10 Keys Remove Association Culture Change Mystery

10 Keys Remove Association Culture Change Mystery

Association Culture change has long been the stuff of hocus pocus and black magic. Many people talk about it, but it seems difficult to find real success stories because the levers of success are less than obvious.

What is known is that a direct assault on Association culture doesn’t work; you don’t alter behavior by publishing new values and running workshops on the new expected behaviors. It’s been tried and it never works.

Association Culture

Association Culture is not the result of new talk. Association Cultural change is the result of new actions, routines, roles, and expectations for specific and defined actions. The structures and processes of an organization’s management system is what shapes these factors more than anything else, and so when the management system is changed, the culture changes. This assumes the leaders of the organization are serious about the changes they are making, and work hard to be models of the new ways.

Here are 10 things to remember as you think about Association culture, its role, how it is shaped, and how it can be changed:

1. Culture is the great lever of Association change

2. Culture determines if a given change will be accepted or rejected

3. Today’s economic world demands Associations move quickly

4. The speed of an Association is governed by the speed of decision making

5. Your management system defines your decision making strategy and quality

6. A culture that moves decisions to where the knowledge is greatest, which is the front line, will make the fastest and best decisions

7. To set people up for success in their decision making, management has a lot of work to do in advance

8. Leaders have to accept that change is now the constant, and the only way to keep people is to let go of centralized control

9. Culture change is much more readily accepted when people gain control not lose it

10. More than any other thing, changing the management system causes the biggest shift in Association culture

10 Keys Remove Association Culture Change Mystery

Association culture

John. M Bernard, Chairman & Founder, Mass Ingenuity

One of the biggest surprises for me in learning about organization development has been understanding the relationship between the complex nature of human beings, and the work they do. What I have learned is that mechanical things such a strong, healthy, and structured business reviews can have profound impact on cultural components such as human beliefs, behaviors, and trust.

The better we understand the interplay between structured management processes and human behavior, the more control we have in shaping Association culture.

Association Culture does not have to be the accident accumulation of unspoken norms and behaviors. It can and should be intentional.

Thanks for joining me in this series on Association culture.

Managing Teams Through Crisis

managing teams through crisis

Managing Teams Through Crisis

Every leader, whether it is in the Association world or any other work arena, must deal with their own version of “chin music.” Even Mike Tyson is right that “Everybody’s got plans, until they get hit.” Unexpected surprises come out of nowhere and sometimes even worse than expected circumstances land in the leader’s lap. Since Management and Board Members expect results, leaders know they must swing into action and get the job done.

Good leaders can find the pot of gold, even when there is no rainbow. New York Yankee Manager Joe Girardi for instance, looked to the 2013 season with optimism. Why shouldn’t he?  A storied franchise with star power and a $200 million plus payroll helped him field a powerful team. Then thirteen players suffered injuries and landed on the disabled list. What many viewed as a nightmare scenario is instead an interesting case study on managing effectively, despite crisis.

With most of his team out for the foreseeable future, Girardi and the Yankees’ General Manager Brian Cashman collaborated on fielding a team of some veterans and many replacements. Fans who expected a team collapse and even Yankee haters might be scratching their heads. At least for now, the 2013 Yankees sit atop the American League’s highly competitive Eastern Division.

Rise Above It

The tough situations can define the most effective leaders. Joe Girardi’s leadership reminds executives that while a field of play can’t be changed, it can be managed.  For Girardi and Managers in general, building on a solid foundation of trust is a sure winner.

6 Ways Managers Can Thrive During a Crisis

  1. Apply Constant Optimism – Pessimism is “poison for the soul.” Identify the opportunity for someone to step up and make great things happen.
  2. Offer Sincere Praise – Be specific, recognize what a team member achieved. It elevates morale and motivates others to step up and lead too.
  3. Preparation Really Matters – In tough situations, spend extra time developing strategies and options. Know the team’s capabilities, and how they fit into any given scenario.
  4. Consistency Plays Well –  Leaders should be who they are in good times and bad times. Consistency displays reliability and it reinforces trust with the team.
  5. Clear Vision – Leaders must identify the path and deliver. Collaborate with superiors, mentors      and colleagues as they could provide an idea a leader had not thought of.
  6. The Golden Rule – Successful Leaders almost always had great Managers and Coaches. Many remember how words of encouragement and coaching sessions lifted morale. Lifting people up works. Leaders who take credit and blame others decimate morale and performance.

