Share Your Expertise

The Answers for Associations Online Community has just added a free and easy way for association professionals to ask, answer, and vote on questions. This is an excellent resource if you have questions you’d like to ask other association professionals – and if you are willing to share your expertise. To give it a go, login to www.answers.net.au (you can register for free if you aren’t already a user). 

Recent questions include: 

  • How have you increased sponsorship ROI and engagement at virtual events?
  • Should Associations collectively bargain to reduce our costs? If yes, in what areas?
  • What renewal strategies are working best for your organisation in the COVID environment?  
  • What are your future plans for working from home?  
  • Have organisations adapted their membership offering/product inclusions in response to COVID?  
  • What is the optimum number of Board members for Associations?  

This service was developed in response to the need for association professionals to be able to expand beyond their existing networks to ask questions of immediate concern. We are still refining this brand new service so I’d really appreciate any feedback and ideas for refinement you have.  

The Walking Dead: Beware the Zombie Member

(By Colin Perry, Optimum Contact) When COVID-19 hit in March this year, many Australians were forced to change the way they live due to increased financial pressures as a result of losing their job or taking a pay cut. For some, this may have meant cutting down on extra luxuries but for others, it might also mean they reconsider renewing   membership to their professional body.

Many Australian businesses who might normally sponsor membership and ongoing professional development for their team members have “pivoted” away from that support or expense. While the Government has injected a considerable amount of financial assistance to businesses, those funds have, in the main, been utilised for job retention, not discretionary spending.  

Further to this, the recent Association Economic Outlook Report published by Marketing General Incorporated discovered that 69% of associations have seen an increase in engagement from their members following the recession/pandemic, yet 39% of associations are still anticipating a decline in membership over the next 12 months. The decline is likely due to these businesses no longer funding memberships for their staff.

So, what does this mean for your association when your members are relying on the government’s financial assistance payments?

Who is a Zombie Member?

A zombie member is a member who hasn’t renewed their membership but are technically still members for a grace period or, in some cases until they resign in writing. Their membership still exists but isn’t active, (alive but dead if you will).

It’s important to monitor Zombie memberships closely because:

  • They are not normally active or add value to the community
  • They may present to the general public as active financial members using association logo’s and expired post nominal which could damage the associations hard won professional reputation.
  • They do not participate in professional development to maintain standards which could reflect poorly on the sector
  • Their behavior or non-committed attitude can be infectious. 

Preventing Zombie Members

As an association, it’s important to remember that you exist for the good of the members and the sector. Strong support and advocacy, an active engaged community and strong values proposition will help ensure success for you and your members and generate the much-needed revenue to help to keep those important wheels turning.

Therefore, in order to keep your members interested, you need to give them a reason to continue with their membership, even when they’re cutting other expenses out of their budget. Your membership, your community and their connection to it, is paramount, not ‘a nice to have’ – be relevant.  

At Optimum Contact, we help associations find meaningful solutions to maintain active members – How do we do that?

Optimum Contact’s Top Tips:

  • Focus on loyalty

Consider providing special options for longstanding members to maintain their loyalty and to show yours. These might include flexible payment plans, a hardship discount, negotiating shorter membership terms, or placing memberships on hold for a period of time. You can also recognise their contribution and off-set membership fees with value-added activities such as writing for your magazine, presenting a webinar or other CPD options that allow for participation, recognition and continuance in the community as well as mentoring of less experienced members.

Some people forget that membership to a professional association, peak body or union that is directly connected to their primary job is tax deductible – a really valuable thing to remind members of when they are weighing up their options.

  • Maintain the connection

Even if a member chooses not to renew their membership right now, that does not mean never again. Associations should seek an opt-in for future communication so that they can keep their finger on the pulse and continue the valuable membership conversations. Members may quickly realise that they miss the association, the resources and connections to like-minded people – a well-timed “we miss you” call campaign and offer may be able to revive a zombie member.  

Remember, it’s best to maintain the relationship with an active member than to revive a Zombie. Member care calls, especially at this time when many are feeling isolated can mean a lot to members and avoids the “I only hear from you when you want money” stake to the heart.

Optimum Contact can assist your association with member outreach and report back to you with the information we receive.

  • Consider their true needs

In order to maintain loyal members, you need to consider what their priorities are and what they want from their association. A broad-brush approach to a 10% discount or theme park passes in a state they can’t travel to is not going to be valuable to your members.  

When was the last time you asked members what they really want?

Taking the Next Step

Optimum Contact can assist in strengthening your connection with your members and retaining loyal customers. Our team love to have meaningful conversations with members and know how to build the rapport that will secure the outcome your association needs.

