2010 Events Calendar launched! - Register 3 delegates for the price of 2 anytime up to January 22, 2010. 2010 presents a unique opportunity for your organisation to leverage the improving economy and ensure that this is your most successful year ever. Our workshops have been designed to provide you with practical tools that can be immediately implemented into your organisation - delivered by informative, entertaining and high quality presenters. Our 2010 lineup includes: * Creating Profitable Boards * Direct Marketing Fundamentals * Membership Fundamentals * Meet The Sponsors * Integrated Direct Marketing * Risky Business - Risk Management for NFPs * Creating Active Online Communities * Membership Materials Workshops * Sponsorship Fundamentals * 100 Great Member Recruitment & Retention Ideas * Sponsorship Masterclass*
Over the past couple of years we've found that the scope of our work has expanded beyond our name. So we've shortened our name to SMS and tweaked our logo and colours. Speaking of which, when talking to Belinda it's "pink" ... but if you are talking to Julian it's "ruby red".
New article just loaded onto our website ... Social media seems to be the "hot topic" these days. With curiosity peaking in almost every organisation we speak to, we find ourselves being asking for either evidence of its purpose or advice on where it could impact the organization. Some commentators seem passionate, others submitting themselves to the inevitable and getting on with the job of exploiting it. Most of the criticism of social media comes from the armchair observers, because to understand it fully you simply must get involved. But what does it really mean to the NFP sector? Where should we go for practical examples of its use? Is it safe to be an early adopter and / or should we wait and see if it loses momentum?... read more.
Steven Bowman, a leading international adviser in corporate and nonprofit leadership, is presenting an intensive 1 day Masterclass that will shake long-held beliefs about strategy, risk and governance. CEOs, senior executives, chairs and board members should not miss this event. Places limited to 40 people. Registration is $550 for an individual, or for two or more people from same organisation, $475 per person. Perth 9th Nov, Melb 24th Nov, Syd 1st Dec, Bris 2nd Dec 2009. For more info click here!
On LeaderConnect Rebecca Rolfes asks a great question ... if it only took Facebook 9 months to get to 100 million members, why is it going to take associations 5 years to add 4 million. A couple of interesting thoughts here... read more
Recently news.com published an article about how a Corporate Deal Sees War Memorial Last Post Ceremony Sponsored. The article seems to be somewhat negative about the idea of companies supporting the War Memorial Last Post ceremony - favouring instead Federal Government funding. It seems to assume that the sponsors will "festoon the Australian War Memorial with logos". This seems a very narrow view that assumes a lack of consideration and respect by sponsors. Surely it would be logical to believe that a sponsor will publise its support of these kind of institutions in a manner that will not offend (otherwise it negates the purpose of the sponsorship).
I would suggest that the author of this article is living in the past and still believes that the national government will not only fund war memorials but also his pension. I'm here to tell you that times have changed and the goverment does not have endless funding. It is imperative that organisations wanting to secure their long term future look to private funding initiatives such as sponsorship.
What I also found interesting is that the article states that more than 87 companies including Qantas, Coles Myer, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, News Limited, BHP, Boeing, Rio Tinto, Fosters and Telstra sponsor galleries and other displays at the national memorial in Canberra. They even quoted that the eternal flame is brought to visitors by the Australian Gas Association under a $50,000 deal. This suggests that there are still sponsorship funds to support these kind of institutions - but as always these will only be acquired and retained by those organisations who can provide value to their sponsors.
UK membership expert Sue Froggatt has put together an excellent report on forecasting membership levels. If you are interesting in understanding the statistics that will enable you to better track and manage your membership statistics please click here for more information.
I've been to more than my fair share of gala dinners, gala balls and other gala events lately. Some have been fabulous. Others have been simply horrendous (and by goodness I hope you know who you are!).
A successful gala event is one where the delegates have a great time, the sponsors achieve their aims, both delegates and sponsors want to return ... and you have generated bucket loads of cash to put towards your programs. Achieving just one or two of these will not give you a successful event.
As both an organiser and a perennial delegate, here’s a couple of tips on how to ensure a successful event ...
Don’t mass market the event – Don’t just do up one flyer, send it to everyone and hope the registrations will roll in. I receive at least 10 invitations to gala events every week. I only to accept those where I’m approached personally by someone I know or when its caught my attention because there is something “unusual” about the event.
Invite the right people - You will have greater success in generating delegates who are able to spend more money at the event by selling corporate tables (generally or 8 to 10). People who are coming along for “free” (the guest of the corporate) are more inclined to spend as they haven’t put out any money on the evening as yet. The best corporate to approach are those who rely on maintaining good relationships with their existing and prospective clients – such as accountants, lawyers, etc. With the right relationships in place you can sell the majority of tables before you've even confirmed the venue.
Have a process for developing your amazing mailing list - You will have more success maintaining a relationship with 200 senior people who each have the ability to buy at least one table than maintaining a relationship with 10,000 people who might by one or two tickets every couple of years. You will already know a couple of well connected people. Call them and personally enlist their help. Let them know that you are putting on a fantastic event that will give them an opportunity to show their clients are really fun night. Ask them to commit to a table ... or two. Since you already know this person it should be relatively easy. Once the deal is done (and you have either taken their credit card details over the phone or organised to send them an invoice) ask for their help. Ask them if they can recommend another three people who might be interested in taking a table. Do it in a fun way ... you’d be amazed at what you can get away with by putting a cheeky grin and a chuckle at the end of a sentence. Then you call the people whose names you have just received and repeat the process. Keep going until you've sold out the event. You then have a brilliant list to use for all future events. Speaking of which ...
Keep detailed records - Keep a database with the full contact details of each person you call – along with detailed notes for future use.
Let people know what to expect on the invitations – Let people know what to expect. The invitation should at least include: the type of event (cocktails, dinner, ball, etc), start time, finish time, dress code, venue address, phone numbers, prizes, auction items, etc. The more information the better!
