LeadingAge Virginia is one of 3 LeadingAge state partners to win special recognition and a host of prizes for its members’ high response to the LeadingAge Member Survey, which closed at the end of August. Other winners of the survey competition include LeadingAge California and LeadingAge Gulf States.

LeadingAge Virginia achieved the highest response rate among a group of 18 medium-sized LeadingAge state partners. LeadingAge National sent 202 surveys to members in Virginia and received 153 completed surveys in return, for a response rate of 75.74%. The survey’s national response rate was 36.61%.

“Our members want to be engaged with us, and when we position something like this survey as important, they will answer the call,” says Melissa Andrews, president and CEO of LeadingAge Virginia. “They are just highly engaged. They are awesome.”

Importance Of Relationships

Andrews credits the success of the survey in Virginia with the fact that her team reached out personally to members, both to tout the survey’s benefits and to nudge them to complete it.

Armed with weekly status reports from LeadingAge National, Andrews and her staff sent emails to members who hadn’t started the survey, and to those who had only completed part of it. When Andrews noticed that members affiliated with a multisite organization were not responding to the survey in great numbers, she went straight to the corporate office and asked for help.

“This experience taught me that it is not enough just to send out a link to a survey,” she says. “We have to personally reach out to our members and explain to them why this is important, how we are going to use this data, what the benefits of it are, and what could be the unintended consequences if they don’t participate.”

That message resonated with members, she says, because they already have a strong relationship with the LeadingAge Virginia team, and those team members have proven themselves as credible member advocates.

“Our credibility in being their advocates and being their voice means a lot to members, so I think that’s why they were willing to take the time and do this,” she says. “And, because we did that personal outreach, they really felt that their individual response was very important to this effort. I think that made the difference.”

Throwing Some Friendly Competition Into The Mix

The turning point in the survey process for Andrews—and, she says, for many other state executives—came in July 2019 when participants in the State Executive Forum in Denver received an up-to-the-minute summary of the survey response rates in each state.

“I think that really got us back to our competitive roots, and it was all in good fun,” says Andrews. “At the end of the day, bragging rights is something that everybody enjoys. If the survey was not on your radar screen back home, it gets on your radar pretty quickly when you’re sitting together in a room and you see the numbers in black and white.”

The sizable package of incentives also impressed state executives, she says.

In addition to recognition during the 2019 LeadingAge Annual Meeting & EXPO in San Diego, each of the 3 winning state partners will receive LeadingAge meeting registration certificates, a roundtrip airline ticket to Annual Meeting, a complimentary hospitality suite in the meeting’s host hotel, and a complimentary dinner for LeadingAge state staff attending the meeting.

Each winning state partner will also be treated to a celebration luncheon for staff in their home state, and a presentation on the survey results by Dr. Robyn Stone, senior vice president of research at LeadingAge and co-director of the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston.

The prospect of those prizes made an impression on Andrews and her staff.

“One of the lessons I’ve learned is that if I tell my team that we’re in a competition, they will rise to the occasion,” she says. “They will have a take-no-prisoners attitude to try and win that competition. I had no idea how competitive this team is. And that was actually really fun.”

Added Benefits

In addition to the prizes, says Andrews, her team gained 3 important benefits during the survey process.

  • A strong state-national partnership: “This was a national survey, but I am pretty sure the entire national team would say that they would not have been as successful without the states taking this on,” she says. “It really requires both state and national to come together and collaborate in order to see a greater response to efforts like this.”
  • Member engagement: The survey process helped Andrews appreciate how member engagement can bolster association initiatives. “We might not be using our members enough in strategic efforts,” she says. “Maybe we should focus more on letting our members know how important they are to advocacy and policy conversations, and in helping us identify trends in the field. I think that would open a different conversation around member engagement and member value, and put members front and center.”
  • Team confidence: Finally, the survey’s success in Virginia was important because “it gives our team the confidence to know that we can go up against anyone if we put our minds to it,” says Andrews. “It’s not about beating other states, it’s about knowing that there is power in our passion and in our purpose. If we harness that, is there anything we can’t do?”