Author Archives: Spets

Welcoming New Association Members

Welcome

How much time, effort and money does your Association spend on recruiting new members? Probably quite a bit! To ensure that all these efforts pay off, you want to make sure to take the right steps to make your members feel welcome!

 
Once a new member has been sourced and approved, it is important that they are given a good first impression of the Association. Experienced board members and long time members likely know their association inside out. But keep in mind – your new members don’t! It is important to provide new members with all relevant information about the association. To guide them through new territory but also to leave that sparkling first impression. It will give them reassurance about their decision to join.
But what information is helpful to a new member? The membership chair or committee should welcome new members; either personally by giving them a phone call or sending them a welcoming letter. New members should also be recognized by name at your Chapter events during the President’s welcoming comments.

 
It is highly recommended to have a membership package, that can be personalized and sent to each newly signed up member. Although many associations have adapted to sending most communication electronically, sending a paper copy of the welcoming package via mail is recommended. It looks professional and will likely be appreciated by your members!

 
Membership packages should include the following
1. Personalized Welcome Letter – written and signed by the Chapter’s President and Membership Chair
2. Log In Information for the association’s website (if applicable) – this should include information on how to set up, personalize and change their online profile, how to pay their member dues, how to register for events online, how to connect with other members through the member portal and how to generally take advantage of other sections your website might have (e.g. news sections, discussion forums, picture gallery, event archives, etc)
3. A clear outline of Membership Requirements – for example information on when to renew their membership, on how to earn continuing education credits or other association participation standards that are required in order to maintain their membership.
4. Legal Documents – such as the Society Act or any other codes of conduct, standards of practice or insurance requirements that may apply to your association and that new members should be informed of.
5. Member Benefits Package – It is important that new members are fully aware of all of the benefits associated with their membership. This may include member discounts to events, invitations to members-only events, access to special seminars, specific online or printed publications, mentorship programs, etc.
6. Information on the Association’s History – although the new member has probably done a bit of research before joining the association, it is recommended to provide something about the association’s background and history in writing. This could be a small pamphlet or flyer for example. It is always good to outline and emphasize the association’s vision and goals.
7. Information about WHERE TO GET HELP! It is important for your members to know who they can contact if they have any questions, concerns or problems (for example registering for an event, or cancelling an event registration, etc). Make sure your administrator and support staff’s contact information is clearly displayed!
It is also recommended to list your association’s Board of Directors. Outline their responsibilities and include their email-addresses and/or phone numbers, so members can contact them for more specific questions.

How to Hold a Productive Meeting

1 – Invite the right people
Be sure to select meeting participants carefully. Not everyone on the team or on a board may be involved in the same projects, so be sure to know who’s doing what in your organization in order to determine whose attendance is important at your meeting.

2 – Prepare an agenda and stick to it!
Organization & time management is key to every successful meeting. Everyone is busy and time is valuable. Make sure to send out a call for agenda items to all participants a few days prior to the meeting. Ask for a time estimate for each agenda item suggested, not exceeding 20 minutes per item.

3 – Give people time to chat
If you are meeting in person, your meeting can easily get sidetracked by people chatting about many other things unrelated to work! If you want to give people the chance to catch up on their weekend activities, invite people 15 minutes before the start of your meeting.
This could look like this: Meeting starts at 9am sharp, coffee & refreshments available at 8.45am.

4  – Test your meeting ‘set-up’ prior to the meeting
So you invited the meeting participants for 8.45 am? Be a step ahead and arrive at 8.30 am to test your equipment, so you can chat with them once they arrive to grab their coffees.
Sharing your screen? Using a projector? Audio? Whatever technology you may be using, make sure to test it in advance. Nothing is more frustrating than wasting valuable time on technical difficulties.

5 – Welcome constructive criticism
Many ideas develop and improve through group discussion. Be open to new ideas, suggestions and constructive criticism. But be careful to know where to draw the line: It’s easy to let a simple discussion get carried away and lose focus on the main point.

