Sector and AuSAE News

  • 29 Apr 2021 5:39 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    When seeking media coverage for your association, three areas can help you hit a home run. By focusing on smaller markets, creating authentic content, and using social media well, you can maximize the impact of your association’s message.

    Association members and leaders face so much information today that the old analogy of drinking from a firehose doesn’t seem adequate. The audience you’re trying to reach right now is trying to fill a glass from several firehoses, all spraying at once from different directions. It’s too much to process, so people look for filters to help them decide what is important—and what can be ignored.

    This is where it pays to have a thoughtful, sophisticated earned media strategy. With earned media, you are more likely to get through your audience’s filters. Media coverage gives you third-party credibility from someone who isn’t paid by your organization and who believes enough in your cause, products, or insights to mention, quote, or promote your association’s content.

    Make a Big Splash in a Smaller Market

    When your association launches an earned media program, you often think about going big: front-page stories in major newspapers, features on the evening news, or your spokesperson doling out wisdom as a talking head on cable networks.

    Don’t get distracted by that image, though. There are more than 220 news outlets in Washington, DC, and New York City alone. That doesn’t even count satellite or terrestrial radio or magazines. That’s the media landscape you’ll have to penetrate to score those big hits. It seems daunting—but not as daunting as it must be for your target audience trying to find you in all that noise. How do you cut through it all?

    You work hard on your earned media program, so don’t let it become a “one-and-done event.”

    Stop trying to do what everyone else is trying to do. Start delivering your earned media where it has a chance to be noticed by the audiences you care most about. State and local outlets are often starved for content and much more likely to have the bandwidth to cover your issue if it has a local angle. By recruiting in-state voices (e.g., spokespeople, op-ed signers, or interviewees), you further illustrate the importance of your issues to the audiences who can sway national elected officials and policymakers.

    Create Authentic, Compelling Content

    Identify and recruit authentic people to deliver your best messages. Recruit doctors, nurses, teachers, firefighters, small business owners, or other prominent local leaders in the markets you care about to write or appear on broadcast in their authentic voice about the issues that matter to them.
    Whether it’s an op-ed, letter to the editor, or an explainer video, create content that is fresh, interesting, and relevant to the outlet you’re pitching. Remember that editors (and publishers) want to put out content that people will click on, read, and share. If your piece is too arcane, too wonky, or too long, it simply won’t get published.

    Be Social

    You work hard on your earned media program, so don’t let it become a “one-and-done event.” Today's consumers are influenced greatly by family, friends, and what they read and see online. People no longer share the good, the bad, and the ugly of issues just at the water cooler—they share it with everyone they’re connected with online.

    According to HubSpot Research, 57 percent of people in the U.S. trust what they hear from friends and family the most when they discover a new product. About one-third of U.S. buyers prefer information they can find from a Google search.

    Share the earned media content on as many social media and digital platforms as possible. That includes both your organization’s channels and those of the third-party allies you recruit. Remember, these allies are third-party validators, too. And don’t overlook email.

    Sharing content isn’t just about making sure people see your story. It’s about helping those who cover it see its value, too. Editors and publishers want people coming to their site and internet traffic spikes on your stories will show them people are interested and encourage them to cover more of your content.

    John Dunagan

    John Dunagan is founder and president of Highland Advocacy Group in Washington, DC.

  • 29 Apr 2021 5:33 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    The event industry has the opportunity and the responsibility to play a game-changing role in reducing carbon emissions. However, it cannot do so by returning to the profoundly unsustainable industry of the past; to succeed, it must change what it stands for.

    An Inconvenient Truth

    In this video, Global Head of Sustainable Investing for BlackRock Alternatives Teresa O’Flynn paints a clear picture of just how much change is needed. According to data from Breakthrough Energy, in 2020, the world cut its carbon emissions by 2 billion tons, narrowly beating the annual reduction target of 1.7 billion tons. The challenge before us is to keep reducing by 2 billion tons each year until 2050, now hopefully without a pandemic-enforced disruption to travel and face-to-face meetings, just to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

    The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) takes place in November. This event of global importance presents the industry with the unique opportunity to achieve two crucial things that it simply cannot afford to delay.

    1. Establishing a carbon target and reduction framework for the event industry.

    2. Ensuring events are recognized as a critical way to advance the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs).

    As of April 2021, there is little evidence to suggest that the event industry is responding to climate change as more than an inconvenient truth. With time running out, is this something we simply accept?

    Why Is the Event Industry Not Taking a Lead Role?

