Archive for the 'Innovation' Category

15
Apr
14

Nonprofits struggling to meet demand

brokenpiggybankLast week’s post focused on the economy, and here I am writing again about it.

But I want to foster discussion on Nonprofit Finance Fund’s 2014 State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey, the results of which it released on April 7. NFF is a community development financial institution.

Leaders from more than 5,000 organizations participated in the sixth annual survey. The big takeaway: Nonprofits were hit especially hard when the economy crashed, and recovery hasn’t been easy. In fact, many nonprofits are seeking new funding sources.

Perhaps even more startling is that while 80 percent of nonprofits reported an increase in demand for their services, only 56 percent could meet those needs in 2013. And only 11 percent of respondents thought 2014 would be easier.

“Americans rely on nonprofits for food shelter, education, health care and other necessities, and everyone has a stake in strengthening this social infrastructure,” said Antony Bugg-Levine, CEO of Nonprofit Finance Fund. “The struggles nonprofits face are not the short-term result of an economic cycle; they are the results of fundamental flaws in the way we finance social good.”

Antony Bugg-Levine

Antony Bugg-Levine, CEO, Nonprofit Finance Fund

Much of that “social good” is financed by government grants. But nonprofits that receive such funding have experienced a sharp decline in financial support, which means they’re exploring other avenues for financial stability.

According to the survey, 31 percent of nonprofits will change the ways in which they raise and spend money this year. In addition, 26 percent will pursue an earned income venture while 20 percent will seek funding other than contracts and grants, such as loans or investments.

In the survey, 41 percent of nonprofits reported long-term financial stability as goal. But 55 percent of organizations have three months or less cash-on-hand and 28 percent ended their fiscal year with a deficit.

As a result, nearly half of the nonprofits reported collaborating with others to cut administrative costs. Other strategies: cutting funds and changing the business model. As another cost saving tool, organizations are relying more on volunteers.

The good news, though, is that 37 percent of organizations plan to hire additional staff and 51 percent plan to invest in professional development in 2014.

As you well know, nonprofits are crucial to communities, especially those that serve low-income communities. Take Meals on Wheels, for example. In June, Associations Now reported that 70 percent of senior nutrition programs, such as Meals on Wheels, have reduced the number of meals they deliver while 40 percent of the programs have scaled back delivery days. According to the Meals on Wheels Association of America, many senior nutrition programs receive federal funding through the Older Americans Act, which took a huge financial hit as a result of the sequestration.

In short: It seems 2014 will continue to be tough for nonprofits, but they’re coping as best they can.

I’d like to write more about this topic as 2014 unfolds. So tell me: Has your nonprofit been affected by the economy? What do you think of the survey findings?

04
Mar
14

Sharing our Great Ideas

The ASAE Great Ideas Conference is right around the corner. If you’ve not attended before, I highly recommend looking into it (if not this year, then next year). The event focuses on creative approaches to everyday issues in association management and is built around the sharing of – you guessed it – great ideas.

Unlike other events, this conference offers a relaxed, but business-oriented environment where you can step back from your day-to-day routine and be exposed to new thinking. Likewise, many of the ideas garnered at this conference can be immediately tweaked and applied to your own organization.

Scott Oser

Scott Oser, president, Scott Oser Associates

During this year’s program I have the good fortune to be speaking with my two favorite Osers – Donna and Scott. Scott Oser is the president of Scott Oser Associates and has more than 17 years of marketing experience in the association and publishing industries. Throughout his career, Scott has excelled in developing, implementing and analyzing multi-channel direct-marketing programs and is highly skilled in creating effective membership, marketing and sales programs.

Together, Scott and I will present:

Under Pressure: Navigating Extreme Association Trends
Sunday, March 9, 2:45 – 4 p.m.
Hyatt Regency Orlando, Plaza D

The session description reads as follows:

Countless authors and thought leaders claim to have identified “The Next Big Association Trend”—the end of the traditional membership model, the demise of the face-to-face meeting, the rise of the social media imperative. It’s confusing to know who to listen to and how it all applies to our organizations. Join us for an open and honest discussion about some of the most highly debated subjects in the industry today. We’ll clear the air about these polarizing association trends and you’ll leave with a simple strategy for evaluating the appropriateness of the next “Big Trend” within the context of your association.

Whether or not you’ll be in Orlando, join the discussion on Twitter by following @aaronwolowiec, @scottoser and the hash tag #ideas14 LO1.

