Archive for the 'Best Practices' Category

15
Jul
14

Is your association a global guru in the making?

Global businessFrom membership to events to publications, associations provide critical services to nearly all industries and professions – not just at home, but around the world.

As industries boost their globalization efforts, associations seem to be following suit, according to a new report, “Achieving Global Growth,” by American Society of Association Executives.

But what differentiates a successful global association from a not-so-successful one? Commitment. Strategy. Good business acumen. Cultural appreciation. Just to name a few things.

The ASAE Foundation and MCI Group, a global network of 50-plus offices providing market development services and conference management, just launched a multi-year, multi-phase research project to better understand U.S. associations’ global strategies and international engagement. In the end, a series of whitepapers and other resources will equip association members with tools to “go global.”

As the first byproduct of the initiative, the newly released report focuses on U.S. associations’ business activities with countries outside North America. One of the key findings: The most successful global associations have a strong commitment to internationalization, with a clearly defined and executed global strategy.

Specifically, the study found associations with successful global operations:

  • Recognize that international business operations are important to their financial health
  • Introduce products to international markets frequently
  • Conduct international meetings, conferences and face-to-face training
  • Develop strategic global partnerships
  • Invest in emerging international markets, rather than those that might be most popular or English speaking
  • Establish global offices or locations

The study also found those associations that successfully engage worldwide have higher membership growth and more non-dues revenue than those that don’t.

In addition, 60 percent said they have staff dedicated to international operations.

An interesting finding: Associations that reported growth in product sales from outside North America are more likely to have board members who reside outside North America. On the contrary, those who restrict board membership to North America have flat membership growth.

All associations (globally engaged and non-globally engaged) reported China will offer the largest potential for globalization throughout the next few years. But successful global associations also recognize potential in Brazil and India, and plan to target those markets.

“Proactive associations are those that reach out to non-U.S. members and customers to better understand their needs, promote the membership or products that are uniquely useful to them, lower barriers to engagement and consumption, give local leadership responsibility and reward or recognize participation.

“The case should be made to find ways to get into [identified emerging] markets now so as to build brand awareness, cultivate demand, build partnerships and improve service delivery capacity,” the report states. “Doing so now may actually be less expensive than waiting, when costs will be higher, negotiating for favorable terms harder and competition is more intense.”

So what do you think? Do you agree with the report’s findings? Is globalization in your association’s future?

01
Jul
14

Bonus content: Event Garde e-news – July edition

Cally Hill, Director of Client Relations

Cally Hill, Director of Client Relations

Q & A with Cally Hill, Director of Client Relations

Q: When you’re not working for Event Garde, what keeps you busy?
A:  I enjoy spending time with my family and watching Tigers baseball.

Q: If you could meet one famous person, who would it be, and why?
A: Tom Hanks. He has been my favorite actor since he was on the sitcom “Bosom Buddies” in 1980.

Q: What song best describes your life, and why?
A: My favorite song is “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel because it is the first song I remember hearing as a kid and it reminds me of my dad.

Q: What is your secret talent?
A: I don’t have any secret talents, as I think they’re out there for everyone to see. (Editor’s Note: Cally is very skilled at making everything run smoothly. Her secret talent is definitely multi-tasking! – KP)

Q: Which color do you think best represents you, and why?
A. Orange. It’s a bold color that stands out.

24
Jun
14

5 Cool Things Associations Are Doing at Meetings and Events

This month’s guest blog post is by Samantha Whitehorne, deputy editor for Associations Now. Contact Whitehorne at swhitehorne@asaecenter.org.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne, deputy editor for Associations Now.

As the weekly blogger (and deputy editor) for ASAE’s AssociationsNow.com, I write about some of the innovative things that associations are doing for their meetings and conferences. While it can be stressful to come up with something new each week, it gives me a chance to spotlight association meetings, which sometimes are wrongly perceived as unable to keep up with the likes of bigger conferences such as SXSW or TED.

