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Bottom Line Briefing (BLB) is a monthly compilation of significant articles that offers ideas to help you improve your association's operating efficiency.
FROM THE EXPERTS - Association Management Strategies
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Communications & Technology
AAP's Puskarz on Bridging With New and Emerging Technology
Joe Puskarz, Senior Managing Editor at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), oversees the day-to-day management of AAP's journals, strategic product planning, and emerging technologies. Under his leadership, AAP is on the cusp of integrating its print products with new and emerging technology to move its editorial offerings forward. Puskarz and his staff are changing the organization's print journal to an "abstracts only" edition and making the print abstracts link to the full-text content online. Puskarz comments, "We're introducing an app in which clinicians can then hold their mobile device, smartphone or tablet over a print abstract that will immediately navigate them to the full-text article electronically. This will also allow members to download content for later reading." With this publication model, ads will have greater exposure as readers flip through the new print journal. By Puskarz's calculations, the new print model will decrease AAP's journal page size by 60 percent and reduce AAP's annual print costs by approximately $400,000. For other association executives looking to go this route, he advised, "I would recommend talk to your members first and really find out how they are interacting with your content. Just don't make a quick decision. It may not be a great idea depending on your audience."
ABI's Doyle and Longwell Get the Word Out to Members
John Doyle, executive director of the American Beverage Institute (ABI), and the Institute's communications director Sarah Longwell recently went on the record with their experiences putting together an effective communications program for their organization. The Washington, D.C.-based ABI is a restaurant trade association that endeavors to protect the on-premise dining experience, especially as it pertains to responsible alcohol consumption. The Institute recently dropped its periodic newsletter to members in favor of electronic communications. Doyle stated, "It's mostly e-mail blasts right now, but we're working on a system of delivering electronic packages in a way that people want to receive them. . . . We're trying to provide a new service so that you can get our news any way that you want it." Longwell noted that the ABI uses Bacon's Meeting Service and the Mach5 Mailer program as part of its communications technology platform. Mach5 Mailer, in particular, is noteworthy for being not just a bulk mailer, but a solution to an association's e-mail business communication needs. Doyle concluded by stressing the importance of providing members-only content on an association's Web site.
Associations Go Virtual, Part II
Virtual associations have their advocates and their naysayers. One of the supporters is International Ticketing Association (or INTIX) President and CEO Jena L. Hoffman. Under her leadership, her organization -- one that represents more than 1,100 ticketing, sales, technology, finance, and marketing professionals who work in arts, sports, and entertainment as well as a full range of public venues and institutions – has successfully made the switch to the virtual world. She states, "Going virtual is all about change management. It takes some time, but it is easy enough to identify who to bring with you when you outsource or who is going to work out in a home-office setting." Drohan Management Group head Bill Drohan, though, believes the best strategy is still a group of dedicated association professionals working side by side in an office setting. He remarks, "The Internet should be a way to facilitate communication, not replace communication. If you are working on a new program initiative or putting on the annual conference or managing a certification program, you need people who can look each other in the eye and talk with each other and work together as a team to get the job done. I don’t think you can’t have a bunch of disparate, disconnected people all over the country talking on a conference call once a week and e-mailing each other."
Biesenbach on the Importance of Tales Well Told in the Association World
Rob Biesenbach is a corporate communications expert, author, and public speaker who specializes in helping organizations of all types improve their communications skills. In many of his workshops, Biesenbach stresses the importance of good storytelling in selling one's brand and motivating people. He states, "People do not relate to facts, data, or ordinary information in the way they do with stories well told. Stories are unparalleled in their power for breaking down walls with an audience and being able to influence them to act." Biesenbach has managed to take his experiences in both the business and entertainment worlds and craft a message in his workshops and speeches that compels audience members to become better storytellers. His business background includes more than a decade heading his own independent corporate communications/PR practice, as well as a stint as a vice president at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. His show-biz background includes studying acting, writing, and improvisation at the famed Second City Training Center in Chicago. Over the years, he has learned first-hand what makes a good story and also what makes a bad story. "There are a couple of ways you can go wrong," he noted. "[One] big risk with storytellers is they go on and on. They don't know how to focus their story, especially in selling a brand or calling people to action. They try to put everything into it, and they lose their audience along the way. A great story has discipline. Every element has to drive things forward."
Carey on Online Survey Tools for Associations: Ensure You Use Them Correctly
Dr. Stephen C. Carey, Lead Strategist at Maryland-based Association Management and Marketing Resources, offers his thoughts on associations' increasing use of online survey tools. Among the most popular are Survey Monkey, Zoomerang, and Peer Focus. With each of those, Carey writes, "associations have great research vehicles to obtain instantaneous results and answers to questions to assist in their market research in creating valued products, programs, and services. These tools can also be used by sophisticated users, usually professional research staff on board or market research consultants." Carey goes on to assert that the key for association executives is to know when they can use these tools themselves and when they need to call on more experienced, professional staffers or researchers.
DMAI's Michael Gehrisch Lets Association Execs Know What's In a Name
Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) President and CEO Michael D. Gehrisch shares his insights on the process of renaming an existing trade association. Earlier in the decade, DMAI was born when the International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus (IACVB) decided it wanted a name with broader, more direct appeal after 90-plus years. Gehrisch spearheaded an effort to conduct focus groups both inside and outside of the organization to see what names and terms would work best and to ease the transition with its older members. At last year's annual convention, 85 percent of IACVB members voted in favor of the name change. Gehrisch commented, "Even if you are a member of the media and don't know anything about the travel and tourism business, you can pretty much figure out what 'Destination Marketing' is about. That was basically the direction we wanted to take. We wanted to design a brand identity that appealed succinctly and verbally to persons that may not know about what convention visitors bureaus are and tourism, as a whole." Gehrisch was previously an executive with the American Hotel & Lodging Association during a time when it changed its name from the American Hotel & Motel Association.
Don Manger: Changing ASCR's Name Charted a New Course for RIA
Earlier this year, the Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration (ASCR) officially changed its name to the Restoration Industry Association (RIA). Executive Director Don Manger spearheaded this initiative. The name was changed primarily to unify the various members of the trade group. Manger remarked, "The only fight I had with any of the leadership was the impulse to add-on subtitles like ‘cleaning, restoration, abatement' and more so that all of our members would feel included in the new name. However, we handled that by assuring the board that we would contact the key opinion leaders in each of our membership divisions to consult their opinion on the choice of name and the rationale behind it." Nevertheless, the name change was not without its share of challenges, especially considering that it was done in secrecy. Manger said, "My preference would have been to bring far more members into the creation of a name and to test its acceptability with the entire membership. But the history of the organization, the members acting as four industries rather than one, indicated that the members would fight to have the association name reflect their own business name rather than to consider how their business fits into an industry. In short, the members needed to be presented with a fait accompli if they were going to accept it at all."
Glenn Fellman Has Found a GoldMine in Association Management
As head of IE Communications, an association management and publishing firm with three associations under his management, Glenn Fellman has spearheaded numerous projects over the years. Among the most recent was his decision to go with GoldMine as IE's database software management system. After decidedly on the technology, Fellman and his staff collaborated with a GoldMine programming expert to develop a program that literally "sucked" the data out of IE's old proprietary database system and exported the information into GoldMine in a way that fit the organization's needs. Fellman has been pleased ever since, stating, "If you were going to create a new database for your conference every time you held it or a seminar every time you held one, it would be ridiculous. For me, I'd be creating 50 databases a year. This way, I have one database and I just log the events people attend in, and I have a picture in one program of exactly who went to what, where, when and how." On the downside, Fellman reports that the learning curve was a fairly steep one, especially with regards to the initial launch. IE now sends its new employees to a one-day training class put on by GoldMine to learn the basics. The company then follows up with a one-day training session of its own to fill new staffers in on all of the custom features IE has built into it since implementation.
ICBA Invites Members and Non-Members to Step Into Its Revamped Web Site
The Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) is currently celebrating the re-launch of their redesigned Web site at www.icba.org. ICBA, which represents community banks of all sizes and charter types nationwide, spent the better part of the past year on the update process. Spearheading the project were ICBA's director of marketing Tony Sidiropoulos and CIO Dewite North. North remarks, "As we started building out our Web sites, we realized they were technologically behind the times, if you will, relevant to the fact that they were static Web sites. We were looking for ways to create some efficiencies by tying the Web sites to our various databases . . . [and] we also elected to fold in a redesign effort with the automation decision." Both men agree that getting the entire ICBA organization on board with the changes--after all, the association has offices in the nation's capital, Northern Virginia, Minnesota, and Tennessee--was quite the hurdle. A trio of outside vendors assisted ICBA with the Web site revamp because "we didn't have the expertise in-house," conceded North. Sidiropoulos advises other associations that are considering going this route to keep in mind that a site redesign is not just about colors and formatting, but about navigation and accessibility and that the process is akin to the before and after of "Trading Spaces."
Marketing and Communications Planning in Creating Value for Content on the Website
For many trade associations and professional societies, most content on the organization's Web site requires a subscription or membership to access. While some potential members may only access the free areas of the site and never join, industry content should be made available to those who support the association, so as not to lessen the value of the membership. In addition, content that is available to all, and thus not paid for by dues, makes it more difficult for marketing and communications planning staff to produce adequate value messages to help sway potential members. Web content areas that should be addressed include publications and education; member information; listservs and blogs, which should be password-protected and available to members; government and public relations information, which should be free to all; and workgroup and committee participation, which should be member-only in most cases.
Maximizing PR for Branding an Association
Non-profit member-based associations, concerned about the funding and staffing requirements of marketing campaigns, often do not realize the potential value in a strong public relations program. However, if designed and implemented with a thorough strategic plan, public relations can provide associations with a direct and cost-effective way of reaching both existing members and end users who could benefit from the association's services. The first step in any marketing strategy is to visualize the organization as a unique product, identifying what drives the organization and sets it apart from others in its field. The public relations team should also identify the target audiences it wants to reach through the campaign and tailor different approaches to different audiences, from current and prospective members to end users. The campaign must then seek to convey the brand's personality, which may be straightforward and no-nonsense, a role model, an accessible but larger-than-life icon, or an innovative risk-taker. There are many approaches the public relations campaign can take to promote the organization's brand identity, but the best approaches are hands-on, bringing audiences into the organization through Internet experiences or face-to-face interactions with association members and representatives. Once the national campaign is established, associations with local chapters should equip personnel at those chapters to continue the campaign at the local level. Providing funding and staff to run such campaigns can be problematic, but associations should be able to overcome these hurdles by setting aside funds annually via the group's strategic plan, and by outsourcing some public relations duties and enlisting the help of volunteers.
NACD's Alexandra Lajoux Talks About ExpresSource
Alexandra Lajoux, chief knowledge officer of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), talks about the ExpresSource program offered as a feature only to NACD's members. NACD is a national non-profit membership organization that serves the corporate governance needs of corporate boards and individual board members. Using the ExpresSource information hotline, NACD members can send an email or make a phone call and get the answer they need to a corporate governance-related question. Lajoux states, "The question comes into a central place, and our COO is the source screen. . . . If the answer requires any sort of judgment or discretion, if it is not something we have an automatic response for, it does go to me as the Chief Knowledge Officer. In some cases, people are asking the same things that have been asked before, and we can pretty much give them a canned response." For those associations thinking of offering a similar amenity, Lajoux recommends starting small so as not to overwhelm whoever is selected to answer member questions. She also suggests embedding links to existing products and services of the association in as many answers as possible so that you are promoting your association's educational programs and your publications.
Not Content w/ Your Content Management System? Look Up TechRiver
The Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI) was recently in need of a new content management system that would help ease workflow and bring its members closer to the organization. Enter TechRiver LLC, a Virginia-based provider of association management software that markets specifically to small and mid-sized organizations like PMMI. Bottom Line Briefing recently sat down with three of the key individuals -- TechRiver founder and president Jon Singer; Anthony Simone, TechRiver's director of business development; and Joshua Caulfield, former director of new media for PMMI -- in the completion of this project to pick their brains on what other associations need to do to better manage content via the Internet. According to Singer, a useful content management solution must be user-friendly and have just enough workflow so that the work can easily be distributed to the people who need to do it. Let them get the material they need to do their job while sub-routing the information to someone who knows the "Big Picture," and can approve it, then pass it on to someone else who can publish it. When initially looking at an association, TechRiver's main focus is to improve is member communication. The goal is to get information out to the members easily, which is where the content management system comes in. Simone says that organizations that have a really strong volunteer or grassroots network often find themselves in a position where they need to get information to members very quickly, such as for a legislative alert or an alert regarding a product warning. The content management system and the tools TechRiver provide allow anybody on staff, whether they are technically inclined or not, to get that information up on the Web site in real time literally within a matter of minutes. It's all about empowering the staff to empower the members. Singer advises associations to ask if their Web site is really working - is it doing what the association wants it to do? He notes that Tech River sits down and talks through the pros and cons of each function, and finds out what the best benefits are and then delivers solutions that solve the association's problems.
OSA's Melissa Russell Gets Into the ACT
Optical Society of America (OSA) sales director Melissa Russell played a key role in convincing her organization to implement Sage Software's ACT program a few years back. She had previously used the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software package while working for the Document Management Industries Association and thought it could help handle the OSA's ongoing sales efforts. So far, her support of the product has paid off. She especially recommends it to any association with no previous CRM product in place. Russell added that she loves the fact that ACT gives her and her staff the ability to cross-sort on fields as users. She said, "I or any of my staff can go into the ACT database and we can narrow searches or we can add to searches. We keep a lot of historical information in ACT. We can go back five years to all of our trade shows and cross-reference them against our 10 top competitors. So, if we want to pull a call list of everybody who exhibits at our biggest competitor that used to exhibit at our show in the last five years but haven't re-signed yet for this year, we can do that in four or five minutes."
Rick Whelan's MGI Can Help You with Your Membership Marketing
Marketing General Inc. (MGI) offers a wide array of services that help associations boost revenue and attract new members. Headed by Richard "Rick" Whelan, the firm has been in business since 1978 and today boasts more than 40 associations as members. One of its areas of expertise is membership marketing. Whelan stated, "We have been doing this for so long that I tell clients right off the bat, ‘I have made the mistakes that you are going to make, so why repeat them? We know what works and what doesn't.’ Because we work with about 40 different associations, we're a something of a laboratory. We see what works and what does not work in a variety of associations that we can bring to bear on other associations." The company's strategy for a successful membership marketing program involves five key steps: hypothesis, development, rollout, measurement and backend analysis. MGI's efforts usually result in tangible results within six months of collaboration. Whelan remarks, "I am pleased to say that we have one client that has been with us for 28 years, and most of our clients have been here for seven to 10 years."
SmithBucklin IT Guru Urges Common Sense Approach to Association Cybersecurity
Scott Johnston, Director of IT and Infrastructure Services for SmithBucklin, says privacy and potential identity theft is a bigger cybersecurity issue for associations than hackers. Still, outside threats must be taken into account. In his 16 years working IT at the world's largest association management firm, he has seen his fair share of change with regards to technology and preparedness. "When I started," he noted, "we didn't run anti-virus. We didn't have it on the computers. We didn't have it on our e-mail. We didn't block attachments. But over the years, we've just had to turn on more and more of those programs." Johnston urges people to "think before they click" -- i.e. pay better attention when they get an e-mail with an attachment. "They need to pay attention to where that e-mail came from," he said. "Supposedly it’s from your wife. So, does it look like her style of writing? We have seen recently a big upswing in these phishing sort of e-mails." With regard to SmithBucklin, those who are truly unsure can turn to the company's Help desk. "We can generally tell," he concluded. "Or, we can run it on another system that doesn’t have the same kind of risk."
Team Dynamics' Laura Skoff Helps Associations Go Virtual
Team Dynamics President Laura D. Skoff has been helping associations "go virtual" since May 2007. Doing so has increased employee flexibility, cut rent and lease expenses, and reduced associations' carbon footprint. Still, not everybody is ready to make the leap. Skoff remarks, "It really needs to be about the management and whether they are ready to go virtual. Do they have a management style that is built on trust? They must be liberated enough that even if they can’t see their people, they know their people are working." In recent months, she has helped such organizations as the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the International Ticketing Association break away from the brick-and-mortar mold. According to Skoff, the latter "took the opportunity to go through an RFP process and then select some service providers -- such as Information Inc. -- to enhance what they were doing. That was just a really great success story, because going virtual gave them the opportunity to take a look at everything and see how it could all be streamlined." For those associations that have made the decision to embrace teleworking, Skoff advises them to have an orientation period for supervisors and for the teleworkers themselves.
Ten Conference Marketing Tips That Produce Results
For marketing professionals striving to attract attendees to a yearly conference, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) offers recommendations for developing a comprehensive, multi-media marketing plan. The AACD suggests implementing a direct mail campaign, in which a lively marketing piece is sent to targeted mailing lists multiple--up to four--times. Because potential attendees read trade publications, the AACD recommends taking out advertisements in industry magazines and journals. These tactics can be enhanced by working with other groups with similar missions; by exchanging advertisements, writing essays for each others' publications, and swapping mailing lists, information about the conference can be spread to an attuned audience for very little money. The AACD also advises marketing professionals to employ postcards, faxes, emails, and personalized letters to announce conference news such as the opening of online registration, top reasons to register, and the closing of early registration.
Tips on When and How to Hire an Interactive Designer
The latest issue of Association News features a terrific article by Mike Gintz, director of design and user experience at Boston-based Velir, a full-service web agency. In the piece, he offers several tips on what association executives should look for when selecting the right interactive web designer for their organization. This is especially important for those associations that have literally spent decades designing their marketing materials for print. It's a common misperception that designing for the web utilizes the same set of skills as designing for print. But that's not the case.
Watching Out for DISCUS Like a Hawkins
Lisa Hawkins, vice president of public affairs for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), is interviewed for her thoughts on representing a challenging industry that is seemingly always threatened with various tax and legislative issues. Based in Washington, D.C., DISCUS is the national trade association representing marketers and producers of the country’s various distilled spirits. Hawkins has served in various capacities there since 1996, stating, "We’re the primary lobbying arm for the industry, and we are really the distillers’ voice on public-policy matters at the federal level, state level and abroad. We support laws that increase market access for distilled spirits, that provide convenience and choices for adult consumers, and laws that crack down on underage drinking." Hawkins believes that communications and image management are crucial to the future of her association and the industry it serves. She states, "There continues to be this misperception that spirits are somehow different or ‘harder’ than beer and wine. What we try to do is get the message out to the public and to legislators that alcohol is alcohol. There is no reason to treat it any differently." Finally, she'd like to see legislators in states such as Maryland ease up on efforts to over-tax distilled spirits. She reasons, "Our message is really very simple--that a tax on alcohol is a tax on the entire hospitality industry."
