Sector and AuSAE News

  • 30 Jul 2021 5:49 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    This question can give you hints to your purpose or remind you, in times of confusion, of one way to prioritise your next steps.

    My take:

    I’ve thought a lot about the activities, behaviors, and people who give me energy. But I haven’t thought as much about how I energise other people.

    I’m not sure how to answer this part of the question.

    Do I energise other people? I’ll be thinking about that for a bit.

    How would you answer this question?


  • 30 Jul 2021 5:40 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Search engine optimization changes with the times just like everything else, and what might have been true years ago isn’t necessarily still true. Here’s where SEO stands today.

    Search engine optimization can seem scary, thanks in part to the fact that it’s a moving target.

    What SEO looked like five or 10 years ago doesn’t necessarily fly today. That doesn’t stop some of the truisms of the past from sticking around years after the march of time has made them obsolete, turning best practices into hazy myths.

    With that in mind, here’s a little myth-busting to get you up to date on your SEO knowledge.

    MYTH #1: KEYWORDS MATTER MOST

    Keywords are naturally a major focus for many SEO efforts. After all, they’re what people use to search. But after years of keyword-packed content filling search engines, there’s been a push to create less keyword-dense content that’s more useful to users.

    That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t strategically use keywords, of course. It just means to be thoughtful about how you use them. For one thing, you need to be careful that you aren’t just building content around industry-specific jargon.

    Emily Patterson of the digital outreach firm Bee Measure notes that there can be a disconnect between terminology used within your organization and the ways your members actually look for information they care about.

    “[Associations] tend to use jargon, keywords, and things that are internal to their organization rather than thinking, ‘How do the people that we serve and the people in this field actually talk about things and search for things?’” she said in an interview earlier this year.

    Instead, the content should be driven by what the audience is likely to read and engage with in their own jobs. Understand the difference—and put the end user first.

    MYTH #2: USERS FAVOR THE DESKTOP

    You’re building your platform on a laptop or desktop machine—clearly your users are primarily using a desktop too, right?

    Well, you’d be incorrect on that front. According to recent statistics from Statcounter, Windows and MacOS together make up about 37 percent of internet users—while Android by itself makes up 41 percent of users, and iOS adds another 16.07 percent. In other words, people are more likely to find your content on mobile than desktop devices, and as a result, you have to build for both.

    MYTH #3: MORE CONTENT IS ALWAYS BETTER

    Associations famously have a lot of content spanning the entire spectrum of topics that might be relevant, and a desire to not get rid of any of it. After all, what if someone is looking for that random story of yours that you published six years ago?

    But the truth is, most websites get a large portion of their traffic from a small number of articles, and some of those less-visited assets can duplicate or harm the potential of what you already have by competing against your better-performing content. For that reason, an occasional content audit is worth doing, with an eye toward pruning.

    MYTH #4: DUPLICATE CONTENT DOESN’T MATTER

    You might recognize this content strategy situation: You have multiple domains, and you’ve decided to publish the same thing in multiple spots to align with your mission. Or perhaps you’ve decided to syndicate a piece of content on an external site with a broader reach. Or you’re running a press release that lives on multiple pages online.

    Whatever the case, duplicative content can complicate your search traffic by making it so you’re competing against yourself for relevant search terms. Google directly says that this is a bad idea.

    “Deceptive practices like this can result in a poor user experience, when a visitor sees substantially the same content repeated within a set of search results,” the company states on its website.

    One way to manage this: If possible, have any sites linking to your content use a canonical tag, so it’s clear to search engines where the original source is.

    Myth #5: Your Site’s Speed Doesn’t Impact Its Ranking

    Does your site load so slowly sometimes that you feel like you’re still on dial-up? That’s a telltale sign that you’re not offering a great experience for your members—and search engines are noticing.

    Google is taking site speed seriously. It launched an initiative last year around what it calls “core web vitals,” which the company has recently started taking into account when ranking its search results, especially on mobile.

    For that reason, a major component of search engine optimization in 2021 involves optimizing the speed of your site, which can be bogged down by external scripts, poorly optimized servers, and a lack of caching. So good SEO might mean focusing on things you once hadn’t—like fast-loading websites.

    ERNIE SMITH

    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.

    Article originally posted associations now

  • 23 Jul 2021 6:45 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    The past 15 months have put a damper on discussions surrounding pricing strategies. Many associations have chosen the path of social responsibility and dramatically reduced pricing on many of their offerings to keep providing support and services to members who are struggling.

