Association Today

Association News You Can Use

Paul Lundy is Co-Founder and President of Fonteva, the number one cloud technology solution for associations that manage members and donors.


Paul is a veteran leader of customer-driven organizations in the US, Europe and Asia. He spent many years living and traveling abroad for The Coca-Cola Company and McCann-Erickson.


Prior to co-founding Fonteva, Paul served as Chief Marketing and Sales Officer of GlobalCrypto, an early stage cyber security company . Paul was also co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Marketworks, a cloud-based Fonteva eCommerce company and eBay's largest Preferred Solution Provider. Over 3,000 businesses in 37 countries used Marketworks to automate their online sales operations when Paul sold the company in 2007.


Paul holds a Bachelor degree in Journalism and Marketing. He began his career in advertising with McCann-Erickson, where he held the position of Vice-President, Account Group Director, for the US and then Europe. Subsequently, he worked as Director for The Coca-Cola Company with a primary focus on the Asia Pacific.


Paul is an active member of the nonprofit Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

Data-Driven by Design: 3 Lessons from Amazon

Data-Driven by Design: 3 Lessons from Amazon

TAKEAWAY THURSDAY

Take it away! This is the 16th in a series of posts that will be featured on Fonteva’s blog highlighting important strategies associations can take away from other industries. In today’s sixth-degrees-of-separation world, your members are assessing your association not just in comparison to similar organizations but in relation to the totality of their experiences as consumers. As such, we want to help you stay abreast of key trends and best practices, those takeaways that may benefit your association.

Forget the devil! The details are in your data, and the sooner your association harnesses this key asset, the better.

According to IBM consultant Andrew Waxman, banks have quite a bit to learn about data collection as well. In a recent article for American Banker, Waxman asserted that Amazon might be one of their best teachers.

“Companies like Amazon and Facebook have put customer analytical data at the center of their business model,” he writes. “For banks, however, leveraging, mining and exploiting customer data has often been an afterthought.”

The same could be said of many associations. They share a number of parallels with banks when it comes to the difficulty they experience in leveraging data effectively, the chief one being what Waxman calls “an incoherent view of the customer.”

According to him, Amazon has managed to conquer this obstacle by adhering to three basic principles that might serve as important lessons for organizations in other sectors:

    1. Amazon knows each of its customers and maintains a single customer record as the basis for developing a relationship with them.
    2. Amazon wants to learn as much as possible about its customers. From the very start, Amazon’s curiosity about customers’ tastes and buying habits has set it apart from other retailers.
    3. Amazon has built a true partnership model with its customers. In this partnership, the use of customer information for marketing and business development purposes is quite transparent and almost taken for granted by the customer.

Could the same principles apply to your association and distinguish it in the marketplace? Have you thought about how you can be more Amazon-like?

The realities of an Amazon.com world were certainly within our frame of reference when we developed Fonteva For Associations. One of its key advantages is the ability to give our customers a 360 degree view of each member and of their organizations as a whole. Because we recognize how important that perspective is for associations, our solution is data-driven by design.

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Skimming the Surface: How to Get Donors’ Attention

Skimming the Surface: How to Get Donors’ Attention

Let’s be honest. A good portion of the mail we receive electronically or via the post office doesn’t get read. By read, I mean that you’ve opened the message or envelope and reviewed its entire contents.

Very few people “read” at this level. And it’s important to keep this in mind when communicating with donors and/or members.

“You browse first. If you find something of interest, then you start reading,” writes Tom Ahern, noted nonprofit communications specialist and author of Making Money with Donor Letters. “And even then, you often read no more than a paragraph or two before jumping to another story, unless you're enjoying a leisurely morning.”

An excerpt from Ahern’s book was featured on GuideStar’s blog earlier this month. It highlights his observations about how donors actually approach reading correspondence from the organizations which they support: “When your newsletter arrives, the first thing they do is browse: skim a few headlines, look at the photos, maybe read a caption, to see if anything’s of interest. If nothing is, they put the newsletter aside, likely never to return.”

Given how donors approach reading, Ahern says “if you have nothing of interest in your ‘browser level,’ you’ve wasted your time and money.” He suggests that nonprofit organizations adjust their expectation that donors “read deep” because “most of them won’t.”

In general, Ahern asserts that instead of thinking in terms of how donors read their newsletters, for example, organizations need to be more concerned with how they skim them. They can factor this tendency to skim into the design of their communications by including:

    • Photos and illustrations

 

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Make it Habit: 3 Things That Set Highly Effective Boards Apart from the Rest