Managing Teams Through Crisis

With more than one half of the Major League Baseball Season yet to be played, it’s tough to know how the New York Yankees will finish the season.  What’s been accomplished thus far is a teachable moment for Managers. Even the toughest of challenges can be overcome. Using similar approaches, one Association executive, after losing a top sales performer, turned their year end into a success from almost certain failure.

Do optimism, praise, preparation, consistency, clear vision and the golden rule by themselves assure success? No, but they offer a solid framework for any Manager to utilize when the worst happens. “It ain’t over till it’s over” said Yogi Berra, and now with 6 strategies built on a foundation of trust, leaders could have the capacity to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

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

managing teams through crisis

Communication Strategies Drive Growth

communication strategies drive growth

Communication Strategies Drive Growth

 As Associations evaluate new paths to member engagement, conference attendance and revenue growth, Communication Strategies must be on the table. Many agree that driving association messaging is especially challenging. After all, the complexities of today’s news cycle clogs Social and Traditional Media lanes like a Long Island Expressway rush hour. While no one admits to beating the rush hour, some Practitioners have a path to incorporate Communication strategies into an overall Association member engagement and growth strategy.

At a time when Association dollars require ROI, having the right Comms Strategies can improve competitive position, strengthen market positioning and drive revenue growth.

Navigating the complex nature of the media landscape is both art and science for Associations. For Bill Haynes, Founder and President of Boston based BackBay Communications,  a focused and well thought out communication strategies approach is a game changer for Associations.

As a two decade plus veteran of numerous media campaigns, Haynes decided to put a flag in the marketplace, starting his firm in June of 2005, a strategic branding, marketing and public relations firm focused on the financial services sector. Haynes saw a future defining companies and Associations as practical solutions to achieve business growth. A track record defined by client satisfaction and business growth expanded BackBay from Boston to New York and London.

3 Step Content Foundation

Associations can move the needle forward, engage their members, grow conference attendance and increase membership using BackBay’s content driven formula.

Is there a starting point? “Yes,” says Haynes, “Associations have a great opportunity to develop original content that leverages and broadcasts the association’s expertise in the marketplace, offering actionable insights to members, prospects and partners.”

3 Communication Strategies Drive Member Engagement and Growth

  1. Identify unique differentiators. An association’s brand identity, marketing collateral and website should reflect the uniqueness for the association’s brand and underscore the expertise and resources it provides its members.
  2. Develop proprietary branded data. Membership surveys focused on marketplace trends and issues and offering predictions for the near future are very attractive to the media and to the membership base. These survey can be co-branded with media partners or universities, or even member organizations as part of a sponsorship package. Insightful data can be utilized in multiple ways, such as media interviews, bylined articles, white papers, webinars, conferences, newsletters and videos. All of these activities reinforce brand value with current and potential members, board members and sponsors. They also help elected officials recognize the industry’s value in the marketplace.
  3. Build strategic alliances. Associations can magnify their insights and clout through strategic communications alliances with other organizations with strong brands, such as universities, companies, stock exchanges, media outlets and data providers. These alliances add credibility and can significantly boost distribution of your news, insights, brand name and value proposition.

These 3 steps “should be reinforced year-around with timely topical content,” says Haynes, with media pitches to key publications and submission of Association authored articles on relevant topics.

Put to the Test

Hired by a finance Association to boost annual conference attendance in the height of the Great Recession, BackBay Communications was tasked with elevating awareness, attracting attendance and sponsorship. Haynes and his team developed and executed an integrated marketing campaign including print and online advertising, direct mail, email, event marketing, affiliate marketing, website content, video and media relations.

The Conference regardless of the tough economic times, achieved the second highest attendance ever. In reflection, Haynes sees inclusion of his Firm’s 3 Communication Strategies are integral to success.