    As we ease back into the world, now is the time to change your pricing strategy. Here’s how to do that.

    Why change your pricing strategy now?

    Many associations tend to look at pricing conversations as greedy. It's good to give value, but it's harder for us to set pricing based on that value. We often think that pricing (especially price increases) goes against being a purpose-based organization that's trying to do good —  but that's not the reality. 

    The reality is that correct pricing is all about financial sustainability. Pricing is the biggest lever to impact your bottom line. Ask yourself these questions:

    • Can you make it through another crisis like COVID-19? 
    • Do you have a reserve? 
    • Do you have the funding to keep programming going without having to cut anything? 

    If the answer to these questions is “no,” then now is the time to act. It’s not that your organization should be overpriced. That places a burden on your members and is also unsustainable. But you also can't undersell and be underpriced because then you can't fulfill your mission in the most impactful way possible.

    How correct pricing impacts your bottom line

    To realize how dramatically pricing affects your bottom line, take a look at these two scenarios. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say that in a $100 program, 70% of the price goes towards costs – admin, tech, events surrounding the program. We will use that as a baseline for both scenarios.

    Scenario 1: Offering a discount

    Your organization organizes a video conference for $100 and offers a 10% discount (a pretty average discount for many organizations). Most people would look at that discount and say, no big deal, right? We lose about $10 per person, so we need to get one more person for every ten that we sell to make the same amount of money, right? Wrong. 

    What you are doing is giving away 33% of your profit with no reduction in costs. That means that you need to increase enrollment by 50% just to break even. And it’s optimistic to think that the amount of work needed would stay the same, given the 50% increase in enrollment, so costs may go up (and profit down). Giving a 10% discount right now means you're losing money on this program.

    Scenario 2. Implementing a modest price increase

    On the flip side, if we look at that from a price increase perspective, imagine you raise that $100 to $105. That's not a big difference – the price of a fancy coffee. If you were paying $100 for something that you felt was valuable, surely you would pay an extra five bucks for, it right?

    But consider the impact: a 16% increase in your bottom-line profitability. In this scenario, if you were selling 100 seats, and you're making an extra $500, that's a small scale. But what about a $400 membership every year at 5,000 members? 

    The scenario you choose has the power to revive or kill your bottom line without much effort.

    Four steps to changing your pricing strategy

    Changing your pricing strategy – no matter the product or service – follows four steps.

    Step 1. Data analysis

    Data analysis looks at: 

    • How members/sponsors are engaging with your products
    • The value-to-effort ratio
    • Segmentation

    Each of these data points can offer insight into what prices you can change. Ideally, you want to see which products and services offer high value to your members with little effort on your part. There might be some offerings that are high-effort, but if they are also high-value, that’s a win.

    Step 2. Market research

    Market research uses focus groups and one-on-one interviews to determine what members need, what they want, and how valuable it is to them.

    This step helps you determine which products/services can be discontinued, and which areas to ramp up.

    Step 3. Market testing

    This step looks at the following two questions to refine pricing and offerings:

    • Based on our market testing, will we see an increase in our profits, or a decline?
    • Based on our market testing, can we provide more meaningful value to our members and our sponsors to best fulfill our mission?

    Depending on the answers, you may need to backtrack a bit and refine your strategy.

    Step 4. Execute

    This step is all about execution. Putting your new pricing strategy in place might not be quick  - you might ease into it over a month (or more). 

    You also need prepare for change management, both internally and externally. Externally, you're communicating an exciting change that’s coming because members asked for it. Internally, you’re building enthusiasm in your organization because nothing kills an initiative faster than a staff that has not bought in.  

    Pricing strategies are living things – consider how you will evaluate the change and what you might need to refine as stakeholders adjust.

    Easing into pricing strategy changes

    If your association has traditionally offered a wide variety of products and services, the idea of changing all of your pricing all at once can be daunting. The good news is this: you don’t have to change everything overnight.

    Start by asking yourself if there is a pricing strategy in place, and look at the last time you changed your prices. Figure out where you are and what you’ve done in the past, and then pick one thing - a monthly webcast, a membership, an event, a small product - and then take it through the four steps. Do the data analysis, the market research, and the market testing, and then execute the pricing change. 

