Sector and AuSAE News

  • 23 Sep 2020 11:21 AM | Abby Fields (Administrator)

    It can be challenging for sponsors to extract the same value from virtual events as their real-world equivalents. But a little flexibility can go a long way to change that.

    In-person events naturally offer lots of opportunities for bringing attention to sponsors, whether a prominent banner, a sizable floor space, or a spot on a stage. But how can you give sponsors the visibility they paid for in a virtual context?

    Simply put, the old strategies don’t work. A recent white paper from Ricochet and Bruce Rosenthal Associates suggests that the conventional sponsorship model for meetings may need to be thrown out.

    “During the pandemic, the traditional benefits offerings repurposed for virtual events are not likely to be of interest. The old way of courting sponsors has likely come to an end for most events and associations,” states the report, titled “The New Sponsorship Model for Virtual Events.”

    So what can be done to ensure sponsors get the value they’re after? Perhaps the new play is to position your sponsors as thought leaders, giving them a way to raise their voices, rather than just their logo on a banner. Here are a few ideas on what form sponsor thought leadership could take.

    Work sponsors into your virtual event sessions. As the virtual event platform Socio recently noted, many in-person event tactics translate to virtual. Sponsors can help moderate or take part in panels and even be given a speaking slot where they can talk about issues relevant to the sector. Just make sure your sponsors are well versed in how to moderate or present. “Speakers need to be able to run their own tech, switch slides, and roll with the technical glitches as they come up,” Socio’s Corey McCarthy writes. “Training your speakers on strategies to keep the audience engaged wouldn’t hurt either.”

    Focus on presenting provocative ideas. Thought leaders present ideas that challenge the status quo or question traditional thinking. And while there’s often a lightning-in-a-bottle aspect to how provocative ideas reach an audience (example: what happens on Twitter basically every day), associations can plant the seeds for thought leadership to flourish, writes the Bizzabo blog. Start by picking hot topics with the potential to drive thought-provoking responses that will raise a sponsor’s profile. Contributed blog posts and other engagement strategies could have a higher chance of catching fire with a perfectly selected topic.

    Adapt digital marketing tactics for sponsors. While you may not be able to re-create the impact of an in-person appearance, digital events put different tools at your disposal—whether it’s short interstitials between virtual sessions, email marketing campaigns, or sponsored chat messages during livestreams. With a little bit of workshopping or the right links to the right places, these can be effective messages for trustworthy voices. That said, virtual events differ greatly from physical ones, and that should inform how you roll out these messages. “Treat virtual events as something new. You have the framework of what you are used to doing, but think outside the box and reimagine as you go,” Cvent’s Madison Layman writes.

    Consider the value of your event data. While attention can be a major benefit for sponsors during virtual events, a bigger win might be the additional access to data that events offer. Using data from your meeting, sponsors can better target their efforts for future events. “Companies need associations to provide the type of marketing data and prospect access they receive from their own digital marketing efforts,” Ricochet white paper authors Christopher Gloede and Bruce Rosenthal write. The secret isn’t just giving sponsors access to the data, but also helping them interpret it so they can put the right kinds of thought leadership in front of the people they want to reach.

    This article was sourced directly from Associations Now here, and is written by Ernie Smith.

  • 23 Sep 2020 11:15 AM | Abby Fields (Administrator)

    A good online experience could be the difference between retaining new members and driving them away. Tackling a few important questions before you start your website redesign will help you create a roadmap to success.

    An association’s website is a window into the soul of an organization, its people, and its mission. It’s where people go to learn about you—but they’ll leave quickly if your site is poorly designed. An Adobe survey reported that 39 percent of people will stop engaging with a website if images won’t load or it takes too long to load, and 38 percent will stop engaging if it’s unattractive. On top of that, 88 percent are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.

    To get started on your redesign journey, ask these three key questions.


    Narrowing down your goals and objectives will help inform your design decisions. Are you redesigning for easier navigation? Is the site too slow and in need of a performance boost? Does the redesign reflect a larger change of direction within the organization?

    For the California Speech Language Hearing Association, a website redesign came as a result of a brand refresh. After CSHA approved a new vision statement, mission statement, logo, and tagline, it began redesigning its website. In addition to its improved overall functionality, the new website now tells the story of where CSHA is today and puts more emphasis on its members and their stories.

