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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.

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  • Friday, August 14, 2015 6:49 PM | Deleted user

    Posted By Administration, Friday, Aug 14, 2015

    Editors Note: This post was originally scheduled to run in late June. We've made small changes to enable its posting today.

    By Rick Rutherford
    Industry Resource Director, YourMembership

    Last month we celebrated the 239th birthday of our nation. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the role associations play in this ongoing experiment of democracy we call America, as they are very much intertwined within the fabric of our society and our collective history.

    To interpret the future of associations, it is important to understand their past. The root of associations can be traced back to organizations and institutions like the church, medieval craft guilds, merchant trade groups and Greek symposiums.

    The closest cousins of what we know as the modern association can be found in the guilds of 16th century England. These guilds were formed to provide protection to merchant interests and individual artisans. In addition, these organizations provided training in specific skills and established rules for fair wages and working conditions, which continues today in the form of professional development and advocacy.

    As our country was founded, American citizens began to expand and formalize the guilds into what we identify as an association today. Citizens of the United States began exercising their first amendment freedoms of speech, assembly and the press. New laws were developed to support and define these new groups and the role they would come to play in our educational and political system.

    The earliest association on record in the U.S. was the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York, which was formed in 1768 by 20 merchants. Nearly 246 years later, it survives today as the Partnership for New York City. That’s older than our country’s declaration of independence!

    While there is much discussion around the changes associations face today with a highly competitive and global economy, associations have faced similar challenges throughout our nation’s history. When factories and mass production were introduced during the Industrial Revolution, associations were dramatically changed. The focus on work quality and wages soon gave way to new priorities around quantities and production, causing associations to lose power and forcing them to adapt to survive that change.

    Prior to the Civil War most associations were essentially local; but as the Civil War broke out, regional and national organizations were formed to capitalize on our divided country’s industrial capabilities. The railroads fueled expansion and new markets for manufacturers resulted in the birth of more trade associations to ensure fair competition. By the beginning of 1900, more than 100 associations were organized to influence federal and state government, especially around issues affecting business.

    As with the Civil War, both World War I and World War II helped drive growth in the number of associations forming. Trade associations played key roles in the war effort by supplying the government with information on available equipment, available labor and productivity. They were a valuable link between the companies and industries they represented and the U.S. government. They also helped influence the war effort at home by encouraging conservation and providing technical specialists to public service.

    Professional societies have also made significant contributions throughout our history as consultants to governments and academia, helping to broaden the scope of the existing body of scientific knowledge. They have facilitated an ongoing exchange of ideas and technical information while providing a forum for dissenting viewpoints on professional research. As a result, higher standards of professionalism are constantly being established and met.

    The number of associations has swelled to over 100,000 organizations today. As a result of that long history, we can have confidence they will continue to form and exist in today’s society. Almost every facet of life is represented in some form or fashion by an association or cause-oriented membership organization. The challenges they face have never been greater and the new opportunities they have are just as great.

    Today we talk about social networking and online communities, big data, information overload, jobs, generational issues, member retention, and non-dues revenue. While associations are looking for ways to remain relevant, their members and future members need help managing the turbulent environment they work and live in. The roles haven’t changed, just the tools needed to survive.

    That’s why we are here and why we love what we do. Associations are being asked to do more with less in ways unimaginable just 15 years ago. exists to provide associations with technology-based solutions that will allow them to compete and prosper in today’s world. It is a big responsibility and privilege we don’t take lightly.

    And so to our association customers, and the millions of members they serve, we pause this July 4th to say thank you for all that you have contributed and continue to do for our great nation.

    Special thanks to Shelly Alcorn, CAE for her assistance with this post.

    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.

  • Wednesday, June 03, 2015 6:39 PM | Deleted user

    Posted By Bob Bauer, Wednesday, June 3, 2015

    Members of the non-profit world who don’t belong to their local or national professional association, I’m about to let you have it. To be quite frank, it’s hypocritical. How can you defend making your living in large part due to members that join/support your organization and not join/support the association(s) that exist(s) to help you do your job better?

    That’s a rhetorical question. As a long-time member of the MASAE membership committee and the NJSAE before that, I’ve heard all the excuses. They’re the same ones your potential members give you when they don’t join – not enough time, no money in the budget, etc. No money in the budget, really? We all have to spend our resources wisely but how can people, whether staff or volunteer leaders, running a non-profit say it’s not worth the money to participate in a non-profit designed to improve the efficiency of its members?