    See how it goes, and learn from it.  You're going to get some things wrong, but guess what? You're also going to get a lot of things right. 

    Once you have this test pricing strategy under your belt, create an annual plan of how you're going to do this for all of your products. Commit to raising the price of everything every year. This doesn't mean that you're going to make a drastic value change to everything every year, but it does mean that you are going to strongly consider what that might look like. You’ll create an annual plan, and then every two or three years all pricing will be adjusted. 

    Normalize implementing the four steps of your pricing strategy on a regular, predictable basis for the benefit of all of your stakeholders.

    Originally posted at sidecar, Suzannah Kolbeck


  • 23 Jul 2021 6:25 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Marketing General Incorporated’s annual report on membership has some predictably dire findings. But there are also lots of positive trends and revelations about how associations weathered a mighty storm and never lost sight of meeting member needs.

    It’s probably no surprise that Marketing General Incorporated’s 13th annual Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report has some bad news, but there is also a lot of good—and intriguing—news. Let’s start with the bad news, and then move on quickly to the promising findings.

    Here goes: 47 percent of associations reported a decline in membership and 45 percent saw a renewal rate drop, which is pretty dramatic after only a 24 percent drop last year. Eighty percent canceled in-person meetings, which had financially devastating effects. “Far and away, it’s one of the worst years we’ve seen,” said Tony Rossell, senior vice president of MGI and the report’s coauthor.

    Ready for the good news?

    Overall, the long-term membership trend for associations remains positive. Nearly half of associations—45 percent—still show an increase in membership and 71 percent of associations said the level of member engagement increased this year. “An important point this year was that associations really did step up and meet the needs of members,” Rossell said.

    “RETHINK, INNOVATE, AND CHANGE”

    And that responsiveness paid off. Eighty-three percent of associations said they saw a significant increase in webinar participation, which is up from 53 percent last year. An impressive 78 percent of associations reported that they developed new products and services to assist members and member companies over the past year.

    And don’t ever underestimate the importance of a strong value proposition because it is essential for successful membership recruitment. Associations that reported increases in their new member and overall membership in the past year were significantly more likely to say their association’s value proposition is very compelling.

    “Associations really did rethink their value proposition,” Rossell said. “Whenever you have pain and challenging times, it’s a really great opportunity to rethink, innovate, and change.”

    There is no doubt it has been an extremely challenging time. There were panic lapsers—members who left because they lost their job, or their company was cutting costs. But Rossell remains optimistic because the people most likely to join an association are lapsed members.

    “You have a gold mine sitting in your database, because people have lapsed in the last few years,” he said. “If you go back to them, the likelihood of them joining is much higher than just going to a cold prospect.”

    COMMUNITY MATTERS

    In a drastically changing world, associations are a constant and still provide all-important professional development through certification programs, webinars, or other training. People want to keep their skill set up, whether they’re looking for a new job or trying to maintain their current position.

    The report found that there was a 57 percent increase in members attending professional development programming. And 37 percent of associations said they saw an increase in members accessing career services.

    “The best unemployment insurance you can buy is joining your professional association,” Rossell said, “because you have a career center, networks, and you can reach out to people.”

    Having a community to turn to in troubled times also mattered a lot, specifically members-only areas. The report showed an uptick in visits to members-only sections of websites—56 percent, up from 44 percent last year. And there has been a 53 percent increase in participation with private social networks, which Rossell said is a “revolution for associations.”

    That online accessibility, with people seeking information, community, and interaction, was a big step up in members connecting. “You’re buying into a community that can help you,” Rossell said. “That will be a powerful pull for associations.”

    LISA BOYLAN

    Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now.

    Originally published associations now


  • 23 Jul 2021 6:19 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Managing through a pandemic has demanded new communication skills and no small amount of empathy. But it's also been a time to innovate, even as day-to-day operations are strained.

    Former President Barack Obama reportedly kept a plaque on his desk that stated this short and incontrovertible fact: "Hard things are hard."
    In the stark light of the pandemic, episodes of social unrest, and challenging economic conditions in the world, this quote has triggered my thinking around the circumstances that forge great leaders.

    In my experience, great leaders are made, not born. The genetic twists of fate that might give one person an accidental edge on an athletics track don't hold the same power for those who would be our greatest business luminaries. To successfully lead any business, to enable it to withstand continuous change while balancing efficiency and innovation, to build diverse, inclusive, and psychologically safe teams and unleash their collective intelligence, all of this requires a very special set of skills.

