Workforce Motivation

Caution on Conventional Wisdom about Millennials (482 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Caution on Conventional Wisdom about Millennials

Conventional Wisdom about Millennials

Is your conventional Wisdom about Millennials accurate? Just as bald white male baby boomers are not all the same—neither are millennials. One would be wise in considering this in member recruitment and retention. To paint such a broad-brush stroke is to leave many behind. While everyone, every generation, every color wants value from their membership—not all are viewing your membership organization from the same kaleidoscope of value.

For several years now I have been reading the endless fountain of articles on understanding Generation Y. These articles talk about millennials growing up with hovering (helicopter) parents and being immersed in technology. They want among other things:

  • A seat at the C-suite table—NOW
  • Inclusion for all
  • Meaningful work within their jobs
  • Prefer cause related organizations
  • Entrepreneurial opportunity
  • Extreme experiences at corporate, association and society meetings
  • Online supported relationships near and far
  • A sharing economy rather than ownership of stuff
  • Freedom

Well now, who wouldn’t the above? Let’s face it, all generations (painting with my broad brush) desire the above—but do they?

Raising Millennial Children

First up, I have two millennial sons and I’ll categorically state that the above is not their job or association shopping list. Sure each might desire some of the above and yet each has different perspectives and desires. Heck, two millennial men from the same household do not agree on all of the above. With that, how in the world can the “generational gurus” state “millennials want X, Y and Z”?

In raising our Y Generation sons, my wife and I relied on authoritative help in “understanding age-appropriate behavior” which was also a broad-brush perspective. The assumption was that the child was being raised in a nurturing North American home. For the first year or two, the information was helpful but after that “child’s personality and parenteral influence” had a greater influence on behavior thereby leaving the authoritative help—less helpful.

Today’s Millennials Are Diverse

Generation Y, perhaps more than the generations that were before, have had easy opportunity to learn from far more resources that that of traditional education. As such, some embraced the opportunities and others did not. Some became aware without education, some unaware with education and some aware and educated. Each of the three paradigms delivers different perspective to the workforce. Add to that geographical, gender, athletics and other various endeavors and you have quite a diverse generation. To state that “millennials want X, Y or Z” is to speak from a lack of knowledge and understanding. Humans are individuals.

Regardless of whether you are hiring a millennial to work at your association or attempting to influence them to join your organization the core truth is this—not everybody is the same and to paint people with a broad-brush is to make erroneous assumptions. Value means different things to different people. Keep this in mind as you make the decisions that will affect your association, its staff and members.

The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.

The Will to Perform

The Will to Perform-Association Volunteer Leaders (539 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

The Will to Perform

Oh how things have changed, where has the will to perform gone?

The association world was once filled with members that pretty much did everything…and if they were lucky, they could afford an executive secretary…mostly to keep the clerical in order. Today, that executive secretary, in many associations enjoys the CEO title. This is because they really do act as the CEO of the association. The chief staff executive runs the HQ office and directs the staff to achieve what members (volunteer leaders) once did themselves.

But, what about the members, are they still doing their share? In too many circles, an observer would have to answer with, no they are not. Today everyone’s world is compressed—we are all trying to do too much in too little time. It is common to hear among the volunteer leaders, “The staff will do it; it’s their job. “ This sentiment is heard across the association-sphere, regardless of how full the staff members’ plates are.

Let’s bring this discussion to membership. While we all “mouth” that membership is important and it is the life-blood of an association…our actions do not always demonstrate this. In too many associations, and let’s be honest, membership is an afterthought or the department gets far less than necessary resources, attention, and prestige.

While the above can also be said for other departments in associations, membership in my experience is the most egregious.

What can we do? First, we must embrace that in today’s world of associations—there must be a partnership between staff and volunteer leaders in each silo/department of the organization. This is where the Will to Perform is most crucial. If either side of the partnership does not perform, trust is lost and the partnership is ineffective. Staff has to abandon the, “I have a life” as well as volunteer leaders must abandon the, “I’m just a volunteer; I have a job or a company to run.” Neither of these excuses for lack of performance is acceptable.

While this idea can be extrapolated throughout the organization into all silos/departments, specific to membership, we must communicate to our volunteer leaders and staff alike that, Membership is Everybody’s Business. We are all in this together and together we will resolve all issues. Members of today, unfortunately, have been trained by staff to expect everything to be done by staff. Moving forward, this must be changed.

