Sector and AuSAE News

  • 03 Jul 2014 1:39 PM | Louise Stokes

    It is difficult to undertake in-depth planning at Board meetings, where short-term matters and performance monitoring often dominate the agenda, and your Board may choose to set aside a day or two each year for strategic planning. The decision about conducting an annual planning workshop or retreat usually requires the CEO to undertake the difficult job of choosing a professional facilitator for the day. The Board expects the CEO to find a facilitator that is appropriate for the organisation, has a broad understanding of the sector, and will be able to work with the unique characteristics of the Board. A facilitator can completely change the dynamic and outcome of the workshop, and choosing a poor facilitator will ultimately reflect poorly on the CEO.

    These tips can help guide your thinking around finding the right facilitator for your organisation and ultimately getting the most out of your planning workshop.

    Set Clear Outcomes
    Before locating potential facilitators, consider the intended outcome of the workshop. Think about what the Board will have at the end of the day that it didn't have at the beginning of the day. This is important because often the discussion can move into the specifics before the outcome is determined – discussions around venue and guest speakers are often had before the intended outcome is determined. The end should determine the means, and a planning day is a means to an end. Importantly, the intended outcome is the best criteria for selecting the best facilitator. Facilitators can and do vary a great deal in style, experience and expertise the facilitator that you select should be ‘fit for purpose’.

    Once the outcome of the day is determined, you can consider how that will be achieved. Whilst it can be tempting to fill the day with guest speakers and PowerPoint presentations, this should be avoided – it disrupts the flow of discussion and prevents the Board from digging deeper, which is the very reason the Board has set aside a full day. Too may presentations and speakers results in Board members becoming a passive audience and it also turns your facilitator into an MC – a very expensive one. If a guest speaker is required try not to schedule them in the very first session, place them before a morning tea or lunch break. Ensure the guest speaker is ‘thought provoking’ rather than presenting data or information – this can be included in the pre-reading for the workshop.

    A facilitator should always meet with the CEO and preferably the Chairperson at least 14 days before the workshop. This discussion should be one in which the facilitator listens, rather than dominating the discussion by speaking about themselves or their ideas for the session: What are the current issues? What decisions have already been made? What are the intended outcomes?

    After this meeting ask the facilitator to provide a draft running sheet with session content, timing and most importantly the expected outcomes from each session. A good facilitator should provide a running sheet that ensures that all activities and discussions are moving toward the intended outcome in a logical and robust process. Ask to see this draft and have a further discussion to help clarify whether the design of the day is going to give you what you want.

    Shop Around
    Put effort into locating a number of possible candidates to facilitate the workshop. A simple Google search will turn up many results, particularly using terms like nfp facilitator or nfp strategic planning along with the name of the city you’re based in.

    Importantly, ask for referrals from other CEOs in your network. This way you can be assured that the facilitator was effective and personable, as well as possibly save a bit of time in your search.

    It is completely reasonable to ask the facilitator for a ‘ball park’ figure on how much one can expect to pay for a full day of facilitation. Always specify whether your workshop will be held on a weekday or a weekend, how many people will be attending, and where it will be held, as these two factors can have a significant impact on the cost. It takes a great deal longer to prepare for a large group of more than fifteen people than a Board-only session that is generally up to twelve people.

    Avoid Using a Template
    It’s preferable to avoid planning to a ‘template’ – the best model to use in planning is one that’s been customised to your Board, your organisation and its context. This is particularly important if the organisation is undergoing a significant change in direction or is facing new challenges such as system reform or a new government funding landscape.

    However, a template model may be appropriate if the Board wants revisit the fundamentals of strategic planning. A facilitator that specialises in basic planning architecture will be the most appropriate and these facilitators should have a lower cost because they work from a standard format.

    Check References
    If you are engaging a new facilitator for the first time, ask for references and call them. If the Board is unhappy with the facilitator, it is going to be a very long and drawn-out day and an investment of time and funds that is not going to give you the result that you want.