Communication Strategies Drive Growth

Developing unique differentiators, creating proprietary branded data to share with the media, and building strategic alliances are three strategies that move the member engagement and growth needle for associations. 

While Haynes doesn’t see his firm’s strategies as the solution to traffic congestion on New York’s legendary Long Island Expressway, he does agree that the right Communication Strategies drive membership, sponsorship and conference growth.

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

communication strategies drive growth

Changing Your Association Management Changes Your Culture

This is the ninth in a series on Association culture, its role, how it is shaped, and how it can be changed.

Changing Your Association Management Changes Your Culture

 As you likely know, the concept of “management as a system” is not commonly talked about even among experienced Association leaders and academics. However, if you understand that a process is a collection of activities that target a specific output, and that a system is a collection of processes that target a larger aggregated output, then buying the concept of a management system isn’t much of a leap.

Why does this matter?

association managementWhen we understand that management itself is in fact a collection of specific processes, it allows us to apply process thinking and tools to the work of management. So, like any other process, the management process can be understood, assessed, measured, and improved.

It took a long time for me to understand the connection between an Association’s  management system and its culture. In fact, I learn something new about that relationship almost every day as I interact with customers and discover things I had not seen.

What is clear is that as an Association moves from an informal management system to an intentional and effective one, such as the Now Management System®, the leaders start to actually gain control over their results. This happens because process improvement is all about transparency (seeing where things are breaking down), accountability (measuring results and making it clear who has the responsibility to fix problems), problem solving (ensuring that process owners know how to fix processes), and the elimination of fear (which creates the safety to risk taking action on the problems).

NOW Management System

While the Now Management System systematically creates clarity, it shifts culture by establishing clear norms of accountability, new routines for transparency, and standard disciplines for solving problems. Our system achieves its maximum return on investment by shifting culture at the heart of these dimensions.

Changing Your Association Management Changes Your Culture

Association Management

John M. Bernard, Founder & Chairman, Mass Ingenuity

Culture is all about patterns, roles, routines, language, and expected behaviors. A good management system addresses every one of those dimensions of organizational functioning. As an example, one of our clients recently held their Quarterly Target Review and reported improvement in 46% of their processes measures quarter over quarter.  This organization has dramatically shifted its culture to one of transparency, accountability, problem solving, and shared success.

All in all, I have never seen anything change culture as effectively and as positively as changing an Association’s management system.

Next week, the final post on this 10-part series on Association culture.

Association Speed to Market

Association Speed to Market

 As Associations compete for the seemingly smaller pool of corporate dollars, CEOs, senior managers, and boards want every possible competitive advantage.  With Conference and Training vendors fighting for their piece of the pie, they know how to leverage a powerful CRM (Customer Relations Management) and custom databases to get at the market place quickly. In order to remain competitive, Associations too need the same speed to market. There are plenty of technology tools and alternatives, however CEO’s and Senior Managers should begin the process with an information scan.

Start at the Beginning

Regardless of Association size, the effort  should start with a full inventory of member, sponsor and prospect data. Determine what exists and develop a smart list of what else is required. Most importantly, make sure that the Association is capturing up at night issues and company participation. This is the information that helps formulate Data Driven Strategies for organizations.

Know Thy Marketplace

Maintaining a full profile on key aspects of members, prospects and sponsors is essential.  Sir Francis Bacon noted that “Knowledge is power ” and for Associations, updated market information is omnipotent.

Every database should at a minimum contain the following information about members and sponsors, and have a treasure trove of data on prospective members:

Members and Sponsors

  • Issue and regulatory concerns that impact member or sponsor company’s ability to achieve their business objectives.
  • Participation in up at night issue activities, i.e. committees, calls to action.
  • Updated contact information for executives who approve member dues or sponsorship’s.
  • Complete descriptions of member and sponsor products and services and industries they serve.
  • Record of significant staff interaction with member and company executives.
  • Staff relationship owner.

