These ideas are inspired by the session “Making an Impact with Your Membership Materials: What Works, What Doesn’t” at the ASAE Annual Meeting on August 10, 2014, presented byDenise Gavilan, Walter Kim, Theresa Kramer-Burgess and Cecilia Cortes-Earle.
Our members are bombarded by information every day from articles, TV and social media. Many people see more than 350 marketing messages per day. How do you make sure that your membership communications resonate with members and don’t get lost in the clutter?
Here are 9 quick tips to help your next message to members make an impact.
Keep it small and impactful. Choose the top points – no more than three.
Make it about the reader. Focus less on your association and more on the reader – their results, concerns and solutions.
Focus on benefits – not features. Need a refresher about the difference between features and benefits? Read this.
Always answer the question for the reader, “What do members value the organization for?”
Vary your methods of delivery, but always keep the message consistent and authentic across all channels.
Adapt your message to the target audience. A member who is new to the association may need different information than a seasoned member. Make sure you know who your target is and how to best reach them.
Collect and use your testimonials. For great tips on the best ways to use your testimonials check out this post.
Read the copy out loud to see if it flows. If it’s awkward to read aloud it will be awkward for your readers, too.
Every message needs a clear call to action. Always ask: 1) What do I want the reader to do? (Register by a specific date, contact their legislator, “Like” the Facebook page, etc.), and 2) How do I want them to do it? (click a link, contact a staff member, register in person, etc.)
As an association management professional, I find myself constantly wondering how to improve the association and member benefits. In an age of almost limitless free resources available online, associations are faced with the daily challenge to show value and relevance to both current and potential members. What are some strategies association professionals can take to address this challenge?
Overhaul the governance model and committee operations.
Empower the CEO and leverage staff expertise.
Precisely define your member market.
Rationalize programs and services and focus on those that have the maximum effect.
Build robust technology framework.
Not sure where to start? Here are five high impact ideas to implement in your association.
5 Tips for Keeping Your Association Relevant:
Members and volunteers face a work/personal life dilemma. “I don’t have time” really means “I have better things to do with my time.” Volunteers expect a return on investment of time so make sure you are offering some short-time volunteer opportunities as well as ones that are worthwhile to the volunteer.
The board should focus on potential and possibilities; staff on implementation. Ideally you should have a competency-based board made up of five or six people.
Specialization is key. Associations should focus on their strengths instead of trying to be all things to all members. Members will narrow their memberships to those with highest return on investment.
Concentrate on the products that deliver the most value. Unused services and unneeded programs have no value. Prune obsolete services and your message becomes simpler.
Every association function can be enhanced or performed via technology. Not only can automating some tasks free up staff time for other important member projects, it may also increase involvement. Find out what technologies and services your members are already using and integrate current member resources into those systems.
No matter what your generational representation, you have likely heard the phrase, “Loose Lips Sink Ships,” coined during World War II as part of a general campaign of American propaganda to warn servicemen and other citizens to avoid careless talk concerning secure information that might be of use to the enemy.
So, might you ask, what does this have to do with associations?
With any long-term client affiliation, the association staff working with that association develops relationships with members and, particularly, those members in leadership positions with whom staff is apt to have frequent interactions. Those client-staff relationship can often move beyond discussion of the day-to-day operations of the association into more personal conversations on family activities, birthdays, weddings or vacations.
So far, this is fairly benign.
But what about the member who wants to talk with you about a negative interaction or exchange with another member? Your antenna should go up … but does it?
It’s easy to get pulled into negativity. Perhaps you also have had a similar negative response to that same member, or even another member. And since you are intimately sharing information already, it’s easy to add to the conversation with your own experiences with members, all of which seems most innocuous at the moment.
The funny thing about relationships, however, is that a riff in the relationship between two members can be resolved almost as quickly as the initial grievance occurred, and a few months later those two members are suddenly congenial and conversive and you are hoping your negative comments are not remembered or, at the least, not being repeated.