    Ask any proposed facilitator if they regularly seek feedback on their performance and if you can have copies of this feedback. Good facilitators should be able to provide you with the results of previous evaluations and will be more than happy to provide references to organisations that they have worked with before.

    When following up with references, some important questions to ask can include:

    • Was the style of the facilitator appropriate? Did the facilitator conduct the session respectfully and did they appear to have a level of knowledge about the organisation and the sector?
    • Was the session designed well and was there enough time to discuss the important issues? Did the sessions keep to time? Did the facilitator allow conversations to reach their natural conclusion before moving on?
    • Did the session produce what was intended? Was it a valuable use of your time and money?
    Pay a Fair Price
    Many facilitators will have different ways of determining their fee for a workshop – some will charge by the hour, some by the day, and others on a whole-of-project basis. In order to get an accurate comparison between facilitators, it’s important that you’re clear on what you expect from their quote – ask facilitators to include their preparation costs and travel time, and make it clear whether you would like the facilitator to provide workshop notes or a written report.

    It can be difficult to determine what the appropriate amount of money is for a high quality facilitator. It’s important to remember that whilst spending thousands of dollars on a single day’s facilitation will seem like a lot of money, a good facilitator will also spend time before the workshop preparing for the day, including by meeting with both the CEO and the Chair, as well as conducting background research into the organisation and the sector it operates in. Additionally, the facilitator should prepare a custom running sheet and agenda in order to achieve the outcomes you have set for the day.

    As a general guide, a full day workshop can require three to four days’ worth of preparation, though obviously less time is required if the facilitator has worked with your organisation previously. As an indicative range, an organisation should expect to pay around $3,000-$4,000 for a full-day workshop held on a Saturday. This amount should include preparatory meetings, assembly of a running sheet and agenda, and provision of pre-reading if required.

    Some facilitators will also offer to provide written workshop notes. This can enable the CEO to participate fully in the session, rather than taking notes or struggling to translate mass of butchers’ paper in the week following. Ideally, the facilitator would be accompanied by a second person in order to take comprehensive notes. Following the workshop, these notes can be formed into a strategic workshop, not only outlining what was discussed but also including key strategic recommendations for the Board. If a workshop report is required that can take an additional two days, possibly adding $1,000-$2,000 to the cost.

    Always ask if there is a discount for charities and not-for-profit organisations. Many facilitators and consultants will take this into consideration when preparing their quote, especially if working with a small organisation with a turnover of under $1 million.

    Ask About The Process
    After you have selected a briefed the preferred facilitation, ensure that there is a good process for designing the format of the day. A facilitator should always meet with the CEO and preferably the Chairperson at least 14 days before the workshop. This discussion should be one in which the facilitator listens, rather than dominating the discussion by speaking about themselves or their ideas for the session: What are the current issues? What decisions have already been made? What are the intended outcomes?

    After this meeting ask the facilitator to provide a draft running sheet with session content, timing and most importantly the expected outcomes from each session. A good facilitator should provide a running sheet that ensures that all activities and discussions are moving toward the intended outcome in a logical and robust process. Ask to see this draft and have a further discussion to help clarify whether the design of the day is going to give you what you want.

    The decision to set aside a full day to plan is an important investment in the future of any organisation. To gain the full benefits of this day, you should invest the right amount of time and effort in selecting, briefing and managing a high quality facilitator.
    Spending money on a high quality facilitator is an important investment, as your planning day can be much more productive.

    About the Author: Lesley Yates is the Managing Partner of the Radno Group ( With academic qualifications in education, economics and public relations, Lesley has worked extensively across the public and private sectors, as well as having held a number of governance and leadership positions on government and not-for-profit Boards.

  • 02 Jul 2014 3:42 PM | Louise Stokes
    It is my great pleasure to announce registrations are now open for the 2014 Annual AuSAE Leadership Symposium in Sydney, Australia.