    A lack of motivation to act on climate change exists everywhere, also in the event industry. A 2018 Harvard Business Review article summarises these factors as:

    1. Acting on climate change represents a trade-off between short-term and long-term benefits.

    2. Climate change is a nonlinear problem.

    3. Many effects of climate change are distant from most people.

    4. The future is always more uncertain than the present.

    In addition, there are a few inconvenient truths to be faced here as we look for evidence of these factors in the event industry.

    • The business model for events does not focus on long-term benefits, only short term profits.
    • We speak more about the financial gains of those hosting events than how events impact inclusion and collaboration.
    • The event industry’s leadership cannot fully comprehend what climate change is or is too focused on financial survival to consider its legacy.


    Build Back, But Better

    These inconvenient truths have become painfully clear to me over the more than 15 years that I have led a not-for-profit that educated and collaborated with event stakeholders to create a sustainable event industry. During that time, I’ve been able to ‘look behind the curtain,’ and what I found is that the industry simply is not willing to take immediate or impactful action. The industry’s negative impact is too much to deal with, and the potential positive effects it can have are too abstract. It’s never a priority (pre, during, or post covid)


    Could the Event Industry’s Days Be Numbered?

    Should we simply assume that the event industry has a limited lifespan and will be deemed a non-essential carbon-creating activity in the not too distant future?

    Perhaps we believe that repeating a favorite mantra that “people will always want to meet” will somehow override the scientific facts.

    The event industry has been talking about sustainability for years, yet it has not taken the actions required to make it part of the solution. Here’s the thing. It doesn’t have to be like this. The event industry can and should be part of the solution, but it’s not — at least not yet.

    There is an opportunity for this to be a wake-up call for immediate action, which results in a new narrative that positions events as part of the solution to the world working for everyone and not part of the carbon-creating problem.


    What Can We Do About It?

    Over the past 12 months, I’ve been on a mission through the non-profit Positive Impact to upskill 100,000 event professionals on sustainability through a global community of 1,400+ sustainability ambassadors. Our funding comes from everywhere and nowhere, but our mission remains the same: to create a sustainable event industry.

    The opportunity for action lies in the hands of every event professional — and that includes you, the reader.

    Ten years ago, that may have sounded overwhelming. Today, as the younger generations make the expectations for action on climate change clear, you may be inspired to realize that action in the event industry depends on you, and there is an immediate opportunity for your actions.

    1. Support fundraising for stakeholder engagement so that the event industry can collaborate with the United Nations to understand its carbon impact.

    2. Take part in the stakeholder engagement facilitated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to give your input on what a carbon target for the event industry could be. For example, should we be aligned with corporate commitments like net-zero by 2050?

    3. Take actions to reduce your event carbon footprint in line with the Climate Action Framework facilitated by UNFCCC through actions such as choosing vegetarian meals, implementing ISO 20121, or simply sourcing items locally.

    4. Proudly tell your clients, suppliers, peers, and your communities (especially future generations) that you are taking action in line with science-based targets supported by the UN body for Climate Change in a way that the world’s governments and businesses will understand.

    The time has passed for the distractions of talking on panels about sustainability or taking time to do an education certificate. Now is the time to take practical action to raise funds, give input, and use materials that will position the event industry as part of a United Nations-level conversation. This is the only way the event industry can be recognized as a vital part of a world where we act to address climate change and its inequalities.



    Although current evidence suggests that the event industry is treating climate change as an inconvenient truth, opportunities for immediate action are in place. No other leaders are coming to address this; only your actions, which together add up to our collective efforts, will decide the future of the event industry.


  • 16 Apr 2021 4:55 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Ethics touches almost every aspect of association management. This sampling of articles from our archives can help you cultivate a more ethical organisation.

    How do we know associations care about ethics?

    If you’re thinking you could use an ethics refresh, this list of Associations Now editors’ picks is a good place to start:

    How to Update Your Code of Ethics for Today’s Members. Mariama S. Boney, CAE, CEO of Achieve More LLC, offers advice for continually updating association ethics codes to match current needs. “We should articulate our core values and ensure that the ethics code highlights our core values that need to be translated through the policies and procedures, and review the ethics code every one to two years,” Boney says.

    A Reckoning With Ethics and Injustice. Part of our recent Lead2021 package, this piece highlights the ethical challenges that arose in 2020, including issues related to both COVID-19  and racial equity. “The pandemic has thrown everyone for a loop,” says MaryAnne Bobrow, CAE, a longtime association consultant on ethics and management. “And people like to take shortcuts.”

    Make Ethics Support a Member Benefit. The Institute of Management Accountants bakes ethics into its member support programs and services, including by offering free credits for ethics-related educational courses. IMA also has an ethics helpline, operated by the association’s committee on ethics, that provides guidance to members and other professionals.

