Archive for September, 2016

28
Sep
16

Bonus content – Event Garde E-news – October edition

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Angie Ahrens, director of meetings and events, Connect Meetings

Q & A with Angie Ahrens, director of meetings and events for Connect Meetings. Follow her on Twitter.

Learn: Q: What’s your favorite part about learning something new?
A: The excitement of figuring out how I can work with this new information, as well as how I can share it with someone else!

Network: Q: What’s your No. 1 networking trick?
A: Passion hunting. I try to discover what people are passionate about as it not only helps remember their name, but also links our personal connection. (Isn’t that what events are all about? People?) Note: Disney is a good way to start a conversation with me!

Transfer: Q: How do you think mentorship aids in knowledge transfer?
A: Mentorship is just that – the transfer of knowledge that is related to experiences. It is one’s responsibility to share the knowledge he or she has with others, to continue to strengthen our industry by strengthening our peers. I’m lucky to have mentors in my life, and only hope that I have taken all the knowledge they have given me to do good with.

Q: Please share with us a tool/resource/book/blog/article/website/etc., and why you just can’t live without it.
A: I have “magazine Monday,” which is a good way to stay current professionally. But I do love getting ideas from BizBash and a variety of Instagram accounts on events.

Q: If I were writing a book about your life, what would the title be, and why?
A: “Entertaining Life Daily.” It was actually the name of a blog I used to write, and it took me quite a while to come up with it. I realized that my personality is pretty optimistic and I was always looking at each day as a new adventure. I try to entertain myself and those around me daily, knowing that we have the opportunity to make each moment count. Plus, entertainment can be found in a variety of places – never stop looking!

27
Sep
16

What is Your Volunteer Culture?

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Jamie Notter, founding partner, WorkXO

This month’s guest blog post is by Jamie Notter, founding partner, WorkXO

I think a lot of associations have a love/hate relationship with their volunteers. At one level, these folks do a LOT of work — for free — so their contributions are highly valued. We couldn’t accomplish what we do, given our resources, without these members moving the ball forward for us. And on top of that, we are membership organizations, so it’s the members who should really be driving things. These members ARE the association, right?

But there is also the shadow side of volunteers. You know, the ones who push too hard for their own personal agenda or are willing to reverse an entire strategic direction that was set by the leadership simply because they have a different view. These are the volunteers who drive us crazy, but we tend to throw up our hands about it, going back to that conclusion above: It’s THEIR association, so what can we do?

Well, it turns out there’s a lot you can do. Just because volunteers don’t get paid (therefore you can’t really fire them), does NOT mean  they are not subject to one of the most powerful forces you have at your disposal as an organizational leader: organizational culture.

Yes, there is a culture for volunteers. There are expectations about how things get done, and every volunteer has an experience of what it’s like to get things done at your association. They know how agile you are, how much collaboration is valued, how much you rely on technology and what level of transparency is expected from them. Even though they can’t get fired (unless they do something really horrible), the existing culture actually drives their behavior, so if you want different behavior, you need to shift the culture first. So here’s the big problem: We don’t set the culture for volunteers; we let them do that. After all, it’s “their” association.

I don’t think we realize how much value we are destroying by taking that approach. By maintaining a workforce that is that large, operating without a clear culture and having nothing in place to actually hold them accountable to a culture that drives the success of the organization, we are all but guaranteeing mediocrity. And I’m not saying all volunteer cultures are bad. That’s not the point. The point is you don’t know exactly what your volunteer culture is, and even if you do, you have set yourself up to be powerless to change it or shape it in a way that helps you accomplish your mission.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Earlier this year, at WorkXO, we released our Workplace Genome Platform to help organizations align their cultures with what they know is driving success. The platform revolves around an employee survey that helps you understand your culture with the precision and the nuance needed to make real and meaningful change inside your organization.

Now we are applying that same research and methodology to volunteers. We have converted the survey and the rest of the platform into a version that focuses specifically on volunteers. It gathers data from the volunteers themselves and will show you in great detail what your volunteer culture is truly like — across levels, geographic locations and volunteer tenure. Then we’ll help you determine whether that volunteer culture is aligned with what drives your success. Like the regular platform, it includes the survey and a year’s worth of resources and support to ensure the data you collect are converted into actions that generate meaningful change inside the organization.

This has the potential to unlock incredible value. Imagine volunteers who really knew what they were getting into when they signed up, where their routine behaviors were carefully aligned with what drives the results of the whole organization and where their experience as volunteers actually matched what they were promised as they were recruited. Suddenly, the traditional staff vs. volunteer battles would go away, because you’d all clearly be part of the same culture.

For example, here are four of the cultural building blocks on which we collect data in the survey:

  • If a process, procedure or approach is not working, we can correct it with ease.
  • People can make decisions and solve problems around here, even if they are not “in charge.”
  • We embrace change in this organization.
  • We eliminate activity that doesn’t move us toward our goal.

Again, these are just four of 64 different measures. When you start to see how different volunteer groups experience the culture and can pinpoint the contradictions and other patterns, it will open your eyes to the areas that need to shift in order for you to be more successful as an organization.

