How our SIGs Match Member Value to Needs

Association Forum recently changed the SIG calendar to bring more value to members while also streamlining internal processes.

By Kim Kelly, CAE

blue silhouettes of people / SIG Summit promo article

I still remember my first SIG, do you? I was right out of college and very green. Walking into that room at Association Forum’s headquarters, I felt like a kid who didn’t belong. But, as the speakers got going, I realized this program wasn’t just another educational session. These were fellow association professionals sharing knowledge and having a conversation with peers. SIGs became a favorite of mine after that first experience, and I’m not alone. These meetings have been a staple of Association Forum membership for decades.

“This was a big change for us … we feel we’re delivering member value and meeting members where they’re at.”

-Sarah Murphy, Director of Membership & Marketing, Association Forum

SIG stands for “shared interest group”. Many associations have similar programs, sometimes called communities, or forums. Whichever way you slice it, all associations have ways to group and serve their membership. Often, these groupings become large, complex, and difficult to manage.

Association Forum found itself in the middle of that puzzle with our SIG programming. There are 14 SIGs that each meet twice a year. This meant a staff person was coordinating with 14 separate groups to arrange 28 unique meetings annually. Staff time didn’t just include scheduling, but also coordinating with chairs and speakers to make sure the content was set and properly marketed to members. It’s a lot of work and led to a rather random appearance when it came to the overall SIG calendar. 

“In the past, you would schedule each individual SIG meeting basically at the SIG chair’s discretion,” says Sarah Murphy, director of membership & marketing for Association Forum. Once that SIG meeting was over, members would be left waiting for the next one. “We know that our members–association professionals–do a lot of different jobs,” Murphy adds. “Many are Jacks of all trades and this new setup allows member to attend a few different meetings all on the same day.”

Murphy is referring to the quarterly SIG Summits Association Forum instituted. The first of its kind will be held next month on June 20. Now, instead of 28 disparate meetings throughout the year, each SIG will meet twice a year at one of four quarterly summits. 

“This was a big change for us,” says Murphy. “We feel we’re delivering member value and meeting members where they’re at,” she adds. Instead of one-off meetings, members can now attend a quarterly SIG summit with several educational sessions and more opportunities for networking. 

So, what led to this change? Murphy says it was twofold: first, members enjoyed the annual SIG Summit and expressed desire to build upon that event; and two, the shift helped balance staff resources during a time when it mattered most. Instead of pouring time into the setup of 28 meetings, staff could focus on delivering maximum value at four meetings each year. 

If you’re already reaching for your calendar, SIG Summits will be held June, September, and December 2022, as well as March 2023. Another change is that each summit will be held alongside a signature event happening during that time. So, June’s event is held during Association Forum’s “Week of Excellence” programming, which includes the CEOnly Forum, Forum Forward, and Honors Gala

“My hope is that this new format will provide members an opportunity to say ‘okay, I am taking an afternoon off to engage with colleagues and really make the most of my membership,'” says Murphy.  

About the Author

My byline: Kim Kelly is Association Forum's Editorial Consultant. She has more than 13 year's experience in association management and owns Kim Kelly Consulting.

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