Here are five ideas executed by associations throughout the past year that I think are the best of the best.

Have Staff Wear the Latest Technology
In April, the Washington Restaurant Association outfitted its onsite staff with Google Glass to provide a live video feed of the event.

During the two-day event, WRA staff wore Google Glass while walking around the show, producing a video feed that streamed on its web site to give people an idea of the event’s layout and provide additional exposure for exhibitors via “on-camera” interviews.

“It allows us to go to a lot of the exhibitors and industry experts who are part of the trade show and interview them in a casual manner,” Lex Nepomuceno, WRA’s director of communications and technology, told Associations Now.

Keep Attendees’ Health in Mind
More associations are helping to keep attendees on track when it comes to their health and fitness while they’re onsite. For example, the annual conference and exhibition of the Health Information and Management Systems Society offered a three-day Wellness Challenge this year.

Here’s how it worked: Attendees had to sign up through the meeting web site and were required to have a fitness tracker to participate. They could either purchase a Misfit Shine activity tracker for $59 through HIMSS, which they picked up onsite, or use their own.

Each of the three days featured a different challenge. Participants used their trackers to calculate each day’s measurements and then posted their numbers online to qualify for daily prizes, which included two $300 gift cards and an iPad mini. To ramp up the competitive spirit, participants and other attendees could visit a booth in the exhibit hall to see who was in the lead each day.

Perfect the First-Time Attendee Experience
Conference newbies can be just as anxious to attend a meeting as they are excited, especially if they don’t know anyone, which is why the first-time attendee experience is so important.

The Society of American Archivists, with the help of its Students and New Archives Professionals Roundtable, put together a first-timer’s guide for its 2013 joint meeting with the Council of State Archivists. It includes a list of what to pack and a guide on how to best network at the conference. In the latter section is a breakdown of networking opportunities made specifically for first-time attendees, including the Navigator and Lunch Buddy programs. SAA also has two other resources on its site for first-timers: One has interviews with three previous attendees highlighting their tips and tricks for making the most of the conference and the other focuses on how to best navigate the meeting.

The American Homebrewers Association also has a fun first-timer’s guide for the National Homebrewers Conference on its site. My favorite tip — written by “AHA Conference Veterans for Fun” — is this: “As delicious as it is, beer is not really food. Don’t get carried away with your conversation on hop glycosides and hot side aeration and forget to eat.”

conferenceDesign a New Learning Experience
Well-known keynoters, high attendee numbers and hundreds of education sessions are nice, but they don’t guarantee a successful meeting. What does? Designing a learning experience members can’t re-create or find elsewhere.

With member feedback in mind and a desire to create a more engaging learning experience, the National Association of Secondary School Principals made a fundamental shift in how knowledge was acquired and delivered at the NASSP Ignite 2013 Conference.

The backbone of the strategy was the Connected Learning Center, located in the middle of the exhibit hall. The center featured a technology showcase to demonstrate new tools and included a place for speakers to hold mini-sessions to dive deeper into concepts and topics they presented on during their larger, 75- to 90-minute learning sessions held earlier the same day.

To further encourage this dialogue, presenters also were able to hold “office hours” in the center. These open-door meetings gave speakers and attendees the opportunity to discuss the work they’re doing.

Let Members Do the Planning
In an effort to get members more involved in the meeting-planning process, the National Association of Plan Advisors — a sister organization of the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries — let members select session topics for its NAPA 401(k) Summit, which took place in March in New Orleans.

The best part was that it was inexpensive and simple. ASPPA used the free, open-source platform All Our Ideas for the voting process. The tool was easy for members to navigate. They were given two session ideas, and they could either pick their favorite or add their own idea into the mix for others to vote on. The process was then repeated. The platform’s algorithm sorted and ranked the ideas in real time, allowing members and ASPPA staff to see what topics were in the lead.

What other cool and innovative things do you think are occurring in the meetings space, association-related or not? Share in the comments or shoot me an email at swhitehorne@asaecenter.org.

