Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sense of Belonging Should Power Associations

Knowing Your WHY creates a sense of belonging
Walking through a very crowded Midway Airport the other day, I thought about a key point Simon Sinek makes in his awesome book Start with Why.
  • “All people of all cultures share the basic need to belong. When we feel like we belong, we feel connected and we feel safe. Our desire to feel like we belong is so powerful that we will go to great lengths, do irrational things and often spend money to get that feeling.”
Sinek mentions that often when traveling, we connect with strangers who turn out to be from our home towns or our home state. These may be people we really don’t know but when we’re away from home we connect with them because we both grew up in the same area.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What Does NCAA Mean for Large Associations?

If you lead or work for a large association with a highly diverse membership base, the current discussions regarding membership and governance of the NCAA should interest you.

For those who are not familiar with the story, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) represents nearly all college athletic programs from small (Division III) colleges to large (Division I) universities. (See USA Today's comprehensive story NCAA future: reform or rupture

The very large universities (which have annual athletic budgets of $80 to $110 million) have been complaining for some time that the NCAA governance structure allows small programs to vote on issues that may be to the detriment of the huge programs.

For example, the large universities have talked about providing full attendance scholarships and/or expense stipends to college athletes. (Something that many offer music majors and other academic scholars). The smaller schools, who say the cannot afford the stipends, have more votes than the big schools.

Some outspoken members of large universities are clamoring for changes in the NCAA governance (such as a special "division" of like-sized programs that could adopt rules suited to the large programs). Some have suggested absent any changes, they large schools should pull out and form their own association.

This issue could have implications for large, diverse associations and nonprofits.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Boomer Impact on Associations

I was visiting with an old friend last week. He retired a few years back. 

He had been really active in his small, niche national professional association. Active as in president, newsletter editor, national conference chair/host.

I asked if he was still involved.
  • “Well,” he said, “Not as much. It’s different. They changed their name to be more inclusive .... thinking that would bring in members to replace those who no longer had jobs in our field. I think that has killed the association. And, with the downsizing of our profession, fewer people are joining and attending meetings because their employers are now longer paying dues and registration fees.”
  • “The convention now has two distinct groups attending: those still working who attend the sessions and us retired folks who come to socialize with old friends. I think this may be the last one we attend.”
  • “We had a very active professional network. I can count the number of times someone has contacted me for questions about the profession or association: zero.”
My friend is still fairly young but I sense he feels “shut out” by his professional organization.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

High Water Covers All Association Stumps

This is just a great way to describe the mentality when things are going well. 

When the water is high, all the problems seem to disappear and the mood is elevated and working on long term results seems less important. 

When the water is low, the problems (stumps) show above the surface. The mood of staff and boards gets a bit ugly. Tempers can flare. If panic sets in, it’s easy to loose your way.

Here are some tips to keep you focused when times are good and when they are bad:
  • Always lead with optimism, even when you can see those stumps
  • Collaborate when it makes sense to do so and is practical and relevant, but evaluate whether action is occurring and abandon process if stagnant.
  • Building a culture of excellence will always pay off. Focus on it. Cultivate it. This is a great way to get through the tough times.
  • Change is good, as we live in a constant state of it. Be an agent for change with a philosophy of always keep improving.
  • Go forth and be a fearless leader.
What does your association do when times are great (or bad)?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Doing Good & Getting Caught Benefits Associations, Professions & Communities

Recent projects of two professions illustrate how associations can engage their members in doing good for their communities while promoting the image of the profession.

Bonita Dental Care – working as part of the Dentistry from the Heart program – provided free dental care to dozens of persons in the Bonita Springs (FL) area. Here’s the story from the Fort Myers News-Press

Meanwhile ... capitalizing on their skills as professional landscape artists, members of the national landscape industry association will perform a day of service beautifying the national cemetery’s grounds this month. Roughly 500 landscape artists will travel to DC this month to do what they do best at the Arlington National Cemetery as part of a day of service organized by PLANET, the national association for landscape professionals. Here’s the story from Associations Now

Similar to highly successful cause marketing campaigns, these programs show how associations can engage their members, provide valuable services to their communities and enhance the image of their profession or industry.

Associations seeking to engage and involve Generation Y prospects can greatly benefit from these types of programs.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New Poll Suggests New Pool of Volunteers

A recent USA Today/Bipartisan Policy Center poll of Americans feelings about public and community service may have surfaced good news for nonprofits and some associations.

The survey shows that Americans by more than 2-1 say the best way to make positive changes in society is through volunteer organizations and charities rather than through government service.

Those under 30 years are the most likely to feel this way.

Nearly 80 million Americans -- the Millennials -- fit within this age group. They are coming of age. They will be seeking ways to contribute and volunteer.

The question becomes: Will they find fulfillment by volunteering with your organization?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Associations and Newbies

As part of our relocation to Fort Myers, Florida, we’ve been looking for a church.

Our experience helps me realize what it must feel like to be searching for an association to join and/or what it is like to be a first-time conference attendee.

