Sector and AuSAE News

  • 03 Sep 2021 6:06 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Boards interact differently now, but they can still easily get lost in the weeds. Two strategy experts share tips for adjusting volunteers’ perspectives.

    Volunteers may be getting better at handling remote meetings—research suggests board members are showing up more often—but some of the old challenges still apply. Chief among them are board members who have a habit of getting fixated on the operational business of the association. Are we sure that mailer for the upcoming conference doesn’t have too much blue in it? What kind of snacks are we going to have between sessions? And more, or sillier, or worse.

    In their 2021 ASAE Annual Meeting session “Stay at 50,000 Feet! Keeping Your Volunteer Leaders Focused on the Big Picture,” Nikki Golden, CAE, and Nikki Haton Shanks, CAE, strategists at Association Laboratory, will discuss some of the ways volunteer groups go astray, and offer a few possible solutions. But as they pointed out in a conversation before the session, many of the potential problems can be addressed before they reach the board. Here are five of their suggestions:

    Look at your overall volunteer structure. Unnecessary volunteer groups with no clear strategic purpose can create a culture where strategy and tactics can get tangled. “Take a look at what committees you have, and do some level of evaluation of whether or not those are the things you need volunteers for,” says Golden. “Make sure that you’re aligning your committees with your strategic goals, and they’re actually able to provide strategic direction on something.”

    Assume everybody can use a refresher. Shanks and Golden agree that orientation is too often overlooked throughout an association’s network of volunteers; staff may incorrectly assume that just because somebody has served in a volunteer role before that they grasp the distinctions between strategy and operations. Don’t make that mistake. “You really have to set in place what the board will do, what the staff will do, and how they’ll work together,” Shanks says. “I think that’s often not stressed enough. And that can be what leads the board into focusing on tactical issues if it’s not covered as part of that orientation conversation.”

    Keep the agenda strategic. Opening the floor to operational issues can swallow up precious board-meeting time in a hurry. To that end, Shanks says, board members should know from the schedule what they’re focusing on. “You’re setting up your agenda strategically so that you are able to cover the things that will lead to strategic decision making and that you have appropriate data to back up whatever decision making needs to take place. Having a good structure in place does help.” Or as Golden puts it: “Your leaders will look where you point.”

    Give boards enough operational detail to help them feel informed. Boards don’t need to know every detail about technology procurement or membership marketing. But if they feel like they’re out of the loop, they’re more inclined to obsess over those details, says Golden. So staff needs to share enough information to inform them. “A breakdown of trust is often the reason that volunteer leaders get into the tactical weeds,” Golden says. “It’s easier for them to think about tactical issues if they don’t trust that the staff has the operations under control and there’s not that discussion [from staff] of ‘Operationally, here’s what we’re doing.’”

    When in doubt, point to the strategic plan. Knowing how much information to share can be tricky. Golden suggests that the association’s strategic plan should provide the compass for what kinds of operational details need to be shared. “Use that as a guideline,” she says. “Look at what it says about what you’re trying to achieve as an organization. When you start getting further away from your overarching goals and objectives, that means you’re getting more tactical. Or just off-topic.”


    Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. 

    Originally posted here

  • 03 Sep 2021 5:51 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Incentives and services can bring people in the door, but they can threaten the long-term stability of the community you’ve built. Here’s what the head of a for-profit community platform suggests for striking a balance.

    Associations hope to grow their membership and strengthen their bottom line. But that’s not all they exist to do.

    As nonprofits, their missions are intended to serve a broader group of people. Financial success can help serve that mission, making it a key performance indicator worthy of focus. But if the transactional nature of an association’s business endeavors takes precedence over building a strong community, it can threaten both.

    For-profit communities, which face more direct ROI requirements, also have to deal with these issues—so associations can learn by watching how they balance community and commerce. David Spinks, the founder of CMX, an online platform for community managers owned by the virtual event platform Bevy, says that for-profit communities often lean toward transactional interactions just by nature of needing to support themselves.

    “I think that all communities ultimately have to figure out how to become financially sustainable,” he says.