Prospects

  • Issue and regulatory concerns that impact prospective member or sponsor company’s ability to achieve their business objectives.
  • Complete descriptions of products and services and industries they serve.
  • Board Members in similar industries or who have similar issue or regulatory concerns.
  • Participation in up at night issue activities, i.e. committees, calls to action.
  • Updated contact information for executives who approve member dues or sponsorship’s.
  • Inventory of Associations prospective members or sponsors participate in.
  • Record of significant staff interaction with member and company executives.
  • Staff relationship owner.

Ready to Add Speed to Market 

With complete member, prospect and sponsor profiles, Associations are then ready to add capacity.   The updated database is complete but not capable of driving speed to market. As the marketplace moves in real time, Associations require the capacity that only an effective CRM capable resource provides.

CRM capability should provide Association’s the ability to deliver:

  • Analytics reflecting member engagement and participation.
  • Net performance trends.
  • Member and prospective member or sponsor business outcomes.
  • Capacity to segment data and deliver focused messaging.

If an Association database and CRM are missing any of these elements they should identify new technology solutions that will complement their existing infrastructure.

Association Speed to Market

For Associations making the plunge adding speed to market at your association makes a difference. Leveraging updated data and CRM capacity, one Association doubled grass roots program participation and another Association achieved record conference profits.

Vendors are competing more aggressively than ever for their share of conference, sponsor, training, education and certification dollars. Although budget investments face increasing scrutiny, adding CRM capacity will enhance an Associations speed to market.

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

association speed to market

 

Great Strategy Deserves Strong Execution

great strategy

Great Strategy Deserves Strong Execution. After a rough patch, board members are confident that their new strategic plan brings the Association closer to their business objectives.  Board leaders are energized too, and they’ve debriefed their CEO and have requested a three year action plan with measurable results.

Genius Inventor Thomas Edison knew that transformation required more than good ideas when he said “Vision without execution is hallucination.” In a 24-7 world, execution is no longer a tactic, it must be a strategy for any Association or business venture. After all, Boards measure results and these are achieved on the basis of solid execution.

Execution is a Strategy and Not a Tactic

“Execution has to be in the culture” notes Larry Bossidy, former Chairman and CEO, Honeywell International, and Corporate Strategist Ram Charan, publishers of  EXECUTION, The Discipline of Getting Things Done, 2002 and 2009. The authors convey powerful examples of CEO’s who succeeded and failed based on their capacity to execute strategies.

Board members live in corporate cultures where metrics and data driven strategies define success or failure for their companies and their shareholders. They bring this proclivity into Association Board rooms and expect Chief Executives and their leadership team to provide them with action plans including metrics, dates and measurable results.

When the Board enthusiastically presents the newly minted strategic plan, they expect a power packed action plan matching and exceeding their expectations. Now what?

Execution Delivers Measurable Results

Measurable results are not about instilling fear, but about building a culture of expectation for Association staff. As leaders, CEO’s have the capacity to recalibrate and define expectations throughout the year. They can shift gears and utilize the new strategic plan to swing into immediate action.

CEO & Senior Management Teams own their execution, however it’s the Chief Executive who sets the tone and manages to the new expectation.

4 Steps to Strong Execution

1. Define Execution – Meet off-site with Senior Managers to formulate execution strategies. Be clear, the success measurement of the session is action plans, dates and measurable results. CEO’s should accept nothing less, and lead an energizing and optimistic session making execution the only outcome that matters. Capture specifics and schedule a second meeting.

2. Put Pieces in Place to Execute Effectively – At this meeting the CEO and Senior Managers need to align position descriptions, performance objectives and compensation. Each amplifies the execution mandate and the compensation plan should motivate the staff team to always exceed expectations.

3. Staff Assessment – Steps 1 and 2 are crucial, yet execution is only possible when Associations have the skills that match the execution expectation in place.   As leaders, an honest and objective review will insure that they are putting the best team possible on the field to compete and win.

4. Communication – W. Edwards Demming guides leaders to “inspect what you expect.” If execution and measurable results are expected,  then CEOs, Senior Managers and Supervisors must meet with direct reports on a regular basis, offer balanced feedback and focus on execution of objectives.  

