OUR BLOGTRICKS OF THE TRADE
As Associations, our organizational growth is heavily dependent on our ability to regularly and effectively communicate with staff, volunteers, clients, members, and others about a wide variety of important subjects. Sometimes the best and most immediate delivery method for those communications is a phone call, email, or social media publication. Other times, in-person meetings are deemed more appropriate, and those are by far the trickiest of all communication methods to successfully orchestrate. While meeting planning in itself can be challenging, incorporating some simple tried and true methods to increase participation, engagement, and perceived value can help ensure your meeting’s ultimate success. Follow along for more information about how to get the most out of your meetings.
First things first… Don’t have meetings just to have meetings! Before planning a meeting, consider whether an in-person meeting is truly necessary and beneficial to all parties involved. There are meetings (such as those with your staff, boards, and committees) which require periodic in-person assembly, but for those instances where the meeting can be more flexible, consider the possibility of hosting a teleconference or video conference whenever possible. Time is invaluable and affording a way for people to make their best use of it will increase their likelihood of participation and enable you to deliver your message to a broader audience (those who may not otherwise be able to attend due to related travel, for example). With the right technology, video or webinar based meetings can be recorded and later conveniently shared with anyone who was unable to attend live virtually.
Once you have determined an in-person meeting is the best fit for your purposes and the audience you’re aiming to reach, it’s time to gather your key meeting players and get to planning. The internal and external connections you make and the conversations you have will in themselves be, and lead to, meetings about the proposed meeting. In fact, the time you spend collaborating on this may exceed the time spent at the actual meeting being planning, so buckle up and get ready!
The next step is to identify your meeting objective(s). This seems pretty basic, but the truth is that oftentimes this step goes without through consideration of desired final outcome. Defining an objective is more than just deciding what you’d like to discuss. A clearly defined objective means pinpointing in advance of the meeting what you are trying to achieve and communicate, and identifying which objectives will require feedback, a decision, idea generation, etc. All objectives identified should be relevant and useful to participants, so be sure to look at them from the standpoint of potential attendees. Consider the things they’ll want to learn, accomplish, and take-away.
After your detailed objectives are established, it’s time to plan the who, where and when! Create a meeting agenda to determine subject matter and determine how much time will be spent on each topic. Make sure that tasks are assigned to someone and that those tasks have deadlines.
Pick a date/dates based on the amount of time deemed necessary to discuss your topics. Find the venue best suited for your group, decide who’s invited, and send formal electronic or paper invitations out as far in advance as possible. Be sure you include the meeting’s designated point(s) of contact, the final agenda, materials related to discussion items, information on attire, a location map, parking and travel related information.
Although most of your meeting planning efforts are now complete, there are still some important details to focus on to ensure the meeting flows well and is executed in a manner that evokes participation and keeps everyone on track. Here are just some of the many ways to ensure overall meeting success:
- Monitor and guide meeting conversations. Implement positive methods to keep things on track, such as explaining meeting expectations in opening statements (no sidebar conversations, hold questions until the end, specify a time frame for discussion per subject, etc.).
- Stick to the agenda and take minutes that can later be distributed in summary.
- Start and end on time! Waiting for late arrivals inconveniences punctual attendees, so get started on time and others can quietly take a seat as they arrive and catch up on anything they missed afterwards. Meetings that run over schedule inconvenience attendees who have other post-meeting obligations. If necessary, you can always schedule a follow-up meeting.
- Make the meeting as interactive as possible and make sure to note any audience feedback/comments for follow-up.
- Plan a learning moment. Whether presented by the facilitator or directly peer to peer, a learning moment can be advantageous to attendees.
- In closing, summarize the discussion, key takeaways, any decisions made, and review next steps.
- After the meeting is over, reach out and follow-up with your attendees. You can send a summary of action items and decisions made. Short meeting satisfaction surveys can also be distributed as a way to get feedback and provide your organization with valuable insight as to what you may want to improve upon for future meetings.