Donna Oser, director of executive search services, Michigan Association of School Boards

Donna Oser, director of executive search services, Michigan Association of School Boards

The second Oser I’ll be speaking with is Donna Oser, CAE. Donna currently serves as the director of executive search services for the Michigan Association of School Boards; however, she also has extensive experience as a management consultant, coach and facilitator and specializes in membership, non-dues revenue and business innovation. We worked together to develop the myLounge concept for ORGPRO in 2013 and have since facilitated a number of presentations together. Some may say we’re kindred spirits.

Together, Donna and I will present:

The Solution Room: Burning Issues Resolved
Monday, March 10, 1:30 – 2:45 p.m.
Hyatt Regency Orlando, Florida A

The session description reads as follows:

The Solution Room is an innovative framework for knowledge sharing that provides participants with a brief but powerful consulting session on an issue or a topic of their choosing. Participants can expect to walk away with a variety of ideas and resources that can be immediately applied to their greatest workplace or personal challenges. Come prepared to actively participate!

Moreover, session participants will debrief the Solution Room framework and identify its applicability to their own organizations. Once again, you can join the discussion on Twitter by following @aaronwolowiec, @donaoser and the hash tag #ideas14 LO2. Handouts for both sessions will also be available here later this week.

In the meantime, tell us in the comments about a session you’re presenting at Great Ideas – or one you’re particularly interested in attending.

25
Feb
14

That’s so…2013

Each month, we’re asking editors and content producers to share with us what they’re writing about, upcoming trends and other behind-the-scenes must-haves for the association industry.

Julie Shoop

Julie Shoop, editor of Associations Now.

If you’d like to contribute, please contact Kristen Parker, digital content manager for Event Garde LLC, at Kristen@eventgarde.com.

This week’s guest blog post includes excerpts from “What’s Out, What’s In: Association Edition,” by Julie Shoop, editor of Associations Now.

Rebranding

Out: Aging brands
In: New names, fresh logos

Globalization, digital technology, shifting markets, regulatory change—with so many disruptions in the business environment, it’s no wonder that a slew of associations remade their brands and aimed to broaden their reach in 2013. Cases in point: Lobbyists became government relations professionals; recording merchandisers became Music Biz. Associations in the fashion, mobile, supply chain, marketing and recycling industries hopped on the rebranding bandwagon as well. We’ll be watching for who’s up next in 2014.

Conferences

Out: Lavish meetings and events
In: Slim federal conference and travel budgets

There’s a new reality for associations serving industries that interact heavily with the federal workforce: Government meeting attendance isn’t what it used to be. The wave of scrutiny that started in 2012 with revelations about a lavish General Services Administration conference in Las Vegas grew higher this year as reports of excessive spending on meetings by the IRS and Department of Veterans Affairs came to light. With slimmer conference and travel budgets now written into law, association events will continue to take a hit. Associations will need to drive home the value of face-to-face meetings to government agencies that will be footing the bill with fewer dollars and congressional watchdogs looking over their shoulders.

Workplace Culture

Out: Constant collaboration
In: Time and space for solitude

This was the year when a “whole world of secret introverts” was exposed, and being quiet was suddenly cool. Thanks largely to Susan Cain, author of the bestselling “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” momentum is building for greater understanding of different personalities and work styles to leverage every staffer’s strengths in pursuit of business goals. It was an eye-opening message for associations, where collaboration is king. Remember the buzz around open workspaces to promote teamwork? Now, not so much.

Volunteers

Out: Long-term commitments
In: Micro-volunteering

Plenty of dedicated association volunteers share their time and talents in abundance year in and year out—but that’s probably a small group of your hard-core enthusiasts. Micro-volunteering is emerging as a smart way to expand your volunteer pool and build engagement among your less connected members. Got people who can’t commit to helping plan your annual meeting, but can spend a few hours being a conference greeter? This is for them.
Editor’s note: See a related blog post for more on this.

Advocacy

Out: Bemoaning congressional gridlock (was this ever in?)
In: Putting pressure on Washington

The government shutdown in October highlighted the power of associations to show policymakers the consequences of their actions—or inaction. From air traffic controllers to businesses to Head Start and Meals on Wheels, nonprofits sent volunteers, activists and cold, hard data to D.C. about the effects of the shutdown. Their collective message: This hurts everyone. Fix it.