    Under the theme “Game On: Leadership in Motion”, AuSAE’s 2014 Leadership Symposium brings together knowledgeable executives and practitioners from across Australasia and addresses a wide range of topics focusing on membership, leadership, advocacy and management. Attending is also a great opportunity to meet and collaborate with new colleagues from across the country who share your interests, concerns, and on-the-job challenges. Throughout the two day event, you will have unparalleled access to networking opportunities with fellow delegates. Attendees can make the most of this educational and networking opportunity at the Conversations Corner – AuSAE’s own private café setting. We will also be celebrating AuSAE’s 60th Anniversary at the Symposium Gala Dinner.

    Click here to visit the Symposium webpage and view a sneak peak of the 2014 program

    If you are interested, there are a few panel session vacancies for not-for-profits wishing to share their knowledge on the topics of “Future Trends for Events”, “Choosing Membership Software” and “Why HR Matters: Employing for the future”. For more information please email

    I very much look forward to seeing you in Sydney this October 13-14.

    Warm Regards,
    Tony Steven
    AuSAE President

  • 02 Jul 2014 2:32 PM | Louise Stokes

    The latest AuSAE Workshop series titled "Strategic and Operational Planning" with Governance expert Kate Hartwig has now concluded with events taking place in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Hobart, Adelaide and Perth between March and June 2014.

    The series received such positive feedback and the AuSAE team would like to thank Kate Hartwig for sharing her extensive knowledge and providing delegates with plenty of fresh ideas to improve their organisation's governance and board management. 

    If you would like to contact Kate, she can be reached at or ph 0488 002 489. If you are interested in having Kate assist with your organisational endeavours, Kate’s training can be tailored to suit your needs with her most popular services including reviewing and/or producing strategic and operational plans and ongoing personalised coaching services.

    Kate is primarily based in Adelaide and was appointed as an AuSAE life member in 2013 for her contributions to the Society. 

    Until next time!

    Kimberley Miller 
    AuSAE Events and Communications Manager 

  • 02 Jul 2014 2:08 PM | Louise Stokes

    Sourced directly from:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What other cool and innovative things do you think are occurring in the meetings space, association-related or not? Share in the comments or shoot me an email at
  • 02 Jul 2014 1:32 PM | Louise Stokes

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    I'm just returned from what was a very successful strategic retreat with the Board of Directors of my association. Like many of the Board meetings we've done before, we used a U-shaped table for several of the sessions. With the open end of the U facing a projection screen, we've found that it gives the Board members an equal opportunity to see and interact with each other and to view the many presentations we use to report progress and explore strategic concepts.

    But something different happened at this Board meeting--something that is a great reminder of how something as ostensibly simple as your room set can affect the the outcome of your meeting.

    In order to help focus discussion, we usually break our Board up into a handful of smaller groups. Each can tackle a particular issue, and report recommended actions back to the full Board. We've found it to be helpful in increasing participation and efficiency. Fewer people dominate the conversation and more work can get done.

    At this meeting, when the breakout groups came back into general session, they found that the hotel had put us into a cavernous room. Much too large for our group, and rather than put a tight U-shaped table in the middle of its footprint, it had built a giant one for us, stretching to fill the entire space, and putting people on opposite side of the U more than thirty feet away from each other.

    It could have been a disaster. But when it came time for the first breakout group to report, the chair did something important--something that no breakout chair had ever done before. Rather than stay in his seat, he got up, and moved to the middle of the U to give his report. With the words on the screen behind him, and moving around to speak directly to all three sides of the U, it was almost as if he was giving a mini TED talk.

    And it completely changed the dynamic. I've seen these reports go bad before. A quiet voice from one corner of the table, easily dismissed as partially heard and dimly understood. This was anything but. The chair made the information compelling--if for no other reason than he seemed to lay the recommendations directly in front of each and every Board member. The discussion that followed was robust and additive, and the breakout chair was in the best possible position to moderate it. His physical movements helped integrate ideas from all around the U, and he got the Board to a even better decision point than the one he had initially framed for them.