10
Jun
14

Post-Relay reflection: passion and public relations

The Event Garde-ians

The Event Garde-ians, from left to right: Jenny Hill, Ashley Jones, Cally Hill, Aaron Wolowiec, Kristen Parker and Sara Mller. All are employees of Event Garde, LLC.

It was 3 a.m. Sunday and I’d been up since 6 a.m. Saturday. By now, the midnight coffee was wearing off and I was punchy.

But the jokes were rolling as Aaron Wolowiec, president and founder of Event Garde, LLC, and I sat in the glare of stadium lights trying to stay awake. We’d been at East Lansing High School for the East Lansing Relay for Life since early Saturday morning. Our team, The Event Garde-ians, decided a year ago that we would do our part to help find a cure for cancer.

Wolowiec sat on the committee and chaired the luminaria event, while I served as a team captain.

So why did we do it?

Because a sleepless night is nothing compared to the battle of cancer. And because each of us on the team has been affected by cancer. I lost my dad and my father-in-law to lung cancer eight years ago. For our team, “Cancer Sucks” is more than a bumper sticker or a magnet – it’s reality.

Our team raised nearly $3,500 and placed fourth out of 20 teams. We walked hundreds of miles, sweated buckets, wore silly costumes and participated in three-legged races in the middle of the night – all in the name of cancer. During the luminaria ceremony, we cried as we remembered loved ones who lost the battle to cancer and celebrated the survivors among us.

Overall, the East Lansing Relay for Life raised more than $44,000 for the American Cancer Society. And while The Event Garde-ians were inspired by personal stories of loss and triumph, we also realized the importance of giving back.

As you may remember from previous blog posts I’ve written, giving back and community engagement are wonderful ways to say “thank you” to the community that supports your organization. And people notice: If a member is trying to decide which association to join, your organization’s commitment to social responsibility could make that decision a bit easier.

“The association community is founded upon the passion, integrity and commitment of members,” Wolowiec said. “As consultants, industry partners and association staff who understand the complexities of volunteer management, it’s incumbent upon us to use our considerable knowledge and expertise to help our local communities organize around and raise money for causes that are poised to imagine a better tomorrow – in this case, one that is cancer free.”

Relay for Life sign

Event Garde was a bronze-level fundraising team for the East Lansing Relay for Life event.

In addition, participating in such events is good – and easy – public relations. In our case, Event Garde was listed as a supporter and a bronze-level fundraising team on an American Cancer Society web site. Event Garde was included in promotional material and mentioned in word-of-mouth conversations. As a committee chair, Wolowiec networked with key community leaders and vendors to earn support.

That’s not all. Event Garde was tagged in social media posts and we engaged media. In fact, I did an interview with WLNS, one of Lansing’s main news outlets, talking about the importance of rallying together to some day find a cure for cancer.

So the next time an event such as Relay for Life comes to town, consider signing up. Your commitment doesn’t have to be expensive; you can easily start a social media campaign. If you choose a well-established organization like American Cancer Society, chances are, vendors will cut you a break – especially if you cross-promote their services.

Poll your members and staff to learn which causes they support and about which issues they’re passionate. If you can, donate to those organizations. Become a sponsor. Form a team and walk at midnight wearing your swag.

And get in front of the camera. Talk about your efforts to support your members’ causes. Don’t be afraid to get personal, because those are the stories your members – and potential members – will remember.

In closing, thank you to everyone who supported The Event Garde-ians’ crusade against cancer. Keep fighting, and we’ll do the same.

Luminarias spell hope

Luminarias spell the word “hope” on the East Lansing High School bleachers.

20
May
14

It’s an emergency! So now what?

Flooding in WellsImagine: Your conference is thriving. Rooms are packed and vendors are happy. Things are going swimmingly well and then it happens. You get the call that one of your attendees had a heart attack and has died.

