Member Engagement: Call to Action

Member Engagement Member Engagement: Call to Action. Three organizations, Potomac Core Consulting, Vertical Leap Consulting and icimo are joining forces to conduct a Member Engagement Strategies Survey. Unlike any other to date, the survey focuses on Member Engagement as a game-changing growth strategy. The primary objective of the survey is to identify innovations and leading-edge practices in member engagement.

Define Future Member Engagement Levels

Potomac Core President & CEO Daniel A. Varroney notes “we’ll surface linkages between member engagement practices and an association’s business model.” Vertical Leap President  Steve Lane adds “we’ll also discover examples where associations are tracking contribution and collaboration behaviors that are predictive of even stronger levels of future engagement.”

Member Engagement: Call to Action

The online survey is being conducted during October and sent electronically to more than 5,000 Association and Society Executives around the United States.

Bryce Gartner, CEO of icimo notes: “The survey is built around core principles.  At the heart of these principles is the Association’s value premise.  Associations are positioned to bring together constituencies creating new solutions; driving member value that shapes both industries and professions.”

Potomac Core – Association Consulting,, is a Washington, DC area custom focused one stop shop delivering highest quality growth strategies and solutions to U.S., National, and International Associations and Professional Societies. We help your Association surface actionable, market-based data. Then we create discussions about your member’s business outcomes to align your Association with their business outcomes.

Vertical Leap Consulting,, is all about growth and positioning strategies for associations and healthcare organizations. Founded in 2002, we are headquartered in the Montgomery County, Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C.  We assist executives and boards who face tough challenges and compelling reasons to enhance their organization’s impact.

icimo,, headquartered in the North Carolina Triangle Area offers software and services that gets any size organization using their data quickly.  Our tools combined with training and best practices give clients a jump-start to being data driven, transforming “big data” from buzzword into successful real world strategies for driving results by turning insights into action.  

For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at

Organizational Culture and Mission Drives 66% Growth

organizational culture and missionOrganizational Culture and Mission Drives 66% Growth. Associations and Societies are busy revisiting their strategic plans and business models. After all, new paths to member engagement and revenue growth are essential nowadays. While CEOs employ different approaches, one in particular applies culture as a growth accelerant. A.S.P.E.N., the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition and it’s CEO Debra S. BenAvram leverage culture and their mission to operate a functional and thriving community ( A strategically engaged board combined with an energized and innovative staff are consistently hitting on the right cylinders.

Imagine a Different Future

A.S.P.E.N. works to insure that all patients receive high quality nutrition. They reinforce their vision by trumpeting the best evidence based practice for support to patients in need of specialized nourishment. Starting her career as the organization’s Director of Education, BenAvram developed leadership values and strategies that would best support the board’s goals and motivate a high performing team. Moving into the CEO role, she applied years of thought and study to develop a strategic plan and an “outside the box” staffing model.

Open Communication

As CEO, BenAvram wants “imagery around culture and values all of the time.” Unlike many organizational charts with tiered or complex structures, they employ a “staff circle model.” The approach looks to achieve excellence focused on high engagement and high quality performance.

Balanced Revenue

With a staff that has grown to 20, A.S.P.E.N has a healthy mix of revenue almost evenly divided across membership, their annual meeting, and peer review journals. Serving a diverse constituency of medical professionals ranging from Pediatric Surgeons to Endocrinologists, they utilize data and feedback to stay connected to their members and their mission.

Organizational Culture and Mission Drives 66% Growth

Regardless of debates on traditional and nontraditional management structures, one thing is clear: A business model minus silos can stimulate innovation and collaboration, mobilize board leaders, and energize staff performance to exceed expectations.

Staff leaders acknowledge that the second wave of innovation and growth is even more challenging to achieve. Undaunted, CEO BenAvram and her team are more confident because they already understand Peter Drucker’s axiom “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Why? $2 million growth is a reflection of just how important culture is to engaging and satisfying members.

For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at

organizational culture and mission


Association Membership Not Growing?

association membershipAssociation Membership Not Growing? With senior management teams developing next year’s budgets, it’s good a time to conduct a survey and assess your associations impact. The results and a competitive market assessment will be helpful in constructing a membership growth strategy. Associations who have not experienced membership growth will find this approach helpful.  It will reveal strengths, opportunities, and weaknesses, all of which can be leveraged into actionable growth strategies.

Laser Market Focus

Individuals and corporations make membership decisions based on their Association’s ability to impact priorities that matter most to them. Whether it be legislative, regulatory, training, or certification related, they are all evaluated. Associations that convert actionable data into tangible solutions will improve their retention and growth opportunities.


