Insights

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  • 20 Apr 2018 10:09 AM | Belinda Moore (Administrator)

    A year ago, the Telecommunications User Association of New Zealand (TUANZ) was on the brink of bankruptcy. Now, they have refocused
    their operations and have a plan to return to health.

    TUANZ is a membership organisation that shares industry information and training. It also does a large amount of advocacy work on behalf of users of information and communication technology services, which includes a range of member businesses.

    Craig Young, the organisation’s CEO, says that when he took over in 2014, TUANZ was “in downfall”.

    Before his arrival, the association advocated for users against Telecom New Zealand, a telecommunications company with an effective monopoly.

    In 2008, the New Zealand Government introduced ultra-fast broadband. To partner in the project, Telecom was required to separate into three divisions. While the association viewed this as a positive move, it also meant the association was a victim of its own success.

    “There was no specific issue or burning platform any more. We hadn’t yet shifted our focus,” Young said. “In the past TUANZ relied on advocacy (against the telco monopoly) as a selling point but that had lost its validity.”

    Add to that the wider issues of the global financial crises and TUANZ was facing a challenging situation.

    The small association was so engrossed in everyday details that “we had no chance to think about alternative revenue sources”, Young said.

    Building on momentum

    TUANZ realised that it had three things in its favour. Firstly, itt had a strong group of loyal members, though they were too small to move the company forward.

    Secondly, it had a future leaders program that was able to get the interest of young people.

    And lastly, it also ran a popular series of networking events and conferences.

    “We used our reserves to build momentum around our key services, like the events, but we hadn’t yet turned it into revenue,” Young said.

    Young invited membership specialist Belinda Moore to a one-day planning session. She worked alongside Young, the board and a few members of the association’s future leaders program.

    By the end of the day, the group had sketched a plan onto the whiteboard. They drafted an six-month immediate plan with a 12-month vision to turn the organisation around. This included measurable targets and target dates.

    The plan looked at “how we could avoid falling over and how to diversify revenue streams,” Young said.

    Since the board collaborated in the process, the plan was signed off within two weeks.

    “Membership organisations have unique difficulties. Often there can be stakeholders with opposing views and the environment today is so fast moving,” Young says.

    “I think there is this urge when working in a membership organisation to look around at what other organisations are doing and think ‘I need to do that’.

    “Having a plan helps us focus and utilise value from what we already do.”

    The four steps to TUANZ’s plan

    The most well thought-out plan counts for naught if it is not executed effectively, so TUANZ broke its new strategy down into some key steps.

    First, the organisation set out to create a revenue stream out of its networking events and conferences. In the past the association focused on covering costs for these events. It now asks for a minor hosting fee for the 10 to 12 events it hosts a year.

    Given the association’s greater focus on events, TUANZ then developed an event plan for 2018. This was replaced the more ad hoc approach that had previously ruled their events strategy.

    The event plan was shown to prospects and members to generate interest in getting more involved in the association. It also meant that pre-existing members did not see disruption in events while the organisation was undergoing change.

    Thirdly, TUANZ needed to find a broader group to rely on for revenue than solely its members. To do this, it created a partner program, allowing them to engage interested businesses that may not want to commit to standard membership. Within a month, the association had reached its target of three partnerships. Young said the partnerships changed
    the way the association approaches prospects. “We now talk about the value of the organisation differently and view the organisation differently,” he said.

    Lastly, the company is now revising the renewal process for members. Young also said the association can now take another look at membership acquisition.

    Looking to the future

    Young said the plan gave a structure to how it will achieve sustainable revenue growth.

    “A lot of membership organisations, I think, have this belief that their identity is defined by what they, as an organisation, do,” he said. “When you have someone questioning the way you do things they view it as questioning who you are. But that is not the case.”

    “A lot of it we already knew, and I had already considered as CEO. But to have someone with membership organisation experience – who was also an outsider – meant we were able to bring an honest eye to our work. It helped us prioritise.

    TUANZ was typical of many associations. They had a wealth of opportunities that they didn’t realise existed and the talent to get it done. They just hadn’t drawn the connections. It was one of the situations where, once the
    pathway was made clear, it was straightforward to implement the change needed to turn the association around.

    “The main bit of advice I would give to a membership organisation in a similar situation to that which we were in is to see if you can find a resource that is experienced but also external to the organisation,” Young said.

    “Certainly, we are not out of the woods yet but we have turned it around.”