WRA's Rob Uhrina on Associations Staying on the Cutting Edge
Rob Uhrina currently serves as Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Wisconsin REALTORS® Association (WRA). He has over 25 years of experience, but that experience was not in real estate before he joined the association in June 2003. Instead, it was technology, with previous stints as a senior product manager at Sonic Foundry (now SONY Creative Software) and as product manager at Follett Software Co. When he came aboard the WRA, his experience in digital and video media, software development, and marketing communications was quickly put to good use. He recalled, "I had never been in the real estate business before. But with how fast technology was changing the real estate business and marketing as a whole (call it a convergence), it was a natural fit." His leadership has kept WRA ahead of the game in terms of innovation perhaps best exemplified by the launch of the first online distance learning program for the continuing education of real estate agents. "Our on-demand education product allows REALTORS® to take on-demand education on their own schedule and still get the same quality that they would get in the classroom," he said. Looking ahead, he expects one of the fun challenges will be staying on that cutting edge. He concluded by citing the questions he and his staff ask themselves regularly: "Are we really doing the right thing? Are we doing it just because we're able to do it, or are we doing it because this is what our membership wants?"
Adding Spicer to NBWA's Communications and New Website
Rebecca Spicer is Senior Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs for the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA). She was one of the key internal players giving advice in the NBWA's launch last year of a new, mobile-friendly website. The homepage now serves as a one-stop shop for visitors looking to get better informed about the beer distribution industry. "When you're running a website for an association," Spicer stated, "you're always analyzing how you're projecting the messaging and imaging of your membership to the public. You're asking, 'How can we raise the bar? How can we give our membership even more ROI [return on their investment] than we're already giving them?' We realized the website is the first point of communication for just about every constituency we would connect with." Spicer and her colleagues surveyed staff and members of the NBWA's board to get their input. The association also worked with an outside consulting firm, NJI Media. All concerned decided the association needed to have a more streamlined, organized way to present the vast amount of material it had on its website and to make it a seamless experience, especially for members. NBWA also has some fun with its site, prominently featuring beer distribution employees through the NBWA Employee Spotlight Program. Each week, a new industry employee is profiled on the website's home page.
Al Rickard: It's Publish or Perish for Associations
Association Vision President Al Rickard specializes in helping associations with their publishing needs. In the decade since he founded his Virginia-based firm, he and his staff have done work for over 65 different associations ranging from public relations work to launching magazines to conducting full-service custom publication services. Today, it's all about options. Rickard stated, "People now want choices in how they receive their news and information. So, it is important for associations look to offer their content also through online magazines, e-newsletters, blogs, and podcasts. Mobile applications are one of the newer delivery mechanisms that a lot of groups are looking at now." He particularly enjoys steering clients through the challenges of publishing and public relations in today's ever-changing environment. “Associations need to make sure they tie their content directly to the value proposition that the association offers,” Rickard stated. After all, in this day and age, you can get a lot of information for free online. So it stands to reason that in order for an association publication to be successful, it has got to go beyond what is out there for free.
Alan Crockett Keeps the Lines of Communications Open at ACEC
As the Director of Communications for the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), Alan Crockett serves a business trade group that has more than 5,000 engineering firms as members. His job has placed him at the forefront of the association's effort to use innovative communications technology to keep members informed. ACEC has done especially well in making use of Twitter to spread news. ACEC initially jumped into social media with a Facebook campaign, building a Facebook page for its membership. But its members gravitated more towards LinkedIn and Twitter. "It took us some years to figure that out," he conceded. "We came to find out that Twitter really is the one thing that suits our needs the best. That's why we have jumped into it full force now." Crockett said that he believes Twitter is actually replacing the traditional news release as the primary source for the way media receives their stories. As a result, ACEC has embarked upon a comprehensive campaign to build up its Twitter posts "so that when our [tweets] go out, the people who are interested in those kind of stories would pay more attention to our Twitter feeds as opposed to sending news releases blindly and hoping someone picks it up off the e-mail." ACEC has also gotten high marks for its Last Word e-newsletter and its smartphone-ready website.
Aluminum Association Tests Its Mettle With Web Site Re-Launch
Aluminum Association executives Charles “Chuck” Johnson and Patrick Kelly both played key roles in their organization's recent Web site upgrade and re-launch. The process entailed moving to one database platform. Johnson, who serves as director of environment, health and safety, states, “Previously, we had a redundant system that mirrored itself in at least two places and eventually three places. The system itself just grew to be unmanageable over the course of the years that we customized it. It became ‘buggy’ and somewhat unreliable.” The Aluminum Association essentially de-customized in order to be able to implement upgrades in the future as new technology emerges. In offering advice to other association execs either in the middle of a Web site re-launch or pondering such a move, both Kelly and Johnson had words of advice. Kelly, who serves as the association’s director of public and media relations, recommends a long and thorough planning process. Johnson, meanwhile, counsels, "I think it is important to conceptualize a Web site on the front end and know what you are aiming for. You need to understand the long-term implications of the technology you choose to implement, because there are significant buy-in costs to implement that technology or to develop that relationship with a provider."
AMSA’s Linda Darr Broadcasts the Benefits of Association TV
American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA) President and CEO Linda Bauer Darr has helped move her organization forward with various technology initiatives, not the least of which is an "association television" offering. AMSA TV was launched in January and today includes three channels accessible via the association's Web site. One is a consumer channel, one is an industry channel, and the other is dedicated to news and events. Darr comments, "There are a lot of people that are never going to be able to make it to your conventions. With association TV, there is another way to reach them. Best of all, it's a way to reach them that keeps them involved with the association and the industry." Looking ahead, Darr would like to use AMSA TV more as a training tool. She states, "We'd like to be able to take the training and education pieces that we have right now and project them via our television set." Rather than have permanent staff dedicated to AMSA TV, the association has hired freelance video crews to film most of its content. As growth continues, though, Darr did not rule out signing a contract with a production studio. She concludes, "If you do go this route, make a big deal out of it! It's meaningless unless people know that it is out there. So, make a big deal of it and make it competitive so that it is worth the effort and investment you put into it."
ASC Members Benefit From New Education Site
The Adhesive and Sealant Council (ASC) recently launched Adhesives.org, a Web-based educational portal that seeks to provide unbiased educational information on adhesives and sealants and to improve awareness about the benefits and value of the industry's products. The site has been in development since mid-2007 and was launched officially in September of this year. ASC President Lawrence "Larry" Sloan, an eight-year veteran of the trade association, has played a key role from the get-go. He remarks, "The whole premise behind the site has to do with: 'How do we as an association play a role in educating the marketplace?' To us, the marketplace means targeting designers, engineers and architects who are either influential in or responsible for directly specifying adhesives and sealants as a viable bonding technique in their next design." Sloan says his biggest advice to other association executives thinking of going this route would be to plan carefully. He strongly suggests outsourcing such tasks as site design, search-engine optimization and content. He states, "The key to success in an endeavor such as this is to create a team of experts, with each team member possessing a particular area of expertise. One vendor or two vendors cannot do it all. In today's economy where outsourcing has become almost the norm in the nonprofit sector, it is more cost-effective to parcel out different responsibilities of the overall job to different vendors, each of which has its inherent strengths."
Association Exec Offers Social Networking Tips
As Director of IT at the National Apartment Association (NAA), Rene Shonerd has spearheaded that organization's successful foray into the world of social networking in recent months. Under her leadership, the NAA has developed a presence on everything from Facebook and LinkedIn to Twitter. Improving member communications has been one of her staff's main driving forces. She states, "As far as getting the organization's message out, our main focus has been on how to manage these tools to drive traffic to our Web site, which is still our primary communication vehicle for getting information out to our members. Tracking our statistics through Google Analytics, we have found that since we launched on Facebook and LinkedIn and now Twitter that those are the No. 1, 2 and 4 referring sites driving traffic to our primary Web site." To date, NAA has set up a total of five different Twitter accounts mostly for making announcements. Shonerd, a six-year NAA veteran, comments, "Based on what our members' niche interests are, they can follow along on different strings of communication that way. . . . We're also posting industry news. So, if we see one of our members or one of our affiliates or chapters in the news, we'll post links that are in newspapers or trade press across the country." Looking ahead, the NAA may look to create a custom group open only to its members.
Avectra's Bruce Lovett Offers Five Steps for Associations Evaluating Technology
Bruce E. Lovett, vice president of marketing for Avectra, offers five steps association executives should follow in successfully evaluating their key technology systems. Lovett says the first step is for associations to get a good understanding of what they want to accomplish with the technology. Second, take inspiration from other associations out there that have recently gone this route and can share some insight. The third tip involves getting the whole team involved in the process early. Lovett urges, "There are two reasons for this. The first one is obvious, to make sure that the technology does what everyone needs it to do. The second is you don't want to end up with people out of the loop and with the attitude of: 'I didn't participate so I'm going to be an obstacle to making this successful.'" The fourth tip is to look at the whole product versus the needs of your organization. "Don't just look at features and price," he said. Finally, Lovett recommended that associations go with a vendor that is a good fit for the organization. Avectra is a Virginia-based company that has emerged as a leading provider of association management software since its founding in 1995.
Bob Wiggans Toasts WSWA's Cloud-Based AMS Program
Bob Wiggans is the Senior Director of Membership for the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association of America (WSWA). In that position, he is primarily responsible for the strategic direction and management of day-to-day operations of the organization’s membership development, recruitment, retention, member services, and benefits. He remarked, "The private, family-owned businesses who are our members are unique. They are the face of the hospitality industry, and they are great examples of how to build and enhance business relationships." In addition, Wiggans is a bit of a tech head, managing and maintaining the association's CRM database to meet staff and member needs. Wiggans played a key role in the WSWA's decision to implement a cloud-based association management software (AMS) program a few years back. "We determined that we wanted to find a cloud-based AMS that could integrate all these functions, enable flexibility, and capture activity history as well as serve as our website login gateway," he recalled. "We have had a significant increase in user adoption by staff in key departments while serving as an efficient focal point for convention registration, exhibits, marketing, member management, dues administration, and financial management." The AMS has also helped better manage the WSWA's annual convention and exposition. "In particular," he concluded, "the onsite registration process at our convention allows for on demand convention badge production for pre-registrants."
Chris Mahaffey: ACFAS's New Website Is Quite a Sight to See
Earlier this summer, the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) successfully revamped and re-launched its website. Supervising the initiative has been ACFAS Executive Director Chris Mahaffey, who has headed various membership organizations now for over 30 years. "With the old site," he stated, "there were too many layers of navigation. We were trying to serve not only our members, but also the larger healthcare community and the media. We decided that we better stick to the members. We still provide information to the media and to the healthcare community, but in a less prominent role on the home page." Mahaffey estimates that the levels of navigation have shrunk by a third to find something. So far, the response from members has been positive. "The hits have gone up significantly," he noted, "and the duration of the visits has gone up. Our assumption is they are staying longer because they are finding things easier." The website also feautres "responsive design format." The site automatically pops up in a format that fits the user's screen, whether it's a PC, an iPad, or a cell phone. For association executives who are planning a similar re-design effort, Mahaffey advises, "Know that it is a building process. You have to get the infrastructure built first before you can get to the actual redesign of the site itself. All of the underlying infrastructure has to be brought up to speed."
Electronic Buyer's Guides as a Source of Recurring Non-Dues Revenue
The Restoration Industry Association (RIA) recently teamed with Maryland-based Information, Inc. to offer members an electronic Buyer's Guide. RIA Executive Director Donald E. Manger believes the Guide will serve as an excellent source of recurring non-dues revenue. He reasons, "If you can put buyers and sellers together, you've created a value proposition that everyone appreciates. It makes it easier for the sellers to find customers, and it makes it easier for those looking for products and services to find the purveyors. If the association can be the agent for making those connections, the association gets the credit for being a valued resource by its members and future members, as well." RIA is the oldest and biggest non-profit professional trade association dedicated to promoting best practices in the cleaning and restoration industry. It currently represents more than 20,000 cleaning and restoration professionals from around 1,200 member companies that do property damage repair. Manger is hopeful both the old guard and the new breed of member will see the benefits of the electronic Guide. He concludes, "One of the things associations are supposed to do is provide a meeting ground for an entire industry. A meeting ground is much more effective when those companies that do business in an industry can do business one another. . . .That's where something like an electronic Buyer's Guide can be so effective."
ETA's Oxman Urges Associations to Implement Mobile Payments Technology
Jason Oxman became CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association back in May of this year after serving for six years in various leadership capacities at the Consumer Electronics Association. In this position, he is helping to steer the emergence of mobile and wireless payment technology, which he believes will have a significant impact on trade associations and professional societies. He states, "Certainly association executives who sponsor events should be looking for ways to enable their attendees to utilize their mobile phones as forms of payment at the event to purchase everything from admission to the event to books to conference sessions and the like." He adds that for professional associations, enabling dues payments on mobile devices is attractive to allow for easy renewal. Oxman further notes, "The technology is also a compelling proposition for association executives who are always concerned about the receptivity of members to use invoices and the like." He went on to call mobile payments "the most significant technological advancement in the payments industry since the magnetic stripe was invented and deployed in the early 1960s. . . . The possibilities are really endless when you enable mobile payments for your members."
Generate Revenue and Improve Member Relations Via Publications
In her brief time as vice president, editorial at NACS - The Association for Convenience & Petroleum Retailing, Erin Pressley has greatly improved the organization's published content. She recently sat down with Bottom Line Briefing to give some helpful tips to other association executives who are looking to improve publications, bolster member communications and generate revenue. First and foremost, she stresses the need for associations to break free of their old ways of doing things. She said, "The biggest thing I have learned is not to get caught up in that 'This is how we've always done it' mentality, which I think is really pervasive in a lot of associations. There have been people in place at some associations for decades." One of the first changes she implemented was the hiring of an ad salesperson. She stated, "And thank God we did that because now with the economy tanking, it is harder than ever to bring in revenue. But now we are out there trying to get it as opposed to just waiting for it to come to us." Improving member communications has been one of her biggest tasks. To this end, she has helped NACS embrace affordable media, such as Web sites and e-newsletters and even YouTube, to help get the group's message out. She added, "It's also important not to get sucked into the trap of re-purposing the same dry content year after year to promote your trade show or your magazine." Finally, she advises association executives to become more familiar with the various forms of online social networking, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, "because all of that will be increasingly important as you think about the long-term growth of your association's communications efforts."
Green Line's Herman Baumann Gives Virtual Trade Shows the Green Light
Illinois-based Green Line Strategies LLC has emerged as a leading champion of virtual trade shows for associations looking to reach new markets, better serve their existing members, and open up significant new revenue streams. Green Line Principal Herman Baumann states, "With virtual trade shows, the technology has gotten to the point where you can do just about anything online that you can do at a traditional trade show. Actually, you can do some things better." In particular, attendees with limitations on time and funds benefit from an opportunity to attend your show. "What it does," Baumann notes, "is provide a reason for people who don't have the time or financial capabilities to attend your traditional trade show to attend your virtual show. It also adds value to an organization because it provides another big touch point throughout the year for members to interact within the context of your association." In the past, bandwidth also has been a concern. Not anymore. Baumann concludes, "We have the bandwidth to provide multiple live events going on at the same time, all the streaming media anyone wants to have, there is a virtually unlimited number of booths you can have, and there is virtually unlimited number of attendees that you can have. We have the scalable bandwidth to handle it all."
Guarding Against Data Breaches
If data breaches can affect Home Depot, Target Corp., and now the United States Postal Service, they can affect trade associations. Cyber threats are becoming one of the most worrisome calamities that can hit any organization. The key is to protect your association and its membership before a cyber-threat becomes real. As CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association, Jason Oxman has to be mindful of guarding against a breach. With regards to trade groups, he stated, "In a sense, associations are merchants. They collect payment for their customers for dues, for education materials, for attendance at events, and so forth. So, it’s very important for associations like all of the eight million merchants in the United States to protect customer information and to ensure that their systems are secure against breach." But in the event a breach does occur, leadership must spring into action with a plan. The first thing to do is to make sure the breach has ended, ensuring that whatever vulnerability was exploited is no more. "The next thing is to make sure that customers are notified," Oxman stated. "Make sure there is somebody in-house at the association who is responsible for leading the data-breach response effort and make sure that they follow the applicable law and notify customers of the breach as required. And, by all means, get help from a forensic investigator to find out what happened and to make sure it does not happen again."
Information, Inc.'s DePuy Delivers Even More Specialized News to Associations
Tim DePuy is the Senior Vice President of Business Development for Information, Inc., a leading provider of editorial content for the association and corporate markets. One of the Maryland-based company's newest product offerings is a line of special reports that the company is touting as an excellent source of non-dues revenue. These more specialized, advertiser-supported news services are typically delivered on a monthly basis or every two months and enable the client to hone in on a specialty topic and provide greater, in-depth coverage. DePuy remarks, "It’s a deeper dive into a topic that we might only touch on in a more generic service where there is not enough room to cover the depth that we can. We isolate just that one topic. Of course, it will be a topic that members greatly care about. Associations and companies can establish themselves as the marketplace leader in that topic. The goal is when decision makers think of that topic, they think of that company or association." He notes that identifying the right topics is the most crucial part of the process. That is the starting point. Information, Inc., can then get to work in putting together a sample or prototype built of the topic so that the client can have a demonstrative example of what the news product is that they can showcase with potential sponsors. He concludes, "It's one thing to identify the topic, but it’s another to bring to life and show how that would be reflected in a publication that is to the benefit of members but also has an opportunity for a company to say, 'I want to put my thumbprint on there, and I want members to think of us when they are reading this product.'" The news services can then be delivered via e-mail, posted on a website, and viewed across all sorts of mobile devices.
IREM's Gjerde: Content Is King in the Association World
As Vice President of the Knowledge Center at the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM), Ron Gjerde oversees all of the educational and informational content that the organization provides. That includes the Institute's courses and webinars, its magazine and e-newsletter, as well as IREM's books and other publications. Since his arrival in 2008 from Equity Residential, he has played a lead role in beefing up the industry news and information content that the Institute delivers as a valued-added benefit to its membership. "One of the ways we decided to do that is with a curated e-newsletter," he stated, "getting help from Information, Inc., whose staff can take the time to pore through the thousands of publications out there and give us the kind of up-to-the-minute news that we might not be able to capture." IREM also re-purposes the e-newsletter content, taking each of the separate articles and tagging them so that when somebody does a search on the Institute's website, it will pull up all of the different news articles that are related to that content. IREM, which boasts around 18,000 members, also uses the e-newsletter to post its own content and association announcements. Gjerde believes the associations that are the most successful in driving people to their website and generating member engagement do not produce all of their content. "Creating content can be time consuming," he concluded. "In order to deliver the volume that you need to keep people coming back to your site, you need to look beyond your internal resources and find other places where you can capture that content for use."
