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Latest Issue of Boardwalk Now Available!

Have you checked out our latest issue of Boardwalk? Now available online here!


A+ Boardwalk

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Client Newsletters.....to go High Tech or to go Old School?

We recently re-launched our client newsletter Boardwalk, which hit mailboxes in early February (not on our mailing list?  Please send an email to info@associationsplus.ca and we’d be happy to add you!).  As part of this move, we debated the merits of a hard copy newsletter vs an email newsletter, and opted to go the ‘old school’ hard copy route for a number of reasons:

  1. More so than with an electronic newsletter, we feel the hard copy newsletter will give us better opportunity to show off our desktop publishing and design skills
  2. There are just so many e-newsletters out there…..we felt this might help to set us apart
  3. There was a personal preference from a majority of the staff for a hard copy vs e-newsletter….including myself, I often forego e-newsletters, however I will take a hard copy magazine or newsletter to read on the long commute home
  4. Given the pending anti-spamming legislation (Bill C-28) coming into effect in the near future, the requirements around email distribution vs hard copy distribution are much more onerous
  5. The hard copy format better accommodates for potential advertising

So, has the re-launch been a success?  Hard to tell at this point, however we did have one newsletter recipient reach out to let us know that a particular article had resonated with him.  The key elements we have looked to incorporate into this quarterly communication piece are as follows:

  • Article(s) on issues of relevance to volunteers working with member-based industry associations (our last issue included an article on how to engage generation Y in volunteerism, board bullies, and the value of industry conferences)
  • Book review – each issue will feature a review of a business book
  • Volunteer recognition – the winter issue featured an interview with two Gen Y volunteers, as well as a profile of a student volunteer
  • Alignment to the A+ brand

We’re excited for this new initiative and are thrilled to have another way to reach out to our clients and showcase our expertise.

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Email Don'ts....Keeping it Professional

If all email is to believed, I am sure we have all been multi-millionaires a hundred times over thanks to the generosity of some long lost relative, or that poor persecuted prince from Nigeria.  The advent of email communication has improved workplace efficiencies and provided for instant access in a remarkable way, however it also comes with its share of headaches, such as scammers and spammers.  But what do you do when the email in question is not from some high ranking Nigerian official looking for your assistance in accessing $26 million, but from a work associate?


Okay, it is unlikely that a work associate will send you a phishing scam email, however it is highly probable that at some point during your career, a colleague will send you an email that will have you shaking your head and thinking to yourself “did they actually just type my name into that ‘To:’ field, and send this email to me?”  While a huge fan of email myself, if not for email the 200+ emails I receive a day this communication would be coming in via phone and fax (shudder), I occasionally find myself facing down an email communique that can only be described as downright unprofessional.

Case in point:

  • Inappropriate jokes – while I consider myself to have a great sense of humor, and love a good joke, if I have only met you once for a brief five minute discussion in a business setting, that likely does not warrant me a spot on your jokester email list.  Wait at least until we meet for a second time.
  • Requests for financial support for your daughter’s Girl Guides cookie drive – if we are on friendly terms, by all means email away….use discretion here.  A good barometer for this: if I don’t know enough about you or your life to know that you even have a daughter, then it is probably wise to leave me off the request
  • Foul language – just don’t.  There were 470,000 entries in the 1993 edition of Webster’s dictionary, so I am fairly certain you can find a myriad of alternate words that are not four letters.  Emails are forever, they can be forwarded, they can be printed out, they can be shared with entire contact lists, so conduct yourself accordingly.
  • ALL CAPS RAGE – avoid the use of all caps, which is akin to shouting at someone.  There are much more effective and professional ways to communicate your displeasure.  A woman in New Zealand was actually fired back in 2009 for her email style sins, which included the use of all caps and red text (http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-10322998-71.html).
  • Proof your emails.  While I cut some slack for those sending emails on their mobile devices, I am still an advocate for reviewing your emails for accuracy and spelling prior to hitting send.  I will completely dismiss a resume or job application that comes in with typos in the email cover note.
  • I recently received an email invitation to a new church opening from an individual I met once three years ago…the sentence “if you are not into building faith in God/increasing your own inner peace/light, please completely disregard this email” was actually used.  No further elaboration is required here.
  • Not sure if that email is too harsh/irate/inappropriate?  Step away from it for an hour, or vet it through a brutally honest co-worker.  Once it’s out there, it’s out there!

Email is not a passing fad, it is here to stay (or will continue to evolve with new social media tools).  Observe the common sense rules of ‘netiquette’ and type away!

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Membership Ins and Outs... and Ins

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but you do need to know there is one.


Membership is a conundrum for some organizations, and a mammoth undertaking for others, but understanding the big picture increases capacity and reminds organizations that member communications, and tactics, need to be relevant to the member depending where they are in the evolving relationship with the organization. One of the most compelling resources out there today explaining this is Marketing General Incorporated (www.marketinggeneral.com) with a systemic view called The Membership Lifecycle. Often associations have one or two tactics for dealing with their membership issues, with little experimentation or innovation, and use cookie cutter messages without realizing the different phases of member association with your organization.

