Sector and AuSAE News

  • 20 Jan 2020 8:36 AM | Brett Jeffery (Administrator)

    Your association exists to provide value to members, and likely to improve the profession or niche in which your members operate. If your association is like most, that value comes from the products, programs, services, information, resources, and tools you create. These valuable offerings are produced by your staff or member work groups, task forces, or committees.

    This is the first in a three-part series of articles. Look for the second article in February 2020 and the third in March.

    What is content?

    Content is how our work is manifested in the world. Your products, programs, services, information, resources, and tools are your organization’s content. Here are some examples of content associations create: advocacy issue updates, books, conference proceedings, clinical practice guidelines, courses, legislative talking points, magazine articles, membership details, newsletters, podcasts, press releases, webinars… the list is not exhaustive.

    Associations may decide to create these in various formats: text (articles, blog posts, or web pages), infographics, videos, designed documents (PDFs), graphics, etc. But regardless of the format, it’s all content.

    Who creates associations’ content?

    The people who create this content are subject-matter experts (SMEs) – conference planners, government relations folks, course developers, researchers. That is what you’ve hired them to do, and they usually do their jobs very well. But not all of them have experience communicating their expertise to audiences who need the information but don’t have the deep expertise that the SMEs do.

    As a result, members don’t always know about all the good work your association creates for them – and they may question the benefits they are getting by being a member of your organization.

    But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you treat your content strategically, members are more likely to:

    • Use the programs you create for them
    • Support your efforts to shape industry-positive legislation
    • Register for courses
    • Download research
    • Attend conferences

    And members who take part in what you offer will have more favorable opinions of your organization, and are more likely to renew their membership and recommend your association to industry colleagues.

    What is content strategy?

    Content strategy is the practice of planning for the creation, publication, delivery, and governance of useful, usable, effective content. Useful means the content is presented so its relevance comes through loud and clear. Usable means the content is easy to find and act on. Effective means that the content has a clearly articulated audience and explicit measurable goals, that you do the measurement to determine whether the content met its goals, and that you make decisions about how to publish similar content based on those results

    The objective of content strategy is to get the right content to the right person at the right time for the right action. This takes a partnership between SMEs and people with expertise in content creation, publication, and promotion.

    Why content strategy?

    Smart organizations align their content with their strategic goals. This means several things, as listed in Association Content Strategies for a Changing World, a report published by the ASAE Foundation in 2019:

    • Each piece of content it produces has an explicit, measurable goal tied to a specific outcome of the program that the content is about and a clearly articulated audience.
    • Content is created in a way—terminology, readability level, format, length, timing, etc.—that resonates with the audience.
    • The people with expertise in creating, publishing, and promoting content work in partnership with subject-matter experts managing the organization’s offerings to ensure that the content about and from those programs achieves its goals.
    • The organization evaluates content to determine whether the content meets its goals, and that information drives decisions about what to do more of, do less of, or do differently.
    • Subject-matter experts work in partnership with each other to determine when to collaborate, when to cross-link, and when to reuse content that another department has created.

    Content strategy is a key way associations can make sure that the content about their work is published in a way that resonates with the audience and, therefore, has the greatest chance to succeed.

    What does it take to have content strategy?

    Content strategy consists of six building blocks, each with several tactics: 1) Know the organization; 2) Know the audience, 3) Ensure content effectiveness; 4) Plan and promote content; 5) Support content with structure; and 6) Sustain with content governance/operations

    We will dive in to the blocks and tactics in more detail in the next article, but for now it’s enough to say that not every organization needs to use all of the tactics to achieve content success.

    Starting your content strategy journey

    Every organization’s journey to content strategy is different, because associations have such a diverse set of sizes, focus areas, staff composition, challenges, and industry dynamics.

    But to get started, I suggest that you take stock of where you are now and start planning content better:

    1.      Learn what content you have now with a content audit. You’ll likely uncover content you didn’t know you had, content that is outdated, or old versions of current information.

    2.      See how your content is doing. Start by collecting analytics data for each piece of content. You may be surprised at the low usage of much of your content. (When you create similar content next time, you’ll be identifying the audience and setting measurable goals.)

    3.      Gather everyone who creates content and start conversations about the content they have now and what they plan to create. You’ll all likely identify opportunities to collaborate and cross-link content that is relevant to the same member segment or used for a common purpose.

    There are probably people in your association who already realize the need for a more strategic approach to content. They may be in your communications group, education, marketing, IT, or a program area. If you can find them, the journey will be easier.

