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MASAE members are front line professionals in association and nonprofit management. They are chief staff officers, executive directors, senior staff and members of diverse teams including membership, marketing, financial, human resources, education and information technology (just to name a few).

Members are also consultants, vendors and suppliers from a host of backgrounds, all committed to helping nonprofit and membership organizations from throughout the region continue to realize their missions and more. The community has come together to create this blog and share their experiences with the larger association community. It’s part of MASAE’s commitment to create real value, right in your back yard. We hope you enjoy the stories our guest bloggers share and that you join in the conversation by sharing your thoughts in the comments section.

  • Friday, January 01, 2016 8:46 PM | Deleted user

    Posted By Administration, Friday, Jan 1, 2016

    By Rick Rutherford
    Industry Resource Director, YourMembership

    It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.

    Whenever I hear that phrase, I feel my blood pressure start to rise! Of course it’s personal – it always has been.

    The whole notion that business isn’t personal simply provides justification for treating people poorly in the workplace and within organizations. It works to diminish human interaction and the results are almost always counter-productive. It is at the very heart of poor customer service. We all know that people who aren’t treated well don’t stick around, whether that be employees, customers, or members.

    One of the alarming trends I’ve noticed during the last 36 months is the increasing number of associations that are being force to disband – essentially going out of business. The most common reason I’ve seen given for this is dwindling membership, causing shrinking revenues that eventually lead to the organization becoming no longer financially viable. Competition for associations has increased substantially, and even with an improving economy, there is still a great deal of pressure on non-profit organizations.

    You may have heard the phrase “people don’t quit jobs, they quit people.” The same can be said for members and their associations.

    As our organizations struggle to find new and creative ways to grow and retain membership, they are finding themselves forced to place all of their cards on the table. They must create a member experience based on undeniable value. Does that mean overhauling the traditional dues structure, adding new services, or more non-dues revenue initiatives? Maybe. But I think what is really needed calls for something more personal – getting personal.

    Getting Personal

    As a society, we always find room for the things we value, even when that seems impractical. Traditionally, members have rallied around their associations during tough times. The ability to network, share ideas and ask for help created unbreakable bonds until associations ran smack into the buzz saw known as technology. The New Millennium has not brought glad tidings to many organizations, which have been forced to realize they’re not quite up to speed when it comes to serving this new, demanding audience that wants, and expects, everything at the click of a mouse.

    We’ve all witnessed, and been given access to some of the most amazing technological advances known to man. The born from technology have made us more available to one another than ever before. It’s a 24/7 world whether you want to engage it, or not. And yet with all of the advancements in technology we seem to have grown more impersonal in how we communicate with one another. Just because it’s been tweeted, or is out there on Facebook doesn’t mean the connection has been made.

    People join associations for a variety of reasons, most of which are personal. Whether they are there for professional development or volunteering their time and talents, it is a personal commitment to the organization. And on the flip side of the equation, when it comes to staff providing exceptional service to your members – it should be personal.

    Going Old School

    So as we work our way to the Dog Days of Summer, I want to boldly suggest an “old school” approach to cultivating an intimate relationship with your members that has been a longtime and proven favorite of mine – pick up the phone!

    One of the casualties resulting from the growth of technology in communications is that we often end up removing the person, the real person, from the equation. Email, texting, tweeting have made it so easy to avoid the “real” in communications – I’m talking about the conversation. No sharing of mood (sorry, emoticons don’t count), personality, or understanding of the true nature of the message. Calling someone on the phone has become a big deal – as in taking a lot of effort.

    How often have you read an email that leaves you thinking the author is angry with your organization, angry with you, or just plain rude? In many cases when you talk with the person to discuss their message, you realize they are neither angry, nor rude – just not a very good writer.

    Email is often a poor form of communication at best, one that can easily be misinterpreted. Misunderstood messages often lead to nasty exchanges that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

    Do you want to make an impact that lasts longer than the time it takes to compose an email and then have the recipient move that message to a “black hole” folder? Institute a no email day, at least for yourself. Once a week, once a month – it doesn’t matter. Start with a commitment you can build from. Start with yourself and then engage your staff to join you.

    The Starting Point

    Where do you start? Look in your inbox. Select someone you have only communicated with through email or have not spoken with in quite some time. Look in your database and identify members who have not been contacted by anyone from your association in a while. Call members coming up for renewal. Call (former) members who have let their membership lapse (a tougher conversation, for sure). Call a member when they receive an accolade, professional or otherwise. Call a vendor or sponsor to let them know how valuable they are to the ongoing success of your association. I guarantee you, there is a lot of low hanging fruit you and your staff can pick.

    Now you’re ready to enjoy the opportunity of making a real connection. Maybe there is no one there to take your call and you end up leaving a message on their voice mail. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Either way your voice on the line says “I care about YOU.” That always makes a difference. Start dialing!

    It’s not just business, it’s personal.

    About Rick

    As YourMembership’s Industry Resource Director, Rick guides YM’s thought leadership initiatives, directing the company’s Resource Center, weekly blog and monthly webinar series, as well as coordinates YM’s Industry Alliance Program.