    In addition, its new tagline, “Human Lives. Human Connection,” is prominent, and CSHA’s revamped position as a thought leader in the industry is right on the homepage, with links to a resource library and education opportunities.


    Internet browsing habits and expectations have changed over the years, so what your website offers might not be the kind of web experience people are currently looking for. Nowadays, users want to find new information immediately—and from the palm of their hands.

    The Lung Cancer Research Foundation tapped into these needs and redesigned its website for easier navigation and mobile optimization. Now, the site’s homepage contains three categories—patient or caregiver, researcher, and supporter/advocate—so visitors can quickly access the information that is relevant to them.

    To keep visitors abreast of what they need to know right now, the organization regularly updates its site with new content, including the latest advances in lung cancer treatment, upcoming events, and updates on foundation programs.


    It’s easy to think of a web redesign as something for members and other visitors, but just as important is how well your website works for internal users who are responsible for managing security risks, handling sensitive data, and creating content that will live on the site.

    Sure, Choose Chicago’s website redesign aimed to improve the user experience by offering more immersive content experiences. But the organization also offered more versatility for internal users by moving from a licensed content management system to an open-source solution, which allows developers to modify a piece of software’s source code to suit their needs.

    This article was sourced directly from Associations Now here, and is written by Michael Hickey. 

  • 23 Sep 2020 11:10 AM | Abby Fields (Administrator)

    Members need their association when times are tough, but they may be facing hardships or other impediments to staying connected. Here are three ideas for keeping your members close and engaged with your community.

    Associations are based on connections. It’s why people join: to find their people and their place, and to benefit from being with like-minded individuals who share a common purpose and interests. COVID-19 threw a major wrench into togetherness, as we all know. It also magnified how important community—every aspect of it—really is.

    Last week, I shared some ideas from a small-staff association executive whose organization was finding creative, low-cost ways to engage and retain members. Continuing the theme of membership tips for challenging times, here are three more membership strategy ideas, with a focus on staying connected with members.

    VIRTUAL CONNECTIVITY. Recognizing that its members and nonmembers need a sense of community more than ever, the Council on Undergraduate Research opened up its online member community from April 1 to May 31 to nonmembers so they could participate in sharing information, asking questions, and learning from each other during a critical period, especially as campuses were switching to virtual teaching.

    “We converted a high percentage of those members from people who were leveraging the community at that time,” said Lindsay Currie, CAE, CUR’s executive officer. “They got behind it and saw the value and were able to connect with the community.” It didn’t cost any money, and it was an easy lift technologically.

    EXTENDED GRACE PERIODS. In March, the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research experienced a lag in membership renewal. Instead of dropping members, ISPOR allowed members to remain, even after the 60-day grace period expired. Staff continued to reach out to let members know what they were doing for them in light of COVID-19 “to foster that sense of connectivity and a sense of loyalty,” said Jason Cohen, ISPOR’s senior manager of member services.

    Rather than sending out typical renewal notices, Cohen worked with the membership team to tailor their messaging to show that ISPOR was mindful of the times and aware that members were struggling and wondering how they would pay their dues.

    “Understanding who your members are and making sure you are tailoring your messages is part of building loyalty to the organization,” he said.

    That extra few months of grace period helped stabilize ISPOR’s membership. “It also showed good faith,” Cohen said. While ISPOR offers a fee-waived membership option for those residing in a qualifying country, it is not otherwise waiving membership dues. ISPOR is exploring changes that would address the concerns of members who want to keep their memberships but who have budgetary constraints.

    A PANDEMIC FIELD GUIDE. The National Business Officers Association was able to hold its in-person annual meeting in February, before the storm really hit, and dues renewal began July 1, so the organization was lucky financially—this year.

    Knowing that challenges will continue next year, NBOA—whose members are business officers in independent schools—decided to invest in member resources, specifically a 150-page pandemic field guide, “Operating Guidance for Independent School Pandemic Management.” NBOA developed the guide with an engineering firm that has done a lot of research on how schools can operate safely amid COVID-19. The guide is free to members, but nonmembers have to pay a fee. It was released on September 1 and has already been downloaded 700 times.