    Three Ethics Resources Every Association Should Provide Its Members. Offering more insight on IMA’s programs, Raef Lawson, CAE, the association’s vice president for research and policy and professor-in-residence, urges associations to devote time, money, and resources to ethical issues. “Given that employers and educational institutions currently do not provide adequate ethics resources, associations have an opportunity and responsibility to develop professions that prioritize ethical behavior,” he writes.

    How to Make Ethics Training Stick. Associations Now leadership blogger Mark Athitakis highlights research from the Ethics & Compliance Initiative that finds that ethics training in organisations often doesn’t translate to applications in the real world. One thing that makes a difference? The direct involvement of organizational leaders.

  • 16 Apr 2021 4:14 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Is your association experiencing a decline in membership? 

    In a report published by Wild Apricot, surveyors found 68% of organizations had difficulty growing their organization in 2019 — 11% of those shrunk, and 25% experienced no growth. The remaining 32% grew only 1-5%. 

    Declining membership in professional organizations is a reality for many association leaders. But why? And what can you do to reverse the trend? In this post, we’ll explore a few causes of membership decline and what you can do about it. 

    Why are professional organisations seeing a decline in membership?

    While there are many factors behind declining membership, financial uncertainty and struggles to connect with younger members are common issues for membership-based organizations. 

    Cost and financial uncertainty

    Even before the furloughs and layoffs ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic, economic instability was a major concern for potential members. For example, a 2017 study on membership trends by Kenes Group noted, “The decision to become a member of a professional association has always been a factor of perceived value, that is, what is the cost of membership and what benefits are obtained in return. The changes to the economic climate have meant that individuals place greater emphasis on the perceived value of any membership and examine in more detail if membership of an association provides value to them.”

    Essentially, many potential members aren’t sure what the future holds for them financially, so they need to ensure the benefit of membership is worth the price. Associations are also under pressure to compete with free resources and prove why a paid membership is more valuable than joining a free LinkedIn community or Facebook group. 

    Struggles to connect with younger demographics

    The millennial generation has been the largest generational group in the American workforce since 2016. However, many associations and professional organizations are struggling to reach and relate to these younger audiences. Understanding this generation’s values, addressing their concerns and pain points, and communicating in a way that resonates with them is important to win them over.

    What to do about membership decline

    Combatting membership decline in professional organizations requires forward-thinking and a willingness to change and adapt new strategies. 

    Maintain engagement with existing members

    Retaining existing members is your low-hanging fruit. It’s a lot more cost-effective to keep your current audience happy than it is to start fresh attracting, nurturing, and converting a new one. 

    Stay in touch with your existing members, and hold their hand every year to remind them to renew. Canceling a membership you never use doesn’t require a second thought, so be sure to target your existing members with engagement campaigns showing them how to maximize their membership. 

    Plan for tomorrow’s members

    1. Young professionals are eager to learn and prove themselves in their industry. Newly or several years out of college, they’re likely earning lower salaries and can’t always afford the price of an annual professional membership. Provide flexible pricing options and affordable rates to attract this demographic. 
    2. Start engaging early. Whether it’s through scholarships, internships, educational curriculum, or other programs, begin building relationships with high school and college students to invest in your future members. 
    3. Be accommodating to potential members going through career transitions. It can be intimidating to join a professional association in an industry you’re new to. As an association leader, you should be aware of career shifters and make your community accessible and welcoming to these kinds of members. 
    4. Understand which platforms your future members use and what’s important to them. That’s where you should establish a presence to build relationships. 

    Be sure to check out our facing the future worksheet to tally how well your organization is prepared for the next generation. 

    Reframe your perception of growth

    Keep in mind that membership numbers aren’t the only way to grow your association. In fact, experts suggest that approaching your constituencies as only members vs. nonmembers is an easy way to stifle your opportunities. Additionally, thinking outside the box to find other ways to generate revenue can help your association grow even when membership is on the decline. 

    Adopt the Open Garden approach

    When considering membership decline and association membership trends, try not to get too tied up in the thought of members versus nonmembers. The truth is your association’s publics go a lot further than these two categories. 

    Amith Nagarajan’s Open Garden approach turns these two audience divisions into four:

    • Members who pay dues
    • Volunteers who are deeply committed to your organization
    • Interested people who support your efforts
    • The general public, who are occasionally interested in what you do, depending on the news cycle

    As you can see, approaching your organization from the restrictive lens of members vs. nonmembers eliminates important stakeholders from the equation. People who are not members may still: 

    • Work for your association
    • Visit and learn from your website
    • Attend or sponsor your events
    • Subscribe to your newsletters
    • Promote and recommend your association to their networks
    • Download or purchase your resources

    Pivot to other means of generating revenue

    As we evaluate declining membership in professional associations, keep in mind that there are other ways to drive revenue in your organization than just membership dues. 

