Minnesota Cities Magazine
More from Sep-Oct 2018 issue

St. Paul to City Hall: Stepping Up Member Outreach and Engagement

David Unmacht, LMC executive directorBy David Unmacht
In one of my first magazine columns as executive director, I discussed the “power of one.” I talked about how much stronger the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) could be if we had one more city official in each member city engaged in League services or activities.

The math is easy: 833 more individuals participating in our programs, accessing our website, attending training sessions, volunteering time on a committee, or serving on our boards. The impact of this is immeasurable.

The foundation for making this happen is to promote a two-way partnership. You serving and benefiting your city; the League, with your involvement, serving and benefiting all cities. I am pleased to report that we are making exciting progress.

The League keeps track of a lot of data, most notably our communication with you. We track city trends, questions, inquiries, and participation in League-sponsored events.

We are continuously assessing trends at the macro level to ensure we’re getting the big picture of what is happening in our cities. We use this information to help us prioritize staff resources for conducting research, developing communication tools, preparing legislative proposals, and coordinating education and training programs.

Our goal is twofold. First, to be the go-to resource for your needs by providing you with the most up-to-date information on all topics relevant to city government. Second, to stimulate your interest and involvement in League work.

We want to capture the hearts and minds of our city officials, causing you to see the League as an institution of value during your tenure as a city official, whether it’s for one year or 50 years.

Every day our team engages with city officials about many different aspects of your business. Let’s define this as reactive engagement. This form of service is our gold standard, and we will always be there when you need us!

Yet, our dual goal is to connect and communicate with you in a more deliberate and personal way. Let’s define this as proactive engagement. We’ve always done this, but we are now amplifying our intentions and focus. That’s the difference. Think about this idea in the context of how you conduct citizen engagement in your city—the similarities between the two are clear.

At the LMC Annual Conference in St. Cloud last June, I said, “We welcome an invitation from you to visit your city and region, but don’t be surprised if we invite ourselves.” I’m serious about that. We’ve been doing much more of this over the past six months. We know by visiting, listening, and taking a tour of your city, we see firsthand the challenges you face. Many of the issues overlap among cities in Minnesota; it’s the scale that makes them unique to your community.

When you engage with us, we better understand your needs and we can be more effective in serving you. The data we collect allows us to identify trends about what has happened, but meeting with local officials helps us to be more intuitive and offers us a glimpse into what you are thinking about for the future. In other words, the data tells us how we’ve been doing, and the conversations with you offer insights into what we should do next.

Minnesota is a large state, and we at the League want to apply our resources in a smart way. To better serve you, we recently moved Heather Corcoran into a new staff position called engagement manager. Some of you may know Heather from her eight years of service with the League. In her new role, Heather’s primary goals are to work directly with city officials, our affiliates, and even the business community to ensure League efforts produce positive results.

Heather’s duties include merging our data with the knowledge we gain from personal meetings and conversations to better serve all members. We know that each individual communicates and learns in a different way, requiring a variety of creative means to connect with you—in person, online, with videos, podcasts, and more. The work of the engagement manager, along with creative connection tools, opens the door for new outreach and engagement possibilities.

What an opportunity we have! I’m excited to be part of this outreach. It’s our privilege to serve you and our pleasure to travel this great state to make personal connections, say hello to good friends, and meet new friends, all with the goal to help you be successful in your role as a city and community leader.

David Unmacht is executive director of the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: dunmacht@lmc.org or (651) 281-1205.

Read the Sept-Oct 2018 issue of Minnesota Cities magazine

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