Give your members a precious jewel. All volunteer leaders need a reason to perform before they can muster up within themselves the Will to Perform. What is the core value to them and the organization for them to desire to perform well? In the membership silo/department it is this—membership is a good business, financial, and career decision. If the association’s CEO can broadcast this message in a way that staff and volunteer leaders accept as a precious jewel that membership is a good business decision and held close to the heart—then it can and will be shared with others—the uninitiated.

If you are an association CEO, Executive Director, Executive Vice President—the chief staff executive, your job is to demonstrate in deed, more than in word, that Membership is Everybody’s Business and that membership in your organization is a Good Business, Financial and/or Career Decision. (c) 2017

The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.

Will the Real Leader Please Stand? (1016 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Real Leadership

Real Leadership

Real leadership should be the beacon for today’s organizational leaders as they have much working against their success. Sometimes leaders can be their own worst enemy. However, this is not cause to crawl under a rock and hunker down for the duration of these difficult times. Sure, the press almost daily is exposing yet another dishonest corporate executive, especially in the financial industries, but that’s not you. Business enjoyed a good half-decade run, following the 911 recovery, and here we are again up to our, rear-ends in alligators. Today, more than ever, is the time for action—for demonstrating to your employees that you have a plan—even if you don’t. Get out of sluggishness and into action, today!

Real Leadership…Make Your Rain Making Visible

Similar to the Native American rain dances of old, they were never performed in isolation, but in view of the tribe; to give the members of the tribe hope—your people need to see you leading the charge in action, not just in words. To build confidence within the people of your organization, they have to visually see your efforts to turn things around, including your personal rain making efforts. This gives them the hope they need to persevere during the current cuts, challenges, and fears caused by today’s economic realities.

This lesson was learned at Mitsubishi Motor Sales of North America, in the early 1990s—the executives learned the hard way; wasting one entire year in their efforts to change the organizational culture. The lesson learned was simple: people believe what they see, not what they hear. The executives were telling everyone what they wanted to happen but were not living the vision themselves.

Similarly, a friend’s mistake has always stayed with me. He and his investors went bankrupt on a golf course project in the 1970s. Their 20/20 hindsight revealed that their mistake was that of spending their money building the golf course before they built the club house. Potential members could not see the progress from the earth moving in the distance so many decided not to act on the special pre-opening offer; money the group badly needed to finish the project. Most people have to see it to believe.

Real Leadership…What’s Old Might be New

Robert Rickenbach, owner of a fiber optics connector fabrication company discovered that the railroad in India could use his connectors in a different application than for which they were originally designed and opened an unexpected international market for his company. What about you? What unexpected, or explored, markets could benefit from your products, services, and other offerings?

In your effort to develop new markets, new applications, and/or new products and services, how much time have you spent? It has been said by persons wiser than I, that most people spend more time planning their vacation than they spend planning their life. What about the success of your organization? How much time have you spent in REAL product/market development strategic planning sessions? For most, not much is the honest answer.

Who can help? The quick answer is: your suppliers, your employees, and your customers. Sometimes innovation is a happy accident and sometimes it is the result of intense organizational processes, individual champions, and intellectual properties—and most times, a result of tireless hard work. What are you doing to innovate?

Back in the mid-1990s I served as a trainer for the Dunn & Bradstreet Foundation, delivering full-day public seminars throughout the USA. One of the exercises I conducted when doing a seminar within a company required an unorthodox approach to problem solving. Interestingly, it was never the organization’s leader that came up with the solution but rather others generally in administrative or support positions. Proof for me that leaders need to encompass all in their organization for solutions to today’s pressing challenges.

Real Leadership…Your Responsibility and Accountability

Let’s face it; nobody really enjoys the mirror being brought up close. However, in times like we are now facing, that is exactly what is needed. No matter how good a leader you might be, you know that you can do better. And, if you are a lousy leader, you are unlikely to be reading this article. Listed below are some of the pitfalls, conscious or unconscious, to leading in a recession:

  • Not being aware of the depth of your organization’s situation.
  • Not having a “rainy day” contingency plan.
  • Not being open to innovation in market, product, and process.
  • Not honestly looking in the mirror.
  • Living off past glory.
  • Expecting others to act as rain makers.
  • Hunkering down expecting the current economic situation to quickly blow over like a tropical storm.

Your “to do” list should include the following:

  • Honest evaluation of your organizations current situation through the traditional SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis process with your company’s stakeholders; first your employees, then with your suppliers, and last with your customers. Oh yes, and LISTEN! Generally the SWOT analysis is done only in the bubble of the executive suite, thereby missing needed additional perspectives.
  • Step it up and lead the charge, even if it is only activity for activity’s sake. Activity begets enthusiasm, if positioned correctly and your employees see that you are putting in the time.
  • Look to other industries for answers in as much as you can adapt ideas. It is foolish to think you can adopt, however adaptation is an important form of innovation that will serve you well.