By Colin Perry Managing Director of Optimum Contact, an Australian-based company that helps connect professional associations, not-for-profit organisations and unions with their members to drive engagement, value and revenue. Contact Colin Perry and the team from Optimum Contact on 1300 017 293 or cperry@optimumcontact.com.au. Read more at www.optimumcontact.com.au

Association Event Trends

Following is a summary of a recent presentation I delivered on Association Event Trends

When COVID-19 hit most associations responded by replicating their existing events online. Most had a very positive experience and intend to integrate online events into their regular programming. 

However, many also realised that most face-to-face formats don’t lend themselves to an online format. Some of the key challenges include:

  • Engaging attendees effectively (overcoming the “Zoombie” effect)
  • Demonstrating compelling value to sponsors.
  • Differentiating in a highly competitive market (where free content is easily available.

To overcome these challenges, many associations are experimenting with different online delivery formats to determine those that work best for their members. These are now evolving rapidly to create entirely new types of events.

Online events are a powerful activation tool that can be used as a pathway to generate more delegates to face-to-face events. Many association staff are now reviewing their entire event strategy to determine how to best integrate online and offline to create a seamless ongoing experience for members. It’s a shift from having a number of one-off events towards a 365-day-a-year calendar of engagement opportunities.

Associations are keen to run face-to-face events again and will do so once the COVID-19 crisis is over. However, these will look somewhat different than before as associations will be looking to:

  • Construct an events schedule that integrates online, face-to-face and hybrid events,
  • Overcome delegate concerns about COVID,
  • Ensure their face-to-face events create a delegate experience that far exceeds what they could get online, and
  • Generate a surplus to ensure online and offline activities are sustainable.

There is no question that navigating the COVID crisis has been enormously stressful and challenging for many. However, the innovations required during this time have led to fundamental changes to the way associations structure their event programming.

These will have a long term and highly positive impact on the quality and variety of events available for members – and the ability of associations to create a tangible, positive and compelling impact on those members.  

Free Sponsorship Webinars

Since the COVID-19 crisis began the landscape for sponsorship and events has completely shifted. Scenarios that would have been unusual last year are now commonplace. Some we are seeing frequently include:

  • The potential sponsor wants to partner but supply chain disruptions mean they have no stock to sell and therefore cannot proceed.
  • Sponsorship don’t understand how they can achieve value without any live events.
  • Due to redundancies within the potential sponsor there is no clarity around who is dealing with association partnerships so the association cannot progress.
  • The potential sponsor is reviewing all partnerships and only continuing with those that will generate tangible, short term, returns.

Despite this, there are many associations still closing high value sponsorship and partnership deals. There are still funds available for those willing to adapt their approach and offering to the new landscape.

To help you make the necessary changes to your sponsorship program, we are running free 30-minute sponsorship masterclasses sharing tips for overcoming these issues. Delegates will have their videos and microphones enabled to allow discussion with the presenter. The first of these is running Friday…

WEBINAR: How to Create a Strategic Plan that Really Works

A great strategic plan conveys a compelling shared vision of the future of your association – as well as a clear pathway to get there. It is a fabulous tool for motivating your Board, staff, members, and other stakeholders. It also ensures your strategy creates a tangible and long-lasting positive impact. For more than 25 years, Belinda has been refining a process for association strategic planning. In this session, she will share her bespoke process and provide you with all the information you need to run the most successful strategic planning session ever. This session is great for those wanting the insights necessary to run their own plan, or those seeking to better understand modern strategic planning processes so they can better direct their facilitator.

Click here to Watch the Webinar.

Click here to Download the Slides.

ARTICLE: COVID-19: A Catalyst for Positive Change

Associations are a critical element of a successful democratic process. They are a useful mechanism for people to act collectively to achieve shared goals. The specific goals vary from association to association but include outcomes such as:

  • Proactively influencing their legislative landscape.
  • Accessing services and support specific to the needs of the collective.
  • Enhancing the skill and education of people within the collective.
  • Connecting with the rest of the collective community for mutual benefit.
  • Advancing a positive impact on a cause shared by the collective.
  • Delivering or facilitating services on behalf of the collective.

For this reason, a strong association sector has a direct impact on the success of the economy as well as the livelihood and well-being of many Australians. It is important that associations themselves are strong so they can continue to nurture the professions, industries, and causes that will drive the recovery and help those affected.

Yet many of these organisations were already struggling prior to the advent of the COVID-19 crisis.