    It was one of the best displays of leadership I have seen, especially when you consider that the breakout chairs who followed him wisely choose to emulate his style. Makes me wonder if I'm going to purposely set my U-shaped tables too wide in the future.
  • 02 Jul 2014 12:26 PM | Louise Stokes

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    If you overhaul your association’s membership model, what was a “member” before may be something totally different after. So how do you measure success?

    Here’s a thought experiment: If tomorrow Apple slashed the price of all its computers to $99, how many new customers would it have? Probably a whole heck of a lot. But would it matter? Obviously, Apple would be losing a lot of money at that price point. That business model wouldn’t be sustainable, and so the number of customers wouldn’t matter.

    But customer number is an easy measure to understand, so it’s easy to overestimate its importance. I often wonder if we have the same, or perhaps more acute, problem with membership numbers in associations.

    A discussion at last week’s ASAE Marketing, Membership & Communications Conference raised this concern, at least indirectly, as several association professionals weighed in on the impact of new or re-envisioned membership models.

    The Learning Lab, titled “Membership Model Makeover,” featured firsthand accounts of membership restructurings from Ric Grefe, exective director of AIGA, and Laura Lott, chief operating officer at the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), accompanied by commentary from a pair of association industry consultants, Tony Rossell, senior vice president at Marketing General, Inc., and Jeff De Cagna, FASAE, chief strategist and founder of Principled Innovation. (All deftly moderated by Bryan Kelly, vice president of marketing at Aptify. Find the slides and handouts here.

    In his opening remarks, Rossell encouraged the membership professionals in attendance to think of membership as “a tool, not an end in and of itself.” And De Cagna reiterated his view that associations are overcommitted to membership as a business model. He asked how many people in the room were “struggling” with their membership models; more than half raised their hands.

    Grefe and Lott, meanwhile, detailed the strategic pressures their organizations each faced that drove them to adopt new membership structures, both featuring a broad range of tiers of benefits and corresponding dues at which members can join. (See sidebar for previous coverage of AIGA and AAM.) As Lott explained, the impetus for AAM was simple: Its leaders saw that it was engaging only 10 percent to 15 percent of its market but it wanted to flip that ratio and engage 85 percent to 90 percent, so it needed a model that could be more inclusive. Grefe said that AIGA’s new membership structure was conceived in tandem with a new set of strategies also aimed at greater engagement. “The participation model is just as important as the pricing model,” he said.

    At the end of the planned remarks, an audience member posed a question that caught my attention. She asked the panel about how to measure the success of a membership-structure overhaul, wondering if the number of members before and after the change is the best metric to use. Rossell responded that revenue may be the better option, but then the panel moved on to another question before discussing it further.

    I don’t remember what the next question was, because I was still thinking about the previous one. It got me wondering, can you really get any kind of valuable insight from the number of members before and after a change in membership structure? By its nature, such a change likely involves a significant change in dues, or benefits packages, or member scope (i.e., who can join), which means the only thing members before and members after may have in common is the term member. They’re called the same thing, but they’re really apples and oranges.

    For me, all of this discussion crystallized the difficulty we face in talking about the membership model as a concept in the association community. Membership can mean so many, many different things to different associationsundefinedor even to the same association over the course of timeundefinedthat solely focusing on the numbers misses the bigger picture. Yet, again, it’s easy to understand, so it’s easy to return to over and over. I’m surely guilty of this in my own writing on membership here.

    So, the biggest lesson I drew from the MMCC session last week is that any examination of a membership model must start and end with the purpose that model serves: enabling the association to pursue its mission, whatever that may be. And that means that measuring the effectiveness of a membership-model change requires an apples-to-apples comparison on a metric whose definition doesn’t change in the course of a restructure.