If your organization is zipping along, perhaps you have already conducted the steps necessary to thrive? Perhaps this article is merely an affirmation that you are on the right track? However, if your company is struggling—it might mean that your leaders, or you, have been asleep at the wheel. The good news is that there might be enough time to turn things around and put your company back on the productive path. Plant this thought in your subconscious mind: your employees have been there for you, helping you to make your organization what it had been. Don’t you think you owe it to them to show up and rebuild? It’s their livelihood also!

Association CSEs Must be Entrepreneurial (1093 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Collaboration

Entrepreneurial Collaboration

Collaboration is a mindset…it’s actually entrepreneurial collaboration…some get it instantly, but it often takes people attending several of my seminars for my partnering concepts to sink in…and unfortunately, some never get it. For association and society Chief Staff Executives (CSE), this is huge!

Helping people to see personal value in changing their paradigm can be a thankless job. Why is it that people cling so dearly to the lifeline of their comfort zone? They do so simply because it is just that–comfortable.

I Joined the National Speakers Association as a professional member in 1988. I have since, regularly presented at association conventions, conferences and other association meetings across North America. In that time I have met some stellar association executives and staff. And, I have had to work with a few that were less than optimal. While I’m sure the same can be said about speakers, nevertheless, this article is about association executives helping to deliver more value to their members.

Recently, I was presenting to a room full of association executive directors on the subject of associations delivering value to their members—an important subject today. Unfortunately, only half of the executive directors registered at the conference even cared attended. That blew me away! Apparently they knew all there was to know about membership retention already? Now there is a telling sign…

While a large number of the attendees were open to exploring methods of delivering high-level member value, still there were several “closed” people in the room. Forcing association executives to look in the mirror and deal with association survival issues was at best, difficult. This, I believe, is part of the reason that today so many associations are experiencing membership decline. Generally, it is easier to blame the problem on industry consolidation or other outside factors over which one has no control.

In the November 2001 issue of Association Management magazine there was an article about why members do not renew. The article stated that American Society of Association Executives’ research revealed the following reasons for association members not renewing:

  • Business closed/merged–12%
  • Change of profession-15%
  • Cannot determine-16%
  • Dues too high-17%
  • Not enough time to use member benefits-7%
  • Services no longer relevant-17%
  • Other-16%

In my opinion, the only “non-value” issue is the business closing or change of profession. All the remaining reasons loudly say, “Not enough perceived value!” Over 73% of the non-renewing members said, “Not enough perceived value.” Why are association executive directors and volunteer leadership not listening?

First, many Executive Directors still prefer to simply be administrators rather than entrepreneurs–that’s a huge problem. A new breed of entrepreneurial association management executives is necessary for today’s associations to survive and prosper. The old glad-handing at the annual meeting is no longer relevant to most members, especially younger members.

During one of my member value presentations to a group of association executive directors, I could not believe how many association executive attendees wanted to argue about insignificant points rather than to focus on the solutions offered, especially when I took them through the actual process of determining the actual association value in real dollars—a process that each executive director should greatly desire to take back to their own association. In an era when association executive directors must be part of the solution in showing value to members, so many still do not get it.

Second, if an association is only willing to pay for a secretary or baby-sitter, then the volunteer leadership should not, and cannot, expect anything more–I have seen this challenge all too often. Volunteer boards of directors also have to get real.  Entrepreneurs, rather than administrators, make things happen, and want to be paid for their skill and results. Baby-sitters, they are not!

Third, change is difficult. Leaving one’s comfort zone is, unfortunately for some, near impossible. These are the hard challenges that face today’s association executive directors. The days of saying, “Volume solves most problems,” are gone. Visit for more articles on trade association and professional society success.

For association volunteer leadership:

  • Have a long-term strategic and review it yearly. Keep what is valuable and change what is not. Do not shift with the wind, meaning each president or chair must not select a new and different direction at the onset of his or her term.
  • With an executive director, you get that for which you are willing to pay.
  • The board should conduct a Relationship Value Update with its executive director at a minimum, yearly.
  • The board collectively should, at a minimum, each year speak to every member over the telephone asking about the value received the member that year.
  • Be true leaders. Don’t cop-out and say, “I’m just a volunteer, I’m too busy.” If you are too busy to be a leader in your association, why in the world did you accept a leadership role? Could it be ego? Why does your lack of planning have to become a crisis for your executive director? Do not expect your executive director and staff to do it all.