If you’d like more information on the program, please fill out our contact form and mention the Volunteer Edition, and we’ll get materials out to you.

20
Sep
16

Clearing up association chapter confusion

hires-trade-assocAs I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m a member of Public Relations Society of America, and I’m actively involved in the Central Michigan Chapter of PRSA.

While I enjoy attending PRSA functions across the country – during which I can network and learn from colleagues – I more frequently attend chapter meetings and events.

Obviously, convenience plays a big factor, since venues for chapter events are within the Lansing area. But also, I feel most comfortable swapping industry stories, exchanging business cards and hearing about trends during CMPRSA events.

And so, for me, my chapter is of the utmost value.

But that’s not the case for associations across the board, according to a new benchmark report by Mariner Management and Marketing.

The report found associations rely on their chapters for member engagement, leadership development, membership recruitment, marketing communications and local resources.

Probably not surprising (at least not considering my experience), networking and education are the top services provided by chapters. At the same time, the central organization frequently offers promotion assistance for events and meetings and helps with database management.

When it comes to dues, for the most part, central organizations, rather than chapters, set dues rates and collect dues. And in most cases, members are required to belong to the central association if they choose to also belong to a chapter.

As for training for chapter leaders, the most common form is an online discussion forum, with associations providing four educational offerings on average.

77Mariner also looked at the perceived value of chapters. Associations ranked professional development and advocacy as most important. However, when ranking the effectiveness of chapters in delivering services, such as membership engagement and leadership development, there’s a gap.

So it makes sense that alignment causes the most angst among associations. In fact, 37 percent of survey respondents said their chapters are somewhat or rarely aligned. However, only 5 percent of associations measure the ROI of their chapters.

“While there is nothing explicit in the survey data, we know from open-ended comments as well as conversations with respondents that there is an undercurrent of discomfort with the status quo on chapters, and some associations are trying new things here and there,” Mariner said.

In fact, the study found only 13 percent of respondents scored their chapters in the top quintile, indicating that many associations view their chapters as rather ho-hum.

This could be because, as Mariner says, there are two major obstacles associations face:

  • The boards of most associations with geographic chapters draw many of their directors from those same chapters and these individuals are invariably reluctant to make substantive changes.
  • Much of the resistance to change also stems from lack of data due to fragmented, disconnected or non-existent systems, which make an objective assessment of chapter performance difficult at best.

So what do you think? How do you rank your chapters? Tell us here.

13
Sep
16

Pay attention to what matters most

same-pageThis probably won’t come as a surprise to many of you, but it seems associations and their members aren’t always on the same page.

According to a recent report by Abila, what members want from associations vs. what associations think members want don’t always align.

For example, millennials just starting their careers often turn to associations for job opportunities and career advice. But baby boomers, who are winding down their careers, may instead rely on associations to provide industry news and trends.

The problem: A one-size-fits-all approach to association management and communication doesn’t work, but associations aren’t always good at segmenting their memberships.

Furthermore, many professional organizations take pride in providing numerous meetings and conferences when instead they should focus on job opportunities, credentialing and certifications, Abila found.

“Understanding generations and how they like to engage now is essential for any organization,” Abila said. “And acknowledging that an emerging generation will change the rules of engagement down the road – and planning for that – will help ensure success.”

Some key takeaways from the Membership Engagement Study:

  • Sixty-eight percent of members feel organizations are responsive to their needs, while 91 percent of organizations think they’re responsive to members.
  • Only 63 percent of members feel they’re getting good value for the membership fee, while 81 percent of organizations think they’re providing good value.
  • Seventy percent of members feel the organizations to which they belong are the voices of the industry, while 84 percent of associations think they’re the leading voices.

I alluded to it earlier, but segmented communication is crucial to member retention. In the survey, members said they most want to hear about industry news and trends, followed by professional meetings. Third: networking opportunities.

Perhaps surprising, however, was social media’s influence. While millennials indicated they’re much more willing to use social media platforms to connect with associations, email is still the No. 1 communication tool. Email messages were the most popular, followed by e-newsletters.

In terms of frequency, members said monthly communication is optimal. For social media, weekly communication is satisfactory.

career-journeySo what does this all mean?

“First and foremost, organizations need to have a sharp, well-defined understanding of where members are in their career journey and cater their content and communication strategy to address the needs and desires of their members based on age and/or career stage,” Abila said. “A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach no longer works in the targeted, highly personalized and technologically advanced world in which we live.”

Abila offers some tips:

  • An association should explore data within its AMS to identify new segments of its membership. Doing so will help associations tailor communications and think strategically.
  • Paying special attention to members who are just beginning their careers will reap great rewards – especially in terms of members retention. More than any other demographic, millennials (and in some cases Gen Xers) need career guidance and networking opportunities.
  • When it comes to programs, education and professional development, associations should offer a variety of choices, from hybrid to online to traditional conferences, and they should explore a spectrum of content delivery options. Simply put: Determine members’ career needs and meet those.
  • All the above is moot unless associations know their members. To learn more about their members, associations should engage in dialogue and survey them about their membership preferences.



meet aaron

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

meet kristen

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

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