Don’t gross me out – I don’t want to see dead or dying children, animals or people. I’m trying to keep down my food. Make your gala event inspiring. If you do need to illustrate the cause use an engaging speaker. There is a huge difference between touching the hearts of an audience and making them vomit.
Find out what the sponsors are looking for – Sometimes someone will sponsor an event because they just want to meet one person. You can give them an amazing return on that investment just by seating them at the right table. You need to understand why your sponsors are there and ensure they get value to keep them coming back year after year.
Provide opportunities to donate – I can’t count the number of fundraising dinners I’ve been to where there was no easy way to donate. Put envelopes on the table with slips of paper that enable people to make a credit card donation, run a silent auction, run a live auction, make it fun to donate, pre-arrange for someone to make a large donation ... on the condition someone else matches it. The possibilities are endless! Use as many as you can!
The list above is not exhaustive - feel free to add your own tips (whether learned for running or attending these events) in the comments section below.
Judy Shapiro has written a great article about how charging for online content doesn't generally work, but using online content to develop a community can lead to profitable revenue streams ... click here to read more.
Sponsorship is hot right now - for those who are providing real value to their sponsors. If your sponsorships aren't selling following could be some of the reasons why:
The Economic Downturn - Sponsors are still out there. But the economic climate means they are looking at proposals carefully to judge the return they are getting. Are you delivering a real return back to your sponsors?
Wrong focus - Your proposals should NOT be about what the sponsorship income will help your organisation achieve. They should be about how sponsoring your organisation will help the sponsor achieve their objectives. Trying to guilt the sponsor into partnering with your organisation will only offend.
All those other organisations competing for the same sponsorship dollar - There are a lot of organisations out there competing for sponsorship income. Competition is part of this industry. Get to work on ensuring that you deliver better value than the rest.
Too much time in the office - Building relationships is an integral part of generating sponsorship. If you aren't out there networking and engaging with your existing and prospective sponsors then you are creating opportunites for your competitors to get the edge. Get out there!
Feel free to add any other reasons in the comments below.
Sending out mass emails for sponsors doesn't work. If you are serious about gaining and retaining long-term, high-value sponsors you can do so far more easily and cheaply through following this simple proven process:
Identify which industries you wish to seek sponsors - think about the people who would like to contact your members. Be creative.
Select the top three organisations in those industries you would like to partner with.
Identify who you need to talk to inside each of those organisations.
Identify the outcomes each organisation would be looking to achieve from partnering with your organisation (annual reports are great for this!).
Call the contact within each organisation and say "We've identified you as a key player in our industry. Our newly developed products have been designed to make you more successful. If we send a proposal through will you take the time to read it?" Generally about 80% of people will agree to read the proposal. Remember you aren't selling sponsorship on the phone (you wouldn't buy a new car on the phone). The purpose of this process is to get the meeting.
Produce a high quality proposal tailored specifically to their needs which demonstrates how you can help them achieve their outcomes. Send it through within three days of them agreeing to recieve the proposal.
Call them 7-10 days after sending in the proposal. Ask if they have any questions and if you can come in to discuss the proposal. If you get the meeting you know they are keen. It then comes down to negotiating the details.
We know this process works because we use it every day to generate sponsorship income for our clients in Australia, New Zealand and Europe. If you would like more information on how we can assist you please email me on email@example.com or give me a call on +61 (0) 401 648 533.
I found an article called "Why I cancelled my gold membership" and it sent a shiver down my spine. The author wanted to resign his Xbox Gold Membership. First, he outlined how difficult they make it to resign. Then he admits that he knew they would ask him why ... and the fact he had no intention of telling them. He then goes on to say that he is willing to share his reasons with the rest of the word. And he proceeds to do just that ... in detail.
Most people are not comfortable sharing negative opinions directly with the entity or person they have that opinion about. For example, if I were to ask you what you thought of me then you are unlikely to turn around and say "Frankly I think you are a skanky ho." Few people operate like that.
It is important to understand why your members resign. Tracking the true reasons for this may enable you to identify serious issues that will cause your membership to further decline. It is essential that you have processes in place to ensure your resigning members share their true reasons with you.
Posting them a resigned member survey is not the answer. If they don't care enough to renew why should they care enough to return the survey. Only those who really hate you will do that. The others will forever remain a mystery.
Telephoning and asking is better than posting a survey. But if an organisational representative is calling you will still encounter that resistance to truly share the reasons why they are resigning.
A phone call from an independent representative works better. That person can be a paid consultant or one of a group of members who have volunteered to make those calls.
How do you find out why your members resign? Is it effective?
The American Chamber of Commerce has not been having a good time of late ... and below you will find the video to prove it.
First of all, they've taken a position on climate change that is at odds with a number of their bigger members. This has caused a fairly public stoush with some members including Apple (who resigned their board position and membership as a result of the issue). On October 9 the Enterprise IT website published "What's in a Membership?" talking about the chamber position and the issues being cause by their stance. In the meantime the chamber insisted that they were simply representing the views of their 3 million members.
Then on October 13 Mother Jones exposed the fact that the chambers' membership numbers were closer to 200,000 in The Numbers Game. Things weren't looking great.
By the next day the Mother Jones reported that the US Chamber Reduced Numbers 90% immediately following publication of the article - despite not making any comment to address the allegations. While an argument could be made to say that the chamber represented the local chambers and their members, this argument was damaged when local chamber members were quoted saying that the American Chamber doesn't represent their interests and they have no membership connection with them.