Suddenly the confidential relationship you thought you shared with that member or board member is in question. Might your “loose lips” comments be shared with other members of leadership? The board president? Your immediate supervisor? How might that impact the client’s perception of your management company and its ability to maintain appropriate levels of confidentiality?
You are starting to sweat and so you should be.
The advice is quite simple. Do NOT under any circumstances allow yourself to be drawn into negative conversations about any association members. If you find yourself a party to such a negative conversation, excuse yourself and make a hasty retreat.
You can politely and professionally suggest that any problems between two or more members be directed to the association president for action.
Don’t let your “loose lips” be the reason your management company loses a client or you lose your job.
Imagine this scenario: You arrive in the office one morning to find a letter of resignation from Chris, an employee who has served as an executive director for the past six years. He’s given two weeks’ notice; not nearly enough time for a smooth transition.
Your first reaction may be:
“Oh no, what will we do now?” Chris has served as the executive director to one of your larger clients. You feel Chris’ departure is a significant loss.
“It’s for the better. I have had this nagging feeling about Chris’ performance over the past six months which has required several serious coaching sessions.”
Either way, you are concerned about the immediate transition steps that need to take place. You worry about who will manage the day-to-day priorities of the association in the interim, and may feel as though a search for a new executive director needs to happen immediately.
Not so fast. When an executive director leaves the organization, it provides an opportunity to take a step back and assess several areas: your current organizational structure, your client base, your long-term goals, and the capabilities of your staff. So, don’t panic. Often, what seems like your worst nightmare at the moment can result in an opportunity to reassess your company’s priorities and make changes that will result in increased efficiencies and enhanced effectiveness.
When an executive director leaves, whether it is because they resigned or were dismissed, it’s time to consider your options by taking the following steps:
Begin an assessment of your organization. Do you have the correct structure in place? Maybe your AMC has grown and it is time to move to a more departmentalized structure. How is your client base performing? Maybe this is a good time to assist a struggling client with finding a different management resource that might be a better fit for them. What about the current staff? Maybe the executive director’s departure will afford you the opportunity to promote a star employee who has really proven him/herself.
Write a plan. Draft a clear and precise plan that details the responsibilities of the outgoing executive director, as well as who will handle all other aspects of the transition during the interim period between the executive director’s departure and naming a new key contact person.
Get on the same page. Schedule the outgoing executive director to spend time with management reviewing the client’s production schedule to determine the status of all projects. If a new executive director has been selected, that person also should be involved in this meeting.
Communicate. Inform the staff of the changes, what you know for certain and the decisions that are still pending. Any change to a client’s team has an effect on the entire office. Communication is vitally important in keeping a staff functional and positive in spirit. People are social creatures and tend to discuss what is going on around them. It is important for staff to have factual information otherwise there will be a lot of speculation.
Notification should take place as soon as possible, even if they have to be told that final transition plans have not been made; the discussion should be open and frank. Consider involving staff in the transition and search process. It also is helpful to meet individually with those employees that are directly impacted by the change to give them an opportunity to share how they are feeling about the changes. This will help alleviate some of the stress that naturally occurs when there are significant changes in an employee’s role within the organization.
Determine board input. During the transition, decide how much input the board of directors should have and, possibly, in the candidate selection process as well. There are some clients that interact on a daily basis with the staff and who place a high regard on the executive director, so it would be important to notify the board of directors immediately. There are other clients with whom it would be very important that you have a transition plan firmly in place to reassure them that the AMC has a clear transition plan in place. In either case, the executive director’s scheduled departure should be communicated as soon as possible. This communication with the client leadership should include regular and frequent updates on the transition process; all such communications should be done face-to-face, whenever possible, and should be done by a senior executive of the AMC.
Resist the urge to rush the interview or selection process. Conduct a behavioral-based interview, asking questions that will help you determine if your candidate is a good overall fit. Don’t forget the importance of background checks and be sure to call those professional references (be aware of the employment laws in your state). Do not settle for a less than perfect fit for the client or you will surely regret it later.