    This article was originally published in The Association Report - a free quarterly publication issued by Answers for Associations.

  • 31 Mar 2018 9:42 PM | Belinda Moore (Administrator)

    Two years ago, the Victorian Healthcare Association (VHA) had no high-value partnerships. Now it boasts more than $600,000 worth annually.

    This impressive turnaround is the result of the not-for- profit’s concerted effort to align with partners who share their vision and values. But CEO Tom Symondson admits that he wasn’t always convinced that corporate partnerships were appropriate for VHA.

    “If I’m honest, it took a little bit of persuading,” he says. “Because we are a public sector peak body we have to be very, very clear around probity.” But with the right expertise, due diligence and resourcing, Symondson believes the VHA has struck the right balance.

    His advice to other associations is: Don’t assume that it’s impossible to secure successful partnerships.

    “That’s what I assumed when I first started,” he says. “I thought people were teasing me by saying that we could make as much as we do now out of partnerships – the idea that we could double or quadruple our partnerships just seemed insane.”

    Draw on expertise

    “My number one tip would be to have an expert handle partnerships for you,” Symondson says. “Going through negotiations on how much money a partner will give us for this or that – it’s not my skill set. If I’d had to do it myself I don’t think I’d have been able to get the high-value partnerships that we did.”

    When the VHA started exploring its corporate partnership options, it did so with guidance from from Julian Moore at Strategic Membership Solutions (SMS), who also helped them recruit an in-house director of development, David Fien. The addition of a skilled business development resource dedicated to implementing and driving the process was an invaluable part of the process.

    “Julian and David worked together to do all of the preliminary negotiations, then comes to me with the value proposition,” Symondson says. “If I’m happy with where it’s going, we then meet with the CEO of the other organisation to finalise details and check that we can actually work together.”

    Symondson says delegating also reduced conflicts. “I hate asking for money, and I am in a fairly conservative industry where you have to be careful to be totally transparent.”

    Tap into member needs

    For a partnership to be mutually beneficial, Symondson recommends focusing on what your membership wants.

    “We ran a survey and spoke to a lot of our members about the business needs they had – they came up with workforce challenges, IT issues, and challenges around understanding digital health,” he says.

    “We then set about identifying three or more potential partner organisations and working with them to see how they fitted with our mission and way of working.”

    Symondson says when identifying appropriate partners it helps to consider knowledge gaps within your association.

    For example, the VHA’s partnership with tax and accounting firm RSM has helped the VHA affordably deliver valuable member services.

    “RSM have been able to support members with a whole range of resources to transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which we would have had to pay enormous amounts of money for, or bring in a staff member who’s an existing expert,” Symondson says.

    Partner for the right reasons

    Due diligence is crucial for all associations looking to partner with corporates, Symondson said.

    “Turn away partners you don’t feel 100% comfortable with because whatever they’re offering you, your brand is worth more,” he said.

    And if you’re seeking a partnership just to make an easy buck, you will likely be disappointed. “Be realistic around your expectations of how much money you will make because if you are driven by profit targets you will take on partners you’re actually not comfortable with and you might have to get rid of them three months later,” Symondson warned.

    Manage expectations – yours and theirs

    Before signing a partnership agreement both parties should agree on key deliverables.

    “Partnership income isn’t free money - you have to spend up to 25% of it on delivering for the partner,” Symondson said. “Make sure that’s in your budget or you’ll get a nasty shock at the end of the year.”

    For the VHA, it was important that partners respected their policy of “100% no sales pitches to members”.

    “That doesn’t sit well with our way of doing business. But if you’re a cybersecurity organisation we might invite you to lead an event session on why it’s important to manage your cybersecurity risk. If you just happen to have a product, that comes very much at the end,” he says.

    “That works well for the corporate partner and it works for us because it allows me to get some expertise on a topic that I don’t have any in.”

    Be Prepared to Say No

    The VHA recently had to end a relationship with a group that did not fit with its philosophy, Symondson says.

    "It became clear after less than six months that whilst we were clearly ticking off deliverables, they wanted a particular level of business to flow," he says.

    "We're very clear with our partners: 'You will not make millions of dollars in the first six months. Our model of partnership is you have to be comfortable with a longer-term approach and building up relationships with members'."

    However, Symondson says they started receiving requests from the partner for things they “absolutely don’t do”. “Our organisations didn't match as well as we thought they did. Money became a bigger issue than they had let on.”

