The Inside Scoop: How We Curate Member Benefits
NASW offers members a large portfolio of benefits. We sat down with NASW’s Senior Director of Membership and Marketing, Jennifer Watt, to learn how NASW selects the benefits it offers to members and how members can contribute to the process.
NASW: How did you become the Director of Membership at NASW? How long have you been in this role?
JW: I worked in corporate, government and charitable organizations before I came to NASW. I worked for a children’s organization where social workers were the backbone of that group, which led me to NASW in 2006. Those past experiences help me in my current efforts to inform people about the important mission of our organization and encourage social workers to join and support our work.
NASW: What is the role of NASW’s membership team?
JW: At the National Office we have four people dedicated to member experience, including customer service and communications about member benefits, joining and renewing. We are supported by a contracted member services team of five who take hundreds of member calls a day, respond to a thousand member emails per month, and help us process member transactions.
Together, we ensure that a member’s experience with NASW is everything social workers deserve. We look after individual members' needs. We fix systems that support resources and benefits. We also identify, develop, and launch benefits and services that members need. Our 55 Chapters also have fantastic staff who provide support one-on-one, offering unique benefits and services to social work professionals in their communities.
NASW: How does the membership team choose benefits to offer members?
JW: Primarily by listening to members. They tell us what they need, and we work to create that for them. We learn from members in different ways, including through individual member contacts or periodic member surveys. We also learn through MyNASW, our online member community. Thousands of members use it to help each other and let us know their concerns. Through the questions they ask, it's clear what they are interested in and where they need more resources.
NASW: Can you share an example of how some benefits came about?
JW: Yes! The CE Institute is housed on the national website and includes hundreds of national and chapter courses that meet the educational needs of social workers for state licensure. Bringing them all together on one platform means social workers nationwide can benefit from a wide variety of topics. NASW members and customers streamed 70,000 hours of CE content in the past year! And the CE Tracker was created in direct response to member feedback. In a member needs survey, members noted that keeping track of CE was an administrative challenge, especially if they were licensed in more than one state. We built an easy dashboard that tracks each state’s requirements.
Years ago, we created Specialty Practice Sections (SPS) to give people a connection to others working in their specialized field. SPS has grown to offer online practice communities and free live webinars that offer up to 12 CE credits plus a deep archive of past courses, all for one annual subscription.
More recently we established MyNASW so that wherever members are—a busy city or rural setting—they could have access to their peers. Networks are crucial because for social workers often work in interdisciplinary settings and may be the only social worker in their workplace. That can feel isolating. Social workers need access to a network of professional peers who know what they are going through and can give resources or support. NASW Members have free access to the entire membership whenever they need to share concerns and challenges.
NASW: What are some other popular benefits?
JW: Two that quickly come to mind are our Research Library and SAVI. The Research Library is a partnership with EBSCO to give members access to more than 25 social science databases with thousands of scholarly documents from leading research journals, think tanks and advocacy groups at no cost to members. We created it because we heard from social workers who missed their university library and still wanted access to evidence-based research.
SAVI is a student loan technology company providing our members with resources and expertise to better manage and repay student loan debt. Members especially appreciate help navigating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which many social workers are eligible for but many have had a hard time successfully filing for forgiveness. Too many social workers are burdened by student debt, and NASW is advocating for relief for social workers. We work on the federal level seeking changes that can take a long time and we partner with organizations that help educate social workers about student debt. We also partnered with Savi to provide practical one-on-one help for individual members to get help consolidating debt and navigating the complex rules of public service loan forgiveness. Members can use a calculator to determine their best repayment option or engage SAVI to file paperwork for them.
NASW: How do chapters support the effort to provide additional and targeted benefits?
JW: Each chapter offers their own town halls, advocacy events, exam prep courses, workshops, or special interest groups and much more, creating an array of benefits. NASW strives to ensure that members of every chapter, whether large or small, has access to a valuable set of programs and services.
NASW: How can members contribute to the benefits selection process? Or, provide feedback on benefits they like or dislike?
JW: Members help us all the time by letting us know what they are using now and what they wish they had. And although ideal customer experience is making sure things always go right, sometimes they don’t. If members have experiences that are less than perfect, we really appreciate it when they let us know through email: firstname.lastname@example.org. And it’s incredibly helpful when members offer specifics about what happened, such as when a member sends us screenshots of what they were trying to do online and how it didn’t work as they expected. That helps us identify issues and take action to improve the experience for everyone.
NASW: Finally, why are member benefits so important to NASW?
JW: We appreciate our members for their commitment to the social work profession. NASW’s mission is to advocate for the social work workforce and for social justice policies that social workers care deeply about. We can only do that with the support of members and the dues they pay. Members make our advocacy work possible. That’s why we work to provide members-only benefits that are excellent tools and resources. We want to thank members by bringing them additional value because without our members, our advocacy work isn’t possible.