Once the new executive director is selected, immediately introduce the new executive director to the board of directors. As soon as possible, send an announcement should to all of the client’s members informing them of the exciting news. With your new executive director in place, it is time to start positioning the new hire for success. Extra involvement from the AMC management team may be needed during the learning curve, particularly in the case where an executive director is replacing someone who was dismissed or who had a history of performance problems. Perform a 30-60-90 day review to assure that the new candidate is indeed a good fit and continue to check-in often with the new executive director and the association’s leadership.
Now, pat yourself on the back for successfully putting out another fire.
The Apple-invented adage “There’s an app for that” has never rung truer than in 2015 where there are apps, websites, and tools to assist any process or task imaginable. But sorting through all of the available “tech tools” out there can get just as overwhelming as managing your work day itself. To get you started, we polled our staff to pick their favorite tools that help in various areas of their day.
If you want to improve your organization, check out…
Basecamp – Working in association management often means you will have multiple clients with multiple upcoming events and multiple pressing deadlines. Multiply the multiples and you are left with a lot of to-do items to keep track of! Basecamp is a great project management tool that lets you create different “project buckets,” each with its own set of categories and to-do items with attached deadlines. Managers can create items and assign them to specific team members. Team members can comment on existing to-do items to ask questions or mark them as completed. You can even choose to view your outstanding action items for all projects at one—or just focus in on a specific section. This tool is a must-have for staying organized on a daily basis.
Google Calendar – Many other calendar tools and apps exist, but the tried-and-true Google Calendar platform is still one of our favorites. It allows you to make multiple calendars—each color-coded differently—and share each calendar with specified people. If you work with multiple clients, having one calendar for each client and adding the appropriate team members is a great way to keep people in the loop without cluttering their calendars with events that don’t apply to them. Add in the fact that Google Calendar seamlessly integrates with most smartphone calendars and you’re good to go. Think you’re a G-Cal pro? Check out these tips for more ways to maximize your calendar efficiency.
If you want to enhance team collaboration, use…
Dropbox – Dropbox became known as a tool to easily create shared folders and allow users to access large files from multiple computers. Recently, however, Dropbox changed the game by adding the Dropbox Badge that lets users edit Microsoft Office documents without leaving the Dropbox platform. This way, instead of having to download a file, edit it, and re-upload it, team members will always have access to the most recent version of a file and can see if someone on their team is currently editing it. This is a great resource for committee work projects.
Google Docs – Google has integrated their document-editing platform with Google Drive to let you store, share, and edit documents all from the same place. While these capabilities are similar to those of Dropbox, one of Google’s coolest features is Google Forms—with Forms you can quickly create easy-to-format surveys and have results automatically collected in a spreadsheet. This tool is great for quick surveys like collecting t-shirt sizes for conference attendees or collecting updated credentials for their name badges, where organizing the results is important but it would be too time consuming to set up a survey on a more extensive platform. If you are new to Google Docs, check out Google’s support page here for some handy overviews.
If you pull your hair out while scheduling meetings, try…
Meeting Wizard – Have you ever tried to schedule a board meeting with 20 people and tried to keep track of the best time in your head as multiple responses and conflicts come pouring in? Meeting Wizard eliminates the need for that mental strain by providing an interface for you to propose times, review responses, and then confirm the appointment with all attendees. Check out the Quick Start tool to take the stress out of planning your next meeting.
If all of your social media accounts are making you crazy, check out…
HootSuite – HootSuite lets you combine your social media profiles including Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ into one place. The free version allows for just 3 accounts, but the Pro subscription includes 50 social profiles for $9.99/month which should cover the needs of at least 10 association clients, meaning you could budget it in for just $1 per month per client. There are countless documented benefits to integrating social media into your marketing plan—here are 10—and employing a quality tool to help keep track of the various platforms is a great way to keep your head on straight.
