Yesterday Associations Now’s Joe Rominiecki posted a poignant article about how to handle telling association members about embezzlement. I have to admit, my first reaction was somewhat naive. “Yikes! Embezzlement?! That’s a little extreme, isn’t it?” It is, and it’s horrible, but many associations do have to deal with scandals like that.
But perhaps embezzlement is not quite as prominent in small staff associations where there’s only a few people on the staff. Be cautious and use checks and balances, of course, but other bad news is far more likely.
Rominiecki emphasizes that in the cases of embezzlement, honesty and transparency are the ways to go when sharing this information with your members. He points out that in the cases of police investigation some information may be legally sealed and therefore impossible to share, but overall “filling them in on whatever can be shared will minimize rumors and show members the association isn’t trying to hide anything.”
So how does a small staff association leader break bad news to his or her members? What if the problem isn’t a six-figure embezzlement, but something smaller?
Honesty and Transparency are probably still the best tactics. Power through the initial instinct to suspect everyone’s judgment. If it’s a smaller error like a scheduling snafu or a miscommunication about an event it probably won’t be as bad as you think. True, there will still probably be some anger, but people are pretty quick to forgive a small mistake. They happen.
Stay positive, but real. So often for Small Staff Associations the problem isn’t that money was stolen but that it was not there to begin with. If the budget just isn’t there for a much-anticipated event or purchase, be honest and emphasize what you can do instead with the money you do have. Then be clear why you're coming up short!
Have a solution in mind, but ask for opinions. The last thing that your members need is another problem piled onto their plates. They are already juggling enough. So when you present your bad news, have a proposed course of action in mind. Don’t let this close you off from their suggestions! You should be prepared for both extremes: a barrage of recommendations on how to fix the issue and absolutely no suggestions on how to fix the issue.
Offer opportunities for leadership. If the problem is such that a task force or more support is needed, make room for it! Encourage teamwork and creative thinking. Some good may still come of this problem in the form of increased member engagement.
Note the lessons learned. So you hit a bump in the road. What are you going to do in the future so you don’t hit it again? Whether the issue is something that was ultimately avoidable or instead a completely unpredictable nightmare, try to draw some conclusions anyway. A “Bad things happen!” attitude can look cavalier to your members.
Finally, often with rough patches it’s what you don’t say that really makes the biggest impact. When you hit a snag your members will be closely watching what is said about your association, how you handle PR, and what your next moves are. Get your staff on the same page, put up a united front, and move forward while keeping your members in the loop. Emphasize open communication. Encourage leadership and forward-thinking. You’ll get through it!
Big shout-out to the great minds at Associations Now and in particular, Joe Rominiecki. Please be sure to check out his article referenced here!
For tips on engaging members when the news is good, download our free guide for Small Staff Member Engagement! It’s chock full of ideas for getting those members on board with association events, volunteering, and even stepping up for leadership roles. Click below today!
We’ve heard a lot about the Heartbleed Vulnerability in the news lately. There’s a reason for that: it affects up to two thirds of websites online and could make the security of your usernames and passwords on a variety of websites compromised. That, of course, could lead to your personal information, banking information, and other stuff you don’t want shared public.
We’ll start with the good news: MemberClicks users won’t have a problem. Our customers’ information is secure.
Why is that? The Heartbleed Vulnerability affects websites that use OpenSSL, which is an encryption tool used for the security of user names and passwords among other things. OpenSSL is widely used by sites like Yahoo, Google and GoDaddy. Most of those big websites have jumped on security upgrades to protect users themselves, adding patches and extra layers of protection. You can probably go to any website you’re concerned about and see a press release about it.
MemberClicks does not use OpenSSL. Our encryption is performed another way that hasn’t been touched by the Heartbleed Vulnerability.
That’s a relief, right? Well your member data is secure through us, but you should still take a second and change your passwords on other sites. If someone were crafty enough, they could lift your user name and password and get into other accounts. Let’s be honest: how many of those passwords do you reuse (even though you probably shouldn’t?)
Here’s a list of major websites affected, but it’s a good practice to change your passwords every so often, like every few months, anyway. Don’t forget those mobile devices, as this affects many apps that are used primarily, if not exclusively, on smart phones and tablets.
