Meeting Sponsor or Strategic Partner? (657 words)

What’s Your Treatment Paradigm?

Some associations treat their supplier members like lepers while others consider their associate members to be potential strategic partners. How do you approach this dilemma? The paradigm for some associations is that of continually figuring out how to squeeze the last possible dime out of their suppliers while others seek long-term partnership.

In the meetings industry publications you’ll read about how to generate more profit from your meetings; mostly by selling more exposure opportunities to your supplier members. This by the way is a good thing as long as you keep the two way value proposition in mind.

Two Way Value

The topic I rarely see in the meetings industry publications is that of delivering value to your associate members. Sure, there is a passing quotation here and there about driving value for sponsors. But, how do you do it?

When considering the value your sponsors seek; keep in mind the number one rule. Understand that their greatest desire is to increase their sales volume. Why else would they be there? To build a better industry; okay, if you say so. Please, get real; while every supplier would like to see higher levels of professionalism and effectiveness in the supply chain and in the industry in general; their number one desire is to increase sales.

What Can Associations Do Differently?

If you want your suppliers to willingly deliver their cash to your association coffers, you must treat them like strategic partners and not lepers. How would it look in your mind’s eye if your paid staff and volunteer leaders treated your suppliers with the respect that they deserve?

  • Give them a seat at the table; meaning that one board member position should always be reserved for an associate member.
  • Conduct supplier focus groups with the only intent to better understand the specific value line items that they desire as opposed to squeezing them for more money.
  • Offer year-long strategic sponsorship opportunities, perhaps at various investment levels so all suppliers have the opportunity to play.
  • Increase your conference/expo functionally member attendance. I’ll never forget traveling to the Pacific Northwest to speak at a meetings industry association chapter meeting. While I was paid to present at this meeting, I could not help feeling sorry for the suppliers in attendance. At this particular meeting, there were 4 planner members and 25 suppliers; is there anything wrong with this picture? Suppliers want to network with people that can buy from them, not their competitors.
  • Keep your suppliers, association members or not, informed. I’m intimately familiar with an association that recently demonstrated by deed, not word, that suppliers were on the bottom rung of the ladder of importance. For this association’s convention being held in a large-city market they managed to strike an incredible deal on room rates for the convention hotel but were unable to secure a large enough room block to accommodate everyone. This association informed their members, but not their suppliers when the room reservations opened. The result, suppliers then had to seek more expensive rooms at other nearby hotels of they wanted to exhibit at the convention.

Why Does It Matter?

Business is about results, not excuses. If your association wants suppliers and associate members to play the sponsor game at higher levels, and who doesn’t? You had better play the game to win. Winning means developing long-term strategic sponsor relationships. The better in business your suppliers do, the more money they have to give your association in sponsorship dollars. And the way to help them do better is to pay attention to their needs and treat them with the respect they deserve.

In the final analysis, functionary members of an association or society have to pay one way or another. Members either must pay the real cost, without sponsor subsidies, or pay in actions by creating the correct environment for sponsor participation. The choice is on the table.

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

When Sponsor and Member ROI Clash (589 words)

I recently had a discussion with an executive director of a construction industry association. The discussion revolved around giving members more value. Through my querying about this association’s member ROI activities, I discovered that this association was putting on seminars and charging non-members the same price as members. Hmmm…

Challenging Perceptions

Challenging this association leader, I pointed out that this practice is truly a membership disincentive rather than a vehicle for delivering member ROI. He countered with his belief that it was a good way to recruit members, suggesting that non-member attendees might join the association after attending an event or two. Asking about the associations recruitment numbers, it appeared to me that the premise was erroneous. After a long discussion, I held to my belief about this practice delivering effectively zero value to his members—then the admission was finally revealed.

The Truth Will Set You Free

This association leader finally admitted that a vendor pays for everything and gets maximum value when more people from the industry attend. The vendor is naturally looking for customers—fair enough. Are the seminars put on by this association really a member benefit? Absolutely not; the seminars are primarily a vendor benefit. While there is nothing wrong with extracting sponsorship dollars from vendors, please do not confuse sponsorship revenue with delivering member ROI. If the non-member pays the same price, there is no additional value in membership delivered during this scenario.