    I belong to MASAE and ASAE. I rely on MASAE for my local needs – seminars, etc. When I attend MASAE sessions, I learn a great deal from the speakers; I also learn a great deal from my counterparts in the room, through questions asked/comments made by them during and after the sessions. I’ve made a great number of contacts over the years and I’ve reached out to several with questions. Their help has been of great value, further enhancing the return on investment of my membership dues. There are quite a number of people I look forward to seeing when I attend MASAE events.

    I rely on ASAE for more global needs. It offers a great deal of resources for all of us. I’ve accessed things online and through the ASAE staff. Since its meetings are rarely held locally, I don’t normally attend them but I’m fortunate to have MASAE as an option for that aspect of things. MASAE puts on quality educational programs. Getting back to ASAE, at our association’s annual conference seven or eight years ago one of my board members asked me if there was a nationwide annual convention in my industry and whether I attended it. I said there was but I had only been once – when it was in Philadelphia. He encouraged me to attend it more regularly and now I attend every year. The expenses have never been questioned by any board member because they see what I get out of it.

    (Spoiler Alert – There’s a Tip Coming Up)

    One thing they don’t see is how energized I am when I come back from an MASAE or ASAE event. There’s something to be said for being in a room with people who do what you do every day. It gives you a sense of belonging, a sense of being a part of an important industry. It motivates me to try to improve my performance when I get back to my office. I try to structure events at my association’s meetings to ensure our attendees get this feeling as well.
    The MASAE Annual Conference and the ASAE Convention include “fun” activities as well – and what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with celebrating what we do as an industry? The evening reception at the MASAE Conference is something attendees look forward to. It’s a fun event with great food, drinks and those people, again. Yes, the people who do what I do every day. We renew acquaintances, meet new people and even learn from one another – all in a relaxed atmosphere. It’s the same at ASAE. The events at the convention are great and though it’s harder to develop the level of friendships you can with fellow MASAE members, you can’t help but meet (and hopefully learn) from a whole slew of people.

    Here comes that tip I mentioned: Even within my office, I know there were people who questioned the benefit of me attending and participating in association events. So I created a document that gets updated after I or anyone else on the staff attends an education session. Upon returning, we go through our notes and add to the document the points we think could be helpful to us and others on staff going forward. We review the document every six months or so to see if we can incorporate more of what’s listed into our operations.

    Of course, there’s another reason we all should support our industry organizations and it’s a reason we all mention to our prospects. Theodore Roosevelt said it best: “Every man owes some of his time to the upbuilding of the profession to which he belongs.” We all know there’s strength in numbers. Many probably think there aren’t issues impacting non-profits. Not true. For example, after the widely seen reports on the extravagant events hosted by some government agencies, policies were changed to limit federal government employees from attending industry meetings. Legislation was even introduced that called for a limit of one representative from a government agency per year to be allowed to attend functions held by an organization. We had a meeting last year attended by several representatives from the Food and Drug Administration. One was a high-ranking official who was our invited speaker. He brought along someone working closely with him on the proposed regulations that were the topic of the meeting and he had several representatives from a local FDA office attend so they could be brought up to speed on the new regulations and, along with their two bosses, interact with our members to answer questions, hear concerns and get a better picture of how our industry works. I was happy to attend ASAE’s American Associations Day to make visits on Capitol Hill to speak about the two-way value of participation by government personnel at industry events.

    I’ve also been happy to volunteer with MASAE (and before that, NJSAE). Like all of our members, there have been times I could participate more than at other times. My job requires a lot of travel, so I can’t always make the meetings/calls. But I do what I can.

    At last year’s MASAE Conference when my term as a member of the MASAE board expired, I said part of the reason I volunteer is somewhat selfish – I do it in part to learn from the people around me and from the tasks we are performing. The return on investment has been great.

    I know some people won’t be able to spend what I can spend on association involvement (though don’t lose sight of that return on investment), while others can spend a lot more. Start out small by simply joining MASAE or, if from another area, another local association. The investment is less than $200 per year. Quite frankly, if your association can’t afford that, you should be concerned. Read the information you receive. You’ll no doubt find something you can implement. Then tell your board about it and get more money put aside toward professional development. You are one of your association’s most crucial assets and your board has to be willing to invest in you!

  • Wednesday, May 27, 2015 6:34 PM | Deleted user

    Posted By Todd Von Deak, Wednesday, May 27, 2015

    Editors Note: This is the final installment from Jeff De Cagna (Principled Innovation, LLC) as our initial guest blogger. Many thanks to Jeff for leading us off with such thought provoking content.