Learning

Out: Expert-driven education
In: Peer-to-peer learning

With competition heating up from for-profit providers offering free or low-cost alternatives to association education programs, pressure to innovate in association learning mounted in 2013. While we don’t expect to see the traditional keynote address fall by the wayside anytime soon, associations are experimenting with decentralized learning formats where peers interact in smaller groups and more casual settings. Is a “learning village” right for you? Or if you need to beef up your online offerings, digital credentialing may be the ticket. You might be surprised at how motivating a digital badge can be.

11
Feb
14

Goodbye e-learning

TechStockPhotoAs a former journalist, I love data. And trend data are even better.

So when I came across “Association Learning + Technology 2014,” a recent report by Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele, founders of consulting firm Tagoras, imagine my delight!

Young or old, technology has redefined the way we learn and work. As 8-to-5 days at the office have slowly turned into 24-hour social media networking from the car and virtual meetings during the kids’ soccer practices, social media has filled in the gaps.

“The world of continuing education and professional development has changed dramatically in the past few years,” Cobb and Steele said.  “To meet member needs and stay out in front of the competition, you need to arm yourself with real data targeted to help you grow your programs.”

The 52-page Tagoras report provides such data, which were collected based upon a survey of 200 trade and professional associations. “Association Learning + Technology 2014” is designed to help association leaders strategize for a new learning landscape, while meeting their members’ needs for convenient and quick access to information.

There’s a goldmine of information in the report, which you can get for free if you subscribe to Tagoras’ free e-newsletter.

I’m sure the trends and data provided in the report will provide future blog fodder. But for starters, Cobb and Steele have abandoned the term e-learning and instead use the term technology-enabled or technology-enhanced learning.

Nearly all survey respondents – 88.7 percent – indicated they use some form of technology-enabled learning. The most popular form of such learning, according to the report: webinar.

As for social media, 33 percent of respondents reported using YouTube for learning programs, followed closely by Twitter (32 percent). Facebook was next, followed by LinkedIn. Nearly 37 percent of those surveyed indicated they have a mobile learning platform, and live streaming – rather than virtual conferences – seems to be an upcoming trend.

Another key takeaway: The majority of all respondents report technology has increased their revenue from educational offerings, but less than a quarter have a strategy in place to launch new learning platforms.

Cobb and Steel found organizations that consider themselves to be very successful:

  • Report increased net revenue from their education offerings as a result of their use of technology for learning.
  • Have a formal, documented strategy for their use of technology for learning.
  • Have formal, documented product development and pricing processes that cover their technology-enabled and technology-enhanced learning.
  • Offer facilitated online courses, gamified learning, virtual conferences and at least some mobile learning.
  • Use a learning content management system (LCMS).
  • Offer a formal credential (e.g., a certification or license), regardless of whether the credential is their own.

As the association industry transitions into technology-enabled learning, other trends will emerge, the report said. There will be:

  • Growth in implementation of learning platforms and their integration with other key systems, like association management systems.
  • A continued focus on professional instructional design to help ensure educational products are effective.
  • The slowly growing use of social media for learning and increased dabbling in emerging products, like microcredentials and massive courses.
  • An increase in competition that will, in turn, drive experimentation as associations look at how best to deliver more value.
  • The professionalization of the education function overall, as the adoption and integration of sophisticated technologies increase the demand for savvy, experienced leaders in the continuing education and professional development business.
Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele

Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele

“We want to see more associations develop and use a strategy to guide their use of technology for learning,” Cobb and Steele said. “Gut-level governance can work, but more consistent approaches empower staff all over the org chart.”

While all this may seem overwhelming, “Associations Learning + Technology 2014” is an incredible measurement tool for associations, regardless of size and budget. As associations plan educational programs, sessions and conferences, it’s becoming increasingly important that technology take center stage.

But it’s O.K. to start small. Maybe the answer is a hybrid conference – in-person and live stream. Or maybe it’s establishing a professional group on LinkedIn. Or perhaps smaller associations can establish a YouTube channel and provide “tips of the day.” (By the way, this is a great project for interns, who love to create videos and are social-media savvy.)

The point is: Don’t be afraid to taste technology. And don’t leave your clients and members hungry or with a bitter aftertaste in a world full of ripe and delicious technological treats.

So, tell us, are you embracing technology-enabled learning? How do you incorporate technology into your matrix of educational opportunities?

21
Jan
14

What’s in store for 2014?

This week’s guest blog post is by Alexa Stanard, editor of Michigan Meetings + Events magazine. I asked her to speculate on what 2014 might bring for the meetings and events industry. Here’s what she had to say.

Alexa Stanard

Alexa Stanard, editor of Michigan Meetings + Events magazine.