For association executive directors:

  • Rather than focus on job protection, focus on helping the volunteer leadership to deliver the highest level of real value to your association members. What is real value? The value they want. If you are delivering the necessary value, they will want you for life.
  • If you are regimented enough to be a superior administrator and flexible enough to excel as an entrepreneur, you will operate in that “sweet spot” where the two seemingly opposing circles of interest overlap. That where the organizational magic emanates from.
  • Is it your association? Or, does it belong to the members? That can be a much more difficult question than you might think. “Sure,” you say, “It belongs to the members.” And, do your actions say the same thing?
  • Executive directors must be skilled and seasoned politicians, a job I, myself do not do well. Yet, there is a time to collaborate, and there is a time to lead with a firm grip. Knowing which, and when, is the secret.
  • Like the board of directors, the executive director and staff too must yearly communicate with each and every member.

While the above is not a magic solution for the ills of many of today’s associations, the ideas will deliver a greatly improved perception of value from the eyes of your association members. And as I always say in my seminars, “The conversation I have with myself about you is my reality.” The same holds true with your members’ conversation about you…

The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.

Valuing Your Contrarians; How to Harness Their Vigor to Grow Your Association (798 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

The ROI of Membership

A recent meetings industry headline stated, “ASAE Adds Diversity Officer.” The article stated, “…the American Society of Association Executives and the Center for Association Leadership announced that a 20-year veteran…has been named director of diversity and inclusion.”

I have a suspicion that finding ways to offer inclusiveness to contrarian association members is not necessarily top-of-the-list for ASAE’s new Diversity Officer. Perhaps it should be? Diversity is a term that should be viewed through several lenses.

Through my work with associations, I have come to believe that few association volunteer leaders or paid staff members realize the value of the contrarian members, which are so easily left behind. Inclusion of contrarians rarely is top-of-mind for association leaders. Generally in association life, the path of least resistance is the road frequently traveled. Too frequently, average and non-demanding are the order of the day. While there is a time and place for conformance, there is also the same for inclusion of the rebellious.

Contrarians tend to be out-of-the-box thinkers, energetic and vigorous—all the qualities needed for innovation and clever leadership. They also step on a lot of toes and ruffle plenty of feathers. Might there be the possibility for some sort of balance in your association?

The Disengaged Contrarian Member

To engage the contrarian, you first must understand what causes him or her to become detached from your organization:

  • Feeling that they, or their opinion, doesn’t matter
  • Feeling that they are being squeezed into conformity like a square peg being shoved into a round hole
  • Feeling that they are being forced to play using an unreasonable or archaic set of rules
  • Believing that those in authority are incompetent or have only a personal agenda in leading or managing the organization
  • Feeling that they are simply tired of the BS

Engaging the Contrarian Member

With the above stated, is there room for some sort of middle ground, for some kind of balance between traditional and untraditional? I believe there is and the key is in the words “feeling” and “believing” which are words of uncertainty and perception.

It’s all about perception—the perception of the disengaged contrarian as to how they are feeling or believing. The simple answer is that with a modicum of effort, association leaders can quite easily engage the contrarians through inclusiveness.

Similar to my work in helping organizations develop strategic alliances, I urge the leaders in these situations to give up on the idea of ruling with an iron fist but rather to collaborate. I stated, collaborate, and not tolerate—there is a difference. By collaborating with a contrarian, you are offering them a seat-at-the-table. And, provided that they truly have a seat, and are not simply placated, they will become engaged and deliver true value.

How the Association Benefits from Contrarian Inclusion

The old saw goes something like this, “You are either growing or dying.” Extinction for associations is a real and present danger. Quite a number of associations have merged over the past decade. While many will explain that it was a complex situation, I believe the honest reason was simply that the merged associations were no longer serving their members at the level they once offered.

Non-profits, the same for for-profit organizations, must continually grow and reinvent themselves to serve their changing markets or constituencies. Contrarians see challenges through different prisms and offer diversified solutions—frequently not considered by traditional thinkers.

Contrarians are energetic and vigorous. If they are passionate about something they will devote their entire being toward their resolve. Including, and collaborating with, contrarians helps them to have an emotional ownership in a campaign or activity—why not harness this for the good of the association?

For leaders of associations that have the ability to be forward thinkers, to explore how something might be achieved, rather than holding tight to beliefs as to why something can not be done—contrarians could be your greatest ally.