    Spinks, the author of the book The Business of Belonging, adds that communities of all kinds need to be built with a return on investment in mind—even within associations.

    “The key learning that community teams at for-profit organizations can teach us is that there are countless ways to build community,” says Spinks, who also serves as Bevy’s vice president of community. “But if it doesn’t ultimately drive a return for the organization, then it’s going to struggle to justify getting more buy-in and budget.”

    As a result, he says, building community around revenue growth can strengthen a community over time. But just because community and revenue can directly influence one another doesn’t mean you should simply prioritize making money, he adds.

    “It’s not about choosing profit over people,” he says. “It’s about finding the right balance.”


    It’s often said that the difference between subscription services and membership-based services is the approach to incentives and discounts. For example, think of how services such as Netflix and Disney+ handle subscriber acquisition, and the churn challenges they face when those offerings don’t look so hot anymore.

    This issue applies to communities as well. Community organizers might try to push potential members through the door by offering a one-off incentive in exchange for joining the organization. This can set up incentives—rather than the rewards of being part of the community—as the main benefit.

    Spinks suggests that how an association frames incentives is important.

    “It’s a subtle but important difference between saying, ‘If you do this, you’ll get that’ and ‘As a thank you for doing this, we’re giving you that,’” he says. “Use incentives as a form of gratitude rather than the core motivation that moves people to participate.”


    When people come to your community, do they get value from it? Or are they likelier to feel like it’s extracting value from them?

    Without a clear value proposition, it can turn even the most community-minded endeavor into work. For example, volunteer opportunities can be a handy melange of skill development, goodwill, and community-building—or they can simply be uncompensated labor.

    “There’s a fine line between empowering volunteers and taking advantage of someone’s time,” Spinks says.

    That might mean focusing on mutually beneficial approaches to community, such as mentoring programs. A one-sided transaction, however, isn’t always antithetical to community-building. Spinks cites the example of tech support forums, which are not intended to actively build togetherness but provide community support in another way.

    “The significant majority of people are just there to get answers to their questions, not to form relationships,” he says. “So in that case, it’s about getting them the right answer to their question as efficiently as possible, rather than driving more social interaction.”

    It’s about knowing how people get their value from a given community, and what the purpose of that community is.


    Of course, an incentive too many can eventually dampen engagement within any community, as people choose not to stick around because they already received their incentive—and don’t see enough value in the community surrounding it.

    If that seems like a problem for your organization, Spinks says, it’s important to take a back-to-basics approach, led by your strongest community members.

    “Identify the people in the community who are interested in something more than the transactional value of the community and focus on building community amongst them,” he says. “It might be a small group of people who are the most engaged in the community. Organize special events for them. Bring them together in intimate groups. Deepen the sense of community at the core of your community, and that culture and tone will spread throughout the rest of the network.”

    With the right touch, this micro-community might just push you out of the trap of transactional relationships.


    Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun.

    Originally posted here

  • 27 Aug 2021 6:20 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Member engagement weathered the storm of the pandemic, but retention did not fare as well. Revamping stagnant membership models that are more responsive to the changing needs of your members should be a priority, according to an association expert.

    Member engagement is up, which should be good news, right? After all, 45 percent of associations showed an increase in membership and 71 percent said the level of member engagement increased this year, according to Marketing General Incorporated’s latest Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report.

    The flip side is, 47 percent of associations reported a decline in membership and 45 percent saw a renewal rate drop, compared to only a 24 percent drop last year. Members turned to their associations during the pandemic to get immediate help and information to navigate the crisis, which was a main factor in increased engagement. But the situation is more complicated: Engagement isn’t enough, and there has to be a focus on retention and renewal.

    “The pandemic was globally disruptive across sectors, relationships, organizations, and professions, and any business assumptions you had prior to the pandemic have to be reinvestigated and revalidated,” said Dean West, FASAE, president and founder of Association Laboratory.

    He goes further: “I call it the end of history,” West said.