Let’s face it… we’ve all walked away from at least one meeting wondering how that time might have been better spent, or wondering if the communicated message was worth the time invested. The decision to have a meeting in itself is important, and what you do within that meeting is going to determine the meeting’s ultimate value to both the organization and participants.
If you are considering planning a meeting, and need some professional advice, guidance, or hands-on assistance, give us a call. Your success is important to us, and we can help. We are The Solution!
When it comes to member recruitment and retention, we know it’s all about how to get members to come and stay. We are continuously reevaluating, revamping, or expanding our member benefit offerings for our clients, right down to customization by audience type based on interests, or generation. Add to that the integration of technology (association management systems, etc.) and this combination can be quite an overwhelming challenge. All of these things combined make for a rather complex conglomerate of moving parts and pieces, but if we take a look at the commonalities between them, we can simplify things a bit. Take a close look and you’ll see that what lies at their core is one key element, and that my friends, is member engagement.
The quality and quantity of connectivity we have between ourselves, our members, and our potential members is crucial in establishing, maintaining, and growing a membership base that will not only keep your organization in business, but sustain your future existence.
As a first step, it’s important to measure your association’s levels of engagement to determine areas of membership that need attention (event attendance, email open/click rates, etc.). Although there are many useful high-tech member management software systems available to help you accomplish this, here are a few inexpensive ways to gauge this data yourself:
• Conduct a member satisfaction survey – Make sure it encompasses the opportunity to indicate overall membership satisfaction, and break that down into more detailed segments (publications, events, volunteering, etc.). Ask questions like: What services are you using? What services haven’t you used? For these, list a number of options for them to check, but also leave a comment section for them to write other options. What would you like to see us do? To conduct your survey, you can use something like Survey Monkey (www.surveymonkey.com) for free. Although the free version should do it, upgraded membership does allow you to access to more features. Your ambassadors are a great resource for promoting member engagement. As your ambassadors make retention calls, have them ask these survey questions and engage your members for answers. This is a great way to get honest feedback!
• Collect and examine feedback – Go through your social media comments and/or review recent results from surveys conducted after meetings, webinars, and educational events. Establish categories and subcategories to record findings in each area you want to analyze and get an excel spreadsheet going. This can be used to generate a report for your board to help support your proposed improvement initiatives.
• Take advantage of analytical technologies already in place – Take a look at any analytical information provided through your web host and social media pages. These provide a variety of information related to your visitors.
Once you have a better understanding of your member engagement level, you may begin to devise a plan to improve any areas which may be lacking in member participation and interest. This is your opportunity to customize the member experience in an effort to improve the member/association relationship. Here are some ways associations are doing just that:
• Create/expand your onboarding plan – Using a personal touch alongside a customized strategic approach when welcoming potential new members is as important as following up with them periodically regarding feedback about their membership experience. This in itself can provide your organization with yet another engagement assessment tool.
• Recruit ambassadors – Periodically turn to your members for things staff is usually responsible for such as communications, hosting meetings, and event planning. When a member authors content, facilitates a meeting, etc., it is recognized by their peers and creates an environment where peer to peer respect and motivation is eminent. Ambassadors are a great tool to reach out to your members. Ambassadors are engaged members of your organization that volunteer their time to reach out to members on your behalf.
• Implement a task force – One of our favorite ways to engage members is by inviting them to join a task force. It is very little time commitment from the member, as opposed to committing to a year-long committee that meets monthly or quarterly… making participation even easier. A one-day “Visioning and Strategic Discussion Task Force” allows them to be involved in the direction your organization is going, creating buy-in from your member. A “Marketing & Communications Task Force” allows them to engage and look at the messaging strategy of the organization, and more. These task forces allow members to feel like they have really engaged and, as a result, they become champions for the organization.
• Create a quarterly touch program – Your members want to hear from you! If they don’t utilize the benefits listed on your website, and have never attended a single event, what is going to incent them to renew? Using ambassadors and staff, you can reach out with a personal touch via email, phone call, or text once a quarter. We recommend at least one be a personal phone call. Another great touch point is to send a stat page of your members’ activity from your website, to inform them they are receiving benefits that they may not even know about!
