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  • 27 May 2020 1:22 PM | Kerrie Green (Administrator)

    A snapshot of leading associations reveals that successful member engagement in a crisis environment requires a more personal touch that speaks to both the head and the heart.

    A new report, Engaging Members From a Distance, examines how 15 leading associations are engaging with their members despite the considerable challenges caused by the pandemic. The report, from the communications agency Finn Partners, analyzes the associations’ websites and social media outreach to determine what’s working to provide takeaways for other associations.

    Here are a few insights from the analysis that might help you better connect and engage with your own members during this unprecedented time.


    No surprise here. The report notes that 13 of the associations had robust content focused on COVID-19 prominently featured on their websites and had quickly launched coronavirus resource centers in response to the crisis. Finn Partners predicts that associations will conduct more research on the how the pandemic is affecting members personally and will shift from more fact-based reporting on COVID-19 to assessing the best way forward to support and advocate for members.

    Given the severity of the crisis, the need for information about the pandemic will likely not subside, the report notes, so associations will need to look for ways to provide more relevant and resonant content to connect with members.


    The report praises the more personal approach that groups like the American Nurses Association are taking with flash polls to capture member feelings as they face the challenges of COVID-19. The ANA recently surveyed 32,000 nurses and found that 87 percent of them were afraid to go back to work. ANA’S COVID-19 Resource Center invites nurses to share their stories from the front lines of the pandemic. This gives members a chance to express themselves during a global crisis in their own words, which creates a meaningful—and timely—sense of community.


    Associations are using social media to connect with members directly. In particular, their Instagram platforms are brimming with community-building conversations, according to the report. It points to AARP’s Instagram page, where members recount how they are responding to different aspects of COVID-19. The personal stories range from a teacher talking about challenges she faces with virtual instruction to a worker at a Los Angeles market who explains how his job has changed drastically because of the pandemic.

    SHRM’s Instagram page has a popular post about six skills to develop for future success, and on International Human Resources Day, a post recognized the contributions of HR professionals around the world and asked them to share what inspired them to join the profession. This kind of personalized approach to communicating with members, the report notes, is effective and will likely grow.


    Virtual events are the new go-to as associations rewrite their established frameworks and adapt rapidly to a new landscape for convening their members. Nearly half of the associations reviewed in the report are holding virtual events. It cites the American Psychological Association as a good example of combining the networking value of a live event with online learning in its webinar this week, “Job Searching During the Pandemic and Beyond.” The workshop touts the need to be prepared in an uncertain job market as COVID-19 markedly alters nearly every industry.


    Virtual learning events are the coin of the realm as more members need to learn remotely. All 15 associations included in the report are currently offering online programs. Finn Partners applauds the American Bankers Association’s training center and community-building platforms for ease of navigation and use. And it gives high marks to the American Chemical Society’s program on making digital presentations better.

    Overall, providing relevant information while connecting more intuitively—and more personally—is a key to member engagement success, now and always.

    “Communications that balance fact-based delivery with the power of good, succinct storytelling tend to break through the clutter and get consumed, remembered, and shared,” the report says. “This is not new news; the more things change, the more they remain the same.”

  • 27 May 2020 1:15 PM | Kerrie Green (Administrator)

    As associations struggle to serve their members and deal with the economic fallout from the pandemic, experts say it’s crucial for them to cut through the clutter and provide valuable information tailored to their industry.

    Providing content is a key way associations can help their members navigate tough times. But in a world overrun with content, it’s important that associations curate properly, say two experts.

    Hilary Marsh, chief strategist for Content Company Inc., and Elizabeth Weaver Engel, M.A., CAE, chief strategist for Spark Consulting, recently released “Cut Through the Clutter: Content Curation, Associations’ Secret Weapon Against Information Overload” [PDF]. The white paper offers some strategies to help associations provide the best, most valuable content for members.

    “The baseline is providing value,” Marsh said. “The way we need to show value is through the content.”

    Associations provide a variety of content. Often, they are curators of knowledge that is important for the industry, but not necessarily tailored to the industry. But just sharing that information is not enough.