In the magazine business, we generally have to think many months ahead. This is tricky; it’s a psychological leap to imagine a June wedding or a fall association meeting when it’s 14 degrees outside. It also means trying to gauge what’s going to be on everyone’s mind well before it actually is.

The meeting and event industry is much the same way. Savvy planners must be thoughtful and attuned to their environments and clients. They have to read the tea leaves, but they also have to know if their clients are black tea drinkers or prefer chamomile. In other words, just because a color is hot on the Paris runway doesn’t mean someone in Milan, Mich., is going to like it. It’s our job to predict patterns and to steer clients to those we think are the most relevant and noteworthy.

Michigan hasn’t been a trendsetting state since the heyday of the American-made automobile. Suddenly, though, that seems to be changing. Everyone’s hot to visit Detroit; Grand Rapids is topping national lists of places to live; and Traverse City keeps crushing it as a vacation destination, somehow figuring out how to lead about every trend – from craft brew making to farm-to-table cuisine – that comes down the pike.

At Michigan Meetings and Events, we’ve taken a few educated guesses at what will matter in our industry this year:

  • A little dirt is a good thing. Farm venues are hot, and Michigan has some great ones.
  • Traditional venues need to figure out how to up their game. Too many people are heading off the beaten path for the ballroom-based spaces to phone it in. Venues need to let planners get creative and should invest in photography of their spaces being used for imaginative events.
  • Self-sufficiency is in, on just about every front. We’re giving up on corporate jobs to start our own one-person businesses; we’re growing our own food and making our own booze; we’re finding ways to save money and be responsible by operating as green and lean as we can.
  • Values matter. People care about where their food comes from, how workers are treated and whether their meeting or event is leaving a giant, carbon-emanating footprint. Few clients will expect perfection on all fronts (even fewer will want to pay for it), but finding ways to integrate a greener, more-humane approach into one’s offerings and operations will pay off.
  • No one wants his or her time wasted, but people still yearn for connection. In other words, use technology thoughtfully. It aids efficiency and the dissemination of information. But effective meetings must also approach people as people. Learning occurs primarily though interaction and connection. Technology is a supplementary tool.
  • Finally, cost isn’t everything. This one is nearly always true, but especially so as Michigan rebounds and as values increasingly take center stage. Compete on cost where you can, but people will pay for value and for values.

If you think I’m missing some key items, tell me! I hope you’ve had the chance to read our Winter 2014 issue, and I hope you’ll send me your feedback on what you read (or didn’t see and would like to.)

Happy 2014!

10
Dec
13

There’s an app for that

Mobile appsIn this appilicious world, it’s hard not to be addicted to smartphones. From recipes to sports to stocks, it seems there’s an app for everything.

And it’s not just big businesses that have jumped on the app bandwagon. I recently attended an app swap (we public relations professionals are obsessed with new trends) and discovered a Lansing-based mom-and-pop store has joined the app market.

Next year promises to deliver exciting new mobile technology, so when planning digital strategies, associations should consider mobile apps and websites, said Kim Harwood, president of  Results at Hand Software.

“Mobile is a great opportunity to serve your members better with tools and services to meet each member’s need,” she said. “Your association can leverage mobile technology for advocacy, education, member communications and engagement activities. Our whitepaper, ‘Strategic Mobile Trends for Associations in 2014 and Beyond,’ highlights some available tools and trends worth considering so that your association can get the most out of mobile and use it most effectively to engage your constituents.”

Results at Hand develops mobile-centric solutions for associations, events and direct sales organizations. For its newest research project, r@h has designed the 2014 Mobile Readiness Survey to gauge the mobile readiness of associations.  Those who take the short survey will receive a copy of “Strategic Mobile Trends for Associations in 2014 and Beyond” as well as results from the survey.

Based on its research and a recent report from Gartner, the world’s leading information technology research company, Results at Hand has identified 10 mobile trends that will influence the association industry:

  1. Native vs. Web-Based Mobile Apps
  2. Responsive Design
  3. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
  4. Cloud Storage and the Personal Cloud
  5. Geolocation and Near Field Communication (NFC)
  6. Mobile Payment Systems
  7. Mobile Video
  8. Mobile Advertising
  9. Mobile Security
  10. Event Apps

“An additional growing mobile trend we will hear more about in 2014 is the use of peripheral devices and wearable technology that integrate with mobile phones, such as glasses and watches,” Harwood said. “Given the diversity of mobile devices and mobile accessories, developing strategies that allow and encourage members to use the best tools for them to accomplish their goals will be of increasing importance. Association resources can be a great tool, but only if they work on the devices that association members use daily.”