    Words Hilary Marsh The Boardroom

  • 16 Jan 2020 5:00 AM | Brett Jeffery (Administrator)

    Nonprofits’ email open rates rose nearly 5% in 2019, a stark contrast to a slight decrease in worldwide email open rates, according to a new study.

    With an average open rate of 25.20%, nonprofits trailed only government organisations (30.50%) in a benchmark report released by email marketing software provider Campaign Monitor.

    The average email open rate across the 20 measured industries for 2019 was 17.80% — a 0.12% dip from the same report in 2018, in which nonprofits led the field with a 20.39% open rate.

    Campaign Monitor found that, for nonprofits, Wednesday (26.20%) was the highest-performing day; in the 2018 report, Sunday (22.9%) had been the No. 1 day for nonprofit emails.

    While nonprofits exceeded the average for open rates, the average click-through rate for nonprofits settled at 2.60%, matching the global average for 2019. Nonprofit open rates lagged slightly from 2018, when they were measured at 2.66%.

    Certain other industries also saw stark improvements: government open rates improved by a stunning 10.71% (from 19.79% to 30.5%), while education open rates improved by 4.5% (from 18.9% to 23.4%).

    Mondays and Wednesdays rated the best for nonprofit click-through rates, at 2.70%; Sunday, Thursday and Friday trailed at 2.50%. Overall, Tuesdays were the best day for email open rates across industries, at 18.30%.

    Nonprofit emails also slightly exceeded the global averages in bounce rate (1.00% to 0.7%), and unsubscribe rate (0.2% to 0.1%).

    Campaign Monitor said in a press release that the report was developed after analyzing billions of emails sent globally using its platform.

    “Marketing has evolved to become a data-driven discipline, and marketers need to actively measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and programs,” said Lane Harbin, director of marketing at Campaign Monitor, which boasts more than 250,000 customers worldwide. “Savvy marketers can use this information to quickly double down on areas where they are excelling and determine where they need to make improvements in 2020.”

    For nonprofits, the latest findings reinforce an industry-wide trend toward email marketing. Another 2019 report from CampaignMonitor and QGiv found that a plurality of donors – 42% – say they prefer to hear from a nonprofit via email.

    Chris Strub Contributor 

    CMO Network I highlight successful social media strategies from savvy nonprofits.

  • 09 Jan 2020 5:11 AM | Brett Jeffery (Administrator)

    Associations pros frequently cite member engagement as a top challenge, and many of the most effective ways to make easier connections with members are in the digital realm. Here are three items to add to your online engagement plan in the new year.

    If January is for making new year’s resolutions, then association professionals might want to spend some quality time thinking about boosting member engagement in the coming year. Most associations have a good set of digital tools available, but it might be time to take a look at ways you could use them better to make the member experience feel more relevant and real.

    In a GrowthZone survey, association professionals ranked member engagement as the top challenge of 2019, higher than recruitment and retention or challenges with communicating member value, attracting young members, or funding.

    Shaun O’Reilly, vice president of marketing at MemberSuite, thinks member engagement will remain the top challenge in 2020. He argues that association professionals need to start thinking strategically if they want to succeed in making routine touchpoints with time-strapped members. “What we advocate is that associations should engage online through a continuous and segmented approach,” O’Reilly says.

    He suggests three areas where associations can focus on digital engagement this year:

    Member portals. An association’s online community is where members go for information, resources, and connections. O’Reilly believes that many member portals are underutilized or overlooked as engagement opportunities. To get better results this year, he says it helps to think like a community manager.

    You might already have a community manager on staff, but you could cross-train other staff members and member volunteers to serve as community ambassadors. This creates champions who know how to cultivate and encourage community conversations online. “With the right functionality and people, [a member portal] can transform into a dynamic place for online engagement,” he says.

    Social media diversification. This could be the year you break out of business as usual on social media. O’Reilly says associations should go beyond pushing social posts to followers and embrace social media as a customer service interface, as many brands do. “Look at all the different channels you’re on and think about how you might use them differently to deliver messaging and support,” he says.

    Also consider new platforms for engagement. For instance, Fast Company recently reported that Facebook engagement is declining, whereas TikTok engagement is growing quickly, especially with millennials and members of Gen Z. How might you use TikTok to engage members?

    Sponsored content. Too often, O’Reilly says, sponsored content is viewed purely as a nondues revenue opportunity. “However, I think associations need to get more creative if they want to find digital content opportunities that can serve revenue goals and member engagement,” he says. “Sponsored content is not just about getting in front of people; it’s about building a connection.”