ISRI's Ensinger on Improving an Association's Communication Strategy
As Vice President of Communications and Marketing for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), Bob Ensinger describes himself as the man "in charge of the message" for this trade association that represents more than 1,600 private and public for-profit companies. Ensinger has worked in nonprofit communications for the last 20-plus years at such organizations as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and Paralyzed Veterans of America. He was brought aboard at ISRI this past February to help implement an ambitious communications overhaul. He stated, "We are coordinating our messaging through a number of outreach vehicles, including: the ISRI website, which is being revamped and will relaunch in early 2014; earned media outreach; ISRI publications, including our magazine Scrap; social media, and member communications." Part of ISRI's new strategy is the formation of strategic partnerships that serve as de-facto third party endorsers for a number of the organization's messages. Such partnerships have provided ISRI with the opportunity to reach broader audiences. "We have partnered with Earth911.com to connect with consumers on the importance of recycling and the global impact it has," Ensinger noted. "We're also working with JASON Learning to educate schoolchildren, K-12, to about not only the importance and impact of recycling, but the science behind it."
Judith Young on Whipping Your Association’s Communications Into Shape
As vice president for programs for the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD), Judith C. Young coordinates communications, programming and editorial content that appeals to all of AAHPERD’s highly diverse membership. Because AAHPERD is an alliance of five national associations and six district associations, this is no easy task. She remarks, "Trying to make materials ‘friendly’ to all of our members is a continuing challenge. . . . Of course, in reality, our membership numbers are not equal in our different interest areas. So, it’s reasonable to expect some things are covered more than other things because of the number of readers who will be touched or interested in a particular thing that we might write about or advertise." Young notes that technology has helped her and her staff keep the lines of communication open across AAHPERD’s diverse membership. For instance, the association recently implemented MagnetMail, an e-mail marketing tool for creating measurable and coordinated e-mail, fax and direct-mail campaigns. Additionally, AAHPERD is in the midst of a Web site redesign. Young concludes, "I think all organizations are finding they need to deal with specialization through targeted communication as well as coordination, integration and interdisciplinary connections to some degree. They are trying to figure out how to deal with the special interests within their organization and yet keep the connectivity that is also usual and desired by the membership."
LPA's Clark Mulligan on Adding Value With New and Emerging Technology
As president and CEO of the Laboratory Products Association (LPA), Clark Mulligan has used technology for the maximum benefit of his organization since taking the reins four years ago. The LPA's members include manufacturers and distributors of lab products like glassware, plastic ware, and pretty much anything one would find in a medical or scientific research laboratory. "We have about 125 member companies," he said, "but we have a small staff of just two people." That's where technology has played a big role in helping to deliver value to members and improve efficiencies. Mulligan's ability to utilize new and emerging technology in furthering the LPA's mission has been impressive. He advises association executives to implement a Web-based AMS/CMS integrated program that will streamline operations. He also urges associations to develop a social media presence. He states, "I don't think it matters how large your association is, whether you are national, international, or regional or whether you are a professional society or a trade organization. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube are outstanding tools that can help you promote your organization, advance your mission and provide added value to your members." Finally, association execs would be wise to get connected with a mobile platform, such as the Droid or the iPhone. He concludes, "Gone are the days where you would log off your computer at 5 o’clock and you didn’t log back on until the next morning. Checking and responding to e-mail, making changes to your website after hours . . . it's just a given now."
Monitoring Cyber Risks at the Association Level
Associations need to be aware that the number of incidents of data breach is increasing at an alarming rate. At the same time, the opportunity is there for trade groups and professional societies to take a leading role in helping their members guard against such threats. A data breach at a member-company or on an individual level can spell disaster as evidenced by the recent high-profile case involving Target Corp. One man who is beating the proverbial drum in trying to get associations, especially those in the real estate sector, onboard with combating cyber threats is Richard Kadzis, CAE. He is the principal of Kadzis Consulting, a Georgia-based business needs assessment group, and a former executive at CoreNet Global. "You owe it to your members to keep tabs on the latest threats," he stated, "and also to keep them up to date on ways they can report incidents or breaches and how they can learn to anticipate them better and help protect themselves against breaches." One such tool that can help in this regard is Cyber Risk Monitor, which is being developed and will be introduced soon by Information, Inc. It is a turnkey, twice-monthly briefing service designed specifically for realty practitioners. Each issue, which comes complete with the association brand and can be made automatically available on participating association websites, will feature timely alerts and practical advice on avoiding the latest threats circulating the Internet. Kadzis concluded, "This is a resource that can be delivered to members that will go a long way towards bridging the gap."
Monitoring Cyber Risks: A 21st Century Must for Associations
Associations and their members face an increasing array of cyber threats. These risks are expected to multiply as more and more devices are connected to the Internet. Clearly, there is a need for more information so that such association executives and their staffers can recognize the dangers and adequately prepare for them. One person they should listen to is Steve Jakubowski, cybersecurity expert at Information, Inc. who has been chronicling the computer industry for nearly 30 years and has written extensively about the cyber threats that organizations and individuals face every day. Jakubowski noted that computer security risks have changed significantly since the days of the first PCs. He states, "Today, the threats are everywhere and can take over any of your electronic devices. Just surfing the Web, people are exposed to malware that can leave Trojans on their computer that steal their personal information or use their device to launch attacks on other users." The key is staying informed about the latest threats and being prepared. This is why Information, Inc. recently launched Cyber Risk Monitor, a new e-newsletter that is designed to be a tool used by associations and their members. Each issue comes complete with the association brand and can be made automatically available on participating association websites. Although associations, professional societies, and trade groups have not typically provided assistance with managing cyber threats and attacks, there is a big need for that information. The Cyber Risk Monitor takes advantage of Information, Inc.'s expertise to provide an affordable, timely, and strategic value-add for any association.
National Associations Can Help Chapters Turn the Next Page
Steve Glass, executive vice president of the Georgia Society of Health-System Pharmacists (GSHP), believes in the importance of quality communications with members as a strategic matter. However, budgets being what they are in this time of fiscal belt tightening, it has become increasingly difficult to offer quality, branded deliverables on the chapter level. To this end, Glass is seeing more and more economic arrangements by national groups and associations on behalf of their chapters as a creative way to solve the economic problems at the chapter level. Information Inc.'s Chapter Communications Toolkit is one such solution. Glass comments, "In our particular case with the American Society of Health System Pharmacists [ASHP], the product is called the Newsbriefs. There are sections involved that ASHP is in control of and provides the content for it. Information Inc. then provides the news content for other parts through a review process with the ASHP. And then there are sections where we, the Georgia Society, can add our [own] content in. So, what we end up with is a product that has both ASHP and GSHP information that is then e-mailed out to our membership." Glass credits one of his first bosses, Larry Braden, with instilling in him the tools that have served him well as an association leader. Of Braden, a past executive for the Georgia Pharmacy Association, Glass states: "I quickly learned that you really have to run an association like a business. You have to pay attention to the bottom line, keep up on what your members say are their needs and you have to be able to adapt to changes in the economy."
NSPE's McCarthy on Association Marketing in the Social Media Age
As Senior Marketing Manager of the National Society of Professional Engineers, Becky McCarthy has been at the forefront of the organization's recent push into social media. She states that "social media, like Facebook and LinkedIn and YouTube, [can be] a more cost-effective way to market other than sending out a direct mail piece." In the months to come, she adds, "One of the big things we're really going to be ramping up is getting the word out about our social media efforts. We have been doing a lot of internal surveys. We're out there, but more of our members need to know it. That's going to be a big effort for us this year, marketing the fact that we're on Facebook, we're on Twitter, and we will be using those vehicles more to get to our members. That will be a big push in 2010." Looking further ahead, McCarthy warns against associations adopting a for-profit model. Those who do can run into problems, because they have developed something of an identity crisis. "This is especially true with bigger associations," she concluded. "As far as marketing goes, associations tend to look at marketing in a for-profit kind of way. Well, for-profit marketing in the private sector is very, very different from association marketing."
Paul Bergeron: In Constant Communications With NAA
As Director of Communications for the National Apartment Association (NAA), Paul Bergeron has spent much of the past decade directing the production of the association's monthly UNITS magazine, as well as spearheading its weekly Industry Insider e-newsletter produced with Maryland-based Information, Inc. It's a big job, one that also gives him input into NAA's website and social media efforts. He states, "We create and report on news, information, and messaging and it overlaps by appearing in print, Web, and e-mail products. With more than 52,000 members, who range in their levels of 'technology' comfort, we assume that the message will reach them through at least one method." Keeping the apartment industry's best interests at heart has been especially key to NAA's success as a trade group during these turbulent economic times. In this regard, Bergergon says effective and consistent communications between the association and its membership has never been more important. He adds, "We try to provide honest and accurate information that can assist them in their businesses, and we try to convey best practices others are doing that could help them." Moving forward, he hopes to continue growing and thriving in the team environment that is the NAA. "No one knows everything, so don't pretend to," he concluded. "Industry peers are usually more than happy to help provide answers on how to solve challenges. So, networking with your association peers is invaluable."
Education & Events
10 Tips for Finding the Right Corporate Entertainment, Motivational, Inspirational, and Business Speakers
Choosing the right public speaker is a key factor in a meeting's success. According to the National Speakers Association, companies should begin by assessing their audience's needs; does the audience want to be informed, inspired, or entertained? It is also crucial to search for a speaker as soon as possible, as many speakers fill their calendars a year in advance. Moreover, the search can be narrowed or widened based on the available budget. When interviewing candidates for the job, discuss their experiences and request videos of their presentations as well as references or testimonials. In addition, ask whether they will customize their presentation for the particular audience.
A Guideline for How to Deal With Disruptive Members or Factions
Association meeting leaders and chairs must take care to give each member an equal opportunity to make their opinions known, and they need to know how to handle disruptive members who attempt to dominate the discussion or use offensive language. They must first address the immediate situation by ruling the member out of order, requesting that they leave, or calling a recess. They must then work to find out the cause of the disruptive behavior and resolve it, engaging in a frank discussion and going as far as meeting with a neutral third party if necessary. If the situation cannot be easily resolved, the association may take steps to remove the disruptive party from office or suspend or revoke their membership. To do so, a complaint must be filed with the Board of Directors or appropriate committee, which then investigates the matter to determine whether a hearing is necessary. If the member is expelled or disciplined, the association can inform other members via confidential letter or closed meeting--not by newsletter or other publications. The association should not inform the member's company or the public about the dismissal, unless the ousted member continues to claim membership and use the association's emblem.
New AIA Director Sybil Barnes Looks to Master the Web
Sybil Walker Barnes is the new Director of Web Content for the American Institute of Architects (AIA), having previously served as the Institute's Director of Editorial Services. Barnes was given her new job soon after the AIA restructured its editorial services department--an initiative that caused editors to be moved into a number of different departments. Barnes was reassigned to the marketing department and has spent considerable time since working on the Institute’s online materials. She states, "We heard over and over again that it took too long for materials to be published, and there was the perception that editorial projects were being bottlenecked. All editorial projects were flowing into one department and slowly being squeezed out. Whether or not that was correct, it was a perception out there among some of our members. And when you are a member-driven organization and this perception is out there, you have to address it." Decentralizing AIA's editorial process became a priority. In the three months since she took the reins, Barnes has spent considerable time looking at the AIA Web site from a user's perspective. Among the things she has scrutinized are navigability and content. She remarks, "I try not to be clouded by what I know is taking place on the operations side because the users don’t know what’s going on behind the scene. The only thing they see is what is on the page when they log on to the site."
Nine Tips for Chairing a Meeting
Robert A. Hall of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry offers tactics for leading productive meetings. Because ineffective meetings waste the attendee's valuable time, the chair must take responsibility for holding fruitful and functional meetings. To do so, the chair should be strict, starting (and ending) the meeting on time and checking off-topic or rambling comments. Distributing a specific agenda as well as any informational materials ahead of time will also improve efficiency, as will employing basic parliamentary procedure. Finally, even informal meetings should keep minutes to ensure that the group's decisions are executed, to provide a record of business accomplished for those absent, and to illustrate that no illegal topics were discussed.
Helping Associations Transform Their Live Events
Washington, D.C.-based 360 Live Media has carved a niche out for itself transforming trade shows, conferences, and other events to increase attendance, elevate member engagement, and strengthen each client-organization's brand reputation. The company utilizes live conference and event design, advertising, media, and communications strategies to deliver such results. Founder and CEO Don Neal calls trade associations and professional societies the "sweet spot" and "core focus" of his business. "We recognize that associations are looking to re-invent their business model, and many are choosing to use their live events as a platform to help improve the relevance and reputation of their organization," he stated. "What we do is help our clients reinvent their live media platforms by having them look at them through a new, more contemporary and modern lens." Neal has been involved with associations now for 15 years. In that time, he has learned much about operating in the association world. "The most successful trade associations are the ones that are looking around the corner on behalf of their members," he concluded. "The trade associations that are thriving are the ones where their CEOs are taking risks and are challenging the conventional governance models. I like working with organizations that are willing to challenge conventional wisdom, because they are the ones who are going to make the most progress and be the most fun to work with."
Risk Management Basics for Event Professionals
Attorney Barbara Dunn is a Partner with the Associations and Foundations Practice Group at Chicago-based Barnes & Thornburg where she concentrates her practice in association law and meetings, travel, and hospitality law. For this month's Bottom Line Briefing, she has contributed a feature article in which she explores the integral role event professionals play in managing risk and liability for their organization. To this end, she writes that it is important to understand the "tools" these professionals have in their "toolbox" to manage risk on behalf of their clients and for their organization. With that in mind, she focuses her article on three key risk management tools: risk avoidance, risk shifting (indemnification), and risk retention (insurance). According to Dunn, the best way event professionals can manage risk is to ensure the risk never happens in the first place. "That means event professionals and their staff members are ensuring the safety of their attendees before, during, and after the event," she concludes.
SmithBucklin's Weaber on Making Your Next Convention or Meeting an Event
Brad Weaber, who currently serves as executive vice president of SmithBucklin's Event Services unit, is a 26-year meetings industry veteran. In that time, he has seen the business go through some major ups and downs. On the positive side, he believes there have been some valuable lessons learned, especially coming off the recent recession. He stated, "I think the most interesting thing that has come out of the recession in the event industry is that most associations had to stop and pause and re-look at themselves. One of the questions I ask clients all of the time is: "If we were doing this event for the very first time, what would it look like?" Nine times out of 10, the legacy events of the past would not be what they would want to do moving forward." To this end, he noted that the meeting industry is no longer about the start and finish of a convention. Instead, he and his colleagues now look at the industry as a 365-day prospect of commerce. "The meeting itself is just one data point of the total year," he added. "As a result, everyone in the meeting industry is revisiting and re-looking at how they package themselves." Looking ahead, he sees technology and social media will continue to play major roles in enhancing event presentations and drawing attendees. Weaber concluded, "I think the issue around social media is that simply putting up a page or saying you have done it does not necessarily answer the call of what needs to be done. There needs to be dedicated resources around the use of social media in order to create a sense of year-round community."
Finance: Managing Your Costs
Robert A. Hall, executive director of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, writes that there is often disagreement within associations over how large a given organization's reserves should be. He states that in his two decades as an association executive, the one "rule of thumb" most often employed has been "keep one year's operating cash in reserves." Hall believes that reserves serve three primary roles. First, they position the association to withstand turmoil, such as a lawsuit, bad policy decision or other calamity. Second, they allow the association to take advantage of unique opportunities as they come up. Finally, reserves provide ongoing, non-dues investment income so that there is not always an overwhelming reliance on dues income. Hall concludes, "Certainly, if your reserves are under the 'one year of operating cash' level, spending the reserves should be approached with extreme skepticism."
BLB Roundtable: Finding Opportunity in the Recession, Part 2
Several trade association experts weigh in on the current state of associations and their executive leadership, focusing on such topics as renegotiating legal contracts in the current down climate. Steven John Fellman, managing partner of GKG Law and senior member of the firm's association practice group, says that everything is now fair game for renegotiation. He advises, "If you have two years to go on your lease, there is nothing wrong with going to the landlord and saying, 'Hey, I have two years to go. I am willing to sign for another five years now, but I want a reduction in rent.'" Organization Guidance Group President Chuck Rumbarger, meanwhile, warns against being too quick to follow the current trend of slashing and burning. He states, "I think we really need to avoid the knee-jerk reaction of immediately thinking about cost reduction. However, you must, must, MUST immediately and loudly make sure your members are aware that their association is aware that they are suffering. The association is going to have do things differently than it did." Former ASAE President and CEO Michael Olson concludes by recommending that associations use this time to actually ramp up their offerings, especially with regards to technology and information gathering. He urges, "I think this is a great time for associations to expand the firewall on their Web site, put more and more information in a members-only access environment, and update that data every day."
Chuck Rumbarger Warns of the Pitfalls of Chasing Non-Dues Revenue
Association Management Group founder Chuck Rumbarger warns of the pitfalls of associations focusing too much and relying too heavily on non-dues income. He frequently lectures association executives on the subject, often striking a cautionary tone. One of the biggest risks is the increased role that outside influences may begin to play. Rumbarger explains, "Involvement with these non-dues products and services will greatly increase the influence and the amount of time the association has to end up giving the vendors. All of a sudden, if a series of three or four vendors start to become the source of half their dues and their gross income, they are often surprised by how influential they become." In addition, he notes that associations tend to overlook the potential for liability when offering non-dues revenue services and products. He further advises association executives to take into consideration the shelf life of any new product or service offered, especially if there is going to be an upfront investment in getting started. If the association is going to have to constantly update or go to a new edition, Rumbarger concludes, “they better factor that in.”
Fernley & Fernley's Silent Auction Generates 'Very Significant' Non-Dues Revenues for CRAFT
Fernley & Fernley, the oldest and among the premier association management firms in the country, prides itself on recognizing that each of its clients is unique. Its staff works hard to understand each client's specific agenda and align its services to meet those goals and objectives while tending to the small details. Over the years, its clientele has grown to include the American Flooring Alliance, the Commercial Development & Marketing Association, the International Association of Ice Cream Vendors, the National Vehicle Leasing Association, the Water and Sewer Distributors of America, and the Washington Society of Investment Analysts. One of the more successful programs that the firm has been involved in recently is the "Pick My Brain" program that it put together with the Craft Retailers' Association for Tomorrow (CRAFT). Fernley & Fernley executive vice president Sue Pine and executive director Lindsay Groff say the program actually complemented a silent auction. CRAFT members include the owners of the retail stores that support American-made crafts. To succeed, one major challenge was to develop creative ways to generate revenue other than membership dues. Since they all were retail store owners, they held a silent auction of items donated by members. One part of the auction was the "Pick My Brain" portion, where they auctioned off one hour of consulting time with leading craft retailers in the industry. Winning bidders could consult with them about anything--location, how they manage their inventory, how they rotate their stock, buying practices, or anything else they wanted to learn. Fernley & Fernley has since introduced the "Pick My Brain" concept to several other clients.
Guaranteed Severance May Be An Illusion
The employment contracts for most national and state associations' chief staff officers contain relatively standard severance provisions, under which the chief staff officer can be terminated without cause so long as a severance payment is made. Severance payments frequently range from six to 18 months' salary, plus benefits, and many contracts start the executive off with a six- or nine-month severance package that is increased by one month per year until a certain cap is reached. Despite this, executives may be caught by surprise when they are terminated without such payment being made and without a way of enforcing the terms of the contract short of hiring a lawyer and going to court. Any board that decides to fire a chief staff officer must be very displeased with how the association is being managed, and this may well incline them against making a large payment to the executive being terminated. The board will be aware of the cost of litigation, and will assume that the executive will likely be willing to negotiate for a smaller severance; even if the contract provides for arbitration instead, arbitration can also be a time-consuming proposition. Executives would do well to look at their own employment contracts to see how their contractual language protects them in the case of termination "without cause."
