Spark Consulting

Formality Is Not Always Good

Spark Consulting

Associations tend to default to a formal tone in communications. It feels safe. It can be hard to nail being appropriately funny, and no one ever got in trouble for being excessively formal, right? Well, no.

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Rethinking Revenue: Your Membership Plan

Spark Consulting

What happens when your membership plan becomes reality? Join me and Dana Anaman (National Association of Professional Insurance Agents) Wednesday, September 30 at 10 am ET as we take you through our journey to increase membership for the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents.

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Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Spark Consulting

Today marks one year since DC shut down for the pandemic. I wrote a Twitter thread to memorialize that fact, and realized I should probably have written a blog post, even though it’s not very association-y. So here it is. One year ago today, DC shut down for the pandemic.

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The Ask Matters

Spark Consulting

About two weeks ago, DC’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, held a series of virtual budget engagement forums to share her draft budget for FY2022. The format her team chose was extremely clever.

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Deliver Effective Online Education and Events Your Members Will Love

This guide identifies the biggest challenges for associations moving their training online and provides practical solutions so that you can hit the ground running. Download now to keep your members engaged and growing even in times of COVID-19.

Tips for Working from Home

Spark Consulting

I have to caveat this by saying I can’t help you with what do to with your kids (I don’t have any myself) or with your team telework tech (it’s just me here at Spark). I have been working for myself from my home office for nearly eight years.

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Help Your Members Find the Signal in the Noise

Spark Consulting

This is probably not news to you, but we’re at an information crisis point. Your members and other audiences are dealing with a flood of information during a time when the role of traditional information gatekeepers has become severely devalued.

Three Challenges – Three Opportunities

Spark Consulting

As we look to 2021, I see three main membership challenges for associations: Remember that membership is a lagging indicator. Per Marketing General’s annual Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report , the Q4 2007 economic crash didn’t fully show up in association metrics until 2009.

Associations Are Communities

Spark Consulting

It’s time to act like it.

We Have a Match!

Spark Consulting

Update on my fall fundraising for Reading Partners (where I’m both a tutor and a board member): My initial goal was $1000, and, with ten days still to go in the campaign, I’ve raised $1300! To everyone who’s given so far, HUGE thanks.

The Pro’s Guide To Getting The Best ROI From Your New LMS

You need a Learning Management System when your courses and training programs need to be accessible online. Quickly build the perfect business case and easily determine which LMS will provide the best return on investment you need with this how-to eBook!

NP Tech Podcast: Cut Through the Clutter

Spark Consulting

A few weeks ago, Hilary Marsh and I had the opportunity to sit down (virtually, of course) with fusionSPAN’s Justin Burniske to talk all things content curation.

What IS Content Curation?

Spark Consulting

Associations use the term “content curation” frequently, but to quote the great Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Partnership v. Membership: Communicating Change

Spark Consulting

Now that you’ve mapped out the changes you want to make to your membership program, and your board of directors is on board with those changes, how do you go about communicating them to the members who will be affected?

Content Curation: Your Association’s Secret Weapon Against Information Overload

Spark Consulting

Did you miss the webinar Hilary Marsh (Content Company) and I gave last week on content curation and why your association needs to get on board with it to help your members and other audiences deal with information overload? You’re in luck! Thanks to our host Impexium, there’s a free recording available at the Impexium website. In the webinar, Hilary and I: Outline the problem of information overload. Discuss what content curation is – and isn’t.

eLearning demand is at an all-time high. Pick the right LMS!

The need for online learning is greater than ever having the right LMS is absolutely crucial. Quickly, easily, and cost-effectively decide which Learning Management System is right for you with this 12-step guide from LMS implementation experts.

Member-Centric Engagement Webinar RESCHEDULED for September 2

Spark Consulting

Mark your calendar to join me Wednesday, September 2 (NEW DATE!) at noon for “Leading Engagement from the Outside-In” at Association Insights in Old Town Cyberspace. I’ll be discussing findings from a whitepaper I wrote with Anna Caraveli a little while ago on member-centric engagement.

Your Members Are Overwhelmed

Spark Consulting

That’s the bad news.

Postponing Member-Centric Engagement Webinar

Spark Consulting

Out of respect for the ongoing uprisings protesting the murder of George Floyd and longstanding, unaddressed racism and racial discrimination in American society, I’ve requested that Association Insights postpone our scheduled Wednesday, June 3 webinar, Leading Engagement from the Outside In, to a later date.

Member-Centric Engagement Has Never Been More Critical

Spark Consulting

Join me Wednesday, June 3 at noon for “Leading Engagement from the Outside-In” at Association Insights in Old Town Cyberspace. I’ll be discussing findings from a whitepaper I wrote with Anna Caraveli a little while ago on member-centric engagement.

Build or Buy an LMS? How to Pick the Right Solution for Your Budget

BUDGET. When it comes to picking your next LMS that six-letter word is probably the most important part of the decision-making process. So, what are your options to get the best possible eLearning solution without breaking the bank? Build it or buy it. This guide from Lambda’s eLearning experts details absolutely everything you need to consider so you can pick the perfect eLearning solution for your organization and budget.

Membership Q&A: Online Communities?

Spark Consulting

No, I’m not going to get into which white-label platform you should use – for that, we have ReviewMyCommunity. Take one step back: white-label or public ? That is, the publicly-available, commercial platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, and their ilk). This is a tough one. The advantage – and it’s a BIG one – of using a public platform is that your members are already there. They already know how to access the site. They already have an account.

What Lies on the Other Side?

Spark Consulting

Shortly after the coronavirus pandemic stay at home edicts began coming down, a colleague posted a question to LinkedIn: What’s your vision for when we come out of this?