Pick a Lane

To deliver honest yearly sustainable real-dollar value for your members, you must deliver services that are (a) not available to non-members or (b) priced at such a differential that joining the association is a logical and good business decision. The challenge here is when the association executive tries to create a hybrid—you’ve really got to pick a lane. Delivering bottoms in seats for vendors is a far cry from developing member needed seminars with a proper pricing structure. Being redundant—I’ll repeat that I have no issue with generating additional vendor revenues—go for it. However, realize that these activities do not create perceived member ROI and are not motivators when you ask your members to renew their memberships.

The Advocacy Delusion

This one is the most difficult for association staff and volunteer leadership to stomach. Association sponsored legislative advocacy serves the industry, but does not necessarily deliver direct member ROI to association members. If non-members and members alike receive the same benefit, then there is no way that the advocacy can be called a member benefit. If certain information and/or access is only available to members, then that is a completely different situation—one that does deliver real-dollar member ROI.

Member ROI Positioned Activities

After a decade of conducting my Member Value Process for quite a number of associations and societies, and listening to countless members describe what creates value for their lives—I can state, with complete confidence: Within every service, activity, or product, associations and societies must build a price or access differential favoring the paid members verses the other industry non-members. This is not always easy to do. I site the above seminar example as proof—the association selected to accept the vendor revenue over delivering real-dollar value to the members. While there are always shades of gray in exploring this issue, my recommendation is that you error on the side of delivering member value. The other option only delivers continued membership hemorrhaging. With a little effort, all associations and societies can position all activities and offerings to deliver great member ROI.

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

Sacred Cows in an Economic Downturn (1043 words)

What better time to grind up sacred cows into hamburger than during an economic downturn? Why; because the sacred cow protectors in your organization are experiencing lowered resistance when times are not so good. It is much more difficult for them defend their pet projects, products, and services that have reached their sunset when placed under the tight economic microscope.

Sacred Cow Defenders

Upper level decision makers pay especially close attention to questionable activities in an economic downturn, organizational restructuring, or during a merger. If you have even a faint indication that you might be a sacred cow protector, this is the time to realize that everyone will be attacking your pet sacred cow. Ask yourself if this cow is worth your career or might it be time to let go?

To help you work through the process of either defending or letting go, consider the following:

  • Why should this cow continue?
  • Who cares most about this cow?
  • Why do they protect it?
  • Which market or stakeholder segments does the cow still serve?
  • Is this cow still profitable?
  • Is this cow worth the organizational resources necessary to sustain it?
  • Has this cow reached its sunset?

Cow Grinders

This is the moment for which you’ve been waiting—to rid your organization of that outdated, resource sucking albatross that has, in your opinion, been dragging everyone down. While this is a good time to bring out the meat grinder, you’d better be smart about your actions. This is not the time to pretend you are a bull in a china shop but rather take a methodical approach to getting that cow into the grinder.

First, you must remain aware of the fact that most sacred cow protectors have their identify and self-worth complexly entwined with the cow that they protect so ferociously—a bit like a momma bear protecting her cub. And you do not want to get between them.

Broaching the Subject

How do you help an iron-clad mind to open up? Perhaps oil and leverage will do the trick?

  • The oil relates to the idea of slipperiness verses friction. Their iron-clad mind is the friction and you become the oil that helps movement. Your job is to help the protector see that there might be new or better ideas, products and services that might possibly, maybe, perhaps serve the market or stakeholders better than the currently protected cow.
  • Leverage relates to an outside object or force that allows ease of movement for heavy or stuck objects. Needless to say, the stuck or heavy object is the cow protector. The outside force could be higher authority or replacement product/service. Higher authority needs no explanation. Replacement however is formidable subject. Where or what could the cow protector use as an alternate crutch for channeling their passion? Figure that out and you have both oil and leverage available to help you, to help the protector move toward something better.

Grinding Cows in For Profit Organizations

  • We’ve always done it, our customers expect it, and so we should continue to do it. This is an area that can be overcome by numbers, metrics or measurements. It is difficult for a person or department to defend something that can be proven to no longer be performing.
  • The “not invented here” attitude can be a challenge when offering alternatives to the cow you want to grind. Leading the cow protectors to their own discovery of a replacement generally works well. The price you, the cow grinder, must be willing to pay is to relinquish an ego boost and the credit for being the cow grinder.
  • Sacred cow profitability always decreases with commoditization. For most things there is a season. Even sacred cows that are only approaching their sunset must be examined closely. The challenge is in letting too many old cows run the pasture. If in your organization there are a number of cows that are nearing their end of usefulness, all your organizations resources are being allotted to refreshing and keeping alive old cows rather than allowing innovation and discovery of new and profitable, non-commodity products and services to take their place. You can swim with the sharks in highly competitive regions or head for the open waters of innovation and creativity.