    In Part II, I explored the relevance fallacy from the stakeholder perspective. In this final post in the series, I will extend this discussion to consider why relevance thinking is a losing argument for persuading stakeholders to develop relationships with associations.

    Why should your current and future stakeholders want a relationship with your association over the next decade and beyond?

    As a result of 25 years of technological transformation, stakeholders are not only experiencing new challenges and opportunities in their lives and jobs. Today’s stakeholders also have abundant access to many of the tangible and intangible resources they need through their network relationships. Knowledge and expertise, trusted connections and even financial resources can be secured with relative ease through crowdsourcing sites, social networks and peer-to-peer sharing platforms.

    This unprecedented shift in influence toward individuals and networks, and away from legacy organizations such as associations, cannot be addressed with a traditional strategic plan developed using a relevance mindset. Instead, associations need to think and act beyond the orthodoxy of their membership-centric business models to co-create value with stakeholders in the three overlapping timeframes mentioned in the previous post:

    Solving short-term problems - Stakeholders have problems that must be solved in near real time, an opportunity ideally suited for applying mobile, social and cloud technologies. Associations, however, tend to be more comfortable operating on “association time,” which means value creation and delivery occurs on schedules organized around internal processes and requirements. This is a business challenge that will not be resolved by making association or its membership offer “more relevant.”

    Meeting intermediate-term needs - Stakeholders have a full range of needs they must meet to prepare for the future and advance and grow in their careers. They will consider products, services and experiences from a number of sources to meet them. The most significant differentiator among the many available offers will not be relevance, however, but the richness of the meaning and impact those forms of value can bring to stakeholders, as well as to their peers across personal and professional networks with similar needs.

    Achieving long-term outcomes - Throughout their lives, stakeholders will pursue ambitions and aspirations that they will need help to reach. Diverse and intimate network relationships will be a critical wellspring of both practical and emotional support, and associations also may be able to play a unique role in this context because of the sense of purpose (not relevance) that animates their work. To act on this opportunity, however, associations must be willing to listen to and learn from stakeholders and their networks in order to collaborate with them to create distinctive value.

    After many decades of trying to figure out what’s next, associations have arrived at a crucial moment, and the choice for senior decision-makers is clear: embrace the transformation that is happening all around them and begin building organizations capable of thriving in the 21st century or continue to operate within the fallacy of relevance. In my view, it is not a difficult decision.

    Jeff De Cagna FASAE is chief strategist and founder of Principled Innovation LLC, located in Reston, Virginia. He can be reached at or on Twitter @pinnovation.

  • Thursday, May 21, 2015 6:26 PM | Deleted user

    Posted By Jeff De Cagna, Thursday, May 21, 2015

    Editors Note: Many thanks to Jeff De Cagna from Principled Innovation, LLC for being our first guest blogger. We hope you enjoy his three part series that will run over the next two weeks.

    In Part I of this series, I began deconstructing the relevance fallacy from the point of view of association thrivability. In this post, I will continue this process by examining relevance from the stakeholder perspective.

    What will your current and future stakeholders need to thrive over the next decade and beyond?

    In a world being buffeted by the forces of transformation, association stakeholders will continue to encounter both complex challenges and compelling opportunities. The profound impact of these forces, especially the application of powerful technologies in every industry, profession and field, is reinventing the very nature of work (and not always for the better), while also enabling more convenient ways to connect, cooperate and collaborate, i.e., to associate, with peers anywhere in the world, in any language and at any time.

    On the surface, relevance thinking appears to be the exact approach associations should pursue to help their stakeholders thrive over the next decade and beyond. To further reveal the relevance fallacy, however, it is worth asking which players really benefit (or don’t) from this mindset and why.

    The relevance mindset benefits boards - As I have argued before, association boards frequently adhere to a membership ideology, which is understandable given that most board members make some connection between association membership and their own professional success. Since it is tied to membership, then, the relevance mindset reinforces boards’ existing orthodox beliefs and nurtures a misplaced clarity for the overarching purpose of their work as senior decision-makers.

    The relevance mindset benefits senior staff teams - For association CEOs and their direct reports, adopting and acting on the relevance mindset is an attractive alternative to the more challenging work of creating truly 21st century associations. This observation is not offered as a criticism, but as a clear-eyed recognition of reality. Building an association to thrive in a time of societal transformation is a highly complicated and unpredictable endeavor, while relevance thinking is an intuitive, if incremental, approach to making improvements.