    It sounds ominous, but maybe not. West sees it as a “tremendous opportunity” because now that traditional boundaries and relationships have been disrupted, associations have the freedom to reinvent themselves in ways no one could have imagined. First up? Membership models.

    Associations Laboratory’s latest study, Looking Forward Solutions 2021 [registration required], shows that membership is the most serious area of concern for the global association leaders who participated in the report.

    Before the pandemic, 81 percent of CEOs said that younger members were not interested in traditional membership models, according to the group’s Looking Forward 2020 report. Between 2019 and 2021, most associations did not substantively change their membership models, West said.

    That means the membership model that was a problem before the pandemic hasn’t changed, but members’ needs are changing. That’s why, when they came back to their associations after the pandemic subsided, West said they found an old model that was not relevant to their needs, which is why retention is going down.


    “Most membership models are designed around an offer that doesn’t take the pandemic into account,” he said. One of the most important themes that emerged from Looking Forward Solutions 2021 is that associations are going to have to invest in understanding—or re-understanding—their members and other stakeholders.

    “Associations have to invest time, money, and energy on understanding how members’ lives are different and what the implications of those differences are on their relationship with the association,” West said.

    And how do you do that? “Simply by putting a group of diverse people around a coffee table and asking them how their world is different,” he said. Or you can go a more sophisticated route through integrated qualitative and quantitative research.

    “But at the end of the day, it’s a market-facing strategy,” he said, which should be designed to discover how the personal and professional lives of members have changed. Members want benefits and services that are directly relevant to them based on their changing needs.

    “Membership as an offer is suffering because, overwhelmingly, most associations don’t have a different model now than they had a year ago, but their members’ needs are different,” West said.

  • 27 Aug 2021 6:12 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Over the last year and a half, remote working has been the buzzword for organisations and government agencies worldwide. What was initially an unwanted change for many has become something requested and even negotiated for. As more and more professionals attempt to make their work-from-home status permanent, we need to take a look at the lessons learned from our abrupt shift to a remote workspace.

    In June of 2021, set out to understand the experiences, attitudes and consequences of this shift. What they found is that many workers are still getting set up, learning how to function from home and are overall not having the greatest experience.

    While that may seem crazy, it’s more common than you think. In fact, as I write this article, I am sitting in my brand new home office — the first of my work-from-home career. 

    Throughout this survey, respondent data contributed to the following statistics:

    71% of remote workers are still “improvising” a workspace at home

    When the world was thrust into working remotely, only a handful of individuals were prepared for working from home. Apartment rentals or home purchases were made without an office in mind, and up until the pandemic this was never an issue. Without a spare bedroom or quiet nook in the house, many workers were left scrambling to accommodate a houseful of people working on top of each other. 

    This is the biggest reason many people have made-do by working from their beds (65%), couches (68%), kitchens (51%) and even their closets (19%). 

    What you can do about it: Make sure you’ve asked your team what additional materials they need to make their work-from-home situation smooth. Maybe they could use a second monitor, or they need a stipend to cover increased Internet usage. 

    37% of people who work from home with another remote worker work in the same room as the other person

    With children in online school and significant others also working from home, it's no wonder that 37% of respondents shared that they work in the same room as another person. In fact, ”69% say they are regularly disrupted by the other person’s noise.”

    In addition, over two-thirds of people have had their pets (43%), children (37%) and partners (34%) interrupt their video calls during work hours. As found out, many respondents tried to combat this issue by finding quieter, more isolating places to take calls — like their bedrooms and closets.

    What you can do about it: Make sure you promote a culture of acceptance in work-from-home life. “While some of your team members might have thrived by moving their office space into their homes, others may have had a more difficult time adapting to the change,” wrote Willow Becker. Things happen — and that’s ok. 

    The bedroom is the most popular place for remote workers to take video calls

    Through the quick paced change to remote work came the need for a way to collaborate with your colleagues in a safe and easy manner. Enter video calls — Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, etc. But with thousands of workers improvising their workspaces at home while sharing the space with family and pets, finding a quiet and non-distracting location to take calls became difficult.

    What you can do about it: Give your team the opportunity to choose which time of the day works best for them for video calls. Many workers have difficulty keeping up once children or spouses come home from work and school.