Grinding Cows in Non-Profit Organizations

  • Long-term equity is bestowed upon those that have participated through volunteerism for years. These folks also enjoy chronological credibility. Going up against this cronyism is wrought with landmines, especially for the younger, innovative, and excited members. The most critical challenge that faces non-profits today is honoring members with this long-term equity while simultaneously defending the emergence of youthful exuberance. Can they both co-exist—I believe so.
  • Changing member needs and desires compounds the above conundrum. This is an area where paid non-profit staff and the volunteer leadership must work toward mutually beneficial programs, services and long-term strategic plans to gradually turn the page to a new era. The need for this phenomenon generally occurs every decade or two. As an example, many organizations are now discovering that the sacred cow golf tournament that has always taken place before the convention can no longer sustain itself financially. The old timers defend it with all the oomph and gusto they can muster but the newer functionaries in the industry could really care less. Perhaps the tournament’s sunset has arrived?
  • Non-profits must be keenly aware of the current and emerging competition from non-traditional sectors. There might be products or services your organization has provided to its members since the dawning of time. And, there might now be for-profit companies that provide the same, or better, products or services faster, cheaper, and offering more choice than your non-profit could ever achieve. Might it be time to grind that cow?

So what’s a reasonable person to do? If you are a cow protector, be certain it is worth protecting. If you are a cow grinder, be sure that cow’s sunset has arrived. Grinding cows simply for pleasure or self-adulation is not an acceptable reason to flick the switch and start the grinder. The magic for your organization is for the leaders to have the wisdom in understanding and recognizing the difference.

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

Effective Non-Profit Interdepartmental Partnering (829 words)

Developing Strategic Alliances

Divisive in the world of non-profits are the employee and executive adverse reactions to anything entrepreneurial. This operating philosophy must be buried with the other relics of the Twentieth Century if Twenty-First Century non-profits are to thrive. The natural outcropping of this (should be) dead paradigm is silo mentality.

Are you having challenges with internal departments unwilling to collaborate? Do you believe this lack of cooperation is costing your organization time, resources, and money? Here is an idea that I’m sure will serve all leaders of today’s non-profits: put your suspected “Lords of Lesser Corners” under the microscope and call them out—privately, of course.

Do you have “Lords of Lesser Corners” in your organization? Be honest now…I’m not trying to be mean however, let’s call things by their proper name. These “Lords” are persons with some amount of authority but are emotionally small people. They are in constant fear of their jobs and area of influence. They lead by Draconian methodology. Their standard method of operation is protectionism. They live their non-profit organizational lives in constant fear and other erroneous beliefs.

Are these “Lords” bad people? Generally not, but they have a huge need for updated education in organizational success and personal success. “Lords of Lesser Corners” can be identified by their unwillingness to change, progress, and embrace new opportunities.

Exploring the Cost of Devastation

The disarray these Lords bestow upon your organization is omnipresent. The protectionism is so insidiously woven into the fabric of their silo’s culture that it is like a cancer in need of chemotherapy. Are you dealing with these challenges?

  • The very bright talent leaves.
  • The deadwood lingers.
  • The bottlenecks are everywhere.
  • Interdepartmental relationships are severed.
  • Interdepartmental sabotage is rampant.
  • Internal customer deadlines are ignored.
  • The organization is completely constipated.

What’s a Chief Staff Executive to Do?

Before you can scan the landscape, you first have to take off the blinders and be completely honest about your situation. You can no longer play ostrich with you’re your head in the sand. Take a close look at your “Lords of Lesser Corners” and explore this question deeply, “Do they add any value to the organization?” Consider the following:

  • Do they possess a talent so specialized that they are impossible to replace?
  • Are they so loved by large segments of your membership that their departure would cause a retention problem?
  • Are you so understaffed that you are willing to retain those that impede?
  • Is it just too much trouble to make a change?
  • Are they a family member?
  • Are they blackmailing you?
  • Do you have the will to lead well?

