Association Growth Starts With Relevance

Association Growth Starts With Relevance

Could anyone in the Association universe imagine the Digital world we live in now? News and information are transmitted in real time. Tweets and instant messages flow on mobile devices. And there are new apps everyday to enhance the user interface. How do Association’s stay relevant with their members?

3 Pillar Focus

Competition for a smaller pool of corporate membership dollars requires differentiation. Following the 3 Pillar Focus, Associations will elevate their brand and fortify their value proposition.

Pillar I: Rise above the crowd, using clear and consistent themes. Be viewed as a solution provider, a forceful advocate helping members achieve their business objectives. Digital properties, mobile applications, press releases and e mail consistently drive the message.

Pillar II: Develop authoritative studies and partner with established brand firms. In a 24/7 cable and web news cycle, Radio, Television and Web Producers look for compelling content. Powerful facts and figures and a strong brand partner could secure business media interviews on digital and or traditional media.

Pillar III: Media Partnerships can magnify messaging and the Association’s brand. Work with Trade and other Publications to develop surveys which reflect the contributions of the industry or industries on the economy, export expansion and or research and development.

Look for What’s Next

Always be looking for what’s next, but keep in mind all platforms have a constituency. Never lose sight of how and where you need to drive your messaging. There is always some new technology developing, be ready to drive your message on whatever platform comes next.

Relevance Matters

Regardless of Association size there should be a Communications Strategy. It’s a safe bet and a sure bet. Associations who drive relevance perform well:

  • Annual Conference attendance doubled and Sponsor revenues by 100% at one Association.
  • Online revenues shot up several hundred thousand dollars at another organization.

Association Growth Starts With Relevance

 There is considerable traffic in multiple channels, becoming and staying in front of members is critical to member satisfaction and revenue growth. For Associations relevance is key, driving messaging with a multi channel Communications strategy is necessary and essential.

association growth


Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available for all Association Executives at,, and

Association Culture Change Is a Big Deal

Association Culture Change Is a Big Deal

 As my colleague Beth Doolittle puts it, “Culture is not what we say it is, it is what it is.”

Association Culture Change is a big deal

John M. Bernard, Culture of Innovation Author,
Chairman and Founder,
Mass Ingenuity

The Next Seven Weeks 

I intend to strip away the mystery of culture and share with you what it is, what creates it, and how to change it in order to meet organizational goals.

Culture Matters

Culture is the great invisible hand, and that hand determines much of what is possible for Associations to achieve. But because it is invisible, shaping it is one of the great challenges of leadership.

Culture is Central

Most Associations’ cultures restrain rather than accelerate change. Obviously that won’t work if your organization must move more quickly and effectively. So, as leaders we must understand what causes culture in order to create the culture we need to prosper.

Dr. Peter Drucker, often called the father of modern management, is credited with having said, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” That is one of the great truths about organizations. Culture, not the leaders, determines what is accepted and what is rejected. Culture decides which people will be accepted and successful and which ones will leave. Culture determines which ideas get implemented and which get dumped. And, culture determines if corporate strategy will even be given a chance to succeed.

Association Culture Change Is a Big Deal

We live at a time when all Associations – are facing demands for change that go well beyond any time in the past. Culture is central to organizational change because it determines the direction and pace at which it will be accepted.

Association Culture is a big deal. Why?  Culture is a great lever of change and it’s mysterious. It’s mysterious because what moves it isn’t what you might think.

Next week, I will talk about the role culture plays in change.  I’ll also share the primary tool that shapes culture and, therefore, can reshape it.


Association Member Pain Points

member pain pointsAssociation Member Pain Points. Growth focused Associations utilize data as a foundation to deliver programs and services to members. While member survey outreach varies among Associations, what’s clear is how important this data is in helping organizations assess its uniqueness and relevance. The Technology Association of Georgia,, for example, surveys it’s members annually to reinforce their connection to member business objectives. This laser focus contributed to TAG’s strong revenue growth from $500,000 in 2004 to $3.4 million in 2012.

Decision Maker Study

Although data can reinforce the value being provided, it uncovers new pain points to deliver services and increased ROI.  According to Tino Mantella, TAG President and CEO, that annual outreach uncovered an important gap.


Unique and Relevant

Data provides actionable intelligence to Mantella and his team. Their expansive platform of interest groups reflect pain point concerns. The Association provides opportunities for members to engage and last year alone TAG held over 200 hundred such meetings.


