2018 AMCI Annual Meeting Event Recap

 

Several members of the Omnipress team made the trek up to Vancouver recently to participate in this year’s AMCI Annual Meeting. The event was packed with interesting sessions on a number of topics, but if you had to condense it all into one word, it would be “sustainability.”

The association world has seen dramatic growth over the past 20 years, and taking steps to sustain that growth into the future was an underlying theme of each presentation. The speakers at the event offered many ideas, but in general, there were three approaches to help associations build on the success of the past two decades:

Approach #1: Creating Excellence Within Your Organization

Several presenters at the conference suggested that organizational success begins by looking within. These speakers focused on making internal improvements to your culture, mission or processes.

Virtual workforces: This organizational structure is becoming increasingly common for both corporations and associations. For associations, there are some clear advantages in creating this type of environment:

  • Allowing employees to work off-site is an effective incentive in the hiring process. Millennials, in particular, are interested in non-traditional work environments, and the ability to work remotely is an enticing benefit.
  • Having a de-centralized staff creates greater flexibility for growth. In a traditional scenario, growing your staff often results in outgrowing your office space. When you have staff that works from home, you can quickly scale up without needing to find larger offices.

“The Givens”: This presentation focused on the culture within an association. “The Givens” refer to those aspects of your mission statement that are so common, they really are a given. Boilerplate values like integrity and honesty don’t need to be part of your mission statement because these qualities are assumed. Instead, your mission statement should include the values that only your organization can provide.

Approach #2: Promoting Your Association to New Members

Marketing continues to be another area that generates interest from association professionals. Using content marketing for promoting the value of membership is still something that many struggle to put into practice. As older members retire and leave the association, online content marketing is an effective way to reach the next generation of young professionals.

AMCs that can provide guidance and best practices for associations to reuse their content can add tremendous value to the organizations they work with.

Approach #3: Improving Member Engagement

For most associations, increasing member growth and engagement are top priorities. Educational sessions that delve into these topics are always crowd favorites, and one presentation combined both of these elements into one interesting hour.

Associations that have a large number of Baby-Boomer members are facing an interesting scenario: As members retire from the workforce, they may not be ready to retire from the association. In fact, retirement may allow these senior members an opportunity to participate in ways that were not possible while they were employed. One solution for these members is for them to serve as mentors to younger members. Mentorships offer a new kind of engagement for members and provides a tangible benefit for younger members that are looking to advance their careers.

In addition to these sessions, the 2018 AMCI Annual Meeting provided many opportunities to talk with peers about how they are working to keep the momentum going. Listening to the ideas presented at the event, it’s clear that the association industry is poised to continue the success of the past 20 years.

How to Attract Millennials to Your Association with Credentialing

 

Which major issue facing the U.S. economy are associations well positioned to fix? The “skills gap.”

Employers are facing the “skills gap” as Baby Boomers retire faster than Millennials develop a similar skill set. This phenomenon—also known as “aging out”—is having a similar effect on associations. Older members are retiring at a faster pace than new members are replacing them. What some might see as a problem can actually be a great opportunity for associations. Establishing credentialing programs for young professionals can be a smart way to attract the next generation of members.

Earlier this year, Millennials passed Baby-Boomers as the largest age group in the workforce. Some associations have struggled to find ways to recruit this age group. As Associations Now points out, however, credentialing can be a way to attract Millennials. This seems like a natural fit for associations. In fact, most already include industry-specific training as part of their mission. Not only can training attract new members, it will also enhance your value to these new members. Establishing your association as the go-to resource for young members will have a positive impact on your organization for many years.

Credentialing programs for Millennials rely on many of the same traditional instructional design fundamentals that have been in place for years. But there are some things to keep in mind, especially when it comes to including technology in your courses. So, before you create your next program, here are five tips that will help your association’s courses become the go-to resource for Millennials.

Tip #1: Don’t just create courses for Millennials, create them for your industry

When helping to create the workforce of the future, the first challenge is to match the training program to the eventual needs of the industry. It may be tempting to ask your younger members for input on which courses they would like to take. The danger with this approach is you may end up teaching skills that are useful today but may not be what the industry actually needs over the long term.

A better approach to selecting course content is by talking with industry leaders about the skills they’ll need in the future. Asking for their input gives you a forward-looking perspective–one that someone new to the industry will not be able to provide.

Creating a training course based on the industry’s anticipated skills gap over the next five years will put your association in a position to be a long-term leader in providing skilled workers.