    A leader's innate ability to do their job -- the choices they will make, the perspectives they will work from, the judgments they'll employ -- will be a blend of the multitude of experiences they have had from birth to the boardroom. Some, like Fidelity Investments CEO and president Abigail Johnson (whose father built the company into a multi-billion-dollar behemoth), will have come from extreme wealth, and some, like former Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz, from a humble, working class background. Some will have had a prestigious education, while others will have dropped out and made their own way from their earliest years. For example, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson started his first business after dropping out of high school at age 15.

    Clearly, the set of experiences that forms a leader's most fundamental instincts is as unique to them as their own fingerprints, but formative experiences aren't limited to childhood -- they continue to shape a leader's perspective throughout the entirety of their career. So what are the experiences that matter most? What are the conditions under which great leaders are uniquely forged?

    For me, it's relatively simple: What doesn't knock you flat will propel you forward.

    Great leaders acknowledge the emotional labor of their positions.

    Trying, uncertain times inevitably create change, and leaders need to know how to keep their teams going without inflicting whiplash. To navigate change while at the same time maintaining integrity and effective communication is a talent that's the preserve of a special few. It's not a skill set you can obtain through a master's degree, an MBA program, or any number of inspiring TED Talks -- it needs to be forged in the fire of actually leading teams through these challenging circumstances.

    While it has likely been tempting for leaders over the last tumultuous year to look enviously at our most celebrated technology companies, given their deep reserves of capital, resources, and sheer momentum, I will ask you to reframe that perspective.
    Not because it isn't an understandable sentiment. In countless areas of global business, leaders have taken a pandemic pummeling -- from travel and tourism to entertainment, dining, retail, and many other sectors, the cataclysmic changes that have occurred as a result of the pandemic have asked things of leaders that the multitude weren't prepared or adequately equipped for. From being confronted with eviscerated customer demand, suddenly unworkable business models, disrupted supply chains, and dispersed, unnerved workforces, the challenges experienced by leaders have been unique, incessant, and unyielding.

    The winners in this scenario are not the ones who didn't struggle. The winners are the ones who struggled and triumphed, because they will emerge from this crisis stronger, more adaptable, and more capable than ever before.

    The widespread brush fires that were ignited throughout innumerable businesses and threatened to engulf them weren't experienced in anything like the same way within many successful tech companies such as Netflix or Amazon (which experienced a boom as we stayed at home and, well, shopped and watched Netflix). Leaders in this group of companies have generally lived in a world where growth has been up and to the right for the last decade, and crisis fires seldom burn too hot. The downside is that their middle management won't naturally forge the critical leadership skills that come as a result of staring down fires and, one by one, finding ways to put them out.

    That's not to say there aren't lessons to learn or inspiration to draw from big tech. You just have to look back a little further. Companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Apple forged new paths and succeeded during times of economic downturn. In the early 1970s, as the U.S. entered a 16-month recession, two college dropouts -- Bill Gates and Paul Allen -- conceptualized home and office computing, catapulting Microsoft on its path to success.

    Knowing what those companies have become today, I want you to think: What would have happened had these leaders given into hard times instead of seeing opportunity in adversity? And how many inspiring success stories have you heard that begin with someone working firmly inside their own comfort zone?

    Now is the time to innovate.

    The needs of the business community, the country, and entire world have shifted drastically, so how can your company pivot to meet new demands? What systems have shown themselves to be antiquated, unsustainable, or unreliable -- and where is your window to disrupt them? These are the questions today's leaders must ask themselves.

    Another challenge will lie in finding the balance between innovation and efficiency: One enables us to compete today, the other allows us to keep competing tomorrow. In her pathbreaking book Radical Candor, CEO coach Kim Scott writes about entering the office of a newspaper executive whose industry seemed doomed only to find him staring dreamily out the window. What he was "daydreaming" about turned out to be an idea that would pivot the company for a decade.
    Business leaders today must dream big and find the right mix for their unique organization. They need to identify what's not working and burn it down, then replace it with something better. They also need to find what is working and set their minds on how to make it even better. Give your people latitude to make big mistakes, keeping a growth mindset. This is a time for action -- but to know the right action to take, you'll need to listen carefully to your people as well as your own instincts. And while you're at it, show yourself compassion as well.