Real engagement is about  bringing companies together and facilitating the dialogue leading to new solutions to shared “pain point” issues. Companies value and engage in those activities which they believe will positively impact a personal or company priority. TAG utilizes 32 different Societies to engage its members with significant success.Engagement Supports Pain Points


 In TAG’s example, the Association achieved revenue growth because of their transition to higher levels of member engagement combined with the usage of actionable data and pain point connections to satisfy Company needs.

Association Member Pain Points

Associations compete for fewer available corporate dollars. Those using data to determine actionable strategies to address and satisfy pain point issues will thrive. The Technology Association of Georgia is a solid example of using data to keep member needs front and center.

Core Pillars Drive Association Growth

Core Pillars Drive Association Growth.  For an Association to grow membership 600% in 8 years means data driven strategies, establishing core connections and member engagement are all part of the equation.  For the Technology Association of Georgia,, it starts with annual member research, a strong Board of Directors and it’s culture of always looking for something new to support its members. Arriving on the scene in 2004, CEO Tino Mantella brought his growth packed track record from the YMCA of Chicago and the National Arthritis Foundation. Leveraging vast growth experience and a potent Board of Directors, Mantella launched TAG on a consistent evolution of new programs and powerful ROI.


core pillars

Tino Mantella President &CEO Technology Association of Georgia Photo provided by Byte Graphics

Growth Foundation

Identifying Technology as Georgia’s growth engine became Mantella’s focal point. He pitched the state’s top Technology and Business leaders to serve on TAG’s Board. The overriding strategy was effective as the Board grew from just five executives to 65 today. The Board provides strategic direction and the staff develops and executes a plethora of activity.





Two Prong Focus to Achieve Growth

Although TAG is a not for profit Association, Mantella says “the more you can run like a business, the more you can impact the nonprofit world.” He engaged his board in a two pronged approach to involve companies and grow the Association.  Once successful, TAG would have the resources necessary to support Economic Development in the State of Georgia.


Alignment Delivers Growth

TAG’s Value proposition is clear. Members can influence policy, promote Georgia’s Technology Leadership, and engage in C Level roundtables. Throughout his tenure, Mantella utilizes data to track service delivery, member participation and growth. Behind the data is alignment of the Association’s Strategic plan, operating plan and employee performance objectives.


Core Pillars Drive Association Growth

Having grown to a staff size of 25 professionals, what’s clear is Tino Mantella and TAG are not done innovating and providing new platforms to help their members. The Association works passionately to remain relevant. In my next post, I’ll share how the Technology Association of Georgia utilizes Data to Connect to pain points and deliver consistent member value.

How does your Association keep current with member needs?

Much more on Association Revenue Growth at

Associations and Leading from Your Heart

Leading from your heart. Growing up we all learned that not everyone could lead. Everyone heard the reference  “Many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Time and again many are reminded leadership is special, it means helping people. Organizations including Associations, Community Groups or Political Parties are all important because they had a mission focusing on making things better. Serving in Leadership capacities as a CEO, or as an Elected Official, success was only possible when Leading from your Heart.

Selfless, Service and Success

For Association Executives facing considerable challenges, Leading from your Heart could be difficult. Maybe not. In today’s world a successful leader is defined as Triple S:

  1. Selfless –       Community satisfaction matters most.
  2. Service  –       To others is a priority
  3. Success –      Staff, Board and Members working in harmony to achieve mutual objectives.


Why should an Association Executive be Leading from your Heart? In a real time world, market conditions change like days in the week. Triple S (Selfless, Service and Success) centers focus on people, mission and community. Working in harmony means new products are identified to satisfy the community. When obstacles arise (and they will and do) everyone joins forces to overcome difficulties and achieve objectives.


A number of successful Association CEO’s use the Triple S approach. Working in a Community they achieved strong outcomes:

1. Grew membership and revenue in international markets.

3. Using Technology to make greatest weakness the greatest strength and growing revenue.

4. Aligning an underperforming organization to deliver stronger value to members and growing revenues.

In each situation CEO’s utilized the Triple S Leading from Your Heart approach. Revenues grew not because of slick sales campaigns, it was because the Associations were Communities going in one direction.

Associations and Leading from your Heart

Late one night, having suffered an enormous personal tragedy, my Dad, Dr. Daniel J. Varroney, put aside his loss to help a family injured in an auto accident. Rather than go home, I watched him run back into the Hospital to help treat their injuries. Being selfless, serving others for the sake of community was a lesson he taught me many times over.