Contrarians are generally thrown into a single category of malcontents. While this is far from being accurate, it does take some detective work on the part of association leaders to dissect the contrarian membership into various stakeholder categories. This can only be done when leaders attempt to understand the primary issues various contrarians have with exclusion, perceived or real, by their association.

Honest discourse is the answer to discovering the true issues that cause contrarian disengagement. Then, this is an absolute; an honest effort must be made by the association to shore up the association’s deficiencies in serving its various stakeholder groups.

Which do you think serves the association and its membership better; a diverse pallet of members fully engaged in receiving and giving value to the association and industry or having a number of stakeholders believing they have been left behind?

The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Successful Partnering with Contrarian Members (918 words)

If you are an organizational leader, and have been for any length of time, when the word contrarian comes up you see a particular person(s) in your mind’s eye. The words mal-content, disruptive, and pain-in-the-neck come to mind. But stop, I’d like to take a shot at changing your perception.

Admittedly, I am a Contrarian, with a capital “C” and quite frankly, am proud of it. Does that mean I embody all the above negative words associated with contrarians? Perhaps this is true to a few, but hopefully not to the masses. Contrarians simply see things differently and generally have the courage to buck the system—but rarely the patience to work within the (egregiously slow) system to make change.

Organizational Leaders’ Protectionism

Non-profit governance is generally a hybrid of paid and volunteer leaders. The paid leaders generally have a more bureaucratic mindset while the volunteer leaders frequently tend to be entrepreneurial. While this is an over simplification, I generally find it to be true. The two mindsets create healthy tension and generally guide the organization well.

The problem is when the volunteers and the paid leaders both have bureaucratic mindsets; they tend to fear growth, improvement, or change—preferring the status quo. Also, when leaders are not confident in their ability to lead due to newness of tenure, knowledge, or skills—saying no to everything is much safer that saying maybe, let alone yes.

Contrarianism Drivers

In order to successfully work with contrarians, one must first understand their mindset. These people sometimes disrupt simply for the sake of disruption but more often than not, it is to drive positive change and growth. This modality sees very different patterns, holes in your organization’s member value proposition, and is in a hurry for improvement. People that see the world contrary to the conventional are generally burning to make a difference and rarely are included in governing bodies because they are seen as too difficult.

When you as a leader take the time to get into the heads of contrarian members and see their perspective without the protectionism filters, you will discover an amazing world of new value propositions for your organization. Will it be easy—not on your life? This is because leaders that are in protectionism mode only see threats, bullying, and coercion as opposed to opportunity, innovation, and improvement.

Convergence through Communication

I recently had an amazing experience, the opportunity to present as the voice of contrarianism at the annual convention of ASAE and The Center for Association Leadership. I did this along with an association CEO (executive director) as the voice for organizational principle. What made it special is that we lectured on our actual partnership failures and successes spanning a decade and a half—and positively looking toward the future.

Feeling somewhat disenfranchised as a 10+ year member, I started a party group (Cigar PEG) years ago at the annual convention of the National Speakers Association (NSA)—which apparently was against the rules. At the time our executive director was very new in his job, and admittedly not overly confident. And to make things worse, the past, present, and future volunteer leadership was steeped in ultra-conservative protectionism—all except that particular year’s volunteer president. However, only one open-minded person was not enough to affect the tidal wave of fear.

While there was a modicum of mutual respect between myself and the association’s executive director throughout the years, in hind sight, communication was the determiner or good or poor relations. While both of us were quite culpable for the poor communication, as communication improved, so did the relationship. Sure, there was growth and confidence on the part of the executive director and age driven tolerance on my part, however communication was nevertheless the key.

Listen, Engage, and Utilize

Over the years the NSA executive director (later re-titled CEO) started realizing that my party group, that oddly enough became an IRS recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, was truly delivering high-level value to the organization by giving members one more reason to retain their membership and attend the annual convention. Consistently drawing 20% of the annual convention attendees to my party seemed to become more important over time. Eventually the leadership, paid and volunteer, realized that putting fewer roadblocks in front of the Cigar PEG paid off.

I believe the relationship turning point was when the leaders started truly listening to what the organization’s members were saying—we like the party and other activities around the Cigar PEG. Then the association started engaging; we developed and executed a partnership agreement that formalized relationship parameters. The utilization happened in many ways including the party and other events being listed along with other community groups in convention materials. Also the Cigar PEG became a default beta tester for the association—several activities tested and proven successful at the Cigar PEG became official NSA activities later. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the nearly $200,000 that, at the time of writing, the Cigar PEG had donated to the NSA Foundation’s Professional Speaker Benefit Fund—that helped also.