    A strong sponsored content program provides valuable knowledge and information to readers from sponsors with expertise to share. In turn, it gives sponsors a platform to create a meaningful connection to the community. In the new year, O’Reilly says, associations should look for opportunities to start or grow a sponsored content program as a way to drive engagement as well as revenue.

    Have you found member engagement to be a challenge at your association? How are you addressing the issue through digital engagement? Post your comments below.


    Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues.

  • 20 Dec 2019 12:15 PM | Toni Brearley (Administrator)

    AuSAE in partnership with Survey Matters are excited to announce we are embarking on a research project to discover what defines a successful association.

    Your participation will contribute to comprehensive results that reflect the breadth of experiences across all associations. Click below to start the survey:

    This research is intended to support association executives, to enable their organisations to remain relevant and leverage meaningful change.

    The Associations Matter - Defining Successful Associations in 2020 Report will:

    • Provide a timely overview of the sector
    • Identify common sector challenges and what others are doing to overcome them
    • Identify high performing associations and what drives their success
    • Allow you to benchmark your association
    • Help guide your strategic planning

    All participants will receive an electronic copy of the report.

    We thank you in advance for your participation.  Your contribution will help build our collective understanding and impact of our sector.

    Warm regards,
    Toni Brearley
    CEO, AuSAE

  • 20 Dec 2019 12:05 PM | Toni Brearley (Administrator)

    As recognition of our partnership for the #WIAL event in Melbourne this year,  RACV Conferences and Events have generously extended the below offer to the AuSAE community at the RACV Cape Schanck Resort.

    Book a new event to be held in May or June 2020 at RACV Cape Schanck Resort and receive*:
    • Complimentary upgrade to the Peninsula Suite for 1 VIP (valued at $2,500)
    • 30 minutes of canapes or 45-minute wine tasting
    • 10% discount at One Spa for treatments booked throughout the event dates or 2 x Hammam Bathing Vouchers

    With a special event lawn for dinner under the stars, RACV Cape Schanck is a breath of fresh air.

    Call 03 5950 8000 or email Advise of AuSAE offer.

    *Event bookings are subject to availability. Valid May & June 2020 for new bookings only. Minimum event spend is $20,000. Accommodation in Peninsula Suite is subject to availability.


  • 18 Dec 2019 8:34 AM | Brett Jeffery (Administrator)

    Let’s make a bet. I bet that if you pull any association’s job posting for a leadership opening, you will find the word “innovation” at least half the time, either as a requirement of the type of person or a descriptor of where the organization is going. I also would bet that if you walk into most associations and ask their team the last time they innovated, they would have to think about it and wouldn’t be able to name more than one innovation in the past year.

    With the push for associations to innovate and think more like businesses to maintain relevance long-term, there seems to be a gap in how associations see innovation.  

    Here’s my final bet: If you asked an association leader what innovation is, I bet they would describe a strategic initiative that would drastically change or evolve their offerings or operations.

    This is not the only way to define, measure or think of innovation. I want to invite you to the real world of innovation: small-sized innovation.

    Rather than think of innovation only as large, shiny new projects, think of it as any change that moves the needle toward your goals. Here are three examples of small-sized innovations we’ve implemented in 2019 at the Professional Pricing Society. These changes took small amounts of staff time, funding and resources:

    1. Member newsletter: Each month, we would email our members that the newsletter was ready for them to view in their portal electronically, but the conversion of users logging in was not as high as we would like and we received feedback that they would prefer we attach the newsletter directly to the email. While we were nervous they might share the newsletter with non-members, we realized they could download the PDF and share it regardless, so why not embrace this potential marketing and give our members what they want? Now, instead of an alert to login with a link to the member portal, we email them a link to view the newsletter directly without login.  This turned a 4-click login process into a 1-click viewing process and made our members much happier.
    2. Transcriptions: As a global organization, we receive a few requests annually for our online courses to be offered in other languages. While that could be a large, costly project, we determined a quicker, more efficient way to meet our member needs after talking with them directly. Nearly every requestor agreed a transcription of the online course would be sufficient as they could run it through Google Translate to follow along. To get the transcriptions, we used an artificial intelligence program that cost 10 cents per minute of audio with 99% accuracy to transcribe with timestamps. We uploaded each course individually and within ten minutes, each one had a transcription we could upload as a Word document into our LMS for immediate availability. A bonus win: this advanced our online accessibility, too.
    3. Membership value: In addition to our current member benefits, one goal we had was to include a monthly new learning opportunity for all members across the skills needed in the industry we serve so tat they can see an increase in the ROI of their membership and increase member portal logins to increase engagement with other member offerings and retention. Originally, we were mapping a new series that would take a lot of time every month. After some consideration, we decided instead to invest in a videographer to record our keynotes at our two main annual conferences. Across these, we have 16 keynotes, so we can afford to throw out any that don’t perform well or save one or two for free content marketing while still retaining 12 for our monthly offerings each year. The two-time recording and editing costs were much lower than doing new content each month, so we essentially exported the content creation as our keynote speakers were already presenting rather than having staff make new content, and it added an additional benefit because it showed members who didn’t come to the conference what they were missing.