6 – Assign tasks with deadlines
Make sure everyone in your team knows exactly what to do after the meeting. Everyone in the (virtual) meeting room should have a task assigned after meeting, along with a due date for delivery. If someone leaves the meeting without an assigned task, it might be an indicator that this person should not have attended the meeting (even though, there are exceptions). Prior to your next meeting, make sure that said person, is indeed required to attend. Remember – everyone’s time is valuable!

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What Makes a Good Association Website

For associations and other nonprofit member organizations, it is crucial to keep their members engaged and informed through an updated and well functioning, user friendly website. At the same time, the website should also attract potential members – therefore act as a sales tool. To design a website that suits both criteria can be challenging.

Here is what you should keep in mind:

Look & Design:
Make sure your website has a clean look: choose colours and fonts wisely. The days of bright flashing headlines are long gone. It needs to be intuitive and easy to navigate. Keep in mind: when people do not find what they are looking for within 5-20 seconds, they will likely leave the site. User friendliness is key to a successful website. To ensure a good user experience, make sure your menu & navigation bar is well thought through. Areas of the website that your audience visits often, should be easy to find. Make those areas their own menu item.
It is also very important that your site is mobile friendly or responsive, as Internet usage on mobile devices nowadays exceeds the Internet access via computers.

Audience:
Who are you targeting? Baby Boomers, Generation X’ers or Millennials? Do not forget that each generation (age group) uses the internet slightly differently. If you are targeting Millennials for example, be sure your website is connected to all existing Social Media Channels. Millennials practically live on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. However, connecting with others through Social Media might not a priority to your older members. If your organization is formed of members of all ages, targeting your audience might be tricky.

Content:
Make sure you provide relevant content for your members: inform about industry news and changes from around the globe, current stats and predictions, industry influences and maybe even industry history. Do not forget: if your audience has a wide age range, be sure to also make this information available through other funnels: regularly update your Facebook, Twitter, and other Social Media Sites with information that link back to your website. The younger generations get almost 100% of their daily information through Social Media.

Call to Actions:
You likely want your audience to take a specific action when visiting your website: Join? Renew? Sign up for an event? Donate? Download industry relevant information?
No matter what it is you want people to do, their eyes always land on visuals. Make your ‘Call to Action’ buttons stand out; do not let them get lost within paragraphs of text. Although the design of your CTA’s should stand out, be careful not to exaggerate. It should be cohesive with your branding.
If you have a white paper, invite your site visitors to download it. The downloaded paper automatically turns into a lead for a potential new member/sponsor, etc.

Build Community:
Besides your common Social Media Networks, consider a ‘members only community’ on your website – it could be a valuable member benefit. Exclusive access to important industry information and expert advice can be one of your top member acquisition and retention tools.
Online communities not only help people connect and stay connected in between events, they can also be the base of discussions and a place for members to seek for advice or help other industry professionals.
Optimize your site:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a very important aspect of a website. Without SEO your website can not be found as easily. And if it cannot be found, it does not exist. Your members may know about you, but what about all the potential members, the potential sponsors?
SEO requires constant maintenance: it’s all about keywords and content. However, social shares, inbound links, time spent on your page and numbers of pages visited all factor into the search equation.
Make sure to use important keywords and phrases people will search for as headlines on your page. Tag your post or the pictures you use in your post with said keywords. Use keywords throughout but do not constantly repeat yourself. Use a variety.
It is also important to add new content to your website regularly. And don’t forget about your audience that spends most of their time on Social Media: drive them back to your website through posts on your Social Media Channels. Lastly – offer quality. Your content needs to be relevant and valuable. Link to other external sites if necessary; hopefully your content will be valuable enough to them to link back to yours.

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5 Actions to Take after a Networking Event

1 – File business cards: After the event, make sure to sort the business cards collected into categories, and enter all contact information into your database.

2 – Add other relevant data:  Additional notes will help you remember details about the person you have met and the conversations you have had.

3 – Follow up: After a day or two, send emails to all prospects, thanking them the time they took  talking to you. If appropriate, ask for a follow up meeting or appointment.  If that is not the case at this point, a brief “it was nice meeting you and I am looking forward to potential business opportunities in the near future” will do.

4 – Use your Social Media accounts such as LinkedIn, Twitter or your professional Facebook page to connect to people not too long after you have met, so their memory is still fresh about you and the conversation you have had.