Then, to top off an amazingly bad run, corporate pranksters "The Yes Men" held a fake newsconference where they claimed to be from the American Chamber. In that news conference they announced that their stance on climate change had changed. However halfway through that newsconference someone from the chamber runs into the room. This is all captured on video. What I find astounding is the way in which the American Chamber representative handles the situation. In terms of the guy impersonating the chamber he doesn't do too badly. But he lets himself down at the end when reporters start asking for his card - and he refuses to hand out cards until they tell him where they are from. Did he intend refusing a card to a media outlet that he doesn't like? Click here to read the article. Click here to watch the video.
Wow ... this organisation seriously needs an intervention! Or at least some training on how to better manage the media and communications with stakeholders!
Scott Briscoe’s started an interesting discussion regarding his perspective that membership is dying as a model on the Acronym website. I've provided my views in the comments section (as have many of the top membership thought leaders in the world) and if you rely on membership in any way the article and comments are well worth a read ... read on.
I've been working with LCubed (a fabulous web development company) to develop a free web-based tool that enables membership organisations to work out their membership statistics (retention rate, growth rate, average tenure). We've just gone live and I'd love to hear your feedback. Here is the link: http://www.membershipcalculator.com/
Ok ... so this post isn’t about membership, sponsorship, fundraising or even revenue generation. But I really enjoyed this article on the Anthill online website. There's something about watching the old tv ad that reminds me of when I was a kid ... yes ... I am a child of the television revolution (or de-volution depending on your perspective!) ... click here to read the article.
The Global Network of Association Executives (G-Net), has recently expanded the range of free support services for international association managers and executives. This is a great initiative that is bringing the associations (and the national bodies representing them) from around the world together. Best of all, it is free if you are a qualifying association manager. To join simply visit http://www.g-net.eu.com/ where you can access the support available including: direct access to international peers, advice on sponsorships, specialised supplier search engine, Special white papers, Governance guidelines and online professional qualifications.
We've been lucky enough to have Lisa Bundesen, an international speaker and expert on the topic of fraud in nonprofits, agree to run a couple of workshops for us in October. She's a very entertaining speaker with a raft of interesting stories to tell that really back up the amazing content.
Attending this session is really important as fraud can happen to any organisation. One of the stories Lisa told that really resonated with me is about an organisation who was defrauded by a staff member who held such a position of trust that she even picked up the children of the CEO from school .
Lisa has prepared a session that will ensure delegates walk away with a fraud control process that includes their Fraud Control Plan and Policy; Whistleblower Policy; Fraud Recovery Plan; an appropriate fraud reporting structure; and a Fraud Risk Assessment framework.
She will also tell you why people commit fraud and provide tools to identify the major fraud risks areas for in your organisation. Armed with that knowledge, you can then put in place appropriate processes to curb the opportunities for fraud to occur in your the organisation - pick it up quickly if it does occur. After all, the longer fraud goes undetected, the greater the impact on the organisation.
I found this great article that showed many familar logos and the hidden messages contained within them. There's a couple of really clever ideas in there. If you are about to review your branding it is worth a look to get those creative juices flowing ... read the article.
In so many aspects of our lives we don't realise the benefits of being part of a group - whether simply one in a crowd or a member of an association. This point was brought home to me this week. While crossing the street at one of the busiest intersections in Brisbane, I snagged the heel of my shoe and fell ingloriously to the tarmac landing surrounded by my shoes, the entire contents of my handbag and a fair portion of my pride. As several nice young people came to my rescue several things occured to me ...
There was no way I could escape with dignity intact.
I needed some urgent chiropractic care ... and a new pair of shoes. Not necessarily in that order.
You don't notice the people around you until you need them.
Therein is the strength of associations. The majority of members don't notice their association membership until they need it. It simply sits in the background. When things go wrong, or when they need a little help, a member should be able to seek support from their association. That safety net is a huge benefit of being a member - but also one of the hardest to convey.
I'd love to hear your ideas on how to convey this benefit. I will give two free movie tickets to whomever can provide the best story about how to effectively convey the safety net benefit of membership before the 15th of October, 2009. Tell your story via adding a comment below (to enter the draw please either put your details on the blog or email me separately).
UQ Business School has a special offer available for those wishing to attend the ‘Advanced Leadership for the Not for Profit Sector’ course. If you in a senior position within a nonprofit organisation I highly recommend attending as these courses are good value. The details are:
Date: 21 – 25 September 2009 Cost: One Registration $2,950 – Two registrations $3,250 Venue: UQ Business School Downtown, in the heart of Brisbane’s CBD.
Details: This course will focus on each participant as a leader and will expose them to knowledge, skills and competencies required in the current climate, and on the challenges and opportunities facing the sector. Your course fee includes tuition, all course materials, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea each day and a formal course dinner on the Thursday evening. You can register online or download the Registration Form from the UQBS Corporate Education website: www.business.uq.edu.au/corporate-education
If you'd like more information, please contact Ms Simone Hicks, Client Relationships Coordinator, on (07) 3346 7111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I read an article by Aaron Crowe who talked about the unpleasant experience of being sold a gym membership. I could really relate as I've gone through the same process recently myself. The sales pitch was so intense that, despite joining, I resigned a couple of weeks later. I'd found I'd really come to resent the entire process and going to the gym reminded me of it. I ended up joining another gym with a much more relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Thankfully not too many associations have chosen to follow the membership sales approach adopted by many gyms.
While I'm a big fan of social networking sites such as LinkedIn, I'm not a huge fan of Twitter. It's not that I'm totally against the idea. It's just that I'm yet to be convinced that the investment of time into Twitter is actually worth the return. However I did read with some interest Rohit Bhargava's article "10 Reasons Twitter Might Actually Matter". Still not entirely convinced but it does have some reasonable arguments in there.
There are so many different forms of social networking available that many people are finding it difficult to keep up. This is seeing the rise of a new online tool called a social media aggregator. This is a website where you can view all your social media streams from one place. Adam Pash reviews 3 of these on PC World. For those associations who are looking at ways to bring their members together perhaps there are opportunities here to be explored ...