    NBOA announced the upcoming release of the field guide in a renewal email at the end of its grace period, August 31, as a powerful and timely reminder of the value of membership.

    “During times like these, associations need to show their value,” said Barry Pilson, CAE, NBOA’s vice president of membership and marketing. “This new environment pushes people to do things we should have been doing and never did.”

    This article was sourced directly from Associations Now here, and is written by Lisa Boylan.

  • 23 Sep 2020 11:04 AM | Abby Fields (Administrator)

    Cybercriminals are getting more clever about targeting organizations and individuals. Here are three new threats you need to be on the lookout for.

    Being savvy about cybersecurity doesn’t mean just knowing the big trends. You also need to stay on top of new tricks and tactics that hackers are using to target people and organizations. Study up on these three emerging threats so you can stay ahead of attempted cyberattacks.

    Conversation hijacking. It may look like your colleague is engaging with you and your coworkers, but in reality, it’s a hacker taking advantage of someone who’s already been exploited to score an even bigger kill. Speaking to ZDNet, Don Maclennan, senior vice president of engineering and product at Barracuda Networks, noted that the secret to this attack is research. “Once they gain access to the account, attackers will spend time reading through conversations, researching their victims, and looking for any deals or valuable conversations they can insert themselves [into],” he said. A related tactic involves domain impersonation, in which an attacker uses a domain that looks similar to your own.

    OAuth-based phishing. If you use a Microsoft-based cloud service, you’re going to want to keep an eye on this one. As CPO Magazine recently reported, such attacks look like credible add-ins to Office 365, but they allow unfettered access to an entire account until the user realizes the account has been compromised. “The usefulness of a captured Office 365 user logon to an attacker is only valuable until the logon’s owner realizes they’ve been compromised, and their password is changed,” Stu Sjouwerman, founder and CEO of KnowBe4, told the magazine.

    Hyper-specific Google ad targeting. While examples of this are not yet common, there is a lot of potential for this type of attack in the future, notes Patrick Berlinquette, an expert search advertising marketer, at Medium’s OneZero vertical. He explains that the large amount of data Google has on its users makes it easier to target smaller and smaller groups of individuals—for advertising or, potentially, an attack that could lead to the public exposure of personal information, known as “doxxing.” “Clicks amass the world’s thoughts in an indelible ledger, held by a corporation,” he writes. “Clicks are packaged into more precise ad targeting tools that Google hands off to marketers. These tools help refine who sees an ad, and create ads that attract more clicks.” This risk is more hypothetical, but Berlinquette makes the case that it’s growing.

    This article was sourced directly from Associations Now here, and is written by Ernie Smith.

  • 16 Sep 2020 1:48 PM | Brett Jeffery (Administrator)

    Associations could learn a thing or two from Amazon. 

    Amazon is one of the biggest membership-based companies in the U.S. In January 2020, more than 112 million Americans belonged to the company’s Prime membership, which offers benefits such as free two-day shipping in exchange for an annual fee.

    But Prime’s famous two-day delivery is far from the only service Amazon offers. As the global company experiments with brick-and-mortar retail, web services and online sales, members and non-members alike can take advantage of the company’s offerings.

    Engaging non-members is something associations could benefit from. Though they’ve traditionally focused on attracting and retaining members, associations that ignore non-members risk falling behind. 

    Is your membership offering enough value?

    Here’s a closer look at steps associations can take to engage non-members:

    Allow non-members to take a test drive

    Have you ever bought a car without taking it for a spin around the block? For most shoppers, a car is a major investment that requires careful thought. A good test drive will allow you to see how a vehicle handles and whether you feel confident driving it. 

    Similarly, joining an association is also a major investment for most members. Membership is not only a financial investment, but a commitment to become part of a community. It’s no wonder some potential members will hesitate before taking the leap.

    Amazon addresses this problem by allowing non-members to shop freely on its online marketplace. Though non-members won’t have access to the full membership benefits, they’ll be able to get a feel for Amazon’s selection, customer service, and more. The more non-members rely on Amazon, the more likely they are to join Prime.

    Associations that offer public content — such as videos and newsletters — offer non-members a chance to see the rich benefits full membership provides. Unless they realize how much value your association truly offers, potential members may simply seek community and content elsewhere.