For this blog post, I read the whitepaper – three times. But since I’m not a techie, I think it’s best to leave the details to the pros. So I encourage you to request it and read it. I think you’ll be amazed at the growth potential these trends offer.

That said, I think it’s especially important to point out trend No. 10, event apps, perhaps because they’re among the most common apps used by associations.

Results at Hand app.

Results at Hand app.

For mobile app newbies, event apps are a good place to start – for things like creating event guides. They reduce printing costs while increasing engagement and fostering networking. And users can easily integrate apps into their social media platforms. (Trend No. 4, cloud storage, is also an incredible cost saving tool. And, it’s not hard. My 11 year old uses it for school every day!)

The current trends in mobile event guides include polling, customizable agendas, gaming, video, contact exchange, geolocation and social media integration, according to the whitepaper. For associations, polling, gaming, CEU tracking and GPS are hot topics that will continue to dominate in 2014.

So as 2013 comes to a close and you plan for 2014, will you incorporate mobile technology into your communication plan?

Whether your IT staff is ready to go or whether you’re just scratching the surface, consider participating in the Results at Hand survey. Research is the first step to designing best practices, and, who knows, you may be more ready than you think.

03
Dec
13

Celebrating two years

Two years ago, Aaron Wolowiec had a vision. Strategic planning. Instructional design. Meeting management. They were all in his wheelhouse. But it was time for something new.

And so, on Dec. 8, 2011, Grand Rapids-based Event Garde was born.

Wolowiec, a wordsmith at heart, chose the name carefully thanks to a little help from The Image Shoppe. Writers love the phrase “avant garde,” which is often used to describe trailblazers.  Event Garde:  A clever play on words? As a writer, I think so.

“Event Garde represents a pushing of the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or status quo, especially as it relates to continuing education,” he wrote for the website. “By partnering with clients to tear away preconceptions, Event Garde reveals dynamic programs, events and professional development experiences that result in thoughtful, enthusiastic and empowered learners and practitioners.”

Fast forward and it’s hard to believe that we’re celebrating our two-year anniversary.

Cally Hill

Cally Hill, director of client relations

From the beginning, Cally Hill, director of client relations, has managed the ins and outs of the business. As it quickly grew, Hill led – and continues to lead – many of the firm’s strategic marketing initiatives, including outreach to association leaders nationwide. And she’s one of the important number crunchers.

As most of you know by now, I came on board this summer as digital content manager to help Event Garde grow its online and public presence. As the main writer and “voice” of the firm, if you will, it’s my job to keep you “in the know” about association trends and topics.

In the process, I’ve formed invaluable networks, and our blog has gained quite the following. In fact, throughout the last three months, our blog posts have been included in social media roundups and stories by Associations Now. And the Twitter traction has been just as impressive, thanks to #assnchat.

Sara Miller

Sara Miller, director of meetings and development

A couple months ago, Sara Miller, director of meetings and development, joined the team. Miller is a sales guru. She’s currently working with CPAs, selling sponsorships, advertising and exhibit space.

Event Garde has a great team, said Kathleen Mennillo, executive director of the International Hearing Society. Event Garde helped IHS plan its annual convention and expo for nearly 600 people.

“Aaron’s event planning expertise, coupled with his experience in the professional development and association arena, instantly made him an integral part of the team,” she said. “Aaron is extremely organized, creative and passionate about creating successful events that leave lasting impressions on event attendees. IHS is thrilled to work with Event Garde and looks forward to executing many more successful events together.”

Throughout the last two years, Event Garde has gained the professional accolades of the American Society of Association Executives and other key stakeholders.

Wolowiec now writes a regular column in Michigan Meetings + Events magazine and he’s been featured as part of two magazine cover stories. In addition, Wolowiec has given various presentations at ASAE meetings. And he was recently named one of four “rising leaders” by MSAE.

“Aaron and the Event Garde team have been so helpful to ALTA’s Land Title Institute,” said Kelly Romeo, vice president of the American Land Title Association. “It has been like expanding our own staff without actually committing to additional hires! Aaron engages 100 percent and quickly connects with what is important to our members and students. We are looking forward to the next project with Event Garde, and many more.”

We don’t often toot our own horn. But as we reflect on the last two years, we’ve reached some incredible milestones.