• Segment member communications – Outside of separating communications for active vs. non-active members, consider breaking these communications down by target audience like persona (division by interests/age groups), or activity (event attendance history).
• Reinforce your value proposition – Market it according to the appropriate section of your member/potential member base.
• Implement more online opportunities – Create and offer opportunities for increased/improved online and mobile interaction for your social media pages and website. Ensure your member portals are user-friendly and provide self-management tools for users so they may edit profiles, sign up for events, renew memberships, interact with your organization and with each other.
• Make the most out of events – Surprise and delight attendees with things that make them feel appreciated and important. Offering freebies and discounts is a great way to create or improve upon their engagement and it will help create a buzz about the amazing things your conferences and meetings have to offer.
• Utilize incentives to gain volunteers and members – Ask members to refer friends to join or to bring a friend to a volunteer event. Offering a little something in exchange for their help can encourage them to engage in helping you onboard new people.
• Highlight member achievements through recognition – Shine a spotlight on members and volunteers for their accomplishments with award and recognition programs such as member/volunteer of the week/month/year. This can be recognized in newsletters, on social media, and at events, eliminating additional costs to your organization.
It’s no secret that individuals spend their money and invest their time in what interests them and coincides most closely with their personal values and belief systems. Just take a look at your most involved and engaged members and you’ll find their involvement is due to their belief in the organization’s mission and purpose, their satisfaction with member benefits, and their experience-based relationship with your organization.
If you need guidance or hands-on assistance creating an ambassador program, conducting your customer satisfaction survey, analyzing the results, and devising a strategic plan to improve your member engagement, give us a call. We know the ins and outs of proven engagement strategies. When you have questions, we have answers. We are The Solution!
We’ve all heard that we need to attract and retain millennial members, but have not been given examples of how. Well, here is how…
As Association professionals, we know that sustaining and growing our organization means continuously re-evaluating member needs and benefits. The challenge for many of us is diversifying the way we do business and customizing member benefits to not only maintain members of older generations, but to also attract younger generations. It can be tricky, but through open-mindedness, innovation, and diversity, we can find balance.
Revisit/re-evaluate your association’s value proposition – In order to determine how to attract millennials, start by taking a look at the value your organization offers members from a millennial perspective and implement changes based on their needs and interests. Are you offering what they want? And what exactly do they want? You can get an idea by conducting your own online research, but if you really want your membership base to grow with this group, you’d be better off conducting an industry specific membership driven survey or interviews. Conducting your own survey will really help pinpoint where your association stands today, and where it needs to be in order to attract these potential future subscribers. Perhaps they’d like to see a la carte membership benefit packages, more mentoring opportunities, an increase in electronically delivered information, etc. The only way to find out is to ask, even while face-to face. Engage these individuals directly, and they’ll appreciate your concern and provide you with the feedback vital to your organization’s growth and success. After all, they’re not only your key future members, but in the coming years they’ll likely be the masterminds running your organization!
Consider rethinking your business model – Millennials love being part of a community, but are sometimes discouraged by the costs associated with doing so. To engage with this generation, you might consider finding ways to offset costs while decreasing membership fees. Oh no, we didn’t say decrease membership fees! WHAT?! Creating various membership tiers in accordance with identified member needs with a millennial’s anticipated budget in mind is a great way to make sure everyone can afford to be a part of your organization. When you are talking to young people that are still receiving help from their parents, $100 or $250 or $500 sounds like a lot of money. You may also consider implementing options for quarterly or monthly dues payments, as opposed to the annual up-front dues structure. This will make that dollar amount easier to swallow.
Provide opportunities to be part of something meaningful – We know that millennials are service oriented and want to make a positive impact on their community and the world. Many of the surveys we have done say that they are more willing to make a donation or contribute online and meet via social networks, than show up to a meeting where many of the members are older than them and most often they are the only person in the room that is a millennial. Does your organization have a social online membership? Online community and charitable events? How about starting an E-Club that affords millennials a way to be involved in meetings, without actually having to attend in-person meetings?
