I have a good friend who asks the question, “What type of employee is your Website? Does it sit on its butt all day costing you money or does it generate business and help you succeed?” (See ATIGraphics.com) I would like to ask something similar, “What type of team player is your membership database?” With all the talk of social media and networking, people are learning the value of sharing their professional profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn, that this interaction of information helps them make contacts with others with similar interests. The effectiveness of such networking tools is directly proportional to the amount of information a person provides to them. Are your members able to use their membership information to help them in this activity? Is that database sitting on the bench or is it in play? When a member uses your Web site, does he or she have to fill out forms with contact information already available in that database?
If my 19 years’ experience in a membership organization has taught me anything, it’s that all too often the membership database is the tail wagging the dog. It determines how you do business and never seems to give you the upper hand in choosing content management or knowledge management systems that perform the essential missions of your organization.
Did you know it's even possible to use open source Web applications to create an environment with many of the same social networking tools as Facebook but without Mafia Wars or other obnoxious distractions? Take a look at what we did at the American Library Association. Connected with your membership database, you cac create a terrific professional networking environment for your members and get that database back onto the playing field.