    The Wild Apricot report showed that most membership-based organizations either slightly increased or experienced the same levels of revenue in 2019 as the previous year. According to the report, revenue leaders were those who were less likely to rely on their members for funding. 

    This creates a more sustainable path forward for your organization. Here are a few ideas for increasing revenue that don’t depend on dues:

    • Host paid events, workshops, and webinars
    • Create an active YouTube channel that’s eligible for monetization
    • Sell branded merchandise
    • Hold fundraisers like raffles or tournaments
    • Create a job board with paid job listings
    • Hold online learning courses
    • Sell website ads 

    MORE: 3 ways to generate non-dues revenue

    Future-proof your membership-based organisation

    If you’re a victim of the trend of declining membership in professional organizations, don’t panic. It’s not a dire situation, but it is a reason to innovate. Rethink how you engage your existing members, don’t neglect younger audiences, and start brainstorming creative ways of revenue generation that aren’t dependent on dues. 

    by Sidecar Staff 13 April 2021

  • 12 Apr 2021 2:55 PM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    AuSAE Premium Alliance Partner Advanced Solutions International (ASI), a leading global provider of software and services for associations and non-profits, has released its worldwide 2021 Membership Performance Benchmark Report — COVID Edition. Learn more here:

    The 6th annual survey, conducted in late 2020, explores membership retention, engagement, acquisition, and technology advancements against a backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Association professionals from across the globe shared how they managed during the crisis, their top priorities for the coming year, post-COVID plans for events and workspaces, and their outlook on the future.

    More than 500 association and membership executives from North America, Asia-Pacific, and Europe/Middle East/India/Africa (EMEIA) took part in the survey consisting of 23 questions in three categories: Demographics, Technology, and COVID-19. This is a 48% increase over the previous survey’s response rate. Key findings included:

    • 70% of respondents reported that staff could access systems/applications from home.
    • Member engagement increased for 49% of respondents, while member retention was up or steady for 57%.
    • Overall membership levels increased or stayed the same for 58% of respondents.
    • 70% were able to keep staffing levels steady.
    • 30% report that at least some staff will now permanently work from home.
    • Net revenue declined for 53% and 21% had to reduce staff.
    • Respondents ranked their growth/sustainability over the next year on a scale of 1 to 100; the average score was 66.

    “The worldwide association community proved to be incredibly resilient throughout the COVID-19 crisis,” noted Edward Wendling, Global Vice President of Marketing. “Most had systems in place to allow virtual work and some organisations actually increased member engagement and retention. This is a real accomplishment in the best of times but it is particularly remarkable during a pandemic.”

    About ASI

    Advanced Solutions International (ASI) is a leading global provider of products, programs, and services that help associations and non-profits improve operational and financial performance. Since 1991 we've helped thousands of clients grow revenue and reduce expenses by providing industry expertise, best practice advice, and proven solutions. 

    ASI is the developer of iMIS EMS, the world’s #1 association and non-profit software solution, and the only Engagement Management System (EMS)™ – fusing database management and web publishing into a single system – leading to operational efficiencies, revenue growth, and continuous performance improvement. Harnessing the power of Microsoft Azure’s cloud platform, iMIS EMS is purpose-built to meet the most important challenge facing associations and non-profits – Engagement. We have a global network of nearly 100 partners to provide you with a full range of services to implement and support your iMIS EMS platform. ASI is proud to be an AuSAE Premium Alliance Partner.  Learn more at

  • 09 Apr 2021 6:09 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Two C-level executives share how their associations have embraced research to shape decisions and drive changes—and how their organizations and members have benefited or will benefit as a result.

    Data has always grounded association decision-making. But now it is moving beyond spreadsheets, trends, and projections, and into the realm of storytelling, where boards, staff, members, and communities can discover a bigger picture and respond to it. Here is a look at two of those stories.

    Using Data to Determine a Profession’s Future

    Like many organizations, The American Institute of Architects New York State developed its previous strategic plans by working with an instinctive board and facilitators. However, initial conversations around the 2021 strategic planning session took on a different tone.

    Moving through the first months of the pandemic, AIA New York State was questioning everything it did and how it did it, looking for answers to questions. The staff and leadership felt it was imperative to do an assessment of the educational, professional development, and legislative needs of the members that was based on data coming directly from the membership. They were committed to create a member survey to uncover those needs and to use the results as a basis for their new strategic plan. This commitment was not only philosophical but also carried a significant financial investment for the future.