Great Strategy Deserves Strong Execution

Following a record revenue losing year from weak execution, an Association Senior Manager embraced a similar 4 step approach and never looked back. Multi year growth performance followed while everyone reveled in a new culture of execution.

In the 2004 movie depiction of the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team’s breathtaking win over the mighty Soviet Hockey team, Coach Herb Brooks said that “Great moments are born from great opportunity.”  CEOs’ opportunity rests inside a culture of execution. If Board members expect their Associations to heed their clarion call, then Associations need a culture of execution to deliver measurable results.

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

great strategy

Associations’ Non Dues Revenue Puzzle

Associations’ Non Dues Revenue Puzzle

 Associations must keep pace in salary, benefits and member service offerings in order to remain competitive. While there is general agreement that  membership renewals and new member growth are essential for Associations, there is a growing need for alternate revenue streams, too.  Non dues revenues are increasingly more important for CEOs, Senior Managers and Boards of Directors’, they see the need to grow and understand there is no easy answer.

Definitions of non dues revenue are different from one Association to another. In some cases Training, Education, Digital Published Information and Conferences all contribute to revenue streams. However the definition and the focus of the revenue stream must be data based and member focused.

Yes, Associations can increase revenues but first they need to define and understand the existing member market first.  In “Profit From the Core, Growth Strategy in an Era of Turbulence” Chris Zook and Jim Allen, copyright 2010 Bain and Company(updated edition),  the authors present a compelling review process whereby a business develops boundary definitions, and determines marketplace differentiation to define new revenue growth opportunities.

Non Dues Revenue Checklist

Data Driven Strategies, Core Connections and Member engagement are as effective in identifying and growing non dues revenues as they are in retaining and recruiting new members. Boards utilize similar processes inside their companies and will appreciate the same thoughtful and deliberate approach at their Association:

1. Data Driven Strategies – Identify member business objectives, determine products, services, education, training, standards and certification that enhance member market performance. Conduct competitive market analysis understand what other Associations offer, conduct beta tests and develop robust offering which complement a strong policy, advocacy and regulatory offerings.

2. Core Connections – The strategic partnership is enhanced with a suite of value added resources. Associations can reinforce their credentials as a destination location with the most appropriate services.

3. Member Engagement – As is the case with policy and advocacy engagement members want to know they have an impact on outcomes. Provide opportunities to test new products and services and engage them in developing and designing your new offerings.

Associations should continually evaluate the efficacy of their offerings.  This process will help keep non dues revenue initiatives focused on member business objectives.

Associations Can Profit from the Core

Yes it really works! Associations are devising and developing leadership roles that complement their policy and advocacy work:

The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) leads the HVAC industry with research and technical materials as well as online training.

Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) continually creates Societies to help their members address arising business needs.

National Institute of Investor Relations (NIRI) is building a certification program for its global membership.

A number of  Associations note that networking is a key element of the non dues revenue value proposition. In a number of cases, Associations utilize registration software allowing members to make networking appointments ahead of time.

Associations’ Non Dues Revenue Puzzle

When it comes to non dues revenue the Jerry McGuire “Show Me the Money” approach is a non starter. Why? Market competition, the rise of single issue coalitions and new Associations. Members expect connections to their business objectives, especially on products and services. Or they will vote with their check book and seek other solutions.

Market turbulence is now a part of the business landscape for Associations which means, any new products require the same type of due diligence before they go to market. Although there are no quick fixes, there is at least a method to make and build a case for products or services that add to member success.

non dues revenueFree eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available for all Association Executives at www.potomaccore.com,www.icimo.com,and www.verticalleapconsulting.com.

 

Why Mentors Matter to Association CEO’s

Why Mentors Matter to Association CEO’s

For years, hard working executives build a path to the corner office. Then the day arrives, they’ve achieved their professional ambition and become an Association CEO.  Where do they turn for unfettered strategic guidance? What about Chief Executives struggling to achieve revenue growth, or the CEO wanting to take the Association to the next level of performance?  Clearly an effective board and skilled senior management team make a difference, but one question remains.  Do CEO’s, regardless of circumstances, have a safe space they can go to obtain good feedback?