Never Say Never

Had someone a decade ago foretold that the NSA CEO and the Cigar PEG co-founder would be co-presenting at the ASAE annual convention—everyone in NSA would have laughed hysterically, or found themselves in mortal fear.  However spokespersons for the establishment and contrarians came together to share with association executives—that there is hope, that they too could build relationship bridges with their contrarian, dissident, disenfranchised, and mal-content members. So can you!

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Selling Strategy for Association Executives (1339 Words)

How is the line, “Membership is Priceless” working for you these days in recruiting new members? “Not so well,” you say? The heyday of trade associations and professional societies recruiting members under the pretense of nebulous value propositions has gone the way of IBM Selectric typewriters.

Stakeholders in your industry really do want to join your membership organization—even though they don’t realize it. They must however, first understand what’s in it for them. They must see the possibility of a real and honest return on investment (ROI) for their time and treasure.

For association and society executives, the quickest way to selling dominance—actually recruiting the people you talk to about membership is through understanding basic North American buying motives. There are only six basic buying motives into which almost all situations fall. Yet, understanding the buying motives is not enough. You must also offer the translation in explaining how your organization delivers the value to satisfy their primary buying motive.

Feature Verses Benefit

Before we can get into a substantive discussion of buying motives, you must first be very clear on the difference between features and benefits. As an example, your organization is aggressive in advocacy and affecting legislation in your industry. First, that activity is an industry stakeholder benefit not a member-only benefit. Everyone gets the value regardless of holding membership in your organization.

You also send to your members a legislative update keeping them informed of your progress, results, and how recent legislation affects their business. If you only send this out to members and at the very most, you only offer simple headlines via email blasts and Web Site postings to non-members—you have an awesome member benefit in the legislative update. This is value that one only receives through their paid membership.

The legislative update is not a benefit but rather a feature of membership. The benefit of this feature is how the update makes the lives of your members better. Timely and accurate information about legislation and regulatory issues can save your members time, money, and heartache—if they heed your warnings and information as it applies to their businesses.

This member-only benefit would most likely satisfy the buying motive of profit and gain, as well as that of fear of loss, and possibly avoidance of pain.

Profit and Gain Buying Motive

In the above scenario, your member might discover through your legislative update, new regulation that allows them to: sell differently, save money through a new approved manufacturing/service process (more profit), or get a competitive advantage over a non-member who might not have this new knowledge.

Fear of Loss Buying Motive

Continuing with the legislative example, your member (depending on industry) might constantly be operating in fear of failure to follow (ever changing) regulatory policy and procedure. This fear of lost time, temporary shut-down or even permanent closure can weigh heavy on your members. Your legislative update can help members to have the piece of mind that their association is watching out for them on a daily basis.

Avoidance of Pain Buying Motive

Receiving crucial legislative and regulatory update information in a timely manner can very well save a business from potential fines and penalties from unexpected government agency visits. Any business owner or executive would gladly embrace methods for avoiding the pain of regulatory fines or temporary shut-downs.

When association executives speak with potential members, the default position frequently is to talk about providing legislative updates for members but to forget to translate the value of the updates for the potential member based on the person’s personal or organizational buying motives.

The remaining three buying motives are a bit softer in perceived value, nevertheless are important to understand as some industry stakeholders will also make their buying decision based on them.

Comfort and Pleasure Buying Motive

The famous WalMart founder, Sam Walton, for years worked at a plywood desk—a sheet of plywood resting on two sawhorses, in the upstairs stockroom of one of his early stores. What kind of a desk do you work at? What kind of an office do you have? My guess is that your work environment is a bit more luxurious than that of Walton’s. Do you really need it? Who knows—but what we do know is that you were motivated by the buying motive of comfort and pleasure to have the work environment that you currently enjoy.

What about your members? Does your membership organization offer its members the comfort and pleasure of knowing that they will be kept up to date on the industry’s best practices, rules/regulations, and industry news? This saves a member time, mental space, and need for constant industry scan—as your association regularly does this for its members.

Love and Affection Buying Motive

Believe it or not, even business leaders and owners need collegiality. This is one of the great benefits associations and societies offer to their members, the bringing together of the industry through meetings and other methods. People need recognition; I conducted an extensive study on this topic throughout the United States in the mid-1990s. Many industry leaders truly need the adulation of their industry colleagues and associations provide this through leadership opportunities, awards, and credential programs. They join their industry associations and societies to get what they perhaps do not get on the job.