Companies conduct internal assessments before they join or renew Association memberships. Members “stay or leave” and prospects “join or go somewhere else” based upon their perception of an organization’s impact. They measure “relevance” as an Association’s capacity to help companies or individuals achieve their business, professional, or personal objectives.

Quantify and Qualify

Impact surveys should become part of an Association’s DNA. Why? Organizations that consistently benchmark products and services based on their marketplace are better positioned that those who don’t.

The impact survey is all about member/prospect “up at night” issues. Answer these key questions:

  1. What is the financial impact on professional and or corporate business objectives?
  2. How do current programs, services, and the advocacy agenda address the financial impact of “up at night” issues?
  3. Do proposed program changes or new initiatives help members and prospects achieve success?
  4. From the member and prospect vantage point, what else can the Association do? 

Association Membership Not Growing?

Associations who want to grow should be seen as strategic partners. Once your Association is viewed as a strategic partner, membership growth and higher retention follow. Keep in mind that several Associations already using this approach have seen double digit growth. Why not give it a try? A growth formula you can use immediately:

Member Impact Survey & Competitive Assessment + Actionable Growth Strategies = Membership Growth.

For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at

association membership

Member Engagement Drives Revenue

member engagementMember Engagement Drives Revenue. Associations continue to leverage Member Engagement as part of a long term strategy that secures and grows their revenue base. In order to add heft to their efforts, some CEOs utilize data driven strategies to guide investment of budget resources and staff time. At NIRI, the National Investor Relations Institute for instance, Jeff Morgan, President & CEO consistently aligns his organization with its members and their marketplace through monthly surveys and strategic plan updates.

Business Intelligence

NIRI is the professional association of corporate officers and investor relations consultants who are responsible for communication among corporate management, shareholders, securities analysts and other financial community constituents. Its 3,300 members represent some 1,600 publicly held companies with $9 trillion in stock market capitalization.

“In a big data and fast moving world, NIRI keeps pace with our membership by staying connected” says CEO Jeff Morgan.

Monthly Pain Point Survey

Associations and Professional Organizations who successfully engage their members show their connection to core member business needs. NIRI engages their members with a monthly survey instrument in order to drive engagement. While industry standards are not as robust, the organization achieves a consistent 20% response rate.

The most recent survey inquired about resources and tools available to assist public companies in shareholder identification as well as suggestions for improving the current system. The survey summary will be utilized by the NIRI Board of Directors in its September meeting with the SEC staff on improving shareholder engagement.

Member Engagement Drives Revenue

NIRI’s engagement focus accelerated member renewals and continue to help grow membership internationally. The organization has also replenished its reserves in the aftermath of the great recession.

Jeff Morgan knows the dynamic global economy will “consistently challenge his members.” He indicates that their data driven market focus will keep the organization “aligned with its member’s business needs.”

For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at

member engagement

Want Association Revenue Growth in 2014?

association revenue growthWant Association Revenue Growth in 2014?  Association CEO’s and the senior management teams are looking ahead. Budget discussions are underway and board leadership wants to see an Association revenue growth budget. Corporate profitability is rebounding and the expectation is that Associations too will achieve the same level of robust growth. What can Associations do to improve their competitive edge and grow in 2014?

Stiffening Competition

Renewals remain challenging and while organizations are seeing increases in new member growth they wonder how long it continues. It’s not just the economy anymore, Association Executives for the most part are experiencing increased competition. For profit companies continue to enter markets once owned exclusively by Associations. In addition, new solutions including Not for Profit organizations, coalitions and consulting companies are offering competing products and services.

Sharpen Your Competitive Edge

Thanks to new technologies, data is more accessible than ever before. Associations who capture, interpret and apply data driven strategies can dramatically improve their competitive positioning. In a real time world data provides Associations with speed to market.

These 3 Steps Work

  1. Competitive Analysis. Hard knuckle comparison to other Associations and solutions.   What are the gaps and opportunities?
  2. Impact Survey. Engage your members. For example, products, services and advocacy.   Are they impactful? What can your Association do to best connect to member business needs and objectives?
  3. Business model. Utilize the competitive analysis and the impact survey data to adjust shape a business model that accelerates your Association’s impact.

Buy In

Share the data with your executive committee; seek their input on accelerating your Association’s impact. Engage your senior management team. Work with them to build a vision in that closely reflects the data and the executive committee’s perspectives. They will see the staff efforts as prudent and timely.

Want Association Revenue Growth in 2014?

A number of Associations are experiencing membership growth and increased participation. Recognizing heightened competition they utilized data driven strategies to improve their competitive position. In some instances Associations doubled revenue. How? Better differentiated value and accelerated member participation.

For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at

Can Silos Stunt Association Revenue Growth?