Stop Trying to be Google

Spark Consulting

If an association wants to move beyond mere aggregation and serve your members by providing real curation, what should you do? To quote my co-author HilaryMarsh: “Stop trying to be Google.”

Make a Difference for DC’s Kids

Spark Consulting

I’m participating in a fundraiser for my favorite nonprofit organization, Reading Partners (where I’m both a tutor and a board member), and ?I’m I’m asking for your financial support.?. Reading Partners works to ensure students from low-income households have the literacy skills they need to succeed in school and life.

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Need Remote Learning ASAP? Don’t Pick Your Next LMS Before Reading This!

Need to go remote or move your training programs online? Download this guide to identify and overcome the biggest eLearning challenges so you can pick the perfect LMS without wasting time, money, and effort, even if you are just starting your eLearning journey.

Partnership v. Membership: Prospecting Dos and Don’ts

Spark Consulting

In Lewis’s last post in our ongoing series , he shared some great advice on prospecting for corporate partners. Lewis highlighted DO items, such as: Weed out “dead ends” Understand your potential partners’ business challenges and goals for your audiences. Focus on mutual benefit. He also called out time-wasters to eliminate (I love that framing!), such as: Pursuing a company that has no connection to your profession/industry.

Membership Q&A: Why Won’t They Join?

Spark Consulting

Why aren’t our prospects joining our association? They don’t see value in joining. Let’s unpack that a little bit. The reason they don’t see value in joining may be because they don’t see it YET, or it may be because it isn’t there. They don’t see value yet. What that means is that you’re moving too fast.

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Membership Q&A: Don’t Leave Us!

Spark Consulting

What’s the #1 reason a long-standing member would not renew? As Dr. Theodore Woodward of the University of Maryland School of Medicine taught his med students in the 1940: “When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses not zebras” For our purposes, that means start with the obvious: Did that member switch careers or retire? If so, you may have to chalk this one up to “forces beyond our control,” and let that person go.

On Resolutions

Spark Consulting

It’s that time of year, when we all think about what happened last year and what we’d like to do differently in the next.

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Need Remote Learning NOW? Get Online Quickly & Easily With This Can’t-Miss Guide

Remote learning is becoming more important than ever. Whether you’re scrambling to get your eLearning launched, or need to upgrade to meet increased demand, this guide will eliminate the guesswork so you can find your perfect LMS!

Partnership v. Membership: Is There a Membership Role for Suppliers?

Spark Consulting

In my previous post in this series, I concluded with the question: What role, if any, does supplier membership play in this ecosystem? Lewis responded with a strong statement that suppliers should NOT be association members , because they have “divergent interests and motivations” for their relationships with your association. I would argue that there is, or at least can be, a role for supplier membership.

Membership Q&A: What’s the Most Effective Renewal Cycle?

Spark Consulting

When is the best time of the year to begin renewal communications to members? How many notices should we send? Should we send paper or electronic notices? What should we send WITH the notices? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no one right answer to these questions. There are some good guidelines, which we’ll go over in a minute, but really, you have to test different options and, more importantly, PAY ATTENTION to what happens.

Partnership v. Membership: Selling the Board on Change

Spark Consulting

When you’ve realized it’s time to make a change to your dues amounts, member benefits, or overall membership structure, how do you convince your board of directors to support it? Particularly if there’s resistance? Let’s start with the easiest case: a dues increase.

What’s Blockchain?

Spark Consulting

And why should associations care? Shelly Alcorn (Ubiquity University and Alcon Associates Management Consulting) and I will be presenting for CalSAE on The Perils and Promise of Blockchain Wednesday, September 30. “Hm,” you may be thinking, “I’m not IN California. Why is Elizabeth telling me this?”

AMC-Managed Organizations are More Stable than Standalone Organizations

Why do organizations managed by Association Management Companies outperform standalone organizations? This paper seeks to answer that question through the results of a study examining the rates of change in the length of chief staff executive tenure and changes in office locations of membership-based organizations between 2009 and 2015.

Partnership v. Membership: Defining Terms

Spark Consulting

Lewis and I are both going to take a crack at this topic, and I’ve elected to go first. I see partnership and membership as being founded on the same broad idea: individuals or organizations that seek some type of a relationship with an association. Whether they are individuals, companies, or other types of institutions, they have problems they can’t solve, or goals they can’t achieve, all on their own.

Membership Q&A: Call or Text?

Spark Consulting

Let’s say you’re over email and want to take your welcome, retention, and/or renewal communications to the next level. Should you call, or should you text? Well, who are your members? What generations are represented and in what quantities? It’s not just your imagination – Millennials and GenZ genuinely do prefer text to voice calls, by pretty significant majorities (in the US, nearly 3/4 prefer text). You can get the full study here.)

Partnership v. Membership: What Behavior Do You Want to Encourage?

Spark Consulting

That question is not rhetorical. Corporate membership can be complicated. To being with, there are at least two main types: Companies that are your core audience (i.e., trade associations’ typical members). Companies that are NOT your core audience (i.e., the suppliers who often comprise the associate members). Even in the “are your core audience” arena, things get complicated.

Member Q&A: Who Makes the Call?

Spark Consulting

Who should make contact around things like joining and renewing: other members or staff? Member-to-member (or member-to-prospect) communications can be very effective, IF you can persuade your members to actually make the calls. We’re often tempted to ask volunteers to call lapsed members – in fact, that can be a stated requirement of serving on a membership committee.

Smart Tactics to Keep Members and Sponsors Engaged During Challenging Times

With conferences being canceled due to COVID-19, associations need to be nimble by implementing alternative strategies and tactics that can continue to bring value to their members, keep sponsors/exhibitors, generate revenues for the Association.