    What might that be? Revenue is somewhat cold, but dollars are dollars, and more revenue should mean more capacity for mission pursuit. I also like market share engaged with the association, though that requires a clear understanding of “engaged.” (Does it mean join, purchase, subscribe, visit, etc.?) Perhaps most powerful, though more difficult, would be to directly measure mission impact: Has this membership-structure change helped our industry expand its reach or raise its quality or improve more people’s lives?

    Of course, don’t throw out your membership number completely. For advocacy, it can represent your association’s collective influence. For marketing, it can signify the breadth of the community that members can be a part of. And if you’ve determined that membership growth would support your mission, then it’s a key indicator of progress. But it’s just one number among many you should be tracking, and it’s a rather simplistic one at that.

    If you’ve undertaken a major or minor change to your membership structure, how have you measured success? What metrics have you used, and where has membership count fit in (or not)?

  • 02 Jul 2014 12:23 PM | Louise Stokes
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    Governance Structure

    1. Board structure & governance misaligned

    Roles & Responsibilities
    2. Board members from regions/chapters fail to understand their fiduciary duty to do what is best for the organization as a whole

    3. Board (members) fail to understand the role of board vs role of CEO and staff

    Strategy & Vision
    4. Board too focused on operational or tactical matters, as opposed to strategic issues

    5. Board fails to ensure execution of strategies related to its central mission

    6. Board unable to make key decisions (too large, poor leadership, lack of vision, etc.)

    7. Board fails to realize that the association has outlived its purpose or mission and doesn't take next steps to ensure relevance

    8. Board allows mission/program creep; fails to provide adequate resources for new programs/services; fails to eliminate unneeded programs

    9. Board allows and/or leads the association to focus on issues outside of the organization’s mission or of little relevance to its members

    10. Board doesn’t appreciate that the association is an organization serving the members in their field or industry, it is not a business that does what members do

    Conflicts of Interest
    11. Board member(s) fail to take off "company hat" and put on "association hat" when dealing with association matters

    12. Board members are reluctant to say “no” to their friends and colleagues, even when it is in the best interests of the organization

    Leadership, Personalities, Power
    13. Board president assumes too much power, pushes his/her own agenda(s) and ignores need for consensus building

    14. Board member(s) bully the board and/or staff

    15. Poor leadership leads to unproductive meetings, distractions related to new “ideas,” lack of consensus building and decision making, lack of organizational vision, etc.

    16. Board president thinks/acts as though he/she is the association's CEO

    17. Board doesn’t have an effective culture or process for managing and resolving conflict

    Commitment & Participation
    18. Board members don't adequately prepare for meetings or pay attention during meetings

    19. Board members are apathetic or don’t actively or consistently engage in association business

    Goals & Measurement
    20. Board fails to do board self-evaluations

    21. Board fails to set goals and conduct a formal evaluation of CEO

    Succession & Skills
    22. Board (or its leadership development committee) fails to vet board candidates in terms of competencies, ability to serve and support for central mission of the association

    23. Board members lack the necessary skills and/or experience to help lead the association

    Respect & Continuity
    24. Board routinely modifies policies or overturns decisions made at previous Board meetings

    25. Board does (or re-does) committee work, doesn’t give committees clear direction or show appreciation for their work

  • 01 Jul 2014 1:38 PM | Louise Stokes
    2014 celebrates the sixth anniversary of MGI’s Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report. Based on input from nearly 865 respondents, 2014 results show that membership organisation numbers continue to rebound. In this report detailed information is provided on:
    • Primary challenges to growth
    • Changes in dues
    • Uses of social media
    • Successes in recruitment and engagement
    • Tactics in renewals and reinstatement
    • Marketing budgets
    • Changes in membership categories
    • And much more
    The 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report is easy to read and easy to digest, and will be of value to anyone involved in membership marketing or association management.