In today’s world the Triple S Leading from your Heart could be what the Doctor recommends most. Its worked for me as it has for others.

Innovation Author Helps Associations


Culture of Innovation Author

John M. Bernard, Innovation Author,
Chairman and Founder,
Mass Ingenuity

Innovation Author. John M. Bernard, Chairman and  Founder, Mass Ingenuity, will serve as a Contributor on the Potomac Core Consulting Blog. Bernard is also the Author of Business at the Speed of Now. He is also an experienced executive (CEO, SVP Operational Excellence, Founder, Chairman), consultant, speaker and outspoken advocate for the elimination of fear.

Culture Drives Revenue Growth

For the next seven weeks, Bernard will provide key insights for Associations that are looking to innovate as they better engage their staff and provide value for members. The posts will appear every Thursday and include the following critical topics:

  • What does it take to create a Culture that Actively Supports Change? 
  • What Accelerates Cultural Change?
  • What’s culture’s affect on Organizational Change?
  • Can a Culture Change Quickly?
  • Why Leaders Should Worry About Their Culture?
  • What Changes Culture?
  • The Mysterious Lever of Success

Innovation Author helps Associations

Bernard recently appeared in a post sharing 3 Steps to Culture of Innovation

How does your Association navigate culture and drive innovation?  Let’s share ideas.

Association Growth and Retention

Association Growth and Retention.  What’s the most effective road to consistent dues growth? Member Retention. Why? Because member retention reflects the best barometer of value received, member engagement and an Association’s relevance. The most satisfied or dissatisfied members don’t hesitate to share their ROI or their dissatisfaction when they speak with other members, prospective members or competitors. If an Association wonders where the biggest impediment to growth lies, it is Retention.

Beware of The Billboard Effect

In the real time world, both good and bad news travel fast. One bad member experience can be posted and spread like a wildfire of bad news. An Associations’ threat is real and CEO’s should  factor this reality in their member engagement strategies. Many are implementing Association wide strategies to involve all staff in member engagement and participation.

It’s not all bad news, The Billboard Effect works with satisfied members too. Satisfied members are happy to convey positive news as well.  In one Association, satisfied members scheduled meetings with prospective members (who later joined), and in another Association satisfied Board Members agreed to recruit new Directors based on their positive experience.

Growth and Retention Multiplier

Make no mistake, Retention is a growth multiplier. Some Associations re calibrated their membership strategies and rightly so. The better the retention performance then the better the cash flow and year end net growth performance.

Secret Formula, Use it Today

1. First Year Renewal for New Members, Add $20,000 to Year End Growth

Example ,$100,000 first year renewals, improve retention from 70% to 90%.

2. Member renewals, add $200,000 to Year End Growth

Example, $1 million renewals, improve retention from 70% to 90%

Best Practices

One Association achieved two consecutive $1 million plus net revenue gains, another improved cash flow by several hundred thousand dollars. CFO’s will appreciate this approach. This is a more balanced and less expensive approach to revenue growth.

Association Growth and Retention

 Link growth and retention and Associations potentially multiply year end growth while they avoid the downside of the Billboard Effect.

Much more on Association Revenue Growth at

3 Steps to Culture of Innovation at Associations

3 Steps to Culture of Innovation at Associations. Associations face a growing demand to customize programs, benefits and services for  members. “Mass Customization” is a reality says John M. Bernard, a noted Author and founder and Chairman of Mass Ingenuity In his Book “Business at the Speed of Now” Bernard emphasizes  that in a new millennium, customers expect immediate and customized solutions or they’ll go elsewhere. Bernard who will serve as a Guest Contributor for Potomac Core Consulting’s Blog,  breaks new ground helping Associations focus on new approaches to satisfy members. Bernard emphasizes Associations are best served when their Leaders establish an “innovative and creative culture for their workforce.”

3 Steps to Culture of Innovation at Associations

3 Steps to Culture of Innovation

John M. Bernard
Chairman and Founder,
Mass Ingenuity


  1.  Make Staff Empowerment the Norm

Encouraging staff to listen closely and identify specific needs from members, prospects and sponsors is a first step. The objective is to have staff feel empowered to quickly solve problems without intervention from higher levels of management.