Kent Kiser Keeps ISRI on a Roll With Non-Dues Revenue
Under the leadership of Kent Kiser, the Institute of Scrap
Recycling Industries (ISRI) has been successful increasing its non-dues revenue via its publications--chiefly, its bi-monthly Scrap
magazine and its every-other-week Scrap
Monitor e-newsletter. Kiser, who serves as editor-in-chief and publisher, credits a top-notch sales staff with selling out all seven banner ads in each issue of the e-newsletter. The strategy has involved leveraging the Institute's best print advertisers to sell Scrap
Monitor. He remarks, "We sold all seven spaces within the top 10 of our advertisers. They paid for the publication in the first year, and that was our goal." Kiser believes the e-newsletter, which is produced by Maryland-based Information Inc., has also been successful in increasing ISRI's magazine subscriber base. Looking ahead, Kiser hopes to increase non-dues revenue by launching a book division for ISRI, selling ISRI-branded merchandise and launching new publications that will cover the various commodity niches. ISRI represents companies that process, broker and consume all types of scrap commodities from metals and paper to glass and plastics.
PREVIEW: Chuck Rumbarger on Increasing Non-Dues Revenue
In our next issue of Bottom Line Briefing, Association Management Group founder Chuck Rumbarger will discuss at length some of the pitfalls associated with trying to increase non-dues revenue. Rumbarger, who has over 40 years of experience in association management, will give his thoughts on such related topics as the need for increased staffing to organizations in danger of becoming more product-driven as a result of their efforts to boost non-dues revenue. He will further outline related quality control issues and give advice on liability concerns.
SmithBucklin's Brian Teague Accounts for His Success
Brian Teague, Senior Director of SmithBucklin Corp.’s Financial Management Accounting Services unit, came to the world’s largest association management company in 2007 after a number of years working for Fortune 500 companies like Navistar Financial Corp. and Abbott Laboratories. He believes one of his biggest challenge thus far has been transferring his accounting and financial management skills from the corporate world to the association world. With SmithBucklin's clientele, he notes, "much of the emphasis is operational with a smaller focus on financial. That’s understandable. In associations, the focus is trying to advance the organization’s purpose, cause, or mission." At the same time, he believes his past credentials have helped him better service the company's client organizations and their varied needs. "I definitely like working with all of the different types of people," he stated, "and being able to solve their problems in a financial management capacity. I think that with the background I have with big corporate experience, association management, and entrepreneurial experience, as well, I can cover every type of industry practice that we have here."
The Challenge of Pricing Association Sponsorships
Nationwide, trade associations are having difficulties with sponsorship pricing due to such factors as their properties being unique, their audiences often being very focused, and the fact that many traditional commercial pricing approaches simply do not apply. Pricing association sponsorships has proven to be more an art than a science, which is the main reason why many such sponsorships have been under charged in the past. The article's author, a principal at Green Line Strategies LLC, writes: "Fair sponsorship prices are based on the value of the commercial potential the property offers. That value is primarily based on how well sponsors can communicate and build relationships with your members, as well as promote and position their products and services around your members' issues and needs." Sponsor needs should be used as a key measuring stick when determining higher sponsorship fees. When determining audience focus, meanwhile, it is a good idea to base such assessments on member issues, interests, and needs. It is also a good rule of thumb to collect market data that shows how well regarded a property is by the field or profession your association serves. Finally, make sure to decide early on whether you want to have more sponsors who pay lower prices or fewer sponsors who pay higher prices. Also, do not be afraid to lean on sponsor feedback when setting prices.
Who Signs the Association's Contracts?
With regards to trade associations, volunteer Boards of Directors have traditionally been unwilling to accept downside responsibility should the risks associated with signed contracts come to fruition. To this end, responsible association executives should provide board members with a written memo that outlines the downside potentials of any contract that involves significant economic risk. Furthermore, the article's author contends that it should be policy that association contracts involving more than an agreed-upon amount be signed by the Chairman of the Board and not the chief staff officer. Such a practice is not only beneficial to the staff, it also makes the chairman and other board members more aware of their fiduciary responsibilities. The author offers a couple of hypothetical examples to prove his points.
Howard Fisher Helps Reel in the Non-Dues Revenue at SmithBucklin
As vice president of Sales Services for SmithBucklin, Howard F. Fisher has emerged as the leader of a dynamic sales force tasked with growing client organization revenue via the sale of exhibits, sponsorships, and other association assets. With his experience, Fisher has some insight into growing non-dues revenue in such a difficult economy. He said, "I find that most associations that are standalone attempt to drive non-dues revenue through their own internal staff and are usually grounded in more of a generalist approach where one person may be wearing many different hats. . . . I think the big shift that started to happen before the recession truly hit in 2009, and has continued to be a prominent focus and need in the community, is that business partners that want to align with the associations really want to have a relationship with the association. And that relationship is traditionally owned and should be owned by a relationship sales specialist." This is where a company like SmithBucklin has managed to carve such a successful niche. The firm ranks as the world's largest association management and professional services company. Fisher concluded, "We feel by having a sales team that dedicates 100 percent of its day to building those relationships has proven to be instrumental in helping associations wade their way through the recession, being able to maintain, and then being able to grow non-dues revenue. For example, we drive more than $30 million of products and services through sales that we make for our associations. The growing majority of those sales are coming through things other than an exhibit space or a traditional sponsorship at an event."
Margaret Core Gets to the Center of Non-Dues Revenue at BIO
Margaret E. Core, Managing Director of Conventions and Conferences for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (or BIO), has emerged as expert in driving non-dues revenue over a 25-year career in association management. Indeed, for a quarter-century, she has working on everything from trade shows and magazines to group purchasing and sponsorships at such organizations as the Optical Society of America and the Consumer Electronics Association. She notes that one key area that many associations have not built up "is the non-dues services around market data. I have seen a few great examples of associations investing in and having strong market research groups that offer not only huge member value, but also great potential non-dues revenue for valuable and insightful reports and data trends." She went on to state that non-dues revenue transactions perform best "if they are found in the mainstream of other association transactions. For example, include a paid Webinar subscription on the annual meeting registration form so the attendee easily builds in post-event education from you. Or another example would be sell a market data subscription services directly on the dues renewal."
Outsourcing Ad Sales Finds a Home at Blue House
Increasing ad sales is on the mind of many association executives, but many organizations lack the time and the staff to devote to this area. Enter a firm like Blue House, based in the nation's capital. The publication-management, marketing and design firm has been helping nonprofit and for-profit organizations succeed for more than a decade. One of the firm's key players is principal Christopher Schriever, who is considered an expert at increasing association ad, exhibit and sponsorship sales. He states, "The greatest challenge for an association is time and available staff. Most of the associations that we work with, the reason they are outsourcing is because they don’t have the staff time or expertise to foster a sales environment and create a program that is attractive to people looking to reach their members and supporters. The benefit of hiring Blue House is they are getting expert sales experience and personnel without the risk of hiring someone with a base salary and overhead expenses and benefits and all of those things that come along with having a staff person that may or may not be experienced enough." One of the keys, of course, is setting pricing. To this end, Schriever states, "One should start by considering the number of readers and attendees, the shelf-life and frequency, and then review pricing for comparable publications or opportunities. From there, understanding how targeted the audience is and the uniqueness of the opportunity becomes the real key."
Retaining and Renewing Members in the Recession Era
Linda Chreno, director of marketing and communications for the American College of Phlebology, offers her thoughts on retaining and renewing association members in a down economy. A 20-year association management veteran, Chreno states, "Right now, of course, it's the economic challenge of: 'Where the value for my dollar?' So, for member renewals, we need to make sure that we show where the value is and where the benefit is. It cannot be just across the board anymore, because it needs to be specialized to the individual member." Chreno urges using testimonials from members in the field regarding the importance of belonging to a specific association. She says this is much better than just issuing PR pitches from the association's executive leadership. She reasons, "Yes, it's great to have the association's chairman give a testimonial. But it can be more important to have the person who might be in the office down the hall from somebody give the testimonial." She also urges more associations to consider bundling their services, especially with regards to attracting new members, so that member dues will also include upcoming conference dues and other perks. Chreno concludes, "One of the biggest things I have learned over the years is that membership is not one size fits all. You have to understand who you are inviting to become a member of your organization. You should not use the same methods and tools for a Generation Xer that you do for a baby boomer that you use for a Millennial, etc."
Schriever Continues to Build a Blue House in the Association World
Christopher Schriever is a principal and partner at Blue House, a Washington, D.C.-based publication-management, marketing, and design firm that has been helping organizations succeed for the past 17 years. Since 1994, the company has worked mainly with associations throughout the D.C. metro area, and Schriever has emerged as an expert at increasing association advertising, exhibit, and sponsorship sales. He remarks, "We generate non-dues revenue for our association clients by increasing advertising, exhibit, and sponsorship sales activity. And the landscape has changed. It used to be that digital advertising supported vendors’ print ad placements. Today, it’s trending in the other direction. Webinar sponsorships have increased, as well. Overall, the number of available marketing opportunities has expanded greatly." Schriever has helped build million-dollar programs for such clients as the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association (ASCA). He is especially proud of the work he and his staff have done with the latter. "ASCA continues to grow its membership bases, and we continue to increase the non-dues revenue year after year," he concluded. "We've built strong relationships within the industry over the years and continue to listen their suggestions and evolve the marketing opportunities."
Tips for Negotiating Contracts in an Even Tougher Seller's Market
With business travel back on the rise, there is great demand for hotel rooms by both individuals and meeting groups. At the same time, the supply of rooms at full-service hotels has shown little growth. Thus, a great lesson in supply and demand: limited supply of hotel rooms plus increased demand in hotel rooms equals a "seller's market" in many the most popular destinations. Barbara Dunn, a Partner with the Associations and Foundations Practice Group at Barnes & Thornburg, writes that negotiating hotel contracts in a seller's market can be a challenge and offers some tips on navigating the process. First, meeting professionals should be conscious of the option dates and, if not achievable, ask the hotel to extend the option date in writing. Second, don't forget to include language in the contract to permit an increase in the room block at the group rates. It's also smart to include language that permits the group to recover monetary damages and attorney's fees in the event the hotel breaches the contract. Finally, Dunn writes, "it is critical for meeting professionals to include language in the contract which lists each function room by name and provides that the hotel cannot reassign any of the function rooms without the group's prior written consent. If, despite such language, the hotel cannot accommodate the group in function space as contracted, the group has the right to seek monetary damages associated with securing alternate space."
Vizant Technologies' Dallin Helps Associations Accept Payment
Vizant Technologies is the only independent consultancy and advisory firm working exclusively for organizations that accept financial payments. For each of its clients, the company performs a comprehensive review of their payment acceptance apparatus currently in place. It then provides specific strategies and solutions aimed at reducing the costs of accepting payments. Vizant's Executive Vice President Kim Dallin said her company has been reaching out to trade associations and nonprofits and helping them in this regard. The first starts by conducting an analysis of the last 12 months of an association's financial payment statement data. "From there," she states, "we present a proprietary report specifically geared for their data and the variety of ways within which we recommend their costs can be reduced. Once we actually implement cost reductions for our clients with their existing providers -- we do not ask them to change their existing relationships -- then we share in a portion of that cost reduction realization of those dollars. What is great about that is it goes directly to their bottom line, so that they are able to continue focusing on any membership initiatives, growing their association, conferences, education materials, etc." Vizant counts among its clients the American Marketing Association and the American Dental Association.
Leadership & Chapter Management
In order to recruit and retain members, associations must calculate their members' return on dues-dollar investment. Despite efforts to create benchmarks and best practices for associations, experts say many do not quantify the dollar value of the products and services they offer or take steps to determine the reasons why members join, renew their memberships, or leave organizations. Such action is important at a time when members want their dues payments to translate into increased profitability or knowledge--not just the assurance that the association is lobbying Congress on their behalf and providing networking opportunities. According to Association Management & Marketing Resources President Stephen Carey, successful associations quantify tangible and intangible products and services, determine their audiences, and identify innovative ways to make products and services available to members. Additionally, Carey says they compare the cost of obtaining a particular product or service through the association to the cost of obtaining it from another source and highlight the financial savings.
ASID's Michael Alin on Effective Chapter Management
American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Executive Director Michael Alin provided his thoughts on effective chapter management. Alin, a 16-year veteran of the Society, noted, "It is very difficult to deliver all programs and services from the national [organization]. It really needs to be a shared responsibility between the society and its chapters." ASID's 48 chapters are arranged geographically, with some states like California and New York having multiple chapters. Since many of ASID's more than 38,000 members are interior designers who own their own small firm, the Society has launched a number of business-support initiatives under Alin's watch. Alin stated, "We spend a lot of our time teaching what is changing in the field of design, but we also deal with how you market your business, how do you run your business from a financial perspective, how do you use technology to support your business, [and so forth]." Finally, ASID has looked beyond just designers for its membership. ASID's Industry Partners program, for example, provides a forum that unites interior designers with the interior furnishings industry so that they can share mutual concerns and common objectives.
ASIS’s White on Moving an Association’s Print Publication to the Digital Realm
ASIS International ranks as the world’s largest association for security professionals with approximately 38,000 members around the globe. For decades, its print publication has been considered the industry standard. But Denny White, the organization's Vice President of Publishing, saw into the future and knew that ASIS had to get with the digital age to continue producing a top communication tool for its membership. So, he spearheaded an effort to develop a digital-only edition of the magazine. In early May, the association formally launched the first issue of this publication. So far, he and his colleagues are very pleased with the results. White stated, "It's an astounding way to communicate. You can do far more emotional openings to feature articles. Our feature on security apps, for instance, would be a very dry story in the print edition and hard to illustrate. But the feature article that we have on security apps for the digital issue opens automatically as you turn the page with a man in a Lowe’s having a heart attack. You get to watch the whole thing and the response using an app for him to get CPR. That makes the whole two and a half years I’ve been working on this worth it." For association executives looking to go this route, White advises giving yourself and support staff at least a year or more of planning and development. He concluded, "I worked on it for two and a half years, my senior staff worked on it for a year and a half, and the rest of the department for about eight months. It was stretched out because we did the work while producing a monthly print magazine."
Associations Go Virtual, Part I
In these trying economic times, more and more associations are going virtual. One such organization that recently went this route is the International Ticketing Association (or INTIX), a nonprofit membership organization that represents more than 1,100 ticketing, sales, technology, finance, and marketing professionals who work in arts, sports, and entertainment as well as a full range of public venues and institutions. INTIX President and CEO Jena L. Hoffman comments, "The one thing that is really important in moving employees to home offices is that you have actually understood what their home-office situation is and created requirements around that home-office situation so that they are in a productive, organized work environment." Organization Guidance Group founder Charles D. "Chuck" Rumbarger stresses proper planning for making the transition to virtual. First and foremost, the association must have a pay-to-play dues structure. Another thing the organization will need is substantially increased electronic communication capability, along with a self-updating database capability. On the more practical side, the virtual association will need physical storage space to keep important documents and an actual U.S. mail address. Rumbarger explains, "Some things can only be served through the mail. And if they are incorporated, the state they are incorporated in will require them to maintain a 'principal office' in the state where they are incorporated." It could be a home office, or it could be the association's law firm. Indeed, a lot of law firms have a service where they will be an association's official "principal office."
Attorney Paula Goedert Clears Up Nonprofits' Conflicts of Interests
Bottom Line Briefing (BLB) welcomes the monthly contributions of attorney Paula Goedert and her colleagues at the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg LLP
. They will be providing one feature or interview a month to this e-newsletter on legal, tax, and other matters involving trade associations and nonprofits. To kick off this new feature, we thought it best to chat with Goedert herself as a means of introduction. A partner in the firm's Chicago office, Goedert chairs Barnes & Thornburg's Associations and Foundations Practice Group. She recently sat down with our editorial staff to discuss what she feels is one of the most pressing issues facing associations today: conflicts of interest. She remarked, "Nonprofit staff and volunteers fall prey to a common myth. They think that conflicts of interest are illegal or immoral. They are neither. Conflicts of interest, under law, are facts that need to be disclosed and dealt with on a sensible basis." While it's a big issue, Goedert says she doesn't think abuses are that common despite what many in the mass media would lead people to believe. Unfortunately, the IRS and Congress don't know that. "So, they are focusing on conflicts and looking for information," she concluded. "And when you have the IRS and Congress involved, of course the media is involved."
Attracting, Selecting, and Empowering Appropriate Leadership
Attracting the most qualified and respected leadership candidates can be difficult. The long-used system of popularity-based, contested elections is not resulting in enough appropriate leaders, in part because popularity does not mean that a candidate will be effective as a leader, research shows. The perpetuation of contested elections for senior leadership roles also hampers efforts to bring in qualified leadership candidates. Many respected and qualified individuals are unwilling to put themselves out there for fear of being rejected or embarrassed in a contested election. While change can be difficult, nominating committees must choose the best qualified individuals. In cases where contests are required, unqualified candidates should be winnowed out at the lowest levels, where any "loss" will be less visible. Associations must implement specific and broadly supported candidate selection criteria, and the member selection system should be both efficient and inexpensive.
BLB Roundtable: How Associations Can Navigate Rough Economic Waters
Bottom Line Briefing recently held a Roundtable discussion with AMMR lead strategist Dr. Stephen Carey, attorney Steven John Fellman and Association Management Group founder Charles "Chuck" Rumbarger on how association executives can navigate today's tough economic waters. Rumbarger was a big proponent of having a perpetual needs-analysis system in place. He stated, "When I am asked to evaluate an association, the number one thing I look for is that association’s ability to perpetually sense the changing needs, wants and expectations of its membership and, number two, their ability to respond to those changing needs. Any association today that does not have a perpetual system of needs analysis for its members is, as far as I’m concerned, dead already." Carey agreed and went on to caution association executives to think twice before slashing your organization's budget and scaling back services. He lamented, "The first thing that gets cut out of budgets in times like this are: travel, meaning you’re not going to get out and see your members as much as you used to; continuing education, so you’re not educating your staff and helping them generate more revenue for the association; and, finally, the research component." Fellman, meanwhile, stressed that change and forward progress should be fostered and embraced in bad times. He commented, "Rather than try and re-invent how their association can go back to where it was, [association execs] have to basically create an environment where they can compete within this new economy and new marketplace."
