For more than 150 years, the ADA has been a leader serving the advocacy, community and professional development needs of its member dentists. Like many professional associations, the ADA’s services evolved at a time when most individual professionals worked independently, which meant they had few opportunities to connect and share experiences with their peers.
Today, while the need for advocacy remains strong, social media and a range of easily accessible tools offer dentists many alternative options for connection and community within the field. In parallel, new dental business models are changing how many dentists practice. This increased competition has caused the ADA, and the professional associations industry as a whole, to experience a decline in membership and overall revenue.
Aligning around Members
To find a way forward, the ADA leadership sought a partner, frog, able to understand, and deliver value to, the new generation of dentists in the new realities of their professional experience. The partnership began with a deep-dive into the needs of both member and non-member dentists. Meanwhile, the team took a close look at the ADA, both on its greater business objectives and day-to-day realities.
Using a human-centered approach to transformation, frog helped the ADA see new opportunities and remove internal blockers to new service innovation. With Org Activation, frog’s approach to enabling sustainable innovation within an organization, the team was able to identify opportunities for growth and a path for implementation to make it real.
Throughout the engagement, a unique set of volunteer leaders and ADA staff worked hard to keep their organization engaged and open to selecting the most member-centered—and often riskiest—strategies. The team built buy-in across the entire organization by focusing time to involve and prepare stakeholders for a large, strategic change. By first aligning around what members value and what their motivations are, frog helped the ADA develop frameworks for making informed decisions around which risks made the most sense.
“There is real power in brevity,” said an ADA representative. “The idea that there are ‘Collectivist vs. Individualist’ dentists who see the value of a professional association differently was easy to explain, easy to understand and I’m 100 percent confident that we never would have gotten there by ourselves. It helped our leaders understand members in a new way and to buy into changing to support their needs.”
Since collaborating with frog, the ADA has funded a small team with a startup mandate to realize a new business offering designed to serve needs of dentists who might otherwise chose not to be members. One year in, the ADA has seen on-going alignment to the strategy across volunteer leaders and staff in all 50 states.
As an organization, the ADA now has a foundation for ongoing exploration of new ways to engage dentists, as well as a process for crafting new metrics and governance internally. They are now focused on growing their membership base with one important goal in mind: support the dental profession for the next 150 years.