    “They’re sharing stuff with no context, like the latest industry headlines aggregated from another source,” Marsh said. And while outside experts are useful to members, the context to frame that expert information is how associations show their value.

    “You don’t need to reinvent that [outside expert] work,” Marsh said. “You need to add the right context for your particular members. Between your staff and your members, you do have the extra layer of context to add to the raw data.”

    Engel added, “The sense making and context providing, that’s what you bring to it. You can say, ‘This is why it matters for us.’”

    Since the world is overrun with information, Engel and Marsh said associations can make the mistake of adding to that overflow by not coordinating internally. When departments each put out their own information via social media or various newsletters, members can feel overburdened.

    “If that information is not orchestrated internally, [members] are getting tons of information from that association, which may or may not be consistent,” Marsh said. “It’s a content ecosystem; it has to be orchestrated in a way that makes sense.”

    Engel suggested that various departments who share content get together and talk so there can be some consensus about what is going on. From there, content can be centralized under one person or group, or coordinated by the groups. “Find the way that works for your association and your structure,” she said.

    The other key to curating useful content is by asking questions to determine if it’s a good fit.

    “We have a tendency to ask members and other audiences what they want,” Engel said. “You have to ask better questions: What challenges are you facing? What goals are you trying to achieve?”

    Member responses to those types of questions can drive the content an association is producing and sharing.

    Finally, once the content is produced and published, look at how people respond.

    “Pay attention to what happens,” Engel said. “We sometimes create the great thing, and say, ‘Woohoo! It’s finally released.’ Then we don’t pay attention to whether anyone is responding to it. We have to pay attention to what happens.”

    Marsh said the metrics can help you figure out ways to improve your content. “We have to go back and look at the metrics,” she said. “We can make some assessments. Is it too long? Is it the wrong headline? Are we speaking in too flat of a way?”

    This article was sourced directly from Associations Now here and written by Rasheeda Childress. 

  • 20 May 2020 3:15 PM | Abby Fields (Administrator)

    With many associations entering renewal season, they are looking for ways to enable affordability for members during these unprecedented times, whilst balancing their own cash flow. There are direct debit options, membership extensions, pauses and many possibilities in between. An option that you may like to explore is what AuSAE Industry Partner Openpay can offer.

    Openpay is a part of the buy-now-pay-later industry in Australia and uses the mantra “Buy Now, Pay Smarter”.  If your member chooses to use Openpay for their membership fees, Openpay will pay your association the full value of the membership upfront but allow your member to repay that amount – interest free – back to Openpay directly over 3 or 6 months.

    Importantly, your association will get paid the full value of the membership up-front resulting in no adverse effect on your cash flow.

    The benefits of allowing your members to pay in instalments through Openpay include:

    • No More Chasing Payments:  Responsibility for collecting repayments rests 100% with Openpay.
    • Improved Cash Flow:  With certainty that payment in full will be made within 24 hours, cash flow concerns are eliminated.
    • Modern Payment Solution:  Buy-now-pay-later solutions have been embraced by the marketplace and are now the preferred method of payment for a very large (and increasing) part of the population.
    • Increased Sales:  With the opportunity to pay fees over time the price (and any future price rises) will become less of an issue for your members resulting in an increase in sales.

    How does Openpay work?

    If you process payments through your website, Openpay can easily integrate with the most of the popular ecommerce platforms.  Openpay will be listed as a payment method option, making the membership purchase seamless.

    Alternatively, without website integration onto your payment platform your members will simply need to install the Openpay app on their phone and then call you to process the payment manually.

    While the service is interest-free for your members, Openpay charge a small merchant fee to your organisation.  Note:

    • Openpay’s merchant fee replaces the existing bank merchant fees you currently pay (it is not in addition to) and
    • AuSAE have been able to negotiate some special member-only rates on your behalf.

    To find out more information or to set up an account, please contact Jon Urquhart at Openpay on 0407 004 470 or email him:

  • 20 May 2020 2:18 PM | Kerrie Green (Administrator)

    COVID-19 may inspire (or force) association leaders to go on the job hunt. Candidates and search committees alike will need to adjust.