Strategy for Successful Retention

  • Re-educate the “Lord” as to your expectations of how they operate in the organization. This is the best option. If you can help your Lords to better understand their place in the greater scheme of things, they might consider a behavior change. For internal partnering to be successful, every manager/director must understand how their department’s behavior, performance, and cooperation affect all the other departments and ultimately, the members’ experience.
  • Re-organize your company’s silos and relocate the “Lord” in a section where they will do less damage through their provincial thinking. This is the easiest path but least effective. Your “Lords,” if not re-educated, can and will still spread their darkness.
  • Realize you, the Chief Staff Executive, might be part of the problem for allowing the isolative behavior to continue. You may not realize it but through your non-action, you have been rewarding the behavior you do not want. Ultimately, whatever happens in your organization generally emanates from your management style and behavior.
  • Adjust your departmental director review process to also include their accountability for the whole organization’s effectiveness and success in serving members.

Tools, Skills & Motivation

Relationship management tools will be at the foundation for improvement in interdepartmental partnering. One effective tool is to associate salary, bonus, or incentive pay for managers and department directors with interdepartmental relationship improvement. You can use a number of 360-style measuring instruments—an application you might already own—for measuring improvement. Connect pay to improvement and you’ll be pleased with the results.

An additional collaboration tool is to develop a staff committee (a representative from every department) of “Interdepartmental Collaboration,” answering directly to the Chief Staff Executive. I use the term collaboration as it conjures a different and more beneficial vision in the minds of most, from that of cooperation. This committee will be charged with, and rewarded for, the quality of interdepartmental collaboration.

While it is completely true that the Chief Staff Executive sets the culture for any non-profit—this person cannot be everywhere all the time. Your collaboration committee might just save the careers of your “Lords of Lesser Corners” by helping the “Lords” to better understand how they can contribute to the success of your organization as a whole, and not just their department.

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

Association Executive Directors Must be Entrepreneurial (1093 words)

Association growth through member ROI

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.

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.

Project Association Member Value (581 words)

The ROI of Membership

Does a professional or trade association exist to serve its members? How about to serve the profession or industry? Or, perhaps the association exists to perpetuate itself?

Sure, your answer is based on your personal experiences. Unfortunately though, I have come to believe that there are simply too many people involved in association leadership today that believe in self-survival. Many of these leaders do not consciously realize they believe that the reason for an association is to perpetuate itself. Yet, their actions in this area speak so loudly that few listen to their words.

I recently visited the web site of ASAE & the Center for Association Leadership and searched “member value” but what I found was more directed to the organizational side. My lack of finding information specific to “member value” strengthens my assertion. Sure I found great information on subjects like: Identifying program goals and setting realistic expectations, identifying and defining the needs of the target audience, developing program structure, building a budget and cross-selling and up-selling additional programs and services.

While these topics are all great tactics, what about the overarching strategy for an association? What about quantifying the real dollar value a member receives from holding membership in an association? This is an area that I have discovered many association leaders are missing the point. There are a few people left that join their trade or professional association because it is the right thing to do in supporting their industry. But, at corporate belt tightening continues, many are re-evaluating the value of such memberships.

Call me crazy, but I believe that a professional or trade association exists exclusively for the betterment of its members. Associations like these are really industry-wide strategic alliances. And, for strategic alliances to succeed, all involved must receive reasonable value for resource (time and money) commitment to the alliance. In associations, staff members receive value—it’s called a paycheck. Volunteer leaders receive value through exposure and having the ability to forward their particular agendas. But, what about the “rank and file” members—where’s their value?

If you are interested in this topic of member value, you’re in luck.

I have conducted my Association Member Value Process for a number of trade associations and societies of association executives over the years. The results might be helpful to you in benchmarking the value your association delivers to its members.

In visiting seven societies of association executives from October 2003 through May 2004 and conducting the process: On the average, association executives received 19X return on investment dollar from their membership. Average yearly membership and meeting participation cost—$914. The average yearly real-dollar value received—$17,390.

In visiting the national conventions of four trade associations from February through May 2004 and conducting the member value process, the average yearly member return on investment was 12 X. The average yearly membership and meeting participation cost—$2,250. The average yearly real-dollar value received—$27,800.