Imagine again: You’ve taken a chance on a new event venue that sits beautifully on a river. Your vendors seem to love the locale and the packed expo hall. But overnight, the weather turned ugly and a torrential downpour caused the expo hall to flood. And in a matter of minutes, products and displays become waterlogged.

Both these scenarios are very real nightmares for event planners. Crises happen, and there’s nothing you can do – except plan ahead.

So ask yourself: How ready is your association to handle a crisis? If something happens at your next event, do you have communication channels defined? Do you have an emergency management plan?

It’s important food for thought. So important it was the topic of Destination Michigan’s Michigan Meetings Expo 2014, which was held on May 8 at the MotorCity Casino and Hotel in Detroit.

In a session titled “Emergency Action Plans: Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best,” participants swapped stories and advice for emergency management. After the event, Destination Michigan compiled scenarios and recommendations from the idea exchange.

The report includes 10 scenarios: participant death, flooding, ice storms, fire alarm, hospitalized CSM, tornado warning, intoxicated board member, concealed weapon, power outage and unruly protestors.

Let’s take weather, especially ice storms, considering the awful winter we Michiganders experienced. We all remember Icepocalypse and the damage it caused.

It’s best to keep an eye on the forecast and cancel ahead if you can, participants reported. And it’s important to communicate the cancellation via telephone calls, emails and text messages the night before. If you decide to hold the event, make sure to have a plan for no-shows and latecomers. If you cancel, there will be a cancellation fee, and one option for the venue is to apply 50 percent of the cancellation fee to future events – if you reschedule.

Admittedly, social events are participant favorites. Often, there’s a mixer or a reception during a conference, which means there will be lots of alcohol. And sometimes, people overindulge. But what if one of your leaders, i.e. a board member, has a bit too much to drink and becomes unruly?

As an event planner, you should find out with whom the person came to the event and alert him or her. Ask if he or she can help remove the person respectfully and quietly. However you do it, it’s important to get the intoxicated person out of the room, even if it means calling security. At the same time, you should strive to maintain the dignity and reputation of the person, so diffuse the situation delicately and swiftly.

In this scenario, the venue should immediately contact the event planner and stop serving the guest. After informing security, the venue should make sure the intoxicated person has a safe ride home or offer him or her a hotel room.

And the list of scary situations goes on and on. So I encourage you to read Destination Michigan’s peer recommendations for the 10 scenarios.

crisis-communicationAs a trained crisis communicator, I echo all the recommendations but I’d like to remind venues and event planners that communication is key. It’s better to over communicate than hide behind fear, and it’s easier to communicate when there’s a plan in place. Plans should include talking points, messaging, target audiences, a list of stakeholders and other key elements (which I’d be happy to share if you contact me.)

But even if you don’t have a plan, act quickly, think clearly and communicate. Say something, even if it’s just acknowledging the situation and expressing concern.

What other scenarios have you encountered in the meetings industry? If you’d be willing to share your plan, please email me at Kristen@eventgarde.com.

 

29
Apr
14

Why ‘giving back’ isn’t what you need from volunteers

Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, contributing editor, Associations Now

This month’s guest blog post is by Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now. It was originally printed on April 28, so it’s hot off the press. This is a topic that seems to intrigue our readers, so thanks to Mark for sharing it with us!

As a reminder, if you’re interested in submitting a guest post for our blog, please contact Kristen Parker at Kristen@eventgarde.com.

 

Having volunteers is great, but you need more than people who are looking for a sense of purpose. Are you setting the right standards for them?

What’s your volunteer problem?

The answer is likely different for every association. Too few people raising their hand, or too many. Gaps in the places where you really need help. Lack of engagement, or lack of the kind of engagement you need to get important work done. Regardless of the problem, large or small, it pretty much goes without saying that you have one. (If not, drop me a line and let me know how you’re pulling it off.)

Associations need to emphasize what it is they need done ahead of the personal satisfaction volunteers may get out of the experience.