Take a moment and click on the links at the bottom of this blog and read up about Heartbleed. If you still have questions, try searching for ‘Heartbleed’ and the name of the service you’re worried about. Most major websites have been very clear on how they’re dealing with the vulnerability if it affects them and regularly releasing security updates.
So how can you be sure yours and your members’ data is safe in the future? There seems to be a new computer virus popping up and affecting everyone every few months. Sadly, that’s not an exaggeration. Computer hackers are getting better and better, but the good news is so are websites, software providers, and security services.
Here are some things you can do right now to prevent and protect yourself against future data breeches:
-Change those passwords, and set reminders to change them again regularly. Make them strong with a mix of upper and lower case letters, special characters like @,#, and $ and a good mix of numbers. NEVER use personal information like addresses, names, or phone numbers as passwords, even if you mix up characters.
-Check your AMS’ security. That information should be available on your AMS' website, but a call to customer service is often worth it for peace of mind. To read more about MemberClicks' security, click here.
-Be on the safe side and back up your data, or find out what happens to your data if your computer is compromised.
-If it’s not already, secure your WiFi with a password and be careful about your browsing when on free public WiFi
-You’ve heard it a million times, but don’t click on links that are unfamiliar or unexpected, even if it’s from a friend or colleague. If the language looks strange or the email seems random double check it’s authenticity or just delete it entirely.
Click on the links below for additional tips and suggestions for dealing with this vulnerability. If you have questions about MemberClicks and Heartbleed, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Important Links to Read:
Heartbleed and MemberClicks: https://help.memberclicks.com/entries/32029230-Information-on-the-Heartbleed-Security-Bug
Heartbleed and OpenSSL information: http://www.inferse.com/14435/heartbleed-bug-openssl-everything-need-know/
A quick overview of the passwords you need to change right now: http://mashable.com/2014/04/09/heartbleed-bug-websites-affected/
Ernie Smith’s Associations Now article on the issue: http://associationsnow.com/2014/04/spillover-heartbleeds-big-lessons-one-drop-time/
Did you ever leave a meeting and think, “Now what was the point of that?” We’ve all been there, sitting through a meeting, texting distractedly or doodling in the margins of our notepads and thinking this could all have been settled over email. You NEVER want your members to come away with that same feeling after one of your meetings. After all, you have important stuff to share! Here are the top five takeaways your members must walk away with after your meeting to ensure that it wasn’t a bust.
1) The state of that thing they care about
You’re not psychic and there’s no doubt a lot going on in your association so that specific thing might be tough to pinpoint. Just ask! Always schedule a few minutes to open the floor up to questions or send a follow up email double-checking that everyone got the input they needed. If there's something you may have missed or failed to update, put it on the agenda for the next meeting, even if nobody expresses interest right away. It doesn't mean the interest isn't there!
2) The next event or meeting
Speaking of the next meeting, if you didn’t schedule it during the present one, make sure everyone knows the time, date, and location for the next one. It may seem like you’re getting ahead of yourself, but having future meetings on the calendar already can be a comfort to members who maybe missed this one or who want to follow up on an issue. Besides that, it makes your association look active and involved to those casual Googlers out there who stumble upon your association in search engine results.
3) Who the leaders are in committees
Remember that important thing that your member cares about? Who’s in charge of it? Is there a way that they can follow up and ask questions about what’s going on? Members may have questions, suggestions, or objections to events, objectives, or strategic plans. Make sure they know who to talk to so they can be heard.
4) How to get in touch
How to be heard is also a big one! This is likely where your AMS comes in. Make sure your system is easy to use and members are able to get enough information from it to get in touch. If you don’t have an AMS, there are always good old-fashioned business cards. Heck, even slides with names, email addresses and telephone numbers will do the trick. Members will write down what’s important if you provide it to them.
5) How they can help or get involved
Finally, if a member is attending a meeting there’s a good chance he or she wants to get more involved or just wants to keep tabs on how things are going within your association. Seize that engagement! Be sure to add calls to volunteers and vacancies in committees and leadership positions at your meetings. Then lay out a timeline for when those must be filled and if you have time, maybe even a rough outline of what the position entails.
Member meetings aren’t necessarily the “fun part” of association event planning. Don’t be discouraged if your meetings have lower attendance than you expected or not quite the engagement you’d like. It is possible, though, that your meetings are well-attended, engaging, and even fun! Download our free event planning guide for some super handy tips and tricks to get the most out of all types of events, from annual meetings to board or committee meetings. Just click below to download for free today!
