WHITEPAPER – Rise! Empowering Australian workers through the collective spirit and collaborative energy of unions.

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 🙂

VIDEO: “Reshaping Associations – The Impact of the Pandemic on Membership Models”

In this webinar Belinda will discuss how the gradual shift from traditional membership models (service provider models) to community membership models (including subscription models) has accelerated with the pandemic. This session will cover the major factors impacting change and how different are adapting their membership models to the new operating environment.

Watch the video.

VIDEO: Creating a Pandemic Management Strategy for Your Association

This is a recording of the 45 minute webinar run on Friday 27 March. In the association sector, the wide-spread cancellation of events is having a major impact on the financial sustainability of many associations. We are already experiencing a massive flow across the economy as a myriad of jobs and other opportunities that associations support are being lost. Association staff are having to grapple with cancelling major events (some at very short notice), moving CPD online, and managing member concerns. “Business as usual” isn’t an option. Most of the people I’ve heard from are concerned about balancing helping members with the need to ensure their financial sustainability. Without a doubt, these are challenging times. But now is also an opportunity for associations to fulfill their primary purpose by being a beacon of hope and support for their communities. In this webinar, Belinda discusses the practical steps associations can take to effectively assist their members and secure the sustainability of their association.

Click here to watch the video.

Click here for a PDF copy of the slides.

TEMPLATE: Free Pandemic Management Strategy Template for Associations

Business as usual is not an option in 2020. Associations wanting to navigate through this crisis need a clear, simple, and focused strategy that delivers powerful value for members while also securing the sustainability of the association. To assist with this, we’ve developed a free Pandemic Strategy for Associations template for associations to use as a starting point for developing their plan for this crisis. Click here to download your copy.

These are the times associations are made for

The impact of COVID-19 is being felt by everyone throughout our community.

We are all dealing with challenges we could not have imagined just a month ago. The whole toilet paper shortage was funny at first. Then I ran out of paper. It got dramatically less funny with each additional store I visited. It became deadly serious when it was apparent that many of the most vulnerable in our society were not able to access this essential item.

In the association section, the wide-spread cancellation of events is having a major impact on the financial sustainability of many associations. We are already experiencing a massive flow across the economy as a myriad of jobs and other opportunities that associations support are being lost. Association staff are having to grapple with cancelling major events (some at very short notice), moving CPD online, and managing the concerns of members.

Download a free Pandemic Management Strategy Template

Register for the free webinar on Creating A Pandemic Management Strategy

“Business as usual” isn’t an option. Most of the association leaders I’ve heard from are concerned about how to balance helping members with the need to ensure their association’s financial sustainability.

Without a doubt, these are challenging times. But now is also an opportunity for associations to fulfil their primary purpose by being a beacon of hope and support for their communities. Associations are doing this by:  

  • Demonstrating strong leadership – People are scared. Their businesses, livelihoods and loved ones are at risk. Through your daily actions and communications give them the confidence that you are in control of the situation.
  • Being the source of truth – People need up-to-date information on the issues that affect them. Be the source of truth by proactively gathering and validating information – then share it quickly on all possible mediums. Become the hub of information on what’s happening. Sharing the government’s latest health information with added messaging as it pertains to your members is a great start.
  • Facilitate connections between members – Your community don’t just want to be passive recipients of information. Provide a mechanism that enables members to share their stories, ask for help, and offer support. This could be something as simple as a Facebook group specific to the pandemic.
  • Actively manage your cashflow – If you don’t have the reserves to carry you through, now is the time to work on your cashflows. Negotiate with the tax office for a delayed payment on your BAS, remove unnecessary upcoming costs, and organise payment plans for other bills. Take the opportunity to shed costly programs that are no longer relevant to members.
  • Deliver tangible value to members that need it most – Identify the most significant challenges each of your member segments must overcome in the coming months. Develop and deliver solutions for those members who need it most. Potentially, there may be opportunities to generate new revenue streams from developing innovative solutions to contribute to you being able to achieve this sustainably.
  • Plan your sponsorship recovery strategy now – Your sponsors will be experiencing the same negative impact as your association and are currently pulling back. When they return to the market their objectives will be different, and you will need to adapt your offering accordingly. There will be significant opportunities available for those who have tailored solutions to answer these needs ready to go. You should already be planning your sponsorship recovery strategy.

