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The Chutes and Ladders of Your Membership Journey


Since March of 2020, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has turned our world upside-down, challenged us to adapt to new circumstances, and created change that we never expected to see. Even now, 18 months later, we continue to expect the unexpected and are prepared to react when the unexpected occurs.


In these unprecedented times, the resilience and perseverance of humans have proven instrumental in keeping the world moving forward. This mindset is not new-these two traits have always played an invaluable role in society. The ability to overcome unexpected challenges and keep moving forward is something that we are taught early on in life, in some instances without even realizing it. One classic game that serves as a hidden lesson to encourage these skills is Chutes and Ladders.


Every player wants to reach the finish line, but they lack control over how quickly they will get there. Will you land on a ladder that moves your closer, or will you slide down a chute that pushes you back? The decision is in the spin, and each turn, players are first hoping for the best and then making the best of whatever happens.


In an ideal world, we would come across more ladders than chutes. Everything would go as planned, there would be opportunity after opportunity, and we would reach our goals faster. But as life during COVID-19 has reminded us, we cannot always evade the chutes. However, we can seize control of how we react to them.


Non-profit organizations and associations have always relied heavily on in-person events. The membership journey full of networking opportunities, professional development resources, and more has traditionally centered around the ability to come together as a collective.


As a result of COVID-19, our organizations faced the need to shift to primarily virtual and hybrid settings. This change flipped everything we knew as association leaders and employees about the industry on its head. It felt like that moment in Chutes and Ladders when you are almost at the finish line but land on the longest slide that sends you just about to square one. Even though this often feels like game over, every player knows that you have to keep moving.


When faced with challenges presented by the pandemic, this is precisely what associations and non-profit organizations did: we kept moving forward. After all, our members are still counting on us.


While they accepted that the projected course of their membership journey looked different than it did pre-pandemic, they trusted that we would still steer them to their destination. Members put their faith in us, and we needed to react to the unexpected in a way that showed their confidence was warranted. As associations around the world reinvented the wheel, they directed it to drive a course that would meet the needs of their membership community. Rather than staying knocked down, we recreated our offerings to support our member's upward trajectory towards their goals.


The value of a strong contingency plan, whether created on the fly when faced with the extreme unexpected or one crafted meticulously, is not new. Since our inception, associations have always relied on the ability to listen, learn, and grow. Listening to the input of our members and having alternative plans help us ensure that we have our member's best interests at the heart of what we do.


From rainy days to traffic and so much more, there will always be factors outside of our control. Just like in Chutes and Ladders, we do not always have a say in what happens next. But we can plan for what we do know, be prepared to react to whatever the future holds, and always keep our members at the forefront of every last plan we make.

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