    Rick has worked in the association industry for more than 29 years, serving as a vendor partner, staff member, and co-founder of a technology company focused on associations. Rick previously served as the Communications Director for the Texas Society of Association Executives, where he received a Gold Circle Award from ASAE.

  • Friday, January 01, 2016 8:35 PM | Deleted user

    Posted By Administration, Friday, Jan 1, 2016

    By Rick Rutherford
    Industry Resource Director, YourMembership

    It’s not easy to identify ways to make the value of membership offerings resonate with young professionals, but every association and membership organization will need to develop offerings that will attract them as members in order for their organizations to sustain. And the good news is that it can be done.

    In our webinar Flipping the Membership Equation: Thinking Differently About Membership Recruitment and Retention we discussed the need for associations to redesign their membership offerings to remain competitive and relevant to Gen X and Gen Y in today’s economy. Associations have been wrestling with questions around membership and dues for years, but like with everything, technology’s need to address this subject is accelerating.

    Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age in staggering numbers, ten thousand people reach age 65 every day, and this trend will continue through 2020. By 2018, one in four workers will be over age 55.

    Technology, and specifically the internet, has changed not only the way people access and purchase today, but it has also introduced a “try it before you buy it” expectation. There are many for-profit players working their way into the space, and at some point associations will need to take a hard look at what they are doing to keep their offerings fresh. Those organizations will need leaders who aren’t afraid to radically rethink business models or resources.

    “Flipping the Membership Equation” discussed these challenges and highlighted how moving from “Dues before Value” to “Value and then Dues” can be a workable business model for your organization.

    One area where we run into some lively conversation with association leaders is whether a job board/career center should be a “members only” benefit or open to any prospect wanting to post a resume and find a job. We almost always start out on the opposite sides of the question.

    I’ll be the first to admit that I understand the rationale behind “member only” areas for associations. After all, there has to be tangible value created by being a member of an organization to get someone to lay down their money to join. Market forces have taught us that scarcity and exclusivity are two of the key drivers behind a members only value proposition.

    Scarcity triggers an emotional response because we find it hard to resist wanting things that are not readily available. Many people have an innate view that scarcity increases value. They assume it is more valuable and of higher quality – because it’s harder to get.

    Exclusivity is also about availability, but from a different angle. Exclusive things are accessible only to people who meet particular criteria – like association members.  Scarcity and exclusivity can boost word of mouth about an organization by making people feel like insiders. If someone gains access to something that not everyone can, it makes him or her feel special. Gaining that insider knowledge is a form of social currency.

    And so, on the surface, the thought of members having exclusive access to great job opportunities through a “members only” job board appears to fit the bill. Except for one basic reality about job boards – it’s always a numbers game.

    By numbers I am referring to the number of job seekers registered on a job board; how those numbers are compelling to employers looking for places to list their open positions and the significant non-dues revenue available through an association career center.

    When we call employers on behalf of the associations we work with, they almost always want to know how many people are members and what percentage of those members are registered job seekers on the job board. If that percentage is low, it is a much tougher sell to get that job posting. However, if you allow prospects to register and post their resumes on your job board that number can increase significantly. Remember, the more registered job seekers, the more valuable that job board becomes to employers. Their goal is to get that listing in front of as many qualified eyeballs as possible.

    And as an added benefit, prospects registering on an association’s career center have given permission through their registration, for you to market to them directly. That conversation takes on a whole new direction when you are able to identify how they are already taking advantage of the products and services your organization provides.

    There are some associations that don’t really seem to care if they charge for job listings or not. These groups will allow members and employers to post job openings for a minimal fee, or even at no charge. By taking this approach they are denying their organizations valuable non-dues revenue that could have a positive impact on their bottom line.

    Experience tells us that employers are more than willing to pay to list and advertise their targeted opportunities to members and prospective members, all while creating a steady stream of non-dues revenue for the association. By posting jobs on an association’s job board, employers gain exclusive access to the best, most qualified candidates, consisting of engaged, (career-minded) professionals with the degrees, certifications, and experience needed to increase quality of hire and candidate success. Online career centers connect an association’s members and prospects to the top employers and opportunities within their industry, helping to build greater member loyalty and engagement. And most importantly, these associations are growing their influence as the trusted resource for career seekers as they continue to provide access to career opportunities within their industry.

    So while association’s “members only” offerings are not going away, your job board is one area where you may want to reconsider making available to anyone in your industry. The value it creates for employers, prospects, members, and your bottom line most likely outweighs any perceived value that exists by making your job board a gated offering.

    About Rick

    As YourMembership’s Industry Resource Director, Rick guides YM’s thought leadership initiatives, directing the company’s Resource Center, weekly blog and monthly webinar series, as well as coordinates YM’s Industry Alliance Program.

    Rick has worked in the association industry for more than 29 years, serving as a vendor partner, staff member, and co-founder of a technology company focused on associations. Rick previously served as the Communications Director for the Texas Society of Association Executives, where he received a Gold Circle Award from ASAE.

  • Friday, January 01, 2016 8:14 PM | Deleted user

    Posted By Administration, Friday, Jan 1, 2016

    Welcome to Rick Rutherford who will be our guest editor through the first half of August.

    By Rick Rutherford
    Industry Resource Director, YourMembership

    What does your association’s brand say about the organization? Ideally, it should represent the leader for your industry or profession, locally, regionally, or nationally.

    For years associations have relied on word of mouth (WOM) to play a role in creating that awareness. WOM is a very powerful tool. There is no question that social networking has taken WOM to a whole new level. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp and many others have literally created an industry around brand awareness.

    While you work to build your association’s brand, do you use all the tools at your disposal to achieve the results you desire? What role is technology playing in your efforts?

    Let’s look at three avenues where you can positively impact your brand awareness through technology.

    Association Management or Membership Management Software

    Association Management Software (AMS) is the hub for connecting your association to your members via technology. It really comes down to member data and putting that data to work to drive engagement and create membership value.

    • Using membership software that integrates with your job board, social networking, events and ecommerce activities multiplies the value of the member data you collect and the ways you can put that data to work.
    • Creating opportunities for member engagement through surveys, polls, forums, blogs, and user ratings can provide additional insight that you can strategically use in your recruitment and retention initiatives.

    Career Centers and Online Job Boards

    An association career center is an excellent tool for building member loyalty, recruiting new members, and driving non-dues revenue for your association. It should play a significant role in positioning your association as the career resource for your members and prospects alike.

    Prospects who upload resumes or create profiles and job alerts on your association job board are communicating that they are interested in receiving value from your association. Are you telling them what your organization does to enhance their careers?

    • Creating a contact list of non-members registered on your career center provides you a prospect list to market to for new member recruitment.
    • Implement a “personal” touch campaign to connect with these prospects. It should be more than a direct mail piece or email.

    Employers posting open positions on a job board are willing to provide testimonials when they find a great hire or have an overall good experience. What about members that actually find new jobs via your career center? Do you get their testimony?

    • Solicit testimonials via a form on your website asking “If you have found a new job through the XYZ Association Career Center please share your experience.”
    • Contact them personally. Congratulate them on their new job.
    • Get permission to use their positive experience along with a photo so that you can share their story with your website’s visitors.
    • You achieve two wins – you recognize a member for their accomplishment and you promote the ability of your Career Center (and the association) to positively impact the professional lives of members.

    Conferences and Events

    How do you use technology to create more value for your events? The simple choices are offering online registration and payment. What else can you do to build brand awareness via your conference?

    • Create a microsite that exclusively promotes the event, helping to create a unique conference experience.
    • Create pre-conference surveys and forums that connect attendees with presenters, helping to align the content to be presented with attendee expectations. It’s an easy way to increase overall satisfaction.
    • Man-on-the-street interviews shot on something as simple as a smart phone that help capture the positive experience of being at conference. Edited properly and posted on your website and social media channels, you can help enhance your associations brand while creating exciting and anticipation for next year’s event.

    These are just a few of the many ways technology can be utilized to help you can increase your association’s brand awareness.

    About Rick

    As YourMembership’s Industry Resource Director, Rick guides YM’s thought leadership initiatives, directing the company’s Resource Center, weekly blog and monthly webinar series, as well as coordinates YM’s Industry Alliance Program.

    Rick has worked in the association industry for more than 29 years, serving as a vendor partner, staff member, and co-founder of a technology company focused on associations. Rick previously served as the Communications Director for the Texas Society of Association Executives, where he received a Gold Circle Award from ASAE.

  • Friday, January 01, 2016 8:10 PM | Deleted user

    Posted By Administration, Friday, Jan 1, 2016

    By Bob Bauer

    Happy Birthday to...

    Marking the anniversary for your association can be a fun thing to do. I’ve done it once already and will be doing so again fairly soon. By way of background, we’re a bit of a hybrid here. We’re the staff of a food industry trade association. Over the years, however, some smaller groups within a segment of the food industry have come to us to ask us to manage them; so we’re a quasi association management company as well. Our main association, AFI, takes up 85-90 percent of our work.

    In 2006, AFI marked it centennial. In 2017, one of the other groups we manage will celebrate its centennial. Though it will create some extra work, I’m already looking forward to the centennial. AFI’s celebration was well received, so we’ll probably do something similar to what we did back then, with some technological improvements.

    The first thing I did was get together for a lunch with some old-timers, including my predecessor, to get some input on how they thought the association should mark the occasion. It was a great couple of hours filled with lots of reminiscing. Though I wasn’t able to get a lot of input about the event itself, I heard a lot of great stories about the association, its members and its impact. It also spurred everyone around the table to check at home for old pictures, etc.