TweetDeck – TweetDeck is similar to HootSuite but focuses just on Twitter, as the name implies. You can create columns for different handles, hashtags, or trending topics in order to stay on top of the approximately 500 million Tweets sent per day. This tool is especially useful on-site at a conference, where you can keep track of your event hashtag and respond to various threads of conversation in different columns.
If your daily work could use a design makeover, use…
Canva – Many design experts swear by Photoshop with its multitude of features and edit options, but it has a steep learning curve and the interface can be overwhelming for the casual user. Alternatively, Canva is a user-friendly tool that offers a platform to quickly design and export eye-catching graphics for things like social media posts or membership newsletters. It also hosts a Design School with tutorials to actually walk you through design fundamentals. If you’ve ever been super impressed by the branding of a conference or social media site, this is your chance to produce something equally impressive on your own. (Hint: The graphic for this post was made with Canva!)
If you want help keeping sight of the bigger picture, check out…
Grid Diary – Grid Diary is “the simplest way to get started with keeping a diary,” and overall is a user-friendly interface for keeping track of the little things throughout your day or week. With prompts for entering time with family, friends, and exercise in addition to work accomplishments, it’s a great way to remind us of the things we do outside of the work day to help make sure we are balancing our schedules appropriately. Unlike many of the other tech tools we have listed, Grid Diary is exclusively a smartphone app, so if you keep your phone nearby you will have easy access to keeping track of progress big or small throughout the day.
Those are our top tips for maximizing efficiency and productivity every day! What are you favorite tech tools we may have missed? Let us know in the comments below!
It’s going to happen. There’s just no way of getting around it. No matter how skilled you are, or how careful you are, eventually someone will come to you with negative feedback. Although the conversation may be uncomfortable, with the right response you can emerge looking like a gem.
Strategies for responding to criticism
Be prepared with a response.
Create a “go-to” phrase to use. Having a response ready to go adds a layer of calm and reduces the chance of saying something you will regret. Here are just a couple of examples:
“Thank you very much for your feedback.”
“I appreciate you taking the time to share that with me, thank you.”
“Thanks for sharing that feedback with me. I’ll keep that in mind if this situation happens again.”
“I appreciate that insight into your perspective. That feedback is helpful, thank you.”
Ask for more information.
If you don’t understand the feedback, be sure to ask for clarification. If you believe the feedback to be based on incorrect information, be sure to ask for more information before you respond. Examples:
“That’s really interesting. I’d never thought of it that way. Can you tell me a little more about [topic]?”
“I want to make sure I have all the information when I bring this concern back to my team. Can you explain a little more about [topic]?”
“That [term/concept] isn’t familiar to me. Can you explain what that means so I can make sure I understand correctly?”
Ask for more time to respond.
Sometimes it’s best to let an issue cool off a little. This is especially the case if you will need to refute some of the criticism, such as if there’s a misunderstanding about a contract or service. A little bit of distance will help you stay calm and will help the critic know you carefully considered their issue rather than rejecting it out of hand.
“Thank you for letting us know about the issue. We are sorry about the frustration. I’m going to check with my team to see if they have any insight into what happened. I will be in touch soon.”
“I would like to talk about this more but I need a little bit of time to process this information. Can we schedule a time to discuss this on Thursday?”
“This feedback is very important to me and you’ve given me a lot to think about. Can we set an appointment to discuss this again in a couple days?”
It’s okay to be wrong.
We all make mistakes. What you do in response to the mistake will set you apart from the others. If you made a mistake, simply apologize and offer solutions. Refusing to admit you made a mistake will only dig the hole deeper. A little bit of humility will go a long way.
No matter how high you climb, there is always room for improvement. Everyone can benefit from feedback. Stay humble and issue a simple, sincere “thank you” to show the best version of you.
