes to truly embrace a multidisciplinary networking approach, the networking should be the reason for gathering in the first place; having continuing education content just consumes networking time!
Chapter meetings in a true networking organization should occur specifically for the purpose of introducing members to each other, in a facilitated manner, that ensures everyone really understands what everyone else does, what their expertise is, and who their target clients are.
Notably, such multidisciplinary meetings actually require people from multiple disciplines who do not have overlapping practices; looking to other networking organizations as a model, quotas for both a minimum and maximum number of professionals in a particular discipline or specialty are not uncommon. Minimum participation requirements are often enforced as well. Simply put, if you’re not genuinely interested in showing up to network, to learn how you can help other affiliated professionals, and to clearly explain to them how they can help you, don’t bother showing up at all.