We might not remember how, or when, it happened, but there is a time in everyone’s life when they discover the existence association that sooner or later would draw them in. Unfortunately, some organizations rely on chance; assuming that they offer a desirable product, and those that need it will find them. What is actually needed is a strategic and proactive plan to establish a brand designed to attract people’s attention, drive traffic to the website, and generate prospects for potential membership. Targeting markets with a clear value proposition informs choices. Realization of the economic value of membership at the Awareness stage is derived from both the economic and social structure of the situation, rather than just from the inherent characteristics of the association itself and its “desirable” product. The goal of the Awareness stage is to build recognition and generate new relationships by delivering information or resources that only qualified prospects would value. Potential members are qualified as they sign up to receive content prior to being recruited as members. As reliance on, and confidence in, the association grows over time, membership becomes a natural next step.

There also comes a time when the association needs to ask for membership in the organization. Inviting new members to join should be done with a compelling message expressing unique value (vision and robust mission), tangible value (benefits), and relationship values (context for cultivation and intimacy). The goal of the Recruitment phase is to successfully capture the attention of your prospects, and have them choose to become a member of your organization. Offers and incentives to new members often make it easier for them to buy into the more practical reasons for joining an association.

The Engagement stage is the process of moving members from observers to users. The most likely memberships to lapse are first-year members, so while membership engagement across the association is important, it is imperative that associations to find ways to engage first-year members positively and often. Strategies for Engagement include welcome notices and packages, affirmation of value, encouraging new members to use benefits, communicating the vision, and/or special program for new members. An engagement plan is vital to associations for retention and growth; to meet the expectations of current and new members so that they feel they have been part of a relationship, and in a two-way conversation. “Members who are actively involved with an organization appreciate the value they receive much more than those who are not involved,” (Rossell, 2012). Members who have felt engaged are more likely than non-engaged members to renew.

Many associations rely on the deadline for membership renewal to be the impetus for members to renew. This is especially detrimental if there has not been any contact with the member since the last renewal, members forget about renewal, or members did not see value in the membership (and you didn’t hear about it). Relationships with members need to be carefully nurtured in order to strengthen the feelings of engagement and affiliation with the organization. Associations have the opportunity to use the Renewal phase to build upon their engagement strategies to “confirm the value that has been delivered… and request a continuance of the relationship,” (Rossell, 2010). Frequency of contact and quality of content combined with early renewal attempts promotes Renewal success by reminding members why the association is relevant to them.

A lapsing member is not always a dissatisfied member, or even purposeful, but when it is, it is important to find the breakdown and reinstate former members to paid status. The Reinstatement phase in another opportunity for relationship building. Reaching out to members after expiration is an important way to get feedback as to why they did not continue, reverse longer-term membership losses, and keep your contact database up to date; these ex-members have in-depth knowledge about who you are, and your vision for your industry. It is important to stay in touch with former members and try to recruit them again.

Recruiting and retaining members, new and old, takes effort but it is not complicated or difficult. Although people usually buy memberships because they believe in an organization and want to help further its goals, and reap the benefits, there are many important stages that have their own relationship goals, strategies and key messages, so one-size-fits-all tactics are not the answer. It is a valuable exercise for all associations to have a membership plan that includes tactics and strategies related to the lifecycle, and review it regularly to ensure they are actually reaching and building relationships with people in each phase.

Lori Farley

Rossell, Tony. "The Membership Lifecycle: A Systematic Approach to Membership Marketing." DAXKO Connect Virtual Customer Conference. Peach New Media. 22 Oct. 2010. Webinar.

Rossell, Tony. “The MGI Membership Lifecycle.Spring 2011.  Marketing General Inc. 2011. 15 Jul. 2012 www.marketinggeneral.com/resources/white-papers/white-paper-library

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Membership Retention - How Does Your Organization Measure Up?

The old business adage that it is easier to keep a customer than to get a new one applies to the world of member-based associations in that it is easier to keep a member than to get a new one.  Your members are your organizations’ reason for being – are you keeping them happy?  While our last blog focused on ways to attract new members, this one will touch on ways to keep the members you have.


Does your organization track its membership retention rate?  The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) reports that the average renewal rate is 83% for member-based associations.  How does your association measure up?   ASAE provides the following formula for measuring member retention:

Total Number of Members Today – 12 Months of New Members/Total Number of Members in Previous Years = Renewal Rate

The first year of membership is often referred to as the conversion year, since this is the time when a new member is most likely not to renew.  They may have decided to try the association out, or perhaps they joined through an incentive program, however if the value is not there for them they are unlikely to renew.

So, how do you weather the conversion year?  Two words - engagement and communication.

ASAE provides some interesting statistics that help to emphasize the importance that membership engagement has on retention:

  • Members who attended a membership meeting in the past year were 19% more likely to renew
  • Members who attended four or more meetings were 30% more likely to renew
  • Members who placed a product order in the past year were 28% more likely to renew


Are you providing regular opportunities for your membership to get together?  If not, look to incorporate this in, as face-to-face is the best way to engage your members.  Are you reaching out to your members to involve them in the various volunteer opportunities your organization may have available?  In a study done by Statistics Canada in 2010, 45% of respondents indicated that they didn’t volunteer because no one had asked them to do so.  So, ask away….what better way to get your members more entrenched with your organization then by making them an active part of the team.

Which leads to our second point – communication.  Ensure that your members know what is going on within the organization.  Remind them time and time again why they joined your organization, and of the value that your association brings.  Make sure that this communication goes two ways though – reach out to your membership on a regular basis through surveys and polls to ensure that you are in fact meeting their needs and to identify new growth areas for the organization.

Keep your members engaged, keep them informed, and keep them involved in regular two-way conversation, and you can look forward to a long, happy, healthy relationship.

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