Happy MemberViews Monday! This week we have an entry by Amanda Kaiser, association problem solver. Read her secrets to member engagement below and be sure to check out her blog at www.smooththepath.net!
“You can learn to be a great public speaker!” That’s all I needed to see to know that I had to find out more. Throughout my career I have done a fair amount of public speaking usually to teams of about 15 people and a few times at company-wide events with an audience in the hundreds. I mastered the basics: organization, preparation and effective slides. The piece that was missing for me, the skill that I needed to learn to be a truly effective speaker, was to learn how to be not so boring. Boring? Yep! The speaking I had done was boring. The topics and the material were informational but not all that interesting.
I’m putting boring behind me. I know that I have an important story to tell and to do that I need be a better storyteller. I have found a place to learn and practice my public speaking skills in my local Toastmasters club. I’ve been a member for one year and I believe I will still be a member ten years from now. I’m engaged and this is why…
The secret to member engagement is… connecting in those first critical interactions
Our Toastmasters group encourages anyone to attend a meeting or two for free to see what it is all about. I didn’t need the second meeting because I was hooked at the first.
I was welcomed – As I walked through the door a couple of members welcomed me and introduced themselves. A few talked to me longer to find out what my goals were and told me how Toastmasters helped them. My impression from the start was the group exuded a warm, friendly, collegial feeling. How about appointing a welcoming committee to every event in-person and online. Are you wondering how to do this online? See how @kikilitalien does it at the #AssnChat on Twitter Tuesdays at 2PM.
I could see the way to solve my problem – During my first visit I saw speakers addressing the same issues I wanted to solve. I watched members practicing, trying, failing and succeeding. I noticed that the members were at all levels of expertise. I heard speakers getting encouragement and feedback so they knew precisely how to improve. I could feel the supportive environment. Know what your new member’s biggest problem to solve is and simply communicate to them, even demonstrate to them, how you solve their problem.
Toastmasters connected with me and I connected with Toastmasters. How can you foster a connection like this with prospective members? What ways can you make them feel welcome? How can you tell them the story they need to hear about how you can help them solve their problem?
The secret to member engagement is… making it easy to engage
There is a clear path to follow – New members get a guidebook that outlines the goals and requirements of their first 10 speeches. While the topic selection is all mine I have a structure that allows me to play with the different elements of public speaking – organization, body language, strong openings, etc. reaching the achievable but substantial goal of completing my first 10 speeches keeps me moving forward. Give your members a path to follow through your benefits based on their current need. For example, new-to-the-profession? Here are the top 5 association resources that members like you get the most value from.
I see benefits beyond those that I came for – When I joined I was singularly focused on improving my public speaking. At one meeting another member told us that she noticed that not only has her public speaking improved but her communication skills in one-on-one conversations became better as well. Recently I started noticing the same. I’m getting more value from Toastmasters than I originally thought. As new members try the more basic benefits introduce them to a few more benefits that will solve their newest problems.
Once members join give them a clear path to follow. They will avoid engaging if they are presented with all 25 of your member benefits. They only want to know about those few benefits that will help them solve their most pressing problem. As your member samples the basics slowly introduce them to another benefit that helps them solve their newest problem.
What are the two secrets to member engagement? First understand your potential member’s problem and then deliver a series of first impressions that establish a connection with them. Second keep helping your members solve their newest problem.
Amanda Kaiser helps associations understand their member’s most critical problems. You can find Amanda writing on her blog www.SmoothThePath.net on association marketing, innovation and engagement and on Twitter @SmoothThePath.
“Diversity” is a buzz word these days, and for good reason. Having a diverse membership goes a long way into ensuring future success for your association! Here are five ways to make your diversity work for you.
1) Share the skills
One of the most obvious beauties of having a diverse membership is that there’s a mix of skills and experience at your (and your other members') fingertips. Encourage your members to share those skills and how they are useful! Casual, informal events like speed networking or meet and greets are a great way to encourage your members to offer different perspectives and opportunities for growth.