    You also need to be prepared to hold your ground from time to time.” If they're asking for so much that it's starting to feel like you're there to service them, rather than them being there to benefit the members, then you just say 'no, we're not going to do that'," he adds.

    Get your team onboard, cement partnerships

    Another big hurdle to overcome is that some of your staff might not be comfortable with the idea of corporate partnerships, particularly if you’re a not-for-profit or publicly orientated  association. “You really need to sell the benefits to them: ‘This will allow us to deliver a greater level of service to our members; this will make our member’s lives better’,” he said.

    Finally, once the partnership is underway, the partnerships director should not be solely responsible for it.

    “Every member of my management team now has clear deliverables for each partnership,” Symondson says.

    He says for a partnership to remain successful it was imperative that all of the senior leadership team was involved in driving it forward.

    “It does have to become mainstream quite quickly so that the partner keeps confidence and it doesn’t become a slightly awkward process,” he said.

    Generate high-value partnerships for your association

    To find out more about how we can assist you to generate high-value partnership for your association please contact us or register to attend Let’s Get Your Sponsored Workshop (Sydney 1-2 May, Melbourne 8-9 May) or drop me a line on the details below.

    Article originally published in The Association Report. A free quarterly publication issued by Answers for Associations.

  • 8 Feb 2018 10:24 AM | Belinda Moore (Administrator)

    One of my first jobs with an association was back in 1994 where I organised a study tour into China for a group of members seeking to do business in the region.

    When I mentioned this to someone recently it gave me a bit of a shock when I realised that was 24 years ago! Particularly as I still feel 21 on the inside! Things have changed so much (not just in the association sector) since then.

    Below are 4 that immediately spring to mind. Can you think of any? Feel free to add your own via my LinkedIn post.

    1. Faxes aren't cool anymore. In fact, a lot of organisations don't even have a fax number now. I used to love to hear the ring and then garbled beeps as a fax came in. Would it be a membership application? ... an event registration?... nope ... a random advertisement. And don't get me started on how quickly that thermal fax paper faded! RIP faxes. You were awesome while you lasted.

    2. Websites are expected, not special. I remember pitching the idea of a website at an association I worked in and getting a series of responses that included "It's a short term fad", "it's a waste of money as members will never use it", and "if everyone else jumped off a cliff would you?" (no, but if everyone else jumped into a giant pile of money I would). Today, people expect that any company has a website.

    3. Being "kept up-to-date" really means it. In the first association I worked in, we proudly told our members that we kept them up-to-date. What that meant was a magazine every quarter, a wages update letter once a year, and the odd bulk fax to members when there was something really juicy afoot. Today, if the news happened yesterday no one wants to know. The pressure is on to ensure members get the right information in a timely manner ... and in a way that they actually read the info (rather than get it, not read it, and complain that no one told them about it).

    4. Smelling the photocopies. When we used to remove a copy from the ditto copier with its bluish purple print you could smell the aroma of the freshly printed page (an aroma enjoyed by generations of school students and later found to be toxic). I can still remember it clearly. No double sided printing in those day. Today's photocopiers just make life way too easy.

  • 7 Feb 2018 10:53 AM | Belinda Moore (Administrator)

    There are lots of opportunities to improve the performance of membership, sponsorship, and events at your association through attending one of the events we will be presenting this year. The following list includes the highlights but we also recommend checking out the SMS Calendar of Events and the Answers Calendar of Events.  

    Great Association Meetings & Events Symposium

    The Great Association Meetings & Events Symposium will provide you with all the inspiration, tools and practical ideas you need to make your events massively more successful. Attend this event if you are interested in: Generating more delegates to your events, Increasing the profitability of your events, Improving your delegate experience, Reducing your event costs, Maximising your event income, Increasing your sponsorship, Integrating new technologies, and more. This event has been designed to provide insights from the point of planning your overall event strategy through to execution. We have sourced incredible speakers from near and far to ensure you are getting the best insights into the rapidly evolving world of association events. If you are involved at any stage of this process then you will benefit from attending this event ... find out more about Brisbane 17-18 April.

    Let's Get You Sponsored

    This two day event will leave you with everything required to approach corporate sponsors the very next day. In this event, Julian will work with you to write your proposal, he will give you an up-to-date sponsor database of who to approach, and a covering letting to attach to your proposal. This practical, interactive workshop will provide you with the invaluable insights, tools and advice necessary to make 2018 your most successful sponsorship year ever. This event is the best way to start - or reinvigorate - your associations' sponsorship program ... find out more about the Sydney (1-2 May) and Melbourne (8-9 May) sessions.