In today’s uncertain environment being at the top of the staff pyramid is challenging on good days and daunting on bad days.  Wary Association Executives also know they need to tread lightly as there might be a political agenda hiding behind issues. Having a mentor, an objective impartial perspective, can make a big difference in how things work out for CEO’s.

Mentors Provide Safe Space

Whether be symptoms or even perceived red flags, CEOs need perspective in order to make sure the Association satisfies its members, grows revenues and achieves its mission. One Association staff leader likened his environment to a busy day to a walk through the world’s busiest airport, “chaotic with everyone going in their own direction.” Another leader defined their experience as  “herding cats in a thunder storm.”

Interestingly enough the August 2012 issue of Workforce Magazine, a University of Phoenix Alumni Association publication, cited a Fortune 500 Survey that “75% of Fortune 500 CEOs cited mentoring as one of the top three factors in their own career success.” Knowing this, Association CEOs could also be well served with effective mentors.

How does a CEO determine what Type of Mentor they Need?

Regardless of time in the position or tenure at an Association, identifying one or more mentors  is something every CEO can and should do.  First, however, an executive needs to develop a self profile based on the following:

 1. What is the current situation?  New CEO, first time CEO, promoted from within, etc.

 2. Are the issues facing the Association strategy or management and execution related?

 3.  What is the feedback from Board Leadership, colleagues and staff?

 4. An inventory of skills, strengths and weaknesses.

Develop four buckets, determine the drivers within each of the four categories and formulate a theme of issues that need to be addressed. Now a CEO is ready to determine the type of mentor that can be most helpful.

Next and Necessary Steps

A mentor can be a CEO colleague, a retired Executive, or a working professional not connected with the Association space. What matters most is a current Association Executive having the capacity to take a step back and assess what can be done to grow, improve and become a high performing leader.

Recruiting a mentor is straightforward, but it’s critical to have a one page summary outlining the 4 bucket strategy with clearly focused objectives.  The person you approach wants to know you’ve thought it through and you want their honest and objective guidance moving forward. There is no time limit, that is something a CEO and the prospective mentors determine in their work together.

A former colleague asked if more than one mentor could be helpful. Yes, as long as the objectives and desired outcomes are understood by both parties, more than one mentor can also be an effective strategy.

Why Mentors Matter to Association CEO’s

In a July 7, 2006 CEO Update article reflecting the complexity of issues facing today’s Executives  CEO Departures: What Went Wrong?” CEO tenure mirrors corporate America with an average span of only five years. While there are other factors that weigh heavily on CEO transitions, having a mentor can help a busy Chief Executive avoid the inevitable pitfalls.

 Mentors can, do, and will matter for Association CEOs. Having skilled, qualified and impartial observers provides the right level perspective and objectivity that makes a difference.

mentorsFree eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available for all Association Executives at www.potomaccore.com,www.icimo.com,and www.verticalleapconsulting.com.

 

What’s Culture’s Affect on Association Change?

This is the sixth in a series on organizational culture, its role, how it is shaped, and how it can be changed.

 What’s Culture’s Affect on Association Change?

As a leader setting out to sponsor change, it is important to understand what that change will bump into in the Association’s culture. The more conscious the potential collisions are made, the more they can be avoided.

Professor Edgar Schein, a former MIT professor, identified 10 factors that transmit and embed culture. They are:

Formal statements of organizational philosophy (mission, values, imperatives, goals, etc.).

Design for physical spaces.

Deliberate role modeling, teaching, and coaching by leaders.

Explicit reward and status system, and promotion criteria.

Stories, legends, myths and parables about key people and events.

What leaders pay attention to, measure, and control.

Leader reactions to critical incidents or organizational crisis.

Organization design and structure.

Organizational systems and procedures (such as its management system).

Criteria used for recruitment, selection, and promotion.

