Posts tagged #membership

Replacing the Engine While Flying the Plane: The Association Executive’s Guide to 21st Century Change

association-executive-leading-change

Leading Your Association Over Uncharted Territory

Association executives and directors have been hearing for years now that change is coming. Membership apathy and decline. Decreasing revenues. Industry consolidation. Competition for education, other programs and services.  Governance paralysis.  All of these are symptoms of the much larger issue of relevance, value, and member service, that are pushing many associations closer to the brink. For a growing number, the time to change is now…or perhaps never.

One association executive we’ve spoken to described this process as “replacing the engine while flying the plane.”  Whether it is a new membership, governance, revenue or wholesale organizational model that is needed, the change at hand represents largely uncharted territory in the association space.

Research, Strategy, Engagement and Communication: 4 Pillars of Successful Association Change

During the CSAE Trillium Winter Summit a few weeks ago, TPG Partner Jack Shand acknowledged that while association leaders understand that change is needed, it can be very hard to know how to first identify what change is needed, and second, make the change a reality:

Keep One Eye on the Flight Instruments and the other on the Horizon  

As CSO, your role is to execute the strategic direction set by the board of directors and to manage the day-to-day operations of the association…but it is also to think strategically and be future-focused. Keep one eye on operations and one eye on the changes and trends that will be factors in your organization now – and in the future.

Explain Why You are Changing Course

I was on a plane once that had to turn back to the airport just as the flight attendants were about to come by with the snack cart. When the captain announced the reason – smoke coming out of one of the panels in the cockpit (!) - you’d better believe everyone was on board with the new plan. The case for change must be made. What is the sector, membership, or board most concerned about? People will ask – even if they do not say it out loud – ‘what’s in it for me?’ Make sure you have the answer(s) ready.

Use Evidence to Drive Decision-Making

Have you ever seen inside the cockpit of an Airbus A380? Countless pieces of data and information measuring altitude, speed, fuel levels, navigation equipment, as well as monitoring the various elements of the plane itself (cabin temperature and pressure, electrical system etc.).  Information and research must drive what you do. You need evidence, not assumptions. Research should be internal (consultation with members, staff, directors and other constituents) and external (sector better practices and research, case studies and literature). Use qualitative research to uncover issues and add context, and quantitative research to validate potential directions and options.

Understand and Assess Your Options

Avoid the temptation to rush a decision and apply a ‘quick fix.’ Develop and assess alternatives and options based on your research and end goals.  Particularly if your board of directors or other stakeholder body is involved, this approach allows constituents to make their mark in shaping change. Giving constituents some ownership makes it far more likely that the change will be implemented successfully than if it is seen to be thrust upon them from a small group of executive decision-makers.

Chart the Course

Like any other kind of planning, you need an actionable strategy to achieve success tied to your desired outcome(s) for change. Lay out what needs to change and how. Understand what are the critical success factors needed for the plan to be successful, such as informed and engaged members, the right data, and resources.  Be clear about who is accountable for different elements of the plan. Make it measurable by making your plan SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound).

Recruit Change Ambassadors

Grassroots stakeholders are much more likely to get on board with change if people at different levels of the organization have bought in and are visibly engaged - like this flight attendant, for example.  You can help draw attention to the need for change but it needs champions and leadership from the board and, if possible, other influential members. Mobilizing members as change champions and/or using a “train-the-trainer” approach to consistently facilitate and communicate change across the organization can be extremely effective at generating wide-spread support.

Be Open to Mid-Course Correction   

Once underway, people may tend to be excessively optimistic in self-assessing their own decisions, even when there are storm clouds on the horizon. Continually seeking feedback – and acting on it if necessary – is critical.   Make sure when asking for feedback that you are seen to be acting on it through frequent stakeholder communications that clearly make this link.  Implementing change gradually rather than trying to change everything at once is one way to reduce turbulence enroute, even if you need to change direction.

Keep People Informed

Keep members and stakeholders in the loop throughout the process with regular updates on progress toward stated goals and changes to your plan if it evolves. Be honest and transparent and continually tie what you are doing back to the value it is providing to your end-user. Importantly, don’t be afraid to toot your own horn when your change begins to take root and has positive results. It is important to celebrate success!

If you are interested in learning about and continuing the dialogue on association change, we hope you'll consider joining the TPG team at these upcoming events in Toronto and Vancouver!

  • Big Association Trends – From Identification to Innovation. A CSAE Trillium Chapter PDX Event. Wednesday, March 29, 2017 9:00 am – Noon in Toronto. REGISTER
  • Associations 2025: High Performing Associations of Tomorrow. A CSAE National Event. April 03, 2017. 8:30-4:30 at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel. REGISTER
  • Associations Trend Talk. CSAEBC Lunch 'n Learn Session. May 4, 2017. Sheraton Wall Centre. REGISTER

 

Toot Your Own Horn! 5 Ways to Promote Your Association

So many associations don’t do enough to toot their own horn.  In my mind those that are successful at keeping their members in the loop so that they are crystal clear about the results the association is getting on their behalf is one of the most critical factors that separate the good from the awesome in the association world.

Here are a few rules of thumb to consider when it comes to tooting your own horn:

1. Show members that you are listening and that you actually care about what they have to say.

Example:  “The membership survey told us that you think we’re doing a great job providing relevant professional development programming but that we’re falling short in providing you with opportunities to network with your peers.  We’re listening and are working on a plan to raise the bar in this critical area.”