It's interesting to read members and prospective members discussing the pros and cons of buying a membership. I read with interest Amy Wang talking about the benefits of reciprocal memberships available with different zoo memberships. While this is not necessarily a big consideration for the general population, for mothers on a budget seeking ways of keeping their children entertained this can be a big factor in the decision to join or not. It shows the benefits of considering each segment of your membership when developing your membership product.
Do you know how and why your members make the decision to join your organisation over other alternatives?
The Acronym Blog has released a free guide listing the different work policies of 260 work policies. It's got some great ideas for creating better working environments for your staff. Click here to read more.
E-Marketer has reported on a new study called the Consumer Internet Barometer that looks at who is using social networking sites. Interestingly, nearly 1/2 of women visit social networking sites compared to 37.6% of men. Not surprisingly, it also found that a greater percentage of younger people were regular users of online social networks. Click here to read more.
I found this interesting blog by Lori Rice that provides some good tips for people organising fun runs to ensure that their participants come back year after year. If you are involved in organising charity runs it is well worth reading her post "Keep Them Coming Back".
The Association of Financial Advisers and the Financial Planning Association of Australia are calling for mandatory membership of financial planners in order to lift both the professional standards of public perception of the finance advice industry. Even more interesting than the article itself are the comments. It is interesting to see how members and prospective members are reacting to this more ... read more.
Elizabeth Weaver has put up an excellent post giving guidance on how to put together a good "request for proposal". Well worth a read if you are looking to maximise the effectiveness of this process ... read more.
Many associations claim that "keeping members up-to-date" is one of their major member benefits. However we live in a world where information is already at our fingertips. This means that the biggest competitor to these associations is Google.
The biggest benefit of Google is also its biggest problem - there is simply so much information. One search can return a million results. Therefore it is those who are able to harness google to enhance their member benefits who are able to stay one step ahead.
Savvy associations are using tools such as Google Alerts. Through Google Alerts you can be notified on a daily basis of any new information related to the search phrases you have entered. I have about 24 different active alerts. The Alerts let you know about new content from news, blogs and websites.
By using these alerts you can ensure you are the first to hear news as it hits the web - and therefore the first to tell your members about it. You become a clearing-house for information by collecting and reviewing incoming information and keeping members up-to-date only with items of interest to them ... a massive benefit in today's time poor society!
I love this quote from the book. What if someone takes aim at your association as the incumbent and your membership dues as the product? What would you do?
Today, we know that the most disruptive way to enter a market is to vaporize the economics of existing business models. Charge nothing for a product that the incumbents depend on for their profits. The world will beat a path to your door and you can sell them something else.
Opportunities to attend higher education programs designed specifically for nonprofit leaders in Australia are rare. The UQ Business School has been running a great program that I'd really recommend investigating if you are looking for a good professional development opportunity. Here is the information I have been sent ...
The University of Queensland Business School will be staging a Corporate Education Programme in Brisbane from 21 – 25 September 2009 entitled “Advanced Leadership for the Not for Profit Sector”. This course will feature a number of successful case studies, analysis of successful leadership and marketing strategies within the sector; and will be facilitated by experts and prominent leaders from the sector. We have arranged for many high profile guest speakers to contribute including the Honorable Wayne Goss who will be addressing the group at the formal course dinner. The Business School, as its commitment to corporate social responsibility, has discounted this week long corporate education course. The quality of this leadership program is exceptionally high, in response to demand from the sector. The $2,950 investment for the course – which includes all materials, presentations and catering – is exceptionally low for a 5 day leadership development program. For further information about this course, or others presented by University of Queensland Corporate Education, please contact Simone Hicks, Client Relationships Coordinator on (07) 3346 7111 or email@example.com.
An interesting report has been released from IEG has shown that North American companies are expected to spend a total of $1.55 billion on cause partnerships in 2009. This is a 2.2 percent increase from the $1.52 billion invested in those programs in 2008. They also found that some nonprofits that deal with poverty, hunger and other issues directly impacted by the economy have found increased corporate interest. ... read more.
Social media is a great way to keep up with the conversations going on in your business, personal and special interest lives. However it is hard to keep up with everything as well as actually have a real life as well. I came across this article today by Summer Huggins who has some great tips on her blog on how to work social media into your work day - ... read more.
After our recent experiences with having a laptop computer stolen this post from Lisa Bundesen on her Fraud in NFPs blog really resonated. A great read with some interesting pitfalls even for those who are taking backups ... read more.
Wow ... in the U.S. GM Motors was allowed to abruptly cancel 54 sponsorship contracts worth tens of millions (possibly more). While it was a necessary cost cutting measure it will make people very wary about dealing with them in the future. I'd certainly be asking for the money upfront! ... read more.
I found this interesting article from Ann Oliveri who looks at how associations engage with their employees. She makes the interesting observation "how can the association embrace their community if they aren't functioning as a community themselves". She also provides some tips on how to manage more effectively. Click here to read more.
The Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey research has been released and showed that 64% of consumers "completely" or "somewhat" trust sponsorship as a form of advertising. This is the fastest growing in trust as it is up from 49% only two years ago. Sponsorship was ranked ahead of traditional, mobile and digital advertising. The only medium ahead of sponsorship was brand Web sites (70% found trustworthy). Inerestingly 70% of people trusted opinions they read online. The basic result - that consumers trust real friends and virtual strangers the most. How does this impact on your marketing?
Members recruited from events are more likely to renew and more likely to be actively involved in your organisation. Non-members registering to attend your events represent a great opportunity to recruit. Following are a couple of simple, easy to implement ideas that should increase your conversion rate ….
Prior to the event
Have a significant price difference between members and non-members.
Include an additional section on the registration that enables non-members to join your organisation on the same form.
Market the event to those who have enquired about membership previously but not joined.