And in December 2012, Wolowiec co-authored “The Meetings Report,” published in tandem with MSAE. It’s the first-ever Michigan association meetings industry survey examining the characteristics of senior education/professional development staff, characteristics of association meetings, professional speaker hiring practices, industry speaker preparation and compensation and meeting evaluation practices.

Meeting Notes

The Meetings Coach column, by Aaron Wolowiec

At the end of day, however, none of this would be possible without your support. So we thank you for trusting us with your livelihoods and for appreciating the Event Garde vision. Thank you for joining us on an exciting ride towards a new horizon.

As a reminder, please like our Facebook page. We’ve made it to 500 likes, but we’d love to have hundreds more! And remember to follow me on Twitter and use the hashtag #assnchat.

We look forward to an exciting year ahead as our team continues to explore new projects and possibilities – and we hope you’ll be a part of that journey.

12
Nov
13

Move over Fred Flintstone

George Jetson

George Jetson works in a futuristic office.

Remember the TV show, “The Jetsons?”  The funny robot housekeeper who talked back and the fancy buttons that made everything fly?

I loved it.

O.K. So maybe life won’t be that exciting 17 years from now. But I think George Jetson – or Hanna-Barbera I guess – was on to something.

Think about it. Seventeen years ago, I was in college, using dialup Internet to do research. There wasn’t Facebook or Twitter.  And I used the phone to talk, not text.

It’s amazing how far technology has come. So imagine what’s in store for the year 2030!

“Technology will specifically shape and challenge the meetings industry by 2030,” according to the German Convention Bureau. “The Internet, social media and mobile devices are the sources of this transformation.”

Recently, the bureau published, “Meetings and Conventions in 2020: A study of megatrends shaping our industry.” The study examines eight megatrends – globalization, demographic change, shortage of resources, urbanization, feminization and diversity, technology in work and life, sustainable development, mobility of the future and safety and security – to paint a picture of what the industry might look like in 2030.

I know what you’re thinking – it’s Germany, so why should I care? But Germany is second only to the U.S. as a meetings and conventions location, according to the bureau. And while it’s true that demographic trends may be different in Germany, issues such as technology and knowledge transfer apply globally.Techology

Obviously, I can’t write about all the trends here. But there are some key points of the study that are worth highlighting.

First, technology is a blessing and a curse. Infrastructure – meaning the venues that host conventions and meetings – will most likely change to accommodate more complex technology needs. As people become increasingly dependent on mobile news and social networking platforms, conference and event planners will look for facilities that are keeping pace. For instance, conference rooms will be better prepared for virtual speakers (i.e. webinars) and digital white boards. Of course, by 2030, who knows what fancy tools we’ll have? But one thing is for sure: Venues must follow the trends or they’ll lose business.

As we become an increasingly interconnected world, knowledge of other languages and cultures will be crucial, the study found. This means conference and event planners, caterers and wait staff may be expected to expand their global prowess. They may have to travel more. Learn a language. And adopt a love of lifelong learning. By 2030, these could be employer expectations,  rather than suggestions.

Along the same lines, the meetings and convention industry will gradually become more diverse, according to the study. And this means accommodating a variety of physical and social needs. An extreme example cited in the study: service robots in buildings. They may clean buildings, work security and help older guests get around.  Sort of like Rosie from the Jetsons.

The German study predicts by 2030 more older adults will attend meetings and conferences. People may work into their 70s by then, since retirement may one day become a financial luxury. So, the German Convention Bureau said the industry has to consider the needs of the older generation.

Fred Flintstone

Fred Flintstone

Another finding: Sustainability will become increasingly important. By 2030, environmental responsibility will soon be a top factor when businesses are choosing venues. In other words, certification systems (i.e. LEED certification) will be valuable, as will barrier-free accommodations.

The year 2030 may seem far away – as it did when we were kids watching “The Jetsons.” But as we parents know, time flies. So if you’re more like Fred Flintstone than George Jetson, get ready.

10
Sep
13

Mission possible: Finding and keeping volunteers

It’s the first board meeting of the year and the room is packed with enthusiastic volunteer board members. And later that month, committee members flock to your building to discuss the assignments for the year.

But slowly, throughout the year, people stop coming. Projects hit roadblocks. And by the end of the year, you find it harder and harder to recruit – and keep – volunteers.

Sound familiar?

It may be that your volunteers are bored, says Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC.

Elizabeth Engel

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

Unfortunately, many organizations are stuck when it comes to volunteers, she said. Like zombies, committee members engage in busy work instead of generating new ideas to further the mission of the organization.

