Dear State Association Leader,
We here at ACTE headquarters wish you a happy fall and hope all is well with you. This In the Lead will focus on membership. It is integral to recruit and maintain members, and this issue of In the Lead will focus on membership by addressing Membership Recruitment and Retention, Membership Processing, Record Keeping Using a Database, and Connecting With Members. But first, let's talk about giving your members the red carpet treatment, and what social media teaches us about making an organization more human.
Giving Your Members the Red Carpet Treatment
By N. Susan Emeagwali
Creating a culture of good customer service is imperative to keeping your members happy, so why then are many organizations so bad at it. In the July issue of Associations Now, the Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) outlines how it maintains a high level of customer service for its members.
"Over the last few years we have injected a strong dose of member service into every interaction we have with members," writes Miranda Barrett, vice president of membership development at EO.
Among the lessons that EO has learned and may help your organization, is to never stop putting your best foot forward; that means getting the right staff and to never stop training them. EO has brought in several customer-service experts to talk with the 65-member staff at EO. The staff is also encouraged to read books that they can discuss with each other to foster further learning and improvement. Those staff who go above and beyond are recognized for their efforts.
Mistakes are opportunities to learn, writes Barrett. That's why the staff at EO is trained to react to mistakes appropriately. EO sends out surveys to members about customer service, and among the responses are usually a few members who are upset about something. When the organization gets the feedback about what is upsetting the member, it is able to address whatever happened-which could range from them not being able to get into the Web site to someone who did not get a new member kit-in a manner that builds the relationship between the member and EO.
Being proactive means engaging in "systematic outreach to show you care," Barrett notes. Among the ways to be proactive, is never forgetting to say "thank you" to the member. Two years ago, EO reached out to each member with a personal call, and they are considering doing it again this year following its upcoming membership renewal cycle.
"That means reaching out to more than 7,000 members in 40 countries to thank them for renewing," Barrett writes, "It is a huge challenge in terms of time and manpower, but we made the decision that it was in line with our value of member service.
Lastly, measuring your progress is integral to knowing just how far you've come, and how much farther you need to go when it comes to good member service. EO uses surveys which are compared to previous years to track the mood of members toward staff and the association. Fifty-five percent of members responded to the most recent survey, and members rated their interactions with staff on a scale of one to 10; the average has gone from 7.7 to 8.2 in the last year, Barrett reports. Creating metrics is another way to measure efforts. The metrics collect data on issues such as the average response time to an e-mail in the general mailbox and how long it takes staff to respond to internal requests.
Barrett notes that these and other measures taken have resulted in great results.
"Our retention rate stayed between 85 percent and 90 percent in a down economy. Our survey ratings on staff interactions improve every year. Our team seeks out positive interactions with members. We're never going to be finished with this initiative, but it's the right path for us."
Social Media Teaches About Making Organizations More Human-centric
By N. Susan Emeagwali
Who would have thought that social media could teach us a thing or two about humanizing organizations? An article in the September/October issue of Associations Now notes that social media has not only brought down boundaries between people all over the world, allowing them to communicate like no other time in recorded history, it has also showed that organizations have not focused in on the core of our being-our humanity. So when something-say Facebook-comes along appealing to our need to connect-something at the core of our humanity-it is no wonder that it can become an indelible part of our daily lives.
The key to social media's success, according to the article, is that it fosters relationships. The article's author, Jamie Notter writes, "Social media abandoned the traditional mindset and assumptions of our machine-based organizations and has instead embraced ideas that are much more consistent with what it means to be human. In social media, relationships matter. So does trust. So do things like meaning, humor, transparency, authenticity, and creativity."
So what does this mean for an association like yours? Notter and Maddie Grant are the authors of a new book, Humanize: How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World. We need to learn how to become more people-focused. The authors have used their experiences to develop a framework for association leaders to humanize their organizations; the framework's four tenets are that an organization be:
Notter notes in the article that these qualities are critical to our growth as humans, and thus are imperative for an association's growth. Being "open" means being decentralized. Machine-oriented organizations do not like flexibility and the inherent openness of an organic system. But people-centric organizations "understand the value of a flat hierarchy that enables action. They also understand the nuances of 'systems thinking' and apply it in all of their internal processes."
In terms of being trustworthy, traditional organizations do not openly share information. Instead information is spun to deliver the right message. This has created an organizational culture in which what's real and what's a façade cannot be discerned from each other. Trustworthy organizations, however, embrace transparency, making certain that information flows across boundaries and up and down levels, Notter says.