Finding a place

We began our search by Googling churches in the area. We were looking for denominations, location, programming. Is Google your front door too?
Initial visit

Monday, July 22, 2013

7 great reads association executives for the 7th month

4 Nonprofit Board Responsibilities That May Surprise YouVia IntrinXec blog

Does your non-profit board really understand what it means to be a board member? Here are some of the specific topics that I address with every board I work with – every year – no question.

  1. Legal Responsibilities
  2. The Nature of Boards: Board v. Committees v. Staff
  3. Board Liability, Risk & Exposure
  4. Sarbanes Oxley and Nonprofits / Form 990 Legal Requirements
Remembering the Human Factor in Membership Retention and Renewals 
By Tony Rossell via Membership Marketing blog
Sometimes we get so focused on the marketing mechanics of membership renewals that we forget that we are dealing with real people involved with everyday real life challenges. Instead, real member comments present a different picture. Simply put, members say that life is complicated, busy, transient, and costly and this interferes with them continuing membership. Here are some of the paraphrased responses members shared as to why they have not continued their membership.
  1. My employer STARTED to pay for my membership, so my membership address is now at the office.
  2. I am retired and want to continue, but did not see a low cost retired membership category available.
  3. I have not had a raise for years and I simply cannot afford membership.
  4. I was very busy and just keep forgetting to renew.
  5. The online renewal process was too complicated or did not work, so I gave up trying.
  6. I have been sick, but plan to renew when I feel better.
  7. We trade off membership every other year in my office.
  8. I have some unexpected expenses, but plan to come back when I have some more funds.
  9. I thought that my membership was still active.
  10. I am out of the country, but plan to continue when I return.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Why reward late comers with discounts?

I was at the airline gate the other day when the customer service rep announced that they would gate check (for free) anyone who had a large carryon bag (you know, like the one I paid $25 to check at the ticket counter). 

And, by the way, people with just one personal item (that would fit under the seat) could board early.

I don’t know about you but this didn’t sound fair. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Do you adapt or reject ideas for your association?

When I worked in college public relations, I had the chance to attend several professional development conferences.

I was always amazed when PR folks from “small colleges” would walk out of a session led by someone from a “big university” saying “well, I could never do that, I don’t have her big budget.

Or people coming from a session led by someone from a “small college” saying “they are way too small, there is nothing we can get from his ideas.”

These comments always frustrated me.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Good Miss Could be Association Success Strategy

My teaching golf pro taught me a new phrase: Good miss! (He mentioned this when I hit the shot poorly but it ended up in a great place.)

I thought of this when reading Dan & Chip Heath’s new book Decisive

They discussed Peter Drucker’s suggestion that executives should capitalize on “unexpected success.”

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Free is a strategic option for some associations

Years ago, Charles Rumbarger, CAE, told one of my groups “everyone in your industry is a member of your association, just some of them ain’t paying member dues.”

Why is that?

Because if “lobbying or advocacy” (state or national) is one of your core missions, everyone in your industry benefits whether or not they are paying your dues.

If your association conducts industry-wide research and/or marketing, everyone in the industry benefits not just those who are paying dues.

So, every association who conducts programs that benefit the industry (or profession) as a whole struggles (whether they know it or not) with the fact that one doesn’t have to join or pay dues to benefit from the association’s work.

Monday, July 15, 2013

4 lists / 29 tips for association marketers and association executives

10 Steps to Your First 1000 Fans on Facebook 
By Jo Barnes via

So you’ve been told to create a Facebook business page right? Apparently having a page will put your business on the map, you’ll drive loads of leads to your website, blog, offers and make a ton of sales! Along the way you’ll also build your credibility, reach and influence and perhaps become a celebrity CEO or a well known public figure (if that floats your boat!).
Step 1. Make your page interesting
Step 2. Create epic content
Step 3. Invite and tell all your friends
Step 4. Get networking
Step 5. Run contests
Step 6. Host webinars
Step 7. Facebook ads
Step 8. Interesting threads
Step 9. Add a Facebook “like” box to your blog/website
Step 10. The engagement circle

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Top 10 re Why Industry Insiders Fail as Associations CEOs

Guest Blog by Dave Drennan

In response to your July 9 post Should the CEO be an Industry Insider or Association Professional, I want to add my thoughts/experiences. 

Industry insiders don't last long in Association Management/CEO jobs because (in no particular order) as Dave's Top Ten:
  1. They can't stand board oversight and get fed up
  2. They are used to doing what they want and when they want without a board decision
  3. They are used to "larger budgets" than most Associations have
  4. If they haven't had sales experience, they don't like or understand membership recruiting/retention
  5. They are used to "larger" expense accounts, flying first class, staying in 5 Star hotels (not Comfort Inn)
  6. They like to spend money without another approval
  7. They don't like getting business phone calls to their home or on weekends
  8. They just can't understand and/or appreciate that Association work isn't black and white all of the time--it's gray
  9. Micro managing in board meetings drives them nuts
  10. They long for the "bright lights" sooner or later
You catch my drift. 

Dave Drennan
Executive Director
Missouri Dairy Association

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Don’t stop believin’ attitude drives association success

We were shopping the other day and saw this set of signs (a single unit).