It’s okay to clear up misinformation by sharing about the experience from your perspective, but don’t be confrontational. Don’t spend a lot of time picking apart the misunderstanding. When the situation dissolves into arguing, no one wins. The end goal of the discussion always should be resolving the conflict, not blame casting. Briefly share your perspective and then move on to solutions.
My rule of thumb is always say thanks. Not sure what to say? Say thanks. You disagree with the feedback? Say thanks. The critic is being a jerk? Say thanks. The feedback really helped? Say thanks. “Thanks” is the best way to help the critic walk away feeling like you handle feedback well.
Do you have other strategies for responding well to criticism? Let us know in the comments!
We at IMI are very excited to announce the launch of the newly redesigned website at IMIAE.com! If you have ever participated in a website redesign you will know that it’s a big task to complete. We are very thankful to our dedicated crew who worked together to make this beautiful new site a reality. Below are just a few highlights from the new website.
The three easy buttons on the front page help visitors navigate to the information they need most. Information to identify an association’s management needs, about IMI’s services, or submitting an RFP is only a click away!
Also on the front page is the Connect with IMI feature which provides quick access to just a few of IMI’s educational resources through our blog and social media feeds.
Speaking of IMI’s great team that created the new website, check out the “Our Team” tab! Within you’ll find pictures and brief bios of our team members who are the strength of our organization.
For organizations that may be new to the realm of association management, the “About IMI” tab features information on association management and what benefits association management companies (AMCs) provide to associations.
For more information on the new website you may read our press release.
The website redesign is just one practical example of how we are continuously improving the services we provide. Please take a moment to tell us what you think about the new website. Are there other resources you’d like to see on IMIAE.com? Let us know in the comments below!
We’ve talked before about how volunteers are at the heart of every association, but how do you recruit volunteers and then keep them engaged? The executive directors at IMI Association Executives met together to discuss this very issue and here are 9 ideas they came up with.
This may seem like a no brainer, but make sure all your members are aware of the volunteer opportunities available.
Encourage volunteerism on everything you send out. Need help thinking of creative places to ask for volunteers? Here are a few ideas we came up with:
conference registration forms
link on website home page
make a volunteer page on website
member surveys – you can even use the exit landing page
Don’t forget to credit the committee when work projects are completed. Members will make the connection that not only are there volunteer opportunities available, but they are making a difference in the association.
The #1 reason why people volunteer is because someone called them personally and asked them to volunteer. Not only is a face to face request more difficult to decline, but if the volunteer has questions moving forward they know they have a personal contact ready to help.
Volunteers make friends in the organization, take advantage of all that your association has to offer, and ultimately you create a member for life.
Clearly ask people what their interests are and how much time they are willing to give. When you connect members with a volunteer position that suits both their interests and their lifestyle they are more likely to be engaged.
Remind volunteers that there is a career benefit to volunteering for your organization. Dedication to your industry looks great on a resume.
Ask volunteers why they are interested in volunteering. This will help you plug volunteers in where they will get the most personal satisfaction – and keep contributing. Volunteering really can be its own reward!
Be sure to thank and recognize your volunteers frequently. Whenever possible, make sure to connect with your volunteers through an email, phone call, or in person to show your appreciation.
An association is nothing without their members; members need an association to reach their goals efficiently and effectively. Put the two together and you have a dynamic duo! After working in membership for almost a year with IMI, I have learned a few things.
1. Make Members Happy
While working with our Assistant Executive Director, who has many years of experience with membership, I have learned that caring for members and making sure they are happy is very important.
A few examples of what that practically would look like is, if our quarterly magazine didn’t arrive to their house for some reason, we make sure to re-send it again, just in case the postal service lost it. If a previous member didn’t renew due to major difficulties that arose during their membership year, it is a good idea to compensate them for another membership year. It is up to you to show the association values them as an individual member and to prove how valuable your association can be to them.
2. Retention, Recruitment, Engagement
Retention, recruitment, and engagement are the three words that establish the foundation of membership. Retentionis getting members to return as member again the next year. We want to keep members coming back and sharing about the value of the association to non-members.
