Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ever thought of starting a Sociassociation?

Ok, which one of your called it an "sociassociation?"

Guest Post by James R. Schnurbusch, Chief StoryCrafter, OrgStory

Maybe your members and prospects would rather belong to a “Sociassociation”

We’ve all heard them – cute little three year-olds trying out new words. 

I heard one recently and it got my attention. Certainly it was cute how the little girl said the word she was working hard to say – but it stopped me in my tracks when I thought about her mispronunciation of the word, Association.

It came out, “Sociassociation." 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Words Matter to Success of Association Executives

SCD Group is relocating its office. During this transition, Steve is revisiting and/or updating some former blogs.


I’ve written before (see below) that words matter ... especially to association executives.

Our words – whether written or spoken – greatly influence our success as well as the success of our associations.

I’m not sure I’ve shared my 3 steps of power writing ... a system that gives you the tools to 

carefully craft the words you’ll use for your association.

Step 1: Pre-Write

Think before your write. Answer the four questions I shared in Words Matter: 7 steps to enhance your association's connection with members 


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Causes can energize associations while engaging members

Coats 4 Kids, Bread Art Project, Canstruction & Trees 4 Troops: causes connecting community and  associations

Mark Athitakis, senior editor of Associations Now, asked me to comment on a story he is doing about a new campaign by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society called “Someday Is Today.”

 While not a true cause marketing campaign, it is a mix of web/social media/print/TV, and more.

Cause marketing represents a great program opportunity for trade associations and professional societies ... but, for a multitude of reasons many organizations have not dipped their toes into the cause marketing realm.

And, that is a missed opportunity to engage members, to fulfill your mission, to help a great cause.

Here are some of the excuses I’ve heard associations give:

  1. We’re not big enough
  2. We’re not a charity
  3. We don’t have enough money

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A New Type of Conference Education

What Can Your Association Learn from Chicken Learning?

Guest Post by Emily Bibens, CAE
Stale PowerPoint presentations. Cold, windowless conference rooms. Attendees more engaged with their smartphones than with the speaker. Sound familiar? Too often, this describes conference education sessions. 

A year ago, we set out to change this dynamic at Western Nursery and Landscape Association conventions. 

The result was a series of Learning Centers developed in partnership with 15 exhibiting companies. Attendees had the opportunity to visit a series of “Learning Centers” set up within exhibitors’ island booths. Each scheduled, 20-minute education session covered a brief, timely topic and provided attendees with information they could take home and immediately use in their business. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

11 tips for association executives to cope with riding a dead horse

I’m not sure where I found this but have modified it to fit today’s association management world.

Dakota Indian wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, it is best to dismount. In associations (as in business); however, we often try other strategies/tactics including:

  1. Buying a stronger whip.
  2. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
  3. Seeking “best practices” on what to do with a dead horse.
  4. Increasing the standards to ride dead horses.
  5. Saying things such as “This is the way we have always ridden this horse.”
  6. Creating a training session to increase our riding ability.
  7. Hiring experts to find new uses for dead horses.
  8. Doing a cost analysis study to see if contractors can ride it cheaper.
  9. Declaring the horse is “better, faster and cheaper” when it is dead.
  10. Purchasing products to make the dead horse run faster.
  11. Providing additional funding to increase the horse’s performance.
Many associations have programs and services that are a dead horse. 
Too many spend hours debating and scarce funds trying to revive the dead horse. 

Like it or not, the best thing to do with a dead horse (or a dead program) is to get rid of it and find a new horse.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Associations Boost Economy

Associations based in St. Louis region have payrolls of $200 million plus

Several years back, I met with a local economic development commission seeking their help to encourage associations to relocate to our community. 

After my presentation, one of the commissions said something like “but why do we want nonprofits to locate here; after all, they don’t pay taxes.”

I reminded him (and the other commissioners) that association employees do pay taxes and do generate business!

Monday, April 22, 2013

7 Valuable Articles for Association Executives

Five Daily 'Must Do' Items for Flacks (Association PR professionals) 
By Gerard E Mayers via Flack Me blog
  1. Read
  2. Prioritize
  3. Assess
  4. Work out
  5. Contribute
Kick your organization’s old habits: Tips for creating a better work culture 
By Shannon Neeser via XYZ University blog
Your organization is doing what it does because it’s always worked for you; or has it? It’s time to look to the future instead of putting too much stock in the past. Your old habits might actually be holding you back. Kick ‘em to the curb and develop a future work culture that will sustain your organization and grow future talent Create a new, better, work culture.
Work culture is a major contributor to how happy your employees are and how much new talent wants to join your organization. Is your culture outdated? It might be, and changing it can be tricky but essential.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Meal Guarantees Make or Break Association Meeting Budgets

As a prelude to starting my own association management company, I served as a contractor to help a major corporation hold educational conferences for customers. We held these throughout the country.

My experience with association and nonprofits had ingrained me on the importance of meal guarantees. And, I really disliked it when we had to pay for meals that were guaranteed but not eaten.