    The relevance mindset does not benefit stakeholders - Contrary to popular belief, current and future stakeholders do not benefit from associations’ focus on relevance. The combination of problems, needs and outcomes these stakeholders face demands a stronger response from associations, a genuine commitment to create distinctive and meaningful value that effectively harnesses the forces of transformation for innovation.

    In the final part of this series, I will consider the relevance fallacy in the context of why current and future stakeholders should want to have relationships with associations over the next decade and beyond.

    Jeff De Cagna FASAE is chief strategist and founder of Principled Innovation LLC, located in Reston, Virginia. He can be reached at or on Twitter @pinnovation.

  • Tuesday, May 19, 2015 6:14 PM | Deleted user

    Posted By Jeff De Cagna, Tuesday, May 19, 2015

    Editors Note: Many thanks to Jeff De Cagna, founder of Principled Innovation LLC for being our first guest blogger.

    As I travel around the country for both client work and public presentations, I hear a growing number of association decision-makers staff and voluntary alike - repeating a very familiar refrain: we need to make our associations relevant. Whenever someone expresses this point of view, I have a decidedly mixed reaction. On the one hand, I feel genuine empathy because relevance thinking usually is shared as a sincere, well-intentioned response to the complicated challenges created by a volatile and uncertain marketplace.

    On the other hand, I almost always feel a strong wave of frustration wash over me whenever I hear the word “relevance” used in this context. As a long-time association contributor who is committed, as a matter of both purpose and passion, to building 21st century organizations, it is difficult for me to view the relevance mindset as anything other than a serious threat to the real work of building associations to thrive in the years ahead.

    To better understand why relevance is a dangerous fallacy that associations must immediately abandon, I will use my guest posts on this blog to examine and deconstruct the fallacy by applying the three core questions that underpin long-term association thrivability:

    1. What will it take for your association to thrive over the next decade and beyond?

    2. What will your current and future stakeholders need to thrive over the next decade and beyond?

    3. Why should your current and future stakeholders want a relationship with your association over the next decade and beyond?

    Legacy organizations of all kinds are asking themselves the same questions, even if their versions use different words. For association decision-makers, these three questions provide a helpful structure for encouraging both greater discipline and greater creativity in their thinking about the future.

    What will it take for your association to thrive over the next decade and beyond?

    Over the last 25 years, the comparatively stable experience of linear change to which we have all grown accustomed has been supplanted by a profound, intensifying and accelerating experience of societal transformation, driven primarily by the relentless impact of technology on every field of human endeavor. In 2015, we are still closer to the beginning of this transformation than the end, and associations must act now to prepare for even more significant developments yet to come.

    Thrivability is about creating an association that can flourish in a world experiencing transformation. To be thrivable, associations need to be both adaptable to rapidly shifting conditions and resilient in the work of co-creating distinctive new value. While thrivability is about nurturing the development of new organizational capabilities for the future, the relevance mindset leads associations to limit their thinking about the future in (at least) three important ways:

    The relevance mindset is tied to membership. For the most part, when association decision-makers speak of making their organizations more relevant, what they are really talking about is making membership in the association more relevant. The focus on thrivability, however, challenges decision-makers to think beyond the sacrosanct orthodoxy of membership and act to develop meaningful relationships with distributed networks of stakeholders, including those who will never join, to collaborate on the creation of value.

    The relevance mindset ignores resistance and risk. Many decision-makers honestly believe that diminished relevance explains their organizations’ inability to realize their full potential. The work of thrivability acknowledges the true problems - the unchecked influence of internal resistance to transformation and the misplaced fear of the external risk of innovation - and focuses organizational attention on addressing those problems directly to build adaptability and resilience.

    The relevance mindset is not generative. In my experience, association decision-makers see relevance as something that can be addressed with a combination of fairly incremental programmatic and promotional initiatives. Thrivability, in contrast, demands a truly holistic and generative approach and, as I have previously written, “[w]hen we focus on being generative, we can create new dimensions of success both organizationally and for our stakeholders, but only if we’re willing to think differently about how we do our work.”

    In Part II of this series, I will look at the relevance fallacy through the lens of what association stakeholders will need to thrive over the next decade and beyond.

    Jeff De Cagna FASAE is chief strategist and founder of Principled Innovation LLC, located in Reston, Virginia. He can be reached at or on Twitter @pinnovation.

  • Thursday, April 30, 2015 7:27 AM | Anonymous
    Posted By Tim Bower, CAE, Thursday, April 30, 2015

    I am excited to have the opportunity to serve as the MASAE President and look forward to working with all of you in the upcoming year!