    Working to maintain a high-performing and psychologically safe workforce while laying off 50 percent of the staff takes an extreme amount of empathy. Betting the last capital reserves on taking one path over another to meet a moving target market takes immense courage and fortitude. Pivoting to learn unfamiliar and untested systems when the old ones fail takes remarkable agility.

    Each of these experiences, however challenging in the moment, are the building blocks of great leadership and, in the end, will make you better.

    As difficult as it can feel to have systems you've relied on crumble around you, try to alter your viewpoint so that you see each new hurdle as a chance to sharpen your crisis management skills, each complication a catalyst, each obstacle an opportunity.
    Yes, hard things are hard -- but you can do hard things. The business hellscape many industries have faced down over the past year is the testing ground for the next generation of great leaders. Will you be one of them? 

    BY JESSICA NORDLANDER, COO, THOUGHTEXCHANGE

    Article originally posted here

  • 20 Jul 2021 9:00 AM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    In light of the current COVID-19 situation and the latest Government health advice, the Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE) today announces that the ACE 2021 in-person conference is transforming into a virtual event. With local pop-up events to follow in the coming months.

    "With lockdowns in Greater Sydney, Victoria and South Australia, AuSAE wanted to create a virtual experience for association professionals to reconnect with their peers and gain thought leadership insights to ensure sustainability for the future. ACE 2021 Reimagined is an excellent way for the association community to be supported, stay connected and be inspired, remotely and virtually," said Toni Brearley, CEO at AuSAE.

    As ACE 2021 moves entirely virtual on 2-3 August, AuSAE look forward to offering the same vibrant program and opportunities to connect over emerging topics in the sector. The ACE 2021 Virtual Conference is a broadcast style event that will include keynotes, interactive sessions, educational content, a virtual exhibition, and delegate networking opportunities.

    AuSAE's ACE 2021 Reimagined Virtual Conference is now more important than ever for the association community to be supported, stay connected and be inspired during extraordinary times.

    The ACE 2021 Reimagined Virtual Conference will be FREE and entirely virtual, with two days of engaging and inspiring content and discussions, happening August 2-3, between 1pm and 5pm AEST.

    We hope you will join us for this reimagined ACE 2021 Virtual Conference and celebrate our collective resilience and dedication to forge connections without boundaries.

    For more information and to register, visit www.ausae.org.au/ace.  If you have any questions, then please contact AuSAE at info@ausae.org.au or call 1300 764 576.

    We look forward to seeing you at the ACE 2021 Reimagined Virtual Conference.

    From the AuSAE Team

  • 16 Jul 2021 6:30 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Even before the pandemic, many associations were beginning to realize that adapting to the needs of members meant implementing a new membership model. The pandemic has just accelerated that need for some associations. Developing a new membership model is no easy task, but staying the course has its own risks, especially now. Below are four key recommendations your association should consider when undertaking this endeavor.

    In Start with your value proposition: Switching to a new membership model is a great way to improve retention and growth. Still, even a great model alone will not increase the tangible and intangible value your membership provides. Without membership value, a new membership model cannot succeed.

    Exploring a new membership model should start with evaluating your value proposition. Does your association’s value proposition need to be updated, expanded, or merely repositioned? There are several signs of a weak value proposition:

    • Usage of key product lines is decreasing
    • Engagement is low or declining
    • Members indicate the value of membership is lower than the cost of dues
    • Former members cite lack of value as the main reason for not renewing

    If a weak value proposition is the starting point, then improving the value of membership becomes a critical component of building a new model.

    Alternatively, the value of membership may be strong, but awareness and usage of that value are low. A new membership model can enable your association to reposition its value proposition, emphasizing the value in a way that resonates with former and prospective members, as well as current members.

    Focus on retention: While expanding to new markets and maximizing member growth are often the impetus for a new membership model, retention of current members should not take a back seat, particularly in light of COVID-19’s impact on many industries. When you consider the cost to acquire and onboard new members far exceeds the cost of retaining current ones, associations should make retention a priority in a new membership model for the sake of current and future revenue stability.

    While expanding to new markets and maximizing member growth are often the impetus for a new membership model, retention of current members should not take a back seat.

    Moreover, with companies’ and people’s budgets tightening because of the pandemic, members who drop membership now might be less likely to return. In other words, former members might be less willing to give your association a second chance if membership value doesn’t meet their expectations or needs during this crisis.