BOOK REVIEWS: Stephen C. Carey's Two New Association Planning Guides
Association Management and Marketing Resources President Stephen C. Carey has authored a couple of new planning guides to help association executives create simple, effective management plans for these uncertain times. The first is titled "The Association and Nonprofit Marketing and Communications Planning Guide." This 10-section workbook of models, templates and best practices aims to give association executives everything they need to create simple, effective marketing and communications plans, especially during the recession. Carey crafted the guide as a direct result of the need for a simple, yet comprehensive marketing and communication planning tool for nonprofits during times of need such as these. Carey visited with the staffs of more than 1,000 trade associations and other nonprofits and determined that less than 10 percent had integrated planning tools in use. In particular, Carey's "Planning Guide" could prove to be a vital tool for ensuring an association's product lines are clearly visible and tangible to its members. The second is titled "The Association and Nonprofit Strategic Planning and Research Guide." This workbook provides models, templates and best practices for creating research-based strategic plans linked to operations for volunteers and staff. It is designed to show association executives simply and graphically how to create and implement such a plan. Both "Planning Guides" act in tandem, providing a complete planning sequence from the creation of a strategic plan on through to assembling the product-line marketing plans for each of an association's functional areas. Best of all, the guides are written for nonprofits of all sizes. (Link to AMMR book order form
Charles Rumbarger Wins 2010 Child Life Council Spirit of Giving Award
Bottom Line Briefing is pleased to announce that Charles "Chuck" Rumbarger, a member of its editorial advisory board, has been selected as the 2010 recipient of the Child Life Council (CLC) Spirit of Giving Award. The annual honor, established in 2007, is designed to recognize individuals and organizations making significant monetary or in-kind contributions that have a positive impact on child-life programs on a national or international level. In 2008, the CLC initiated a Governance Task Force to review best governance practices in associations and board development. Rumbarger served as a probono consultant offering CLC leadership, expertise, and resources. During the Council's Executive Director search last year, he provided a smooth transition of leadership.
Content to Manage Content at Endocrine Society
Wendy Millhollon currently serves as director of information technology at the Endocrine Society, which ranks as the world's largest professional organization of endocrinologists. In this position, she has spearheaded the nonprofit's Web-based content and operations at www.endo-society.org, making sure its widespread membership--the Society has 11,000 members in 80 countries--have access to the information they need with the least amount of hassles. To this end, the Society recently invested in CommonSpot by PaperThin, a content management software package. Millhollon notes, "This allows us to put content in the system and categorize it and deliver it out to individuals based on their role in the field or topic areas that they're interested in. I believe we are one of the first associations to really do it to the level that we're getting to do." After Endocrine Society's members give their input on the beta version of the new package, Millhollon hopes to go live with the technology by mid-October at the latest. Her current task is sending out emails to Society members with specific questions for them to answer, chiefly on the revamped site's new functionality. Regarding the content itself, "[t]he [quality of the] content is probably more important than the quantity that you have online. We need to get better at keeping content focused and timely for the person that is coming to the site or they are not going to come back."
David Witmer: ASHP's Member Value Guru
David R. Witmer, vice president of member relations for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), shares some insights on how association executives can build member value. During his tenure, one thing that ASHP has focused on is attracting younger members. He notes, "Consequently, we have reshaped some of our communications strategies and some of our membership initiatives to be more connected to them as an audience, while not abandoning our more seasoned members." ASHP is an organization that is more than 60 years old, with more than 35,000 members currently. As a result, one of its big challenges has been measuring member value. Witmer states, "Probably the most prominent tool we have begun using is the ‘net promoter score.’ We look at that as a metric to determine whether some of the initiatives we are implementing have had an impact." He concludes by advising other association execs to realize that their organization’s fundamental mission and reason for existence is to serve its members. "They are your shareholders," he remarks.
The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry maintains a 501(c)(3) subsidiary foundation, the AACD Charitable Foundation. One of the Foundation's long-standing programs is called Give Back A Smile (GBAS). The program is designed is to help survivors of domestic violence who have suffered oral trauma from the abuse regain a beautiful smile. AACD members donate their services and materials, while the Foundation raises funds to cover other costs. The bulk of the administrative expenses are borne by AACD, as the Academy's donation to support the Foundation. Give Back A Smile doesn't just benefit survivors of domestic violence. It benefits AACD staff, AACD members, and the Academy itself. Staff members and volunteers benefit from the increased motivation and sense of the value of what they do, as every staff member's efforts support the program in some way. For all trade associations, there is some charitable activity close to its mission that will benefit the community and society, and also serve as a focal point for pumping energy and good will, from staff and volunteers, into that association. GBAS also showcases the life-changing benefits of cosmetic dentistry., with many survivors happy to share their stories to let other survivors know that help is available, and that their lives, too, can be changed through new smiles. Members who volunteer their time for GBAS cases may also benefit from media coverage of their efforts and perhaps of their cases, just as financial donors to large charities can benefit from the publicity attendant on their support of the good work. Associations that don't currently have a Foundation doing good work affiliated with its mission should think seriously about starting one.
Doug Culkin Grows the Show and the National Apartment Association
Doug Culkin has spearheaded a number of innovative projects and initiatives during his time as president and CEO of the National Apartment Association (NAA). Few have been more innovative and just plain exciting as the Grow the Show contest, which invites individuals and marketing firms to submit proposals designed to double the paid registered attendance at the 2015 NAA Education Conference & Exposition. The NAA will pay $1 million to the contestant whose marketing proposal is adopted by the association and results in increasing paid attendee registration at the 2015 show by 100 percent or more over the 2013 NAA Education Conference & Exposition final paid attendee registration tally. "Since we announced it," Culkin stated, "we have had four or five companies that have indicated they would like to be included in the competition. We will announce the group that we decide to go with in July after our conference." For Culkin, such bold decision-making has become a part of his leadership style. And he has tried to filter that sense of courageous spirit throughout the organization. He concluded, "Don't be afraid to make decisions. In any business, you make decisions, you make mistakes, and you learn from those mistakes. They help you to be a better business person, a better decision maker, a better leader in the future. If you don't want to make waves and upset the apple cart, you may be doing a disservice to your members and to your association."
Doug Pinkham Keeps Public Affairs at the Top of Everyone’s Agenda
Doug Pinkham, president of the D.C.-based Public Affairs Council, shares his thoughts on the growing challenges the 21st century presents to the public affairs practice as it pertains to trade associations. Pinkham has been in his current position since 1997, so he has seen significant change. He notes, "Probably the greatest sea change has been the developments in information technology that have revolutionized the way lobbying takes place, the way grassroots campaigns are organized and conducted, and the way the media operates. It is a tremendous leveling trend." Technology, though, has allowed small groups within associations to form coalition and attack issues that the larger trade group may not agree with. Pinkham notes, "Starting a coalition and stopping it is sometimes a lot easier than convincing your big trade association to move in another direction." At the end of the day, though, he urges associations and companies to take an integrated approach to public affairs. This type of strategy requires the organization and its leadership to think about communications, government affairs, corporate social responsibility and other related functions at the same time.
Dr. Louise Jones Johnson Leads MULBA
As president of the Maryland Unified Beverage Licensees' Association (MULBA), Dr. Louise Jones Johnson runs the organization from her home office. She highly recommends that other association executives follow her lead, but only if they have a space that is large enough to house the necessary office equipment--computers, copiers, fax machines and so forth--and can craft a work environment that exudes professionalism. Johnson states, "I probably wouldn't recommend operating out of a home for larger associations, but MULBA is just the right size and mix of personalities to make having my home office be our main office. . . . I believe our members and those with business with our association come to my home and immediate feel a bit more at ease than if we were meeting in some cold, sterile office building." Johnson also recommends having an office entrance that is separate from the main entrance to the home, if at all possible. She explains, "People should know they are walking into a business setting, not your living room and dining room and all the usual household clutter." MULBA is a non-profit trade association of minority retail beverage alcohol licensees located throughout Maryland and the greater Mid-Atlantic region. Its members consist of restaurants, hotels, lounges, sports bars, clubs, retailers and wholesalers.
Dr. Steve Carey Loves It When Strategic and Management Plans Come Together
Association Management & Marketing Resources (AMMR) President and Chief Executive Steven Carey has put together a half-day course for association staffers who want to improve their strategic planning skills. Titled "Fundamentals, Best Practices and Models of Strategic Planning for Association Staff and Volunteers: Applying Strategic Planning Concepts and Operational Integration Techniques," the course is based on AMMR's 2007 Strategic Planning and Research Guide and explores everything from trends and issues to benchmarks and best practices in strategic planning concepts and execution. Carey comments, "Some of the key problem areas are failure to identify the problems and fighting only symptoms; not tying the plan they create to the ongoing budget and program of work; different factions having different agendas; [and] failing to prioritize objectives that fall out under major goals of the plan, making it difficult to budget for priorities." The course is typically taught twice a year in the spring and fall at a cost of $175. Associations can also arrange for it to be taught as an in-house class. Carey is a charter class Fellow of the American Society of Association Executives. Additionally, he serves as a member of the Board of Examiners for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.
Fellman: Are Your Board Members Industry Experts?
Consolidation has caused a restructuring of many industries over the past two decades. Attorney Steven John Fellman writes that, for the typical trade association, these changes have had three major ramifications. First, instead of a universe of 5,000 potential members, the association has a galaxy of 500 or fewer potential members. Second, the new members have different needs and require different services from the association. Third, there has been a major change in the skill sets of association board members, and these directors have a new prospective on what services the organization should provide and how those services should be packaged. "Unless the association's chief staff officer recognizes these changes and reinvents his/her association," Fellman writes, "the association will soon be looking for a new such executive." He goes on to urge associations to change the basic means of communications by relying on a weekly electronic newsletter and turning the organization's glossy monthly magazine into a quarterly. Some associations may need to reduce the size of their boards and shorten meetings. "Finally," he concludes, "you need to elevate the awareness of corporate governance considerations." Fellman is a partner with the Washington, D.C., law firm of GKG Law, P.C., where he is head of the firm's Association Practice Group. In addition to serving as Chair of ASAE Legal Section, he has written and lectured extensively on association governance issues.
Generations and the Future of Association Participation
The younger generations born since 1965 have been notable for low participation in civic and voluntary organizations, and much of the trade and professional association world has assumed that associations would see similar low participation. In order to evaluate this concern, researchers looked at the most comprehensive available datasets on U.S. civic life, comparing several generations' membership rates and using population projections to predict membership from 2005 to 2015. One explanation that has been put forth for the low participation in civic and voluntary organizations is the lower birth rates since the end of the Baby Boom, but Census data indicates that the resulting pools of adult workers have not been dramatically different. Though Baby Boomers were significantly more likely to belong to associations in 2000 than members of subsequent generations, a comparison of 2000 and 2004 data indicates that this largely stems from age rather than generation.
Harvard Business School's John Kotter on Successful Change Management
John Kotter, a Harvard Business School professor, has authored several books that focus on how organizations can successfully transform themselves. His latest is titled "Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions." Kotter says he wrote the book, which actually uses penguins to illustrate his points, to help those who feel lost in a changing world that he views as moving faster and faster. The story ends up being about a middle-level penguin who notices something wrong with the colony where he lives. Unfortunately, none of the other penguins believe him. Kotter says there are three lessons he would like readers to learn from the book. He states, "Number one is that there is a method of creating change even under very difficult circumstances. Two, there are lots of problems you run into, but you can overcome them. And the third is that it can't be done by just one smart guy or gal in the corner office."
Holly Townsend on Helping Associations Generate Non-Dues Revenue
Generating non-dues revenues is one of the biggest challenges associations face today. Not surprisingly, some organizations need help in raising their fortunes in this regard. Enter The Townsend Group
, a Maryland-based advertising, sponsorship, and trade show sales and management firm for associations. Founded by Holly Townsend
, The Townsend Group has been serving trade groups in a wide array of industries since 1983. She states, "Our initial job is to try to figure out why their revenues have been disappointing and why they want to outsource the sales function or move it to The Townsend Group from another firm. We do a quick assessment of where they stand relative to their competitive set and evaluate where they excel and where they fall short. We identify their potential opportunities based on best practices among associations and also for-profit publishers and create a sales plan that we share with the association, sometimes formally, other times less so." Using all of the information gathered, Townsend's staff and their clients then aim to arrive at mutually agreed-upon expectations. The plan is then put into motion. Because The Townsend Group is a data-driven organization, the firm measures its progress formally for each association client on a weekly basis to make sure all benchmarks are being hit. Townsend concludes, "I love the deal making," Townsend concludes. "Not just getting the deal, but the process of taking an idea and bringing it to fruition, that is, to a commercial success. Or, the chance to solve a customer’s problem by building a program tailored to addressing their needs. Collaborating with a client is really fun."
IAFF's Jane Blume on Establishing Special Interest Clubs
Jane Blume, director of communications for the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), is interviewed on her association's efforts to offer special-interest clubs to its members. Two years ago, the IAFF launched its Motorcycle Group (IAFF-MG), a dues-based membership club to bring together both active and retired IAFF members who own and ride motorcycles. Blume estimates that the IAFF-MG currently has approximately 2,000 members. More recently, the IAFF joined forces with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and other AFL-CIO labor union partners to launch the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA). Blume states, "There is a lot of value at looking at common interests among your members and providing a venue for them to pursue those interests outside of the job but still as members of the association." Blume advises other association executives to do thorough research before launching such groups and clubs to determine precisely what commonalities members share.
Interview With John A. Ruffin
John A. Ruffin, president and CEO of Association Management Resources (AMR), in this interview credits Information, Inc., of Bethesda, Md., for the success of recent efforts to keep clients informed of relevant and timely data. Noting the impracticality of pouring through the overwhelming amount of material published about the topics of importance to the members of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), a client of his, Ruffin says that the editors at Information, Inc. are well-suited to review the thousands of publications they can access and summarize the content of articles they choose for abstraction based on guidelines from AMR. These summaries are then electronically sent to members free of charge because of a sponsorship program that is in place. Ruffin says that feedback has been very positive. "This program ... has provided another tool that we can use to help our association clients receive better value and better information through their association," the CEO says, noting that information is key to the association business and that getting information to members with limited time on their hands is vital for retention.
Ken Schoppmann of LES on Growing and Managing an International Membership
As Executive Director of the Licensing Executives Society (U.S.A. and Canada), the oldest chapter of LES International, longtime association executive Ken Schoppmann has played an integral role in mentoring other societies under the LES umbrella worldwide. He states, "One of the things that we have found that is most important is we need to encourage and help all of our member-societies grow as well. What we have done is really embrace the idea of mentoring other societies by providing resources for them. For LES, those are usually in the form of people -- instructors or experts -- to help them offer programs locally to engage the local community. We also provide them with some resources to help them organize and grow their local societies." To this end, Schoppmann and his staff developed a resource manual for other societies that listed some of the steps they could take to survey and evaluate the interests of their members locally. Schoppmann adds, "LES (U.S.A. and Canada) takes a leadership role in developing new education programs for our members, and then we share those openly with all of our colleagues in LES International." In terms of advice to other association executives who are looking to strength ties with other chapters worldwide, he urges, "I think the key is having a network of people in the constituencies and the areas where you are and want to be, and then supporting them. With today’s technology and resources, you can do that very cost effectively without having to go there. In our world for licensing, though, nothing replaces the value of face-to-face contact."
Laurene McKillop on the Fine Art of Fundraising
Longtime association executive Laurene McKillop urges other association executives to think outside the box when it comes to fundraising in today's world. She believes that the best fundraising events "are those where the decision has been made early on that the money raised is going to be designated for, say, a specific research program and not for general operations. Because of that, the people running those particular events were able to focus attention on a very concrete target, speak intelligently and passionately about it, and thereby, generate a much more enthusiastic response." The University of Virginia graduate has served as CEO of the Hydrocephalus Association, president and executive director of the Maryland-based Sister to Sister: Everyone Has a Heart Foundation, and as an officer with The Center for The Support of Families. Currently a consultant for non-profit organizations, her experience has ranged from organizing large fundraising walks and events to using social media to raise awareness. She states, "I guess the best way I can describe myself is that I am an 'entrepreneurial nonprofit manager.' I like to look at new ways of doing things, and I like to look at the status quo critically." She added that the biggest change she has seen over the years has to do with technology. "Without a doubt," she concluded, "technology has made fundraising a lot easier. You now have online calendaring and online giving and electronic payment processing. Social media is very big in the association world right now, too. I have recently experimented with Facebook, and I'm seeing results."
Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award Coming to Associations and Other Nonprofits Soon
Trade associations, professional societies, foundations, and other nonprofits will soon be eligible for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Like private enterprises, associations would be wise to review and implement as best practices the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, as they will ultimately become the benchmark evaluatory standards for the nonprofit sector. The performance criteria center on leadership; strategic planning; customer and market focus; measurement, analysis, and knowledge management; human resources; process management; and how these integrate with the organization's mission. Numerous enterprises link boosts in organizational performance to their use of the Baldrige Criteria. The American Society of Association Executives will provide information about the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award at its annual meeting in Boston in August.
Mariner's Peggy Hoffman Writes the Book on Chapter Management
Peggy Hoffman is president and co-founder of Mariner Management & Marketing LLC, a Maryland-based association management company that specializes in component relations. As such, she thrives on getting associations to think differently when it comes to chapter management. Hoffman says problems often arise when associations place too much pressure on their chapters. She states, "Ultimately, it comes down to: ‘Have you given them the right structure and support?’ We’re in a Knowledge Age, but too many associations are still in that Industrial Age model for their chapters. That is really suppressing the true potential of the chapters." Under the leadership of Hoffman and co-founder Peter Houstle, Mariner typically focuses on enhancing the member experience for each association client. Hoffman notes, "We start by saying: ‘What is the member experience that you want your folks to have? How do you deliver that?’ You take the member experience and then define that into products and services."
MBA's Jennifer Moffitt on Boosting Association Advertising Revenue
As Director of Advertising and Circulation at the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), Jennifer Moffitt and her staff have had much success in boosting the association's advertising revenue since moving their print publications into the digital realm. Today, MBA publishes one daily and two weekly e-newsletters that keep members informed about the latest goings-on in the world of residential and commercial mortgages and mortgage servicing. Moffitt says one of the keys to success is the high quality content itself. She states, "Information, Inc. is pretty important to us as a content provider. They are more than 50 percent of our content. That along with our original content has combined for something fresh that over 50,000 people a day are interested in. Our editorial is respected, it has a good track record, and everyone knows that everyone else reads it. For many, it's how they start their day." Pricing has also proven key to creating a successful and profitable news product. Moffitt certainly looked at the competition. But in the end, she stated, "[It] was basic supply and demand. The advertising spaces that sold out the fastest, I raised the rates the most. Then, there were a couple that weren't in such hot demand, so I didn't raise the rates at all. I think I raised rates 15 percent on our biggest seller, thinking, 'Gosh, I hope I don't price us out of the market.' But it still sold out fast."