Over the past 15 years our society has been transforming in ways that have fundamentally altered the operating landscape of associations. The rapid evolution of technology, the fragmentation of communication, and major generational shifts to name just a few. 

Prior to the crisis there was already a desperate need for associations to innovate – not just to thrive but to survive.

Unfortunately, many associations have been hindered by internal inertia, legacy issues, and change-resistant organisational cultures. The fundamental changes required were stymied and many associations were already struggling to varying degrees. As associations started to lose sight of their core purpose – and how to fulfil this – competitors began moving in to fill the emerging gaps that associations were not nimble enough to fil. 

The COVID-19 crisis created a catalyst for change that could not be ignored.

For many associations, the crisis has provided an opportunity to rapidly overcome internal or perceived barriers and create fundamental positive change within their organisations that will enable them to create a much higher level of positive impact on their members into the future.

The idea that the long-term impact of this crisis will be positive for the association sector is backed up by new research.

A comprehensive report on the current and future impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the association sector found more than 50% of the 426 associations surveyed believed the impact would be positive over the medium to longer term.

Many respondents reported they were already seeing positive results due to the significant innovation required by associations to adapt.

COVID-19 has been an opportunity for associations to gain a clarity of purpose that has enabled many to quickly enhance their relevance to members.

While not all associations will survive this crisis, those who have taken the opportunity to adapt will emerge stronger and better positioned to create a positive impact on members than ever before. 

Other findings include:

  • There will be permanent changes in the way associations run their events with a significant shift to hybrid and online events, as well as changes to the way face-to-face events run.
  • Many reported their virtual and hybrid AGMs were more successful than their previous face-to-face meetings and they would now be looking to retain that format into the future.
  • A skilled leadership and staff team, supported by a nimble organisational culture, were the three most powerful contributing factors to an associations’ ability to navigate the crisis effectively.
  • There is a permanent shift to remote working models with only 10% of respondents intending to revert to how things operated previously. The vast majority indicated they would be more amendable to working from home arrangements in future. 4% of those surveyed said the shift to working from home would be permanent and they would not be returning to the office.
  • Associations operating in industries and professionals badly affected by the crisis are expecting a negative impact on member retention this year.
  • Despite most associations having reserves sufficient for at least 3 months, Jobkeeper was an important factor in the ability of associations to adapt during the crisis. Many respondents are concerned about the impact of the removal of Jobkeeper on their members, the economy, and their associations.

You can download a full copy of this free research report at http://associationsbeyondcovid.com/

RESEARCH: COVID-19 and Beyond: Lessons for Associations from the COVID-19 Crisis

426 associations participated in this comprehensive research project that provides insight into the current and future impact of the COVID-19 crisis on associations. Learn what associations did, what they learned, and what insights we need to integrate into our future planning processes. The report includes a “what did we learn” section to enable you to gain a quick overview of what you need to know when planning for the future.

Download your PDF copy at COVID-19 and Beyond: Lessons for Associations from the COVID-19 Crisis Report.

Click here to Watch the Webinar Here.

Click here to Download the Slides to go with the webinar.

VIDEO: “Sponsorship Update June 2020: Who’s Sponsoring Associations This Month?”

This past month has seen a number of really exciting sponsorship and partnerships proceed. In this session Julian Moore will talk about what sponsorship deals are closing, who is currently looking to sponsor, how best to approach, and opportunities that are currently available for associations seeking sponsorship funds. In this session Julian shares the highlights on what’s happening in sponsorship this month.

Watch the video

WHITEPAPER – Rise!

This pandemic crisis will gravely impact the health and livelihoods of many. However, it also creates the need to build union capacities even more pressing. This paper, written by Belinda Moore and Chris Walton, explores the current landscape for unions in Australia and outlines innovative pathways forward for unions to more effectively empower Australian workers.

Download the whitepaper

Watch the presentation

Online Community for Association Professionals

A new community for association professionals has launched at www.answers.net.au.

With an interface similar to Facebook, this site is a collaborative effort by the association community to develop a piece of software that will enable associations to build better online member communities.

By creating a site that meets the needs of association professionals, we are also creating a piece of software that will suit the needs of their members.

This site already has a number of innovative features. For example, any site participant can connect to the payment gateway (in about 1 minute) and generate income through the site (eg: by running their own events, selling resources, selling products).

Soft launched in late April 2020, there has been strong feedback and engagement from the over 400 association professionals already on the platform. As a result, after you log-in, you will see a lot of new features and functionality going live each week.

We recommend heading across to www.answers.net.au and taking a look for yourself 🙂