    Know your total addressable market: If one of your primary goals of a new membership model is growth, then it is crucial to understand your current market share and total addressable market. A common mistake some associations make when creating a membership model is overestimating their market by assuming the entire universe of their profession will want membership when that may not be true.

    Related to understanding market size is understanding the competitive landscape. Are many prospective members getting their professional needs met by another association? Does your association have value to meet this audience’s unmet needs? Be ambitious when exploring new audiences but also realistic when measuring your market.

    Finally, consider how the size of your market may change in the future. Is the profession your association serves thriving during the pandemic, with plenty of future members coming down the pipeline? Or has the pandemic made things less certain? Both your current and future market potential should factor into the model you choose and the risk your association is willing to undertake.

    Don’t let fear of change be debilitating. Every new model has risks, but so does your association’s current membership structure. Sheri Jacobs, FASAE, CAE, CEO & President of Avenue M Group, often shares the following advice when talking to risk-averse associations about their membership models: “Making no change is also a choice, and it’s a risky one.”

    Matthew Cavers, Senior Director, Research and Consulting, and Emily Thomas, M.Phil., Senior Research Consultant, are with Avenue M Group, a global, full-service marketing research and consulting organization with in-depth expertise in driving member growth, increasing revenue and building brands. Learn more at www.avenuem.org. This article was originally published in Associations North’s Focus North magazine.


  • 16 Jul 2021 6:25 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Before the pandemic, when talking about the future of work, remote work might have been a trend to consider. How things have changed. Now, remote work is the present, no longer the future.

    What else has changed? What new ideas do you need to include in your future scenarios planning? Granted, nothing is certain, but you can’t go forward without thinking through different outcomes and making sure your association is positioned to take full advantage of opportunities while minimizing risks.

    We’ve identified 11 emerging trends that could affect the future of work and create opportunities for your association and its professional development programs.

    #1: Accelerated Change Increases the Need for New Competencies

    During the pandemic, medical professionals had to ramp up their skills under crisis conditions to deal with a new infectious disease. Restauranteurs had to figure out a new carryout and delivery business model. Event planners shifted gears to become experts on virtual experiences.

    Your association’s leadership, professional development, and marketing teams need to respond quickly to changes in your industry. How long would it take to launch a new digital badge program when the next crisis or market shift hits? Think in terms of months, not years.

    During the pandemic, companies discovered that their ability to change direction and adapt to new conditions determined their viability. Their employees must have the willingness, capability, and resources to learn new skills quickly. Lifelong learning is now a corporate imperative. Seize new opportunities by continuously marketing the value of your online learning programs to both employers and employees.

    #2: Businesses Stuck in Place

    Are there companies and business owners in your industry that can’t easily switch from a “bricks and mortar” to an online business model? Will they remain viable? How can your association assist them?

    What about the ones who have developed a new online business model? What do they have to teach? What skills do they still need to learn?

    #3: New Leadership Skills are in Demand

    The pandemic revealed which leaders were equipped to handle change and which weren’t. Some people had the skill set to manage remote teams and some still struggle with that responsibility.

    People who are good at managing stable systems and processes aren’t necessarily the ones who can lead a team through times of change. The most successful leaders will be the ones who can manage amidst uncertainty.

    Leaders must be able to balance priorities, keeping an eye on both profits and people. They must ramp up their empathy so they stay in tune with the needs of their employees (and customers) during stressful times.

    Leadership now requires fumbling forward with grace, staying creative and curious, and taking advantage of emerging opportunities. Leaders must know how to nurture an organizational culture in which agility and innovation are prized, and relationships are built on trust and empathy.

    Your association can help your members and staff develop these leadership skills through online courses, discussion groups, masterminds, and book clubs.

    #4: Outcomes Matter, Not Hours Worked

    Going remote has been tough for managers who are sticklers for hours worked in lieu of results produced – in other words, lousy managers. However, organizations that have knowingly or unknowingly adopted a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) aren’t experiencing as many challenges.

    In a ROWE, results are the focus, not the number of hours worked. ROWE creates “a work culture where there is an equal balance between accountability and autonomy for every person.”

    ROWE only works if everyone understands the organization’s goals and how their work fits into the organization’s strategy. It requires a culture built on trust – and that means hiring and promoting the right people.