    How to Develop an Effective Membership Strategy

    In this workshop you will be guided through a step-by-step process to develop a membership strategy that serves the needs of your audience as well as generating a financial return for your association. You will also learn the fundamental concepts and skills necessary to achieve powerful membership growth. This program is a fantastic way to gain a broad understanding of the key faucets of managing a membership program and anyone who is tasked with developing or communicating the value of membership internally or externally will benefit from this workshop.  ... find out more about the Melbourne (20 Jun), Sydney (21 June), Brisbane (25 June), and Wellington (28 June) sessions

    How to Develop a High Value, Sustainable Sponsorship Program

    This one day workshop has been designed to provide you with the skills, structure and inspiration to develop a high value sponsorship (partner) program that will massively increase the income of your association or charity. Julian's interactive presentation will provide a fresh perspective to developing a lucrative sponsorship program that will bring benefits to your members, your association and your partner ... find out more about the Wellington (22 August), Sydney (24 August), Adelaide (28 August), Melbourne (29 August), and Brisbane (31 August) sessions.


    Please note that all SMS events are running through the Answers for Associations from 2018.

  • 7 Feb 2018 10:50 AM | Belinda Moore (Administrator)

    SMS is proud to announce it is a founding partner of Answers for Associations. Answers is network of specialist suppliers to associations dedicated to facilitating the sharing of innovative ideas and practices amongst the Australia and New Zealand association community. Answers has a free hard copy newsletter available to associate executives interested in hearing case studies from local associations about the innovations that have made their associations more successful. If you would like your copy, please click here to subscribe on the Answers website. The first edition of The Association Report is due out in early March.  While you’re on the site, check out their calendar of events and make a note of the ones you'd like to attend.  The first one is the Great Association Meetings & Events Symposium (GAMES) which will provide attendees with practical ideas that will make your events massively more successful. 

  • 7 Feb 2018 10:49 AM | Belinda Moore (Administrator)

    In April 2015 SMS completed a 30-month project to successfully turnaround the Australasian Society of Association Executives. Over that time, Belinda took the organisation from just over 100 members to 876 financial members and built a community of over 10,000 subscribers. When Belinda started at AuSAE their turnover was just over $40,000 per annum, and there was no staff support. When Belinda left the association in April 2015, it was on track for a turnover of around 1 million dollars and had 6 full time staff working in the organisation. In the following article Belinda Moore, Director of SMS, shares the step by step process they apply when undertaking an emergency turnaround ... read the whitepaper.

  • 7 Feb 2018 10:48 AM | Belinda Moore (Administrator)

    Potential sponsors don't sit at their desks all day waiting for your proposal to arrive on their desk. For many, sponsorship is one part of a larger role which keeps them very busy. This means your proposal isn’t just competing with other sponsorship proposals (of which there will be many) but also with many other distractions for a share of their attention. Having a well-crafted, compelling partnership document is a critical first step in getting the attention of a potential partner... click here to read the whitepaper.

  • 7 Feb 2018 10:42 AM | Belinda Moore (Administrator)

    There are a number of great resources for association professionals wanting to understand more about how to make their organisation more successful. We recently compiled a recommended reading list for association professionals for the Answers for Associations. We are keeping this list up to date so we recommend taking a look if you are wanting a good place to start ... read the list.

  • 7 Feb 2018 10:41 AM | Belinda Moore (Administrator)

    A number of powerful generational, cultural and economic forces are colliding to create a perfect storm that will make the next 5-20 years some of the toughest ever faced by associations. Associations who don’t adapt face a slow decline into obscurity as they are replaced by newer, more innovative, less bureaucratically challenged, less change resistant competitors. While the idea of membership will continue, the antiquated models of recruiting, retaining and engaging members cannot survive in an increasingly challenging and ever-changing operating environment ... read the full whitepaper.

  • 7 Feb 2018 10:41 AM | Belinda Moore (Administrator)

    When I started at AMAQ in 2013 our new members were being sourced through events and various non-member campaigns.  It is quite difficult to answer specifically where they were coming from as no detailed records tracking new member sources were kept at the time. I had used the Member get Member concept in my previous roles and it had been very successful, so I brought it into my new role ... read the full article.

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