Part of the problem is traditional committee structure doesn’t allow for quick decision making, Engel said, and that doesn’t work when GenXers and millennials are accustomed to 24-7 information and networking. We get impatient.

Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, these generations – which in 2011 surpassed Baby Boomers for volunteerism – value virtual networks and don’t often communicate face to face. But because of traditional volunteer models, defined by committees, boards of directors, meetings and high levels of commitment, these young professionals may be hesitant to jump in.

So that’s why associations must embrace mission-driving volunteering, Engel said. She and Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management and Marketing, LLC, recently co-authored a whitepaper, “The Mission Driven Volunteer.”

“Volunteers’ work has to have meaning and impact, where they can clearly see it advancing the mission of the association,” Engel said. “That’s the cake. Recognition, rewards, honors and all that jazz are nice, but they’re the icing. Get the cake right first.”

For example, there should be volunteer opportunities other than joining committees or boards of directors.

“The most innovative volunteer opportunities I’ve seen recently are related to tasks like crowdsourcing,” Hoffman said. “The most innovative association staff positions are volunteer services director, director of member engagement and volunteer coordinator – all of which allow someone to focus on this area.”

When volunteers feel empowered to contribute to the good of the organization, using their own skills and passions, they’re more willing to give their time, the authors wrote.

According to Engel and Hoffman, here are some hallmarks of a mission-driven volunteer program:

  • Projects are evaluated based on how they contribute to the organization’s mission.
  • Structure is built around project-oriented teams rather than the budget cycle.
  • Volunteers are selected based on competencies and skills rather than for position title, tenure or political reasons.
  • The litmus test for maintaining standing committees is breadth of oversight (i.e. fiscal oversight, leadership development/nominations) or legal requirements (i.e. state or federal laws requiring an executive committee).
  • It embraces and enables micro-volunteering.
  • It democratizes volunteering, allowing more people to participate and for those volunteers to create their own opportunities.

    Peggy Hoffman

    Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management and Marketing, LLC

To sum it up, while younger generations are willing and enthusiastic volunteers, they seek different kinds of volunteer experiences, ones that are less about structure, position and prestige, they wrote. They want experiences that are focused instead on independence, meaning, impact and “getting it done,” none of which are easily accommodated by the traditional committee model.

“People like variety, so the question to ask [if you’re struggling to keep volunteers] is whether people were driven out of your organization because of a lack of variety,” Hoffman said. “And a good percentage of volunteers stop because life changes their availability – a new job, a new responsibility at work, a new baby. So the question to me is, how do we address this by crafting volunteer programs that recognize this?”

One solution: micro-volunteering. Think about it as bites of volunteer work: short-term projects, flexibility, ad-hoc committees and taskforces. Micro-volunteers contribute 49 or fewer hours per year and contribute most frequently in ways related to content (research, conducting literature reviews, analyzing data, preparing background information for regulators and press, reviewing proposals) or teaching and mentoring, Engel said. In the whitepaper, Engel and Hoffman present some questions upon which associations can reflect:

  • Which of your standing committees have gone “zombie?”
  • What does your demographic breakdown of volunteers look like? Are you seeing a surge in GenX and millennial volunteers? What are you doing to discover and accommodate their preferences in volunteering?
  • Among your current volunteer opportunities and groups, which support primarily infrastructure? Which support primarily mission? How could you go about getting more into the mission support category?
  • What types of decisions in your association would benefit from a deliberative decision-making process? Which would benefit from a more rapid decide-experiment-learn-iterate process? How do you see your committees and taskforces contributing to this?
  • What current volunteer projects could be turned over to mission-focused taskforces?
  • What current volunteer projects should be dropped to allow you to refocus volunteer and staff resources on mission-driven projects?
  • Ad-hoc volunteers give the least amount of time but as a group represent the largest number of volunteers. Can you identify yours? What do you know about them? How different – or similar – are they to your volunteer leaders?
  • Have you audited your volunteer opportunities to assure a variety of options that target low, medium and high commitment, as well as differing levels of task complexity and expertise required?
  • What do your volunteers say is working and not working for them?
  • How visible is volunteering in your association?
  • What is one action you could take today to start your association on the path to mission-driven volunteering?
"The Mission Driven Volunteer," by Elizabeth Engel and Peggy Hoffman

“The Mission Driven Volunteer,” by Elizabeth Engel and Peggy Hoffman

You can download “The Mission Drive Volunteer” from Engel’s website. Of special interest: It includes three case studies of associations that recently changed their volunteer programs and are now flourishing.  So read it and let us know. Do you need to make some changes?