NACD's Gleason on Nonprofit Board Turnover, Cyber Threats, and More
The National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) recently released its 2014-2015 Nonprofit Company Governance Survey. The study provides benchmarking data on a broad array of board practices for nonprofit directors, along with valuable insights into the top issues on which nonprofit boards are currently focused. NACD President Peter Gleason states, "It's clear from the survey that the level of engagement is increasing on a year-over-year basis. There is a lot more scrutiny of nonprofits than there ever has been in the past. . . . I think the level of engagement that boards have and the time commitment is clearly on the rise." Among the key findings, 88 percent of survey respondents said their nonprofit boards added or replaced at least one board member during the previous year. With technology very much a hot-button issue, 42 percent of respondents said their boards had "little knowledge" of cybersecurity risks. At the same time, a majority of those polled reported dissatisfaction with the quantity of information they receive from association management with regards to cyber threats and information technology (IT) risks. Looking ahead, Gleason thinks the focus on risk is where nonprofit leaders will stay focused. "As you get into the bigger nonprofits, one of the things that board members always talk about is reputational risk," he concluded. "They don't want to be involved with an organization that goes astray and potentially tarnishes their personal reputation, let alone the organization. I think as we look closer at cyber and technology and financial reporting risk and fraud, I think nonprofit boards are going to start acting more and more like for-profit boards especially in terms of governance."
NAEP's Sandi Worthman Brings Members Together in Two Minutes or Less
To increase networking opportunities at the National Association of Environmental Professionals' (NAEP's) annual conferences, the association came up with the idea of "Two-Minute Workshops." Loosely based on the increasingly popular "speed-dating" events held around the country by various singles groups, the Workshops--which were first offered at NAEP's 2005 event--put conference attendees together for two minutes at a time to exchange business cards and make contacts before a bell would ring and it would be time to move down to the next attendee. NAEP Administrator Sandi Worthman said, "All in all, it was our first effort at getting a networking component built into our annual conference. It was actually printed into the schedule. So, if someone went to their boss and said, 'Hey, this is going to be a great place for me to be for four days in a couple of months,' they saw that there. While it was short, it was definitely a component." While it is still too early to tell if NAEP will offer the Two-Minute Workshop at its 2007 conference, Worthman believes the event will be on the schedule in some form or another.
(Link to Article)
NAFCD's Jaeckle on Proper Succession Planning
Torrey Jaeckle is Vice President of Jaeckle Distributors, a leading distributor of flooring and countertop surfacing products headquartered in Wisconsin. But he is also the new President of the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors after having served the past year as its President-elect. "You come up through the ranks," he said. "If you are on the Executive Committee, you will come in as a Vice President. The following year, you will be a President-elect. So, there are two years leading into you taking over as the President. That is the grooming period. That third year, you become President. But there is also a position on the Executive Board called the Past-President, where the President from the past year still serves on the committee." He or she remains a source of help and advice for the new President. In his view, the key to good succession planning at the association executive level is to identify good candidates. "You have to look at your current board and figure out who are the best quality candidates to move on to the Executive Committee," he concluded. "Talk to those people, encourage them, and get them on the Committee."
NBWA Chairman Del Papa Knows the Ales of His Industry
Larry Del Papa Jr. is nearing the end of his first year as chairman of the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA), and he credits the years spent working his way up through the trade group as the main reason for his current success in the top position. "This is actually my eighth year with the NBWA," he noted. "I started off as a board member and spent three years as that. I became a management committee member for a couple of years. I could see that the work the association was doing was really important, and I decided I wanted to get more involved. I've learned a lot about the politics of our business, the history, and the framework of our regulatory system -- why it is that way, why it matters, and why it is under attack." The president and CEO of Texas-based Del Papa Distributing Co., Del Papa says he is enjoying the influence he is having over the larger beer business as top exec at the NBWA. He concludes, "In my view, the NBWA has become a lot more important for distributors in today's environment that it was 20 years ago. Now, there are a lot of the states that look to the association for guidance, because NBWA has a vision of what is taking place across the country and in various states. Whether it is public advocacy work or federal affairs or public relations, the organization influences the industry in many ways."
New BISA President Sam Guerrieri on Succession Planning and the Future
Sam Guerrieri, the new president of the Bank Insurance and Securities Association (BISA), says one of the keys to BISA's success at the top has been its careful regard to succession planning. To this end, he has nothing but praise for the man he has succeeded in the top job, Marc Vosen. "He and I have worked extremely closely together over the past year," Guerrieri stated, "and Mark's communications style has really made the difference. He has a passion for the industry and he has a passion for this organization, and that's what sets him apart. He dedicates countless hours to making sure we have the necessary support around our strategy and our initiatives." In fact, Guerrieri expects to continue working with Vosen over the next couple of years. Their goal? "To ensure that the seeds we planted for BISA over the past two years with this new management will take root and last for many, many years to come," Guerrieri states. Taking his cue from Vosen, Guerrieri hopes to bring a balanced approach to his job as president. "Reflect more and react less" is one of his favorite mottos. He concludes, "Our members have different ideas and thoughts. Being able to take all of that in and letting them know that their opinions matter and subsequently making balanced decisions is what hopefully will have us continue the success of the organization. Hopefully a year from now, we will have a broader and deeper membership."
NRA's Flanagan Shares His Thoughts on Relationship-Building on Capitol Hill
Brendan Flanagan, vice president of federal relations for the National Restaurant Association (NRA), offers his thoughts on how associations can establish a solid legislative program in Washington, D.C. Flanagan previously served as vice president of government relations for the Restaurant Association of Maryland and director of government relations for the International Franchise Association before joining the NRA. Over the years, he has found that relationship-building is the biggest key to success. In addition, keeping an association's members in the loop as much as possible is vital. He stated, "I think it is important to constantly maintain open lines of communication from your members, to constantly get feedback from them as far as priorities, agenda. There are so many different issues out there, and you can't apply all of your resources to all of the issues." It also helps to have an experienced person like Flanagan spearheading your agenda and protecting your association's interests whenever issues come up that are potentially detrimental. Flanagan concluded, "The more knowledge you have of how the system works, where the opportunities lie to make sure the industry is represented adequately and where the weaknesses are and who are the people who don't agree with you--it's all part of making sure your industry is positioned properly when the debates unfold."
'Personal Touch' Boosts Renewals--Interview With Adrienne Watts, Vice President of Marketing at NSSEA
In this interview, National School Supply and Equipment Association (NSSEA) Vice President of Marketing Adrienne Watts recounts her organization's efforts to recruit and retain member manufacturers, distributors, and dealers of educational products. During the 1980s and 1990s, the association experienced substantial growth as teachers' stores began to proliferate, many drawn by two NSEAA trade shows held each year. This past year, however, membership renewals had dropped due to several factors, including consolidation and the bad economy. Experiencing 80 percent renewal through standard methods, this year the association enlisted staff members to call non-paying members to tell them that NSSEA wanted them back as members, which brought the renewal rate to 83 percent, still 2 percent lower than the rate of previous years. To make up the difference, board members personally called other members, a tactic that worked. Watts finds, from her own experience, that this personal approach works better than using professional telemarketers. To further enhance retention and recruitment, NSSEA customer service staff just underwent a week of training. Other techniques that will be used include enhancing the content of their e-newsletter and computerizing more day-to-day processes so that staff can spend more time on one-on-one service.
RAM's Melvin Thompson on Building Membership by Offering Value
Melvin Thompson, vice president of government relations for the Restaurant Association of Maryland, gave his thoughts on different ways to boost association membership through added value. As a member of the International Society of Restaurant Association Executives, he meets four times a year with others in his position to discuss issues that are happening in each of the states. Thompson reports that the quarterly meetings are used primarily "as professional development and an opportunity to network and find out what is going on in, say, California -- because if it is going on in California today, we are likely to see it in Maryland fairly soon and vice versa. So, through those kinds of organizations, I have been able to get ahead of the game in anticipating legislative proposals, regulatory changes, and those kinds of things." Thompson is a firm believer in using technology to get important information out to association members as quickly as possible. Not only does RAM have a solid Web site with links to government resources, the association regular updates its members on important issues via e-mail blasts. Still, potential problems can arise when too few members utilize the Internet and when too many members have spam filters in place that prevent important e-mails from reaching their destination. Thompson said, "We have to remind our members that if they want to get information from us electronically, they have to make sure we are allowed through their spam filters." For important information alerts, RAM uses e-mail, traditional mail, and even faxing.
Scott Holeman Helps Spin the Web as NAIC's Communications Director
Scott Holeman, Communications Director for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), has played a key role in the success NAIC has had communicating with its members via the association's Web site. In the article, he shares a few tips on how other associations can improve their online presence and offerings. He stated, "You have to constantly review and update to keep your Web site informative and interesting. Our site was recently redesigned within the last two years, and we’re really always redesigning it. Right now, we are implementing some portal technology." Once NAIC implements the portal technology, the Web site will have a one-password sign-on that gives users access to all of the various tools at one place instead of having to go to multiple Web sites. He concluded, “If we can put everything in one spot instead of maintaining several Web sites and have one password-protected location for members, then we think that will be easy for all to use.” With offices in three markets nationwide, the NAIC continues to play a key role in providing support to the country's insurance commissioners.
Six Keys to Motivating Association Staff
American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry executive director Robert Hall says associations need to understand that staff retention and member retention are closely related and that staff retention involves more than providing adequate pay and benefits. Hall believes motivation is key to retaining quality staff, and he offers six leadership principles to help associations ensure staff loyalty. Hall says leaders should avoid micromanagement, as employees who are given the freedom to perform their jobs are more easily motivated than those who constantly have the boss looking over their shoulders. Leaders also must care about their employees, standing up for them and their benefits when the pressure is on and recognizing that they have lives outside the office. Additionally, Hall underscores the importance of leaders setting an example by arriving on time and undertaking grunt work alongside their employees, and he urges leaders to let employees know when they are performing well and share the credit for successful projects--rather than standing alone in the limelight. Finally, Hall says association leaders should not play favorites; and they should be upfront with employees about the association's mission, priorities, and any bad news, as it is better to get the truth out even when it is unpleasant than to allow the spread of rumors that might be worse.
SmithBucklin's Stoiber on Outsourcing Being the 'In' Thing to Do
John Stoiber, executive vice president of Outsourced Services for SmithBucklin, is a big proponent of outsourcing in the association world. In his position at the world's largest professional services firm supporting the association market, Stoiber is tasked with providing high-impact, specialized services to associations, corporations, nonprofits, philanthropic entities, and government organizations. Lately, he notes, "the shift has been more about executive directors wanting their employed staff to focus more on their core association activities. As a result, we're seeing more of the less member-centric functions coming to us since we can handle them more effectively and efficiently." Chiefly, outsourcing helps to avoid the problems of turnover. Stoiber remarks, "When people leave, that presents a problem. If you have a key financial person who does all of the association's books leaves, they can have downtime of several months trying to replace that person. . . . Even if a key person is home sick for a few days, the association can lose time closing its books on a given month." Stoiber went on to note that a lot of associations either don't know there is a possibility to outsource or have just learned about outsourcing recently. One of the questions that is typically asked by executive directors at the outset is "Am I going to give up control of my association if I am outsourcing some of my functions?" Stoiber remarked, "What I would say to them is that any good outsourced services provider always considers themselves an extension of the organization's team. That's just the right way to do it. Control is not really an issue. It's more about staying connected and the relationship that you form with the executive director and [his/her] team."
Staffing Associations Today Just Is Not Your Father's Model!
Recent college graduates will likely make upwards of four career changes and work for as many as eight different companies, whereas past graduates made only five or so job changes during their careers. Associations have a record number of positions open; and their inability to offer competitive salaries and benefits packages, as well as infrequent internal promotions and the lack of an undergraduate degree program in association management, makes it difficult to recruit new employees. Associations are increasingly offering signing bonuses, more frequent raises, performance bonuses, and direct contact with the CEO to lure new graduates. Other tactics include involving new hires in mentoring programs and intra-association special projects.
Steve Nelson of CESSE on Bringing Together Associations
The Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives (CESSE) is touted as a model for other professional associations looking to come together and share resources in a non-competitive forum. CESSE is comprised of more than 170 scientific and engineering societies, ranging from the American Association of Artificial Intelligence to the National Society of Professional Engineers. CESSE President Steve Nelson states, “What makes something like CESSE work is you need to have a cross-section of organizations that are very much alike. We have a lot of groups who come to CESSE and want to join, but are too different. We’ve shied away from that kind of expansion because the issues get to be too spread out." Nelson has been a CESSE member for almost three decades. Away from the organization, he heads Scientific Societies, the headquarters and administrative offices of several scientific associations. He concludes, "We try very hard not to duplicate products and services that are available through other organizations. That is sort of our motto: that we would like to keep CESSE streamlined and unique. We try not to be competitive in any area with other similar organizations.”
This white paper primarily details how enetrix, a software development and consulting firm, worked with the Credit Union Executives Society (CUES) to help the professional development association achieve its member service objectives. The partnership between the two Wisconsin-based organizations enabled CUES to not only complete the first Web-based executive compensation survey in the credit union industry but also to provide a thriving e-community for credit union professionals. CUES has seen its membership grow, with total association revenue soaring to $13.2 million in 2005 from $2.5 million in 1989, despite a drop in the number of credit unions. Over that same time span, productivity in terms of revenue production per staffer skyrocketed 225 percent. CUES has succeeded largely by adhering to the philosophy that making money improves the value proposition for members. Barb Kachelski, CIO and senior vice president, states, "We don't try to be the best on price, but we do try to be the best on the quality of our service and products." CUES employs a three-tiered business model that makes it possible for the group to provide an array of free services to its membership, including Credit Union Management magazine and access to webinars and other content via its CUES Net Web site. However, the impact of CUES' business model is most evident in how its revenue is balanced. Until 2000, conferences accounted for 50 percent of the organization's revenue. Today, CUES' revenue production is more evenly balanced between conferences, membership dues, and products and services. (More
Ten Barriers to Association Success
In order for associations to achieve high levels of success, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Executive Director Robert A. Hall urges association executives to break down those barriers to success that have become ingrained in the culture of the group. He writes that "anything that inhibits the association's progress toward its goals cheats the membership out of getting the full value from their commitment of dollars and time." Hall goes on to list 10 common barriers to association success. The first is fostering a staff that it is not afraid to inform association executives of their honest opinions, even if it pertains to bad news or is a viewpoint contrary to the general leadership thinking. Second, Hall urges associations not to succumb to so-called "Bright Guy Disease," which highlights a tendency of volunteer leaders to think they know everything because they have been successful in their own fields. Hall argues, "The fact is that human knowledge is growing so fast that every year, each of us knows a smaller percentage of what we could know in even our own fields." Other barriers to success that Hall highlighted include: sticking with strategic plans that lack focus; association executives who seek too much expense reimbursement from the organization; poor volunteer-staff teamwork; and, finally, an inability to share credit where credit is due.
Organization leaders are bracing for a labor shortage that is expected to peak in 2010 with about 10 million unfilled jobs in the United States. The shortage stems from the relatively small Generation X, which will increase the college-educated population of workers aged 24 to 55 by just 2 percent between 2000 and 2020. As they deal with this shortage, organization leaders are urged to make preparations for the coming Millennial generation (people born between 1982 and 2002), who will eventually add up to 80 million people to the U.S. workforce. Millennials are characterized as realistic, multiple-career-seekers who value meaning and participation in social causes. At an average age of 13, Millennials are also described by Lynn Lancaster and David Stillman in the book, "When Generations Collide," as optimistic, progressive, loyal, inclusive, collaborative, and scheduled. Accustomed to diversity, inclusion in decision-making processes, and multitasking, the Millennials are expected to seek participation in organizations that offer meaningful mission statements and goals. Associations should recognize the attributes of the Millennial generation and prepare for an influx of Millennials in their ranks by eliminating traditional hierarchical models of leadership and incorporating more holistic and participatory systems that allow for a diversity of viewpoints.
TRSA's Joe Ricci on Taking the Reins of a New Organization
Joseph Ricci has provided steady leadership since being named president of the Textile Rental Services Association (TRSA) this past March. About two years ago, the TRSA went through what they refer to as "a blending," joining with the Uniform Textile Services Association (UTSA). "When they brought them together," Ricci noted, "they decided also to bring in a new president and that’s where I came in." Ricci previously served as executive director for two associations -- the National Structured Settlements Trade Association and the American College of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons -- at SmithBucklin Corp. Immediately, he sought to foster an environment of teamwork. Ricci stated, "A lot of associations, especially now with the way things have changed from a technology standpoint, are made up of too many people working independently. They take their little projects . . . and they sort of go work in a silo. They can e-mail people and send text messages and never leave their office. I think it’s important to really emphasize the teamwork part. We try to bring people together multiple times a week in our staff meetings and our smaller group meetings and blend their capabilities to get a better result and add value for the members." In addition, he has made the extra effort to travel and meet with members in person. And he encourages other association execs to do the same, remarking, "Get out and meet your members as much as you can in their environment. From a trade association standpoint, people are cutting us big checks. As much as you want to think they want to join the association because you do great deeds and great advocacy work, they still buy from people. If you’re not out there, they are not identifying you with the organization."
Where Should Your Exec Come From?
A good executive can have a huge impact on the success of an association, writes Robert A. Hall, executive director of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. When organizations consider hiring a new chief executive, they typically select candidates from one of three sources: the association management profession, the industry or profession itself, or the government. Hiring an experienced association executive normally is the best of the three choices because these executives will require smaller learning curves and their outside perspective will prove invaluable, writes Hall. For example, an experienced association executive with an outside perspective will not have the inside bias that an industry member might have, meaning that the executive truly will be capable of representing the entire membership. The typical CSO will need to know about 2 percent to 5 percent of what a professional in the field knows, but he or she will not need to know everything, Hall explains.
Wick Davis Carries the Flame for the LFA Online
As director of online content and community for the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA), Wick Davis has spearheaded efforts to take advantage of many of the Web-based social networking sites and services out there at the moment. For instance, Davis has played a key role in developing the LFA's Facebook outreach. In addition to developing both a personal and organizational profile on the networking site, Davis has reached out to those individuals who have started their own pages on the disease of lupus. He states, "All of the folks I have reached out to through Facebook have been very receptive and very happy to hear from somebody from the official organization. Some even offered me Admin rights, as well, so I could go in and edit things as I needed to rather than them having to do it." Davis has also taken steps to get the LFA involved on MySpace.com. He notes, "We have a section that is devoted to our blog. You can have your MySpace ‘friends’ on there that you link to and make all sorts of connections. We are in the process right now of doing our year-end giving campaign, our ‘last push.’ So, again, you get that information pushed out through these channels and you see what happens." For those association executives looking to go down a similar path, Davis urges them not to hesitate. He also recommends creating an information page on Wikipedia.org and keeping a regular blog on your main organizational Web site.
ASN's Eichenbrenner: Building From the Ground Up
Since joining the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) in early 2007, Paula Eichenbrenner has essentially built the organization's entire Division for Advancement from the ground up. So, what has bee"n the key to her success? "Hiring an excellent team!" she exclaimed. When building from square one, never settle in a job search. If you have to post a job several times and do several rounds of interviews, it's worth it. . . . Don't settle for anything less than the best, and don't settle for anyone who you wouldn’t want to wake up to every morning. When you are colleagues with someone, it really is a marriage of sorts." This isn't first stint with a trade association. Prior to joining ASN, the Tulane University graduate was Director of Marketing and Development at the Council for Affordable and Rural Housing. "The day-to-day of an association can sometimes get frustrating," she concluded. "You have members who don't always understand the business need for certain programs or protocols. You are in an interesting place between a service-oriented nonprofit mindset and a business mindset. Day to day at ASN, we ask: 'Where are we leaving money on the table? Where else could we be diversifying revenue or building more revenue?'"