      2.  Create an Innovative Centered Culture

Association Executives can create a culture whereby employees believe they can create, express themselves and innovate. Innovation is especially a key determinant of Association revenue growth. As member demands become more unique, Associations need to rely on innovation in order to satisfy unique needs.


    3.    Define Clear Boundaries

An essential part of creating an innovative culture is providing clarity for employees. For example, defining project boundaries meaning performance expectations, responsibilities and metrics for success. Says Bernard “if Managers do the hard work” and establish definition it will help foster positive culture and employee engagement.

Relevance in a Now World

Associations looking to stay relevant with members, prospects and sponsors can do so with 3 Steps to Culture of Innovation. In a customized and a Now World this could be the Member Satisfaction Game Changer Associations seek.

Much more on Association Revenue Growth at

Innovation Drives Double Digit Association Growth

innovationInnovation and ROI Drives Double Digit Association Growth.  Revenue growth is challenging in any environment. Regardless, constant innovation helped Gregory Casey, President and CEO,  BIPAC and Industry Political Action Committee) achieve double digit revenue growth and membership growth over the past decade.

Changed the Game

BIPAC delivers grass roots tools to help Corporations and Associations reach public policy goals. However, it is Casey’s persistent focus on maintaining the organization’s relevance with high impact tools that served as a game changer. Testing new technology platforms and always challenging his team to keep looking around the corner reflect the centerpiece of BIPAC’s culture.

Pain Points and Core Connections

BIPAC maintains a crisp focus on how members achieve their business objectives. It’s programs and services connects to and drive business outcomes through grass roots advocacy. The Rule of Thumb applies to BIPAC’s success; the greater the connection to “pain point” issues, the greater the degree of revenue growth.

Utilizing its programs (Prosperity Fund, Prosperity Project, PAC Resources and Political Analysis among others) BIPAC delivers actionable resources to inform and activate employees on priority public policy issues. Through its state deployment partners, BIPAC boasts its “50 State” grass roots capacity for Companies and Association who participate.


Silicon Valley Innovation Culture

Founded in 1963 as the nations’ first business bipartisan and independent political action committee, BIPAC continually evolves.  The organization invests and reinvests in new technologies to help Companies and Associations with customized technology solutions to accelerate grass roots policy impact with Congress.

Challenges and Opportunities

Not unlike any other Association or organization, BIPAC too has its share of market impediments. Making complex economic issues relevant to employees can be at times a substantial challenge says Casey. However, by leveraging technology as its most potent asset, they deliver results.


Innovation Drives Double Digit Association Growth

If necessity is the mother of invention, BIPAC is a good example of how innovation can be the mother of double digit growth.

How does your Association apply innovation to deliver new products and services to its members?

Much more on Association Revenue Growth at

Driving Association Revenue Growth

Driving Association Revenue Growth. Board Participation is key.Company Executives are busy and in a number of cases expect Association staff to deliver revenue. Yet, there are examples where Board Members are very helpful in driving revenue. In certain situations, Boards help retain and recruit members and sponsors and the results are impressive. Could the paradigm change at your Association? Yes and it requires a strategic change in how your Association works with its Directors.

Four Steps to Board Participation 

First: Engage and Energize Board Members. Recruit Board members to participate on Pain Point issues (see March 4 2013 post: Know Pain Points to Drive Revenue Growth).  Executives will participate on Association Boards in order to engage on policy affecting their business objectives. Once they see ROI, it’s time for another conversation.

Second: Confirm that involvement adds ROI.  Share upcoming advocacy strategies, seek feedback and buy in.

Third: Seek help to expand the Association’s advocacy capacity on Pain Points. Be prepared, be specific and make it easy for them to help. For example, request introductions, phone calls, e mails, letters (Association provides) to priority retention, new member or sponsor companies.

Fourth: Acknowledge the Board members’ help to drive revenue.  Recognize help at their board and executive committee meetings. This shows sincere appreciation and it will motivate other Board Members to help.

Board Engagement

Associations should view this change as a multiyear effort. Every Board relationship is critical and consequently each is built one at a time.

Driving Association Revenue Growth

One Association utilized this approach to recruit a high percentage of its Directors. The same Board Members once they participated in Pain Point issues, helped drive back to back above 90% retention and $1 million + net revenue gains. Another Association built on new sponsor offerings and significantly increased revenues.

How has your Association worked with Board members to secure their help in driving revenue? 

Much more on Association Revenue Growth at