Association Leaders

As a leader, this checklist is useful in assessing the gap between where the Association is, how it got there, and where it wants to go. By walking through these potential collisions, an Association leader can significantly improve the odds of success.What’s important in these assessments and subsequent communications about them is to not cast judgment on the past. The past just is what it is – we can never understand the motives of people nor fully appreciate the circumstance in which things happened. If we offer criticism we set a judgmental tone – even condemnation. That approach does nothing to increase the sense that the coming change will be safe to embrace and that related struggles will not be subject to the same criticism.

What’s culture’s affect on Association change?

Association ChangeAs we work with customers on the Now Management System® we directly and overtly address items 1, 3, 6, and 9. But we encourage, advise and support addressing every single item in order to ensure their culture change sticks and that it delivers the business results that led to the desired change in the first place.

What are the attributes that allow an Association to make changes quickly? I’ll share some thoughts on that next week.

 

 

Association Member Engagement Mountain

Association Member Engagement Mountain

 For Associations, one of the most important and critical challenges facing them is Member Engagement. CEO’s and Senior Managers agree, the more the company is engaged the better the chance of member renewal. However, weak member participation, sinking retention, falling conference attendance and sponsor revenues are symptoms of a bigger and potentially dangerous challenge.  The Association’s Member Engagement Strategy may require a deep dive by CEOs and the Management team.

It’s important that in this day and age that Associations not “leave well enough alone.” The Stay or Go Imperative could impact an Association’s financial health and well being. If membership is a distraction instead of ROI, Corporations vote with their feet and instead invest in a different solution.

Yes,  Corporations have smaller corporate staff, in some instances one executive may wear multiple hats. However, if this executive makes the dues decision, then a strategy or a change is  necessary.

Read the Tea Leaves

Companies look for the connection to business objectives as part of their membership evaluation process. If these connections don’t exist, it’s difficult for any Association to execute an effective strategy to engage members. Metrics are like tea leaves they both paint a picture and they tell a story.

If Associations observe that conference attendance is equal or less to prior years, educational meetings and fly-in attendance is significantly lower, and member retention is down for three consecutive years,  it is time for an intervention. The marketplace could also signal one or more of the following: 

  • Negative view of the culture and overall effectiveness of an Association.
  • The Association is perceived as not being as impactful in educational, policy or advocacy programs.
  • Other solutions including coalitions, conference providers or other Association programs deliver greater value.

Never Hit The Panic Button

Associations should embrace the challenge and convert the situation into a strategic opportunity. When diagnosing, member participation and revenue fall-off rebuild the path to engagement: one company at a time, obtain clarity on business and policy objectives, and understand what members really must achieve from participation achieve.

CEO’s can keep in mind that success and failure are never final, the road forward offers hope, and a more definitive path to member engagement.

Develop Data Driven Strategies

Associations need to build a data set to help them understand why participation and revenues have fallen.  However, it’s key to put heavier weight on relationships; in a complex world the human connection matters. One member at a time, collect the following information:

  • Is the Association perceived as staff or member driven?
  • Does participation help executives achieve company business objectives?
  • Why do executives participate in other Associations or Coalitions?
  • How important is networking?
  • Would Social Media engagement on platforms such as LinkedIn reflect an attractive alternative?
  • Are educational and or certification programs relevant to career advancement?

While Associations may develop additional or different questions, these open the door to constructive dialogue with disengaged members. Tally the responses, create internal task forces of senior managers and key staff, develop solutions and new strategies, assign performance metrics and then execute.

Association Member Engagement Mountain

For Association CEO’s who have or who are looking into the abyss, there is light at the end of the tunnel. An Association Executive confronting the worst dues loss in decades once reported record gains in member participation, advocacy effectiveness and revenue growth. Stepping back, building an Association wide member focus with data driven strategies proved to be a year long process worthy of the effort. Yes, the participation, retention and growth outcomes were record highs but the data really reflected stronger member connectivity.

Climbing the Member Engagement Mountain is vital and necessary for every Association. It can also be the determining strategy helping Associations achieve revenue growth.

member engagementFree eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available for all Association Executives at www.potomaccore.com,www.icimo.com,and www.verticalleapconsulting.com.