    Fully commit to your association’s core purpose

    As mission-driven organizations, associations’ decisions should always align with their core purpose. An effective core purpose uses a short, action-packed phrase — typically five to eight words — to inspire and align an association’s forward momentum.

    Associations that ignore non-members might not be living up to their core purpose at all. Like Amazon, Disney is a global company that regularly makes headlines. Disney’s core purpose is just three words: “Make people happy.” 

    Once fans purchase a ticket to a Disney theme park or subscribe to its streaming service, Disney+, it’s natural that the company would work hard to keep them happy. But what about children whose families can’t afford these experiences, or people who only occasionally encounter Disney products in their daily lives? 

    Interpreted literally, Disney’s sweeping core purpose applies to everyone, everywhere. To truly live up to this promise, the company must experiment with creative ways to ensure that anyone who encounters Disney has a positive experience. That means the company might license select characters to external partners, donate to children in need, and create enjoyable retail stores that anyone is welcome to visit.

    In today’s modern world, associations must compete with many other online communities that  promise similar experiences. By serving members and non-members alike, your association will be better able to live up to its core purpose and ensure its relevance for generations to come. 

  • 16 Sep 2020 1:39 PM | Brett Jeffery (Administrator)

    Word-of-mouth recommendations and email communications were the two best channels for new member acquisition for membership organizations last year, according to Marketing General Incorporated’s latest Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report

    The report provides important data and analysis on membership organizations and their members, offering insight into new membership models, communication methods, dues increases, best practices and products and services that have improved member participation.

    According to the report, individual member organizations, trade organizations and organizations with a combination of membership types reported that word-of-mouth recommendations and email communications were the two highest channels for new member acquisition: 67% and 52%, respectively.

    With over 860 associations making up the respondent pool, having such a large percentage back up these methods reinforces why others should adopt the same strategies.

    Successful engagement or retention strategy

    When asked to describe a successful engagement or retention strategy, one respondent said they “divide, through data analysis, (their) members into engagement segments.” Depending on the results, this respondent’s organization sends each segment different messages. “Through this strategy, we consistently maintain 83%+ membership engaged in one or more programs,” they continued.

    Not only does personalizing your messaging increase engagement, it also increases the likelihood of your audience passing word-of-mouth recommendations. According to Invesp, “88% of consumers placed the highest level of trust in word-of-mouth recommendations from people they know.” Fostering a personal connection with your audience builds the trust necessary to inspire a good word of mouth review.

    Member Value Proposition study

    Another respondent said that “since completing a Member Value Proposition study, (they) have begun focusing more on marketing content (they) are creating/providing for (their) members instead of the ‘benefits’ of membership and have found an increase in the open and click rates of (their) emails which has led to increased attendance at our webinars and in-person events.”

    Creating bigger, better, newer and nicer content for your membership is not always the right answer. As this respondent found, focusing on the value of content already provided strengthened the relationship between their organization and its existing membership. Taking a step back to conduct a self audit and refocus retention efforts internally could lead to increased engagement and retention outcomes.

  • 16 Sep 2020 1:36 PM | Abby Fields (Administrator)

    Bringing in new members with a health crisis in full swing and the economy reeling sounds pretty daunting. But it is possible, according to an expert who sees hope for associations amid adversity.

    A couple of weeks ago, I reported on some good news from Marketing General Incorporated’s Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, which showed promise for ongoing membership growth, even in a pandemic.

    In a session at ASAE’s 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting & Exposition last month, MGI’s Elisa Joseph Anders followed that report with some action items associations can consider right now to increase membership growth—or to set the stage for growth once the economy rebounds.

    “Investing in membership recruitment should be a top strategic priority,” she said.

    The years following the 2009 recession produced the best new-member recruitment numbers to date in MGI’s research. In 2013, associations reported that new-member acquisition was at an all-time high. While many associations are seeing a drop in membership now and anticipating challenges going forward, the historical data following the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression provides hope for the future, Anders said.


    What can associations do now to minimize membership loss and rebound as quickly as possible? Anders recommends doubling down on marketing efforts as much as possible.

    “Organizations that stay active in the marketplace during tough economic times are among the first to come out on the other side,” she said. Understanding member needs and showing how you can meet them will create mutually beneficial short- and long-term relationships that will increase loyalty and value.

