Succession planning

Acing Your Association’s Succession Plan

December 4 @ 3:16 pm CST

For as long as I can remember, tennis has been one of my favorite sports. I played from an early age and eventually taught lessons during my summers off in high school. For some, the long hot days, sore muscles, and constant running back and forth may have been exhausting. For me, it was an invigorating activity that required strategy, skill, and patience. Today, I still get just as energized when a tennis match is on TV, and on weekends, I still love to pick up my racquet and head to the courts. Over the course of my career, I’ve found that a comparison can be drawn between tennis theory and membership theory. When I first started researching membership engagement trends in the early 2000s, I observed that older generations (mainly Baby Boomers) valued membership strongly, having been raised to believe that belonging to an association was a key stepping stone in the journey to adulthood. Many Boomers I studied shared a similar experience: start your career, join an industry organization, and earn your seat at the table by continuously investing in your membership. It seems like a recipe for success, right? …Maybe not. At the same time, our research suggested that younger generations were less inclined to join membership organizations. Interest in membership was waning, but why? The turn of the 21st century ushered in major social, economic, and political shifts in our society. Coupled with significant technological advancements, a rapidly changing world swayed young people’s interests, including what they wanted out our their membership experience. The broader data we gathered presented a shocking trend: across the board, 20% of members (younger members) were pushing their associations to rethink and modernize their membership models. They were posing the following questions to their associations: When was the last time you reviewed your membership demographics?How current is your value proposition?What am I going to get out of my membership if I join your association? These questions prompted…

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Steering Your Association Towards a Successful Future

December 4 @ 3:16 pm CST

As a leader of your organization, you want to create a thriving membership community. The road to success, however, can often be riddled with unexpected bumps in the road and detours that can lead you away from your mission, ultimately resulting in membership decline and disengagement. Although it would be nice to have a map guiding you towards your end goal, they don’t always exist. In my work as a consultant, I’ve discovered three common roadblocks that can hinder an association’s growth – and how you can navigate past them smoothly.  Your Membership Approach is Antiquated I’ve worked with several associations that want to stay relevant to their members, but struggle to modernize. They cite past traditions and “ways of doing things” to inform current decisions and ultimately, perpetuate a cycle of outdated practices. Recently, I spoke with an organization leader who was in the process of updating chapter bylaws because they were experiencing a membership decline. They mentioned that reference was made to the telegram (yes, a telegram!) and that for certain events, members were to adhere to a strict dress code that required women to wear pantyhose. Clearly, this group needed to contemporize to better connect with their younger audience.  To be clear, I’m not trying to vilify traditions. They play an important role in the history of your association and are the cornerstones upon which your membership community was built upon. However, when traditions are interfering with member engagement, it’s time to revisit them and determine whether they are helping or hurting your association’s growth. We need to come to terms with this reality: we live in a world characterized by change and disruption – it’s time for your association to adapt! Your Association Has Limited Return on Investment A revolving door is the last thing your association wants, which is why it is crucial that you create a membership experience that your members continually reinvest in. Time and time again, I’ve seen…

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NextGen: Ready Or Not, Here They Come!