    58% said their employer has contributed either money or supplies to support the development of their home workspace

    With the average amount spent on home workspace upgrades during the pandemic coming in at $282, It’s no wonder many workers are negotiating the ability to work from home full or part of the time. Some employers and organizations have tried to combat this by offering home office stipends to workers during the pandemic.

    What you can do: If your organisation is mandating work-from-home, consider offering a small stipend or providing office supplies to help cover workspace costs. If your organization has decided to stay virtual full-time, maybe dispersing supplies from the office could help.

    As more and more employees begin negotiating the ability to work from home or on a hybrid basis, the likelihood that these statistics remain is low. As we move forward, be prepared for a new, hybrid approach to work, where your staff might spend some time at home during the week and some time in the office. 

    Ashley Neal

    Ashley joined the Sidecar team as Community Coordinator in 2020 and spends her working hours focused on providing value to our members. In her free time, Ashley enjoys DIY crafts and playing with her puppy, Scooby.

    Originally posted here

  • 20 Aug 2021 5:50 AM | Deleted user

    Here are some practical tools to assist you both during, and post lockdown. Please feel free to pass on these tips to your members.

    1. Wellbeing

    It is a ‘buzzword’ synonymous with Covid19, however it is beneficial to your association for you, your staff and members to be as happy as possible! The Mental Health Foundation lists 5 Ways to Wellbeing: Connect . Give . Take notice . Keep learning . Be active.

    • You can go to for more practical tools to improve your wellbeing.
    • Watch the AuSAE Wellbeing webinar here with Dr Angela Lim and Andy Ellis.

    2. Digital – Use Images and Video

    Think about your digital strategy. There are some great, free tools to help you! If you’re making posts and need images sized to different social media platforms, is a good tool. Likewise, consider doing a live Q&A with your members. Keep them engaged.

    3. Content

    New Zealand has been impacted by dramatic change due to social distancing, and the best thing you can do right now is to be a resource to help people cope and navigate these times. Creating content that is not only relevant to the specific impact COVID-19 has had on your industry will help increase the chances of boosting engagement. Things to consider when creating good content:

    • Address a specific issue, relevant to a segment of your wider community
    • Provide valuable information that answers a relevant question for that segment
    • Many businesses and organisations have gone the “easy” route with broad sweeping content during this time. Stand out.
    • Unsure what questions and concerns your members have? Take a leaf from Brett and pick up the phone. Nothing is more powerful than a one on one conversation.

    4. Authenticity

    In the midst of this lockdown, remember above all else, be yourself. Authenticity and genuine care are crucial to online engagement. Putting a human behind the keyboard helps personalise your message. Consider content that covers:

    • Personal Life Lessons
    • Appreciation for others
    • Encouragement
    • Kindness

    Currently, online activity is ramping up, company brand, professional brand, and your personal brand blur into one when everyone is working from home. Understanding this concept is key to engaging your community during this lockdown and beyond.

    5. Learn, Breathe, Grow
    This is the perfect time to learn a new skill, host a webinar or do research that will benefit your association and its members. It is also a time to slow down, take a breath and relax. Catch up on the jobs you’ve put off. We can all grow from this experience, be it personally or professionally. With a positive mindset we can make the most of the opportunities Lockdown provides. You have a ‘captive’ audience – make the most of it!

    By Miriam Dawson, Head of Communications and Engagement NZ - AuSAE

  • 19 Aug 2021 2:42 PM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Following this week’s government’s announcement of level 4 lockdown in New Zealand, AuSAE will continue to support you as a member and as part of the association community. We are all about ensuring that the association community is valued, recognised and influential.

    As membership organisations, our members need our support, hence we need to consider the following points. I hope you find value in these engagement ideas that are easily implemented.

    1. Communicate, communicate, communicate

    Your members may be feeling isolated, ensure there is clear awareness and a collective voice delivering positive messaging and opportunities.