    As we focus on these types of small-sized innovation, we are able to more clearly articulate to our president, board and members many innovative wins each year rather than placing all of our innovation eggs in one large basket.  As a result, staff morale is higher, we find ourselves more open to large and small change, and we tackle bigger innovation projects with confidence and enthusiasm because our small wins have built us up.

    Dr. Michael Tatonetti is the Director of Certification and Education for The Professional Pricing Society, where he oversees global training and development of pricing professionals and their organizations through conferences, online courses, virtual summits and private trainings. His areas of expertise include education, membership, marketing and sales.

  • 12 Dec 2019 4:27 AM | Brett Jeffery (Administrator)

    How should association communicators balance the needs of their business, the priorities of their organisation’s leaders and the resources at their disposal? Who are their audiences, and what do they need in their lives as members – or prospective members? And what matters most when it comes time to measure success?

    Those are the types of questions we were asking at The Ohio Society of CPAs as we thought about our content. We wanted to know:

    • What content we should create and distribute.
    • Who should consume it.
    • How they would consume it.
    • How to measure value and success.
    • How to identify things we should stop doing.

    That’s an important and complex discussion even if we were to stop there. But we’re also living in a world of swift and constant change, not only for our members in the accounting profession but for us in the communication business. As the OSCPA content team discussed our strategy, we realized we could take the time to develop a list of specific to-dos for the next 3-5 years. But we understood there was a strong chance our plan could be obsolete or worn away by sudden events or changed minds before we reached the end. We did not want to relitigate our strategy again in a year or two. Instead, we needed something that would continue to guide us through those very times that make planning difficult: when the world evolves and organizational priorities shift. Something, as we said at the time, that we could frame and hang on the wall like the Pledge of Allegiance.

    Of course, you do need to get specific things done, and we’re fortunate at OSCPA to have a systematic way to do it. That’s our “plan of work,” an organization-wide structure we began using around 2015 to prioritize and coordinate efforts based on the direction of our executive board. The plan, which is updated annually, details strategic priorities, the steps needed to achieve them and the responsible staff and volunteers. It guides our planning and helps us prepare our annual operating budget.

    The plan of work also removes the burden of including our to-do list in our departmental strategy, allowing it to instead be a stabilizing force over time. So, we created a content strategy intended to be a nimble, adaptable framework to inform the things our communications department is doing within the plan of work. The intent was to provide objectives we can turn to each year, in conjunction with the directives we receive from the executive board and CEO.

    It consists of four goals, each of which is supported by a list of objectives. In summary:

    Support strategic objectives. This is about alignment. We need to make sure what we’re doing is tied to the strategic priorities identified annually (or sometimes more frequently) by the board and CEO. Our measurements are based on the organizational objectives, for example: growth in membership, revenue, audiences or engagement.

    Communicate and provide value to our audiences. This is about providing knowledge on two levels. First, we provide content members need to be effective in their jobs. Second, we give members information about our organization itself; how they benefit by being members, learning opportunities we offer and ways they can further engage with the accounting profession.

    Demonstrate thought leadership by serving as an authoritative, influential voice for the accounting profession. This ties closely to our organization’s strategic initiative of advocacy for the accounting profession. Listening is an important part, as we need to keep tabs on the important issues CPAs care about, as well as the ones they aren’t concerned about yet, but should be. We also need to think differently and find opportunities to stand out by offering information and opinion that contrasts with the status quo.

    Drive member discussion and engagement, which may include prompting people or groups to action. This ties to our strategic initiative of community and speaks to our need to foster community by providing a framework and forum for members to connect with one another and benefit from those connections.

    This strategy has served us well, and it remains a work in progress. Though we’re still implementing some ideas we had when we wrote it, we’ve remained aligned within our organization, we’re aiming at our goals and we continue to make progress. We’ve tweaked it over the years and remain open to changes, but knowing our direction has made it easier for us to concentrate on the work of serving our organization and members’ needs.

