Dan's Corner with Director of Training and Publications Dan Loomis


A few weeks ago, I traveled to Orlando, FL for ASAE’s Great Ideas Conference (GIC). The sessions at this year’s event covered a broad range of educational topics. Some sessions discussed high-level ideas that advance your association’s mission, while others took a practical “get back to the office and execute” approach. The sessions that I found most interesting, though, had to do with overcoming challenges that our customers tell me they face every day.

Automation, technology integration and innovation were common themes of the conversations and educational sessions throughout the conference. For any association that is tackling these issues, the challenges can seem daunting. But GIC was a powerful reminder that we are not alone in facing these trends. Many for-profit industries have similar hurdles to overcome. This point was made clear in a GIC session titled, “Caution: Association Futurists at Work.” An example from the trucking industry illustrated the similarities between the for-profit and not-for-profit worlds:

Estimates show that the trucking industry has a labor shortage of 50,000 drivers. The problem, however, may only be getting worse. As the current workforce continues to age, Millennials are choosing not to take available positions in the industry. And the threat of new technologies—in this case, driverless trucks—are changing experts’ outlook for the future of the field.

Your association may be battling some of these same macro forces. How many of these trucking industry issues sound familiar when you rephrase them slightly:

  • The average age of your membership continues to increase
  • Attracting the next generation of members has been a struggle
  • For every opportunity that technology creates, it also seems to chip away at your relevancy

Here are 5 takeaways from the GIC educational sessions that can help every association create a culture skilled in overcoming challenges:

  1. Look at the value your association offers from MANY perspectives. How does this perceived value differ between the Executive Director, member, non-members, industry, etc.?
  2. Storytelling is critical. In order to cut through the glut of information that consumers face on a daily basis, you need to ensure your marketing message tells your STORY.
  3. Inspire employees to do great things…and reward the well-intended efforts that ultimately result in failure. There is always wisdom to be gained from FAILING FAST.
  4. Consider changing your organizational hierarchy to create smaller, highly effective teams. EMPOWER your employees to become decision makers without waiting for the “OK” from the C-suite.
  5. Take time for yourself. HAPPY people do great things.

Despite all of the headwinds association face, they continue to move forward with their mission. Every day, they continue to do great things and solve real world problems. It was SO INSPIRING to hear how associations are finding positivity and focus in what sometimes feels like the eye of the hurricane. Remember that your association is not alone in overcoming challenges that you face.

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