Market the event through your sponsors and suppliers. Find out if you can send out a registration form with their next mailout – or if they could send out an email or fax to their clients on your behalf.
All non-members registering for events should be given a courtesy phone call to ask if they would like to join to take advantage of the discount. If you are a little shy about calling you can start by letting them know that you’ve received the form and would just like to confirm their details.
At the event
At the event make sure that non-members are identified (such as by a spot on their badge). Ensure that all staff, board and volunteers are aware that these people are non-members who may need special attention.
Appoint several member volunteers whose specific job is to ensure that the non-members have a great time throughout the event.
Provide incentives to non-members to join at the event.
Provide a forum at the event, such as a membership information session, where non-members and members can attend to find out more about the benefits of their membership.
After the event
Phone the non-members who attended and ask what they thought of the event. If they had a great time, ask if they would like to join (provide some kind of limited time incentive). If they didn’t enjoy the event then, if appropriate, action the feedback and provide some kind of “make-good” to the dissatisfied non-member – such as inviting them to a future event as your guest.
Keep the details of all those who didn’t join on a list for the promotion of future events or member recruitment campaigns.
Midcourse Corrections has put up a great article challenging people to make their event less predicable. I recommend reading Jeff's article: Is Your Annual Conference, Meeting Or Event Predictable? and see if it sparks a few ideas on how you can shake up your next event a bit more.
Smartblog on social media has run an interesting case study on how the Lupus Foundation of America uses Facebook to raise funds. Considering the recent publicity claiming that Facebook is a bit of a dud when it comes to raising funds this is an interesting case study to see. However I did notice that while they reports at 790% increase in donations via Facebook I would be interested to see what the actual amounts were (afterall, a 790% increase from $1 would probably not justify the resources allocated to daily updates). I would be interested on your take on this article.
On his Membership Marketing blog Tony Rossell recently talked about how research has found direct mail to be the most common method of sourcing new members (see: Direct mail is tops for membership). Here is where the Australian, UK and US markets seem to be quite different. In Australia and the UK traditional professional associations and industry bodies have rarely used direct mail to its full potential. Is there an opportunity here we are missing? If you've had any experience with direct mail please comment below. I'd love to hear what you have to say.
I found an article today that really reinforces my point about how associations deal with volunteers. I recommend clicking through to read the Acronym blog entitled: Are you making it easy for your members to volunteer. I like the way it encourages more innovative solutions to create opportunities to volunteer that are quick and easy for the member - and also valuable to yourself.
The Decision to Join research was quite clear when it said "If a resigned member can be regarded as dead, then an inactive member can be regarded as comatose". It went on to say that ad-hoc volunteering opportunities are the crucial segway between inactive and active members.
This means that if you can get your members more actively engaged with your association then they are more likely to renew. What makes this challenging is that different members will want to engage with you in different ways. Some will want to attend events while others would prefer opportunities that don't involve them leaving the house. You need to provide a variety of options to cater for all preferences.
Broadly speaking, getting members engaged is a three step process of which you are responsible for two steps. These are:
1. The association is responsible for creating opportunities for members to get involved.
2. The association is responsible for effectively communicating these opportunities to their members (in such a way that the members are fully aware of the opportunities available to them).
3. The member is responsible for taking advantage of those opportunities.
I often hear associations calling on their members to volunteer. I really dislike that word a it carries the connotation that the benefit is entirely for the organisation.
When I hear "We are looking for volunteers to help out at our annual event" I'm actually hearing "We've got some work for you that will take an indeterminate amount of time ... and by the way there is a good chance you won't enjoy it".
Consider rephrasing your request. Don't ask for volunteers. Instead welcome people to "Get Involved". Then let them know:
The positive benefits for them (learning new skills for the resume, expanding their social or business networks, etc);
the type of work involved;
the time committment (date, time and duration); and
who to contact.
"Are you interested in meeting some of the most successful people in our industry? We're looking for someone to attend our annual networking event as our Member Representative. Your role will be to ensure all our new and prospective members have a great time. This is a great opportunity to expand your networks in a social environment. We are looking for someone who can spare 2 hours from 6.00 on DATE. To take advantage of this opportunity contact PERSON via EMAIL or PHONE"
I loved this post on the Acronym blog that listed Classic Association Blunders. I would add a few more classic association blunders to that list including:
- Focusing on recruiting new members when existing members are pouring out the back door.
- Getting great sponsors on board and then failing to proactively service them.
- Relying just on the opinions of the board rather than undertaking research when making decisions that require a true understanding of the opinions of the rank and file membership.
Tony Rossell has put up an interesting blog with the results of their research on what member incentives work best to encourage people to join. He's put forward his thoughts and there's been a few interesting comments in response. Well worth a read for the different perspectives. Click hear to read the article.
I found an article today talking about how membership numbers in social networking tools designed for business are exploding (The Best Way To Reach Decision Makers?. Business Social Networks!). The core benefit of many business and professional associations is networking. As a prolific user of LinkedIn myself I have to say that I find it a great networking tool. I've even started a Membership Group on LinkedIn that is growing steadily.
These social networking tools are changing the landscape for associations. But it doesn't mean the end of assocations. On the contrary these tools represent a fabulous tool for vastly expanding the reach of associations. Those associations who thrive will be the ones that can capitalise on this tool and still remain financially sustainable at the same time.
Facebook has just hit 250 million users -just three months after hitting 200 million users. This is one of the most fabulous examples of membership growth I know of. Here is an organisation that understood a need in the marketplace, developed a membership product that fulfilled that need and experienced enormous growth as a result. They went from 0 members in 2003 to 250 million members in 2009. Even better - they have a free membership structure that is supporting from other income sources that leverage off their strength in numbers. With vision the sky is the limit. How can you "Facebook" your membership?