    The group also knew it needed to work with an outside partner to get this work done. So, it developed an RFP that narrowed down the project and the results they were looking to achieve. After speaking with outside vendors, as well as academic institutions, Siena College Research Institute—which has a national reputation for its polling work—was selected.

    Using pre-planning questions as a starting point, AIA New York State worked with Siena to make sure they had the terminology correct and did a test survey to a sample group of members. They also limited the number of questions asked, forcing them to think strategically and keep in mind those questions that would help implement change and develop programming.

    After the test survey, the group rolled it out to the full membership of 9,000-plus in April 2020. While the association was concerned about response due to the pandemic and other factors, it ended up receiving 1,400 responses, providing a viable instrument to move ahead developing organizational direction and programming that members valued. As a result, the group went into its October strategic planning session armed with data that the board would use to determine an incredible future for the architecture profession in New York State.

    Tracking Young Members for the Future

    More than 114 years ago, students at the University of Maryland School of Dental Medicine started the Alpha Omega Dental Society (AO). Young leaders who advance through the membership while moving through their careers have shaped the culture and direction of the organization since 1907. Today, the membership includes 800-plus dental students from 30 North American, British, and Israeli chapters.

    Executive Director Heidi Weber, CAE, has monitored 200-plus dental school graduates every spring through an in-house tracking program that identifies where graduates are accepted or where they will practice and communicates with local chapters to ensure the connective tissue between the new resident, a new potential city, and the organization is intact through the transition to dental residency. Residencies usually last one year or up to five, making retaining the residents as members in this period between school and profession a top priority for both the organization and the board.

    Repurposing the data inspired the Residency Network Project, which connects dental students seeking more concentrated information about residency programs with current or resident AO members. Since residency is time, financial, and cultural investment, dental students want to learn more from individuals who have first-hand knowledge.

    This allows AO to show young members the value the organization provides during their educational career. In addition, chapters report an average 90 percent retention rate of resident members when they are connected to local chapters. The expanding story of AO fosters a culture where young members are networking and mentoring one another, which builds a data portfolio to share with the dental community.

    How to Develop Next-Level Data Visualization

    If your association is looking to become more adept at letting the data tell its tale and how it can apply to a given goal or objective, the DelCor Technology Solutions team recommends expanding your thinking and seeking opportunities to refresh your data set that may change the picture. For example, Strategic Consultants Gretchen Steenstra and Tobin Conley suggest adding unstructured data such as chat during virtual sessions to identify patterns that may lead to new or updated content. Or update member profile data, such as the infamous “area of interest,” based on behavior.

    By embracing data, associations will find themselves able to make better decisions that leads to higher member satisfaction and a stronger organizational culture and outcomes.

    April 6, 2021By: Georgi Ann Bailey, CAE and Heidi Weber, CAE

  • 09 Apr 2021 6:05 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Communicating with video adds a personal and authentic touch to member outreach.

    The value of video has increased significantly since everything went virtual one year ago. Video is a powerful medium because it boosts engagement, participation, value, and community, said Gather Voices CEO Michael Hoffman in a webinar on using video to boost member renewals.


    Hoffman recommends using video to amp up membership renewals on these platforms:

    Website. When your members spend more time on your association’s website viewing video content featuring their fellow members, their sense of community and belonging increases because they see themselves reflected in real people sharing their experiences, rather than brand messaging.

    Social media. Incorporating video into social media messaging creates deeper engagement and greater retention of content.

    Email. Email is the main tactic associations use to connect with members for renewal. Putting the word “video” in an email subject line can increase click-throughs by over 300 percent, which it did for the American Society of Transplant Surgeons.


    Video enhances the platforms you are already using to increase click-throughs, engagement, and conversion. “Engagement is about creating something new and letting members be the star of the show,” Hoffman said.

    And it doesn’t have to be an expensive production. You can use inexpensive tools like Zoom recordings to build up your video library.  Authenticity is key. The most resonant videos are not highly produced, but simple segments featuring real people talking about their real experiences.


    When you ask a member to share their experience in a video, that person’s story becomes a powerful testimonial that will influence others. Just asking for it creates a different relationship between the member and the organization: It says, “We value you. We value your experience, and we want to know about it,” Hoffman said.


    Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now

  • 01 Apr 2021 5:55 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Whether you are a healthcare association or some other type of industry group or professional society, you need to protect its long-term viability by engaging young professionals and student members. A look at some ideas to enhance your current tactics.