Outside of such online offerings, we also want to invite them to participate in traditional community and charitable events that the organization holds. In-person offerings will provide them with more of the relationship building, networking, and recognition opportunities they crave. You may want to call on many millennials to attend the same meeting, so they are not the only millennial in the room.
Implement learning opportunities for career advancement – People are more likely to participate in events and courses that are relevant to their current position in the workplace. An organization can offer millennials the knowledge they seek though a combination of delivery methods such as online learning or in-person meetings, which affords them a variety of choices. Millennials are looking for career advancement. Let’s give them the tools to get there.
Encourage involvement and creativity – There are many ways to involve millennials in your association. You can recruit them to contribute to social media efforts (guest blogging for example), make them brand ambassadors, involve them in visioning and creative task forces, strategic planning and more. They enjoy participating in positive initiatives and being empowered to represent your industry, which not only satisfies their interests, but will likely attract more millennials based on peer observation.
Up your game when it comes to technology, social media, etc. – Millennials are extremely tech savvy and if you’re not staying up on the latest/greatest trends and practices, they won’t come or stay long. If you don’t already utilize and engage members through the many social media outlets available, you’re likely missing out on some important millennial engagement opportunities. Millennials want fast, relevant, and easily accessible information and communications.
There are so many ways to draw millennials to your organization, and the things outlined above just scratch the surface. In a nutshell, millennials want personal and professional development, advanced technologies, and a trusted place where they can in some way contribute to their association with other millennials. Relative and relatable benefit offerings will entice them to become involved, and a continuous effort on your part to stay on top of how those benefits evolve will ensure they stay while automatically encouraging others to do the same.
If you’d like help maximizing your organization’s millennial membership growth potential, give us a call. We know how to develop and enhance membership models that result in building a better tomorrow for both your association and your members. We are The Solution.
Today, organizations are increasingly relying upon dedicated, passion-driven, skilled volunteers to help them thrive amidst times of limited funding and staffing insufficiencies. These volunteers are highly respected and oftentimes regarded as the pulse of an organization, as they serve of their own free will to support and maintain an organization that might otherwise struggle without them. Performing an assortment of tasks, volunteers may serve on boards or committees or be utilized to manage day-to-day operational functions, special projects, and fulfill other capacities as warranted by an organization’s needs, ultimately serving as ambassadors for the organization.
How do you find volunteers? – Organizations may send out a call for volunteers via mail campaign, email, social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. Etc.), website posting, printed publications/signage, or announcement at industry events. Some advertise on radio or TV. You may be surprised, but an organization’s marketing efforts aren’t always what drives volunteer engagement. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for individuals to reach out to organizations on their own accord, based on their individual concerns and areas of interest.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (this excerpt comes directly from their website), “…about 62.6 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2014 and September 2015. During this time, the proportion of volunteers who became involved with their main organization after being asked to volunteer (41.2 percent) was about the same as the proportion who became involved on their own (41.6 percent) –that is, those who approached the organization. Those who were asked to volunteer were most often asked by someone in the organization.” These statistics convey a relatively, but somewhat unexpected balance when it comes to outreach based results vs blind inquires made by individuals (self-recruitment).
What motivates volunteers? – Volunteers are motivated by a variety of internally driven factors, some of which may be morally-based, faith-based, or be contingent upon their passion for a specific cause. Their involvement can be derived by a love for animals, concern for the environment, interest in helping the less fortunate, career development, increased industry involvement, etc. Some people do it for self-esteem improvement or to build relationships and make new friends. Some are dedicated to supporting a friend or loved one whom your organization’s mission supports. Others have decided to “pay it forward” to an organization that helped them during difficult times in the past. The point is that people have such varying philanthropic interests, we must aspire to attract the population who hasn’t yet locked into their passion area, those who are open to contributing to a cause they may be unfamiliar with, or who might be considering a secondary volunteer opportunity.