2) Start Special Interest Groups
If you find that you have a bunch of members with a specific skill set or interest, invite them to organize in a smaller special interest group! Not only will that encourage leadership, but it will also give other members who are interested in the same skills a chance to join and soak up all that knowledge without bogging down the calendar with events that might only appeal to a handful of people.
3) Expand the network
Members with different backgrounds could have possibly made their careers paths in different ways. Encourage members to share stories and contacts! You never know which introduction could lead to an invaluable connection.
4) Mix up the events
Everyone likely has a different event that really spoke to him or her. Ask around and find out the elements that really stood out in successful events in the past. Then see if they will work for you. Keeping events fresh and interesting is always a challenge, so tap the brains you have!
You don’t want to brag about your diversity but having members from different backgrounds and in different career paths is certainly a selling point, especially to potential members. Make sure that you emphasize your association’s diversity when recruiting new members. The member benefits should be obvious!
Need some more help with those amazing, diverse events? Download our free Event planning check list and make it simple!
When new members join they’re super enthusiastic, excited, and gung-ho to launch their careers, and your association along with it. But after a few months the novelty has worn off and the member misses an event or two, then the engagement just drops off.
Don’t you wish you could bottle that energy from the first few weeks of membership? Maybe you can! Try the following seven tips and see if you can carry that energy longer!
-Get to know him or her
Not only will learning about your new member show your interest and investment in them as a member and professional, but also gives you a valuable glimpse into their needs and desires!
-Ask for feedback
After the initial meet and greet or first event, find out what worked and what didn’t, what they liked and didn’t like. Capture their feedback when they’re honest and engaged!
-Offer opportunities to get involved
They want to get involved right now, and in a few months they may not have the time. So make those opportunities available! See who needs help in your committees and event planning, and then make those connections!
-Introduce him or her around
While you’re finding some place for your new member to get involved, introduce him or her around. Facilitate connections in your AMS and on social media as well as through email and in person. In some cases, you may be able to pass the baton of introductions and involvement to another committee leader!
After a little while, check in with your new member. Are they still engaged? What did they like and dislike about the association and their involvement so far? How about the events?
-Let them know you got their back
Show your support by actively listening to feedback and considering his or her new ideas. Even if they’re not exactly what your association needs or can pull of at the moment, offer some sincere thoughts and kind constructive criticism. Being heard is a big deal to everyone, but particularly younger emerging professionals!
-Try different kinds of communication
Email is likely the norm, but is texting more direct? How about reaching out through social media? You could always try messaging through your AMS. What’s convenient for one member may be annoying for another; what one member overlooks may be a daily must-see for another. Take the opportunity to experiment with communication when it comes to an engaged new member.
Member Engagement is a constant point of interest for small staff association leaders, and the most direct way to tackle it is to make other members ambassadors for engagement. Get them enthusiastic about your association, and they’ll spread the love!
For more information on member engagement, download our free guide! It’s chock-full of engagement ideas and ways to keep your members coming back for more.
The summer is coming, and you know what that means: interns. It could also mean some new or temporary staffers to help out with annual meeting planning, grad students seeking extra credit, or more dedicated volunteers who get half days on Fridays and therefore want to hang out and help more.
That’s great! The relief will be a welcome change from the crunch of the spring, and it’ll help get your association poised and prepared for the fall. Besides, we know you can use the help! But with new staffers and dedicated volunteers comes the challenge of onboarding and training.
We’ll break it down in order of importance so you can get those trainings knocked out and get right to work!
They must know:
Your association’s mission
Any regular staffer, intern, or volunteer will be representing your association. They absolutely must know the mission, objectives, and who you serve without question. This may sound like a no-brainer, but particularly when you’re dealing with students, they might not have known to do the complete research or have been hired with a misunderstanding. Make sure you clear that up on day one!
Their duties and expectations
Another good thing to put in that initial conversation is what they’ll be doing. You want to create an environment that allows for learning and creativity, but you can do that while finishing this sentence: “You will help us with _______”
What to say to the public/on social media
As a representative of your association, they will probably bump into fellow or potential members or donors at events and possibly even the press. Not to mention likely social media posts and check ins! It may seem like a silly thing at first, but make sure your new staffers know what you would prefer them to say here, or where they can redirect questions if presented with one that should go further up the totem pole.
It would be nice if they knew:
It’s always a good idea to introduce new staffers to key players in your association besides you and your staff. Chances are the networking will happen naturally, but you may need to facilitate the introduction.