    If your association has encountered challenges as a result of COVID-19, you are probably asking yourself how to ensure the long-term health and viability of the organization. Living in a pandemic, working remotely, and a lack of interaction with our stakeholders has precipitated a paradigm shift that has made it necessary for societies to address this question quickly.

    One immediate step your organization can take to protect its future is to implement a robust engagement program for students and new professionals with the goal of attracting and engaging the next generation of healthcare leaders and maintaining their involvement in your organization long term. Here are five tactics your organization can deploy today to disrupt or enhance your current offerings.

    1. Provide opportunities for your members to network. As newer generations continue to grow up in a progressively digital environment, “staying connected” has taken on an entirely new meaning. Therefore, providing these future leaders with engaging networking opportunities will be more imperative to an organization’s success than ever before.

    There are several ways your association can begin to build these networking opportunities, such as providing a robust chapter experience, offering networking opportunities during in-person and virtual events, developing online communities, and fostering engagement in existing communities where connections are already being made. You can also stimulate your next generation leaders’ participation in special interest groups or working groups and in specific hashtag discussions on social media. As an added networking benefit, you can encourage your highly engaged students or new professional members to serve as ambassadors for other groups within your organization so they grow their own networks in the process.

    One immediate step your organization can take to protect its future is to implement a robust engagement program for students and new professionals.

    2. Engage them early by providing volunteer leadership opportunities. When it comes to building a sense of connectivity to a society among next generation leaders, incorporating volunteer opportunities into the governance of your younger member groups is crucial. This can be accomplished by formalizing a robust leadership structure that includes a student chair, student advisor, chapter presidents, guidance for the chapter presidents from a regional lead, committees to help staff with executing various tasks (i.e., meeting planning, education, survey and evaluation, etc.), and ad hoc working groups.

    Outline an identifiable “ladder of engagement” that new members, and especially new professionals, can follow to become more engaged with your association. Common entry points for students and new professionals may include, but are not limited to, research grants, educational scholarships, discounted memberships, financial education, and free online microlearning modules. Depending on association structure and needs, multiple engagement paths may be defined, such as an education path or a leadership path.

    3. Tailor your educational content to the needs and interests of your next generation members. The rising generation of young professionals and students is in a unique position in their relationship with technology. As the first generation of true “digital natives,” their needs in terms of content delivery will likely vastly differ from other groups. The pandemic has served as a catalyst for moving those initiatives to the forefront for other groups within your organization, but younger members are already savvy at using digital platforms. Ensuring your association has a robust pipeline of content for younger members and an engaging vehicle for delivery will be crucial for capturing their attention.

    To be frank, the “digital revolution” that we are experiencing was inevitable. The general perception of chaos that has resulted from the world being forced online by COVID has tempered expectations of refinement and polish, which makes this the perfect opportunity to reevaluate your association’s systems, products, and services with an eye toward embracing the digital medium.

    4. Recognize next generation members for their contributions. Once you have next generation volunteers who are engaged in various groups within your organization, providing recognition for contributions is key in demonstrating the organization values and appreciates volunteers who go above and beyond. This recognition can occur in several forms: properly crediting volunteers for their work, ensuring that committee and workgroup rosters are up to date, giving research grant recipients the opportunity to present their findings to the association’s membership, and offering scholarships or other programs.

    5. Be a resource for your members’ career and personal development. According to Community Brands’ Member Engagement and Loyalty Study, career-development resources are consistently identified as a primary catalyst for why younger members decide to join an organization. Whether it is to gain mentorship from seasoned professionals, sharpen skills needed for the field, or identify employment opportunities, your organization should have resources to assist with each of these unique needs.

    Robust job boards, professional and leadership development, wellness and personal development, and financial-education resources are just a few of the ways associations are supplementing their regular programming to better support their student and young professional members.

    If you are not currently leveraging some of the strategies provided, or if you feel your association can do more to serve next generation members, consider these suggestions during your business planning process. Implementing these tactics will go a long way toward safeguarding your organization’s pipeline of future leaders.

    Bob Moore, Drew Register, and Amy Sherwood—members of ASAE’s Healthcare Community Advisory Committee—also contributed to this article.

  • 01 Apr 2021 5:38 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Instead of logging off right after an event ends, virtual attendees can take advantage of online tools, social media channels, and virtual conferencing features for networking.

    Virtual events have their advantages, but networking with other attendees is often a challenge. The physical separation means it’s common for virtual attendees to close their laptops and disconnect instead of attempting to re-create one of the biggest benefits of in-person gatherings: mingling with colleagues and striking up a conversation with the person sitting next to them.