Generative organizations continue to create and grow, as opposed to being stagnant. "In the machine world, you don't look for generative. You look for repeatable, efficient and consistent. You require approval before anything new is generated," Notter writes. If social media has taught us anything, it is that inclusiveness fosters innovation and creativity. Generative organizations also build processes that maximize collaboration and build relationships.
Courageous organizations take risks. Dysfunction within organizations is usually based on fear, Notter says. People-centric organizations embrace learning above egos, quick answers and sound bites. They experiment and take healthy risks; they encourage their employees to grow and embrace change.
So are you the kind of leader who is building a state association that is Open, Trustworthy, Generative and Courageous?
This next section of In the Lead will focus on ACTE STATE ASSOCIATION membership by addressing Membership Recruitment and Retention, Membership Processing, Record Keeping Using a Database, and Connecting With members.
Membership Recruitment and Retention
There is nothing more important to a membership organization than the recruitment and retention or members. Here are some tips when dealing with recruitment.
Gather data-How much do you know about your current members? How long have they been
members? What's the average amount of time they stay members? Where are they from (i.e.,
geographic, discipline area, type of school)? The more you know about your current members, the more you will be able to craft and successfully launch a recruitment campaign.
Where is your opportunity?-After you have more knowledge about your current members, you should be able to see where you have opportunities. If all of your members are in comprehensive high schools, look to career centers, community colleges and trade schools. If your members tend to be focused in just a few disciplines, how might you expand into other areas?
Define your audience-Once you have located your opportunities, you must define your audience.
Who are you going after for membership? What do they need? What is missing for them?
Develop a plan/resources-If you know you have a big opportunity in postsecondary, you have to develop a plan on how to recruit these potential members and what you may need to develop or deliver to sell them on your Association. At this point you should also set a goal-a 10 percent growth, or nine new members, or every Division will increase its membership. With a goal, you have something against which you can measure your progress.
Execute the plan-Your recruitment plan should include a timeline and a list of activities that will help you realize your goal. It should be as detailed as possible so that you are following the overall plan. If people don't know the "why" of what you are doing, they won't get behind you. This goes for internal staff, as well as potential recruits. Keep in mind the other activities that you are already doing and how they might integrate into what you are doing. If you have a publication, how might you use that in the campaign? If you have a meeting, what might you do there? Try to keep the activities coherent and understandable-don't just jump all over the place.
Look for resources-Look for any and all resources you can to help with your membership
recruitment. A quick search on Amazon or at American Society of Association Executives will yield a plethora of resources and ideas to use to help in your recruitment efforts.
Now let's take a quick look into retention. Most people believe that retention starts after someone becomes a member. The fact is that retention begins before someone joins your association. It's your Web site, the recruitment materials you have sent, your presence at another meeting or event. These resonate with people long before they decide to join. Here are some pointers and ideas related to retention:
Collect the data-Here we go again with data. If you don't know who is leaving or why, it's hard to address those who are leaving. As an idea, ACTE sends a quick survey to its non-renewed members each month. The nice thing is that, each month, we get a number of people who reply that they simply forgot to renew. This is easiest and cheapest retention tool we have.
Gather feedback-One of the questions on any renewal survey should be related to needs and wants. Or, better yet, what keeps you up at night as an educator? If you can get the answers to these types of
questions, you will be on your way to developing and/or providing for your potential members.
Keep communicating-Always communicate with your members. Let them know what is happening in the association and in the industry. When you survey your members, let them know the results. An open-door communication policy will go a long way with keeping your members engaged.
Provide involvement-How can members get involved? If you have a complicated and hierarchical system, you will lose a lot of new members right away. Are there long applications or steps to go through to volunteer? If so, you might want to rethink that or come up with ways people can easily get involved.
Look for resources-Look for any and all resources you can to help with your membership
recruitment. A quick search on Amazon or at American Society of Association Executives will yield you a plethora of resources and ideas you can use to help in your retention efforts.
In processing memberships, it is imperative to create a defined schedule according to renewal terms to optimize the potential for renewals. These business rules should be set in conjunction with the structure as defined in the organization's bylaws. Business rules should also be established to ensure consistency and accuracy.