Your operation’s established processes
The last thing you want to do is drill in a “Here’s how we do things around here” kind of mentality, but cluing new staffers into the present work flow will help them feel at ease in their first few weeks. Just be sure to ask for feedback once they’re settled in (and be open to suggestions!)
How to write (or at least communicate efficiently)
It’s hard to put a price on good communication. Even if their job doesn’t directly deal with it, having a great writer on staff, even if it’s only emails, will go a long way in making your association look professional.
Icing on the cake:
This is an “above and beyond” step for a new staffer, as knowing industry leaders takes a lot of time and networking outside of your association.
There are days when you’re probably not even sure of what your job is and that’s why it’s so helpful to have someone else on staff who can either take some of the pressure off and give you a hand every now and then or just field questions!
In this dynamic world, people communicate verbally, by text, by photo, and by video. If your new staffer knows Photoshop or any video editing, not to mention a working knowledge of social media, he or she will be a valuable resource.
Ultimately, though, your new staffers, interns, and volunteer’s duties are super subjective to what you need them to do. There could be a specific project or perhaps they just want to learn how an association runs. Either way, take advantage of the help when you have it!
If event planning is one of those big projects, have your new staffer download our guide to event planning. It’s free, and it’ll help out a lot with this busy time!
The last time I visited my Mom we were looking forward to eating at a favorite restaurant in the area. After a long day of shopping it was getting late, and we wondered how much longer the restaurant would be open. I reached for my smart phone, and she went for the Yellow Pages to find the number to call.
My Mom is not a Luddite (she even blogs!) but it struck me how easy it is to overlook the ease of technology if what you’ve been doing for 30 years still works. Despite two laptops within her reach and her savvy daughter with a smart phone in the same room she still went for the phone book, which I can’t admit to looking at in the last 15 years except to move it from the front porch to the recycling bin.
Here at MemberClicks we run into this situation fairly often, especially dealing with our beloved small staff associations. When there are only a few full time staffers for an association or maybe only one -or a handful of volunteers- there’s a very strong sense of just “get through” events and membership drives. Why upset the apple cart with new technology that’s going to have a learning curve and a possibly lengthy implementation?
Besides. The current system works.
You can’t argue that. For most of our clients, their previous situations with spreadsheets, file folders, and rolodexes does work and you can’t argue with results. But imagine this very common scenario:
You host a successful speaker panel and networking event. A young professional whom you haven’t previously met encounters one of your established members, but not one you know very well, but by name only. The young professional reaches out to you asking about membership (yay!) and also explaining the interaction he had with this member, relaying that some opportunities for synergy presented themselves but they never got around to exchanging cards or contact information. Would you please get him in touch with the member?
To an up-and-comer, the time it’s going to take you to look up that contact information and get back to the new member is going to seem pointless when all it takes for him to look up contact information is a quick tap of the phone or a few clicks on a website. This is not to say that your system is ridiculous, but this young member knows a better way.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before considering any kind of new technology that you aren’t sure if you even need:
1) What will this technology take the place of?
2) How is this technology easier or more convenient than the present system?
3) How much time will it actually free up?
4) How will I be able to better use that time?
5) How many people have told me that it’s time to change?
That last question seems silly, but it’s important. As your association grows and changes, your membership will too. One or two suggestions toward a new system may be outlaying opinions, but when you hear it from several people that it may be time to invest in technology they may be on to something. After all, your association must reflect your membership, and the same people who are encouraging you to pick up a more streamlined system may very well be taking the reigns one day when you are able to get some well-deserved rest for a change!
The technology near and dear to our hearts, of course, is Association Management Software or AMS technology. Not sure what that’s all about? Let us help. Download our free guide to “What is an AMS, anyway?” and let us answer some of those questions!
Good morning and Happy MemberViews Monday! This is the association blogger collaboration put together to bring you some of the best insights from those who really know what it's like to have a successful, thriving association.
This series revolves around the question of Member Engagement. There are a million ways to engage, it seems, so how do you know which are the best for your members?
Today's secret is brought to you by Meagan Rockett, blogger for Greenfield Services and an expert on all things association, particularly in her homeland of Canada. Read more of her work here! Take it away, Meagan!
