At the recent SLA Leadership Summit, James Kane – considered to be the world’s foremost expert on what makes an individual truly “loyal” to a product, brand or, in this case, association – made a very interesting remark about love.  He pointed out that the 43% of members who are “Predisposed” to SLA (more on that in a moment) is our biggest association blind spot:  because we think they love us … but they don’t. 

Working with SLA, James has undertaken the Loyalty Project to ascertain how SLA members fit on a scale of relationship levels and what percentage of the members are “loyal”.  Based upon a statistically significant survey, the following profiles SLA’s relationship levels with members today:

Relationship Level Survey says Definition
LOYAL   6% Members who are committed to SLA.  They perceive that their relationship with SLA makes their lives better, easier, happier.
PREDISPOSED  43% Members who are satisfied with their relationship with SLA – they are happy with the status quo and will stay as long as it’s comfortable.  However, if the association changes, these members will need to re-evaluate their relationship with the association.
TRANSACTIONAL  45% Members who receive value for the money they spend on the association services.  Their reason for belonging is purely based upon receiving a specific product or service – be that discounted conference registration, member rates for meetings, etc – for the money paid.
ANTAGONISTIC   6% Members who actively or passively do not support the association.  They may continue to be members for a variety of reasons – their employers pay the fees, there is a cultural expectation of belonging to a professional association.  This type of member will always exist.

What’s the “ideal” relationship level for associations or brands?  20% of the members are loyal, as seen here:

Relationship Level Ideal








SLA’s opportunity is to move the “Predisposed” members to being “Loyal”. How Can SLA Get Members  To Love It?  To Really, Really Love It?

The SLA Chapters have a great opportunity to drive loyalty. Chapters are the units “on the ground” with the potential for frequent interaction with the membership.  There are 4 elements to develop a loyal relationship level:

  1. Increased engagement
  2. Forgiveness
  3. Advocacy
  4. Retention

In Chapters, 20% of the members are “engaged”.  Therefore, 80% are just “transactional” – they pay their dues … but they probably would like to be more engaged with their Chapter.  And therein lies the opportunity – because there are 3 elements required to CREATE loyalty:

  1. Trust – 87% of members surveyed reported trusting SLA
  2. Belonging – 62% of members reported feeling a sense of belonging
  3. Sense of greater purpose  – 56% of members perceived that SLA has a vision

The level of trust reported meets the “ideal” for an association.  However, the level for belonging is off target.  What can we, in our local Chapters, do to promote a feeling of belonging?  This was the challenge issued to all the unit leaders at the recent SLA Leadership Summit.  Much discussion ensued.  I believe that, for an association such as SLA, this is not that great a challenge.  So, come on!  Get engaged!  How can we promote the sense of belonging so that ALL SLA members feel that they are part of an active, interested community?  We want everyone to feel the love!