Editor’s note: You can follow Hoffman and Engel on Twitter at @peggyhoffman and @ewengel. For more information on this topic, please read Aaron Wolowiec’s column in the fall issue of Michigan Meetings.

20
Aug
13

Motown magic continues to attract business

Cobo Hall

Detroit’s Cobo Center

I’m sure I can speak for my fellow Michiganders: We’ve watched with heartbreak as Detroit, once the most prosperous city in the country, has struggled to financially support its declining population. Sadly, it all came to a head on July 18 when the Motor City filed for bankruptcy.

Ever since, that’s all the media seem to care about. Story after story paints the home of Motown as a city of abandoned houses, crumbling streets and vacant storefronts.

It’s not pretty. In fact, it’s the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. But there’s hope.

A recent Detroit Free Press column by Tom Walsh piqued my interest for this blog. He wrote about Detroit’s new “comeback city” advertising campaign, geared toward convention and event planners.

In 2015, the American Society of Association Executives will host its annual meeting Aug. 8-11 at Detroit’s Cobo Center. And despite the negative publicity and seemingly precarious state of Detroit, ASAE has full confidence in the city’s rebirth, said John Graham, president/CEO of ASAE.

“ASAE sees the 2015 meeting as an opportunity for us to raise awareness about how the city has improved and educate our members and exhibitors about all the opportunities the city has to offer,” he said. “Detroit is making major strides in providing a vast number of hotels, venues and attractions that would be valuable for any association meeting. We are going to work hard to promote these changes, so our members can experience it firsthand.”

John Graham

John Graham, president/CEO of ASAE

The Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau has raised funds for the annual meeting, so members can be confident in the city’s ability to educate and entertain, Graham said. From Greektown to casinos to Comerica Park (home of major league baseball team Detroit Tigers), the city offers a wealth of activities for attendees’ down times. And Cobo won’t disappoint either. In 2010, the Cobo Center began a $299 million renovation program, which is scheduled to be complete by January 2015.

ASAE chose Detroit because of its convenient and affordable Midwest location, Graham said. The association has a large number of members in Chicago, so it anticipates many from that area will come to Detroit for the meeting. Also, Detroit Metro Airport is an international airport so members traveling from around the globe can easily fly to the meeting.

Yet still, at this year’s annual ASAE meeting, which was held Aug. 3-6 in Atlanta, Detroit was a hot topic of conversation. Among the concerns was whether the city would be ready in 2015 to welcome thousands of professionals. And people wondered if the renovations to Cobo would be complete.

But so far, no bookings for Detroit events have been cancelled. In fact, the bankruptcy seems to be having little effect on convention planners, said Larry Alexander, president of the Detroit CVB, in Walsh’s column.

Those with concerns should instead focus on the city’s response, Graham said. Detroit is committed to redevelopment and bringing people back to the city. In fact, the number of young professionals in the city has increased by 59 percent since 2000, and 97 percent of downtown Detroit’s and 95 percent of Midtown’s rental apartments are occupied.

And that’s why ASAE will continue to work with the Detroit CVB to tell the story of reinvention to its members, Graham said. It will work with the CVB to plan various events and educational tours for the 2015 meeting. In addition, CVB will help ASAE pick an organization to which members will give back when visiting Detroit. In recent years, ASAE has engaged more than 1,000 attendees in community service projects in host cities.

With a population in which more than 80 percent of residents are minorities, according to the U.S. Census, Detroit is the perfect location to celebrate diversity. In 2015, ASAE will mark 15 years of its Diversity Executive Leadership Program, which supports individuals from under-represented identity groups in the association community to advance into the ranks of leadership, Graham said. In 2012, Detroit’s population was 701,475, according to the U.S. Census. But regardless of size, every city has advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important for marketers to think about how not to oversell the city, but instead focus on telling a new and different story, he said.

“You should find unique ways to convey these messages and images in ways that resonate with your audience so they’re encouraged to visit the city and personally see all the improvements,” Graham said. “Always be honest and forthcoming about the areas that need improvement and tell meeting planners how you are working to improve them.”

For next week’s post, I’ll talk with Larry Alexander about the “comeback city” campaign. Why should businesses continue to believe in the promise of America’s automobile capital? Stay tuned.

Cobo Hall ballroom

A ballroom at Cobo Center ready for a convention event




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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