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Blog: The Importance of Member Steering Committees in Association Research

The Importance of Member Steering Committees in Association Research

A diverse research committee is integral to ensuring that your association research is relevant and valuable to your membership. Research committees help associations surface and evaluate the relatability of research initiatives to the membership. Vault is accustomed to partnering with associations that have standing committees, ad hoc committees, or task forces to see a research project through.

Although it is important for the Board of Directors to provide guidance—including research parameters—and allocate the proper resources to the research committee, their presence on the actual committee is not necessary. Additionally, for associations with Research and Development Departments, staff members play important roles in developing the committee, implementing the nomination processes, and acting as liaisons to the board; however, they too are not necessarily part of the member committee itself either.

Whichever way your association establishes your member research committee or task force, here are some qualities and characteristics of appropriate member volunteers to create a successful research study:

Industry Experts

In this advisory role, it’s important to have SMEs at the table.

Engaged Members

Highly engaged members are likely to commit to the time and work involved in the process and serve to rally and excite other members. They may also be great candidates to chair panels on research results at annual meetings.

Unengaged Members

Representatives of segmented audiences that feel undervalued can help the association show its membership the importance of secondary and tertiary audience input.

Diverse Representation

The absolute most important quality of the entire research committee is diversity. Here are some key variables to assess of the entire membership that will ensure your research committee is representative of the membership-at-large:

  • Company Sizes
  • Product Areas
  • Submarkets
  • Average Membership Longevity
  • Education Levels and Certifications

Once you’ve assembled your all-star committee or task force, here are some of the ways research committee volunteers will help your association meet its research goals:

  • Brainstorm topics and trends to focus research on
  • Help design survey questionnaire
  • Fine-tune definitions and methodology within a survey
  • Test surveys and provide feedback
  • Ensure the survey tool isn’t overly time-consuming on a participant’s end.
  • Reconvene each year prior to annual research programs to discuss better engagement tactics

The Golden Rule

It’s important to remember that research committees are comprised of volunteers, and as such, you may not always get 100 percent participation during any given meeting. Taking into consideration that volunteers have personal commitments along with regular work schedules, it is important for associations to clearly define the schedule and outline the commitment expected of volunteer members. Later, as a nod to all their hard work, Vault staff offers suggestions for avenues to acknowledge your research committee in the final product of the research or during the launch of the research program.

Want to Learn More About Conducting Association Research?


Mike Hayes, MBA
Mike Hayes, MBA
Mike Hayes is a Principal and Managing Director at Vault Consulting, LLC. He has 20 years of experience serving the nonprofit industry, providing survey research and highly complex data analysis. He works closely...
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