A Peak Body is only as strong as its membership base.
The primary challenge for any Peak Body has three equal components:
- member recruitment,
- member loyalty, and
- membership renewal.
It is therefore essential that these two questions are uppermost in the mind of the Board and CEO:
- what must the Peak Body do to address, progress and represent the needs, interests and aspirations of our membership base?
- how best can the Peak Body be structured – legally and organisationally – to fulfil this role and purpose:
a) ‘legal structure’ applies to the legal entity, either an incorporated association or company limited by shares or guarantee – each with membership rights and responsibilities,
b) ‘organisational structure’ includes the adequacy and ability of the Peak Body to deliver an effective and efficient suite of services to the membership base.
Many state/territory, national and international Peak Bodies experience difficulties with their legal and organisational structures.
Factors that contribute to such difficulties include:
- potential for conflict of interest for Board Members who represent their state, territory or district on the Peak Body’s Board,
- travel and accommodation costs for Board meetings, planning sessions, etc – together with implications of time away from their home-base and personal commitments,
- increasing sophistication and costs associated with communication channels and information dissemination between Board Members, Board and CEO, and between the Board and the membership base,
- financial viability,
- member input and feedback,
- criteria for prioritising – this is closely linked to (1) above,
- building and maintaining a strong and active membership base, ie member recruitment, member loyalty and membership renewal, and
- ensuring that the membership base is assured and convinced that the value of member services is greater than the cost of membership
Four categories of Peak Body activities, with suggested objectives within each category.
Sphere of Influence
- Ability to influence policy-makers in the interests of the memberhip base
- Access to contacts, networks and information
- Strategic alliances with complementary peak bodies
- Best possible practices for the membership base to deliver best possible services, or achieve best possible results
- Regular distribution of information that is of value to the membership base
- Familiarity with and updates on the legislative, statutory and contractual framework affecting the membership base
- Professional development – which may include accreditation
- Best practices in governance and management for member-organisations
Knowledge and understanding of the relevant field/sector
- Macro-marketing, public/community education and connections with communities of interest or practice
- National and international contacts and research opportunities
- Exploring and analysing scenarios that may lead to (a) innovation, (b) risk, and (c) viability in the relevant field
Member loyalty – ie membership renewal and recruitment
- Effective procedures and practices to gain maximum membership renewal
- Representation based on regular membership surveys and input
- Monitoring member-satisfaction
- Succession planning
The value of membership
Briefly, the value of membership – for individuals and member-organisations – should be greater than the cost of membership. Where a peak body ensures such value, there is a greater possibility of current membership renewal and of new member recruitment. However, note that the benefits and value for individuals who are members will almost certainly be different to those for corporate members/member organisations.
A peak body is only as strong as its membership base. A peak body should structure itself to fulfill the peak body role and function effectively and efficiently, implementing its own governance, management and operational responsibilities in the interests of, and on behalf of, its membership base.
The services provided by a Peak Body should be aimed at – and based upon – the needs, interests and aspirations of their membership base. In particular, the advocacy role of a peak body is to represent the views, opinions and interests of their membership base.
A Peak Body’s constitution will list rules that directly impact on the membership base:
- categories of membership and any variations in membership fees, rights, entitlements and responsibilities for each category,
- administrative and reporting requirements and responsibilities of the peak body’s Board to each category of membership, and
- eligibility or ineligibility of each category of membership to nominate or be nominated for positions on the Peak Body’s Board.