    This may seem like a bad time to talk about searching for that bigger and better CEO gig. Most executives at the moment are busy enough in their current jobs, leading their staffs, members, and volunteers through office closures, postponed and restructured meetings, and a recession.

    But disruptions do exactly that—disrupt, moving organizations and their leaders in unexpected directions. According to an ASAE Research Foundation survey conducted in late April, nearly two-thirds of associations (64 percent) say their workplaces have experienced moderate to extreme disruption. For CEOs who are thinking of a different perch, or other leaders who want to rise to the corner office, it’s a good time to at least consider what skill sets will be meaningful in the future, and what a new-normal job search might look like.

    In a new white paper, “Search in the Time of COVID: Becoming a CEO in the 2020s” , Leaders’ Haven founder Cynthia Mills, FASAE, CAE, and Vetted Solutions president and founder Jim Zaniello, FASAE, explore some of the themes that will mark job searches in the coming years—more intense scrutiny of associations’ finances and culture, an emphasis on leaders’ transformational skills instead of resume lines, and a more conservative approach to compensation. (The paper addresses the job search from the CEO’s perspective; a forthcoming follow-up will look at boards.)

    “As this plays out, we’re going to see mergers, we’re going to see movement to AMCs, and we will see some associations that will go out of business,” Mills told me. “So CEOs who are doing an excellent job of looking at the landscape are recognizing that they’ve got to look out for their organization, and then they also have to look out for their career. People are looking at the idea of a plan B.”

    I spoke with Mills about the white paper and some of the things that boards and CEOs alike should be thinking about in the job market, and she shared a few additional insights.

    Associations will want a tested change agent in their next executive. “All of the baseline fundamental skills, all of the CAE skills, all of those things still have to be there—those haven’t gone away,” Mills says. “But being a transformational leader has moved up the list.” Candidates should be prepared to answer how they responded to divisive issues, and not just COVID-19. “How are you going to navigate disparate views at a time in which we need to make sure that we are retaining our membership and providing value in a potential long-term financial crisis? And during the biggest transition and transformation that we’re going to ever have seen with AI, and so on? Those are the kinds of complex questions I think [candidates] are going to get hit with.”

    Non-CEOs needn’t feel shut out from the CEO job search. If you’ve proved your leadership mettle as a CEO in the current moment, that speaks well of you. But candidates from elsewhere in the C-suite aren’t at a disadvantage, so long as they can demonstrate innovative qualities. “If you’ve got a change-leadership track record, if you’ve got the entrepreneurialism, I believe that boards are going to be looking for that,” Mills says. “They want to be confident that you’ve handled something, whether it’s COVID-19, or the financial side, or the organizational dynamic.”

    Candidates need to ask tough questions. Search committees need to get comfortable fielding them. As the white paper explains, a scan of a potential employer’s latest Form 990 and other financial statements isn’t going to provide a satisfactory picture of an association’s financial health. In interviews, Mills says, candidates should be willing to ask follow-ups on questions about finances and strategy related to the pandemic. Similarly, search committees should be ready to open up. “You must be comfortable with candidates asking you for more detailed information earlier in the process, because we’re just not in a ‘trust us’ space,” she says.

    There’s no room for ceremonial slots on the search committee now. The right CEO fit is always crucial, but more so now, which means that it’s better to save search-committee seats for people actively leading the organization instead of past presidents and other figures who are relatively disconnected from an association facing a crisis. “I would be a lot more uncomfortable as a candidate if the search committee was not primarily made up of members of the current board,” Mills says. “Those are the people who are currently charged with leading the organization through this very unique time. So if you’ve got a search committee that’s made up of former leaders or people who aren’t right there in the fire with you, how are you going to get the answers to important questions?”

    This article was written by Mark Athitakis, and sourced directly from Associations Now here

  • 20 May 2020 2:07 PM | Kerrie Green (Administrator)

    Not everyone will want to rush back to your office the minute it reopens. Here are a few things to consider as you decide whether to extend a work-from-home option beyond the immediate COVID-19 emergency.