Pride and Prestige Buying Motive

Some North American associations and societies have done a fabulous job of creating the perception within their industry that it is prestigious to belong to the organization. And with this prestige comes pride of membership and belonging. One example is the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Dinosaur Program. This is a special added membership, only available to LACBA paid members. It is for the senior lawyers in their 60s and older—the association provides special programming just for them. They even get a  LACBA lapel pin that is a little different, with a dinosaur in the center. The Dinosaur members are very proud to wear their distinguished lapel pin.

The Six Buying Motives

  1. Profit or Gain
  2. Fear of Loss
  3. Avoidance of Pain
  4. Comfort and Pleasure
  5. Love and Affection
  6. Pride and Prestige

Sell to the Primary Buying Motive

Association executives would do well to take the time to ask more questions as to what a perspective member is looking to receive through membership in their organization. Focus on explaining the benefits they will receive from the features of membership. Do this through the window of the prospect’s primary, and perhaps secondary buying motive and your sales (membership) presentation should prove to be quite successful.

Extra Icing on the Cake

Understanding the above will also help you to improve the member-perceived value of each member-only benefit your organization offers. Go through the list of “member benefits” that you have listed on your web site. The first thing you will most likely notice is they are not benefits at all but rather the features of membership.

First translate each of the features into member benefits, keeping in mind the above buying motives. Next check to see which ones are actually member-only benefits as you will use only these in your sales (member recruitment) efforts. And to ratchet it up another notch, perhaps you might want to make some of the member only services and products available to non-members—for a price. If you are giving your members products and services at no charge, while that is awesome for the members, there is a challenge in members not appreciating the value. At your Web Site show these products and services at no charge to members and at a charge to non-members. That way your members will see a higher perceived value in what they already get at no charge.

Selling benefit is easy, while selling features is excruciatingly difficult. Why make your life any harder than necessary. Sell member-only benefits with the translation to the prospect’s unique situation, and do so keeping in mind their buying motive and you’ll be amazed with your results.

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

How to Build Heretics Into Association Governance (783 words)

Out of the box collaborationIn their book Frugal Innovation: How to Do More with Less, Navi Radjou and Jaideep Prabhu show how global companies have accessed talent from developing nations, relying on their cunning and ingenuity to develop new products at high speed and low cost. This is heresy to most of the western world’s research and development departments.

Similarly, in his book Tribes, Seth Godin talks about the idea that managers settle and leaders disrupt. Let’s apply this to leadership at associations. Are many disrupters or frugal innovators? It’s possible. But “let’s get along” and “that’s how we’ve always done it” are strikingly powerful forces for today’s associations. Godin writes, “Our culture works hard to prevent change. We have long had systems and organizations and standards designed to dissuade people from challenging the status quo.” If that doesn’t describe so many of today’s associations, I don’t know what does.

In my experience, many associations want to become more relevant but either do not know how or have a stifling culture that values stodgy consistency over progress. That’s unfortunate, because heretics aren’t just bulls in the china shop. As Godin writes, “Heretics have a plan. They understand that changing the status quo is not only profitable but fun too.” Putting the ideas from Tribes and Frugal Innovation together got me thinking about the giant “mission-driven” associations like the American Medical Association; while specialty medical associations have steadily been rising in membership—for instance, the American College of Physicians nearly doubled its membership between 1995 and 2009, to 130,000—AMA has seen steady declines.

So, how do we embrace the heretics in our industry and organizations to help us grow, innovate, and become as relevant as possible, before they create new competing associations like the specialty medical associations did? Below are five tips.

Be Alert to Protectionism

Nonprofit governance is generally a hybrid of paid and volunteer leaders. Though this perhaps oversimplifies, I’ve found it to be true that the paid leaders have a more bureaucratic mindset while the volunteer leaders tend to be entrepreneurial. The two mindsets create healthy tension and generally guide the organization well.

The problem is when the volunteers and the paid leaders both have bureaucratic mindsets. Then, the organization tends to fear growth, improvement, or change. Also, when leaders are not confident in their ability to lead due to newness of tenure, knowledge, or skills, saying no to everything is much safer that saying maybe, let alone yes.

Know the Heretic Mindset

In order to successfully work with heretics, one must first understand their mindset. Some disrupt simply for the sake of disruption, but more often than not they want to drive positive change and growth. They see very different patterns and holes in your organization’s member value proposition and are in a hurry for improvement. They’re generally burning to make a difference and rarely are included in governing bodies because they’re seen as too difficult.

