Insights

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  • 7 Feb 2018 8:37 AM | Belinda Moore (Administrator)

    How does the prospect of a significant economic downturn affect the day to day operations of your association?

    Business Models - During a downturn your organisation becomes particularly vulnerable to losses and can easily miss opportunities for gains due to tight financial and staff resources. If you’ve got an ancient business model that is barely surviving the not-so-new millennium, then don’t count on it making it through a downturn. Now is the time to review your business model to ensure you are optimally set up to succeed in the current and future operating environment. I recommend reading Peggy Hoffman’s Mission Driven Volunteer article for more insights on this. It’s a couple of years old but still very relevant.

    Sponsorship & Partnerships - We are seeing big changes in how corporates are seeking to partner with associations. They are investing more money than ever but into fewer partnerships. They want tangible results and creative implementation. They are seeking engagement with the “right” people (rather than a lot of people). They will run screaming from the next person who puts “we will put your logo on our website” as a major potential partnership benefit (seriously … please don’t do this). When you submit a proposal for a partnership you are entering a VERY competitive space. Associations are investing heavily into business partnership programs that are highly professional. You need to ensure your program can compete. (If you’d a copy of a successful proposal to give you an idea of what is out there email me on info@smsonline.net.au).

    Membership – Research has shown that membership is counter-cyclical. People tend to gravitate towards associations during downturns … provided that association is providing tangible value. Now is the time to look at the value you are providing to members. Are you really making a positive difference in their lives? Would they notice if you were gone? If the answer to those questions is “no” then you’ve got serious work to do. Your goal is to ensure you are truly entangled into the lives of your members throughout their career. If you have organisational members, you need to ensure you have multiple points of contact within each organisation - and a relationship with each contact. For membership ideas check out the Membership Managers' Handbook

  • 7 Feb 2018 8:26 AM | Belinda Moore (Administrator)

    With the right approach, great things can be achieved by associations working with few staff and limited financial resources. Following are tips for those wanting to achieve a significant turnaround in their organisational performance.

    1. Prioritise – and stick to it! - You don’t have the resources to be all things to all people. If you try to achieve everything at once you will fail. Plan your turnaround process carefully. Note all the tasks that need to be completed in order of priority. Then start at the top. You will be pressured by people who want their particular interest area prioritised. Don’t feel guilty about saying “no”. Turnarounds are a step-by-step process, and you risk failure by diverting attention and resources away from the tasks that need to be immediately accomplished in order to reach the end goal. 

    2. Don’t just budget – cash flow! – If cash is tight having a budget isn’t good enough. You need to live by your cash flow. This spreadsheet maps out all your anticipated income and expenses. When budgeting be conservative on income and generous on expenses. This gives you a buffer when you hit one of the inevitable speedbumps that will crop up from time to time. Don’t fall into the trap of allowing the inclusion of unrealistic income targets to make the cash flow work.

    3. Ensure you have the right team in place – Having one wrong person on your team can completely derail a turnaround. Ensure you have the right Board, management, and staff in place to effectively plan and execute the turnaround. If there are people on the team who aren’t part of the solution, get rid of them as quickly as possible. For a turnaround to be effective everyone on the team must be working together – and working hard.

    4. Streamline your administration and processing functions – Unnecessary administration diverts valuable time resources and creates the need for costly additional administrative support. If entering into a turnaround phase, first streamline your administrative processes to minimise data entry and automate everyday tasks (such as event registrations and membership processing). Remove barriers to joining and renewing (such as unwieldy application processes). This will provide a solid foundation for future growth. There are a number of low cost, cloud based integrated database and website systems such as www.wildapricot.com that are quick and easy to implement.

    5. Focus on delivering compelling tangible member benefits – Associations that succeed aren’t those with the most benefits. They are the ones that deliver the most value to their members. Identify the most compelling value you can deliver to your existing and prospective members and focus on delivering that. Don’t be distracted by investing resources into minor benefits. Be prepared to let go of the benefits that may have served you well in the past but are no longer compelling to members. If you don’t know what your members currently value, then ask yourself the question … “If our association disappeared overnight what would our members miss?” 

    6. Run awesome events – The symbiotic relationship between successful events and strong membership growth are well recognised.  Make your events the “must attend” for your profession or industry. This means focusing on the details – engaging speakers with great content, compelling programs, innovative formats, fresh venues, great food, and air-conditioning that won’t freeze or boil your delegates.