Association Revenue GrowthCan Silos Stunt Association Revenue Growth? “We’ve met the enemy head on and it is us.” Is this true? Absolutely, yes.  Silos at Associations can do more harm than good. Why?  Although a well defined organizational structure is effective in defining roles and responsibilities, they at times erect unnecessary walls and can create a fiefdom.

Beware of the Silo Effect

The symptoms are easily recognizable. If Senior Managers consistently debate boundaries, direct reports challenge colleagues and managers to “stay out of their portfolios” then your Association is seeing some of the silo effect. Regardless of the motivation it’s harmful to your bottom line. In time, Association morale and focus is diminished along with focus on members and revenue growth.

Can the silo effect be avoided or changed? Yes!

3 Steps to Motivate Association Revenue Growth

Regardless of the time of year, CEOs can alter their Association’s trajectory and focus. Implementing these three steps can help increase member satisfaction, elevate retention, drive member growth and deliver sponsorship and conference attendance increases. Really? Increasing your market satisfaction and execution in a highly competitive environment can’t help but up your game:

  1. Reward and reinforce and team results.  Recognize staff publicly, be specific, share how collaboration achieved renewals, new members, sponsors, conference attendance growth.
  2. Shared Performance objectives. All job descriptions and performance objectives should carry the same message. Everyone helps everyone else satisfy the marketplace and grow revenue.
  3. No one more is important than other team members.  Setting and reinforcing this practice is powerful. One diva impedes progress where an entire team working together can overcome anything. Coach Norman Dale, the iconic basketball Coach from the movie says it best” Five players on the floor functioning as one single unit team team, team, no one more important than the other.”

Can Silos Stunt Association Revenue Growth? 

An Association recovering from its worst revenue performance ever implemented all three of these steps the following year. They achieved dramatic improvements in total revenue, new member growth, retention and exceeded their net growth objectives.

At a time when Associations need collaboration and accelerated market focus, staff silos blur the external vision necessary to satisfy members and achieve revenue growth objectives. Removing the silos and creating a culture of collaboration will up your Association’s game. Actually, it just might have your team coming from behind and winning just like the Hickory Huskers.

For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at


Associations Can Outlast Competitors

associationsAssociations Can Outlast Competitors. In a world where competition moves like the speed of sound, Associations need solid differentiation. Competitive intelligence helps you direct budget investments and keep Association products and services current with member business and professional objectives.

360 Competition

New coalitions, and organizations are created almost weekly. Law firms and public relations firms are providing lobbying and communications products similar to Associations.  For profit companies are aggressive competitors too as they enter the market providing conference, sponsorship and other products to would be Association members.

Everywhere Associations look, competitors are ready and waiting to eat into their market share.

5 Competitive Game Changers

Competitive intelligence is a must. Know what competitors are doing and how they are driving value into your Association’s marketplace.  And, be prepared to measure your impact, establish your Association’s uniqueness and unleash high impact media and marketing to highlight value:

  1. Use annual surveys, qualify and quantify member, prospect and sponsor business objectives.
  2. Keep only those advocacy, product and service initiatives that match with “pain point” issues.
  3. Partner with name brand companies to develop and release research accelerating your marketplace’s competitiveness and profitability.
  4. Collaborate with social and business media to share and communicate cutting edge research.
  5. Engage members, prospects and sponsors in a transformed “we” culture.

Run Like A Business

More and more Association Leaders are and have transformed their Associations into finely tuned businesses. On a consistent growth trajectory and determined to compete aggressively, the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG),, uses annual market data to keep advocacy, products and services connected to market “pain points.” TAG also aligns the Association’s Strategic plan, operating plan and employee performance objectives. Over an eight year period they grew membership by 600%.

Associations Can Outlast Competitors

A number of Associations have convincingly made a strong business case and grown membership and sponsorship despite fierce competition. In addition to the Technology Association of Georgia, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA),,grew membership by 40% (

For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at

You Want to Grow Association Membership?

grow association membershipYou Want to Grow Association Membership? The pressure to increase membership is not going away and neither are the competitive threats. Although some Associations are growing membership and revenue, a high number are not. Many ask, “what are some of the best practices driving membership and revenue growth at other Associations?”

Strategy Drives Everything

The most successful membership growth efforts are tied directly to Association strategies and or strategic plans. This means board members and senior managers are committed and willing participants. Saying we need to grow membership is not powerful enough. What is? Have a well thought through strategy showing and how and why membership growth advances the mission of the Association.

3 Must Do’s that Drive Membership Growth

Despite challenging market conditions, Associations are growing and they consistently execute very well in each of the 3 Must Do’s:

1. Exceed your current membership’s expectations – Membership growth gets easier when the current membership boasts about value, service and high return on investment

2. Consistently Connect to Pain Points – Pain points reflect prospective company business and or professional needs. Direct your conversation, products and services to how membership immediately addresses and satisfies pain point needs

3. Recruit Top Flight Membership Executives – The best way to drive membership growth? Bring in A level Membership Executives who collaborate and integrate internally. These top performers effectively engage C Level executives. Membership Executives make an Association’s first impression on a prospect. Choose well and it will pay consistent dividends.