    As an association professional, you’re probably eager to go back to in-person conferences—both for your organization’s attendees and for the events you’d like to attend for your own professional development. But Beth Surmont, CAE, CMP, vice president of event business strategy and design at 360 Live Media, offers a reminder that in-person networking isn’t always smooth sailing either.

    “With this year of virtual events, people have this magical view of in-person events where we were all happy and finding each other,” she says. “That was not true. [Networking] can be highly inefficient and largely serendipitous.”

    While it may seem more difficult to network effectively after a virtual event, there are still plenty of opportunities, Surmont says. She offers these tips for the next time you attend one—and they may inspire you to help your own attendees keep their connections going after your virtual events.


    A good virtual event organizer will make your life easier by leaving time after sessions for attendees to chat. Check the event calendar for any scheduled discussions or breakout rooms where a small group of attendees can speak with each other and share ideas. You can exchange contact information there so you’re able to get in touch again later.

    Does the virtual event platform have a chat feature? Don’t assume the conversation ends when a particular session does: Stay in the chat after a session comes to a close, as some event organizers will leave chats open. Surmont says this year’s SXSW worked that way—sessions that had already concluded were on demand and still had an active chat box a day later.

    “Most platforms, the way they work is that you have a page that has all the tools: the chat, Q&A, the poll, whatever they might be. And then it’s just the content that comes on and comes off,” Surmont says. “For the duration of the event being open—which might be three days or might be three months—those features are usually still turned on. But it depends on the platform.”

    Some virtual event platforms even have AI that makes automated recommendations on whom attendees should connect with based on shared interests or skills.


    Surmont advises being intentional about your networking efforts. So, just as you would for an in-person event, find out who’s attending and identify individuals you would like to connect with by checking out event pages on social media. Then you’ll know who to interact with in the chat and where to reach them on social media after the event.

    When the day’s proceedings close, be ready to spend time in the virtual lobby or exhibit hall. Another tip: Seek out event partners.

    “Partners are a wealth of information and experts at their jobs. They also know everybody,” Surmont says. “He or she could say, ‘Hey, do you know so-and-so?’ and introduce me to that person.”


    Head to social media and keep the conversation going by sharing your favorite part of the day’s event, a question you had about an interesting topic, or a photo showing off the virtual event platform. To connect with the right people, use an event-specific hashtag.

    If someone shares the same interests or makes an interesting point in the chat, look up that person on LinkedIn and send a message asking to connect. Making that first move can help keep you from feeling isolated at virtual events.

    “Otherwise, it’s the equivalent of going to an in-person event with a bag over your head or blinders on and never turning to talk to the person next to you,” Surmont says. “You get out of things what you put into them.”

    There might also be a post-event page on Facebook where attendees interact with each other. Better yet, you could create your own page that centers on the event’s theme and invite other attendees to join. On that page, you could have regularly scheduled conversations about the topic and build connections.

    “There are people on Facebook that I’ve never met that I send Christmas gifts to because we belong to the same group of people who listen to the same podcast, and we’ve created this supportive community,” Surmont says. “It’s that same kind of thinking—a place for like-minded people to go.”


    Michael Hickey is a contributor to Associations Now

  • 26 Mar 2021 6:11 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Many associations are facing an ongoing challenge: a shrinking volunteer pool. However, in most cases, the volunteer pool isn’t actually shrinking — it’s that your organisation isn’t aligned with your volunteers’ needs. Reorient your way of thinking to view volunteer roles from a volunteer’s perspective. If your association is struggling to fill volunteer positions, it’s time to restructure and adapt — because it’s not your volunteers, it’s your organisation.

    The world is changing, and so are your members. It’s time to align with that shift.

    Why are you struggling to get volunteers?

    Associations typically rely heavily on volunteers to help fulfill their mission. In recent years, recruiting volunteers has become more difficult due to a number of factors, including:

    • Lack of volunteer time. With professionals juggling work, family and other commitments, time is a notable barrier to volunteer commitment, especially for long-term roles of one to two years of service. During the pandemic, many volunteers have stepped back as other family and business needs take priority.
    • Lack of perceived value drivers and engagement. The volunteer experience needs to be about value for your volunteers, not just for your organization. Many times, that value isn’t clear or compelling enough to overcome the time constraint issue.
    • Lack of organizational adaptability. Often, the association staff know that they need to change the volunteer experience, but volunteer leadership is resistant to that transition. What used to work may not work anymore.

    What can help?

    It’s time to revamp the volunteer experience. The nature of volunteerism has changed. Your association needs to change with it. Start from the standpoint of what your volunteers need and want to get out of their experience — not what you need from your volunteers. Define the value and communicate it to your volunteers.