Tip #2 There is still room for in-person instruction

Technology enables learning opportunities that didn’t exist a decade ago. But that doesn’t mean traditional, in-person instruction is obsolete. Traditional classroom learning remains a valuable format for associations teaching members. In fact, there are some topics that just need the high-level interaction that only comes from instructors and learners being in the same physical location. One example of training that can’t be replicated online is a course in safe food-handling procedures. It’s important to let your content choose the right format for your class.

Tip #3: Use technology appropriately

Millennials have lived their entire lives using technology. So it’s a natural tendency to feel the need to use technology to appeal to them. Using technology just for technology’s sake is a recipe for disaster, though. Before you invest the time or money involved in taking your program materials online, for example, make sure they support your larger learning objectives. Providing a training manual online is a great way to distribute the most up-to-date materials to your learners. Just make sure that your site includes an option for note-taking similar to a traditional manual.

When used appropriately, incorporating technology to enhance course materials provides tremendous value for members.

Tip #4: Blended learning pairs tradition and technology

Earlier this year, Omnipress conducted a survey on the learning habits of Millennials. One of the surprising findings was that 59% of respondents indicated they found it easier to learn from print than digital materials. (You can read the entire survey results here.) While online courses provide opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist, traditional educational materials can increase Millennials’ learning retention. So, even if your geographically diverse membership prevents you from holding in-person training, offering physical course materials is still a good option.

Blended learning is a great way of taking advantage of both tradition and technology.

Tip #5: Digital credentials offer value to your association and learner

If your course provides a certificate or other form of recognition for completing the course, offering a digital credential can be a worthwhile use of technology. A “digital credential” is an online badge that allows your learners to easily share their accomplishments on social media sites like LinkedIn. These badges also serve as a great way of advertising your association within the learner’s network. This word-of-mouth advertising is effective in boosting your program’s visibility.

Conclusion

Associations are in a unique position to help create the next generation of workers, and at the same time, solidify their position as a valuable resource for members. This win-win situation will help forward-thinking associations that have the training programs in place to close the skills gap. Choosing the right skills for your courses is a crucial first step that should have input from industry leaders, not just students. Successful associations will be able to find a balance between traditional education and technology that reinforces their learning objectives. In the end, positioning your association as the go-to resource for the youngest members of your industry is a smart way to grow your membership.

Make the Most of Your Association Events this Summer

The summer wind, came blowin’ in…

The association events I go to in the summer tend to stay true to this easy-breezy summer feeling by taking on a more casual approach. I love the extra focus on networking at these outings because it gives me the chance to connect with colleagues in ways we don’t always get to during the rest of the year. Eventually, the conversation winds its way back to that age old topic: How to find new ways the association can continue to create value.

An interesting take on the topic makes the point that in the summer, this value can come in two forms: creating value for members by providing educational content, and creating value for the association by recruiting new members to take a more active role in events throughout the year.

If your association is looking for ways to make the most of your summer gatherings, here are some creative ways to add value for both your members and your association, while being mindful of a lighter summer schedule:

Education doesn’t need a summer recess

Some associations are able to turn their summer outings into educational sessions without anyone even realizing they are learning during the summer. The trick is to find the right topic for your summer events that can turn them from “can’t make it” to “can’t miss it”. A common recommendation is to choose a broad topic such as professional development to match the casual mood of the event.

It’s a fact, though, that when summer comes, vacations and other commitments make schedules less predictable than any other time of year. If your summer events do tend to have a smaller attendance than other programs, take advantage of the opportunity to let up-and-coming members have center stage as speakers.

Associations also say that to keep members learning during summer programming, they move some educational materials online. This gives members the ability to continue their professional development through the summer months but on their own time.

Reconnect with members

Another common theme is how summer networking events provide an opportunity to reconnect with members. These casual conversations can be the perfect starting point to finding volunteers that are willing to take a more active role in the association.

Think back over the course of the year to conversations you’ve had with members. Which ones have shown an interest in playing a larger part in the association’s activities? Maybe there are some that would be able to address a particular topic or deliver a presentation to the group? A summer networking event is the perfect low-stress way to start those preliminary discussions. Planting the idea in the summer can encourage members to become more active in the association, rather than saying they are too busy later in the year.