    Download your free copy here.

    2014 Benchmarking Report confirms associations gained strength

    The majority of membership organizations that were hit hard by the 2009 global economic meltdown have continued their slow but steady recovery into the first quarter of this year. More than half of those surveyed in early 2014 report increased total member counts and nearly 60 percent report new member growth over the past year. The continued steady recovery of association membership headlines the findings in the 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, the fifth annual survey of leading association indicators conducted by Marketing General Incorporated.

    New membership

    This year's benchmarking survey found that 58 percent of the associations sampled report new member growth, which is a significant improvement from the 42 percent reporting new member growth at the depth of the recession in 2010.

    Why the numbers are important

    Most membership organisations use three key indicators to measure trends in their overall health: total membership, new members acquired, and members renewed. These data help gauge performance compared to the industry as a whole, as well as identify areas of strength and weakness in their membership marketing efforts. This year, 865 membership organisations completed the survey, the leading study of its kind to examine the practices associations commonly use to recruit new members, retain current ones, and reinstate those who have lapsed.

    Renewing membership

    If there is a weakness in association health revealed by the survey, it lies in renewals. Just 31 percent of the associations polled report improved renewal rates in 2014. That is slightly higher than the 27 percent of associations that report a decline.

    Most important goals

    When respondents were asked their association's most important membership goals, 67 per cent indicated "Increasing member engagement," 64 percent "Increasing membership retention," and 60% "Increasing membership acquisition."

    Want to learn more?

    MGI makes the annual benchmarking report freely available in print and online for the benefit of the greater association community. MGI is able to customise the benchmarking report for your individual association with most information available in considerable and actionable detail. Contact MGI Vice President Erik Schonher at 703.706.0358 or email him at to learn more.

    Disclaimer: Because an activity or practice has a statistical correlation with a change in membership rates, MGI is not claiming that any one behaviour in and of itself causes this outcome. There are literally thousands of variables that impact membership results.

  • 01 Jul 2014 9:00 AM | Louise Stokes

    With a recent study finding that understanding members "up at night" issues are key to associations sustainability, Survey Matters is delighted to announce the launch of the 2014 Associations Matter Study – their second research project examining membership of professional associations across Australia and New Zealand.

    To take part in this study register your details and interest here!

    We invite you to participate – it is free and all associations who take part will receive a complimentary electronic copy of the overall results.

    About the study:

    In the inaugural study nearly 8,000 members provided feedback about their membership, generating fascinating insights across the spectrum of association activities. This year’s study will build on the data gathered in 2013, investigating the most significant findings to provide even deeper insight. We learnt  in the 2013 study that up to date information and professional development are highly important to members, and that they want their association to lead the way in protecting and promoting their profession. So this year, the Associations Matter Study will seek specific ideas and suggestions to guide service provision - in the areas we already know are most important to members.

    What associations said about the 2013 study:

    “Well done to Survey Matters, AuSAE and the participating associations for this important research - it makes for interesting reading… I'm already looking forward to seeing next year's results, and encourage all associations to participate: it was painless!”

    “The insights we have gained into member perceptions and needs are foundational to our strategic planning for the next three years.”

    “Easy to participate, a great benchmark study”

    To find out more please call: +61 3 9452 0101 or email

  • 24 Jun 2014 9:24 AM | Louise Stokes

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    On Tuesday, Ray van Hilst and I presented at ASAE’s Marketing, Membership and Communications Conference--it was fun (as far as public speaking gigs go) and great to see so many association friends. If you want to see our five quick tips for improving your website in five minutes, you’re in luck--here’s the link to our presentation.

    I didn’t see Joe Pulizzi speak about content marketing, but Associations Now wrote about his presentation, and that he pointed out that associations are, for the most part, doing it wrong when it comes to content marketing. He said that according to a recent study by the Content Marketing Institute, only 26% of nonprofit organizations surveyed think they’re using content marketing effectively. I’m surprised it was that high, to be honest, as I don’t think that most nonprofits think of content as marketing, period, let alone consider themselves to be content marketers at all.