    I want to start this President’s article by telling you what MASAE means to me. I have been involved with MASAE for many years and was on the Board of DVSAE and a member of NJSAE. It was many, many years ago when I got involved in DVSAE and by getting involved I mean I was at a DVSAE Social Outing and Mike Taylor talked me into Co-Chairing the Education Committee. That simple conversation started me on a journey that would allow me to serve as Education Committee Chair for DVSAE and MASAE, serve on various Mid-Year Meeting, Conference Planning and Golf Committees as well as serving on the MASAE Board and Executive Committee. I owe Mike a BIG THANK YOU for talking to me that night many years ago. My involvement in MASAE has provided me with an experience that I could not have imagined. I have become a more accomplished professional, made some great friends, have expanded my resources and have had a great time doing it. Getting involved in MASAE is one of the best professional decisions I have ever made. Why am I starting my first article with this bit of information - because I want you to get involved in MASAE and join an MASAE Committee. Join MASAE as a volunteer and start your journey. MASAE will only improve if quality people continue to get involved. You are the reason that MASAE will be the best resource for education and networking.

    Member Experience and Core Initiatives

    MASAE is working very hard to expand the resources available to you and to make information more accessible to you. Some of the initiatives are outlined below and all of them have improving the member experience at the core of each initiative.

    • MASAE is launching a new and improved website. The website will give the members increased functionality to connect through Forums and allow for more resources and information. This new website will also be a great membership recruitment tool.
    • We are continuing the membership drive started in 2014. You may ask how more members will help our current members and for me the answer is simple. As we increase the membership numbers we increase our resources. More members also mean increased networking opportunities and the networking component is a critical aspect in all of our success as we progress through our careers.
    • MASAE is launching a new blog that will be sent about every two weeks. The articles will be a resource for timely information and will feature various professionals on the local and national scene. This will be launched shortly after the new website.
    • MASAE is working with champions in the various geographic regions we serve and discussing what they need and what type of meetings work best for them. It is these champions that will make these geographic subgroups successful. Please do not worry there will still be plenty of opportunity for all of us to get together at the Mid-Year and Annual Meetings and of course the local meetings are open to all.

    Upcoming Events

    The items above are some of the newer items we are working on but rest assured you can still count on MASAE for the consistent high quality educational programs that you have come to expect from us. Below is a list of the upcoming events. More events will be added so please check the MASAE website frequently for updates and information on how to register.

    • April 23 – Breakfast Club at Ponzio’s in Cherry Hill, NJ
    • April 30 – Executive Management Forum in Princeton, NJ
    • June 3 – MASAE Mid-Year Meeting at the Inn at Penn in Philadelphia, PA
    • June 25 – Breakfast Club at Ponzio’s in Cherry Hill, NJ
    • August 20 – MASAE 6th Annual Golf Outing at Sea Oaks Golf Club in Little Egg Harbor Township, NJ
    • September 24 – Breakfast Club at Ponzio’s in Cherry Hill, NJ
    • December 2-3 – MASAE 6th Annual Conference & Exhibition at Harrah’s in Atlantic City, NJ

    If you want to champion a Breakfast Club or Lunch Bunch type of meeting in your area please contact me and MASAE will help promote the meeting. There is no formal speaker and it is a great opportunity for colleagues to get together in a less formal setting. They are a great opportunity to reconnect with old friends and meet some new friends. I really want to make sure we are engaging the MASAE Members and other association professionals at times and locations that are easy for them to attend. 


    The key to the success of MASAE is communication and engagement. I hope that you will contact myself or any of the MASAE Board about what is working, what is not working, what might need a little tweak and what we are not offering that we should be offering. MASAE is here to serve the members, the profession and the industry and those of us that are fortunate enough to serve on the Board are only temporary stewards of this great organization. That is why your involvement is so necessary to ensure the current and future success of MASAE. I have listed the Committees below and all of them could use additional volunteers. The purpose of each committee and a sign-up form can be found by clicking here or if you have additional questions please feel free to call or email me at any time.

    • Awards Committee
    • CAE Committee
    • Communications Committee
    • Conference Committee
    • Education/Program Committee
    • Golf Committee
    • Membership Committee
    • Associate/Vendor Member Task Force
    • Pace Magazine
    • Scholarship Committee

    To those of you already involved thank you for everything you do for MASAE and if you are not involved please consider getting involved. Joining a committee would be great but your first step could be attending an event, talking to a colleague about joining or just letting us know how we are doing.

    I can be reached at 215-858-8023 or by email at and welcome all communication.

    Thank you,


    Tim Bower, CAE
    MASAE President

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