What are you offering your volunteers & why should they stay? – Now that we know what inspires volunteers, let’s consider why they come and stay. While some organizations utilize 3rd-party placement service company, many businesses are responsible for managing and coordinating the screening, placement, training, and maintenance of their own volunteers. For those of us who handle this internally, the first step is to ask what’s in it for the volunteers. What unique benefits would attract someone who has considered volunteering to do so for your specific organization?
Some organizations offer tangible perks ranging from free coffee during their shift, free or discounted access to items, product, or events they helped prepare or execute, to letters of reference, awards or certificates, etc. Intangible, yet highly desired benefits of volunteering include networking opportunities, learning/educational opportunities, career advancement, participation recognition (certificates, etc.), and/or simple reciprocity from the satisfaction one finds in contributing to a cause, product, or service they believe in (this often involves the belief in what goes around comes around, or karma).
Consider the incentives you could offer to encourage your volunteers to keep them coming back. Be sure to incorporate relationship-building by means of expressing your gratitude through your communications and actions. Appreciation is a crucial motivational element and when combined with other desirable benefits, it can mean the difference between your success in maintaining productivity and retaining your best volunteers. Show them the love!
How do you effectively market your volunteer opportunities? – When placing a call for volunteers, highlighting what sets your volunteers and organization apart from and above the rest is a key element in gaining interest. When announcing volunteer opportunities, always outline your purpose and mission, and include statistical data and any other information you think would behoove an individual to want to become involved (for a food bank, what’s the breakdown of children/adults/seniors who were fed last year by volunteers, how many hours were contributed, who are your partners – such as lunch programs with area schools, etc.). Include quotes from area leaders, other volunteers, and/or beneficiary testimonials. Explain the duration of the project, provide in detail the volunteer position requirements, expectations, duties, and anticipated time commitment (this should include training time).
How can you best manage your volunteer program? – Aside from the tips mentioned above, it is imperative that you identify your volunteers’ strengths and determine how those might best benefit the organization to ensure proper placement. Always have the appropriate training planned with available reference materials. Offer variety in scope of work to keep volunteers engaged and interested (a good mix of duties can provide a much sought-after change of pace). Always keep in mind that if your volunteers are happy, they’ll tell others about their great experience, and that in itself is a valuable recruitment tool.
The bottom line – Finding volunteers is no less challenging than keeping them. Once you identify your target audience and appropriately market your volunteer opportunities, you need a plan in place for matching qualified individuals to specific tasks based on their individual knowledge and skillset. Adequate training and task oriented procedures must be established. After a volunteer comes onboard, the key to keeping them involved is to provide a positive work environment, express appreciation regularly, and offer a variety of ways to thank and recognize them for their invaluable, voluntary contributions to the betterment of your organization.
What are you waiting for!?!? – Taking the time now to review, reevaluate, and enhance your volunteer program will spare you later from wondering why your volunteers don’t stay. You’ll quickly discover that with the right strategies, your volunteers will be happy, and happy volunteers equate to long-term volunteers, the pulse of your organization.
If you need assistance creating, revamping, or implementing your volunteer program, or you simply want a fresh pair of eyes to look it over, give us a call. We’re here to help! We are The Solution.
Let’s face it, leading an organization can be both challenging and rewarding. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you are not alone. Oftentimes, organizations lack the resources they need to surpass survival mode and excel in today’s competitive and demanding business environment. Without sufficient means to cover the excessive overhead costs of staffing and technology – What is the solution?
Partnering with an Association Management Company (AMC) is a cost-effective way to get more things done in less time, with increased efficiency. Comprised of seasoned association professionals, an AMC is primarily focused on the delivery of strategic, cost-effective, time-saving management solutions and administrative services to associations, chambers of commerce, foundations, and other organizations. AMCs help increase organizational growth and prosperity through a variety of strategically driven solutions. While AMC clients may maintain their unique brand and identity, AMCs serve as the front line, handling various departments, projects, and programs while fulfilling the roles of various staff members, including that of the executive director. In fact, it is commonplace for an AMC to manage and staff the client organization in its entirety.