Jamie Notter is giving away free copies of his book "Generational Diversity in the Workplace" in ebook format. It talks about the generational differences and how to apply them. If you are interested in differences in the generations it is well worth a read.
Today I read an interesting article called "Flirt Your Way To Influence". It talks about the idea of using flirting to build a mutually beneficial platonic relationships in business. This idea has even more merit within the membership environment. Effective member recruitment and retention is about building a long lasting relationship where the member feels they have a relationship with both the association and, hopefully, with the rest of the member community. If your members genuinely like you it makes the process of retaining them quite straightforward. After all, people like to do business and socialise with people they like. So a little platonic flirting - otherwise known as being friendly and engaging in order to build strong working relationships - can go a long way towards improving the effectiveness of your recruitment and retention efforts
There's been quite a bit of discussion online recently regarding grace periods on membership particularly around the question of how long you should continue to provide services after the membership lapses.
For many members, the decision to renew or not to renew has been made well before the renewal is sent out based on their experience with the association throughout the year. Renewals themselves are simply a referendum on member satisfaction.
However, the way in which you set up your renewal process can still have a significant impact on your retention rate. In particular, long grace periods can be problematic. If you continue to provide services to a member after their membership has lapsed it does you very few favours.
At the very minimum, you are conveying to a member that they can still get services even without paying. It rarely appears as a generous gesture. More often it comes across as the association being lax in keeping up to date with membership statuses. At worst, word gets around and members start rorting the system and lose respect the association in the process.
A well put together renewal process can abolish the need for all but a small grace period and effectively convey the perception of your organisation as a professional, proactive and efficient organisation.
First of all, it is necessary to give members ample opportunity to renew prior to their membership lapsing. Start sending renewal notices out about three months before the membership lapses. Give member as many opportunities to rejoin as possible before the expiry date.
For example, if a members' expiry date is June 30 the process would be:
February - Member details update - contact members to get their details update. This is particularly appropriate if your pricing model is based on information sourced by members. Provide an incentive to respond by the end of the month. 1 April — Renewal Notice - include an incentive to renew. You may want to put an explanatory note on the early renewals – such as “This renewal notice is a little early. By sending it out early we ensure that those who need to budget for the payment have ample time to do so. We do appreciate early payment as it assists us to budget for member services.” 1 May — Reminder Notice 1 June — Urgent Reminder Notice - including notice that service provision is about to cease. 30June - Membership expiry date
1 July — Friendly phone call to member to see what's happening and advise that service provision is about to cease. 15 July — Resigned Notice and cease provision of all services
Members who do not renew should not be deleted from your mailing list unless they are no longer a valid prospect for membership. All resigned members should go straight back into your prospect management process because they have become prospective members once again - although be sure to tag them so they can be treated differently.
Some of the most successful membership campaigns I've ever run have been into resigned member lists. A resigned member doesn't need to know about the history of the organisation, the total range of services or the type of events you run. All a resigned member needs to know is what's changed since they were members.
Marketing to former members is so successful that it should be planned into your renewal process. Consider adding in a process 6-8 months after the member has resigned where they receive a "We want you back" email or letter followed by a personal phone call. Of course, campaigns such as this will only be successful if they are not still on a grace period and receiving services like several associations I've recently come across!
Independent Sector has released a free workbook designed to assist boards to improve their governance called the Principles Workbook. It documents the principles of good governance is provided in an easy to read format. Click here to download your copy.
Want to understand what services your members want? Then don't ask the question "what services should our association provide?". The most common response to that question is either a blank look or "I don't know".
By asking that question you waste a valuable opportunity to discover what services your members really need.When undertaking membership research you need to find out what worries your members.
You need to discover those issues that keep them up at night and what problems are at the top of their priority list. Once you understand the challenges your members are facing you can then devise products and services that will assist your members to alleviate those problems. In this way you can ensure you are delivering real value.
You will also find that different segments of your membership are facing different challenges. So when you undertake research be sure to identify the segment specific challenges to enable you to tailor your membership value proposition.
If I were to offer you a 24 carat diamond ring for $5 what would you think? My guess is you would wonder what was wrong with it. Your members will do the same thing when you offer a quality product as a ridiculously low price.If you want to create a strong, sustainable association then you need to be generating income from as many sources as possible.
Consider revenue sources such as:
Training courses and workshops
Conferences and trade shows
Networking events and services
Third party programs (such as insurance deals that give your members a discount and you an income stream)
Online and hardcopy publications (including magazine advertising, directory listings, etc)
Advertising in your online and hardcopy publications
The key consideration when adding non-dues income streams is to ask the question – will this product or service help our members to be successful in their careers or businesses. If that link isn’t immediately obvious then you may wish to consider other services.Also, you need to leverage from each thing you do.
For example, if you run a conference you can generate income through delegate registrations, trade booths, sponsorship, sales of conference materials to those who didn’t attend, merchandise, sale of publications through a bookshop at the event, etc.
And don't forget to market your income producing products and services to non-members. It's a great way to get them engaged with your organisation with a view to becoming members. Of course, for any product or services being offered to non-members they should always be charged at a higher rate so they offer another opportunity to generate the surplus that enables you to deliver even higher levels of service!
I came across this interesting article on Association Puzzle that discusses how long an association should continue to provide services to members after their membership lapses. I would be really interested in other peoples' opinions on "How long is too long?".
If you want to decrease your marketing costs and increase the effectiveness of your membership marketing then it is worth taking a look at your membership statistics. A quick analysis of your growth and retention rates can give you an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your member recruitment and retention processes and enable you to take targeted action. I've written an article to give you an overview of the key statistics you need to know and how to work them out ... read more.
The Decision to Join research from the ASAE is well worth a read. For those who don't have time to read the entire report then click here to read a summary I've compiled. Everyone involved in membership should read this.