There are some silver linings to this crisis. For us, it’s a re-evaluation of how we deliver our services. Jumping on a plane is not an option right now, so we’ve had to make changes. We’ve supported clients via video, teleconference, and email occasionally in the past. Now, with social distancing an imperative, we’ve moved all our services to these platforms for the time being, and it’s working well so far.

If you’d like to talk to us about sponsorship, partnerships, strategy, revenue generation, or membership for your association (or even just have a chat about things) email belinda@smsonline.net.au and we can arrange a time for a chat.

There are tough times ahead and by working together we will get through this. I hope that you, too, will find your silver lining amongst everything that is happening.

BOOK: Association Annie: Herding Cats

Australasia’s first comic strip for Association Executives is now a book! Join Association Annie as she traverses the highs and lows of leading an association. Share the wonders and frustrations of dealing with Boards, staff, members, volunteers, sponsors, and other stakeholders while trying desperately to turn a struggling association into something relevant and sustainable. 

“Association Annie is a tongue-in-cheek look at the world of associations and some of the situations I have found myself (or my association clients) in from time-to-time. In the book you will join Association Annie as she traverses the highs and lows of leading an association. Share the wonders and frustrations of dealing with Boards, staff, members, volunteers, funders, and other stakeholders while trying desperately to turn a struggling association into something relevant and sustainable. All the scenarios are based on (or composites of) real situations the author has seen and experienced while working with associations, charities and other non-profits.” Belinda Moore

The first printed Association Annie comic book, Association Annie: Herding Cats, is available for purchase. You can also download the PDF version free of charge. If you are interested in publishing or sharing any Association Annie cartoons please contact us for permission and attribution guidelines.

WHITEPAPER: Association Apocalypse

The operating landscape of associations is undergoing a seismic shift. Associations need to act now to ensure they can navigate these shifts to emerge stronger and more relevant than ever before. In my new whitepaper, Association Apocalypse, you can read more about the:

  • Six fundamental shifts occurring in the association operating landscape,
  • Three key models associations will need to re-invent, and
  • Eleven core operational enablers associations must get right along the way.

This whitepaper has been designed to assist association leaders to understand the scale of the change coming and create a platform for productive discussions within their associations about appropriate pathways forward. If you have more questions please feel free to contact us to find out how we can assist.

Read the whitepaper.

2019 Horoscope for Association Executives

Interested to know your future for 2019? Concerned about unforeseen surprises that might jump out at you? Worry no more as our 2019 Horoscope for Association Executives will reveal your future …

Aries (Mar 21 – Apr 19)

Many years of database frustrations will be overcome when a Board member will recommend a friend who can actually solve the problem. Just kidding. Your database issues will continue to frustrate you. You will make an executive decision to throw all your computers out the window and revert to managing your membership by card file. Member retention and engagement increases.

Taurus (April 20-May 20)

After experiencing problems retaining members you will undertake a member survey. Overwhelmingly, the members will express disappointment with the fact you do not offer a specific service. You have been offering that service for the past 20 years. You will undertake a major promotion utilising all media channels and a signification portion of your budget to let your members know the desired service exists. Two members will take up the offer.  

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

You will experience a golden moment in time where all your Board members read their board papers and also attend the meeting where a critical issue is being discussed. Unfortunately, due to injuries sustained after being bitten by a rabid Life Member, you will be absent from the Board meeting for the first time ever. The issue will be held over till the next Board meeting. None of your Board will be available to attend.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)

Your Board will run a fantastic strategic planning day and develop a fabulous vision for the future of the association. Unfortunately, as you and your team will not be involved, this will be completely unrealistic and not remotely possible given the financial and staff resourcing of your association. To implement this strategy, you will move into your office to save the time commuting between your bed and work each day. Sales of whiskey and the profitability of UBER Eats in your area will spike. The strategy will not be as lucky.

