Belonging

Your Niche Is Your Pitch

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January 17 @ 9:45 pm CST

With the NFL playoffs just around the corner and the Superbowl only weeks away, football fans are more energized than ever, eagerly anticipating how their respective teams will perform and whether they will take home that coveted championship title. My family supports the Minnesota Vikings, but I was part of a Chicago Bears household growing up. Not a football fan? Maybe there is another sport or team you support. Sports teams provide us with electrifying energy, excitement, and a sense of belonging.     We all want to be part of a winning team.    I want you to think about the following scenario: what if your favorite team added other skill sets to its repertoire? For example, if the Bears or Vikings suddenly announced they were also going to play baseball, volleyball, or some other sport in addition to football, they likely wouldn’t have the same value to their fans. We support specific teams because we consider them the best at their craft, not because they do it all.    Membership associations aren’t much different. Your members will typically join your organization because you provide something others don’t.     That one thing that sets you apart from the rest is your “niche” and is the secret to long-term, sustainable success.    Unfortunately, when challenges arise, many associations tend to overcompensate by trying to be accessible and available to everyone by offering too many services. This reaction leads to confusion, frustration, and burnout amongst your board and members alike. Associations in these situations quickly lose focus of their niche and, ultimately, their purpose. What many organizations don’t realize is that there is money to be found in niches. By carving out an area of expertise and being the ‘go-to’ resource, you will attract more members, and thus, more funds.   In today’s marketplace, your organization needs to offer access to something of incredible value to eliminate your competition. To help find your niche and maintain it, I recommend regularly…

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An Asian woman facing opposite direction in a crowd

How to Bring Belonging Back

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January 17 @ 9:45 pm CST

Early in my career, I was recruited to sit on an association’s board of directors and given the opportunity to spearhead a priority initiative for the organization. I was thrilled and jumped at the opportunity to take on such a prominent role. Imagine my disappointment when I attended my first board meeting and the initiative was tabled. The next several meetings I attended, the initiative continued to be backburned. It wasn’t long before I found myself feeling frustrated, unappreciated, and overlooked. My admiration for the association and passion for the project waned. I felt like I no longer belonged. Feeling like we don’t belong is a feeling we can all relate to, yet many organizations are struggling to foster a sense of belonging – and have been for quite some time. We know this to be true because most associations have reported declining membership trends for the past decade, just as employers have reported declining levels of employee engagement. And here and now, the workforce turnover is so massive, this era is being referred to as the Great Resignation. Belonging by definition means two things: ownership and a secure relationship. We feel like we belong when we’re invited to actively contribute and share our opinions and ideas, and we are listened to, respected, and positively encouraged. In the late 1990s, belonging began to transition. From workplaces to membership associations, the same trend was observed: Young people were less likely to join/stay/engage/renew. In other words, young people were less likely to feel like they belong. Why the sudden shift? And why have so many organizations struggled to re-engage young people? I’ve spent a lot of time researching this trend in an effort to find the answers. The answer is quite complex, but here’s the condensed version: The shift in belonging is a direct result of significant social change and the era during which younger generations have come of age. Young people are wary of forging connections and…

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gen z, generation z,

How Cancel Culture Will Change Your Organization

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January 17 @ 9:45 pm CST

Given the opportunity to time travel, would you choose to visit the past or the future? I was participating in a virtual happy hour when this question popped up. Some experienced professionals jumped in, sharing moments in history they wanted to visit. The conversation was bubbly; people were happily caught up in their imaginations of what it would be like to experience a bygone era. Then a student from Georgetown University spoke up, and just like that, the mood shifted. “I want to visit the future”, she said. “I want to visit the future to see how much damage has been done by the actions of our society today.” Gen Z (1996-2009) are the teens and early 20-somethings who have become largely renowned for holding up the mirror to society, forcing us all to take a closer look. Under  their watch, the concept of cancel culture has been trending for most of the past year, which has become a polarizing topic of debate. Regardless of age or experience, feeling ignored drives  people to disengage, quit, protest, and cancel. The process of ‘canceling’ usually goes like this: A public figure or organization does or says something offensive. A public backlash, often fueled by political views and social media, ensues. Then there’s call to take away their cultural cachet, whether through boycotts or disciplinary action. Cancel culture has been referred to as a mob mentality, encouraging lawlessness, censorship, and the erasing of history. It’s also been referred to as a long overdue way of holding people accountable for propagating racist and sexist ideas, toxic behaviors, and making unethical, immoral decisions without any regard for others. Although it started as more of a political debate, cancel culture has now moved into the arena of generational debate. In 2019, the OK boomer meme and videos were an attempt by Gen Z to ‘cancel’ the generations that came before them. OK boomer was meant to be cutting and dismissive; a snarky…

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