    There’s an obvious question being asked at the moment by many organizations that sent people home to work two months ago: Should we let all (or at least some) of these newly remote workers stay remote?

    Some people thrive working in an office environment and may be eager to return. Many others may find the flexibility of working in a place where they feel comfortable and safe difficult to give up. As you start to think through your plan for reopening your office, here are some considerations that could influence your decisions about ongoing remote work:

    Some employees like working from home more than others. The response to remote work varies: Some employees love it, while others can’t wait to get back to the office. But those who like it really like it: In a recent Gallup poll, 59 percent of respondents said they’ll likely want to work remotely more often after the current crisis is over. “These fans of online work worry that they—and the country itself—will lose important benefits discovered during this unprecedented experiment in mass remote work,” Maria Cramer and Mihir Zaveri wrote for the New York Times. “People who have never liked schmoozing with colleagues have found new heights of productivity away from meetings and office chitchat.”

    People working at home are only slightly less productive. A recent study from the research and services firm Valoir found a 1 percent decrease in productivity, on average, among remote employees, and a 2 percent decrease among employees with children. Those who worked without anyone else in the house were 3 percent less productive. What’s behind the modest decrease? The Valoir report suggests that it’s social media, which may distract workers as much as two hours a day. But they tend to be spending more time at their desks to make up for it, about 9.75 hours per day. And the report notes that distractions would be an issue at the office as well. “Many workers said that remote work enabled them to reduce day-to-day distractions around the office including boss and coworker interruptions,” the report stated.

    Long-term remote work will require long-term adjustments by workers and employers. Making remote work permanent will require some mindset and policy shifts, writes Forbes contributor Enrique Dans. “For workers, it means understanding that the future will not simply involve balancing a laptop on your knees while sitting at the sofa, or clearing a space at the kitchen table, but redesigning the home to allocate an area to work, or not assuming, for example, that children will always be home,” Dans writes. “For companies, it involves creating appropriate methodologies, using certain technologies — not necessarily those made under pressure at the beginning of confinement proves to be the best option — launching training for the workforce, or even considering covering some of the costs involved, from connectivity to the necessary infrastructure, which can go beyond just a laptop.”

    This article was written by Ernie Smith and sourced from Associations Now here

  • 20 May 2020 2:03 PM | Kerrie Green (Administrator)

    Most economists agree based on recent reports on GDP and unemployment that we are entering a recession. And many association executives are wondering how this downturn will impact their membership numbers and what to project for the future.

    Amidst the current challenges, there is data to provide some hope and insights. For over a decade the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report has captured association membership best practices and statistics. One of the major disruptions impacting association membership was the Great Recession in 2009. Looking back at the benchmarking survey data can serve as a guide on how associations responded to this recession. The data suggest that there are some near term challenges for some groups in the current environment but for most associations they can look forward to a strong membership rebound in the future.

    Past Recessionary Membership Results

    The findings from the 2010 benchmarking report published showing results for this recessionary time found that the percentage of associations seeing increases in membership counts dropped to a low of 36%. While an all-time high of 48% of associations reported an actual decline in their membership counts. Membership renewals were also a challenge. A total of 44% of respondents said that their renewal rate declined for the year. Using these past results as a guide it is likely that in 2020 many associations will see a dip in their renewal rates and total membership.

    However, the data did show that even during that time of economic dislocation, over a third of professional and trade associations still reported that their membership increased. And 42% reported that they improved their new member input. These groups were able to sustain growth and add new members because they found a way to provide value and to continue to effectively reach prospects. I remember one association executive described how members regularly hired other members who were out of work. His association shared with members the effectiveness of their networking with the message that the cheapest unemployment insurance they could get was joining the association. Likewise, today we are aware of some clients seeing the biggest new member months in their history by providing members and prospects with critical information, advocacy, and community during this pandemic. For some associations, growth is still achievable right now.

    For other organizations facing declines in the current environment, there is still long-term hope from our benchmarking data. The results from our research following the Great Recession shows that membership counts made a remarkable recovery in subsequent years. Following the economic downturn, the proportion of associations reporting increased membership rapidly rose from a low of 36% in the 2010 report to nearly 50% and higher in the following benchmarking years.