Here’s what my experience showed:

  • most exhibitors don’t eat convention meals
  • many attendees (depends on group’s history) don’t eat convention meals
  • most hotels set 10% more than you guarantee

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Association executives: Would staff-led evaluations produce better results?

Goal setting and annual evaluations are standard fare for the human resource roles of association executives and senior managers.

As an association executive, I really disliked the annual staff evaluation sessions. I felt the “grading system” was artificial and failed to adequately provide feedback. This is partly because most executives fear giving staff the top or bottom “grades.”

As the owner of an association management company, I tried to modify the process and eliminate the “grading system” in favor of written comments and no grades. I still wasn’t satisfied that the process was effective.

Our daughter is an awesome first grade teacher in Colorado Springs. She recently came to St. Louis (to help in our office move) right after finishing “parent-teacher conferences.” You know, the part where the teacher gets to tell the parents about their children’s progress in school. And, first grade parents are always nervous because of the importance of that grade.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

3 Examples of Why Associations Should Staff Appropriately for Conventions



Over the last 35 years as an association executive, I’ve had eight or nine boards question why we had so many staff at the board meetings and/or conventions. 

I usually smiled because we did a lot of “hand-holding” for these same board members.

Now, part of me knows that it is hard enough to know what we do let alone how we do it. And, part of me wanted to scream because these board members would “jump on us” if they or their spouse had to wait in line at registration.


Here are three examples that help answer the board’s questions from the eyes of a possible attendee.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Association Executives: Our Words Influence Our Attitudes and Our Staff Leadership

In the year before I was fired as an association executive (back in 1992), my initial response to callers who asked “how are you doing?” was “hangin’ in there.”

In retrospect, I realize that the phrase “hangin’ in there” represented a negative signal from the No. 2 exec in the organization. And, those simple words passed along an attitude to volunteers and staff.

I thought about this as I read Jenna Goudreau’s recent post in Forbes about 12 Ways to Eliminate Stress at Work

Before reading her post, I mused that stress is self induced. Sort of like my “hangin’ in there” conveyed an attitude to my callers.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Exit, Voice and Loyalty: Choices for Association Executives, Leaders, Members



Over the last 30+ years in associations and nonprofit organizations, I’ve witnessed:
  • Major donors defect from the organization 
  • Board members yell and debate over seemingly inconsequential matters
  • Members resign in protest over the organization’s policies
With that background, I was astonished to read about Albert Hirschman’s 1970 piece called Exit, Voice and Loyalty” as noted in Roger Lowenstein’s Wall Street Journal review titled The Choice: To Squawk or to Go? 

Some key points:

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Associations Note: Being 1st to Market Still Relevant


SCD Group is relocating its office.  During this transition, Steve is revisiting and/or updating some former blogs.

Three quick questions:
  • Who was the second man on the moon? 
  • Who was runnerup to last year’s Heisman Trophy? 
  • Who was the second person to fly solo across the Atlantic?
We’ve been told for decades that it is important to be first to market with a product to service.

At the 2012 Content Marketing World Conference, Sam Sebastin, Google’ Director of B2B Markets, talked about the Zero Moment of Truth.

Rule #5: Be Fast!

Sam shared the case of two companies providing an app with free recipes.
  • Betty Crocker launched its app first and quickly reached 81,800 users. Five months later, Kraft launched its recipe app (which Sam described as “better”) but reached only 9,900 users. 
Sam’s conclusion: by being first, Betty Crocker got 8 times more users that Kraft.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Association Membership Marketing: Are You Fishing in the Right Pond?



SCD Group is relocating its office.  During this transition, Steve is revisiting some former blogs.

This piece on association member marketing was one of the first blogs for SCDdaily.


As some of you know, I enjoy fishing.  Especially our family’s annual fishing adventure to Canada.  We’ve been doing it for more than 45 years.  Dad and my brother Dave started the tradition which now includes Dave, his twin sons Randy and Todd, my son Mike and our family friend Brian. (That’s me on the left and the “younger generation” on the right!)

Linking fishing and membership marketing may seem like a stretch but let me explain!

Here’s a potential dialog between two association professionals discussion member development:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hiring “old mold” doesn’t create new ideas for association leaders

I first read Michael Wolff’s column “Columbia Flunks Relevancy Test” because of my degree in journalism and interest in j-schools.

Here are some points that struck a nerve with me:

  • It might seem that, as journalism becomes an ever-more challenged profession, people trying to build a journalism career might want to know how to hold an audience's attention, with verbal pyrotechnics, say, or technological acumen, as well as how to scrupulously inform it.
  • But hiring another New Yorker writer, one who, of note, has never tweeted in his life, is yet quite an audacious statement about news values and direction. It is an opposite point of view, and almost as audacious as just hiring the journalist with the most Twitter followers.
  • Columbia, raking in $58,008 in yearly tuition and fees from each student and then sending them into a world of ever-bleaker prospects, ought, more reasonably and honestly, to just shut its doors.
  • But it is also an intellectual failure: The information marketplace is going through a historic transformation, involving form, distribution, business basis and cognitive effect, and yet Columbia has just hired a practitioner to lead it with little or no career experience in any of these epochal changes.
  • In a logical if imaginary world, there is no reason why Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism should not be as vital to the building of the front end of new information forms and relationships as Stanford computing students have been to creating the back end.