    Anders touted the American Nurses Association as a prime example of an association that has focused on informing and supporting its members during the pandemic. ANA’s strategy has been to conduct research to understand its members’ needs and engage as many members as possible. ANA is delivering trusted information and free COVID-19 resources to help nurses stay informed and help them do their jobs better during an unprecedented health crisis.

    It’s a good time to do research so you can understand your prospects’ challenges and what you can do to support them, Anders said. Knowing what obstacles prospects are facing will allow your organization to position itself as a reliable, trusted place to come in a difficult time. It will also make your messaging more meaningful and resonant because it will be targeted and informed.


    “Without innovation, membership stagnates,” Anders said. Sometimes that means broadening your tent. She cited the National Retired Teachers Association, which was founded in 1947 and a decade later expanded its membership to all retirees. That huge market expansion created AARP. In 1984, AARP lowered its membership eligibility age from 55 to 50, boosting its membership again.

    Does your association have market expansion opportunities? For example, Anders said, if your association represents doctors, could nurses join? If your organization is domestic, could it expand internationally?

    New membership models are also worth investigating, she said. Creating a tiered membership that offers a low price point could be particularly inviting to professionals and organizations experiencing financial hardship. Prospects have different needs and budgets, so a tiered membership structure would allow associations to meet those varying needs with greater flexibility.

    What if all of this seems too overwhelming to consider right now? Anders recommends setting the stage now in anticipation of better times ahead. Being a go-to resource for members, developing new membership models, and expanding your market are among some good options to consider and plan for once things do improve.

    “There is light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “There is hope for associations coming out of the pandemic and the recession.”

    This article was sourced directly from Associations Now here, and is written by Lisa Boylan.

  • 16 Sep 2020 1:24 PM | Abby Fields (Administrator)

    Member surveys can help you make good business decisions, but poorly worded questions can create misleading or biased results. Here are a few mistakes associations should avoid when crafting member surveys.

    Associations surveys can produce a wellspring of data that can be used to better understand member needs and take decision-making beyond the gut. But poorly considered questions and careless phrasing can lead to member surveys that are exclusionary, biased, leading, or repetitive—undermining the usefulness of the results.

    How can you avoid these traps when asking your members relevant questions?

    Cynthia Simpson, CAE, manager of member services at the National Society for Histotechnology, has focused on the role that survey questions play in member engagement over her roughly three decades in the association space. Read on for her insights on what to watch out for in the way you structure your questions.


    Survey questions need to be easy to respond to. Concise, clear wording is key, but so is structure. For example, offering too many answer options for a multiple-choice question reduces respondents’ ability to focus on what you’re asking. A long list of choices can naturally bias respondents toward the ones that appear last on the list, Simpson says, especially if the survey is conducted over the phone.

    She also warns about questions that lead the respondent down a certain line of thinking. She cites the example of a question stating that a website “isn’t easy to use unless I use the search function.”

    “Having that word ‘isn’t’ in there implies that the website isn’t easy to use to begin with. Well, for some users, it may be easy to use,” Simpson says. “So you’re already misleading them and using that double negative to frame their response.”

    To weed out potential biases, she recommends asking the same question in multiple ways. If one version of the question confuses or misleads respondents for a reason you haven’t considered, another version may capture the respondent’s true answer, preventing skewed results.


    Sometimes, phrasing may unintentionally reflect gender bias. Simpson, who wrote about this topic for Association Success in 2018, says it’s important to consider which descriptive attributes are used in a question.For example, using ability-focused terms such as “brilliant,” “capable,” and “analytical” may subconsciously skew male for respondents; “grindstone” terms such as “hardworking” and “meticulous” may carry a female connotation. Using attributes traditionally associated with men or women can skew the response, she says.

    “You need to be careful to not include those types of gendered questions because the picture that the person gets in [their] mind reflects back on the question,” she explains. “The best type of questions are free of that type of language.”


    Sometimes wording can reflect other forms of bias and result in leading questions.For example, in a survey about COVID-19 attitudes, asking whether “concerned citizens” should wear a mask creates an implication about what the researcher believes.

    “That implies that if you aren’t wearing a mask, you’re not a concerned citizen,” she says. “And so using that word, ‘concerned,’ already implies that only concerned citizens wear masks and that other citizens don’t wear masks, are not concerned, and that may not be true.”

