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Home  /  My Seat at the Bar

A membership model is like the weather. Everyone complains about it, but nobody does anything about it. Below I talk about how membership continues to be an issue. Introduce a definition of membership models. Outline a process to fix your model. As a bonus, you also get our latest (yet unpublished and secret) data on how association leaders view membership in 2019. Shameless Plug Alert – you can learn to address these issues at one of our Membership Workshops in February. Click HERE for information. Membership is Top Concern of Association Leaders Each year Association Laboratory conducts the nation’s leading global environmental scan of the association business environment called Looking Forward. In 2019 the study collected data from more than 400 association chief staff officers and senior domain executives across 20 industries. One data point sticks out. 83% of Looking Forward respondents said they were somewhat or very concerned about membership. The following chart shows the Top 10 areas of strategic concern by association leaders. Membership is

Like any self-respecting consultant, I’m going to start our 2019 monthly blog series, From My Seat at the Bar, with predictions on what associations will face in 2019. Unlike other firms, though, Association Laboratory is blessed with a wealth of association environmental scanning data. Research, collected from you the association executive reader, on what you expect your members to face in 2019. In November/December 2018, Association Laboratory conducted the 8th annual environmental scan of the association strategy environment, Looking Forward™. This study, the most comprehensive of its kind in the association sector, will be published in March. You can check out our compendium of futures research HERE. We have not yet published the results but lucky for you, I get to look at the data behind the scenes. All secret like and such. More than 200 CEOs responded this year out of more than 400 association leaders in total. They represent members in more than 20 sectors. They lead everything from local to global

Let me tell you a quick story about training members, or in this case, customers. Recently, on a trip to New York, I approached the bar at the #unitedclub in LaGuardia (#terribleairport) for a quick medicinal cocktail. I ordered a Manhattan (click HERE to see why it’s the most important business drink). The following ensued. The bartender did not know how to make the drink. I saw here looking up the recipe on their internal guidebook. I helpfully suggested that I could quickly teach her. I’m awesome that way. I explained it’s about ratios. Three parts bourbon to 1-part sweet vermouth with two drops of bitters, which I helpfully located on her bar. You stir, not shake, so your ice cubes don’t break up and water down the drink. She followed my easy instructions with a smile and moments later a quite serviceable Manhattan was placed in front me. She was educated, I got

I knew we’d properly curated our Association Laboratory Content Strategy Summit audience when one of the first attendees to arrive walks up to me, says “Hi, thanks for the invitation.”, and proceeds to hand me a small bottle of Makers Mark bourbon (potential sponsor?). On October 23, Association Laboratory produced the Association Content Strategy Summit. We had a great group of association CEOs and senior executives. Here’s a quick wrap up of some of the key lessons. Associations Do Not Control Content Production, Vetting or Distribution The financial and communication barriers to content creation and distribution are effectively nonexistent. The result? A glut of content. Association Laboratory produced the Association Content Strategy Summit because data from our global environmental scan of the association business environment, Looking Forward (access HERE), clearly shows association leaders are struggling with content strategy. Consider the percentage of association leaders somewhat or very concerned about the following issues. 80% -

Let me tell you a story about a recent strategic planning gig. In the last hour of a 2-day facilitation, while we were on the final review of the draft strategic plan, a participant who had been contributing positively from the beginning turns to his colleagues and says, “This isn’t a strategic plan.”. Well crap. After I addressed the issue, I sat down next to Meg, our analyst who led the research, and we talked about how we always get the same questions. Regardless of client. Below common questions surrounding strategic planning that almost everyone asks at some point. If you need help with strategic planning, BTW, you can see how we do it HERE. Alright, let’s go. Can we trust the research informing strategic planning? Garbage in, garbage out as the old saying goes. At one recent Board meeting, a participant kept asking about the statistical validity of the member/nonmember survey we used to inform the strategic

For years, association executives have endured book after book explaining two things. First, how young professionals are essential to the future of associations. Second, how we couldn’t possibly understand the deep complexities of this critical audience (without help). Hell, some of our consultant friends have already started to scare us with the next generation, now in high school. Spoiler Alert - Whatever you are doing, it’s wrong. In last month’s blog post, Why Are Volunteer Leaders Killing Good Associations, (available HERE), we discussed the trust gap between current volunteer leaders and emerging audiences. Let's explore some of the mistakes associations make that generate this gap. Learn What Association Executives Successfully Engaging Young Professionals Have to Say First, though, in a quick shameless plug, during our Webinar Wednesday this September 19 (register HERE), we’re going to discuss Association Laboratory’s research-based white paper on the challenges and solutions to engaging young professionals. Titled Trials, Tribulations and

Association Laboratory’s ground-breaking environmental scan Looking Forward 2018 (access HERE) revealed how many association executives believe their volunteer leaders are creating substantial governance challenges that threaten the long-term viability of their association. Historical Membership Models and Governance Systems are Failing In Looking Forward 2018, 86% of association executives believed that membership acquisition, retention and engagement was the most serious association strategy issue. Association Laboratory has worked with hundreds of associations on the research and development of membership strategy and four aspects of strategy development are clear. The association must understand its markets and how these markets are changing. The association must accept that as audiences change, their needs change. New or emerging markets with different needs will require a different relationship with the association. An evolving relationship means that new models of engagement or membership must constantly be adapted or introduced. If the association doesn’t evolve, member engagement is diminished. The association dies a

Why are so many chief staff officers so afraid of their Board of Directors? Because their Boards are difficult to work with and the decisions they make are so bad. Recent research and conversations with CEO friends in association management highlight the astonishing amount of time and energy devoted to convincing, navigating or just plain avoiding bad Board members. We Spend Too Much Time on Governance to Have Bad Boards Much of modern day association executive leadership is focused on preparing and using volunteer leaders to inform decisions. Recent data from Looking Forward 2018, Association Laboratory’s global environmental scan of the association environment, indicated that 69% of chief staff officers identified governance and volunteer management as one of their primary responsibilities. With so much time spent on governance and, specifically, the Board of Directors, why don’t our volunteer leaders do a better job?  At what point is a bad Board of Directors our fault as

Successful association membership is not always about the Big Reveal. One of the most common  expectations of a strategy firm like Association Laboratory, is The Big Membership Idea, The Silver Bullet. The new thing that will completely turn things around. The innovation that nobody else has ever thought of before. Current TV shows constantly show us the Big Reveal. This trains our members, volunteers and staff to think that the famed silver bullet exists. Associations Waste Time and Money by Focusing Exclusively on the Big Picture Unfortunately, for most associations, these types of ideas are not only rare but, often, counterproductive. I say counterproductive because while we search far and wide for the magical elixir that will save our associations, the real answer is much closer at hand. The great quest blinds us  to simpler, easier and more effective strategies that are well within our means to implement. Consider the following. 1 Simple Step to Improve