    Picking the date and location were among the next steps. Should we do it at our annual conference, which is typically held in Florida? Should we do it in a resort-type setting at another point during the year? We opted to do it in on a Saturday night in New York, the night before a large trade show many of our members attend. Though we’re an international organization with member firms all over the world, our highest concentration of members is in the New York metro area. So that, coupled with the trade show, made the date and location the logical choice. We opted for the Roosevelt Hotel. Teddy Roosevelt happened to be president when our association was founded.

    We have a small staff, so I decided I would handle the association’s history research on my own, some of it on my own time - like there was a lot of that. I soon discovered it was a lot of fun and was happy to squirrel away even more time to put things together. Before long, we had a timelime of important dates in the association’s history, pictures going back many, many years and copies of association publications, such as newsletters, bulletins and our annual publication. We put together four DVDs – one with the timelime, one with pictures from the association publications and two of pictures from association events. At the event itself, we put four TVs around the room and the adjoining foyer and had one DVD run repeatedly on each. We had a fifth TV that showed a highlight DVD from a convention the association had in Morocco, still the most-talked-about event in the association’s history.

    We marketed the heck out of the event; using old pictures, highlighting the convenience of the event being the night before the show that opened the next day, everything we could think of. Though I can’t remember exactly what the numbers were, we reached our target in terms of domestic members registering to attend. We had hoped we would get more of our foreign members to attend, since some were in town to exhibit at the upcoming show but we fell a little short on that end. Some told us they didn’t want to have a late night the night before an important show, with some adding the jet-lag issue.

    We were trying to do things on a budget to keep registration costs as low as possible, so I took advantage (with the board’s approval) of having a brother who is a musician (keyboard player/singer) who gave us a great price to play at the event. I also reached out to a local photographer who I knew did good work at a reasonable price. It was cheaper to pay both their travel time and costs than to hire someone in the city. I also knew the quality I was getting. I simply had to tell both what I had in mind and knew they would deliver.

    The night itself was great. The DVDs were a huge hit. As people gathered around to look at them, their eyes would light up when they saw a familiar face they hadn’t seen in a while or when they saw something about an issue they and the association faced way back when. The music was perfect for this type of event. The photographer got hundreds of great photos. The past chairmen (and my predecessor) who spoke all kept to their word and stayed within the short time limit they were given.

    Over the next few days as I walked the floor at the trade show, many people who went to the centennial celebration told me what a great event it was and even more who didn’t attend said they heard so much about it they wished they had attended. The centennial celebration proved to be a nice lift for the association because people were proud to be a part of an organization that had been working on their industry’s behalf for a full century.

    As I prepare to start working on the next group’s centennial, I’ve got a few ideas on things to add. We’ll do a lot more membership recruitment marketing tied to the centennial. This group exhibits at a couple of trade shows. I’ve seen people serve birthday cake at booths and it’s usually resulted in a lot of extra traffic. I’m sure I’ll be able to get some members to volunteer time at the shows to serve cake/talk up the association.

    With the past celebration and the upcoming one, one of the keys was/will be to have information for non-members (when promoting the event and just the centennial in general) to show them why their competitors have valued their membership long enough for the association to reach such a milestone.

  • Friday, January 01, 2016 8:06 PM | Deleted user

    Posted By Todd Van Deak, Friday, Jan 1, 2016

    By Bob Bauer

    Traveling for business is a necessary evil for me. In fact, I’m writing this as I’m in an airport in Turkey waiting to board the first of three flights to get me home. If all goes as planned, I’ll be home in 28 hours. After nearly 20 years with AFI, learned to take the bad with the good and try to make the most of my time on the road.

    With today’s connected world, one works a lot longer when traveling now than before the Internet and email. The days used to be long enough already. Whether putting on your own event or representing yourself at another industry event, the hours are long. Throw in a day or more of travel each way and the scenario has always had exhaustion written all over it. Now, however, when you get done with everything else you have to do, if you haven’t been able to do it as you go along, you have to spend x amount of time checking/replying to emails, etc.

    I was fortunate to be able to bring my wife and children along with me to several events our association ran when the kids were younger. I’ve had to remind them over the years that I chose those particular events because I knew I could squirrel away a little free time at them and that there would be other kids their ages there. So as they got older and heard I was going away, they figured I had a few hours most days to sit around the pool, etc. Of source, it didn’t help that my flustered wife would sometimes say I was on vacation when I went away on business.

    Truth be told, whether it’s something around the corner or on the other side of the globe, when you’re away from the office on business, you’re always “on”. Take this trip, for example. It was at an all-inclusive resort. The meals that were not a part of the function were buffets held in two restaurants. I didn’t make plans to have any meals with anyone but there wasn’t a meal I didn’t sit with someone I knew and talk about industry issues. It’s great in terms of getting the pulse of my membership but it means you’re always “on.” I didn’t have time to relax on the beach or at the pool but if I did, I’m sure someone would have come by to talk. It happens a lot and did so at our conference just last month. So even when you have the opportunity to unwind a bit, you’re still “on” because you run into members. When it happened at our conference, it turned about to be a couple of great conversations with people who have now pledged to be more active in the association.

    So I’ve learned a few tricks over the years. At this event, 50-75 of the 1,000 attendees were from member companies. Another couple of hundred knew about our association but either aren’t members or really don’t need to be. Since we have members all over the world, I don’t see some of these people very frequently and vice versa, so recognition can be difficult. I make it a practice to wear shirts with the association logo on it so people who don’t know/recognize me have a better chance of making a connection. It also helps keep them from having to squint at the conference name badge to see who I am. I can think of three occasions during this event when people stopped me because they recognized the association’s logo on my shirt. (Yes, I purchased the shirts from an MASAE associate member – Brown Dog Marketing.)

    -Interruption –

    Sorry about that. While sitting in the airport club writing this, someone who was at the same event as me noticed my shirt and struck up a conversation. Here’s hoping it results in another company added to the membership roster.

    Another tactic I’ve used over the years is to volunteer to speak or do something else publicly during the event. Speaking is the best option because it puts you in a position of authority as you expose yourself to potential members. It also helps existing members feel good about the association because they’re hearing an association representative provide valuable information.

    I also keep myself in front of people in other ways. At this event, during portions of the day when no formal activities were planned, I found spots in a couple of high-traffic areas, which resulted in several people finding me and discussing industry issues with me. At a trade show next month at which AFI doesn’t have a booth, I’ll spend a lot of time in one of the show floor’s main corridors. Thousands of people go to this event and by spending time in its busiest area, I’m able to see many of my members who attend the show. Usually, at least a couple say they need to introduce a potential member to me.

    One thing I’ve started doing lately is not rushing home (he says as he leaves his current trip early to get home in time to celebrate his wedding anniversary). I’ll also leave early if I’ve been to the event before and I know the networking typically is not good at, for example, the closing dinner. After all, I do want to make it home to be with my family. But unless I want to get home for family reasons, things like red-eyes are not in the cards. I just don’t see the value of finishing a meeting in California at 6 p.m., having dinner with someone and then rushing to the airport to get little or no sleep and arrive home early in the morning in need of sleep/time to recover. I find it much more effective to have that same (early) dinner, get to bed early, get an early start and be home in the late afternoon pretty much back on schedule and perhaps having had time to get some work done on the plane. If the meeting ends earlier than 6 and/or there’s no dinner with someone, then I’ll use that time to start the meeting minutes or otherwise catch up on things.

    When I return to the office, those who don’t travel for business may, like my kids used to, think I was on a vacation of sorts, particularly if I mention how nice the setting was or say something about a pool, a bar or a nice dinner. But more than ever, business travel means incredibly long days where you’re always “on.” But when you get down to it, that’s a good thing.

  • Friday, January 01, 2016 7:57 PM | Deleted user

    Posted By Todd Van Deak, Thursday, Jan 1, 2016

    With apologies for our brief hiatus, we're back with the remainder of Bob Bauer's series of posts. Follow Bob through the end of the month. 

    By Bob Bauer

    “There’s an association for that?” I get that a lot! Yes, there’s an association for imported foods. Yes, within that association there are sub-associations, including one focused on honey and one on olive oil.

    “You went to India for a conference about cashews? You’ve been to Singapore, Australia and Turkey for an annual convention about nuts and dried fruits?” The list goes on.

    Most people seem to latch on to one item. There’s one guy who I’m certain after knowing me for many years thinks everything I do is about nuts. He can’t seem to figure out why there needs to be an association to deal with that. After reminding him the association covers all kinds of imported foods, I give him examples about nuts anyway just to drive home some of the reasons the association’s work is important. I’ll ask him, “do you like cashews?” When he says he does, I’ll say that our association has helped educate the producers (most in lesser-developed countries than ours) about ways to improve quality and yield, so he and others can get enough cashews of good quality at a good price.

    I’ve had a couple of people make it sound un-American of me to work for an association centered on imports. Of course, there’s a whole U.S. industry of companies employing thousands of people and supporting thousands of other jobs such as trucking and retail stores carrying the products. And do you think the industry imports products that are produced in great numbers or at all here in the U.S.? There wouldn’t be a lot of money in that.

    Olive oil has been another conversation starter. Some folks think they know more about olive oil than I do. Others want me to tell them what brands to buy. In case you’re wondering, I don’t tell them what to buy. There are hundreds of varieties of olive oil and they’re grown in many different climates and in various types of soil, so there’s a wide variety of tastes. In the end, it comes down to personal preference. Our friends certainly seem to enjoy when we bring or put out a few different oils when we get together. With olive oil, some ask me about things they’ve read online that say negative things about imported olive oil. When I explain the faulty conclusions in those “articles”, they get a first-hand example of why it’s important to have an association for the industry.

    When I tell people I belong to two associations (MASAE and ASAE) for people who run associations, there are often smirks. But when they think about it, they seem to get the picture.

    Yes, there’s an association for that. As we’ve all heard or said before, “there’s an association for everything!” And that’s a good thing.

  • Thursday, August 27, 2015 7:50 PM | Deleted user

    Posted By Todd Van Deak, Thursday, Aug 27, 2015

    By Callie Walker

    Websites. We all have them. We all use them. But that’s not to say that all websites are winners. In fact, some websites actually seem to do more harm than good. They drive people away and even cause bad feelings – which is the last thing we want to do as associations.

    So what exactly are the qualities that drive members and prospects away? Behold, the seven deadly sins of association web design:

    Cluttered pages
    Too many associations forget about the importance of white space. They often get so caught up in their own design aesthetic that they forget it isn’t about them. It’s about the user’s personal experience, and that means having a clean and simple web design. Cut back on the heavy text that’s likely to scare users away and focus on simplicity instead.

    Poor navigation
    Sure, website navigation can be tough, but this is one area you don’t want to skimp on. The majority of users will leave a site if they can’t find what they’re looking for in three clicks or less, so a seamless structure is imperative.

    Now there’s no formal rule for how navigation should be organized, but in general, it’s best to have vertical navigation down the left side of your site or horizontal navigation across the top. These are the most common design techniques and users will feel more comfortable if your organization follows suit. Additionally, it’s best to use textual descriptions for all of your links so that users know exactly where a page is about to take them.

    Missing contact information
    You’d be amazed at how many associations hide their contact information online. But members can’t reach you if they don’t know how! Be sure to include your phone number as well as email address in the Contact Us section. Yes, you may attract some spam, but it’s better than losing members because they can’t reach you.

    One extra note here: Some organizations prefer to use a Contact Us form rather than listing their contact information outright. But beware, this can often backfire as users don’t typically want to wait for a response.

    Dead links
    This one can’t be emphasized enough. How many times have you been to a website and clicked on a link that can’t be opened? It’s frustrating, isn’t it? That’s why website testing is so important. Even if you’ve tested a link before, check it again every so often to make sure it still works.

    Slow load times
    Nothing makes people leave a website faster than slow load times. Not to mention, search engines penalize slower loading websites, leading to less traffic and overall page views. To avoid this, make sure your images are optimized. That means resizing your images and reducing the quality. Don’t worry though – a lower quality won’t show any significant changes from the original version.

    Unresponsive templates
    Did you know that more than half of all web access comes from mobile devices? That means it’s imperative to have a mobile-friendly site. Now a lot of organizations tend to put this one off, but mobile isn’t going anywhere, so it’s crucial you adapt. We highly recommend using responsive web templates that adapt to all platforms and devices, including mobile phones and tablets. That way, you can appeal to all users to matter where they’re coming from.

    Pop-up ads
    This is by far the worst offender. Yes, you may get a few new email subscribers, but is it really worth all of the traffic you lose due to pure annoyance? Now we will say, associations are pretty good about not utilizing these, but there are enough fans that we felt it was worth mentioning.

    If you do want to use pop-up ads, we recommend using a time delay. Don’t show your ads unless someone has been on your site for say 30 seconds or longer. The longer they’ve been on your site, the more likely they are to click on the ad. That being said, we still recommend using strong calls-to-action, such as “call today” or “register here,” rather than interruptive pop-up ads.

    There you have it, folks. The seven deadly sins of association web design. Is your association guilty of any of these?

  • Tuesday, August 25, 2015 7:10 PM | Deleted user

    Posted By Todd Van Deak, Tuesday, Aug 25, 2015

    By: Susan Young
    Get In Front Communications

    It's time for business bloggers to dust the cobwebs off of their old posts.

    Many bloggers believe the content that's collecting dust should be deleted.

    Not so fast!

    I say you should only dump material that is outdated or embarrassing.

    There’s a better way to use your ‘old stuff’. Give it flavor. Give it energy. First, go back and identify posts that you want to salvage. It’s important that the majority of the post is not dated and can easily be tweaked.

    Once you determine the content you’d like to modify, consider these seven tips:

    1. Turn your post into a Slideshare deck. Visuals are the hot trend this year so pull a few main points from your written post and transform it into a snappy deck.Suggestion: Don’t use stock photos. Start building your own personal library of pictures and images. That’s what cell phone cameras are for, right?
    2. Use your voice and record a podcast. Your post is now your script, which will need short, punchy, and easy-to-understand sentences. Suggestion: Focus on your vocal vitality!
    3. Create an e-book. If you’ve been blogging regularly for six months, you should have more than 50 posts. Old content, as well as current posts should be included.Suggestion: Hire a Virtual Assistant and/or graphic designer to pull everything together.
    4. Produce a free ‘Special Report’ in a PDF format. Using three of your most popular or favorite posts, reformat the text, and update as needed. This new PDF can be used as an opt-in on your site to build your database and list. Suggestion:Stick to one theme or topic.
    5. Record a video blog based on your written content. Suggestion: Keep it casual and less than three minutes in length.
    6. Offer to guest post. Pitch a fresh version of your post to a respected leader in your industry with a large following. Suggestion: Be sure to find out the preferences of the person you are pitching. Ask about word count, deadline, bio box, and images.
    7. Transform your post into a bylined article. Identify a publication that your ideal clients read. Find out if they accept bylined articles and pitch your topic to the editor.Suggestion: Before spending an enormous amount of time reworking your piece, first pitch the topic and a few bulleted details.

    One important note when repurposing content: Check all links to be sure they are not dead-ends.

    Your blog is a business development AND marketing tool. It’s time to get creative!

  • Thursday, August 20, 2015 7:17 PM | Deleted user

    Posted By Todd Van Deak, Thursday, Aug 20, 2015

    By Leza Raffel, The Communication Solutions Group, Inc

    No matter how successful your association is, there’s always room for improvement. The best way to attract new members and promote new services to current members is with a comprehensive marketing campaign. Before you jump right in, however, it’s important to remember some ground rules that will help ensure your campaign is successful.

    There are many effective association marketing methods, but beware: there are also countless ways to spend money without getting results. If you don’t have any marketing experience — or even if you do — remember that poor planning, poor execution and poor follow through lead to poor results.

    Below are the top ten marketing mistakes and advice on what to do about them. Following these rules could help you see your way through to a successful and profitable marketing campaign.

    Mistake Number One: Launching a marketing campaign when you don’t have a clear set of goals

    Don’t jump into a marketing campaign without deciding what you want to say and who you want your message to reach. Doing so could be a waste of time, effort and most of all — money.

    Instead, take the time to plan. Think about what you’re trying to accomplish with your campaign. Are you trying to bring in more members? Are you looking to retain existing ones? Is your association offering new services? Do you want to grow attendance at your next conference?

    Having a clear set of goals will help you decide on what kind of a marketing campaign you want to launch, and the rewards of a successful campaign will more than make up for the time you spend researching and planning.

    Mistake Number Two: Not taking the time to determine your unique selling point

    Don’t start a marketing campaign if you don’t know what differentiates you from competing associations. If you don’t know, potential members won’t either.

    Determine what makes your association unique, and use that to drive your message.

    Mistake Number Three: Not identifying your target market

    Not everyone can be your target market, or target member for that matter. Before you spend money on a marketing campaign directed toward the masses, identify who’s ultimately going to make the decision to join your association and why.

    Knowing who holds the purse strings and who determines where their organization’s money is spent will help you decide how best to get your message across.

    Mistake Number Four: Not having a budget in place

    Without a budget, chances are you’ll spend too much money on marketing. Know how much you want to spend before beginning a marketing campaign, and stick to your budget.

    The general rule of thumb says a marketing campaign should be 1.5 percent to 3 percent of your operating budget. That amount should be sufficient and will help you determine what kind of marketing campaign you can afford.

    Mistake Number Five: Putting all your eggs in one basket

    Don’t spend all of your marketing money on one type of promotion. Creating an overpriced website or buying a single membership recruitment ad in an industry publication is a surefire way to you’re your budget very quickly.

    Instead try spreading the wealth around. In addition to making your money go further, your message is more likely to reach existing members and potential members when you use more than one type of marketing method.

    You could easily miss valuable prospective members if your marketing method overlooks them, and by putting all your eggs in one basket, you’re certainly going to overlook someone.

    Mistake Number Six: Trying to do it all yourself

    Trying to accomplish everything on your own often leads to problems. Do-it-yourself marketing campaigns are often disjointed and unpolished.

    Use professionals who can create a comprehensive package that enhances your association’s image and gets your message across clearly and completely. It may be a bit more costly than doing it yourself, but it should pay off.

    A cohesive marketing campaign developed by the right professionals and aimed at the right target audiences won’t eat into your time and will more than pay for itself.

    Mistake Number Seven: Not doing your homework

    Don’t pay top dollar when you don’t have to. Advertising prices vary and so do printing prices.

    Negotiate with publications for a lower advertising rate and shop around to get the best printing prices for quality work. Just because a company charges top dollar doesn’t mean it provides top quality products.

    Failing to be cost conscious in all of the marketing decisions you make is a mistake. Remember, the further you stretch your marketing dollars, the greater the opportunity you’ll have to spread your message.

    Mistake Number Eight: Not pursuing PR opportunities

    You’re not marketing your association well if people in your industry don’t know who your association is. Get involved in industry activities and issues, launch a scholarship fund, and organize conferences which educate others on industry trends. Then, be sure to get the word out about your activities on your social media sites and in industry and mainstream print and electronic media outlets.

    PR is free and it provides organizations with more credibility than advertising. In fact, data suggestions that people are 7 times more likely to respond to a story about your organization than an ad!

    Mistake Number Nine: Not tracking where responses are coming from

    Don’t forget to find out what’s working and use that to your advantage. If you don’t track responses to your marketing campaign, you won’t know which parts of it are successful.

    No matter whether you use social media, direct mail, conduct recruitment webinars, advertise in special industry publications or any one of a number of other promotional sources, it pays to know what’s working. Failing to question your members about how they heard about you or not having a system to identify where inquiries come from is a costly mistake.

    The more you know about what’s working, the more you can use that to your advantage, and the next time you embark on a marketing campaign, you won’t waste your money on what didn’t work.