Association Exec Hard at Work on Operations Manual & Other Initiatives
Talisa Thomas-Hall, Director of Membership and Affiliate Relations for the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC), is an expert on improving support for an association’s regions and affiliates. One of the major projects she has been personally involved in at NACAC is the development of an association operations manual that will help each president pass the proverbial torch onto to his/her successor. The manual is part of a larger effort in which the association is trying to outline consistent guidelines and provide resources aiding its leaders in managing the affiliates. She comments, "The operations manual is an initiative that I started that I am very proud of. It’s actually in production right now, and it is a direct result of our states and regions saying: ‘We need consistent training. We need a consistent model to pass on to the next person.’ There is a lot that goes on with governing an association." Thomas-Hall knows her stuff, having been in the association management profession for nearly two decades. She currently oversees a department that serves as liaison for NACAC’s 23 state and regional affiliate associations. Of all the things she has learned in her career, she states, "It is extremely important when you are managing component groups to give them a platform for being heard. The vehicles of communication and the frequency of communication and the exchange of communication must be there. If you listen to them, they can be a wonderful resource for not only helping you serve your chapters and their leaders, but to better serve the members of your organization."
Association Execs Find Opportunity Amid the Recession, Part 1
Association Management Group founder Charles Rumbarger, attorney Steven John Fellman and former ASAE President and CEO Michael S. Olson recently weighed in on how association executives can find opportunity within the ongoing recession. Rumbarger says that instead of slashing payroll, associations now have the chance to reduce the size of their boards, reduce the number of face-to-face meetings and slash those committees that are not producing net results in this new environment. Olson adds that now is the time to begin offering members more Webinars. He states, "That adds value when they can access from their own desk once a week a live program that the association generates out of its headquarters or one of its members' offices. Those are relatively inexpensive for the association to launch and run, yet they bring a lot of value." Fellman says now is also the time to cut a better deal on office space. He remarks, "If you have two years to go on your lease, there is nothing wrong with going to the landlord and saying, 'Hey, I have two years to go. I'm willing to sign for another five years now, but I want a reduction in rent.'" Olson concludes by imploring association execs to "get radical," which could even mean canceling the organization's 2010 annual meeting. He reasons, "You are likely looking at reduced attendance, reduced sponsor support, fewer exhibitors, and yet the fixed costs are going to remain the same. Does it make fiscal sense to hold that annual meeting?"
Association Executive Sean Samet Has Wallpaper's Resurgence Covered
In recent months, wallpaper has seen a remarkable resurgence, and this has had big implications for both the Wallcoverings Association (WA) and the National Paper Trade Association. Sean Samet serves as an executive for both organizations and has played a key role in helping members get a handle on the rather sudden growth. "We spent time with members helping them adjust their businesses from focusing on volume to produce and sell higher-margin products," he stated. "Whether it's our conventions or the articles we put out in our newsletters, we try to inject a healthy dose of future predictions and food for thought to assist our members as the market adjusts." Samet serves as the Executive Director for the WA and as an executive vice president for the National Paper Trade Association. With 10 years of association management experience under his belt, he definitely has some words of wisdom for those executives eager to realize the success he's had. "[Know] the importance of considering the multiple perspectives and constituents within an association before making a decision," he stated. "If an association has different membership categories, each group might feel differently about a particular decision. So, looking at things through different lenses is very important, because what often seems like a good idea on the surface might have an underlying conflict."
Association President Talks Leadership in Hard Times
Richard "Rick" Legon, president of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB), is considered an expert on addressing multiple audiences with diverse needs, especially with regards to governance. Legon has seen his share of changes, having been at the association for more than 25 years in various capacities. The biggest change he has seen is the shift in the engagement of volunteer boards in carrying out their policy and fiduciary responsibilities. He explains, "It's almost trite to say, but it’s no longer merely an assignment to serve on a board--be it a private or public institution--and see it as an 'honorific' slot. As exciting and as important volunteering for a college or university governing board is, it now requires a level of preparation, awareness and engagement around some very fundamental challenges affecting our country and higher education." Information and authoritative research has been key to advancing AGB's mission. Not only does the association publish an award-winning magazine, it issues research initiatives and reports, maintains a Web site and conducts Webinar-type programming. When asked to give advice to other association executives faced with similar challenges, Legon was quick to answer: "As so many of us do in associations, if we have a strategic plan and if our own boards are engaged in helping to endorse the plan, then it really should be a focus of the organization. I see too many associations go through the exercise of putting together a strategic plan, then putting in on the shelf and moving along to priorities that may be inconsistent with the plan itself."
Attorney Vallone Says Associations Must Get Smarter About Intellectual Property
Melissa A. Vallone is not only a partner in the Chicago law office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP, she is also a member of the firm's Intellectual Property Department and its Associations and Foundations Practices Group. As such, her practice has become focused on intellectual property litigation, trademark counseling, negotiating information technology contracts, and so forth. Consequently, she was the ideal person to talk to regarding one of the most pressing topics facing association executives: intellectual property. "The thing that I see most often and fairly consistently is associations struggling with how to use content they don't own or that they have someone create for them," Vallone stated. "More recently, we have seen associations finding themselves in hot water in the photography area, especially as it relates to copyrighted content." She went on to list a number of myths bouncing around the association world with regards to content -- everything from "Hey, we're a non-profit, so we can use whatever we find because we're not making a profit from it" to "Anything you find on the Internet is in the public domain." Vallone and her colleagues work with clients who have already gotten into trouble and with those who want to set up policies and procedures as preventive measures. She concluded, "I want to be responsive to all of my clients immediately, because I know they have pressures from their boards and their senior staff members."
Diversifying Away from Traditional Association Models: Part II
Leading association adviser Don Manger offers his advice to associations who are considering diversification initiatives in the new year. One of the first steps is to analyze the potential for the new venture and how it fits with the association's existing business model. The second thing to consider is the talent pool. Manger writes: "Recruiting personnel with the necessary skills for the new venture will help you launch the project more quickly and, ultimately, at lower cost." The nature of the association's governing board should also be taken into account. If an association has not been entrepreneurial in the past, that board is likely dominated by traditional customer-oriented directors. "These types of directors also have a difficult time relating to ventures outside of their own customer experience with the association," Manger states. Finally, with diversification, there must be thorough research and planning. Among the key questions to answer: "How will the new venture change the organization's current strategy?" and "Where and when is break-even expected?" Manager has more than 30 years of experience as a CEO of associations ranging in size from under $500,000 to more than $14 million.
Harry Cohen: Still Putting Out Fires as BCLBA President
As a former firefighter who is still an active volunteer, Baltimore County Licensed Beverage Association (BCLBA) President Harry Cohen knows the value of teamwork. His fast ascension to the top of that organization has been due to his desire to become politically active in support of the causes he and his industry believe in and to continue to find new ways to help others. Cohen, who owns a tavern in suburban Baltimore, states, "It was probably seven or eight years ago that I started going to association meetings regularly and getting involved. . . . I saw things happening on my county level and on the statewide level to the industry. We had neo-Prohibitionist groups trying to pack stuff down our throats that just wasn't acceptable, and it wasn't representing the true freedoms that we have come to be familiar with and hold dear." Cohen he urges other civic-minded industry professionals to get involved with industry trade groups to show strength in numbers. For those who don't know where or how to get started, he suggests, "Offer your support not only financially, but with [your] time to your local and county associations. If there is not an active local association, get involved on the state level. And when you become involved, never burn a bridge! Be a part of building bridges."
How to Offer a Strong Value Proposition
Dana Dolan has been in marketing and sales for more than 20 years, working in such industries as technology, healthcare, financial services, and trade associations. Before launching her own marketing and consulting firm DDM last summer, she spent the previous six years at BAI, a financial services trade association, as the Head of Marketing and the leader of its Solutions Provider sponsor/advertising business. While there, she spearheaded a strategic initiative to reinvent and create a year-round value proposition for solution provider sponsors and advertisers. "BAI had a long history of providing traditional event exhibit and sponsorship programs for tech companies," she remarked, "but we wanted to go beyond that. . . . We thought, 'How can we provide a more advisory relationship to both bank members and technology sponsors?'" Using that new type of relationship, BAI put together a series of sponsored bank executive roundtables that brought together peer groups to discuss everything from marketing strategy to contact center strategy to branch transformation. Also, the association launched research and intelligence programs that tech companies would sponsor to gain insight into what was keeping BAI's members up at night. In her time at BAI, she gained valuable perspective and insight into new products and services innovation and crafting effective marketing strategy that is helping her now as the head of her own firm. She concludes, "For an industry association that needs an outside and objective view and some new ideas for their integrated sales and marketing programs or new products and services innovation, I can be that fresh perspective. For associations that don't necessarily have a full-time CMO or marketing executive, I can step in on a project basis as well and be that person."
Identifying and Creating a Path to Leadership for Our Younger Leaders
It seems that there continues to be many "Boomers” serving on boards of trade associations and professional societies. Recent studies have shown that more than half of board members over the age of 50 and less than 5 percent under the age of 30. As a result, this key succession planning issue will be one that most boards will face in the not-too-distant future if they are not confronted with it now. Dr. Stephen C. Carey, lead strategist for AMMR, writes that more than half the boards he and his colleagues have worked with in the past couple of years are having these succession planning issues, and many do not have a succession plan in place. He spotlights several things associations that are taking this issue seriously are doing right now to plan for the future. They range from creating a young professionals section in the association to identify upcoming leaders to establishing an organized and logical progression of leadership training opportunities among members and chapters at various career stages. He also advocates the creation of mentoring programs so that junior leaders can tag along with and assist senior leaders.
INSA's Jeff Lavine on What to Outsource and What to Keep in House
As Director of Administration and Management at the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA), one of Jeff Lavine's top priorities has been to ensure that the organization's programs and activities meet up with the membership's needs. A big part of INSA's success has been its use of outside vendors in fulfilling these needs. Lavine states, "I think the most important decisions that associations, especially those that are small, can make is what to do in-house and what to outsource. It’s great to be able to work with a team of vendors that are all subject matter experts in their field. It makes a difference in the quality you are returning to the membership." Internally, he is most proud to tout the INSA Achievement Awards, which honor young professionals in the national security community who have made exceptional accomplishments in homeland security or serving the military or in the private sector. He concluded, "Last year, we only got 11 nominations. This year, we got 51. Next year, we will have to aim for 100." Headquartered in Arlington, Va., INSA has more than 150 corporate members, as well as several hundred individual members, including leaders within the government, private sector, and academia.
Jim McNeil: An MVP in BAI’s Efforts to Diversify, Part 1
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Legal Checklist for Associations to Uphold the Law
Steven John Fellman provides a legal checklist that will help associations continue to operate within the confines of the law. The checklist essentially covers all of the legal requirements for operating an association or professional society. In addition to corporate governance issues, Fellman lists all of the basic consultants an association needs to stay on the right side of the law. These range from a CPA firm and a PR firm to association lawyers, a real estate broker and an insurance broker. In addition, Fellman lists in broad terms the various regulations that affect an association's operations, including copyright issues and lobbying limits. He also discloses four basic texts that will help association execs better grasp related legal issues, most notably the American Society of Association Executives' (ASAE's) "Webster's Law of Associations" and its "Jacobs' Association Law Handbook." Fellman is managing partner of the Washington, D.C.-based law firm of Galland, Kharasch, Greenberg, Fellman & Swirsky, P.C. He is also an ASAE member.
Leslie Thornton: Planning for the Unthinkable
September is National Preparedness Month, an ideal time for association professionals to re-examine the policies and procedures they must call on should the unthinkable happen. One organization that has been dealing with the "unthinkable" in its many forms is Courtesy Associates. This single-source provider of solutions for event planning has had to deal with everything from the federal government shutdown to the Boston Marathon bombings impacting its business model in recent years. Courtesy Associates President Leslie Thornton says the key to success in such situations is consistent and clear communication with meeting attendees and support staff on all levels. She adds, "Understanding roles and responsibilities and understanding and managing expectations not only of our own team, but all stakeholders is also key. We are spending a lot of time on standardization of processes, tools, and templates and, in general, how we do things, so they are consistent across the board."
Lights! Camera! Volunteer Leadership for WAFCA's Jim Judy!
The Washington, D.C. Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) is one of those organizations only made possible by solid volunteer leadership. Former WAFCA treasurer and current member, secretary, and membership consultant Jim Judy has been one of those leaders who has stepped up through the years to lend a helping hand whenever and wherever needed. "I introduced a way to streamline and speed up the process and then joined the volunteer leadership panel at that time," he recalled. "Beyond that, I always like to be in the know about what's transpiring in any organization I'm participating in and being involved in the decision-making efforts, so the fit was good." In addition, each year, he is part of the small group that decides whether or not new applicants should be added to the association as members. "I'm also involved in discussions and strategies regarding our organization's expenses," he added. "And at times the movie studio representatives contact us for scheduling suggestions in regards to getting as many of our members as possible to see certain films.
Managing a Multi-Generational Work Force in Tough Times
Shira Harrington, a senior recruiting consultant with D.C.-based placement firm Positions Inc., is a regular consultant to trade associations on the differences in life values, work-life expectations, communication styles and relationship to authority among the generations. She believes she has the right formula to bring the various age groups together to propel workplaces forward with a better understanding and appreciation of one another. What Harrington tries to do in her presentations is foster understanding for the purposes of a productive work environment. The first step is to create awareness that such a gap exists and is hindering productivity. Then, bring in a diversity trainer. Harrington states, "You will be amazed at the culture of receptivity and open-mindedness you will generate, not to mention the addition to the bottom line as your newly engaged and inspired workforce unites to focus on what really matters: your association’s mission." She also calls on associations to be more flexible. For instance, one of the keys to retaining Baby Boomers, particularly those "Sandwich Boomers" who are currently in their late 40s to mid 50s and caring for young children and often elderly parents, is to offer more flex time. Harrington's client list is impressive, including such groups as the Adhesive and Sealant Council, the American Association of Community Colleges, the National Association of African-Americans in Human Resources and the National Association of Funeral Directors.
Marketing's Increasing Importance in the Association World
Marketing is often the key to great success and great failure in the association world. As much as a public or private company sells its brand, non-profit organizations and trade groups must also take great care in getting their message and identity out there in the public domain in a positive way that drives both membership recruitment and retention. One of the true gurus in this regard is Henry Stoever, Chief Marketing Officer for the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). Stoever is a big proponent of content marketing, in particular. He states, "Content marketing is an excellent way to engage with your target audience. When you address a pain point or top of mind issue with educational material, you generate awareness, demonstrate value and nurture your audience toward your offering. It is, however, just one piece of the marketing puzzle." Indeed, at NACD, Stoever and his team employ a multi-channel marketing approach including traditional marketing tactics such as very high-impact direct mail. Social media is also in play. Some social media channels can be effective for reaching our target audience, others are not," he noted. "We consistently test, measure, evaluate and evolve what and how we use social media. Same with our other media tactics." Looking ahead, Stoever believes associations will most be challenged in the area of staffing. He concluded, " I believe the game-changer for associations will be acquiring, securing, and retaining cutting-edge talent to differentiate the organization long term."
Michael Gips Sets the CSO Roundtable at ASIS International
One of Michael Gips' main responsibilities as Vice President of Strategic Operations for ASIS International has been to run the CSO Roundtable, a separate membership group whose benefits are tailored to the needs of top security executives at Fortune 1000 companies and other large and significant organizations. Gips listed developing membership from the bottom up as being one of his biggest challenges in the first five years of the CSO Roundtable's existence. Another major challenge has been creating the necessary content that distinguishes the CSO Roundtable from its competition -- content that meets the ever-changing needs of the membership. When asked what advice he would have to other associations and association executives also thinking of creating a separate membership group within the larger organization, Gips was quick to answer. "One thing you will want to do is gauge the reaction of your core constituency for this sort of thing,” he stated. “What you don’t want to do is alienate your 'regular members' who are also very valuable members." To this end, it falls on leadership to clearly define what the new membership class will be. "Anyone who is trying to do this will want to clearly distinguish or create easily recognizable criteria for your members," Gips concluded. "You want people to self-screen before they apply according to the clear criteria that they can look at and say, 'OK, I qualify. I'm going to apply' or 'I don't qualify, so I'm not even going to put in an application.'" Based in Northern Virginia, ASIS is the world's preeminent organization for security professionals, boasting approximately 38,000 members around the globe.
NAHMA's Kris Cook on Teaming Up With Other Associations
Kris Cook is currently celebrating her tenth year as Executive Director of the National Affordable Housing Management Association (NAHMA). One of her biggest successes in the past decade has been working with two other organizations -- the National Apartment Association Education Institute (NAAEI) and LeadingAge, which was formerly the American Association for Homes and Services for the Aging -- to offer Specialist in Housing Credit Management, or SHCM, certification. Cook calls such collaborations "the wave of the future." She states, "I think you can broaden the base of support for credentialing or any type of program by partnering. You also provide benefit to your members by increasing your association’s visibility and reach." And in her decade at the helm of NAHMA, she has never lost sight of some good advice that was given to her earlier in her career as an association executive. "Fundamentally, it’s all about the members," she concluded. "So many in so many industries are focused on surviving day to day that one of the values we can bring as an association is help them survive the day-to-day, but also keep an eye on the future and develop the tools that might be tomorrow’s survival kit."
Navigating the Tricky Waters of ICI Global’s First Year
It’s been more than a year since the Investment Company Institute (ICI) announced the launch of ICI Global, a London-based trade organization focused on regulatory, market, and other issues for global investment funds, their managers, and investors. In that time, Managing Director Dan Waters and his staff have faced their share of challenges. "In terms of policy development," Waters stated, "one of our biggest challenges has been the implementation of the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which is a U.S. law designed to ensure that Americans who have accounts in financial institutions overseas are reporting their income correctly. . . . We've worked to educate the fund industry worldwide regarding FATCA, and to bring back to the U.S. Department of Treasury and Internal Revenue Service a comprehensive understanding of global concerns." Another challenge that was met head on was growing the initial membership base of 12 fund complexes to 31, headquartered on three continents. According to Waters, the organization's task in managing that growth has been "learning more from those members about their greatest business concerns, so we can respond on their behalf."
NIGP's Brent Maas on Taking a Chance and Redefining Association Sponsorship
The National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP) is in the middle of transitioning and redefining what it means to be a sponsor of the association, and Director of Marketing Brent Maas is one of the leaders tasked with facilitating this risky change of course. Maas' specific role has been to shepherd the evaluation process. He had defined and launched the initial iteration of the program. "Starting in 2011," he noted, "I identified the third-party firm [McKinley Advisors] that we would use to help us do the program assessment, provide recommendations for a structure going forward, [determine] pricing, and so on." At the end of this evaluation process, the decision was made to go with a single-tier sponsor program. Once that recommendation came back, Maas and his colleagues presented it to NIGP's chief executive and then to its board before ultimately communicating the outcome to the Institute's existing sponsors. For other association executives looking to launch a similar program, Maas advised, "It's important to have very clear goals in mind with what your expectations are from the program. Know your value proposition. … Also know that there are a lot of very good firms that are out there that can help you with developing a sponsor program."