    7. Seek fewer sponsors at a higher value – Sponsorship seeking takes a lot of effort. Seek a handful of industry exclusive annual partners who are a natural fit for your organisation. Find out how they will measure the success of the arrangement. Structure the partnership to achieve those outcomes. Schedule to catch up with them every couple of months.  Create a situation where you, your members and the partner all win.
    8. Communicate! – Great internal and external communication are critical to an effective turnaround process. This isn’t just sending out the occasional update to staff or members. Communication is a two-way street. Get your key stakeholders involved in the process. Get them passionate about the purpose you are trying to achieve, get them actively involved in implementing the plan, and (very importantly) take the time to celebrate each successful step along the way.  A turnaround is a team effort that is made more successful when all team members are enthusiastically pulling in the same direction.    
  • 7 Feb 2018 8:24 AM | Belinda Moore (Administrator)

    When email first became popular, we were all excited about this new communication medium. It was cheap and you could send millions of emails with the click of a button. It was a big bandwagon that everyone jumped on. And that’s the problem. People are now so inundated with email that response rates for all but the most innovative communicators are dropping - and response rates from well-crafted direct mail increasing.

    The cost savings and potential reach are so attractive that we’ve seen many associations leap with both feet into entirely electronic communications to members without first testing to concept. Please note that “testing” doesn’t mean “asking your members if they’d prefer electronic communications”. That kind of approach doesn’t account for the subtleties of membership engagement as evidenced by the following example:

    A client was interested in moving to electronic communication. We recommended they first test the impact. They asked members who would prefer electronic communications.  100 of the members who opted for no hard copy communications were sent only electronic communications – including an e-magazine. 100 of the members who opted for no hard copy communications continued to receive all hard copy communications.

    At the end of two full renewal cycles the control group who had continued to receive hard copy communications had been retained at the same rate as previous years. The retention rate of the group who had received only electronic communications was zero. Not a single member from that group had been retained. This was a truly shocking result. While I believe there were multiple factors that led to this startling outcome, we concluded that a significant factor was that the process of receiving a magazine (even one likely not to be read) was still powerful enough to reinforce the value of membership enough to encourage renewal for that association.

    Electronic communications are just a single tool in your communications toolbox. Consider how you can most effectively, and economically, use all the tools at your disposal. Some associations have become quite clever at integrating their hard copy and electronic communications. One client has a process where the initial communication is sent via email. A hard copy communication is only sent to those recipients who didn’t click through from the initial email. This is a clever way to ensure your message has been received.

    The focus of your communications should be on delivering information that is useful, interesting, or compelling for your members (not something you consider interesting about yourselves). As you are competing with a myriad of other formats and content, you need to utilise a variety of communication channels and formats to ensure your communications reach the recipient.

    Follow up ...  After posting this article I received the following feedback from John Innes at Think in the UK: “Our research has shown that over 85% of members engage with a printed magazine while, after six months, only 10% engage with digital replicas and on-screen page turners. This underlines the need to create a suite of content that is tailored to the pros and cons of each medium."

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

    Potential sponsors don't sit at their desks all day waiting for your proposal to arrive. 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.

    A good proposal is a particularly useful step where little or no prior relationship exists with the potential partner. A compelling proposal can be an invaluable tool for enticing the other party to the table by making them excited to learn more about you. Once it has completed that task, it is up to you to build a strong personal relationship with the prospective sponsor and turn that interest into a long term, mutually successful partnership.

    The focus of your proposal will change depending on the value of the money you are seeking. 

    High-value partnership proposal – When seeking a high value partnership, there will generally be a significant amount of tailoring required. The purpose of a high-value proposal is to get the prospective sponsor excited about the prospect of meeting with you to speak further. To achieve this, you should outline the potential benefits of working with you without being overly prescriptive regarding the opportunities. These specifics will be worked out in collaboration with the partner once they have determined they are interested and then documented in a formal agreement. This kind of proposal typically includes: a covering letter, a cover page, a positioning statement, an overview of opportunities, a list of key contacts, testimonials, and some indication of pricing.

    Low-value partnership proposal -  When seeking a lower value sponsorship you can shorten the sales cycle by being more prescriptive about what the partner receives (as long as it is tangible and nothing as naff as just putting their logo somewhere). This kind of proposal is often used in Annual Partner programs where an association may have a number of partners they manage. This kind of proposal includes everything outlined above, with more detail on the benefits to the partner (rather than just an overview of opportunities), as well as an application form containing terms and conditions. Once the signed application form and payment is returned this becomes the contract for the arrangement.

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