Believe in the wonders of tomorrow!

Doesn’t that describe many of us who work for associations and other nonprofit organizations?
  • Passion
  • Belief
  • Expectations

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

8 Quotes for Association Executives

Here are eight quotes that might be useful in your work as an association executive:

"It's not where you are today that counts. It's where you are headed." - Arthur F. Lenehan

"It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop." - Confucius

"To think is easy. To act is hard. But the hardest thing in the world is to act in accordance with your thinking." - Johann von Goethe

"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." - John Wooden

"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." - Albert Einstein

"You can't turn back the clock. But you can wind it up again." - Bonnie Prudden

"Praise is like sunlight to the human spirit: we cannot flower and grow without it." - Jess Lair

"If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough." - Mario Andretti

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Should the CEO be an Industry Insider or Association Professional?

The other day I had a networking call from an experienced association professional. She had just left a senior position with a large national organization who had hired “one of their own” to serve as its CEO. My friend said “he tried to run the association like his private practice. It was a disaster. It is the first time in my career that I’ve resigned without another job in hand.”

I thought it a bit ironic that she called shortly after a fairly intense dialog on ASAE’s Executive Management egroup regarding whether associations should hire someone from the industry or someone who is an association professional.

When I owned my Association Management Company, I pledged to new clients that my staff and I would get to know their industry/profession so well that their members would come to think of us as someone from that industry/profession.

Here are some highlights from that online discussion:
(Note: since I did not get their permission to use their comments, I am only including first names.)

Monday, July 8, 2013

7 Readings for Association Executives

Rethinking Membership As A Global Engagement Model  By Nikki Walker via

For decades now, associations have maintained a very traditional approach towards “membership” and membership dues. However, the time has come for organizations to catch up with the realities of today’s consumer habits and reconsider how and why people around the world engage with organizations. Segmentation, customization and differentiation are key.
  • Members, customers or community
  • Defining value
  • Evolving membership models
  • The trusted source of knowledge
Is There a New Normal for Associations — Not So Much! 
By Michael LoBue via LoBue & Majdalany Association Management 
For years the association community has been treated to passionate claims about how the world has been changing, resulting in a new normal or paradigm shifts and how our organizations will become extinct if we don't change our "membership model," or "give it all away." Do these dooms-day claims have merit? Not according to how the community of associations were actually led and managed over the last two decades! According to the data, the association model is still strong and vibrant and not facing extinction. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

When is a Board decision a Board decision?

After several years with a large international association, our staff realized that a new program or major decision might take three board meetings before we got a decision.

At the first meeting with the board of a national association that had hired us as its AMC, I told its board that until they voted three times, I wasn’t really sure what they wanted to do. And, I’ll be darned! At that very same meeting, the board voted to increase the dues; then to lower the dues; and finally not to change the dues!

Another time, in reviewing a board’s minutes and policies, I discovered that the organization had adopted two conflicting policies: one to operate on an accrual financial basis and the other to be a cash basis. And, that wasn’t the only conflicting or out-of-date policies.

I shared this the other day with an association executive who was complaining that the board would act, she would get the details done and then at the next meeting, the board would change its minds!

Why is this?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

4 Association Readings for the Fourth

Are you walking the tightrope when it comes to your association’s membership marketing? 
By Meagan Rockett via XYZ University

Shelly Alcorn, an association blogger, describes this situation as follows: “Leadership obsessed with recruitment at all costs will champion such things as running reckless membership promotion campaigns, offering deep, unsustainable dues discounts, offering commissions for new member sign-ups, or offering lavish prizes in member-get-a-member contests,” she writes. “They can even recruit more members than the association staff can adequately serve, leading to disappointment and low retention rates for new recruits.”

How to Build an Audience that Builds Your Business 

By Brian Clark via

There was a time — not too long ago — when you could solve your sales problems by simply throwing money at television, print, and radio ads. And that approach can still work … if you’ve got a lot of time and a lot of money. To answer that very question for you, we’ve built a powerful training resource called MyCopyblogger. When you register (at no charge) you’ll get instant access to nearly 100,000 words of proven marketing training in thirteen ebooks, (and our completely revamped 20-part Internet marketing course).

Monday, July 1, 2013

Board time is a nonrenewable resource! Value it!

Tardiness is rude!

I don’t like being late. And, people who are habitually late irritate me.

That includes board chairs who don’t, can’t or won’t start the board (or committee meeting) on time. And, board members who show up late. And, board chairs who don’t keep the meeting moving and/or let it go past adjournment time.

The time of our volunteers (and staff) is limited. And, their time should be respected.

A farmer from Indiana once shared a secret with me that I’ve used ever since. Set the meeting starting time at an “odd” number such as 8:01 or 7:44 or 12:29. Then be sure to start the meeting at exactly that time. 

I’ve done it that way for about 22 years now. It works! (In fact, my staff and clients came to call it “Central Drake Time.”)

The same goes with adding an ending time to your printed agendas. Again, use an odd time. And, end the meeting when it says.

Board members will learn quickly to be on time and use time wisely. Your meetings will be more efficient. Your board members will appreciate that your association values their time.