Monday, April 8, 2013

7 Readings for Association Executives

SCD Group is relocating its office. During this transition, Steve is revisiting and/or updating some former blogs.  Because of the transition, despite the headline, these articles span the last several weeks.

Attract a Huge Crowd With LinkedIn 
By Marla Tabaka via Inc.
It happens every single time. If you're planning an event, you get the panic. No matter whether you're throwing a virtual event--such as a webinar or a Google+ hangout--or full-weekend-long physical conference, there's that unavoidable moment when you think: "How on earth do I make sure these seats are full?" You may not know it, but you've got an invitation list right at your fingertips. You'll find you're A-list when you use LinkedIn to research, plan, publicize, and produce your event. This link provides three great tips.

Boomers reinvent themselves in retirement 
By Christine Dugas via USA TodayBoomers are your senior managers, you board leaders, your membership. The Baby Boomers who grew up during the hippie counterculture movement are unlikely to follow in their parents' footsteps as they approach retirement. But Boomers, many of whom are turning 65, have no road maps. They not only have to figure out how to make their money last, but they need to reinvent themselves in the second act of life.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Timing Associations and NCAA Basketball Games: How much learning time in your conference?

The NCAA national basketball championship plays out tonight (4/8) with Michigan facing Louisville.

The Wall Street Journal timed NCAA tournament basketball games this year and discovered that playing basketball (40 minutes) represents only 29.4% of the game time. See chart below.


Interesting – but perhaps not surprising – stats considering that TV timeouts are 20.5% of the game time.

This got me to thinking ... have you ever timed your schedule to determine just how much learning goes on? And, what if your members – like your exhibitors – put a stop watch to your events

Thursday, April 4, 2013

“Nothing ruins a good association like too much money.”

SCD Group is relocating its office.  During this transition, Steve is revisiting some former blogs.


I’ve never forgotten this comment from Indiana soybean farmer Wilf Illingsworth in the 1980s. It speaks to money and associations and other nonprofit organizations. I’ve come to learn it’s a pretty accurate statement.

And, I thought of Wilf’s statement as I read Mark Rosenman’s Chronicle of Philanthropy article titled “Calling All Boomers: Don’t Start More Nonprofits.”

In the opinion piece, Rosenman espoused that we have too many nonprofits and seems to suggest that the nation would be better off if the nonprofits were “centralized” in Washington (although this may be my non-Washington bias).

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Perspective as a Tool for Association Executives: 4 Questions To Ask


This is how we usually see our clothes closets
My early experiences in photography showed me the value of perspective and how really great photos are often those taken with an unusual perspective. 

I was able to watch two master photo journalists: one at the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald and the other with The Associated Press. Their “eye” for great photos always amazed me. And their use of perspective created awesome photos.

And, so?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Warning to association executives: differentiate but don’t dilute your services

Differentiate vs Dilute


SCD Group is relocating its office. During this transition, Steve is revisiting (and/or updating) some former blogs.

The other day I spotted Tim Worstall’s column in Forbes titled Where Maker's Mark Went Wrong On Diluting The Bourbon: Not Enough Economics 
As I read the piece, it made me think it was time for a freemium re-wind.
Here are the key elements of Tim’s column:
  • The problem the company faced was that demand for the product exceeds the capacity to supply. Given the number of years it takes to make and mature the whiskey it is not a simple matter to increase supply. 
  • Price discrimination, market segmentation: the little bits of economics that you get taught in business school.
  • And, you know thinking about it as a brand new supply and demand situation makes clear what they should have done: created a new brand name with less alcohol. You know: old Maker’s Mark at 90 proof with red wax on the bottle, and new Maker’s Mark at 84 proof with blue wax on the bottle. Then raise the price of the premium product, market the new product at a discounted price … and clean up with price discrimination. But nooooo …
  • And as that quote from a professor at a Business School shows, this is what Maker’s Mark should have done. Product differentiate so as to price discriminate. You get the extra money from those willing to pay more and still keep the revenues from the price sensitive. As most large corporates do but as all too many family run companies do not.

Monday, April 1, 2013


In “Content Fried” World, Associations Content Curation Can Benefit Members


SCD Group is relocating its office.  During this transition, Steve is revisiting some former blogs.

I originally posted this on 2/15/12.  As I mentioned in my 1/1/13 post Switchtasking into 2013: confessions of an association professionalI have 51 partly done blogs sitting in my computer!


As I looked through piles of paper researching for my next SCDdaily blog post, I sighed and said “so much paper!” I realize I am – in the words of Beth Kanter – content fried. 

Newspapers, television, magazines and faxes have expanded to Facebook, YouTube, Hulu, Twitter, Pinterest and a host of other platforms to create a tsunami of information.