CHEST, formerly known as the American College of Chest Physicians, wanted to grow the organization and increase revenue as part of its strategic plan. But the goal was not just to raise membership numbers, it was to foster engagement and increase involvement with its programs, products, and services.
Avenue M focused on building a membership model with more equitable and customized tiers that gave current and prospective members the opportunity to choose the tier that aligned best with their existing priorities. Avenue M made a strategic decision to look outside the healthcare space to find a model that would support CHEST’s goal of expanding its reach.
Avenue M examined universities, museums, and nonmedical associations, which gave it the perspective it needed to help CHEST implement a membership model that allowed members to choose the way they wanted to engage with the organization based on their own needs, rather than trying to adapt to a membership structure not tailored to their priorities.
The transformation took two years, with the first year aimed at getting essential buy-in from the board. The second year focused on developing new communications and operating procedures and finalizing the new membership model plan and budget.
While the initial goal was not entirely focused on increasing membership numbers, concentrating on transforming how its members engaged with the association ultimately did lead to a growth in membership and meeting attendance–a win-win.
Carefully laying the groundwork in advance is also essential. “I think when you change your membership model, it should be a directive of the board and part of the strategic plan,” said Sue Reimbold, CHEST’s former vice president of membership.
Reimbold credits CHEST’s successful transition on its strategic plan, board support, the resources to support it, and Avenue M, which helped them “think outside the box and look at trends outside our sphere,” she said. “Looking outside the box for the value equation and how to price it–that was the core piece that helped us evolve.”