    This can go the other way as well: Survey results may be skewed by social desirability bias, in which the answer to a question—say, about a controversial political candidate—is affected by the respondent’s desire to be liked. For example, a participant might respond to the question “Who do you plan on voting for?” with the answer they believe the pollster wants to hear. “You want to be liked, whether [your answer is] true or not,” Simpson says.

    When phrasing a question, remove words that imply value judgments, and ask yourself in what ways a respondent could potentially be misled by the question. If asking questions over the phone, take care to monitor your responses—for example, avoid offering encouragement when a respondent expresses an opinion you agree with.


    Survey questions can sometimes set subtle (or overt) expectations in respondents. For example, if the phrasing of a question hints at a new member offering, it could put you on the spot for something you weren’t actually planning to do. Even general questions about improving the member experience can lead to unfulfilled expectations.

    “Be very careful what you ask,” Simpson says. “If you’re unwilling or unable to make change [implied in the question], then it doesn’t do any good, and in fact it leaves a negative thought in the respondent’s mind.”

    Ultimately, Simpson says, “if you aren’t able to implement the answer, then really think hard about asking the question.”

    This article was sourced directly from Associations Now here, and is written by Ernie Smith.

  • 16 Sep 2020 1:20 PM | Abby Fields (Administrator)

    There’s a lot going on in the political realm, but zeroing in on your raison d’être—your members—can help your association’s advocacy messaging stand out. Learn how the National Restaurant Association put this strategy into action by tapping into its grassroots core after the COVID-19 crisis hit.

    It’s a strange time in a strange world, and that means there’s a lot of competition in the advocacy space at the moment. One way to stand out and score some key advocacy wins: Maintain a narrow focus on the people you serve—your members and others in your industry.

    Mike Whatley, vice president of state and local affairs for the National Restaurant Association, says his group has leaned into that strategy in recent months in its effort to support restaurants deeply affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

    “To a certain extent, every single industry has been impacted negatively, for the most part, and so everyone’s out there talking about it—everyone’s out there with an ask of government,” Whatley says. “So the big challenge becomes: How do you break through that noise? How do you make an impact?”

    The answer for the restaurant association came down to grassroots advocacy: By engaging its network of restaurant workers around the country who could speak to their experiences on the ground, Whatley and his team were able to build an effective case to government leaders.

    Last fall, the association began work on the Restaurants Act, which emerged as a focal point for collective action during the early weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, drawing responses from more than 100,000 people in the restaurant industry. As major stimulus bills began to move through Congress, the association took a prominent place on the White House’s COVID-19 recovery task force.

    Whatley notes that restaurateurs are usually busy, leaving them with little time to devote to advocacy. But the pandemic created a rare opportunity to engage the grassroots—even if the situation that led to it was unfortunate.

    “They’re in the type of business where you might not necessarily be in front of your computer for long periods of time. You’re in the restaurant, you’re working, you’re out there on the go,” he says. “Battling COVID, especially in March, a lot of them happened to be in front of their computer because restaurants were closed, and so there was a little more time for advocacy.”

    The mixture of timing, messaging, and response allowed the industry to gain advocacy momentum at just the right time.


    Given the constant demands on lawmakers’ attention amid COVID-19, narrowing your approach can help your industry stand out and can keep the grassroots motivated, Whatley says. He offers these tactics for staying focused:

    Share real stories from real people. This is all about quality over quantity. “I don’t think just a record volume of emails is going to get you there,” Whatley says. “I think it’s having emails that are stories of individuals happening, and then explaining the impact of COVID to them, combining that with really useful statistics.”

    Keep your advocates up to date. It’s one thing to draw your members’ interest to grassroots participation, but it’s another to keep them involved—a challenge the National Restaurant Association is facing now that restaurants are reopening. Whatley says it’s important to offer periodic updates and to avoid bombarding your members with requests to take action, which he warns can dull the effectiveness of your communications over time. Working with the association’s executive vice president, Sean Kennedy, Whatley has been helping to produce a series of 90-second video clips discussing what’s happening in Washington, with a focus on the restaurant industry. “I think having that, the advocates understand what’s happening in the process and aren’t just constantly being asked, ‘Take action, take action, take action,’” he says.