Leo (July 23-August 22)

The President of your association will make several announcements that will garner significant levels of front-page media coverage around the country. This would have been great news if these announcements had been pre-agreed and conformed to the documented association position on the matter. Over the course of the year you will undertake copious amounts of PR and media skills training. You will have ample opportunity to apply these skills liberally.

Virgo (August 23-September 22)

Your board decides to run your annual conference at an offshore destination. One of your particularly vocal Board members has always wanted to travel to Nigeria. After a robust exchange of views, including your comprehensive assessment of broad range of potential risks, the Board votes. They unanimously decide they would also like a holiday in Nigeria courtesy of your annual conference. The timing is perfect as you will receive an email from a long-lost uncle in Nigeria who has left you nineteen million dollars.

Libra (September 23 – October 22)

You will successfully cultivate a relationship with the Australian Prime Minister and gain commitment for funding to cover all your major programs. This funding will ensure your association will successfully move forward into the future. On the day your funding is due to be approved, the Prime Minister will be deposed by a faction led by a talking donkey. The Australian public will overwhelmingly approve of the new addition to parliament with the consensus being “at least our Prime Minister isn’t as much of an ass as other world leaders”. The donkey eats your application for funding.

Scorpio (October 23-November 21)

The giant white elephant that has been sitting in the middle of your Board table will go berserk. The loss of your favourite mug in the ensuring chaos will be offset by the joy of seeing your most frustrating Board member being chased permanently off into the distance by the elephant. The giant white elephant will return and resume its place in the middle of the table. Everybody will pretend it didn’t happen and it isn’t sitting there. You aren’t at the fun end.

Sagittarius (November 22 – December 21)

You will painstakingly prepare a budget for the new financial year. It will be a stunning piece of work with forecasts carefully created using insights from data that has been thoroughly checked and double checked. Conservatively, you estimate a small surplus for the year. The Board are not happy. They want the budget to show a larger surplus, so they unilaterally quadruple your sponsorship income targets. They will then decline the budget for a sponsorship sales person. Your bonus for the year will be based on achieving the new sponsorship targets.

Capricorn (December 22-January 19)

You will be offered the opportunity to attend the premier international conference for your industry as a guest of the organisers. It will be an opportunity to connect with senior leaders from similar associations to exchange ideas and best practice. You will have the opportunity to present about a project you have personally developed and managed with great success and it will also be a welcome opportunity to take your first holiday in several years. Your President hears about the trip and decides to take your place. She cancels at the last minute and no one from your organisation attends.

Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)

You start a new job at an association. Your new assistant decides she doesn’t like you. When you ask her to schedule a meeting in your calendar she says it’s not in her job description. When you point out that it is in the job description (and that diary management is at the very top of the list) she accuses you of bullying and takes stress leave. She was the only other staff member. She hadn’t told you any of the passwords yet. Her father is the president of the association.

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

You will find yourself in the unusual position of having a fantastic Board, motivated staff, engaged and growing membership base, and growing reserves. It will seem so easy that you will start wondering if you are dreaming. You will pinch yourself and wake up to find a Board member going through your inbox. She’s opened the care package from your mother and has sucked all the chocolate off your choc peanuts. She sees you are awake and offers you a shiny choc-free peanut.

Think this won’t happen to you? Every one of these things (or something very similar) has happened to an association professional during 2018. Every. Single. One.  If you want to guarantee a successful 2019? Take the time to network with other association professionals so, when things go a bit crazy, you’ve got a solid group of people who can help.

All the best for a successful 2019! 

Has It Been THAT Long?

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.