Recruitingmembers allows the association to grow and thrive off of more skills and talents to live out their mission and reach new goals. Whether it is through the testimony of current members or by providing incentives, such as free webinars, you need to draw people in to see what else you have to offer. Monthly tracking of your members by category type and where they are located are great ways of determining where you need to improve recruitment and how you can draw those members in.
Engagingmembers through the association benefits will circle back to retention. The more that members feel engaged and active in the association, the more likely they will renew when their membership expires. Some ways to inspire engagement:
– Start discussions on social media about current topics in the field
– Highlight membership benefits weekly/monthly as a reminder
– Conduct surveys to see what benefits interest your members the most
3. Growth & Change
Growth and change are two words that can either strike fear into the hearts or bring pure excitement to the minds of members. I admit that I can get stuck in my old ways and think they are the best and most efficient way of going about life. This can be the case for long standing members of an association, too. Change causes fear of the unknown and uncertainty of how things will work out. For new or potential members, change means more information or tools that are applicable to them.
During my time with this association, our new membership year in 2014 made a huge impact. We revamped the benefits and the look of our membership retention and recruitment pieces. New members and individuals were full of praise for the new “more professional” look. However, with new things comes some resistance. Some were hesitant to the new ideas coming about in the association. This is to be expected and is to be handled with care. When members resist changes, we have an excellent opportunity to reach out and build a relationship by sharing an explanation of why the association made these changes. I believe by responding that way, with care and transparency, we gained trust with our members.
Volunteers are at the heart of every association’s mission. It’s volunteers that serve on the Board of Directors and lead strategic initiatives. It’s volunteers that donate time to the committees that drive strategic plan deliverables. It’s frequently volunteers who deliver educational content to an association in the form of webinars, as conference session leaders and producing work products and papers. And it’s volunteers that provide support to both small and large staffs in high volume situations like annual conferences, workshops and seminars.
So how does an association ensure the continued commitment of volunteers? Some members will step up to volunteer with little or no enticement. Other members will never volunteer no matter what the incentive. And, then, there are the “other ones.”
Every association has a pool of untapped volunteers. They are the “other ones.” Let’s focus efforts on how to reach that audience of potential volunteers with so much to offer to the association.
There are some simple steps to take to keep volunteer opportunities in the forefront with all members.
Add a checkbox to indicate interest in volunteering on all collateral sent to or available for members – correspondence, membership renewal forms, membership applications, conference and event registrations
Place a link to volunteer opportunities on the homepage of your website
Devote a section of your website to providing information about volunteering
Utilize the association’s Facebook page, Twitter feed and other social media outlets to alert members about a need or when new volunteer opportunities are presented
Engage your members in a dialogue about the volunteer process when you are face-to-face at conferences or special events. Include this as a standing agenda item for the Annual Membership Meeting. In person is an ideal opportunity to promote the association’s activities to the membership and ask for their participation.
Never underestimate the power of the “ask.” Members who won’t reach out and volunteer on their own may willingly respond if an opportunity is presented to them in person. The one-on-one discussion also provides a chance to assess the member’s interests and strengths allowing you to match them with an ideal volunteer position. There are very few who, when asked, will say no.
Try to offer a variety of opportunities to provide volunteer support beyond the traditional committee appointments. A taskforce within a committee or an ad hoc taskforce are traditionally more short-lived than a committee appointment and allows new volunteers to experiment with a short-term project and then, hopefully, take on a more significant role.
Some members may not have the bandwidth to commit to a committee or a taskforce appointment but would willingly proofread newsletter articles or white paper drafts.
It’s important to think beyond the usual volunteer roles and consider different models with which to engage members in volunteer activities.
Remember that not every method will be effective for every organization or for every potential volunteer but with a bit of creativity you can increase the emotional buy-in and participation of your members in the important work of their association.