Last week, Taproot Foundation founder Aaron Hurst pointed to an underlying issue in volunteering that speaks to the problems associations may struggle with: In an essay for the New York Times, he wrote that many volunteers are doing so because they lack a sense of purpose in their own work. On the surface this doesn’t seem like a problem — we like people who want a sense of purpose, right?

Except that a volunteer’s need for “purpose” may not jive with the task you need done. You can be awash in volunteers who aren’t filling gaps but still require care and feeding from staff. As one nonprofit executive told Hurst, “If I get another volunteer I’m going to go out of business.”

VolunteerphotoThe “I want to do good” or “I want to find a purpose” instinct is likely more pronounced in the charitable nonprofit world than at associations. But the same issues are at play in both communities. According to ASAE’s Decision to Volunteer survey, the leading motivation for volunteers at associations is “values” — that is, the sense of doing good. Similarly, the most common source of satisfaction among association volunteers is “giving back to their professional field.”

Hurst’s concern is that such motivations may speak to people being unsatisfied in their jobs — and bringing that dissatisfaction to a nonprofit. “We cannot meet this demand [for meaning at work] by looking to ‘causes’ as the primary driver in our careers and place the burden on nonprofits to fulfill this need,” he writes.

From the board to task forces and subcommittees, engaged volunteers who do valuable work will only show up if you — that is, the association’s leadership — set a standard for what engagement and valuable work is. Short of paying volunteers, associations need to emphasize what it is they need done ahead of the personal satisfaction volunteers may get out of the experience. This isn’t an either/or proposition. But both parts of it are necessary, and when they’re in sync, an association can get an engaged group of people doing important things.

There are signs that associations are moving away from the committee-based form of volunteering, filled with busywork, that may make volunteers feel like they’ve “given back” but do only so much for the organization. Associations that craft ad hoc-style opportunities will attract people who want to work on a particular issue that captures their interests and helps the association too. And micro-volunteering opportunities can help give volunteers a sense of ownership while ensuring that the association is getting practical things done.

I don’t think Hurst was trying to be a killjoy in the nonprofit community by saying that many people who volunteer shouldn’t — or that they’d be better off trying to get that sense of meaning at their day jobs. But he raises the important point that successful volunteer recruitment involves more than just filling seats with people who have certain qualifications. It’s about setting a tone of doing productive work and establishing clear expectations. It’s a good thing to have people knocking on your door saying they want to “give back.” But make clear to them what it is you expect them to give.

How has your association encouraged top-notch volunteers to take part?

 

08
Apr
14

Economically engaging

economic downturnThings were humming along pretty well a few years ago. Gas was, well, relatively affordable, grocery bills were somewhat manageable and people were working.

And then 2007 hit. As the economy came crashing down, many of us lost jobs, houses and much more. Stocks and investments plummeted. Luxuries fell by the wayside.

Fast forward seven years, and the U.S. is slowly coming back, experts say. But consumers are cautiously optimistic and their spending reflects hesitation.

And that’s affecting nearly all industries and associations, according to a new Association Laboratory whitepaper released last month, which discusses the future of association engagement.

Simply defined, engagement is the relationship between a person or a business and an association. It considers touch points, interaction and influence. Measuring it is important for success, but doing so has become much more complicated since 2007.

“The recent economic downturn provided evidence that as the economic situation deteriorated, membership engagement, as measured by anticipated membership revenue, decreased,” according to the whitepaper.

For the purposes of the whitepaper, economy was divided into public and private sectors. In a recent study conducted by Association Laboratory, association executives revealed only minimal hopes for more engagement, mainly because of budget constraints of state and federal governments. The public sector has been hit especially hard by the recession, and professional development – which often includes association memberships – has fallen victim to budget cuts.

The three biggest factors affecting engagement, as reported by association leaders: reduced investment by federal and state governments; business mergers/consolidation; and nontraditional competitors entering the market.