But, when you take the time to get into the heads of contrarians and see their perspective without the protectionism filters, you discover a world of new value propositions for your organization. Will it be easy to bring them into the fold? Not on your life. Fellow leaders that are in protectionism mode will only see threats, bullying, and coercion. It will be your job to help them see the potential for opportunity, innovation, and improvement.

Step Up Your Communication Skills

I recently served as the “voice of the heretic” at an ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo session, alongside Stacy Tetschner, FASAE, CAE, CEO of the National Speakers Association, who spoke as the voice for organizational principle. We lectured on our partnership failures and successes spanning a decade and a half. That kind of candor will be essential in attracting a variety of people, especially those heretics.

Listen, Engage, and Utilize

My involvement with NSA led to my helping create what I think of as a heretical party group, Cigar PEG, a charity fundraiser connected to the NSA’s annual conference. Over the years the NSA recognized that Cigar PEG was delivering high-level value by giving members one more reason to retain their membership and attend the annual convention. The party consistently draws 20 percent of the annual convention attendees, and NSA leadership, both paid and volunteer, realized that putting fewer roadblocks in front of it paid off.

Never Say Never

Had someone a decade ago said that we’d be co-presenting at the ASAE Annual Meeting, everyone in NSA would have laughed hysterically or found themselves in mortal fear. But spokespersons for the establishment and heretics came together to share that they too could build bridges with their heretics, contrarians, dissidents, disenfranchised, and malcontent members. So can you.

Trust, the Essential Element in Building Outrageously Successful Relationships (597 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Trust is the Glue that Binds Relationships

Trust is defined as confidence, reliance or resting of the mind on the integrity, veracity, justice, friendship, or other sound principle of another person or thing. It’s also the glue that binds an organization together. Just think what you could accomplish with your spouse, business partner, alliance partner, supplier, customer or employee if you absolutely trusted one another.

In the mid-1970s, when I worked in Yosemite National Park, I took up rock climbing. This is a sport in which one quickly builds trust with their climbing buddy. In the hands of my buddy resided my lifeline, a rope that came from around his waist, threaded through a carabineer that was attached to the rock face and tied at the other end to me. While climbing, when I slipped off a rock face and started to plunge, it was my climbing buddy that locked the safety rope tight around his waist, keeping me alive. He determined if I went crashing several hundred or thousand feet onto the granite below or if I were to just dangle in the air a few feet from where I fell. In outrageously successful alliance relationships, you must be able to trust your partner with your business lifeline.

In any Partnering alliance, trust is necessary to move from inertia to action. Trust is that wonderful, mystical and cherished virtue hoped for and shared among practitioners of the Partnering Paradigm. In trust, you’re continually putting yourself at risk. While most would prefer to drink from an emptied wine rather than hemlock bottle, it is the process of taking risks that is necessary to build outrageously successful relationships. At times you are certain to be disappointed, but hopefully these disappointments will be few, compared to the availability of beneficial experiences.

Trust is fragile and not to be mistreated. Jamie Clarke and Alan Hobson are adventurers. On their third attempt (1998), they conquered the summit of Mt. Everest. Prior that trip, they authored a book, The Power of Passion: Achieve Your Own Everests, about their earlier expeditions. A relationship-devastating situation occurred around fundamental expedition leadership and goal decisions that were overlooked before embarking on their 1994 odyssey. Each was dug in, and Jamie made a decision to fill a leadership void that Alan was unwilling to fill. About this Alan later wrote, “the most important element in any relationship—trust. Once trust is lost in any relationship, it is like a mirror struck by a stone. The glass shatters. Although all the tiny pieces can be glued back into position, the mirror always shows the cracks. They run deep and numerous.”

Trust building is a journey rather than a destination. Foster the following behaviors in yourself and look for them in your potential partner(s).

Twenty Trust Building Behaviors

  1. Tell the truth.

  2. Deliver on your promises and expectations of others.

  3. Walk your talk and act with credibility.

  4. Exhibit authenticity and sincerity.

  5. Be a positive roll model.

  6. Welcome responsibility.

  7. Avoid offering excuses.

  8. Present an ethical image.

  9. No Bull!

  10. Avoid gossiping.

  11. Use duct tape on your mouth when necessary.

  12. Be open; inform ahead if you cannot meet deadlines.

  13. Help others to look good.

  14. Treat everybody with respect and dignity.

  15. Be consistent in how you treat others.

  16. Recognize and reinforce performance on others.

  17. Communicate clearly, say what you mean and mean what you say.

  18. Break down barriers by giving everybody a voice.

  19. Be respectful of time, yours and others’.

  20. Follow up regularly and offer helpful recommendations through relationship value updates.