Today, more and more organizations are choosing to outsource their professional association-related service needs, and here’s why:
Shared Resources – Save Time, Save Money.
- AMC staff brings a wealth of knowledge to the table when it comes to management in various industries and program areas. AMCs serve as a dedicated professional management team of key program area experts who help strategically guide and support clients.
- Avoid mistakes! Because AMCs manage multiple associations, they have first-hand insight as to what works and what doesn’t within many program areas, and they use that expertise in the strategic planning and administration of your business deliverables.
- AMCs utilize a variety of technologies that clients can take advantage of sharing without having to provide them separately.
- AMC staff are connected to many external association professionals and those working relationships provide for extendable connections to their clients.
- AMCs keep up with current trends and cutting-edge technologies, which contribute to the blueprint of your organization’s pathway to success.
- AMCs operate as a virtual client headquarters, sparing clients the overhead costs of office space, equipment, employment related benefits, and more. Clients enjoy significantly decreased operational costs, and reduced liability and business risk.
Flexibility – Availability & Reliability
- Unlike recruiting full-time, on-site employees, the AMC/client relationship enables organizations to outsource projects or programs as needed, in part or in full, long or short term, regardless of scope.
- AMCs employ professionals whose skillsets are best matched with your organization’s needs, so you don’t have to deal with the challenges of employment related recruitment and retention efforts.
- Something come up? Delegate without hesitation. AMCs are ready to help, even with little advanced notice.
When it comes down to it, partnering with an AMC simply makes good business sense. The practice of outsourcing services to an AMC is on the rise, and for good reason. It’s the very best way to maximize your schedule, save money, align your priorities and ultimately frees you to focus on big-picture, future-focused initiatives. Consider the benefits that an AMC partnership can bring to your organization. Contact us today to see how our services may compliment your organization’s needs. If you have questions, we have answers. We are The Solution.
Valentine’s Day has come and gone, yet we still want to shout from the rooftops that we love our chamber and association clients every single day of the year – not just in the glowing red, heart-shaped month of February!
Here are five of the many reasons we love the chambers and associations we consider our beloved client family:
- They have heart. Association and chambers support, standardize and promote various industries for the betterment of consumers’ life quality. They are passionate about their profession and invested in the success of the professionals and the consumers whose lives their work ultimately impacts. They also engage in volunteer opportunities and support different charities and causes.
- They open doors. When’s the last time someone opened and held a door for you? Ok, so we’re talking metaphorical doors in this case. Like the kind of doors that open to job leads, education enhancement and career advancement opportunities. Doors that enable entry to a successful and fulfilling professional future.
- Everything they do, they do it for you. As seasoned industry experts, our associations and chambers know their industries intimately and combine their passion and knowledge with industry needs and demands to offer the tools and resources needed to get ahead in their respective fields. They strive to promote and deliver excellence in areas beneficial to professionals everywhere.
- They foster positive relationships. Making connections and acquiring contacts is essential for individual and organizational growth and success. Our clients provide networking opportunities that can afford participants valuable business contacts, which oftentimes lead to life-long friendships.
- They’re committed. Serving as an official voice for their profession, chambers and associations are committed to promoting and supporting the value and importance of many industries through member engagement, legislation and other means.
As an Association Management Company (AMC), we are very fortunate to work directly with these organizations and interact with their leadership and members. We know what awesome work our clients do and cannot emphasize enough how much we appreciate them.
If you’d like to show your support to your local chamber of commerce or state or national association, it’s easy and feels good, too! Donating and volunteering are just a couple of things we all can do to support our communities and continue to spread the love!
If you are an association or chamber considering partnering with an AMC, we would love to chat with you about what that relationship looks like. When your organization faces challenges – We are The Solution!
Welcome! We are pleased to present the brand new look and feel of The Solution website. If you haven’t had an opportunity to do so already, take a look around and acquaint yourself with our recent virtual make-over. We think you’ll find a great deal of information here to help you understand who we are, what we do and why partnering with an AMC might be the right fit for you.