Dues Invoicing Timetable Sample
First Membership Notice
* Sent to everyone
set to expire in
one month (near
30 days notice)
Second Membership Notice
* Sent to everyone
set to expire in
two months (near
60 days notice)
Expired Membership Notice
* Sent to everyone
expired 90 days
Prior to the 10th of every month, a sample process for membership notices is as follows:
Membership cards are printed and mailed daily, immediately following the completion of entering the payment information. If your organization utilizes electronic means for invoicing, it is prudent to test that method prior to implementation to ensure either they reach the full audience successfully or there is an alternative method in place to ensure all information is received by the intended recipients.
ACTE uses iMIS as our association management software. iMIS is a complete, upgradeable, Web-based, nonprofit business software system used by more than 2,500 companies/associations. Custom Web enhancements have been created to simplify transmission of state dues information directly into the ACTE database. There are currently two options available for state leader's use:
*SCM (State Customization Module)-Log in and view all your state member records! This information can be exported, updated and transmitted directly into the ACTE database over the Web site. SCM has been used by seven states (KY, WV, IN, WY, NV, SC and OH); 10 other states use the SCM to confirm and update information in their member records (NE, GA, CO, CA, WA, OK, UT, MI, AK and KS).
*SIM (State Import Module)-Just send an Excel spreadsheet of your formatted membership information, and ACTE performs an import process directly into our database! This option virtually eliminates data-entry errors, as the information is never re-entered. SIM has been used by 10 states (OK, GA, VA, OH, MN, TX, IL, WI, WA and UT).
For more information, contact LeAnn Wilson at email@example.com or 703-683-9347.
A database is a structured collection of records or data that is stored in a computer system. The structure is achieved by organizing the data according to a database model. The model in most common use today is the relational model. Other models, such as the hierarchical model and the network model, use a more explicit representation of relationships.
For ACTE, our database is structured by relationship and type: Dues, Event Registration, Orders, Exhibits and Accounts Receivable. The relationship of dues is most commonly used to determine the pricing type for registrations, orders, exhibits and accounts receivable. The database also provides the source data for online transactions and, again, utilizes the structured relationship and type. A sample database structure is as follows:
- Member Type (Member, Non-Member)
- Status (Active, Inactive)
- Category (Member, Retired Member, Student Member)
Dues payments are stored in tables with defined criteria as sampled in the State Financial Detail in the Appendix:
- National Dues
- National Division
- State Dues
- State Division
Databases may also house full contact data, demographic data, financial data and historical data.
The basic structure to the database should provide adequate tables to clearly define all possible relationships to produce accurate data output.
Connecting With Members As stated above, communication is the key element to any membership organization. If members and potential members don't know about your association, how do you expect them to join or renew? The most effective way to let them know about you is to communicate. Over the last 10 years, this has gotten very complicated. Five years ago, did anyone know about Twitter, Facebook or YouTube? Now, these are all regular ways people communicate. Discussing these options could take a very long, but suffice it to say that the most important aspect of any new communication vehicle is to really look at it and determine how it will fit into your communication mix and how well it will resonate with your members.
A. Newsletters-Most associations have some sort of newsletter, with many of them being online. The key element when looking at newsletters is that they be published on a regular basis-whether that is daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly. Nothing is more aggravating than not knowing when a publication is going to arrive. When designing the content for any newsletter, the driving force should be what your members want or need (hence the need for surveying, which will be discussed below). You also want the content to be catchy and appealing so people will read what you have to share. Typically (and this is more informational than gospel), here is what is in most newsletters:
a. Opening-Either from the president or executive director. This piece sets the tone for the publication.
b. Legislative Update-For the CTE community, this is a very important piece and it gives your members an update on what is happening or what needs action.
c. Calendar-Of what events happening now or will be happening soon need members to be aware?
d. Compelling Content-Find an issue your members are dealing with and provide them with some article or at the very least, some resources they can use.
e. Reports-Many newsletters offer some sort of report, maybe from a meeting or event, maybe from a section, Division or Region, or maybe from a committee or the board.
f. Awards-Who got what award or what deadlines are coming up?
