Today I would like to provide an important update on a key strategic initiative under the banner of member centricity: the Membership Value Project (MVP).
The Board of Governors is considering a fact-based proposal to address feedback from members, better align our sources of revenue to our member mix, and modernize the way the ACCJ operates. The proposal:
- adds value to current member segments through added benefits and optional packages, directly aligned with member needs;
- rebalances dues to better align with the current membership mix; and,
- launches a modernization plan to empower members, committees and leaders with digital capabilities.
Members will see improved value for money. In the proposal as it stands, a majority of members will see no change or reduced overall cost of membership. Importantly, the proposal does not involve any change to current member categories or the constitution.
In recent years, the number and composition of members has changed significantly. Between 2010-2017, total member numbers grew 26%, driven by a 122% increase in the number of members from Corporate Sustaining Members. This was partially offset by a decline of 28% in members from Company Memberships.
While member numbers are now at a record high, sources of membership revenues do not reflect the new membership mix. Importantly we have had consistently positive net margins, driven by good expense management but also by challenges in filling open staff positions. This has strained the Chamber’s ability to deliver services to meet the needs of a larger member and committee base.
In addition, the Chamber has not kept pace with digital technology, leaving it more exposed to competition from alternatives. This shift has happened in tandem with changes to Japan’s economy and the US-Japan relationship which present new advocacy challenges and opportunities.
The Board initiated MVP in response to these changes. The MVP project brought together legacy efforts from the last several years and initiated new research to gain a comprehensive view of our members’ priorities, including:
- membership satisfaction surveys;
- focus groups with member segments;
- a Company Membership segmentation study; and,
- financial and competitive analyses.
The research told us that our highly diverse membership has varied needs and expectations of the ACCJ:
- Members from larger companies want ease of service; greater special interest advocacy support, and high-level networking opportunities.
- Members from small- and medium sized companies want expanded networking and information opportunities; and the ability to use the Chamber as a professional development tool for employees, and more effective advocacy for policy issues of specific concern to them.
- Our smallest company members say they are underserved in the Chamber, seek representation and support to address their needs, and express concern about the cost of membership.
- All members say they want a more modern Chamber, with digital tools to collaborate with peers, and that is easier to do business with.
The Board has been fully engaged in the MVP process since the start of the year, with healthy dialogue about how to ensure we provide value for all ACCJ members, reflecting the full spectrum of member businesses. In the case of small company members, we are proposing benefits to address the very specific needs of this segment and support the important role they play.
These major decisions are, naturally, of great interest to all members. Throughout the process, member centricity and input have guided all of our decisions. Right now, members are being consulted as part of the Board’s due diligence prior to approval of the proposal. You will be hearing more about these exciting changes in the near future.
Sachin N. Shah
The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan