Association Reserves: Key Policy Components

By Denise Turner, Vice President Finance/Operations

Reserves

Every association leader should periodically consider their organization’s reserves.

Denise Turner

Association financial policies are very similar to your own personal financial policies. Tracking expenditures and income; carefully monitoring the flow in both directions and, hopefully, putting aside funds for a rainy day is important. But, unlike your personal finances (unless you are fortunate enough to employ a team of accountants), AMG’s client-associations benefit from our experienced finance department to stay on top of their revenue and expenditure items. Our finance team, along with each organization’s client leader and board, manage the budget and collaborate on generating ideas to prudently expend association resources on behalf of their members and other stakeholders.

Just like your own, part of an effective non-profit financial strategy includes savings. Association leaders are stewards of the organization’s coffers and are responsible for ensuring that resources are used well. Part of that responsibility must consist of a clearly written reserve policy which will help keep the financial position of the organization healthy. An approved, and regularly reviewed reserves policy not only allows the association’s leaders, board and staff to have clear understandings and directives, but it can also help prevent potential conflicts that may arise over revenue allocation.

There is no specific policy that applies to all nonprofits, but there are some definite components that any boards writing a reserve policy would want to make sure are included.

Here are a few of those components:

  1. Define your reserves. Nonprofits define reserves differently. For example, one association may define reserves as “a discrete subset of its liquid net assets.” Another might define its reserves as unrestricted cash investments; in other words, those funds that aren’t earmarked for any other purpose.
  2. Determine the purpose of your reserves. The purpose of a reserve policy is to elaborate on the definition and give specific goals. A typical policy may include the following:
    1. To provide sufficient assets to help carry out the mission of the association
    2. To provide funds for unforeseen contingencies due to unpredictable economic turns in the association’s financial status
    3. To cushion the association during dips in the cyclical variation of its circumstances
    4. To fund strategic initiatives
  3. -Calculate your reserve fund target. Most nonprofit financial advisors will suggest  that this not a one-size-fits all approach. Industry research says only 23 percent of nonprofits have more than six months of needed cash in reserve. The majority had less than three months in reserve, and 12 percent had less than 30 days, it is important to base your reserve fund target off some association-specific metrics, including a long-term financial forecast and an analysis of potential risks.
  4. -Create criteria for achievement and allocation. Once you’ve calculated your target amount of reserves, you’ll want to determine how it can best be achieved. One way is a commitment to annual reserves, another would be to budget specific net revenue over expense each year. Then determine how the reserve fund can be allocated toward specific projects and or strategic investments on behalf of members.

By creating a policy with these components and getting it approved by the board, everyone benefits and should future conflict arise, the policy can be referred to by current officers.

Getting Back to Basics with Everybody Writes | Part I

By Emily Francis, Association Administrator, Women in Government Relations (WGR)

Everybody Writes

Emily Francis

Most in the association world have sent tens of hundreds of emails to their membership—after you get the hang of writing so many emails, especially if you send them daily, it can be hard to break out of the ordinary and the usual.

I picked up Everybody Writes, by marketing guru Ann Handley, to freshen up my writing habits and make sure I was looking at everything I send out to membership with beginner’s eyes. I found what I was looking for in Everybody Writes, as Handley delivers a very easy read and a go-to guide for anyone looking to refresh their writing, editing, organization or social media game. She makes sure to touch on the basics of each aspect of writing to provide a well-rounded blueprint for any experience level.

As I was reading, I found that most of what she discusses in Parts 1-4 of the book (Tips on how to hate writing less, grammar/usage, story rules and publishing rules) isn’t new or surprising information—but it’s exactly the kind of back-to-basics invigoration everyone should put themselves through to keep their writing new.

Part V is where things really start to get good: 13 Things Marketers Write. This section goes through every possible medium in which you might be marketing to your clients/members, and hits everything from emails and significant social media platforms to blogs and website home pages.

Here are some of my favorite and most applicable tips and rules to abide by in the Emails chapter:

  • Keep email subject lines ASAP (as short as possible). Our members and clients are sifting through sometimes hundreds of emails a day, and they make snap decisions on which to keep and which to trash. As Handley kept reiterating throughout her book, “with any content, brevity rules.” (Image source: Retention Science)

Subject Line Length Open Rates

  • Communicate with a human voice. Handley advises that using you and your repeatedly makes an email clear that it’s not about your organization, it’s about how your org can help them. Focus relentlessly on how you can benefit the people in your audience by making the content feel as if it comes from an actual person speaking to them.
  • Context. Making sure that your emails are timely is what can make or break your open rates. You worked hard on the links that are in those emails, you want people to click them! Get it done by sending your emails early in the day, before inboxes are brimming, and get creative with the timing. For example, what can you offer your members in the DMV now that there is a new administration moving in?

The tips seem simple, but we can always use fewer words, or strategize our email campaigns better by thinking through what your membership or consumer base really needs to know. It’s worth setting aside the time and going through the analytics analysis.

Stay tuned for more tips from Ann Handley and Everybody Writes!

Important Announcement: Interel and AMG Join Forces

Press Release  |  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  |  Brussels, Washington DC  |  February 7th, 2017

Interel, the global public affairs consultancy, today announced that Washington DC based firm AMG, has joined its Group. Together both companies will generate  €25 million (EUR) ($27 million (USD)) in annual revenues and employ more than 200 consultants, staff and advisors.

Adding to its own offices and partner firms in over 60 countries, Interel will now benefit from a strong foothold in the United States as AMG’s infrastructure and 90 strong staff provide an instantly scalable growth platform which delivers the following capabilities:

  • Strategic association management, meetings and government affairs services, focused on growth and achievement
  • Sophisticated work with global corporate brands focused on business activation and engagement of target audiences.

Fredrik Lofthagen, Group CEO of Interel and J. Bruce Wardle, CAE, CEO of AMG

Commenting on the acquisition, Fredrik Lofthagen, Group CEO of Interel said: “We already work with a number of the world’s leading associations and societies as well as many of the world’s best known corporate brands but the acquisition of AMG is a further significant step in the successful expansion of Interel as a global player. Besides our historic European basis, AMG gives us a strong presence in the USA, the most advanced and innovative market in our industry.”

“Joining forces with Interel is more than just a geographic or business expansion, it represents a blending of aligned cultures and shared outlooks on the global market”, said AMG’s CEO, J. Bruce Wardle, CAE. “It will be exciting to see the affirmative impact this union will have on our clients and professionals, both presently and in the future. I’m also looking forward to continuing in my role as CEO of AMG to ensure the continuity of services and solutions for those we serve.”

AMG’s clients will feel an immediate impact in the advocacy and government affairs space through Interel’s unsurpassed global network and expertise in strategically engaging government stakeholders.

Interel and AMG will continue to operate under their respective brand names and without any changes in current management for the foreseeable future.

Video Resource: Interel’s and AMG’s CEOs Discuss Joining Forces

About Interel
Interel, founded in Brussels in 1983, is a leading global public affairs and association management consultancy, with own offices and affiliates covering more than 60 markets around the world. We help clients to understand and navigate the political environment and to develop engagement strategies which achieve measurable results. We also provide management solutions to help clients navigate their internal challenges, realise success with their broader mission, connect with stakeholders, raise profile and increase impact. Our award winning team of public affairs and association management experts combine in depth knowledge of the issues in their market with the strategic and tactical skills to deliver impact. To find out more, please visit www.interelgroup.com.

About AMG
Association Management Group (AMG), which is dedicated exclusively to staffing and managing nonprofits of all types, provides unsurpassed management expertise to empower organizations to meet their objectives and achieve success. With offices in Tysons Corner and on Capitol Hill, AMG is the leading Washington, DC-based AMC. To find out more, please visit www.amg-inc.com.

About AMC accreditation
Interel and AMG are both accredited by the Association Management Company Institute (AMCI) (www.amcinstitute.org). This prestigious accreditation indicates highest-quality management practices and procedures, as well as optimal delivery of services to clients.

 

For press inquiries contact:

Europe:
Interel: Baudouin Velge
Managing Partner
T: +32 (0)475 30 12 11
baudouin.velge@interelgroup.com

USA:
Interel: Jason Jarrell
Partner, U.S. and Head of Global Practice
T: +1 202.352.7911
jason.jarrell@interelgroup.com

AMG: Chad Quinn
Communications Director
T: +1 703.610.9000
cquinn@amg-inc.com

A Print Renaissance: Electronic vs. Print Marketing in 2017

By Teresa Gutsick,Creative Director, Association Management Group (AMG)

Teresa Gutsick

Teresa Gutsick

Remember when email was special?

For those of you whose birth announcements arrived in email, you probably don’t remember the heady days to which I am referring. Let me take you back…

Once upon a time there was real excitement surrounding email. It was quick and cheap, and a great way to drive a marketing message directly to your audience. You could promote your organization’s membership, their next event or annual conference with real style. And email allowed you to squeeze much more out of your marketing budget. This was refreshing considering that printed marketing materials— the old standard— were expensive to produce and mail. Then there was the concern that people received too much printed material (better known as junk mail), and so this could result in your big budget brochure getting lost on their desk, or possibly even trashed, before its beautiful, glossy covers were even opened. [gasp]

Wait. Does this sound familiar? “Trashed before it was even opened.” Yes, we’ve come full circle. Today, we worry obsessively about open rates for our email marketing. And we are not merely guessing that our clever marketing email has been trashed and not opened—thanks to email analytics, we know it has been trashed and not opened.

In a world where we are being bombarded by electronic communication from all sides, print has suddenly become a rather special medium for marketing. I believe this is because it exists in our physical world and not in an increasingly saturated digital landscape. Print can feel like something that has been crafted specifically for us.

The print world has been evolving and now offers many custom options that were previously cost prohibitive for small budgets. These include:

  • Soft Touch Aqueous Coating – This coating, which creates a velvety texture to the printed sheet, can be applied inline on the printing press and is an inexpensive alternative to a soft touch paper stock. Soft Touch® coating is applied in-line as a part of the printing process and assists with a quick drying time. This coating also protects the sheet from scuff marks during finishing operations like binding, folding, or cutting. It is an eco-friendly option.
  • Die-cuts and Other Specialty Finishing Options – Die-cuts are custom trims for brochures, like rounded corners, windows and pockets. Die-cuts and other special finishing options can make a piece unique, but can impact mailability, so check with your mailing services provider if mailing as a self-mailer. Other specialty finishing options include embossing and foil stamping. These methods are an additional step in the production process, requiring additional time and cost for production.
  • Variable Data – Today’s digital presses can customize much more than just names for your printed piece. Whole sections of content and imagery can be customized for different audiences. With variable data (on demand) digital printing, you control versionable, individualized text and graphics that can be targeted to customer and prospect interests.

A print piece takes more prominence than another email in your inbox because it takes up space on the desk that you sit your coffee on and can’t get caught in your IT department’s spam filter. It is time to give print another try. Craft a special marketing experience for your stakeholders with print.

 

Thank you to Ilene Lerner, AMG’s account representative at HBP, Inc., for her contributions to this blog.

S.U.P. (Short. Uncomplicated. Pleasing.)

Keep your message short. Keep your language uncomplicated. Keep your presentations pleasing to the eye.

By Chad Quinn, Social Media and Communications Director, Association Management Group (AMG)

Chad Quinn

Chad Quinn

My 9-year-old nephew often sends me a simple text message… “sup” – no punctuation and no extra words. While short, the intent is clear. He’s checking-in, saying “hi” and seeing if I am around to respond.

This simple word… well, almost a word – in this usage it is more slang; “sup” is actually a word that means to “take (drink or liquid food) by sips or spoonfuls” – who knew?… Back on track; this simple word illustrates a key message in communication. Attention spans are short. We live in a world where you could easily reveal your age by how you use caps and punctuation in text messages. A world where many people get their “news” from sound-bites tweeted, or retweeted, in 140 character intervals. A world where our attention spans are – on average, less than eight seconds – less than a goldfish’s. (This is where I should be inserting the grimace face emoji.)

So, how does this shortened attention span relate to your marketing initiatives?

A good rule of thumb to remember, inspired by my nephew, is: S.U.P. Short. Uncomplicated. Pleasing.

Keep your message short. Keep your language uncomplicated. Keep your presentation pleasing to the eye.

Of course there are other ways that this same concept is stated, such as K.I.S.S… Keep It Simple Stupid. But, again being inspired by my nephew… “you shouldn’t say ‘stupid’, Uncle Chad.” Not to mention, my new version is shorter. So… there. Shorter is better. (wink emoji)

Short.
Keep your message short. Don’t throw everything at your reader. For instance, if you are highlighting your upcoming conference, there is very likely a lot you could include in an email blast to your members. There is the impulse to throw the whole shebang at your audience; for instance: all the speakers and all of the special events. But, this is overkill. Keep it simple. Highlight one speaker and one event at the most, then drive people to your website for more information – that’s why you built it. Use it. (Not to mention it helps drive traffic and analytics!)

Your website is where you can include all of the details packaged in neat and easy-to-read tabs (especially if the website is responsive and optimized for mobile devices). Keep in mind, most people will view your email on their smartphone or tablet, which means if you have too much text, too many details… too many graphics… they will be scrolling. A lot. And lots of scrolling is lots of “work” and that will lead to a higher likelihood of the reader losing interest.

Putting too much into an email is the equivalent of reverse-FOMO (fear of missing out). You’re scared your audience isn’t going to get all of the information you think they need. In reality, your message is a tease… view it as a way to draw people in. Like a movie preview; show them a glimpse and make them want more.

Uncomplicated.
Keep your language uncomplicated. Write the way people speak; simple short sentences. It goes without saying, don’t string a bunch of big words together just to seem high-brow, smart or clever. Marketing messaging is not academic writing. Unusual words or uncommon language requires the reader to think. Avoid stopping the flow at all cost. Write, then read your text out loud. Does it flow? Ideally, ask a couple of colleagues to read the message; ask them to read it out loud. Ask them for honest feedback. Is the message clear? Does it flow? Is it enticing the reader to seek more information (on the website) or take another action (like registering for the conference!)?

Pleasing.
Keep your presentations pleasing to the eye. Just like with text, less is more when it comes to graphics. Allow the message to breathe – allow for “white space.” When I worked in advertising, one of the biggest struggles was getting clients to understand that they didn’t have to fill every nook and cranny of an ad. Some felt like, “I’m paying for that space, we need to fill it with as much information as possible… if there’s empty space, add something!” (facepalm emoji)

In reality, you want your ads, emails, brochures, flyers, posters, etc. to feel light and airy. Too much text, too many graphic elements and too much information is sensory overload. The reader won’t know where to look. They won’t know what the important message is or what action you want them to take (and, neither will you).

So… follow SUP. You’re building connections with your audience – your members, vendors, sponsors, etc. Communicate the way they do. Work to build their trust and make them want to open your emails… even look forward to them… because they are short, uncomplicated and pleasing… like the best of relationships. Well, maybe I should rethink that short part as it relates to relationships – relationships should be long… emails should be short. (shock emoji)

XDP: A Highly Collaborative Learning Experience

By Hunter Clemens, CAE, CMP, Vice President Meetings Management Group (MMG)

Hunter Clemens

Imagine being greeted at every turn along the way as you enter the venue hosting an event you are attending and being met with your badge, and then escorted to the coat check, and then to the room in which your meeting is being held. That is exactly what happened when I had the privilege to attend the American Society of Association Executive’s (ASAE) pilot of the Xperience Design Project, or XDP, this past December. This was a much smaller setting than the larger experience being designed for this coming May. Once we entered the main session room there was an immediate sense of energy unlike any event I’ve recently attended. Granted, we were a group of professionals that, for the most part, know one another, but it was the sounds, the smells and the lighting/atmosphere that enhanced the beginning of this event experience. I have written in the past that meeting professionals no longer just plan events; they now design experiences. The XDP was truly a well designed experience.

The main session room was set with a central stage in the round with round tables of eight set around the room. I was escorted to my pre-assigned table (based upon my interests in the topics being discussed from a pre-event survey) and introduced to my tablemates. There were danish and croissants in the center of the table on a lazy-susan with additional food and beverage stations set around the perimeter of the room. As I greeted industry friends along the way, I quickly grabbed a cup of coffee and a healthy breakfast and headed back to my table.

The room or “Lab” was divided into the following areas or “zones”: 1) Marketing & Technology, 2) Experience Design & Event Innovation and 3) Content Strategy & Learning Design. Each zone had a subject matter expert to speak on their topic. There were two tables per zone and each table was assigned a facilitator who served as an ambassador and stayed with us throughout this part of the day. Throughout this portion of the program, each set of tables moved to a different zone where we met with an industry expert. While the industry expert discussed their topic, the facilitator helped keep the conversation on track and made certain that each person was given an opportunity to participate (respecting that some were introverts) in the topic being discussed.

The conversations were lively and we quickly realized that there was a great deal to learn from one another. In some instances, we were given scenarios and/or problems to solve.  At a mid-point in each discussion, two members from each table in a topic area would swap tables. This allowed for a cross-pollination of ideas between the tables. The industry expert would then get a report from each table and summarize our learnings on the topic.

The food selected and served throughout the morning and early afternoon of the learning sessions was healthy, energizing and served in smaller portions with the intent to help avoid the after-lunch slump. The focus was on five small meals throughout the day rather than two large meals.

After all groups had the opportunity to learn in each topic area, the industry experts participated in a “lightening round and close-out” where each gave a recap of what was learned from all of the participants.

After a 30 minute break we went into the business exchange for pre-scheduled appointments and/or brief “accelerator labs”. The appointments were highly productive and the accelerator labs were an opportunity to shake up your thinking about events through the lens of the corporate world.

Next we moved into the “Surprise and Delight Experience” where the participants were divided into two groups. One group was tasked with creating a scent for XDP while the other group met to design a signature cocktail for XDP. Within those two sessions several teams in each group competed to create and market their scent or cocktail. The electricity and creativity were truly flowing in these two sessions as co-creation took place.

Finally the event culminated with a closeout that announced the winning scent and cocktail and summarized key learnings and take-aways from the participants. And, to top it all off, the experience ended on a musical note with a co-created XDP song that the audience learned and sang along to with Jonathan Mann, the song’s creator. As I walked away from the event, I realized that I had just participated in a highly collaborative learning experience that left me feeling like I could not wait until May 23 – 24, 2017 for the first full Xperience Design Project. See you there!

Going Beyond Your Logo Colors

The benefits of an extended color palette.

By Chad Quinn, Social Media and Communications Director, Association Management Group (AMG)

Chad Quinn

Chad Quinn

It’s easy to get stuck in a color rut because of your logo colors.

For instance, several years ago I began working for an organization whose logo was two colors, let’s say red and black, and E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G they produced, from their website to their annual report, relied on those two colors, and only those two colors. Text was either red, or black. Graphic elements were either red, or black. There were no other colors.

With all of the millions of colors available, why?

To begin with, there is value in consistency – which is what a limited 2-color color palette can provide. However, expanding your color palette to include some complementing colors can add some excitement and help extend a brand. This can be especially helpful when you need to highlight special initiatives or events for your organization. It also helps to keep things fresh and provide guidance and direction to the organization.

What are the benefits of having an extended color palette?

Quite simply, to allow your organization to have a distinct identity. A logo is your primary identifier; therefore there are advantages when it stands out. In the example above, the organization only used their logo’s two-color palette – doing so didn’t allow their logo to stick out in any way from the sea of red and black. It also didn’t leave much flexibility, or creativity, to branch out when needed. This often led to people going rogue — developing content that most often looked off-brand and inconsistent with other materials.

As an example, expanding your color palette not only allows for more visual interest, but it could help in delineating between products, departments, or meetings.

For the organization above, we introduced additional colors to the palette which not only provided consistency across the organization, but also easy to recognize colors specific to their products and events, such as (keep in mind, this is overly simplified):

  • Yellow symbolized educational products
  • Purple symbolized governance related items and initiatives
  • Green symbolized their Fall conference
  • Orange symbolized their Summer conference, and so forth

Branch out into other colors.

What colors compliment your logo’s colors? Choosing the right color palette is important, but it can often be intimidating. Although there are many tools readily available that can make anyone feel like a graphic-designer (cue the Holiday Inn commercial), there is no substitute for experience and the science behind color theory.

Enlist the help of an experienced designer to guide you.

This illustration shows some of the attributes associated with certain colors.

There are many ways to define your color palette, from personal preference to online color wheels – but in reality, your organization’s mission, tone, aspirations, and more, really [should] define it. Some colors are considered aggressive, others are soothing and calming, some are more modern while others are more traditional. What image do you want to portray?

Do some research. This is a great article on color theory, and here’s one that talks about brand identity and another with a great infographic about what your logo says about your company. And there are many more great articles and resources, but…

… this is a process. One in which your designer will ask a lot of questions. One where you may want to hold focus groups made-up of leadership, long-time employees/members, newer (more “green”) employees/members, vendors and other “outsiders” (such as people unaffiliated with your organization in any way – that “outsider” perspective can really be valuable in helping to cut through preconceived notions and entrenched ideas from those who are “too close”).

Keep in mind, a good color palette should not be too trendy. Ideally, it should be able to last three to five years before another refresh without feeling stale. It should also be flexible and, most of all, provide consistency for everyone within the organization whether they are involved in high-level marketing initiatives or producing a white paper or PowerPoint presentation.

The color palette discussion will likely lead to additional discussions… such as, what are your organization’s approved fonts, how should industry-specific language and terms be written and used, and much more. The result of which will be a complete style guide that sets guidelines and keeps everything, and everyone, consistent and on brand.

We can help. AMG has an award-winning in-house creative team ready to help guide you through the process, contact us at: info@amg-inc.com.

3 Time Management Tips for Starting the New Year Off Right

By Bruce Wardle, President and CEO, Association Management Group (AMG)

Bruce Wardle

Getting back to work this week might be tough. Especially given that many offices were closed the week between the Christmas holiday and New Year’s, and many more people choosing to take that time off to spend with family and friends. Getting back into the swing of things and starting the New Year can be tough.

Wouldn’t it be great to look back at this first work week of 2017, and think: “Wow that was a great week!”

For his book “15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management” author Kevin Kruse interviewed hundreds of people, including billionaires, famous entrepreneurs, and elite athletes to see what were the time-management secrets of ultra-productive people and what are the “secrets to extreme productivity.”

Here are three takeaways from the book I’ve found useful:

1.) Establish your MIT: Kruse strongly asserts that to achieve peak productivity, you must identify your “Most Important Task”. He explains: “The key to productivity all comes down to understanding what is most important to you – and what activity will provide the greatest leverage to getting there – right now.”

This is especially useful when coming back to work after a long break. There are so many emails to check, so many client tasks to double-check, so many projects to follow up on, that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You could be working on any of those things – but there’s only one MIT. Identify it, and you can be sure you’re using your time in the best way possible.

2.) Clean your email inbox: Chances are you’re coming back to hundreds of emails. But Kruse gives a tip that will quickly get you to inbox zero, which he calls: Email bankruptcy.
First step, identify all emails that arrived 48 hours before your holiday began until now and create a folder called “Old Emails”. Then, take every email before that 48 hour mark, and move them into that folder and you almost have a clean slate. Consider [the “Old Emails” folder] an insurance policy, an extremely large junk drawer that you can go through if needed.” Of course, you can revisit the “Old Email” folder once you’ve caught up. This is just an organized way of making the task more manageable.

Finally, go back to all the emails from 48 hours before your vacation until now, and do one of the following: 1) If you can answer or act on it in less than five minutes, do so. 2) If you need to delegate, forward it with a short summary. 3) Don’t need it? Delete it. Clear that email slate and make 2017 the year of inbox zero.

3.) Go home at 5:30: This is by far my favorite tip from the book. As Kruse puts it: “There will always be more to do, and always more than can be done… Super successful people don’t just burn hour after hour trying to cross more items off their task list. Instead, they think through their priorities, scheduling time for each. Once time is up, they realize: Enough is enough.”

For you, it may not be 5:30; it might be 6:00. Or maybe it’s 6:30. The point is, make a clean break.

Another one of the author’s suggestion I like is to take a prioritized action, even if it’s simply going home to your family, and treat it like a doctor’s appointment. It’s non-negotiable.

From all of us at AMG, I wish you a great beginning to 2017 and a productive, prosperous and joyous year.

I KNOW My Members are Engaged!… [Right?]

Building an Engagement Scorecard Model so you KNOW Your Members Are Engaged.

By Leah Reily, Managing Director, Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants (SDPA); Managing Director, Dermatology PA Foundation (DPAF)

Leah Reily

In the association world, much, if not all, of what we do is geared towards increasing member engagement. At the end of the day the success and longevity of your organization is built on a longstanding relationship between you and your member. At a recent AMG Membership Quality Circle, we discussed engagement scorecard models.

An engagement scorecard model is a tool that can be used to track and score the level of member engagement in your organization. Models can be built for either the “30,000 ft.” organizational level or – if you are feeling adventurous – for each individual member. Implementing a data driven decision making strategy is key to helping your staff and leadership make informed decisions for the benefit of your members making score cards a powerful tool.

Building an engagement scoring model requires careful team-based planning, so we’ve provided some basics for building your scorecard. For the purpose of this blog, we are gearing the discussion to building an organization level model. Models that measure the engagement level of individual members are valuable, but require a great deal of staff resources and technological functionality to be successful and accurate.

Build Your Task Force: First, decide who needs to be involved in the process of developing your model. Include vital staff that manage your major programs, such as a staff member who is knowledgeable about your technological software and systems, and your membership committee.

Define What Engagement Means To You: You need to develop a clear and concise definition of engagement as it relates to your association culture. During this process you should poll your task force members separately and use their answers to form one overarching definition. Be sure to consider your offerings, the needs of your stakeholders and measurable interactions during the process of building your definition. Here are a few example definitions:

“Member engagement at ANA is the investment of time, money, attention, and participation, by both the association and its members in order to provide meaningful, long-term, mutually beneficial experience and relationships that advance the profession.”*

“Member engagement is how often a member participates in or provides time, talent, attendance and financial resources to events or to the greater need of the organization.”

“An engaged member is someone who feels welcome, understood and vocally empowered in their relationship with our association.”

“An engaged member is a member of a committee or task force who has attended at least 5 events.”

Determining Performance Measures (PM): You need to determine the programs, referred to as performance measures (PM), you will measure. Don’t get too complex or fancy. Your categories should be accurate, sustainable and measurable. Can your staff track the data on a continuing basis without excessive human resources? Bad or inaccurate data can cause your team to lose faith in the results. Ensure that measuring and tracking each PM will result in actionable outcomes. Ask yourself what change you might make to processes and programs if the engagement level for each categories was high, medium, or low. If there is no clear adjustment you would take as a result of your measured data, it’s probably safe to nix that PM. Here are examples of performance measures organizations might consider:

  • Conference registrations
  • Workshop registrations
  • Webinar registrations
  • Bookstore purchases
  • Online course purchases
  • Member referrals
  • Donations
  • Leadership/Committee participation
  • Social community participation
  • Social media followers
  • Sponsorship sales
  • Website metrics

As we are focusing on building an organization level scorecard the categories above would be acceptable, however we might adjust them if measuring individuals. For instance, website metrics can easily be applied to the organizational model but would be inappropriate for measuring individual engagement.

Performance Measure Cheat Sheet: Now that you have selected the performance measures you plan to include in your scorecard you should develop a short informational sheet for each measure. This will help your task force and leadership understand the goal and mechanisms of each PM and the scorecard overall. Your sheet should clearly outline the mechanisms of each PM:

  • Define your performance measure
  • Outline the interactions that take place between the members and the system that allow you to track and measure that activity
  • Document what actionable outcomes and ROI you anticipate from the PM

Build A Scoring Rubric: You are ready to build your scoring rubric. To do this you need to assign a flexible scoring mechanism to allow you to provide an overall measurement of engagement. This scoring system will allow you to convert the raw numbers collected for each PM into your scoring rubric. Pick a scoring rubric that is flexible so you can make changes or adjustment in the future. As an example we will select a rubric of 0-10 points. A score of 0 means we have low/no engagement and 10 means we have high/perfect engagement. For instance:

We have selected “event attendance” as one of our categories. We host 4 events every year and each conference has a capacity goal of 1,000. Every 100 attendees would equal one point on our rubric.

Conference Name # Of Attendees Engagement Score
Event 1 200 2
Event 2 450 4.5
Event 3 150 1.5
Event 4 900 9
Average Event Engagement Score  4.25

 

Based on this score, we might look back at our engagement scores for events over a number of years and determine that Event #1 and Event #3 should be revised or discontinued.

Use this step to build the scoring mechanism for each PM. They should all be calculated into your engagement score to determine an overall measurement of your organization’s engagement health, but the conversion from your data to your engagement score would be unique to each PM.

Now Track, Measure and Share Your Success! Once you have collected data for a couple of months, or a year you can start to implement changes and improvements based on your results. Also, be sure to communicate with your membership the outcomes and ROI that have resulted from the time and effort your leadership and staff put into your scorecard.

 

*ASAE Resources | What Does Member Engagement Mean in Your Association?

Holiday Greetings From AMG

By Bruce Wardle, President and CEO, Association Management Group (AMG)

Bruce Wardle

As 2016 draws to a close, I would like to extend a sincere thank you to our loyal clients, as well as the directors and Boards we serve, for helping to make our mutual achievements and prosperity possible this year.

At Association Management Group (AMG), our dedicated staff is our greatest asset and I’m proud of their continued dedication to providing the exceptional service that you have come to expect.

This past year, we celebrated our 33rd anniversary, an important milestone that our nonprofit clients, and their individual volunteer leaders, have helped us to achieve through their continued patronage and trust.

As always, we remain dedicated to our mission of helping our clients achieve their strategic goals while supporting their members. It is our pleasure to serve you. On behalf of all the staff at AMG, I wish you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season and a joyous New Year.

Sincerely,

Bruce Wardle
President and CEO, Association Management Group