    Mistake Number Ten: Not Attending MASAE events

    MASAE is committed to providing educational and networking opportunities for members, thus enabling you to gain more knowledge and grow your contacts within the association field.  Paying money to be a member, but not partaking in member benefits that does not make sense. Mark your calendar for upcoming MASAE programs and join us!

    Follow the Rules for a Successful Marketing Campaign

    Remember, a great marketing campaign can be an invaluable tool for promoting your business, but a bad one can be nothing more than a waste or your time, energy and financial resources.

    Keep this list of ten mistakes handy, and refer to it each time you begin developing a marketing campaign.

    Make it your goal to ensure that your future marketing efforts are mistake-free.

    Leza Raffel is the president of the Communication Solutions Group, Inc. MASAE members are entitled to a complimentary, one-hour consultation. For details, call 215-884-6499 or visit

  • Tuesday, August 18, 2015 7:02 PM | Deleted user

    Posted By Todd Van Deak, Tuesday, Aug 18, 2015

    By Leza Raffel, The Communication Solutions Group, Inc

    Association directors often devote considerable time and resources to planning for success, but most don’t even want to think about dealing with a crisis. Yet how you handle a crisis situation can mean the difference between survival and ruin for your association. Careful planning before a crisis is upon you is the key to making sure you have what it takes to weather the situation, so you come back to make your association even stronger.

    Disaster can strike any association, and often it occurs when it’s least expected: Things could be going along great – your membership is growing, conference attendance is up, your corporate sponsors are happy – then out of nowhere, you’re facing a situation that spells trouble for your organization. A crisis can take many forms, large or small, including those for which an association is directly responsible, those caused by a volunteer leader, and those caused strictly by accident. For association, those might include:

    • Accounting irregularities are found
    • A natural phenomena – such as a tornado- destroys your upcoming annual meeting location
    • Criminal activity by an employee.
    • Product recall directly related to the industry your association represents

    Be Prepared
    It’s not only a good motto for a boy scout, being prepared is your best defense in the event of a crisis. Before a problem ever occurs, sit down and brainstorm your worst fears, then start considering the best ways to handle them. This information can be formulated into a basic crisis plan that can be implemented in case the situation arises.

    Your plan should include a specific crisis team consisting of trusted association leaders, legal counsel and perhaps even a public relations professional, who can all come together quickly to deal with the situation. One of the team members should be named the spokesperson that will interact with the media. It would also be wise to develop a standard press release format and a list of media contacts so you can get your message out quickly and effectively.

    Be Thorough
    Before you respond publicly to the situation, make certain you have all the facts. Learn all you can about what has happened, and then consult with your team, including your legal counsel. While a timely response is important, accuracy is even more important. Don’t be afraid to say that you are unsure of all the facts but that you are looking into it if an immediate response is required.

    Remember, your most important job is to protect the reputation of your association. Saying one thing and then having to change your story after getting all the facts is not going to help that cause.

    Be Honest
    It simply cannot be said enough: NEVER try to lie, hide or deny involvement. It will invariably come back to haunt you. You can be sure that the facts will come to the surface one way or another and you will have to face the fallout from not only the situation itself, but from your dishonesty.

    Ignoring the situation is similarly unwise. Answering a question with “no comment” tends to make you appear guilty and uncaring – a double whammy against you.

    Be Caring
    Always act with care and concern. This starts with immediately handling any threat to human life that may arise from the crisis situation. Your members and the general public will be unlikely to forgive any negligence on this front.

    In your first public communication after the crisis, make sure you express concern for all those affected by the situation, whether they are your members, your staff, or the general public. Put yourself in their shoes, and try to see the crisis from their point of view. Then take steps necessary to alleviate their concerns.

    Be Communicative
    Consider all of your audiences and pinpoint the most effective means of communicating with each of them. For general media release, make sure you have a standard fact sheet about your association, along with information on the environmental factors that may have been involved in the crisis. The more information you provide, the more chances you have to influence what is said in the media about the situation.

    While interaction with the general media is imperative, it is also vital for you to stay in close communication with your members, board and other stakeholder groups during and after the crisis. Phone calls, emails, meetings, mailings and other means of dissemination of information can not only help you through the crisis, but can help generate loyalty by giving these stakeholder groups “insider” status.

    Be Proactive
    The cloud of a crisis situation might contain a silver lining if you look hard enough. Once the immediate situation is resolved, consider ways to turn the crisis into an opportunity.

    The new policy will go a long way in deflecting future criticism of your past wrongdoing, and give you a more positive public image, as well.

    Be Smart
    Start now to prepare for potential crisis situations. Begin by putting together a simple plan and team. Then it’s time for a gut check. If you feel you’re already over your head, you might consider bringing on a public relations professional who can help you through the preparation process and be at the ready should a crisis occur.

    You can’t know when disaster might strike, but you can be ready for it.

    Leza Raffel is the president of the Communication Solutions Group, Inc. MASAE members are entitled to a complimentary, one-hour consultation. For details, call 215-884-6499 or visit

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