    2. Address members immediate concerns

    Directly aim to address your members concerns. Consider what is ‘keeping your members up at night‘ and aim to effectively deliver practical benefits that will help getting back to norm.

    3. Make an impact

    Acknowledge the current situation and actively outline how your Association is making a real impact to contribute to the stabilisation of your members own organisations.

    4. Continue to be kind

    Continue to be seen as ‘kind’. Our members will continue to judge us as we go through this period. If you are able to help vulnerable members during this time then there is a strong likelihood of future advocates (and increased membership).

    5. Project a positive future
    As bad as things may seem right now, we will come through this challenge and it’s important to stay focused on the light at the end of the tunnel.

    6. Ensuring accessibility

    This has always been central to all engagements, and nothing should change. AuSAE prides itself on its willingness to assist and about how to best integrate accessibility and make the experience engaging for members. This is important - what does it look like for you?

    7. Don’t forget the phone

    With all the focus on the new technologies and platforms, we sometimes forget the basics that can help us in a remote engagement process. Sometimes an conversation via phone will make people who are less used to using video more comfortable, and it can be easier for people in rural and remote areas.

    Brett Jeffrey, General Manager New Zealand  19 August 2021

  • 19 Aug 2021 2:37 PM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Every membership organisation has members who go above and beyond. 

    They’re the people who show up early to every panel, share every social media post and bring something extra to the table. They’re your biggest fans, advocates, and ambassadors. 

    But as much as you might appreciate your organisation’s super users, it’s not always clear how to bring them into your overall strategy. 

    Here are four ways your organis I trust your judgement until the time of sugar change show you show you change your mind but anyway spine ation can tap the power of super users — and a closer look at the value they can add along the way.

    Support super users who host special events

    Most organizations host several tentpole events each year. This can take the form of an annual fund drive, a conference with big speakers or even a 5K. Tentpole events are an important way to promote your organisation’s visibility within the community and rally members around your cause.

    Because they’re elaborate, tentpole events don’t happen often. In between, your organization can lean on super users to foster community through local events and casual meetups.

    Take stock of where your super users live and who might be part of their networks. Create a few templates for easy events — a happy hour, or a hike — and share these resources with your super users.

    With a little effort and a small budget for refreshments or flyers, your super users can quickly cement local community ties.

    Seek feedback about your onboarding process

    Super users are notable for their generosity and genuine care for your organization. Because they’re deeply invested, they’re often willing to offer critical feedback: The hard truths that, when confronted, can help your organisation improve.  

    If you’re going to choose one area to start with, onboarding is especially critical. Once new members have committed and invested in your organisation, onboarding makes a lasting first impression. 

    Super users often organically engage in the onboarding process, making themselves available to answer questions or locate resources. They have unique insights into how your organization can better set new members up for success.

    Even better — many super users would enthusiastically join a program that welcomes new members and helps them obtain value as soon as possible. Along with asking for feedback, your organization can further support super users by turning their ad hoc engagement into a more coordinated effort. 

    Invite super users to participate in forums

    Super users often believe so whole-heartedly in your organisation that they’re willing to invest their own time and resources into making things better for everyone. 

    Hosting forums, focus groups and even webforms soliciting feedback are excellent ways to make sure super users’ voices are heard. While you shouldn’t expect exclusively positive feedback, you can rely on them for necessary and constructive criticism.

    Understanding when and why super users invest their personal resources can help you identify areas for growth. If members widely embrace unofficial traditions or programs, there may be ways to officially adopt and fund them.

    Tap super users to moderate online communities

    Online communities hosted on Facebook, Slack and other platforms can provide immense value to members. These spaces can provide a place to pose questions, pool resources and signal boost relevant initiatives to many members at once.

    Moderating these online spaces can be time consuming and challenging. A poorly moderated community can quickly be abandoned, or even toxic. 

    That’s where super users come in. They’re already highly engaged in your organisation and deeply familiar with your values and community management. Many would welcome the opportunity to assume a leadership position by voluntarily moderating an online community. 

    Whether you tap super users to gain valuable insights into areas for improvement, or to organize online and in person community events, they’re a powerful asset to any membership organisation.