A huge study I conducted for the American Society for Quality (finished in 2007) revealed that their members get $50 dollars in value for every dollar they invest in their membership.

Association paid staff and volunteer leaders must continually question the yearly sustainable real-dollar value their members are receiving rather than just see members as an ATM (automatic teller machine). Without the members, there is no association.

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

Association Members Ask, “What’s In It For Me?” (973 words)

The ROI of Membership

Has attendance dropped at your association meetings? Has your membership numbers contracted? If you honestly answer either of the above questions in the affirmative, you are not alone. Both association executives and their boards of directors are asking, “What do we do about our shrinking membership?”

Your membership and meeting attendance could be decreasing because of the economy, industry consolidations, 9/11 or perceived value. The only one of these reasons over which you have some control is the last on my list—value.

Over the last half-decade, many association executives and boards have been lured into complacency by the opiate, or narcotic, of good times and a strong business environment. Many companies started sending a greater number of employees to their industry meetings as a reward rather than as an educational experience. Now many of those companies are sending fewer people. Many associations have found their potential pool of members decreasing because of numerous industry consolidations, mergers or acquisitions. Many associations have forgotten about value.

Recently, for a regional association, I delivered a morning keynote presentation followed later that afternoon by facilitating an industry roundtable discussion. As I generally do when I facilitate a discussion, I asked the attendees to put on the flipchart what was most on their mind in reference to their industry. Then I asked them to weigh the importance of each of the items on the list. This group put their association membership on the top. This association had just a bit over 10% of the possible membership available to join. It was a problem because of the strength they would need for coming legislative issues.

I suggested to the attendees that there are basically two kinds of people that join associations and attend association meetings. First, like most of the people in the room that day, are the industry members that support their association regardless of the quality of the meeting or its location. Then there are the others, they generally expect to get more out of the association than they put into it. They expect that the synergy of the collaborative event will deliver a greater amount of value to them than they pay in dollars and time.

To bring back association backsliders from their disappearance and abandonment, it is time for every association executive and their board members to ask, “How do we deliver more value and how do we show the value we currently offer?” The first part of the question will be different for each association based on the specific needs of the players in their industry. The second part of the question was the subject of the roundtable discussion I mentioned earlier.

First I asked the cost of membership, and then I asked the attendees to tell me what their association did for them. As we listed on the flipchart the valuable services this association delivered to its members, I also asked them to assign realistic dollar values to each item. For this regional association, the cost of membership and attendance at the two semi-annual meetings was pegged at approximately $1,600. After less than an hour, the group came up with membership value in real dollars at $5,800. Had we have had more time; I believe the membership value number would have been higher.

I believe the best way for an association to grow its membership is through a one to one method; that is one current member bring in a new or lost member each year. Realistically, not all members will do this, but many will. Wouldn’t you like a 20%, 30% or more increase in membership, and revenues for your association? I suggested to the roundtable attendees that their association could produce an Association Value brochure and/or a Value PowerPoint presentation to help current members show other owners in their industry the value of association affiliation. This would help the current members to more easily articulate the reasons for their personal emotional ownership in their association. Give ‘em the right tools, and people will amaze you with their results.

As a primer for your own Member Recruitment Brochure (to prove that membership is a good business decision), listed below are the actual services and real-dollar values offered to me by the group:

  • $1,000 for industry specific technical training offered twice a year.
  • $1,000 for business, management and marketing training twice a year.
  • $300 for monthly legislative updates.
  • 1,000 for coupons for goods and services offered by the national organization with national and regional membership.
  • $600 for legal seminars offered twice a year.
  • $200 networking value at semi-annual meetings.
  • $300 tax savings on income spent attending vacations (meetings).
  • $500 for mentoring opportunities available through meeting attendance.
  • $200 for product knowledge gained at meetings.
  • $200 for company credibility and image associated with membership.
  • $300 for education in accessing local publicity.
  • $200 for publicity and exposure through association membership.

Perhaps you might argue with some of the specific dollar values listed above? That’s fine because you now have bought into the value idea, now you are just haggling over the actual amounts. If prospective association members or industry leaders, quibble over the actual value amounts—that’s great too, because they have also bought into the value idea. Any smart business leader can see that it makes good business sense to join their industry association and receive $5,800 worth of value for a small investment of $1,600.