B. Electronic Communication-As was mentioned earlier, many associations are moving toward
electronic newsletters as a way to reduce costs and provide members with information in a timelier manner. With electronic newsletters, the thing to remember is that you can give readers more information and resources in a faster way. By hyperlinking your newsletter text, you can send readers directly to the resources without them having to type in a URL. Here are a couple of things to remembers about electronic communication:
a. Blocking-There are many firewalls that block content. Make sure your members know where the messages will be coming from and how to allow your messages to get through.
b. Size Matters-There are many servers and systems that don't allow huge files to get through, so be mindful of how large a file or message you are sending.
c. Don't Attach-If you are sending material out to a large group, don't attach any documents or pdfs. This often triggers spam filters. Instead, post the information to a Web site and send the URL.
d. Here are a few more communication vehicles you might want to check out:
- Twitter (www.twitter.com)-micro-blogging site
- YouTube (www.youtube.com)-video-sharing site
- Facebook (www.facebook.com)-social networking site
- Second Life (www.secondlife.com)-virtual (avatar-driven) networking site
- Blogging-There are a number of free or inexpensive blogging sites out there.
- Podcasting-There are a number of free or inexpensive podcast hosting option out there.
- Webinars-There are a number of options on this front, from live, real-time events to
- pre-recorded video-based sessions that are archived on the Web.
- Webcasts to video podcasts to Webinars-The best approach here would be to explore
- and see what works for you.
To get a sense of how these technologies work, check out www.commoncraft.com. This site has great, simple videos that explain all of these technologies.
Additional information on e-media communication is available in the E-media section.
C. Surveys-Other than talking face-to-face with your members, there is probably no better way to learn what they need and want than through surveying. There are two important things you need to know about surveying:
a. Surveying Is a Science-There is a science behind surveying and survey question writing. That being said, you don't have to be a scientist or a professional question writer to get valuable
information from your members. The first step would be to do a quick Google search on survey question writing. This will pull up a whole host of resources for you. The second step would be to write out your questions and then do a small test. This will let you know if the questions you are asking will result in the information you seek. Lastly, be aware of the data. Just because members say they want something does not mean they will pay for it if you offer it. Be aware of the questions, how you are asking them and what the results are telling you or fail to tell you.
b. Don't Survey for Surveying's Sake-While it is great to survey members, remember that they are taking time out of their day to respond to your questionnaire. As such, remember to close
the loop with them by reporting out the results of the survey and what you plan to do with the information. As for how to survey, that can be done a number of ways, including in person, in print and electronic. If you are going electronic, a quick Google search of "online survey" will yield a number of resources. A couple of the more popular are:
i. Survey Monkey-www.surveymonkey.com
iii. Survey Gizmo-www.surveygizmo.com
ACTE also provides a survey option through Constant Contact. For more information about utilizing ACTE's survey service, please contact ACTE headquarters.
D. State Annual Report-Most people understand and expect Wall Street and publicly traded companies to issue an annual report. For obviously different reasons, associations should also issue an annual report. An annual report is an excellent way to remind your members of the benefits they received over the course of the previous year. It can also pave the way for the future by explaining to members what the association's priorities are and in what activities the association will engage over the next 12 months.
An annual report is also an excellent time to let the members know about the association's
financial picture. ACTE at the national level has an independent audit done each year and publishes the auditor's final report in the magazine and on the Web site. In addition, ACTE provides copies of the annual report during the Association's Assembly of Delegates. As a non-profit association, it is important to let your members know how their dues are being spent and how well the association is being managed financially. Annual reports can take any number of forms. ACTE has traditionally developed a theme and showcased the Association's activities around that theme with bulleted lists. Other associations have four-color, glossy paper publications that are more dialogue. And, of course, there is everything in between.
To check out some other annual reports and to give you an idea of what they can be, visit www.nonprofitannualreports.net/annual_report_samples.htm. A copy of ACTE's Annual Report is also included in the Appendix.
State Association Meetings at Annual Convention
Wednesday, November 16
7:30 a.m. - 8:45 a.m.
Committee/Task Force Breakfast
America's Center, Room 132
6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
President's Appreciation Open House
Renaissance Hotel, Crystal Ballroom
Thursday, November 17
12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Assembly of Delegates Slate Meeting
America's Center, Room 130
4:15 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.
Town Hall Meeting
America's Center, Room 124
Friday, November 18
4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Assembly of Delegates
America's Center, Room 130
10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
State Association Presidents Networking
America's Center, Room 105
12:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. (RSVP Required by November 1)
State Association Leadership Luncheon
America's Center, Room 100
Saturday, November 19
1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
State Association Leadership Training
Renaissance Hotel, Portland/Benton Room
|In The Lead is an e-mail newsletter produced by the ACTE Member Programs department for ACTE members and interested non-members.
Replies: Contact Susan Emeagwali