Membership review

Issue: What is life?

10 May 2016 article

MT May 2016 membership

What will Society membership look like in 2017 and beyond?


The Society will be undertaking a review of its membership offering during the course of 2016 to ensure it remains relevant and continues to deliver what members want from it. For those who couldn’t attend the Conference in March to give us their views, there will be other opportunities for members to give feedback through a range of consultation meetings, questionnaires and surveys. Do look out for them.

Membership has been identified as a key Society pillar through which we aim to deliver our goals. Indeed, it is an essential component of our plan to deliver our mission and vision.

Going forward, our goal is to “enhance the membership experience so it not only meets but exceeds expectations and members feel valued, heard and part of a community”. Our review will ask the questions necessary to help us deliver this goal, no matter which community members feel part of.

As preparation for taking part in the consultation process, we would ask you to start thinking now about some of the bigger challenges facing organisations like ours.

We operate in a very different environment now compared with the one just 10 years ago. How we received and paid for our information then looks very different to how many of us receive it now. Cheques, CDs and hard copy were still very much the currency of the day. Compare this with now. Anywhere, anytime and very often for free are today’s expectations. Keeping pace with the rate of change in technology presents challenges for all of us.

But more importantly for membership organisations like ours, is our need to keep pace with what our members and prospective members expect from us. How should we position ourselves to continue to deliver a valued service to members for the next 10, 15, 20 years?

Some may argue that in the age of the internet, learned societies have no place. After all, every one of us now has the potential to build our own networks and find sources of reliable information online. Why would we pay to join an organisation when we can get these benefits for free? It’s a valid question.

So where can we add value? How can the Society ensure its relevance going forward?

Part of the answer will lie in making much more of the experiences that cannot easily be replicated online. Our events for example, offer unique opportunities for people to meet each other face-to-face, interact, and be part of a wider discussion and conversation. Many of the benefits of attending conferences and meetings can’t be easily quantified. These occasions always bring the unexpected – the introduction you didn’t know would lead to the samples you needed; the offer of help made by someone you weren’t aware of working on the same problem; a contact about a job; a discussion about a possible funding lead. They are all examples of face-to-face interactions that add value to being part of our wider microbiological community.

And it is perhaps being part of this wider community where membership really comes into its own. Individually, of course, we pursue our own career and professional agendas, whether online or off. But only by acting collectively, through societies like ours, can we really support each other and strengthen the standing and impact of our profession. Through membership, we are able to provide opportunities and make them available to the widest range of people. We support individual members with grants. We offer career-enhancing governance opportunities. We provide work experience opportunities. We offer peer recognition through a range of prizes and awards. We influence policy-makers. None of this would be possible without our membership.

So, in looking forward to what space we seek to occupy in the future, perhaps a challenge for all of us is to work harder to raise members’ consciousness above the level of the individual and the tangible, to the wider view that speaks more about the sense of ‘microbiological community’ and belonging that comes with membership, and the impact we can have on the collective whole. Maybe we all need to work harder at demonstrating and communicating this.

If you have thoughts and views to share about membership, we’d love to hear them. What are the questions we should be asking? What do you get out of membership? What do we do well? What don’t we do that we should be doing? If we were starting the Society from scratch today, how different would it look? How can we ensure what we offer is sustainable? Here’s your opportunity to let us know your thoughts so please do!

Look out for the opportunities to contribute during the year, or if you can’t wait, send your comments now to [email protected]. These will feed into the review process on your behalf during 2016.


Head of Membership Services
[email protected]