Remember, your association has control over the amount of value offered to its membership. Perhaps your members, armed with the right recruitment tools, can help industry players that are non-members in perceiving a higher value in association membership? Give ‘em the right tools, and perhaps your members will amaze you too?

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

How Much Member ROI Does American Society for Quality Deliver to Its Members? (544 words & table)

The ROI of Membership

The quick answer is a bunch! However, that is not the kind of answer that quality professionals generally desire. Today, armed with three years of data, I believe a have a substantive answer to this question.

Over three consecutive years (2005-2007), ASQ invited me to attend the World Conference on Quality and Improvement to conduct two sessions per conference of my Member Value ProcessTM. A random sampling of ASQ member, conference registrants, was invited to the sessions. This is a process, one that includes art and science, in which I draw from a representative sample of ASQ members, their belief as to how much dollar value they receive from their ASQ membership on an annual basis. This gives a return on investment (ROI) number for the attendees.

Most ASQ members spend under $200 per year on their membership and they receive about $10,500 in return for their investment. That’s over $50 in return for every dollar spent in ASQ membership. In anybody’s book, that’s enormous

ASQ membership, spend a dollar and get fifty back—it’s a No-Brainer.

Now that I’ve made such an outrageous statement, I had better prove myself. Listed below are the actual yearly sustainable, real dollar value numbers from the six sessions:

  • 2005 Session 1 — $8,100
  • 2005 Session 2 — $5,150
  • 2006 Session 1 — $14,919
  • 2006 Session 2 — $13,550
  • 2007 Session 1 — $9,750
  • 2007 Session 2 — $11,550

A grand total of $63,019, divided by the six sessions, equals $10,503 average yearly sustainable real dollar value that ASQ members receive. Divide the $10,503 yearly member value by the $200 yearly membership investment and you get 53 times the ROI. Rounded off, you get $50 dollars in return for every $1 you invest in your ASQ membership.

In each session, the specific value line items differed a bit, but there were some commonality among all six sessions. The top ASQ member value items were:

  1. Recognized Certification @ an average value of $2,583
  2. Networking @ an average value of $1,183
  3. Training @ an average value of $1,058
  4. Sections @ an average value of $1,042
  5. Opportunities for Involvement & Leadership @ an average value of $860
  6. Credibility with Customers @ an average value of $600
  7. Divisions/Forums @ an average value of $460
ASQ Value Item 2005-1 2005-2 2006-1 2006-2 2007-1 2007-2 Average/#
Recognized Certification 3000 1000 5000 1000 3000 2500 $2,583/6
Networking 2500 500 1000 2500 500 100 $1,183/6
Training 100 250 2500 2500 500 500 $1,058/6
Sections 500 500 1000 2500 250 1500 $1,042/6
Opportunities for Involvement & Leadership 1000 100 500 Included in Section 200 2500 $860/5
Credibility with Customers Not rated 250 100 0 750 250 $600/5
Divisions/Forums 500 Not rated 500 50 500 750 $460/5
Total ASQ Member Value Determined 8100 5150 14919 13550 9750 11550 $10,503/6

You might have noticed in the above information that no value was assigned to the World Conference; there is a reason for that. During the sessions, I specifically asked participants not to include the value of the annual conference. My reason for this is simple. ASQ has a membership of over 90,000 yet only one to two thousand attends the conference each year. While it is undeniable that the conference delivers huge value to all that attend, I wanted to determine the yearly sustainable, real dollar value that ASQ delivers to the lion’s share of its membership. Needless to say, your personal value could easily be much, much higher.

The next time a colleague, or your employer, asks about the value you receive from your ASQ membership, tell them that for every dollar invested, you get 50 back in value—now that’s value!

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

Can Associations Serve the Industry, and its Members? (532 words)

The ROI of Membership

Trade associations and professional societies that primarily focus on legislative matters can run the risk of neglecting its membership. Does that mean that focusing on influencing politicians is a bad thing? Not as long as the organization’s members don’t get left behind. Unfortunately, this is just what happens, much too frequently.

Here is an important question, “Does your organization’s legislative activities create value for non-members?” You’ll most likely answer, “Yes they do.”