    Additionally, the driver for this rapid improvement appears to be associations refocusing on membership recruitment. Each of the four years after the Great Recession produced the best new member recruitment years to date in our research. Just three years after the low point, an all-time high of 63% of associations reported that their new member acquisition had increased.

    Membership Strategy Going Forward

    The encouraging news from the trends in our longitudinal benchmarking data shows that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Associations that have messages and services to help members' immediate needs can flourish even in this challenging time. For those that are seeing a drop in membership and struggling with renewing members, the data provides hope for the future.

    In either case, what should your membership marketing playbook look like for right now? For those associations that are currently offering indispensable services that are bringing in new members the plan should be to aggressively market to gain market share by reaching out as broadly as possible to your house prospects and third-party databases. For groups that are facing membership challenges, the strategy is to do everything you can to hold on to the members that you have worked so hard to gain over the years. Just like there was panic selling in the stock market you likely have many lapsed members who might leave in a cost-cutting panic. These are prime prospects to invite back with a special offer. Reach out to them with all the tools you have available including email, telephone, texting, and digital media.

    Going forward it is a time for all associations to invest in building the foundation and capacity for future growth. Maintain a presence in the marketplace, gather knowledge of member needs through research, test new marketing messages, and tactics to see what works. Build your marketing plan now so that you are ready to capitalize on the coming membership growth opportunities.

    This article was written by Tony Rossell from Marketing General Incorporated here

  • 19 May 2020 7:58 AM | Brett Jeffery (Administrator)

    Recent statistics show that many marketers have paused campaigns or cut ad budgets due to COVID-19, causing digital advertising to drop for the first time ever. Those that still have a marketing budget may have an advantage on digital platforms as a result.

    If you’re a digital marketer, you might be in a holding pattern as a result of COVID-19. But if you still have a bit of budget to spend on digital ads right now, you might be able to take advantage of a rare gap in the industry.

    Recently, the global marketing insight firm WARC reported a decline in marketing budgets in the digital space in April—the first such decline it has ever reported. Both traditional and mobile ads are down.

    On top of this, the Interactive Advertising Bureau reported survey data that found 37 percent of ad buyers paused their campaigns in April, up from 24 percent in March.

    This is a significant change in fortunes for digital advertising, one that organizations with smaller budgets may be well-positioned to take advantage of. Although Facebook and Google continue to see revenue growth and may not be the best places to find discounts right now, other options may provide good opportunities:

    Smaller publishers may be ready to offer discounts. Some publishers, such as Barstool Sports, have tried to stem the broader decline in advertising by focusing on smaller, more focused deals with advertisers in the hopes of long-term relationship growth. “Singles and doubles matter right now,” the firm’s chief revenue officer, Deirdre Lester, stated to Digiday.

    Now might be a time to focus on trust-based messaging. A recent Gartner post notes that even before the recent crisis, many consumers had grown skeptical about brands and large organizations, instead favoring local organizations. “The current crisis seems poised to amplify the distrust customers have of brands,” writes Gartner contributor Laura Starita. “Brands can push against that wave by rising to the occasion to reestablish trust through customer-centric actions.” Starita says that marketing that focuses on listening to consumers and a balanced response about what your organization can and cannot do right now could help your organization reverse the trend.

    The current environment requires tactical changes. The marketing messages that you put out there will have to reflect the situation in the real world, where some traditional marketing channels, such as in-person events, are off the table for now. And that requires changes in mindset, writes Business 2 Community contributor Susan Friesen. “Part of brand marketing during this pandemic is knowing when to re-strategize and pivot, rather than continuing with an ad campaign that’s not going to resonate with—or even offends—your target audience,” she writes.

    BY ERNIE SMITH / MAY 12, 2020


    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.

  • 13 May 2020 1:42 PM | Kerrie Green (Administrator)

    There continues to be a lot of uncertainty about what business will look like short-term and long-term. An initial reaction by many marketers during this volatile and uncertain period has been to limit marketing efforts for channels such as email marketing.