5 – Connect people: not all new contacts made might be valuable to your business – however, offer to connect people to other business contacts you have. Personal referrals are always appreciated.

Happy Networking!

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How to Start a Networking Conversation

1 – Be confident: Walk up to people, even if you have already met them before. Greet them with a confident smile and (re)introduce yourself.

2 – Introduce your business or company: Tell them where you work or who you work for and what your business does, and ask for their business name and industry as well.

3 – Acknowledge their response: Make the conversation flow by using the information given:   “I have heard of this business before”, or “I am not familiar with your company, please tell me more about it!” are ways to deepen the conversation from there.

4 – Deepen the conversation: “How interesting, tell me more about it” or “Sounds like a great company, how long have you worked there for?” are ways to show more interest and keep your networking partner engaged.

5 – Be mindful of others: Pay attention to who is walking by, attempting to join your conversation. Bring others into the conversation – not only to make more connections yourself but also to keep the flow and purpose of the event going.

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5 Reasons to Network

It’s September, and that means the Association Business is back in full force. Time to start networking again – by showing your face at the annual “Season-Kick-Off Event”, the first Seminar, Speaker Series or the first Luncheon of the new season.

“Why”, you ask?  – Here are 5 reasons why you should network at a Business Networking Event:

1. To connect with key leaders and influencing personalities of your industry

2. To build relationships that could eventually lead into referrals or leads

3. To stay current with what is happening locally in your industry

4.  To find companies that could provide solutions for your own business

5. To connect on a personal level – show your own face to increase your companies’ visibility

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How to Plan and Execute a Successful Event

Make sure to create a list and check it twice! Good organization and a detailed timeline is key to executing a successful event!

1 – Create a realistic timeline: The planning process for a medium sized event (between 50 and 200 attendees) is about 8 weeks from start to finish. (That excludes your venue booking – which usually has to be done 6 months up to 1 year prior to the actual event date!)

2 – Set up online-registration: Using online registration saves you AND the event registrant an immense amount of time. The system should collect payment and generate receipts and confirmation emails upon registration. It is important that the system is user-friendly, so you don’t lose potential attendees due to a complicated sign-up process.

3 – Market your event: Start marketing your event about 6 to 7 weeks prior to the event. All relevant information such as location, time, cost, speaker/s or presenter/s, sponsor/s and registration & cancellation deadlines will need to be confirmed at this point.
Make sure you have an efficient marketing strategy in place: email the event invitation to your database, update your website and have your Social Media campaigns set up.
About half way through the promotion process, send press releases to local newspapers and contact the local media to promote your event (radio stations or TV channels).

4 – Communicate with the venue: Select your final menu about 2-3 weeks prior to the event. Confirm room set up, AV requirements, guest rooms if applicable and other relevant information. Make sure to update the venue on your guest numbers regularly. Final numbers are usually due 2 business days before the event. At that time, communicate all dietary restrictions and special meal requests you have collected (through your online-registration system).

5 – Remind your event attendees: The day before the event, send a reminder email to all registrants. Include main information such as time and location (including address and name of the specific room the event takes place in) but also general information on parking or public transit options.

6 – Check your list: Make sure to arrive at the venue with plenty of time to set up your registration area, check the room, connect with the hotel staff and banquet manager, set up your AV equipment and pour yourself a last cup of coffee. You’ll be busy executing a very successful event for the next few hours!

7 – Wrap it up: Make sure to tie up all loose ends before putting your event ad acta: Update your database with all walk-ins and no-shows. Collect outstanding payments, follow up with potential new members, give productive feedback to the hotel, send out surveys to the attendees and a thanking letter to all speakers and sponsors.

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The Benefits of an Association Managment Company (AMC)

The Association Management business has been around for more than 120 years in North America and it is still growing rapidly. Particularly in Canada, Association Management Companies (AMC) have become more and more popular over the last few years. Why?

1 – Affordability: Staff, office space, current technology and a variety of professional services are shared amongst all clients of an AMC: the AMC is able to customize a service plan for each client’s individual need and is therefore able to charge the client on a fee-for-service basis. All resources are available (for instance a membership specialist, graphic designer or an accountant), but if the client does not need and use a particular service, they will not have to pay for it. Especially smaller organizations benefit from hiring an AMC over an in-house-administrator, as they often do not have the funds to afford an office and full time staff.