You Want to Grow Association Membership?

These strategies have driven remarkable results at several Associations. What is even more interesting is how some developed and applied each of the 3 Must Do’s differently. Although Growth results through varied from Association to Association their results were still impressive. Ranging from 233% revenue growth to 600% membership growth, each Association consistently exceeded member expectations, reflected and delivered value connected to pain points and recruit top flight membership executives.

For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at


Association Boards Say, “Show Me The Growth”

association boardsAssociations Boards Say, “Show Me the Growth.” The great recession and its aftermath dealt a powerful blow to Association revenue and membership growth. A number of Associations utilized reserves to navigate through the lean times but Boards want the reserve funds replenished for the next rainy day. Easier said than done? Of course, but the clock is ticking. CEO’s are wise to heed Board Member Calls for Association Growth.

Mirror The Marketplace

Boards expect their Associations to reflect their growth expectations to the marketplace.  For example, America’s conglomerates of the 1980’s? The once super sized mega conglomerates are now core focused juggernauts keenly in tune with their marketplace. By reconciling products and structure with customer pain points, Companies are nimble & profitable. What’s more, many successful leaders participate on Association boards and they expect similar results.

4 Steps to Association Revenue & Membership Growth

The tough growth environment opens the door to transformational approaches.  What Association Boards could have scoffed at before might now be embraced with open arms. Apply market data in order to transform your Association to help members, prospective members and sponsors more readily advance business objectives:

  1. Profit focused legislative and advocacy agenda – Your Association uses dollar amounts to quantify cost impact and growth opportunities.
  2. Market driven Conferences and Seminars – Formulated to satisfy member training needs year after year.
  3. Lead/Identify New Markets for Members – Develop a research capacity powerful enough to be the early adviser on new domestic or international market opportunities.
  4. Track and Motivate Participation Against Member Cost and Growth Needs – It’s member engagement when members feel the “we” culture and they’re energized because your Association is lined to their success.

Association Boards Say, “Show Me the Growth.”

Increased competition, especially now from for profit competitors, make the growth landscape more challenging. Yet some have transformed their business models and drive impressive revenue and membership growth including: Technology Association of, Commercial Real Estate Finance Council (, Air Conditioning Contractors of America (, and the Global Cold Chain Alliance (

For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at

association boards

Can Associations Outperform For Profit Competitors?

Can Associations Outperform For Profit Competitors? Until recently, Associations competed for membership, product, conference and service dollars in a limited universe. As for profit companies and not for profit organizations scour the landscape to identify and expand into new markets, they are competing head to head with Associations. While different sectors report varying degrees of competition, the health care segment is especially seeing its share of competitors.

A number of Associations ( primarily experiencing lower conference attendance and reduced profits. However, in several cases, competition from for profit firms now include products and services as well.

Law Changes Open doors to Competitors

AssociationsFred Somers, Executive Director, The American Occupational Therapy Association (, a nearly 50,000 member National Professional association, sees competitors on the for profit and nonprofit front. In this and potentially other instances, the enactment of the Affordable Care Act may have opened up new opportunities for competitors.

For AOTA, competition in areas that include publishing, professional development and continuing education are part of the new competitive landscape. Regardless, Somers convincingly asserts that his Association maintains significant competitive advantages.   


Win by Playing to Your Strength

Professional Society focused entities like AOTA carry considerable competitive advantages. Having considerable bodies of knowledge, long lasting relationships in the educational community and the membership can be quite advantageous. AOTA, similar to other health care related Associations, have research data and practice experience that in many cases span decades. Although for profit companies and even new nonprofit entities may bring strong marketing, they still lack the data and strong connection to a loyal and committed membership base.

Play The Hand Your Dealt

Knowing what levers are available can also make a difference. Associations have unique facets they can easily leverage into marketing and growth opportunities when necessary.  Especially in the health care segment, Associations can rely on one of their core constituencies to achieve the marketing equivalent of a hole in one.

Can Associations Outperform For Profit Competitors?

As the economy slowly improves from the great recession of 2008, Associations are seeing the playing field for fewer discretionary dollars expand well beyond membership.  Everything from conferences, publications, products and services are now in play.  Aggressive for profit competitors are leveraging their extensive resources  However, the new competitive challenges facing Associations may be opportunities instead.

AOTA, similar to other successful Associations and Professional Societies, is transforming competitive threats into market growth opportunities.

For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at