    But from our campaigns and testing, we’re seeing that email marketing campaigns, done correctly, are still proving highly effective. In fact, we’re seeing current email programs outperform those from several months ago when the economy was strong and life was operating business as usual.

    So, what are some things that can be done right now to make your email marketing campaigns more effective? Here are five tips:

    Test everything, especially deployment day and time. Because the lives of many email recipients have been completely turned upside down and the “new normal” may consist of working from home and during odd hours, the best send days and times may be completely different now from what was optimal in the past. It is best to test to ensure that audiences are reached when they will be most engaged.

    Review content for all automated campaigns. It is always wise to periodically review and update content in automated campaigns. Due to the current global crisis, it is even more important to review and update all automated content, ensuring it is sensitive and relevant to what’s happening right now. This is vital to ensure that rapidly changing events are accurately being represented in all content, as well as to avoid being tone deaf to specific evolving circumstances.

    Keep audiences engaged. For those audiences where transactional marketing still doesn’t feel right, instead offer highly relevant weekly content marketing emails. Provide them with valuable webinars, podcasts, whitepapers, industry/association specific breaking news, study guides, reemployment training and placement assistance, etc. The key is to keep the audience engaged with your organisation, while being as helpful as possible. When the appropriate time comes to convert these individuals and “sell” to them again, they will be ready to purchase from a trusted source.

    Provide flexible terms. For anything that is transactional, consider testing more flexible payment terms. Allow for installment payments, extend your grace period, etc. for purchases with a financial commitment.

    Be empathetic. Probably the most important adjustment to make to any email marketing campaign is to ensure that an empathetic tone is conveyed in all content. Your audience is going through an awful lot right now, both personally and professionally. It is important to ensure that your message conveys helpfulness, support, and emotional intelligence.

    This article was written by Marketing General Incorporated here

  • 13 May 2020 1:31 PM | Kerrie Green (Administrator)

    Testing out new ideas can seem overwhelming right now. But there may be no better time to do it.

    Association boards are slow. Association projects are slow. Associations are slow.

    Plenty of myths are getting debunked in the COVID-19 era. There’s no reason we can’t add the myth of “slowness” to the pile.

    Last week, I checked in on a video conference hosted by the New York Society of Association Executives titled “Navigating the New Normal,” and much of the conversation by the collected leaders centered on the ways things have sped up in the past two months. Lingering discussions about what projects to sunset have become firm decisions. Associations have ramped up their capacity for virtual events, and have begun planning future meetings anticipating that they’ll likely be at least partially virtual—with greater potential to connect with more attendees outside of North America. Leaders are getting creative about new membership tiers and nondues revenue, and boards are getting comfortable with setting strategy online and efficiently.

    “This is the time to try it—if it doesn’t work, just blame COVID,” said the conference’s moderator, Gregory Offner. He was being tongue-in-cheek, but not entirely. “We’re seeing a lot of red tape in every industry just miraculously disappear. People that you could never get on the phone before are now willing to get on a phone call.”

    Lest this all come off as pollyanna-ish, it’s clear this newfound urgency is happening due to real concerns among associations about their survival, now that their biggest revenue sources have quickly dried up. Asked to innovate, many might think that the goal in the current moment is to invent a single whiz-bang revenue driver. But experts advise being creative in small ways.

    In a recent article for Stanford Social Innovation Review, three leaders from the nonprofit consultancy Community Wealth Partners write that this is the moment for organisations to develop their “adaptive capacity,” looking at the likely environment in the next year and making minor but meaningful adjustments. “Set short-term financial and impact goals, along with plans for what you’ll do if you don’t meet them,” they write. “As you consider creative new approaches or solutions, think about experimenting with rapid prototyping approaches, rather than launching major initiatives that require extensive analysis and proven track records.”

    And sometimes innovations aren’t the result of particular projects or initiatives but changes in behaviors and expectations. In the Harvard Business Review, professor Gary P. Pisano points out that efforts to produce a big response to COVID-19, such as a vaccine, have to work in tandem with smaller but meaningful efforts to change social norms about hygiene and medical treatment.