In addition, as companies operate with leaner staffs, people have less time to commit to professional development. Return on investment has become increasingly important as some companies justify their existence in an uncertain economic climate. Also as a result of restructuring, decision-making is becoming more team-focused, and, quite frankly, things like association memberships and dues don’t take precedence.

As a result of tough economic times, government agencies – and the public sector in general – are facing more scrutiny.

So what does all this mean for associations?

engaging customers“To improve engagement, the association needs to identify and develop a deep understanding of the primary audiences, stakeholders or markets it serves,” Association Laboratory said.

Associations should understand the needs and expectations of their industries, especially as some companies contend with new market strategies and trends. They need to concentrate only on essential services and needs, which means legacy programs may have to be cut.

In addition, fostering professional networks will be key to improving association engagement. And relationships will need to become more intimate, which includes developing brand ambassadors.

“The decision-making environment facing associations will be complex and dynamic,” according to the whitepaper. “It will challenge many of the assumptions associations have used to guide membership and engagement strategy. Associations that invest in understanding their market more fully and aligning their strategic initiatives and organizational structure more closely with market needs will have a much higher likelihood of developing and sustaining membership engagement.”

Association Laboratory provides suggestions on how to use the data and recommendations.

Key questions for discussion:

  1. Who are the primary, secondary and tertiary audiences essential to the mission and market success of the association?
  2. What are the leading economic and business or professional influences facing the association’s members and what are the implications of these forces on their attitudes and behaviors relative to engagement?
  3. What is the historical culture of engagement within the industry and profession and what are the implications?
  4. What benefits and goals of engagement do key audiences seek and how are those benefits reflected in choices relative to the association?
  5. How should we define and measure engagement and modify our strategies based on performance?

How would you answer these questions? Has your association been affected by the sluggish economy?

18
Mar
14

Numbers and trends and data…oh my

canstockphoto7351376-landingpageIn this day and age, we’re inundated with data. And some of us thrive on it. Especially event planners.

Data are key to improving your events, to giving your customers and potential clients what they crave. But how do you know which data are important?

It’s something called event intelligence, the subject of a new(ish) Professional Convention Management Association whitepaper by Eric Olson, CEO and president of Zerista, and Staci Clark, global marketing strategy manager for Cisco Systems.

Simply put: It’s about more than numbers on a page or stats.

Eric Olson, president and CEO, Zerista

Eric Olson, president and CEO, Zerista

“The data available to us today goes well beyond simple reports, like how many people showed up to an event,” Olson and Clark said. “New technologies and reporting tools are moving event data usage from a traditional focus on topline metrics, which provide a quick readout of your event, to a deeper dive into analytics that provides valuable context.”

The best way to tackle this? Combining quantitative (hard) and qualitative (soft) data. A good example: Measure how much your event gives back to the organization. For an exhibitor-focused event, after you’ve asked the questions about budget and purchase intent, evaluate whether exhibitors attended sessions or product demonstrations for new solutions or products. If so, chances are, you met their customized needs.

At the same time, be wary of big, flashy numbers, Olson and Clark warn. While it’s tempting to focus on record attendance, if your event isn’t drawing the right crowd for, say, your exhibitors, it doesn’t matter how many attendees you have. In other words, it’s the right mix of quality and quantity.

According to the whitepaper, there are three building blocks for event intelligence: attendee intelligence, operational efficiency and performance and business value measurements.

Staci Clark

Staci Clark, global marketing strategy manager, Cisco Systems

Attendee intelligence focuses on demographic and behavioral information. What are your attendees’ buying patterns? What are their interests? Data are gathered through survey and registration systems and once gathered, your organization can analyze data for patterns (i.e. technology interest).

Operational efficiency is less exciting, but equally important. Areas of focus include spend data, food and beverage stats and registration and housing trends. Such information will allow your organization to spend less to do more. Not to mention, you can ensure your attendees are well feed and that they’re comfortable in the space you’ve allotted.