Sciolaro Volunteers What Makes a Good Association Volunteer
Longtime association executive Don Sciolaro has had extensive experience collaborating with volunteers and volunteer leaders at the various associations he has worked for. "A good volunteer leader has to have a real passion for what they are involved in," he states. "There is something about the organization that they feel really strongly about." Sciolaro has felt strongly about a number of trade groups over the years. Currently a free agent, his past credits have included a stint as Chief Executive and Director of Member Services for the National Kitchen & Bath Association, as well as a variety of leadership roles with the National Association of Manufacturers. From his viewpoint, he remarks, "This is a tough economy for volunteers. People are spending more and more time focused on their business. A lot of their businesses have downsized, especially in the small and medium-sized operations that really makes up the volunteerism in a lot of associations. They just don’t have the time to put in. But what you try and do as the professional staff is to make it as easy as possible for them to volunteer." To this end, he urges association executives not to try and make everybody the same kind of volunteer leader. Instead, place more emphasis on figuring out what each volunteer may be passionate about and then give them a chance to be involved where they really want to be. He concludes, "With larger, national organizations, there is so much going on at one time, and it’s difficult to personalize. I think it would be really worth the time to do that. Go to some potential leaders and say, 'Look, if you run this committee, what would you want to accomplish? Why would you do it?'"
SmithBucklin’s Russ Snyder Manages the Winds of Change
Since 1949, SmithBucklin has been helping trade associations, professional societies, and technology user groups transition to an association management company. Client organizations partner with SmithBucklin, which has offices in Chicago and the nation's capital, for three primary reasons. First, an association may be seeking an improvement in its leadership at the executive level. Russell Snyder, senior vice president of client management for SmithBucklin's Washington, D.C.-based organizations, states, "At SmithBucklin, we have a wide net of employment circles that we are able to access in order to bring in top-level executive prospects that fits an organization from an experience, culture and knowledge prospective. We fit executives to organizations really well and we have a great internal recruiting process." The second reason client organizations partner with SmithBucklin is that they are seeking to leverage the firm's infrastructure and our technology. Finally, the third reason organizations partner with SmithBucklin is that they are seeking to improve their financial stability. Snyder notes, "We have CPAs and a full staff of financial management and accounting services to input best financial practices into an organization, from how to best balance a checkbook to how to put an investment policy into effect or establish detailed financial analysis." SmithBucklin presently services a pool of more than 225 full service or function/project-specific client organizations on a variable rate structure.
SmithBucklin's Schmahl Discusses the Three Big Challenges Facing Healthcare Societies
As Executive Vice President and Chief Executive of SmithBucklin's Healthcare & Scientific Industry Practice, David Schmahl is uniquely positioned to talk about the three major challenges facing healthcare associations today and in the near future. "The first challenge," he noted, "is maintaining the perception of membership as being the credible, clear source of information." This is important due to the shear amount of clutter and misinformation that is blasted out on a daily basis to anyone in healthcare. He continued, "The second challenge is making the association's education truly indispensable. . . . Most healthcare organizations got lean in the economic recession. But what they now need to do is find a way to make the quality of their education truly indispensable to the people consuming it." A third challenge, in Schmah's view, is enabling outcomes for the members and stakeholders in the society or association through connection-making. He insists that networking is not at all adequate. Schmahl concludes, "The challenge is: 'How can we directly enable desired outcomes so that constituents are attributing valuable connections that they've made that have helped them either practice better as a clinician, run their practice better, or develop personally directly because of the new relationship formed through the society.'"
Steve Lovett Loves Being CEO of the Softwood Lumber Board
Steve Lovett is the CEO of the Softwood Lumber Board (SLB), which he describes as a USDA check-off program. He exited his position as COO of the American Forest and Paper Association in 2006 to develop the program -- a process that took four years. "It was a very laborious process," he noted, "because the industry designs these things. Even though they are USDA programs, they are designed by industry and governed by industry. The USDA provides oversight to make sure the industries are following the law that established these things." So far, he says the results have been very positive. "One of the responsibilities we have under the check-off is providing industry information," he stated. "We have a responsibility to tell the industry that's funding this what the programs are, how their money is being used, and what the results are in terms of return on investment." To this end, he credits the e-newsletter the SLB publishes monthly with Information, Inc. for being a big part of his organization’s success so far. He and his colleagues use it as a vehicle to inform people what the SLB itself is doing in terms of its activities.
Tracing the Journey of America's Chambers of Commerce
Like many Americans, Chris Mead had little knowledge about the history of chambers of commerce in this country when he began working for the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) 12 years ago. "At that time," he recalled, "I thought working with chambers of commerce might be boring. I took the job and found them to be absolutely beguiling organizations! Before I knew it, I was working on their history." What Mead is referring to is his absolutely beguiling new book, "The Magicians of Main Street: America and Its Chambers of Commerce, 1768 - 1945," in which he relates some of the more fascinating stories of how chambers of commerce have woven themselves into the fabric and culture of the United States and been a part of some of the country's biggest historical milestones. A former vice president of the International Economic Development Council, Mead says association executives can learn a lot by reading his work. "One thing they will be struck by is the amazing power of small groups to do great things and truly change the world," he states. "And these small groups of people can have self interests as one of their motives. They don't have to be 100 percent pure."
Transitioning From the Private Sector to the Association World
Making the leap from the private sector to the association world is something many executives have done over the years. Few have done it as smoothly and successfully as Thomas "Tom" Dempsey, CEO of the Snack Food Association (SFA). Dempsey had been in the snack food industry since 1988 with Utz Quality Foods Inc., the last five years as president before retiring in December 2012. SFA management approached him soon after, and Dempsey was at the association's reins by mid-summer 2013. The leap from the private sector was not without its adjustments. "Probably the biggest difference was the manufacturing of product," he stated. At the end of the day, I had a quantifiable scorecard that showed how much we made and how much we sold [at Utz]. The association world isn't quite that quantifiable. There are not those immediate results. It's a little harder to identify your victories when your results aren't quite as immediate and responsive to your efforts." In just over a year and a half at the helm, he has put his personal stamp on the organization in several key ways. "One major thing that has happened on my watch, and is visible to our members, is all of our educational seminars, sessions, webinars, and so forth, which used to be paid for by members -- a member price and a non-member price -- is now free to members," he said. “In effect, we've taken that additional cost of being an SFA member out of their business plan." He has also managed to raise the association's profile and influence on Capitol Hill. He concluded, "I'm more convinced now than ever that SFA is a value to our member companies. . . . It's really about making the SFA story relevant and beneficial to people who are not members of the SFA."
AESP Execs on Marking a Milestone
The Association of Energy Services Professionals (AESP) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. AESP President and CEO Meg Matt and AESP Founding President Bill LeBlanc recently sat down with Bottom Line Briefing to offer a glimpse at the next two decades. Both pros believe their association is well positioned to help members deal with future growth in a number of ways. One is continuing to offer content via Webinars and in-person conferences. Matt noted, "We've really stepped up and offered a lot of training in the last two years. Just in 2009, we rolled out four new training programs for our members." Another major initiative the association will be working on over the next 20 years is the newly-created AESP Foundation. Matt stated, "The Foundation has several goals, and we are currently seeking funding from a variety of sources. Our members will also see AESP offering Continuing Education Credits [or CEUs] next year, and the board is working on developing a professional certification program." When what asked would they like AESP's members to say about the association 20 years from now, LeBlanc was quick to answer: "I'd also like to see our industry become more of a career choice than a 'career accident.' The schools should look at this as a true industry. It's multi-disciplinary and would be very cross-cutting in terms of majors at a university. . . . It makes the industry challenging, but very rewarding."
APhA's Posey Prescribes Daily News to Keep Members Informed
Keeping members informed and up-to-date on all of their industry's latest news and happenings has become increasingly important to associations. Consequently, today's association executives are being called on to implement newer, faster, and better ways of getting the word out. That has certainly been the task of L. Michael Posey, Associate Vice President of Periodicals for the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), and his staff. Under his leadership, APhA launched a daily e-newsletter edition of its Pharmacy Today publication earlier this month. Delivered each business morning, the service parses for APhA members the news they are interested in, providing custom-crafted summaries. One of the primary objectives of the new daily news service is to have a daily touch-point with APhA's members. "We want to be able to meet their information needs in a way that we really are not able to do in print or even on the Internet," Posey stated. "By launching this daily newsletter, we're able to cover developments in the pharmacy business world as they are happening. That's a real advantage to increasing our scope and covering information when it happens, not six weeks later when it's too late for the reader to take advantage of the information."
AAHPERD's Berkowitz on Charting a Major Organizational Change
AAHPERD is somewhat unique in association circles in that it is an alliance of five professional associations -- the American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation, the American Association for Health Education, the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, and the National Dance Association. For many involved with the organization, though, the concern has been the various associations' overlapping missions has led to more disarray than unity. As a result, AAHPERD is about to embark on a sweeping organizational change, and one of the key players involved will be AAHPERD Director of Membership Eric Berkowitz. He notes, "Our associations internally compete for sponsors, for attendees, and for members in some cases. The complicated structure requires time and funds that could be spent on programming and advocacy." Berkowitz's task will be getting the word out to membership and essentially selling them on why such a streamlining is needed. He anticipates social media will play a big role in this outreach. From there, Berkowitz hopes to put together models to increase AAHPERD's membership. To this end, he concludes, "We need to provide the resources, the programs, products, and services to make it valuable for people to participate and to make them want to participate. The more people who participate, the higher the return on investment will be for us. People are going to renew and they're going to tell their friends and hopefully continue on."
AAP’s Joe Puskarz Offers a Portal to the Future of Association Publishing
As Senior Managing Editor at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Joe Puskarz oversees the day-to-day management of the Pediatrics journal and editorial services. He is also responsible for strategic product planning, as well as overseeing emerging technologies. The emerging media platforms on which AAP has been and will be building its content offerings in the coming years has him most excited about the months and years to come. Specifically, the organization is in the process of developing online portals to provide more specialized content to members. He states that this member-benefit product will be free to all Academy members. "It is an intuitive tool, which enables AAP members to easily search, sort, and curate AAP journals and publications content," Puskarz stated. "Our goal is to deliver to them relevant content based on their interests and their needs. We’re building this canvas, this dashboard, on which members will be able to define content that is tailored to their interests and their preferences." For other association executives looking to go this route, Puskarz has some tips and advice. He stated, "First, do your market research. Second, talk to your customers and understand their reading habits and technology smarts. Find out what their needs are and then develop a strategic plan and prototype of what you’re trying to do and present it to them in a focus group. Third, get their feedback." Once you have done those three things, he concluded, it will be time to build your requirements and concept design. "Reach out to [members] again to benchmark your direction," he added. "That’s essentially what we did over the past two years."
ASPPA's Jeff Hoffman on Driving Individual Memberships through Corporate Involvement and Advocacy
As Senior Director of Business and Membership Development for the American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA), Jeff Hoffman's plate is pretty full and its about to get fuller. He states, "We are forming a coalition of companies that would partner with us to encourage membership. An example is the NTSAA [National Tax Sheltered Accounts Association], an affiliate organization whose members provide retirement plans and services primarily to teachers. Our coalition of companies has all agreed to pay a reasonable fee to subsidize discounted NTSAA membership for their advisors and other employees." The goal is to get a bigger membership and put more "boots on the ground" to advocate on the state and federal levels on relevant issues. ASPPA remains very concerned about potential attacks on the retirement planning and private pension system. Hoffman concludes, "We are very concerned that Americans won't have enough savings for retirement and that our members -- who are pension professionals -- won't be able to do their good work should these proposals prevail."
Does Your Association Have a Hall of Fame?
The National Association Medical Staff Services (NAMSS) has created the new and prestigious NAMSS Health Care Hall of Fame program, an honor designed to recognize those Medical Service Professionals (or MSPs) who have demonstrated passion and commitment to the profession throughout their careers. Starting this year, a maximum of two honorees will be inducted into the Hall of Fame annually. Those inducted into the NAMSS Health Care Hall of Fame will be provided a custom lapel pin and framed certificate to commemorate the honor, receive Honorary membership in NAMSS, and be included on the Hall of Fame Display which will be present at each NAMSS Educational Conference. NAMSS is a client organization of SmithBucklin, with Senior Associate Alyssa Yaguda among the team leaders providing administrative and project management support. She has played a key role in getting the Hall of Fame program off the ground. Yaguda remarks, "It was developed over the past year with [NAMSS']Leadership Selection Committee who put in place policies and guidelines for the selection process. We just launched the first nomination period."
Gudakunst Lays Down the Law as Editorial Chief of IACP's Publications
Whoever said "Print is dead" hasn't been reading Police Chief
, the monthly publication of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Danielle "Dani" Gudakunst has served as Managing Editor since October 2013. In that time, she has done a great job positioning the magazine as one of IACP's key member benefits. "The magazine is the only resource that is mailed every month to every member around the world," she stated. "As a member benefit, it's really become invaluable. The great thing about the magazine is it allows a police chief in Iowa to learn about successes or issues across the country in Oregon or across the world in, say, Morocco. It's opened the door to a wider world of ideas and resources that you may not be able to find day to day." At the same time, Gudakunst has a variety of other duties and responsibilities within the organization all having to do with the written word. She concluded, "If you're going to work for an association publication, you always have to keep members in the front of your mind. They are the whole reason for the association and the publication. No matter who you report to or what your job title is, in the end, you work for the members. Their needs must be the main guiding point for your decisions."
Keeping Members Informed Translates Into Success for ATA
American Translators Association (ATA) Executive Director Walter "Mooch" Bacak and Mary David, Member Benefits and Project Development Manager, have played key roles in spearheading initiatives that keep the organization's membership well informed. One of the things that has worked best for the association is ATA Newsbriefs, a monthly news product generated by Maryland-based Information, Inc. and distributed via e-mail to members. David states, "We split the articles between translation and interpreting, because they are different skill sets. ATA Newsbriefs is delivered complimentary to all of our members." While a series of recent webinars has also proven to be invaluable to ATA's membership, one of the most successful innovations that has happened on Bacak's watch is the development of an online members directory. He comments, "The Directory allows people to put their professional services out there in a very clear-cut way. The benefit for us is you have to be a member in order to be listed. So far, it has been very well received." The Directory allows users to search in a variety of fields for the translator or interpreter who's right for them, from language and specialty to location and certification. ATA also issues free copies of a publication called Translation: Getting It Right to its members, who then turn around and distribute it to their clients.
Laser Institute of America Takes a World View
The Laser Institute of America (LIA) has done a good job building its international membership in recent years. For international corporations, one of the benefits of becoming an LIA member is that it gives them a window into the United States. Peter Baker, executive director of the LIA, remarks, "They can attend our conference, meet users, and therefore sell their products. It's very appealing to corporate people." He recommends getting international members involved in the decision-making process as an added benefit. Typically, about one third of the Institute's board members are from outside the United States. LIA has also had at least two international presidents in recent years. It helps greatly to have a comprehensive game plan when wooing potential international members. Baker concludes, "You must try to understand what each particular country has and what it needs. Then, you must ask which of those needs can be met with existing or slightly modified products and services. Crucially, you have to ask the question: 'Are people willing to pay a reasonable fee for that?' You could certainly say, 'Oh, yes. They'll like this and that and the other. They'll like everything we have to offer.' But, at the end of the day, if people aren't willing to pay for it, then maybe it's not quite such a good idea."
Providing Valuable News Content to Association Members
Kerry Smith is Project Editor for Florida Realtors, the organization that changed its name from the Florida Association of Realtors two years ago. Smith came aboard in 1999 after having served as a regular contributor to the Orlando Sentinel and editor-in-chief of a magazine called Florida Retirement Lifestyles, which was all about retirement communities in the Sunshine State. On his watch, the association's Florida Realtors News e-newsletter has become a valuable member benefit. The daily e-mail is sent to the association's approximately 89,000 members. The key to its success? "Make it a true member service," he said. "It’s okay to have ads along the side, and it’s okay to have a section that offers association info or even advertorial content. But if members don’t trust you to offer unbiased news in the news section -- or as unbiased as you can get -- they won’t trust the entire product." The top five daily stories also get posted to the Florida Realtors' website, floridarealtors.org. Two years ago, he also took the reins of Start Smart, a bi-monthly newsletter sent to 20,000 first-year Florida real estate agents. He concluded, "Always keep your reader in mind. In my head, I’m writing primarily for a 57-year-old woman who makes $40,200 per year because that’s what our latest member survey found to be the typical Florida Realtor."
Roosendaal Has the Credentials to Succeed at ICE
Taking on increased importance in today's association world is the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE), which is the membership organization for hundreds of professional certifications -- most of which are developed and delivered by non-profit organizations. Credentialing has become something of an umbrella term that is used to refer to such concepts as certificate programs, licensure, and certification. In addition to being a leading developer of best practices and standards for both certification and certificate programs, ICE has become a provider of information and professional development, as well as a clearing house for data on trends in everything from test development and delivery to assessment-based certificate programs. Overseeing a lot of this is ICE Executive Director Denise Roosendaal, CAE, who has been in association management for her entire 27-year career. Her link to certifications is that she previously served on the CAE [or Certified Association Executive] Commission for the American Society for Association Executives, or ASAE. She states, "We're definitely seeing the trends of skill enhancement, specialization, and micro-credentialing, which slices certifications into smaller, quantifiable skills. Other certification programs are responding to technology and the impact on their particular profession or industry. We're also seeing expansion internationally, which is not necessarily the right answer for every certification. But there is certainly an opportunity internationally if your certification translates globally."
Scott Oser Helps Associations Recapture Lost Members
After more than a decade of experience working for such market leaders as the National Geographic Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Scott Oser launched Scott Oser Associates in 2006. The firm's goal has since been to develop customized solutions to solve associations' unique membership, marketing and sales challenges. He and his company has proven especially adept at helping associations reach out to those who have let their membership lapse. He states, "The biggest hooks you have as an association are the emotional things, the relationships. So, what I am suggesting to my clients and other associations is communicate to your members more than just: 'Sign up for the annual conference and we’ll see you there' or 'Sign up to purchase that.'" Oser suggests association executives should make better use of technology, such as variable data, to let members know you know who they are. He reasons, "If you have multiple membership categories, why would you talk to them all the same? Why would mention all of the same benefits and services? Why would you do that when you have all of this data and technology to communicate to members in a more targeted and appropriate way on a regular basis?" He commends AAAS for the strides it has made in lapsed-member telemarketing, reminding people that they missed their renewal date. He concludes, "Other organizations will work a 'We Want You Back' lapsed-member portion into their direct-mail campaign."
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