    We’ve found some key strategies to add value:

    Leverage technology and put processes in place to support volunteers.

    Better technology, automation and processes make for a more seamless volunteer experience. Your volunteers should be contributing their expertise at a high level. Provide as much automation and support as possible to limit tedious tasks and lighten their load. An extreme example would be a chapter treasurer manually tallying finances, rather than having access to a centrally-provided reporting system.

    Provide a welcoming environment and effective onboarding.

    We’ve heard that volunteers sometimes feel like they aren’t part of the larger plan or feel excluded. Take steps to ensure they are welcomed and feel valued during onboarding and beyond. Ensure that the onboarding process is inclusive and creates an environment for all to thrive, preparing them for success.

    Define expectations and time commitment.

    Give volunteers options for different levels of commitment and outline clear expectations of outcomes. In many cases, volunteers are given direction on what their specific duties are — but not on the goals they are meant to achieve. Clarity is important. For example, the ASAE (American Society of Association Executives) online Volunteer Town Square provides a list of opportunities along with role descriptions and expected time commitment.

    Make value drivers clear.

    What are the needs of your volunteers? It is critical for potential volunteers to understand how they will benefit from volunteering. Is it through connections? Having a voice in the direction of the organization? Gaining leadership opportunities to enhance their career? Make your case for how volunteering will benefit your volunteers. If you are unsure of what their needs are, do the research to find out. Research can be critical to moving beyond the individual opinions of senior volunteer leaders. See below for more on research in this area.

    Make it meaningful.

    This falls under value drivers, but it’s worth reiterating. To help overcome time pressures, it has to be worthwhile. Let volunteers know how they are making a difference. If their service doesn’t make a difference, consider ending that opportunity to free up capacity for meaningful options.

    Provide opportunities to connect.

    Volunteers are often hoping to network and make peer-to-peer connections with like-minded professionals at their level — for example, CEOs with CEOS, or marketers with marketers. Offer connection opportunities beyond their volunteer responsibilities. For example, organize a volunteer luncheon at an annual meeting to provide valuable interaction in an unstructured environment. In a virtual world, a similar experience could be created with lunch ordered individually and breakout rooms for small groups.

    Provide recognition — and even perks.

    Professional recognition is always welcome. Perks are too, especially for students or young professionals. For example, Salesforce is launching Salesforce Loyalty Management, a tool for organizations to create their own loyalty program. An association could potentially use that tool to track and link volunteer hours to perks such as conference upgrades, an “insider” session with a prominent keynote speaker, or early access to new releases. This kind of program might be critical in increasing student member engagement, which is a key factor in retaining them through the typically high-attrition transition from student to full member.

    Data and Benchmarking

    Data and benchmarking are the keys to making informed decisions. The right data could help you understand your volunteers’ needs, as well as get a baseline on who your volunteers are. Identifying and benchmarking key performance indicators will allow this program to improve year over year.

    What do volunteers want?

    We’ve employed qualitative interviews and surveys for our clients to discover what volunteers want from their experience, and how volunteers feel about their current experience. This can ensure you are providing the offerings that are truly important. Our research often leads to important pivots or adjustments to previously-held beliefs on volunteer and member needs. Some associations integrate regular evaluations of the volunteer experience, asking questions such as:

    • How was your experience?
    • Was it fulfilling?
    • How can we do better?

    Who is actually volunteering?

    Who is volunteering is just as important as why they are volunteering. Benchmarking and dashboards are important to track growth in DEI initiatives for volunteerism and membership. Representative volunteerism is crucial in creating a welcoming environment. Does your volunteer community represent your organizations’ membership base? This can inform diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI) initiatives and provide important insights.

    Take the steps you can

    Don’t get bogged down in an all-or-nothing approach. Institutional change takes time, but individual managers and volunteer leaders can start to enact change. A manager at any level of the organization can make volunteers’ experiences more efficient and meaningful with small steps. Start with one-on-one dialog with your volunteers and a survey after every engagement ends. Talk about value and what would help them. If you are providing a great volunteer experience in your committee, word will get out.

    With an informed approach, associations can align with volunteers’ needs effectively, thereby advancing both volunteers’ goals and organizational objectives.

    C. David Gammel, FASAE, CAE and Kristi Donovan, M.S., CAE

The Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE)

Australian Office:
Address: Unit 6, 26 Navigator Place, Hendra QLD 4011 Australia
Free Call: +61 1300 764 576
Phone: +61 7 3268 7955

New Zealand Office:
Address: 159 Otonga Rd, Rotorua 3015 New Zealand
Phone: +64 27 249 8677

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