 2. Demonstrate how you are taking action.

Example: "Based on your input, we’ve updated our education program to include opportunities that are more relevant to your needs.  These will be launched this coming January and will include X, Y, Z."

 3. Show members the measurable results you have achieved.

Example: "It has now been six months since we asked you to speak your mind in our member satisfaction survey. Since that time we set several ambitious goals designed to address your key concerns. Here’s an update on what we’ve achieved so far.

Government Relations Goal: Get a seat on X regulatory board by 2016                   Status: Achieved

Media Relations Goal: Be called on for expert advice at the national media level 12 times per year.    

Status:  On track for 2015 with the association and its members appearing in national media 8 times.

Education Goal: Develop and fill six new workshops on the impact of the economy on our profession.  

Status: First three workshops have been completed and were a great success. All were sold out. The remaining three sessions for this year are already at 75% capacity.

 

4.  Do Your Homework

Make sure you understand what balance of communication works with your members. In other words, not only do you need to know what channels your members want used (email, snail mail, fax etc.), but how often they want to be touched by your association (once a month, week, day). You also need to understand what type of messaging is most effective for the different segments of your membership.

5. Tell Them Often and Tell Them Again

Communication to your members about what is happening in your association cannot be something done once or twice yearly. Depending on what you learned from #4, communication needs to be sent on a regular basis using different channels and with variety in the messaging to make sure the message ‘sticks’ to the different segments of your membership.

 

The Portage Group Joins CSAE in Research Partnership as Level II Corporate Sponsor

The Portage Group is pleased to kick of 2015 with some exciting news! On January 1 2015, TPG entered a new research partnership with the Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE).

Under the new partnership agreement, TPG will be the sole and exclusive Corporate Sponsor of CSAE in the area of qualitative and quantitative research. We are very much looking forward to working with CSAE to continue to improve its research program and provide association staff and leadership with quality solutions to help drive sound organizational decision-making.

Questions and comments should be directed to Geoff Thacker, TPG Executive Partner - Research & Strategy.

 

 

 

 

Toot Your Horn: Communicating Effectively in Member-Based Organizations

If you lead an association, you know its important that your members play a role in shaping your strategy and priorities....but being member-driven is just half of the battle. The other important and often overlooked piece has to do with communication.

It can be hard for organizations to make 'tooting their own horn' a priority, but the ability to communicate successfully to members about the results they are achieving on their behalf can spell the difference between good and outstanding in the association world.

Following are a few rules of thumb to consider when you're wrapping your head around how best to educate your members about all of the great things your association is accomplishing.

1. Show members that you are listening and that you actually care about what they have to say.  Let them know that you've heard them and plan on taking action based on their needs:

Example:  “The membership survey told us that you think we’re doing a great job providing relevant professional development programming but that we’re falling short in providing you with enough opportunities to network with your peers.  We’re listening and are working on a plan to raise the bar in this critical area.”

2. Demonstrate how you are taking action. Tell members in specific terms how their input is going to be used to turn their vision of the association into a reality:

Example: "Based on your input, we’ve updated our education program to include opportunities that are more relevant to your needs.  These will be launched this coming January and will include X, Y, Z."

 3. Show members the measurable results you have achieved: Keep your members up-to-date with your progress related to the goals you have set. Celebrate your accomplishments when you reach your targets and be honest and accountable when you fall short.

Example: "It has now been six months since we asked you to speak your mind in our member satisfaction survey. Since that time we set several ambitious goals designed to address your key concerns. Here’s an update on what we’ve achieved so far.

Government Relations Goal: Get a seat on X regulatory board by 2012.

Status: Achieved

Media Relations Goal: Members and/or representatives of the organization to be called on for expert advice at the national media level 12 times per year.

Status:  Ahead of schedule for 2015 with the association and its members appearing in national media 8 times in the first quarter.

Education Goal: Develop and fill six new workshops on the impact of the economy on our profession.

Status: First three workshops have been completed and were a great success. All were sold out. The remaining three sessions for this year are already 75% full."

4. Do your homework.

Make sure you understand what balance of communication works with your members. In other words, not only do you need to know what channels your members want used (email, social media, snail mail, MMS etc.), but how often they want to be touched by your association (once a month, weekly, daily). You also need to understand what type of messaging is most effective for the different segments of your membership.

 5. Tell them, tell them often and tell them again.

Communication to your members about what is happening in your association cannot be something done once or twice yearly. Depending on what you learned from #4, communication needs to be sent on a regular basis using different channels and with variety in the messaging to make sure the message ‘sticks’ to your various member groups.

Carol-Anne Moutinho is a Senior Consultant with The Portage Group

Would You Let a Monkey Take Charge of Assessing the Needs and Priorities of Your Members? When to DIY and When to Get Help With Your Membership Survey

With low-cost survey tools like SurveyMonkey at their fingertips and ever-present budgetary pressures, it is easy to see why some associations are foregoing market research expertise and going the DIY route where their member needs surveys are concerned.

Do You Need A Survey to Tell You What Your Members Think?

Like many folks, you probably do a lot when it comes to gathering stakeholder feedback: You see and make a point of talking to members at association events. Perhaps you make it a habit to pick up the phone or drop in on members periodically to talk to them one-on-one. Maybe you even survey or poll them internally on their satisfaction with events, programs or new issues coming down the pipe.

These are all very important tools to keep your association connected to members on an ongoing basis...but what about when it comes to your planning activities?  Typically, member feedback is used as a peripheral driver of the process, if it's used at all.