    “Many improvements in medical outcomes have nothing to do with technology or drugs; they come from better patient management practices,” he writes. “Figuring out when [is] the best time to intubate a patient or whether to put them on their stomach rather [than] on their back is unlikely to make headlines, but it can lead to better outcomes. You don’t necessarily need game-changing drugs or technology to change the game; you just need a lot [of] learning about what works and doesn’t in practice. Fast learning from experience will be critical.”

    And the path to being creative may be smoother than you think. Last week, my colleague Ernie Smith noted that it may be easier to take on ambitious projects these days, with more remote-work tools coming available, many of them free.

    It’s unlikely that any of us will look back at this time romantically. But your outlook needn’t be gloomy, either. We’ve been thrust into a moment where leaders can demonstrate their creativity, test new ideas, and (perhaps best of all) trust that the people around them are more flexible and capable than they’d previously imagined.

    This article was written by Mark Athitakis, and was sourced here from Associations Now. 

  • 12 May 2020 6:08 AM | Brett Jeffery (Administrator)

    COVID-19 might have derailed your project plans, but it’s worth considering what might still be possible remotely. There might be more to salvage than you think.

    There might have been a time when you thought 2020 was going to be the year you’d take on that big project you’ve been planning. But if you’re looking a bit longingly at your resolutions and thinking that the opportunity has passed you by because of the strange times we’re in, I’d like to encourage you to take a deep breath and reconsider.

    It might be possible to save those big projects. Here are a few remote project management considerations for associations looking to revive a project that’s been put on hold since the coronavirus pandemic began.

    Assess what’s done and what needs to be done.  The software review firm Capterra offers (with the help of a few Dilbert comics) some advice on what to do to fix a project that’s not working. Start by taking a step back to analyze what’s gumming up the works. Check in with stakeholders to figure out what is and isn’t working. You might find you need to shake up the current team to get things moving again. “Even the best project managers—those with excellent project plans, appropriate budgets, and fantastic scope control—struggle, on occasion, with project failure,” Capterra’s Rachel Burger writes.

    Find out how your vendor is faring in the crisis. Your vendors may be facing challenges similar to yours due to COVID-19. Those factors could cause delays and even work stoppages for some projects, which may trigger some contract-related questions. “As schedule slippages are not uncommon in technology implementations, most technology development contracts will anticipate them and include provisions that address them,” attorney Jeffrey D. Neuburger writes in a recent article for The National Law Review. “However, it is unlikely that these provisions consider slippage caused by the external factors like COVID-19 impacting both parties, and, therefore, the remedies and procedures that they provide may not be practical in this situation.” But if there’s a way to move forward after assessing potential risks and challenges, don’t be afraid to go full steam ahead. After all, you are likely communicating with a vendor remotely already.

    Adjust your communications as needed. When you’re not in the same room as your team anymore, managing a project can get more complicated—video calls can be chaotic, and email threads can inadvertently introduce tension between colleagues. Over at CIO, writer Christina Wood interviewed a number of tech-industry figures on remote project management issues, and many cited the importance of clear communication. “There are all these lightweight, nuanced, subtle ways we talk with colleagues in an office,” Ethan Fast, CTO and cofounder of the cryptocurrency exchange firm Nash, told Wood. “When you work remotely, you can no longer rely on those. You have to be proactive and intentional about communication.”

    Do a quick assessment of your software tools. You might find yourself questioning whether the tools that worked well when you were going into the office still make sense in a shifting work environment. Many software firms are offering free versions of their remote work tools to organizations as they try to figure out what works best for them. While it’s not necessarily easy to try something new, the remote environment may offer a little more flexibility than you had before.

    If, after doing your homework and asking the right questions, you still believe a certain project just can’t proceed right now, don’t fret. There are always other places where you can divert your resources. After all, the shifting global climate isn’t doing anyone any favors right now.

    But if you think these issues through, you’ll come away with a stronger understanding of the mountains your team can still move right now. You might be surprised.


    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.

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