    Would employers in your industry – or managers in your association – benefit from learning how to implement ROWE or adopt similar practices and mindsets?

    #5: Millennials Setting the Agenda

    Millennials – the 24- to 39-year-old generation – are moving into management and leadership positions. By 2025, they will make up 75% of the workforce. Millennials have always been focused on work-life balance, which is especially challenging now when working from home. Watch for this new generation of leaders to influence organizational culture and workplace norms.

    Working conditions have become more flexible because of the pandemic’s unusual demands on employees’ personal lives. But this flexibility is something millennials have always valued – and it’s here to stay.

    In survey after survey, millennials have emphasized their interest in professional development. Make sure you have sufficient certificate/digital badge and online learning programs for early- and mid-career professionals.

    #6: Here Comes Gen Z

    Generation Z – ages 23 and under – are now entering the workforce. Gen Z takes professional development seriously because they know that’s how to get ahead financially and professionally. They understand the need to pivot and adapt to keep moving forward.

    Gen Z values early-career resources, such as information about career pathways, networking, interviewing, and navigating your industry, particularly when working remotely. They’re an eager audience for introductory certificate programs and digital badges.

    This is a generation that never knew a world without the internet. They grew up learning new skills from watching YouTube on their phone. Are your online education programs compelling enough for them? Can they access everything you offer on their phone? If they can’t do something on their phone – like join, renew, read, network, learn, register, or purchase – they may never do it.

    #7: The Rise of HR

    The role of the HR department has become more significant as companies adjust to a permanent state of remote work and the need for effective diversity and inclusion initiatives. New training needs are emerging, for example, communicating with a virtual team and cross-departmental collaboration.

    Staff hiring, onboarding, and training has moved online. If you don’t have relationships with the HR teams at industry employers, now’s the time to start building them. Talk to them about partnering on corporate training programs.

    #8: Scalable Staffing

    Many organizations are laying off staff or freezing hiring until they can stabilize their budgets. The outsourcing trend is still going strong since it allows companies to “staff” up without worrying about benefit packages.

    Keep an eye on outsourcing trends in your industry. If more professionals are becoming freelancers (independent contractors) or solo practitioners, they will need industry-specific training in business management.

    #9: The Urban Exodus

    As remote work becomes permanent for some companies, their staff no longer have to pay higher rents or mortgages to live within commuting distance of the office. They can live and work anywhere.

    Companies can downsize or give up expensive office leases. As a result, office and apartment rents, as well as housing prices, could fall, as people move out of metropolitan areas. Expensive cities could become more affordable.

    What impact could this have on your chapters after the pandemic? For example, they could still have a geographic focus but offer a mix of in-person and virtual activities to a larger audience beyond their metropolitan area. You may need virtual chapters to serve those who’ve moved well away from population centers.

    #10: Intensified Challenges for Women

    Women are shouldering extra responsibilities during the pandemic, particularly childcare and virtual schooling challenges. For many, this situation is not sustainable. One study found that women are nearly twice as likely as men to report that they will leave their workplace within the next year.

    How can your association help women who are experiencing career setbacks? Can you find ways for them to stay involved in their professional community? Consider alleviating leadership burdens for association and chapter volunteers by sharing responsibilities and leveraging technology.

    #11: The COVID Divide

    Many companies have begun to invite their employees back to the office, but some may choose to continue working from home. They may not be willing to brave public transport or spend hours around other people all day. Will this result in a two-tier culture – those who see each other frequently in the office and those who are out of sight and, perhaps, out of mind?

    The same phenomenon could happen when in-person conferences and other on-site training programs return. Will you continue to serve your virtual audience as effectively as you serve your in-person audience? Are all your educational programs available online or will people have to attend in-person programs if they want to earn certificates or CE credits?

    The pandemic caused an acceleration of digital transformation for associations. In a matter of weeks, the way we work and deliver value to members changed and may never go back to what it was before. But these changes also bring opportunities as disruptions continue to affect your industry’s workforce and new educational needs emerge.

    WBT Systems has been helping Associations, Extended Enterprise and Training Organizations to build and improve education and certification programs since 1995 by offering a world class Learning Management System, TopClass LMS. Learn more at www.wbtsystems.com/learning-hub/blogs.


  • 16 Jul 2021 6:21 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    New research suggests the pandemic changed the needs of association members. Leaders will have to spearhead creative responses.

    What do your members and customers value?