A popular way to generate income while also providing your members with a benefit are third party programs – such as discounts on motor vehicles, phone bills, etc. However there is a large variation in the success that organisations have had with these programs. Following are the four most common mistakes and how to avoid them:
Selecting inappropriate products –Some organisations are promoting far too many programs, under the mistaken belief that quantity of offerings will guarantee their success. If that were the case then those with the biggest programs and the most discounts would “win”. This isn’t what happens – quality will always win of quantity. Organisations with successful programs are those that have made a considered selection of a few quality products/services that they know will be of interest to their members.
Selecting inappropriate partners – Some organisations go with the first organisation that comes along. Successful organisations recognise that they are an equal partner in the arrangement and seek a partner who has a similar culture and who they know they can work well with. Your organisation has a powerful value proposition for the right partner – never underestimate how important your organisation could be in assisting your partner to achieve their corporate goals.
Creating unbalanced arrangements – In order for a program to be successful it must deliver a clear Win-Win-Win situation where you, your partner and your members all benefit from the arrangement. A clear and sustained delivery of value to all parties is integral to a successful long-term arrangement.
The organisation and the supplier don’t work together to achieve success – Some organisations sign the agreement, file it away and believe that their work is done. Getting an agreement is just the beginning. Great long term programs need an ongoing commitment to promoting the program and ensuring it works for all parties. This includes having pre-agreed update meetings throughout the term to pick up any issues and make sure that all parties are getting the outcomes they require.
Recently I've met with several organisations whose leaders believe that once a member has paid their membership fee all services should be free. This kind of outdated thinking can hold an association back from providing a high quality service to its members.
Don't be ashamed about generating revenue for your organisation. Not-for-profit does not mean "for-loss" … or “for-break-even”. A more correct term would be "for-surplus" as a surplus is necessary for any organisation to remain sustainable and have reserves to put towards extra-ordinary activities when necessary. By generating a surplus you can provide an even better level of service to your members.
When a member joins your organisation that are making an investment - whether a business owner making an investment in the success of their business or an individual investing in the success of their career. And they expect a return on that investment. They expect your organisation to be able to provide them with a one stop shop for the products and services they need to be able to achieve that success.
Their membership fee gives them access to a basic level of products and services. As a member they can add extra products and services as needed to assist them to be successful. The association funds these extra products and services through the extra fees charged to deliver that service. This system is much fairer as members who don't wish to access those products and services aren't subsidising those who do want them.
Sure, there are some instances where providing a free service is appropriate - there will always be exceptions to every rule. But, generally speaking, running free events and providing free services for members who are in a position to be able to afford market rates devalues your offering.
I've long maintained that the real value of membership is intangiable (see my article "Articulating the value of membership"). Today I came across this article on Mariner Management & Marketing called "What's luck got to do with it" that gives some great examples of that intangiable value. If organisations could better articulate this value then they would have a lot more members.
I wrote an article recently on "Articulating the value of membership" ...
It's often the same sad story. Some poor sucker asks "What are the benefits of membership". The association representative takes a deep breath and rattles out ... "We have a magazine, a website, an email bulletin, a conference, training and ... blah blah blah" WHO CARES!Those things by themselves mean pretty much nothing. They are just a bunch of features thrown together. Frankly, when it comes to hearing about the benefits of membership I need more information. I'm not making a donation to the organisation. I'm making an investment and I expect to see a return. That's why I join an association ... read more.
I thought this was an interesting look at how a nonprofit who had never used social media before managed to achieve some great success. A good step by step case study reproduced on Mark Buzan's blog. Click here to read the article.
Brian Birch made an interesting post on the Acronym blog about how assocation management is about supporting members rather than selling membership. I thought he made some really interesting points. Click here to read the article.
I thought this article by Zelda Tupicoff on how Restaurant and Catering Victoria and StreetSmart Australia came together to raise money for a good cause was a fabulous example of how associations and charities working together can really make a difference. Click here to read the article.
Peggy Hoffman makes an interesting distinction between community and social networks. There is the interesting observation in the article that "community is the what and social networking is the how". Click here to read the full article.
The Romance Writers Association of America has a problem - the members are revolting. The associations' failure to move with the times has hurt them badly. This is a warning sign for any associations that think that they can continue to do just the things that worked 10 years ago. Click here to read the article.
Last month we were running an event in Sydney and, after confirming with the venue that the exits were secured, headed off to lunch. On our return I was dismayed to find that my briefcase (containing about $10,000 worth of equipment including a new laptop) had been stolen as the venue staff had forgotten to lock the fire exit. It was a bit of a disaster as we lost quite a lot of data (I'm now a convert to the practice of religiously doing backups!). A couple of days later I related the story to a fellow delegate at the IMEX conference in Frankfurt who said that would have been preferrable to her last event where the keynote speaker died (of natural causes) at the venue the morning of the conference. Wow ... I'd prefer a theft of all the laptops to something like that!However, it make me think that there are probably quite a lot of funny, weird and wonderful stories about the various disasters that happen at events sitting out there just waiting to be told. If you'd like to share your story please use the comments section below to tell us your story.
Tony Rossell has posted an interesting blog with his plan of action were he ever fortunate enough to walk into an association and implement a membership program regardless of history, tradition or politics. I like it. Click here to read what he says.
Pro Bono ran an article talking about how the Fundraising Institute of Australia are closing their Melbourne office. It's a shame to see FIA closing their Melbourne office. What concerned me about this article was the following statement: "the absorption of member services roles into existing roles within the events, professional standards and administration areas of the organisation" If membership is a key income area it needs focus. If someone's primary role is running events, processing or administering standards those roles will always get priority - particularly over member sales. Who wants to risk rejection when you can be busy doing something you are comfortable doing.