Meet new members

Hopefully, you’ve had new members join your organization over the last twelve months. If you are regularly involved in hosting the events throughout the year, other commitments may have kept you from talking with them as much as you would’ve liked. Make a pledge to change that this summer! New members provide new energy for your association, and just as importantly, new ideas. As you speak with them, gauge their interest in being a part of the strategic planning for the year. A good tactic is to ask new members to make small commitments at first. Don’t start by asking them to fill a two-year appointment. Associations report having better luck engaging new members by simply asking them for topic suggestions, or to help out in other limited ways.

 

If your association is like the others I talk with, odds are your summer programming schedule is different than the rest of the year. It’s important to stay front and center in the minds of your members, even if their schedules mean they aren’t able to be physically present as much as other times of the year. Adding in-person or online educational options is a common way for associations to continue delivering value.

We help associations every year assess their educational content and find the best way to make this valuable information available to their members online. Creating a dedicated website that houses all your educational content makes it easy for members to access your professional development resources on their own time.

What ideas has your association used to keep members engaged during the summer months? Have you found any good strategies for recruiting new members to take an active role in the association? Let us know in the comments below. Or, if you are interested in learning more about creating online educational materials, we’d be happy to help review your current resources.

What Value Does Your Association Truly Bring? 5 Ways to Find Out

Working in the non-profit and association industry, there is always that one question that you get asked. The question that, in all reality, is the basis for why our organizations do what they do: What value does your association bring to its members?

We all think we have that perfect elevator pitch we can rattle off to prospective members or even just to answer a random inquiring mind. But does your answer truly represent the value that you bring to your members? This question is something that must be answered with 100% certainty if you want your organization to continue to be successful, especially in a time where members expect clear and concise return on their investment of time and money.

Here are Five Ways to Find Out What Value Your Association Truly Brings:

Surveys

This is probably the most obvious and measurable way to get a true feeling of the value that your association brings. You’re able to send it out to your entire membership database, segment by multiple influencing factors like industry (if applicable), how many years they’ve been a member and even job title. You’ll be able to find some very interesting correlations between various segmentations. One thing to keep in mind about this tactic is that the way you write the questions for the survey typically have huge impacts on how people answer. You want your questions to be very non-influential.For example: Don’t have a question about what is the biggest value they see in being a member of your association and then give a multiple choice answer key. Leave that question as an open blank so they can answer in their own words. If you guide their answers, you’re likely to get the answer you think you already know.

In-person “interview”

One of the most effective ways to get some very personal feedback is to do some informal, in-person interviews of various members. The key here is to choose a diverse selection of members. You want to choose members that have been with you for a long time, as well as new members and everything in between.Be sure you make it very clear to those you’re speaking with that you want to hear the good and the bad. The bad feedback you get from members may be the most valuable information you get during this project. Where can your association improve and fill holes in programs, conferences, etc.? Let your interviewees be very candid. Tell them to not hold back and to tell you like it is. You may not like what you hear immediately, but you’ll love the actions it will provide your leadership moving forward.

Check your referrals

This is one of the more unique ways of checking the value that your association brings, but it can also be one of the most effective. Take some time to meet with people that have become members through a referral of another member, as well as those who were the referrers. When a current member refers a new member to your association, it is absolutely because you showed them some type of value. They felt that their time and money was well-spent with your association because of some type of perceived value.It could potentially be a goldmine for your association if you can get to the bottom of why they referred someone else. It’s also important to talk to the person who was referred, because that will give you an idea of the perceived value the referrer gave them, and if that perceived value was correct.

Annual onboarding check-in

Every time you have a new member join your association, you should make a point to contact them directly one year after they join for two reasons. First, you’re obviously interested in member retainment. You want to keep those members who you worked so hard and spent so much time on converting.The second reason is because it’s a great way to make sure that the value they thought they would get from being a member is being fulfilled. There is really no better source for an honest assessment than a member that is new. If they feel like they’ve wasted their money by becoming a member, they’ll tell you by not renewing. They have no vested interest because they haven’t been a member long, so value is truly what becomes the deciding factor to renew or not (besides the cost of dues, of course).

Talk to members who didn’t renew

This might sound a little odd, or even intimidating, but reaching out to members who didn’t renew can be an incredibly valuable way to figure out where your organization does, and does not, offer value. Again, they have no vested interest because they’re no longer members, so you should be able to see where your association fell short and where it excels at bringing value. Don’t ever miss an opportunity to find weaknesses in your association, because fixing those weaknesses may be the key to stopping membership loss.

How does your association find out what value you are bringing to your members?