Finally, business value: Don’t stray from your business goals. Identify and write down your organization’s ultimate goal. Do you want to increase your participation by 100 participants? Do you want 150 more vendors? Do you want to net $10,000 more in revenue? Make sure everything you do is aligned with your goals.

“Events have changed. Every stakeholder expects more,” Olson and Clark said. “And the key to serving them better is locked in the data that surrounds every experience. Every event organizer should be focused on data. Yet, with deadlines to hit and events to produce, can event organizers be expected to do it all?”

Yes, but keep it simple:

  • Collect as much data as you can, even if you don’t use it.
  • Set measurable business goals before you start analyzing data.
  • Focus on what’s important. If you can’t change something with a set of data, ignore it.
  • Bring in the experts. Don’t be afraid to ask for help analyzing your data.

Tell us: How do you gather and use data for your events?

11
Mar
14

New data: Volunteerism at an all-time low

volunteer-11As parents, I think most of us want to instill in our children the importance of giving back. Thus the reason I’m PTA president, I teach Sunday School and chaperone field trips.

As a working mom, it’s sometimes hard to manage professional and personal commitments, but new federal government data suggest that we working moms volunteer the most.

That said, volunteerism is on the decline, according to a new report released Feb. 25 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The report found that volunteerism fell 1.1 percent in 2013, with a total of 25.4 percent of people reporting some form of volunteerism. This figure is the lowest since the bureau started the survey in 2002.

Data were collected through a supplement to the September 2013 Current Population Survey, sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The CPS is a monthly survey of about 60,000 households that obtains information on employment and unemployment for the nation’s civilian non-institutional population age 16 and older.

According to the report, about 62.5 million people volunteered at least once from September 2012 to September 2013, averaging 50 hours. And, as mentioned above, women volunteered more than men.

Surprisingly, while we’ve heard that Millennials and younger generations find volunteering important, 35 to 44 year olds volunteered the most, while 20 to 24 year olds volunteered the least.

Why? Because many of us in our mid-30s and mid-40s are parents. Specifically, the report found 44.5 percent of moms vs. 38 percent of dads volunteered. Religious organizations took the top spot for volunteering, followed by schools, sports groups or other youth extracurricular groups.

Other key findings of the BLS survey:

  • Married people volunteered at a higher rate
  • Those who achieved a higher level of education volunteered more often and were more likely to volunteer with multiple organizations
  • Part-time employees volunteered more than full-time employees
Peggy Hoffman

Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management and Marketing, LLC

The data may be surprising, but it’s important for associations to keep them in perspective, said Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management and Marketing, LLC.

“There isn’t clear indication of why [volunteer hours are down], but remember that this study looks at community volunteering, which is different from association volunteering,” she said.  “We do know that people have less time and more work responsibilities, so it makes sense that volunteering is down and will continue to be until we create accessible volunteering.”

So what’s the key, especially to attracting young, energetic volunteers?

Gen Xers are inspired by entrepreneurial approaches and celebrate individual effort and risk-taking, Hoffman said.

In addition, Millennials thrive on cross-mentoring with older volunteers, especially when it comes to technology, said Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC.

“This presents a terrific way to build relationships between the generations, to create micro-volunteering opportunities for your younger volunteers, to allow them to develop the professional skills they seek through volunteerism and for your Boomer volunteers to learn new skills as well,” she said.

But first you have to ask, Engel added. In fact, according to the BLS study, 40.5 percent of people volunteered because they were asked.

And feedback is just as important. Engel and Hoffman suggest asking what interests volunteers, and it can be done casually during drinks, a quick poll or during a conference call.

Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC

Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC

“You can ask people to suggest topics for your newsletter, magazine, blog, webinars or conference, or vote on topics others have suggested. You can ask people to rate an article or comment on a blog post. You can ask people to post a question or an answer to your LinkedIn group, private community or list serv.