December 4 @ 3:16 pm CST

Are you a millennial? In my work as a generational researcher, I’ve found there are two ways people typically react when faced with this question. If they are a millennial, they tend to reluctantly admit it as if they are embarrassed. If they aren’t, they emphatically exclaim, “No, thank goodness!” Both negative responses fascinate me because they are indicative of society’s attitudes towards this demographic. So, what was your response? Whether you’re a millennial or not, your organization’s future depends upon younger generations, so it’s time to adapt! Millennials, or “Generation Y,” were born between 1981 and 1996. When they came of age, it was during an era of technological advancement and disruption. They are the largest generation in history (in addition to being the most researched), having been influenced by major economic and cultural events, including the 2008 financial crisis, the war on terror, and the dot com bubble – to name a few.  They grew up with unprecedented access to information – most of which was at their fingertips – and, as a result, are highly educated consumers and communicators. Their life experience is one that has been characterized by globalization, customization, and instant gratification. In short, Millennials are unique in many ways, and reaching them will require new and unique approaches that many associations have not yet mastered, let alone thought about. “Unique” is often synonymous with “misunderstood.” Millennials are often the most misunderstood and criticized generation in history because they have ushered in an era of broad-scale change and innovation. When you think about it, Generation Y is the personification of change.  Let’s face it – change is uncomfortable. It pushes us, stretches us, and as a society, we’ve never been good at welcoming new ideas from younger generations. As the saying goes, “Kids these days…” – you fill in the blank. It’s a sentiment we hear with each passing generation that usually ends with: “…they’re lazy!” “…they’re entitled!” “…they’re difficult to…

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Convincing NextGen Members to Binge on Your Organization

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December 4 @ 3:16 pm CST

Take a moment to think about your favorite television show. What genre does it fall under? What is it about the show that keeps drawing you back for just one more episode? I’d like you to also consider how you watch the show. Perhaps you record it, or maybe you stream it through a virtual platform. Growing up, MTV was the thing to watch. Not only was it on 24/7, but it offered programming that aligned closely with my interests and was readily available for viewing, which kept me tuning in for more.  MTV came onto the scene in 1981, during a major social and cultural shift that would impact generations for decades to come. This channel was part of a much larger development: broadcast cable TV.  The launch of broadcast cable television in the early 1980s ushered in a new era of unprecedented customization and globalization. Suddenly, channels were tailored to a viewer’s interests, and network ratings dictated when and how often a show was aired. Live news coverage from across the world began to flood into the homes of anyone who owned a television set, exposing them to current events taking place on a global scale. It may sound unusual, but the dawn of cable television and your membership association share more in common than you may realize.  Research shows that brain development has evolved over the past several decades and it is no coincidence that television has played a role. Today’s younger generations are visual learners who have been conditioned to crave information that is easily accessible, on-demand, and instantaneous. I like to refer to it as an “edutainment” mentality. Your NextGen members want the same type of experience when it comes to their membership – one where opportunities and choices are readily available and at their fingertips. Over the course of my career, I’ve uncovered several misconceptions that pertain to membership organizations. One of the most shocking sentiments I’ve heard regularly is…

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A Recipe for Great Culture

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December 4 @ 3:16 pm CST

A great recipe is one that uses quality ingredients, is made with special care, and loved by all who are gathered to try it. It may be an unusual metaphor, but the culture within your organization isn’t much different from a spectacular dish that draws everyone to the table. What if I were to tell you that there is a secret recipe for fostering a truly great culture that will attract more members? Furthermore, what if the ingredients are already at your fingertips?  Culture contributes to the feeling that people get whenever they interact with your organization. Members want to feel positive and secure within the organization and to be inspired by its leaders. They want to feel driven to contribute and participate. You have to make sure all association stakeholders are working together as a team, towards a common good.   I once heard the expression, “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and it wasn’t until years ago, when I was working for an organization in crisis, that I finally understood what it meant. Within a three-year timespan, we had experienced a 75% turnover rate amongst employees and worked under three different executives. These disruptions resulted in confusion, chaos, and ultimately, discontentment. Board members were disengaged and lacked a presence within the organization. This lack of leadership will directly contribute to conflict within the membership. Strategies were developed to address these problems, but ultimately, the same issues kept surfacing.   Looking back now, I’ve come to realize that although an association can have a beautiful, robust strategy, it will backfire if a positive culture is not the norm. In other words, negative culture will consume an organization, regardless of the strategies that are intended to strengthen it.   The quality of an association’s culture directly correlates with the efficacy of its leadership and the collaborative efforts of its stakeholders. Throughout my career, I’ve encountered several organizations in crisis. I’ve also learned that the recipe for a thriving culture…

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