If so, what’s the benefit in membership? Where’s the motivation for a person or a company to continue giving the organization money when others receive basically the same benefits with no cost involved?

You might answer with, “Well, they need to support their industry.” I agree, however the drop-offs or non-joiners intensely disagree. And, they vote with their checkbooks.

Not long ago, an association in the Pacific Northwest hired me to conduct my Member Value ProcessTM at their annual meeting. While we determined that the association delivered acceptable value to its members, it was crystal clear to the board of directors that much of the work in which the association focused (legislative), benefited the industry as a whole and not just its membership.

Gosh, I hate it when people want to shoot the messenger rather than to listen to the message, but that’s the life of a consultant. As you guessed, the board was not happy with the findings—few really do enjoy looking into the mirror, let alone bringing it up close.

So, what’s the solution? The simple solution is to deliver more value to your members than to your industry. Granted, some non-members will always get value from the important legislative work in which associations participate; however, this needs to be minimized.

Here is the most important question that organizational staff can pose to the volunteer leadership, “What else can we offer to our members that costs us very little yet is perceived by members as being highly valuable to them?” You answer that question, and you’ve solved the age-old riddle!

As an example, the association mentioned above charged the non-members the same price to attend the annual meeting as the paid members—justifying this horrific action by saying that they needed more bodies to walk through their expo to satisfy their vendor/allied members. Hogwash I say. Honor your members by giving them a HUGE discount.

Another association gave members, and non-members the subscription to their newsletter at no charge. That’s okay for the members, but hellfire—make the non-members pay.

A third example is the association that sold its membership list to non-members for the same price as to its members. Let’s not go down the path of the ethics of selling membership lists but rather the ethics of treating your members so poorly.

I bet if the staff and volunteer leaders of your organization were to spend a single day brainstorming ideas on how to deliver more value to the membership, you would be amazed at what you’d discover. Please don’t whine about poor member retention or recruitment if you’ve never spent a day brainstorming how to deliver enough value to your members so they could justify the cost of their membership.

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

Associations Deliver Value, But They Don’t Know How Much (Word count 486)

The ROI of Membership

Trade associations and professional societies are wonderful industry or profession collaborations and deliver high value to their members. After a decade and a half, speaking at association and society conventions and board meetings, I can safely make the above statement. And I believe I can also safely say that most society and association staff and volunteer leadership do not have a clue as to the real dollar value their organization delivers to its members.

Are you an association volunteer leader? If so, tell me quickly the yearly sustainable real-dollar value you receive from your yearly investment of time and money? Can you do it? Most likely you cannot. If you are an association staff member, tell me the average yearly return on investment (ROI) your members receive. Can you do it? Most likely you cannot.

Demonstrating Value

While associations and societies have traditionally created plenty of value for their members, they have done quite a poor job of demonstrating the value that they deliver. For years, it did not matter. Why? Through the 1980s, people still joined their trade association or professional society simply because it was the thing to do. Most of those wonderful people have either retired or died off.

Today, younger persons ask themselves, “What’s in it for me?” and unfortunately, organizations don’t have the answers. For several years now, I have been conducting my Member Value Process for associations and societies—they can answer my above questions of yearly sustainable real-dollar value received and ROI.

For about half a decade I have been talking to my association audiences about a 1999 study conducted by the American Society of Association Executives on why members do not retain their membership. My personal synthesizing of the data leads me to believe that over 75% of the members surveyed that did not renew their membership selected not to do so because they did not believe they were receiving enough value for their membership investment.

Association Member ROI

While no two associations are the same, I have listed below a few common line items of member benefits that should help you to have a better understanding as to the real-dollar amounts that organization members have assigned during my sessions. Remember, these“cumulative specific value information

” numbers are the yearly sustainable dollar-value amounts.

  1. Training & Education

–Range: $500 to $4,000

–Average: $1,857

  1. Industry Specific Research, Regulatory & Code

–Range: $1,000 to $4,750

–Average: $2,596

  1. Networking

–Range: $200 to $10,000

–Average: $4,029

  1. Professional Recognition, Image & Credibility

–Range: $200 to $5,000

–Average: $1,507

Telling your members what it is that you do for them is important. Telling them how much it is worth to them yearly is crucial for your success or that of any other trade association or professional society.