This was very interesting. The association seeks to provide a better conference by getting drug companies as sponsors. Some members boycott as they have concerns about pharmaceutical company sponsorship. It puts the poor association in a really tough position. Personally, I think the boycotting members should understand that, whether the drug companies sponsor or not, it will still be up them whether or not they choose to use the drug. Read the full article here. What do you think? There has been some discussion about this already on the Membership Solutions LinkedIn Group. Click here to read what's been said.
What are your thoughts on offering free membership and then having the member pay for services as and when they require them? There is quite a lot of discussion in membership circles about the idea of providing free membership with the member then paying for additional services. Has your organisation tried this? Do you think this model has a place in the future structures of member based organisations? We've already had a fair bit of discussion on our LinkedIn Group. Any other thoughts?
For industry bodies and professional associations using membership as a tool to generate revenue, provide an “opt in” customer base for products and to give it a stronger voice when lobbying is a logical step. For charities and other public benefit organisations it is somewhat different. Membership is just one of many tools that can be used to both generate revenue and to gather a database of people interested in supporting your organisation. If you are thinking of a membership structure for your organisation then you may like to consider the following:
Use appropriate language - If you need members to contribute funds, time or other resources to the cause consider calling them “supporters” rather than “members”. When you use the term “member” it creates the perception that the member will be receiving a personal benefit. If this is not the case then consider using the term “supporter” which more clearly defines their role within your organisation.
Consider the return from the investment – Membership is an expensive and time consuming tool, but it can reap substantial rewards when structured correctly. Sit down and work out the objectives you wish to achieve (eg: to generate funds, to build a database of potential donors and volunteers, etc). Identify all potential tools that could be used to achieve those objectives and the investment that each requires. In some cases membership may not be the most effective tool. But in others, especially where implemented correctly, it can work beautifully.
Ensure you have the appropriate back-end support – You can greatly reduce the pressure that a membership structure puts on time and resources by implementing appropriate back-end support. The benefits of a good database that is fully integrated with your website cannot be underestimated. It will greatly reduce the staff time required to manage the database, increase your accuracy and provide you with information to more closely target your messages and generate greater returns from your marketing dollar. If you do decide to invest in a good database then it is essential that you take the time to ensure that it is implemented correctly. After all, a poor database implemented well will outperform a fantastic database implemented poorly.
Recently a new awards program was launched for the meetings and events sector within Australia. In response to this the existing associations representing the sector (Meetings and Events Australia and the International Special Events Society) issued a joint communiqué denouncing the newcomer. Read the full article here. This is a very interesting turn of events. How do you think this reflects on each person involved?
There is nothing more powerful than a personal referral for membership. One of the difficulties is leveraging this into a larger scale. So I was really pleased to find this example of a member writing a personal article in support of membership of their association. Read the article here.
In typical member based organisations the more engaged and active your membership is, the more likely they are to renew. Is this a sign that Twitter is in decline when we see such a significant amount of inactivity within their membership base? Read Studies Show Low Twitter Use Despite High Membership.
A YMCA has come up with an interesting way to maintain relationships with those members (and prospective members) who have lost their jobs. They are offering free membership to laid off workers for up to 6 months. Read the article here.
Membership comes in various shapes and sizes - associations, sporting clubs, gyms, etc - but the basic principle of selling a membership seem to be the same the world over ... if you want the member ... ask the queston! Here is an article that appeared in Fit Commerce on just that topic: You Sell a Health Club Membership…When You Ask.
SMS specialises in sponsorship development and training, membership development and training, strategic planning and meeting facilitation. As part of this work they regularly undertake in-house training and speaking. Through their consultancy work they assist organisation with turnarounds, governance overhauls, research, strategic planning and general trouble shooting. You can read testimonials from clients and event delegates on the SMS website. Join the Membership Solutions LinkedIn group to interact with others in the industry.
About Belinda Busoli and Julian Moore
Belinda Moore (formerly Belinda Busoli) is a membership specialist who has assisted hundreds of not-for-profit organisations through Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America with their membership challenges.
Belinda is a professional speaker who specialises in training, motivating and up-skilling boards, staff and volunteers to improve membership performance. Known for her enthusiastic style, Belinda presents frequently for not-for-profit organisations. Belinda arrives on the platform armed with an array of topics relating to membership. Revealing insights from personal and professional experiences, she ensures that participants walk away with practical ideas and information that can immediately be applied.
Belinda is the author of the Membership Machine, Australia’s foremost guide to member recruitment and retention.
Belinda produces the monthly "The Income Generator" e-bulletin goes to over 12,000 associations, charities and other nonprofits every month.
Julian Moore is a sponsorship and business development specialist. Until 2008 he was based in Westminster at AVA Ltd where he worked as the Development Manager for a number of different nonprofit organisations including associations, chambers of commerce and sporting clubs.
His role was to assist each client to raise their profile, maximise their revenue streams and increase their surplus. Julian is keen to share his enormous success in this arena with others to enable them to achieve the same level of success for their organisations.
Julian is an engaging speaker who brings a wealth of personal experience to his presentations. He ensures that attendeses walk away with concrete tools, ideas and skills that will assist them to successfully generate funds for their organisations.
Belinda and Julian work together at Strategic Membership Solutions. They had heard about each others' successes via the association grapevine and were keen to meet in person. They were both attending the same conference in Barcelona so they arranged meet for a cup of coffee.
It was love at first sight and many hours later they were still talking over the same cup of coffee (now somewhat colder). After returning to her hotel room later that day Belinda called her mother and told her "I've met the man I'm going to marry". Luckily for them both she didn't tell Julian about that until after they were engaged!
Shortly after Julian moved to Australia and the rest is history. They both passionately love the work they do in the sector almost as much as they love each other - so working together was a foregone conclusion.
They were married in April 2010 and are now expecting their first child together in October. They live in "wedded bliss" in Brisbane with their three dogs ... as well as a large collection of lorikeets, kookaburras and other assorted native birds who have taken up residence in the backyard.