    Gary Hunt, Communications Director at The Ohio Society of CPAs. 10 Dec 2019

  • 14 Nov 2019 12:47 AM | Brett Jeffery (Administrator)

    Have you recently assessed the risks and opportunities for your future success because of the exponential changes in member engagement methods, expectations and technology?

    Have you considered if your current operations would work as effectively in the future?  Join industry expert, ASI’s Paul Ramsbottom at 1pm NZDT on Wednesday, 27 November for a special complimentary webcast and we'll help you gain the knowledge, and know-how needed, to help drive the improvements essential to future-proofing your Association’s success. 

    ASI is proud to be an AuSAE Alliance Partner. for all listings

  • 04 Nov 2019 12:25 PM | Toni Brearley (Administrator)

    October saw us deliver our final networking series events for 2019 under the banner of “Why Associations Matter”.  It was a pleasure to bring together association leaders in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra to discuss the impact of associations.  Through robust discussions and frank conversation there were clear themes that presented which include

    • As a sector Associations make a significant contribution to the economy through workforce development, upholding of standards and influencing policy.  There is an association in almost every industry and profession contributing to society, and this is largely unseen.
    • Professional Governance frameworks and skilled Directors are essential to an association’s future
    • Associations need to take a stand on issues that matter on behalf of their members
    • Collaboration within industry sectors could and should be improved.  It is possible to work with “competing” associations without losing your identity
    • Rather than an Apocalypse or Utopia – Associations are in a phase of “Phoenix rising” with those that are willing to evolve, listen to their members and be fit for purpose will survive and thrive.

    A big thank you to all our panelists and participants who made for such rich discussions, and we look forward to bringing you more on this important topic in the new year.

    In the so close but yet so far run to the end of the year we have many events and professional development opportunities to engage in, including our new Member Experience #MX2019 in Melbourne on 25 November.  We are looking forward to a fresh format, lots of discussion and the opportunity to talk all about membership for the day. We are delighted to welcome via video link “the Membership Economy” author, Robbie Kellman Baxter who will share her research around creating the ‘forever’ transaction.

    #WIAL events will return in December and we are exploring the theme “Diversity beyond Gender”.   Dr Elizabeth Shoesmith will keynote the events and share her research on building truly inclusive organisations.  

    We are also re-looking at how we deliver value for membership and will be introducing a new membership structure for 2020 with will deliver better value and more opportunities for members to up-skill, network and connect.  Look out for your membership renewals in your inboxes in the coming week.

    And finally, we have announced our premier event of the AuSAE calendar, the AuSAE Conference and Exhibition (ACE) will be held in Melbourne 31 March – 2 April at Melbourne Pullman on the Park. Early registrations are open now!

    I hope to touch base with many of you in the next few months and wish you well in the last few weeks of the decade!


  • 08 Aug 2019 6:46 AM | Toni Brearley (Administrator)

    One of the many pleasures of my role at AuSAE is the opportunity to experience and learn from a broad range of professional speakers, association leaders and topic experts through AuSAE’s comprehensive events program.

    Our speakers collectively contribute enormous value to our member community through their sharing of knowledge and experience and I would like to take a moment to say thank you to the hundreds of speakers who have graced our stages in the past,  and those fearless enough to do so in the future.

    This past week I have had the absolute pleasure of travelling with and hosting Yamini Naidu – who is both a teacher and a scholar of Business Storytelling.  Yamini speaks of Bombay trains, Nelson Mandela and brussel sprouts in a way that not only engages but also delivers value to her audience.

    We were introduced to the concept of subtle, soft power and how story power can assist us in our roles of connecting, consulting and influencing to create change.  The power of storytelling is a skill that can be learnt, and I believe we are only beginning to discover this in a business sense.

    For those that were unable to attend one of Yamini’s presentation her brand new book “Story Mastery” which we were pleased to help her launch can be found here

    I hope to bring back a swag of stories as I prepare to attend the 2019 ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition in Columbus, Ohio next week.   The meeting attracts over 5000 delegates from the USA and across the association world and I am looking forward to joining forces with my fellow Aussies and as we seek out the latest trends, common challenges and great ideas that I can share on my return. In particular I am keen to hear how associations are using AI in their marketing channels and seeking presentations on association growth.  Keep an eye on the AuSAE social media channels (Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook) for commentary and highlights.

    Looking forward into September we will bring some exciting partnership announcements which I am very keen to share with you, and ones that I hope will assist you to strengthen your associations.

    Until then, take care

    Warm regards


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