Spark Consulting

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.

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.

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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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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. Here are some things that work for me, to keep me productive without letting work consume my entire life (well, at least until the times that things get REALLY busy with client work). No working in your PJs.

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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.

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. People are overwhelmed with information, much of it false or untrustworthy, and are increasingly unable to discern what is reliable and what is not. Associations can help.

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?”

Associations Are Communities

Spark Consulting

It’s time to act like it. Several weeks ago, when it was first becoming apparent to association executives (and everyone else) that the coronavirus pandemic was, in fact, going to be quite serious, most of the industry discussion seemed to revolve around “Do we REALLY have to cancel our conference? What about our revenue!” ” WHAT ABOUT YOUR ATTENDEES’ HEALTH AND SAFETY? Yes, it was appalling.

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 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.” ” Many times, when we’re using the term “content curation,” what we actually mean is “aggregation.” ” That is, pulling together a list of related links.

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.

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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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. Key takeaways: learning a new definition of member engagement, refocusing engagement to generate real value, and placing engagement at the heart of your membership strategy.

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.

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.

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.

Your Members Are Overwhelmed

Spark Consulting

That’s the bad news. We’re all feeling a little overwhelmed by the volume and variety of information coming at us, having trouble determining what’s accurate and relevant, placing that information in meaningful context, and successfully using it to make sense of our increasingly complex world. The good news is that you can help your members!

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? In contrast to communicating with your board about changes, dues increases can be the hardest sell to members. “What do you mean my dues are going up?

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.

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!

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. I don’t feel it is appropriate to host this session in the middle of yet another tragic moment in our shared history.

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. Key takeaways: learning a new definition of member engagement, refocusing engagement to generate real value, and placing engagement at the heart of your membership strategy.

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? I suspect she was looking for stuff like: “associations will embrace smaller, regional, hybrid events” or “employers who were convinced there was no way their staff could work remotely would realize they were wrong.”

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.”

How to Avoid Fundraising’s Quiet Killer: Donor Attrition

Speaker: Jay Wilkinson, CEO & Founder, Firespring

It doesn't take an industry professional to know that nonprofits highly depend on donations. The marketing emails, events, and website design are meant to attract new donors, when what we should be doing is trying to keep the donors we have. Teach a man donor acquisition and he'll get donations for the day--teach a man donor retention and he'll get donations for a lifetime. John Jay Wilkinson, CEO and founder of Firespring, and learn how to get donations for a lifetime. In this session, Jay will help us learn how to step off of the donor acquisition treadmill and rev up donor retention. Six out of ten donors give only once, but this doesn’t have to be your reality. Jay will help us understand how a 10% increase in donor retention will more than double the lifetime value of a donor and minimize our reliance on producing constant appeals for new donors.

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.

Membership Q&A: How Long Should Our Grace Period Be?

Spark Consulting

Ah, the grace period, the bane of the membership profession’s experience. Should we have a grace period at all? How long should it be? I will admit to being a hard-ass about grace periods. My preference is none. If your membership lapses on July 31, 2019, then your access is cut off as of 12:01 am August 1. Remember how I recently wrote about rewarding the behavior you want to encourage ?

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.

Membership Q&A: Calendar v. Anniversary Renewals?

Spark Consulting

Which is more member-centric? In most cases, an anniversary renewal cycle – that is, I renew at same time as I joined (or renewed) last year – is going to make the most sense to your members. My annual membership starts when I pay, and I get 12 months of service for my dues. A calendar renewal cycle is generally seen as association-centric. We renew everyone at the same time, on a cycle that’s driven by our business needs (often tied to the association’s fiscal year).

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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. Two observations: First, 17 years ago, I realized that “lose 10 pounds and become a better person” was a terrible resolution to make, which is why I never kept it. So I resolved to resolve differently, choosing resolutions that are fun and about something I want to learn or try. I even wrote and performed an IGNITE session about it.

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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.

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. Your benefits are staying the same, your structure is staying the same, you just have to start charging a bit more for what you’re offering.

Partnership v. Membership: ROI

Spark Consulting

Lewis’s latest post in our ongoing, irregular series addresses making sponsorship offerings more valuable to your corporate supporters: understand what’s motivating them, structure the relationship to address their specific business needs, and offer different levels of investment. In short, create clear Return On Investment (ROI). Which brings us to the ROI of membership, and sharing that ROI with your members. Calls to calculate and share ROI tend to start from a good place.

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Blockchain for Associations

Spark Consulting

In the spring of 2018, I had the opportunity to attend one of my favorite conferences in the association year: digitalNOW. At that event, among all the cutting-edge content, I heard one word over and over: blockchain. Two things quickly became apparent to me: one, it was an emerging trend associations should pay attention to and two, nobody seemed to really understand it all that well. What is blockchain? How does it work? How does it relate to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies?

Membership 101: Who Counts?

Spark Consulting

Who do you consider to be your members? That seems like an easy question: “Anyone whose dues are current,” right? But if you dig a little deeper, it quickly gets a lot more complicated. Do you offer a grace period? Are there ways to pay other than money? What about the people in your profession or industry who haven’t paid? What about the people who support those in your profession or industry? What about their audiences or customers?

Membership 101: Ladders of Engagement Revisited

Spark Consulting

Once members join, the next question becomes: How do you keep them? How do you build real relationships over time that deepen your commitment to each other and lead to long-term loyalty on both sides? The answer is ladders of engagement. I’ve already talked a little bit about ladders of engagement in the membership 101 series, in that earlier instance, specifically related to joining an association.

Influence Across America

Spark Consulting

Thanks to the generosity of my friend and colleague Ed Barks , I had the opportunity to attend Influence Across America: The Rise of State and Local Power and the Impact of Digital Media , a National Digital Roundtable panel event at the Newseum earlier this week. Panelists shared some interesting and disturbing statistics, as well as good advice for breaking through the noise and getting local and national media attention for your organization’s signal.