“You can ask people to make a personal call to a new member, welcoming her to your association. You can ask people to serve as welcome ambassadors at your chapter events or as meeting buddies for first-timers at your annual conference. You can ask attendees to share their thoughts at a town hall meeting at your next event. You can ask people to take a poll or short survey. You can ask people to share your content through Facebook or Twitter. You can ask them how they’d like to contribute to your association. Truly, you’re only limited by your imagination,” Engel said.

For more ideas on attracting volunteers, check out this previous blog post about mission-driven volunteering.

What trends are you seeing in your volunteers? Are you surprised by the findings of the BLS report?

04
Feb
14

Volunteer management: I gotta feeling

jugglingLike many of you, I’ve been known to juggle a handful of volunteer roles in addition to my nine-to-five job at any given point in time during my association management career. (Who am I kidding? When’s the last time I was able to get away with working an eight-hour day?)

Scanning my current commitments, I now serve on the editorial advisory board for Michigan Meetings + Events magazine, I’m a subject matter expert and facilitator for MSAE, I’m the luminaria chair for the East Lansing Relay for Life and I’ve recently been appointed to the ASAE 2014-2015 Professional Development Section Council.

Whether volunteer, volunteer leader, staff liaison or some other essential component of the volunteer management continuum, we all know what a good experience “feels” like. The sense of accomplishment from a job well done, the delivery of a long-anticipated product or service, a new friendship or business contact and the list goes on.

According to The Decision to Volunteer, association volunteers also expect a chance to work with like-minded people, network, keep skills sharp or learn a new skill, pass on their knowledge and contribute to a cause they believe in. Above all, people who volunteer for associations expect to be involved effectively.

Emphasis here on the word “effectively.”

Unfortunately, the study goes on to state that “turnover among association volunteers is high.” So why is this the case? In my experience, it’s because something is out of place or doesn’t “feel” right. Following are just some of the examples I’ve experienced over the years:

  • Volunteers are unhappy or frustrated.
  • Little to no direction from staff/organization.
  • Volunteer leaders are unprepared for meetings.
  • Few measurable outcomes are achieved.
  • Communication among volunteers is unpleasant.
  • Lack of resources to support scope of work.
  • Contributions are not appropriately recognized.
  • Milestones and deliverables are continuously delayed.
  • Lack of information or decision-making authority.
  • Workload is disproportionately assigned/assumed.

photoOther addressable issues in The Decision to Volunteer include poor follow-through with volunteers, lack of support or training and unclear roles.

And with the amount of work our associations set out to accomplish each year, we simply cannot afford to perpetuate these types of off-putting experiences. In addition to committees and councils, volunteers support our organizations as board members, SMEs and speakers (many of whom are uncompensated).

Following I’ve compiled just 10 simple ways we can take ownership of the volunteer management process (both as staff and as volunteers):

  • Identify a strong staff partner to support volunteer success – continuously refining his/her skills.
  • Align the group’s scope with the organization’s strategic plan.
  • Establish clear goals and expectations – communicating them early and often.
  • Ensure all new volunteers are oriented/trained.
  • Draft agendas for meetings and conference calls – and share them at least a week in advance.
  • Maintain appropriate communication levels between meetings – and in your volunteers’ preferred styles.
  • Create fun opportunities to build trust and camaraderie.
  • Quickly remove roadblocks, barriers and challenges that inhibit progress.
  • Celebrate successes – both large and small.
  • Strive for a proportionate distribution of responsibilities.

With our propensity for putting out fires, not to mention the countless other responsibilities that fill our task lists, it’s no wonder we don’t “evaluate” more regularly the volunteer experience. In fact, it’s usually not until something goes wrong that we take the time to identify and institute best practices in general.

So allow this to serve as your reminder. Check in on your volunteers this month. Assess their experiences, as well as those of your staff. Don’t become a turnover statistic. Leveraging just some of these course corrections while there’s still time could have a profound impact not just on your volunteer numbers, but on engagement and membership, as well.

In the meantime, tell us in the comments what you would add to our list of volunteer management best practices. What works particularly well for your organization?




meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, hot yoga, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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