    That shouldn’t be a scary question: Associations are used to paying close attention to what services people find useful and which benefits people find attractive. But the pandemic has disrupted clarity about that, along with much else.For example, see the latest edition of Marketing General Inc.’s Membership Marketing Benchmark report, which includes some sobering findings. In addition to the familiar news about meetings taking a hit, membership has suffered a blow as well: Nearly half (45 percent) of associations surveyed reported a decline in membership renewals, doubling the rate of the previous year. And a larger proportion of associations say they’ve seen a decline in new member acquisition (37 percent) than those who’ve seen an increase (29 percent).

    According to the report, a key factor in getting those first-time members has been its value proposition: “Associations reporting increases in their new members and overall membership in the past year are significantly more likely to say their association’s value proposition is very compelling or compelling.”

    Addressing weak membership numbers may demand a more holistic approach—and more ambitious thinking about what members want from you.

    Associations say they haven’t been sitting idly by: 78 percent of the survey’s respondents said they’ve developed “new products and services to assist members and member companies.” That’s meaningful, though I do wonder how much of the innovation being trumpeted by respondents involves much beyond launching a virtual conference in 2020. Addressing weak membership numbers may demand a more holistic approach—and more ambitious thinking about what members (and potential members) want from you.

    I was thinking about this while reading about a recent effort by the magazine Outside to move away from its familiar subscription model to one that more closely resembles an association membership. As The Washington Post reported last week, Outside is a legacy brand that’s been pummeled by weak ad sales and an internet audience that expects free content. Robin Thurston, who bought the magazine in February, thinks he’s found a fix: Rather than peddling magazine subscriptions, he’s selling memberships around the lifestyle that the Outside audience represents.

    That involves a $99 annual fee that includes access to not just the magazine but other publications, books, apps, online courses, and reduced entry fees to athletic events. That doesn’t sound radically different from an association membership’s familiar mix of content-plus-education-plus-events-plus-discounts. But as professor Sharon Bloyd-Peskin told the Post, the heart of Outside’s effort is to put it at the center of member’s everyday lives: “Here’s this brand saying that a magazine or two is part of our value proposition, but what you are really buying is a whole package of things that you’re used to paying for.”

    And that’s the challenge that association leaders have to address now: What puts your association front-and-center in members’ professional lives, when so many of them have had their professional lives upended? Thurston’s bet may not pan out—it depends on converting 10 percent of online readers to members, which is a big lift. But it recognizes that standing still will mean falling behind.

    In Fast Company, Tadiran Group CEO Elad Peleg points out that legacy companies have a hard time accessing their “inner startup” because they’re used to their tried-and-true processes. To resist that, he proposes a kind of “genetic therapy”: Looking beyond revenue growth and closely studying what products and services people actually use, and whether they sustain their engagement over time. Associations can get caught in similar ruts. Now is a good time to start breaking out of them.

    MARK ATHITAKIS

    Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel

    this article will was originally posted at associations now

  • 16 Jul 2021 6:05 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    It was a casual remark by my Society’s treasurer that led me to rethink the final stage of my membership renewal campaign.  He recounted a conversation with a colleague who hadn’t renewed his subscription believing it was “just too hard”.  Luckily my treasurer, always keen to collect revenue, was happy to demonstrate this wasn’t the case, his colleague even saying as much.

    This got me thinking.  What if other members were not renewing their subscription for the same reason?

    Our members have a generous three month’s grace to pay their renewal subscription.  During that time, they’d been sent several reminders, all focussing on membership benefits and why they should renew.  With just a week to go before subscriptions would be auto cancelled, I decided to send a final email laying out step by step, with screenshots, how to renew.

    The campaign was sent to 231 members.  The subject was: GSNZ membership - final reminder, so it was clear what the email was about. 

    In spite of this, it achieved a 58% open rate and a 25% click rate. 

    We collected subs from an additional 57 members on the back of this ‘last ditch’ email, which is approximately 8% of our total membership.

    We updated our membership database a year ago, so this was the first time we’d used this software for our renewals.  This unfamiliarity possibly contributed to some members’ hesitancy to engage. 

    That of course won’t be known until next year, but I will certainly include at least one ‘how to’ email in my renewal campaign in 2022.

    Nicki Sayers,  Geoscience Society of New Zealand.

    If you have any other good news stories please share with the AuSAE NZ team


The Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE)

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