2 – Payment Plans: Dependent on how involved the AMC is in the client’s daily affairs, they usually offer their clients different ways to pay for their services: Monthly retainers (often used if the AMC acts as the client’s Executive Director or Administrator and takes care of all aspects of their business), hourly fee plans (often used when the AMC only looks after certain areas of the client’s administration) or flat fee plans (usually used when the AMC is hired for a short term project). The client decides what payment plan works best for them.

3 – Availability: During the week, an AMC offers regular full time office hours to its clients. It does not matter if the client is paying for full time or part time services: there is always someone available to answer to the clients’ membership, directors and volunteers.

4 – Professionalism: Through an AMC, the clients gains access to expert specialized staff in all areas of association management. An in-house administrator is seldom a professional in member recruitment, event management, financial planning, marketing etc. all at the same time. An AMC, on the other hand, has full or part time staff and contractors with all these specific skills. It is able to leverage resources and its customers reap the benefits.

5 – Staying Current: AMC’s are committed to staying up to date on current technology and digital media trends. They adapt their soft – and hardware systems and programs as trends change.  Their clients will benefit from new products, procedures and approaches without breaking their organization’s bank.

6 – Piece Of Mind: Hiring an AMC allows the directors and committee members of an organization to focus on its strategic goals, rather than spending their valuable time on day-to-day administrative matters. Employees of an AMC are fully trained association industry experts with years of experience in association governance, which allows them to provide excellent leadership to their clients.
With the help of an AMC, the Board of Directors can focus on the organization’s core issues: its purpose, goals and mission.

By Patricia Tait, Account ManagerIMG_0740

How To Engage Your Association Members

The success of an association is based on the strength and satisfaction of its membership. What does your organization have to offer to its members and supporters? Educational and social networking events? A monthly newsletter? Great – but that’s likely not enough to keep your followers engaged. Time to think outside of the box and get creative. Here are a few tips on how to engage your association members better:

1 – Create a Blog: Every successful business has a blog to promote their industry events and discuss the latest industry news. So should your association: a regularly updated blog allows your members and followers to give their opinions and start a discussion with their industry colleagues. Whereas a newsletter only reaches the people in your database, a blog allows you to reach a broader audience. Another benefit: If people find your blog valuable, they can share it to their social media network. And by doing that, they help you increase your followers.

Can’t keep up with the posts? Invite your association’s members, sponsors or other industry partners to write guest blog posts. They will be happy to help if that gives them the chance to showcase themselves or the company they work for. Who does not like some free advertising?

2 – Showcase your members: Feature a “member of the month” on either your website or blog. Allow your members to submit nominations by highlighting outstanding achievements or exceptional contributions within your industry.

3 – Use Webinars & Videos: Engage your members by offering free weekly or monthly webinars. Ask your sponsors and other volunteers to come up with content that is relevant to the membership. Again, it gives industry experts the chance to showcase themselves through your channel.
Do your members need to collect CE credits? Participating in those webinars can be an alternative to visiting your annual conference or continuing education events.
Did you have a great guest speaker providing expert insight at your last event? Video or audio tape his presentation and make it available exclusively to your members in your members-only online portal.

4 – Start discussions on your Social media channels: Use your Twitter and Facebook accounts to spread valuable industry news, but also to get people talking: Ask a simple question, or post an article to trigger a discussion within your audience. Show them that their input and opinion is important to you.

5 – Get personal: This is probably the hardest, but yet the most effective way of engaging your members: pick up the phone and connect with people!
There are a number of reasons to connect on a personal level with your membership or partners: a personal invite to an upcoming event, to congratulate on a member’s work or membership anniversary, to express gratitude and to thank a supporter for their recent sponsorship or donation, a reminder about an upcoming membership renewal, a personal call to someone who has not been to an event in a while or who has not renewed their membership. Making a personal connection is a great way of expressing that you care about your members and partners. And that can make all the difference.

By Patricia Tait, Account Manager

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