    Tell your grassroots something they aren’t hearing elsewhere. Another benefit of the 90-second clips, Whatley says, is that they offer information that members may not be hearing from mainstream media outlets. While TV networks are likely to cover issues relevant to your industry, the coverage often lacks industry-specific information that may be essential to understanding the issue. “None of those sites are going to explain to you as a restaurant operator, or a different industry such as a gym operator, ‘What does it mean for me?’” Whatley says. “So having that content is what makes it valuable to your advocates.”

    This article was sourced directly from Associations Now here, and is written by Ernie Smith.

  • 16 Sep 2020 1:09 PM | Abby Fields (Administrator)

    With a recession, a pandemic, and a tough job market, some associations are looking to target Generation Z with new member offerings. It can work if you prioritize their engagement, one expert says.

    We’re starting to get past the point where millennials are at the center of the discussion around younger members. The focus is shifting to Gen Z—but how can you convince people born after 1996 to join your organization? Is a new membership tier worth discussing?

    Sarah Sladek, CEO of XYZ University and a generational engagement researcher, says yes—in part because of the current environment, driven by a recession and a pandemic. And Gen Z is feeling it more than most.


    On Tuesday, September 15, Sarah Sladek is hosting a webinar called “Membership According to Gen Z,” from 2-4 p.m. EDT, as part of the Save the Associations event series. The program will cover how to engage youth members, increase student membership, and emphasize advocacy among younger members.

    That might be why discussion of member tiers is picking up again. Sladek compares this period to the 2008 recession, when associations created low-cost tiers for younger members.

    “In many ways, we’re seeing a repeat of that market environment now, as associations are scrambling to figure out ways to appeal to young people,” Sladek says, adding that retirements and career changes among older members might also be a factor.


    However, 2020’s younger members aren’t like those of 2008.

    For one thing, everything is virtual at the moment—which could be a virtue for omnivorous content consumption that drives many in Gen Z, but that requires a more open-minded approach to content creation that emphasizes visuals and user-generated content.

    “Gen Z actively consumes and creates content in a variety of forms on a variety of platforms. Associations need to do the same,” Sladek says.

    Another, more fundamental problem? In a world where people spend heavily on monthly subscription-based services, annual memberships may be going out of style.

    “This points to a bigger issue for associations, which likely need to reconsider their dues structures,” she says. “In addition to price being a common barrier, young people are also more accustomed to having the option to pay bills monthly rather than annually, yet few associations offer this option.”

    Younger generations may also want more purchase options. For example, think of how streaming services offer an à la carte alternative to cable bundles. Likewise, younger members may want flexibility to pick and choose their services. For associations, the forthcoming generation offers a reset opportunity.

    “The time is now to be rethinking dues as well as value,” Sladek says.


    Sladek says that Gen Z has a unique perspective compared with other generations. She notes that Gen Z-ers tend to be highly informed visual learners with a strong focus on creativity and an eye toward broader horizons.

    And there’s a distinct focus on advocacy that hasn’t been as pronounced in older generations. That means younger members want to speak up—and if they aren’t being heard, they might not renew.

    “Gen Z has been raised in a world where everyone is treated equally and everyone has a voice,” Sladek says. “When the reality is different, they disengage. They will expect a seat at decision-making tables, and for your association to be intentional about outreach and giving a voice to the marginalized voices.”


    These changing habits might lead some associations to build membership tiers with a distinctly younger focus. But Sladek warns against separating the tiers too much, as it may create a declining value proposition over time. It’s a situation she likens to a summer camp.

    “The student and young professional chapters tend to be more focused on fun, led by peers, and there is a feeling of inclusion as well as responsibility,” she explains. However, when young members move into regular membership, this inclusive environment can be lost. “As a result, the young members ‘graduate’ into an organization where their participation is overlooked or minimized.”

    Instead, Sladek suggests that member tiers be in tandem with the organization’s goals while also taking Gen Z insights into account.

    “If an association wants to engage young people, it has to be a real commitment throughout the entire organization,” Sladek says. “The associations which struggle to engage young people tend to be those which don’t prioritize engaging them.”

    This article was sourced directly from Associations Now here, and is written by Ernie Smith.

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