Member Engagement is SUCH a hot topic – we all want it, know that the association needs it to survive, but don’t know what to do about it.
XYZ University has defined Member Engagement as “the emotional commitment the member has to the association and its mission”. Great definition. So, now we know what it is, but how do we get it? By acting! Here are 6 ways that you can achieve engagement, if done properly:
- Member Surveys: Outreach via survey can provide any organization with the feedback that they are looking for. Most organizations offer surveys via an online only model, and are satisfied with 15-25% response rates. But what you are getting are those who are already really engaged with your association, and those who are not satisfied with their membership and want to express it. What can (and, should) be done with surveys is outline in your message why you are asking for this information, and what the association will do with the results. Follow up with members by phone to get the maximum response rate (I have seen this go as high as 50%). Then, ACT on the feedback you receive, and make the changes – quickly if you can.
- Interactive websites are a must. You should have a website that is easy to search, with clean lines of information. It should not take a member 10 minutes to find what they are looking for, and it should be a modern design, not something that is outdated. Follow website trends, and make updates and changes to the design annually.
- Email marketing is very popular with associations, and if done right, can truly engage your members. It is important for an organization not to operate in silos to make this work; instead, understand what every department needs to achieve through email marketing, and streamline the messages. I know of one organization that operates in silos, and as a result, members can get up to 10 emails per week from the association. They (members) as a result have tuned out and are missing important stuff. Don’t be that guy.
- Social Media can truly engage a significant portion of your membership. We highly recommend an 80/20 split of posts (80% information sharing, 20% promotion), and that you have a person dedicated to checking back in often so that messages are returned, and conversations are fluid.
- Segment Your Membership! Some of your members want to know and hear everything about you, others don’t. If you cannot (or simply don’t want to at this time) change your membership model to customize membership, then the least you can do is customize communication. Determine interests and communication preferences, and only send them the information they want and need.
- Get on the content train: Content can be very powerful for an association. Managing a blog, posting more whitepapers and research (either produced by you or by your members and stakeholders) will ensure that your members continue to feel that you are the first point of reference for the industry. Don’t let other organizations steal your members’ attention away because they provide information that you don’t.
Have you implemented any of the above to create and maintain engagement?
Thanks for your post, Meagan! Be sure to check back in next Monday for another secret to Member Engagement!
Small staff association leaders are our customers, advisors and pals. We probably don’t tell you as often as we should how awesome you are, but honestly your work probably speaks for itself day in and day out.
Here’s how you prove to us, your association, and really the world why small staff association leaders are powerful!
1) Human Relations Skills
Small Staff Association leaders are often very approachable. Think about it: without the staff and red tape of a formal office or large association, members and potential members are probably more comfortable reaching out. And why not? You don’t get into association leadership unless you’re an approachable person! Small staff association leaders find themselves giving career advice, making connections, even occasionally counseling members through tough times. It’s an important skill, and not one to be overlooked!
Conflicts pop up in associations, and the leaders are almost always at the crux. They have to tow the line between the necessity to get things done and the concerns of the board, members, or other leaders. They have to break the bad news about budget cuts and programs that have lost support or leadership. They get to convince emerging leaders to take on extra responsibility, and since that often involves volunteering and not necessarily monetary payment that’s a tough call!
3) Masterful Event Planning
Small Staff Association leaders have a lot of help with their spectacular volunteers, but since volunteers have full time jobs and other obligations a lot of time the heavy lifting has to be done by the association’s leader. That means booking venues, marketing events, catering, entertainment, rentals, and every other aspect of event planning you could imagine is fair game for small staff association leaders.
Due to their myriad of skills and responsibilities, not to mention limited financial resources, small staff association leaders are often confronted with the necessity to do more with less. They’re pros at finding less expensive ways to go a conference, how to save money on events and promotional costs, and how to get members the best quality for their dues dollars.
5) Jack of all trades
Finally, small staff association leaders put that variety of skills and expertise. Add to those we just mentioned: public speaking, media and PR skills, marketing ,many technical skills like photo editing and computer work, not to mention expertise in the association field itself and you have an individual ready to take on the world.
So hold your head up, small staff association leader! You are truly a role model for your members and the workforce at large.
You got this, but if you ever need some help an AMS could be a big break for all of that membership management juggling! Click below for our free guide to purchasing an AMS today.