    It may seem like an easy fix to someone who hasn’t worked in the association world--just create a mission statement for your content, create a content marketing strategy, then create an opt-in subscriber strategy. Done. Let me get right on that, said every association staffer ever. I mean, never, because this strategy would probably never work for actual associations.

    Here are three reasons why content marketing in the for-profit world is different than content marketing in the association world, and why what works for them won’t work for most associations:

    Silos. In the for-profit world, content is marketing. In the association world, there’s marketing then there’s content--web content, publications--and the two are almost guaranteed to be totally separate. The marketing department works on marketing things--membership, conferences, products. The communications or publication departments work on writing and publishing the association's magazine and/or journals and/or website, developing and writing the content that is one of the most tangible benefits of membership. Their audience is existing members. Marketing may sell ads that run in these publications or on the website, but that’s about as much crossover as there probably ever is between departments, and even those relationships aren’t that great. Marketing wants more--more space for ads, more opportunities to market--and pubs wants to write and produce quality content that is geared towards existing members and is not salesy. So telling associations to just set a content marketing strategy….in the world of silos that is the reality of most association’s inner workings and getting publications and marketing to work together towards one common goal is a lot easier said than done.

    Technology. Associations are a different business than for-profits, and a lot of things that for-profits have to work for, associations can take for granted. Like subscribers. For the most part, if you belong to an association, you’re opting in to receive content from them--publications, email newsletters, etc. That’s what members are paying for, after all. That’s where associations have the advantage over for-profits. Where they’re at a disadvantage is, for the most part, money and technology. In the for-profit world, there’s marketing automation technology and CRM….and the money to both purchase technology platforms/services and to either hire people who know how to use them or outsource that part. In the association world, marketing strategies that go much beyond communicating with current members, house ads in your own publications and then maybe posting that content to social media sites and exhibiting at your own conference are, at least in my experience, pretty rare. IT departments are comfortable with Microsoft and whatever AMS the association is using; implementing Salesforce or Hubspot is not something they’re known to take on very willingly, even if there is budget for it, which, for 99% of associations, there probably is not.

    Staff skillsets. In the for-profit world, marketing directors are, at least from my maybe overly-optimistic POV, expected to stay current in terms of skills. Marketing automation, SEO, content marketing, social media marketing….all these are areas they probably have at least a decent understanding of, as well as a staff who are proficient in each of these areas as well as what’s on the horizon in terms of marketing. Association marketing directors--and no disrespect intended, and I certainly don’t know everything, but in my 20 years working in the association world, I have seen a lot and know a few things--but, to generalize, they tend to be more traditional marketers who learned marketing a while ago, got into their current position five or 10 or 20 years ago and have pretty much been rinse-and-repeating the same email and print marketing strategies each year since. And to be fair, it’s hard to be a marketer in an association--a world where selling is verboten and you’re there for the lofty purpose of helping people and serving members. But for the most part, associations don’t have huge marketing budgets or staffs….or any marketing budgets or staffs, and the more senior marketing staffers tend to have traditional skillsets. And even those who want to push the envelope and do cool new stuff--like content marketing and/or social media marketing--well, suffice it to say, that’s why there are a lot of smart consultants who used to be associations staffers, and a lot of patient-and-trying-but-not-really-getting-anywhere association staffers. Writing for the web, cross-channel content promotion, building opt-in subscriber lists, tracking analytics....these are mostly not skillsets that the majority of association marketers possess.

    So anyway….it’s easy for someone outside the association world to paint a rosy picture of how easy it is to implement a content marketing strategy inside an association; it’s another thing to actually understand that, while there’s certainly a place for content marketing in the association world, there are unique challenges to work around and simply plugging in for-profit advice most likely won’t work.

The Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE)

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