    Heather Nolan

    Heather Nolan is a marketing specialist at Sidecar. A former journalist and social media manager, Heather lives in New Orleans with her husband, son, and grumpy rescue dog.

    Originally posted here

  • 19 Aug 2021 2:30 PM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Integrating risk management into your association’s culture will help you work smarter as your drive toward your mission.

    Accomplishing bigger goals with increased efficiency often means taking a risk on new technology, processes or people. It would be great if your association could know the result of every strategic choice in advance. But your association’s strategic documents aren’t a choose-your-own-adventure book you can replay a dozen ways. Assessing your association’s risk tolerance as business and social risks evolve is essential.

    First, you must understand your industry’s regulatory and operational landscape. Some industries can tolerate more experimentation. Others, such as healthcare or finance, cannot. Know how innovatively and quickly you can ethically respond as you assess your risk tolerance.

    Next, examine the complexity of your organizational structure. How many divergent teams or systems does your association have? The more interconnected your departments or networks, the more likely an adverse event—even a small one—will affect some or all of your association’s operations. Your association’s risk threshold decreases as your departments’ and initiatives’ dependencies increase.

    Closely examine how your teams operate. Emerging risks magnify weak or corrupt roles and processes in your organization, in addition to causing other issues. Correct any off-brand practices according to your strategic plan. Your association will tolerate disruptive change better if there are no unacceptable association practices covertly happening.

    Observe who makes decisions about risk and reaction. Many organizations have a risk assessment board that regularly meets to review risk factors and plans. Empower everyone in your association—from volunteers to board members—to raise potential risk issues and be taken seriously. The more agile your association is about risk, the more effectively you can respond.

    Resolver suggests a few tools for assessing your association’s risk appetite:

    • Know which risk categories would impact your association the most. Prioritize your planned response(s) to them.
    • Set Key Risk Indicators (KRIs) specific to your industry and goals.
    • Create and follow a risk management framework. This document lays out your risk appetite statement, plus who is tasked with responding and how.
    • Integrate risk management into every strategic or operational discussion. Make risk management part of your association’s culture and internal education.

    “We all want to work smarter and drive toward our mission,” says Annette Homan, COO for RIMS. “Defining your risk appetite and tolerance—how much adversity your organization can concede—will prepare your teams to quickly adapt to changes.” Associations can choose their adventures just once, but if those choices are made in a risk-tolerant, innovation-minded way, once is enough.

    Originally posted here

  • 17 Aug 2021 12:28 PM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    ACCI's Workplace Relations and WH&S team have been hard at work preparing a comprehensive guide for employers on COVID-19 Vaccinations and the Workplace.

    This is in direct response to the queries we have been receiving from members around the vaccine rollout and in particular, mandating the vaccine in the workplace.


    ACCI's new guide,COVID-19 Vaccinations and the Workplace - Edition 1 sets out how employers can play their part in the vaccine roll out and how to navigate issues related to vaccinations that may arise in the workplace, including the mandating of vaccines.

    In particular the Guide covers the following topics in detail:

    • Communicating with employees about the COVID-19 vaccine, including tips and tricks and downloadable employer resources;
    • Assisting employees to get vaccinated, including guidance around promotions and giveaways as well as details around any potential liabilities employers may be exposed to when encouraging, promoting or mandating the vaccine in the workplace;
    • Employment and work health and safety law vaccine workplace considerations, including details around implementing a COVID-19 vaccination policy, general workplace relations issues that may arise in relation to COVID-19 vaccinations, the COVID-19 vaccinations in the workplace and dealing with workplace disputes regarding COVID-19 vaccinations;
    • Vaccines and privacy law, including how employers can sight, collect, use and disclose information about an employee vaccination status in line with Privacy Act obligations; and  
    • Work health and safety, including ongoing obligations and steps employers can take to reduce the risks related to COVID-19 in the workplace. 

    The COVID-19 Vaccinations and the Workplace Guide is a working document and will be updated, with new editions, as any new information comes to light and any legal determinations are made.

    Written and Published by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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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