What High-Performing Boards large front cover I’ve seen countless articles lamenting the lack of engagement from board members at various organizations. Most have tried to shed light on how to not only keep boards from being bored, but on how they can be effective in carrying out their important strategic roles in organizations. In a recent article for Association Now’s annual Volunteer Leadership issue, Beth Gazley, an associate professor at Indiana University and co-author of What Makes High-Performing Boards (ASAE Foundation, 2013), highlighted key data points from the book that  benchmark governance practices of the highest performing boards. Among the more than 1,500 associations that participated in the study, only 170 ranked in the top 10 percent based on the performance measures outlined, which included how well boards assess and report on their activities, the areas of responsibility in which CEOs rate their boards the highest/lowest, and ability to attract members with the right competencies. According to Gazley, three things set the top 10 percent apart:
  1. A strong strategic orientation. High- performing boards were twice as likely to invest substantial board meeting time to strategic considerations.
  2. A culture of self-assessment and accountability. These boards were twice as likely to set board-level performance goals for themselves, almost twice as likely to invest in board development activities such as mentoring and training, and twice as likely to engage in formal or informal board self-assessment.
  3. Healthy attention to board member recruitment and development. They were also more likely to recruit new board members broadly, by, for example, soliciting nominations from outside the board rather than depending on CEO nominations. They were more likely to screen prospective board members and to hold competitive elections rather than voting for a single slate.
While there may be some room for improvement, most boards strive to be successful in these areas. However, they may not know where to begin in the process of making themselves more effective. Gazley suggests that this conversation begin at the committee level so that someone or some group has ownership of the process.  “Your board’s governance or board development committee is the best place to begin,” she writes. “The role of this committee is to ensure, through training and support, that all board members are equipped to perform fiduciary duties.” She also draws a connection between effective boards and healthy association cultures: “And keep in mind that just having the conversation starts a form of strategic thinking and active learning that also supports a healthier association culture.” Her emphasis on the role that committees can play in starting strategic conversations reaffirms my confidence in our decision to build strong committee management functionality into Fonteva For Associations. Fonteva For Associations makes creating, tracking and managing committee access a simple process. We wanted to make it easy for associations to:
  • Communicate with entire committees.
  • Track, publish and distribute committee documents and minutes.
  • Create individual committee calendars and discussion forums.
With this functionality in place, our customers can focus on facilitating the strategic conversations that will make their boards highly effective. Related Content 3 Factors for Association Management to Consider When Determining Board Size

 
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Batter Up: Team Building Lessons from Red Sox Owner John Henry

Batter Up: Team Building Lessons from Red Sox Owner John Henry

TAKEAWAY TUESDAY

Take it away! This is the 15th in a series of posts that will be featured on Fonteva’s blog highlighting important strategies associations can take away from other industries. In today’s sixth-degrees-of-separation world, your members are assessing your association not just in comparison to similar organizations but in relation to the totality of their experiences as consumers. As such, we want to help you stay abreast of key trends and best practices, those takeaways that may benefit your association.

“As 2013 began, expectations were modest,” notes Bloomberg BusinessWeek Senior National Correspondent Joshua Green in a recent article about the Red Sox.

During the previous two years, the team had underperformed, and its leaders were at odds. One costly misstep was recruiting “pricey talent” that didn’t deliver.

The team’s principal owner since 2002, John Henry acknowledges the error: “We had a certain discipline for the first five or six years that really paid big dividends, and we got away from that. We learned a lesson in ever-growing, long-term contracts with free agents.”

Willingness to acknowledge when a strategy doesn’t work as planned is one of the lessons organizations can learn from Henry’s approach to managing a championship team. I would like share three others that I find particularly relevant for associations.

Don’t let emotions cloud your judgment. Before entering the sports arena, Henry had a successful career trading commodities futures, and his friends credit this background with his ability to ignore sentiment when making decisions. Like baseball teams, associations foster a fair amount of nostalgia, which sometimes makes it difficult to execute the best strategies, especially if that means eliminating an unprofitable program that all of their members love.

Invest in the future by recruiting younger players. Unlike some teams, the Red Sox organization has been willing to part ways with star players to ensure that less experienced players have an opportunity to thrive within the organization. For example, Green notes that “minor league pitchers factor prominently in a bet that Henry and his colleagues have made that will determine the organization’s future: that relying on young talent is the best way to extend their run of success.” Along similar lines, associations are working to create opportunities for all of their members, who now may come from at least four different generations.

Always be ready for the next season. During the White House ceremony honoring the team, observers noted that Henry “stood quietly off to the side, occasionally greeting people who recognized him and offered their congratulations.” His mind already seemed to be on the next season. After the ceremony, Henry said, “You can never rest. You have to continually adapt to change.” The associations Fonteva has worked with recognized the need to change and adapt to meet their members’ expectations. For them, investing in a new AMS like Fonteva For Associations means they will have the flexibility and functionality they need to be ready for the next season and every one after that.

If you’re next up at bat for your association, consider these lessons and how they might prove useful as you make key strategic decisions.

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The Power of Personal Presentations

Presentation I give a lot of presentations, and I would like to think that I’ve gotten better at it over time. Still there’s always room for improvement. In a recent post to Association Media & Publishing’s blog, corporate improv skills coach Scott Topper addressed 10 common concerns presenters often encounter. As I reviewed them, I was particularly interested in his emphasis on making presentations personal.  Here are some highlights:
  • Ask questions as you go along so that the audience feels engaged.
  • Resist the temptation to read your slides aloud to your audience.
  • Communicate with sincerity to connect with your audience.  
  • Remember your head, eyes, and facial expressions usually convey your true feelings.
  • Share your enthusiasm about your subject.
  • Be sure to take time to personally meet several audience members before and after your speech.
  • Develop an emotional connection with your audience by sharing your personal experiences.
These are good reminders of all us who make presentations on a regular basis. Further, I agree with Topper’s overall advice about how best to keep people engaged: “It is important to talk about a subject you enjoy and that you know really well so that you can improvise and keep it light. By being yourself and telling a personal story or using appropriate humor, the audience will relate to you easier. Confidence comes with practice and your ability to give your speech with your own personal touch.”
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Mobile Money Maker: Using Apps to Generate Non-Dues Revenue

Mobile Money Maker: Using Apps to Generate Non-Dues Revenue

In the past five years, I’ve rarely encountered an association that isn’t concerned about generating additional non-dues revenue. The reality is that money matters.

To manage their programs and services effectively, associations need funds beyond dues revenue. And the mobile apps that associations offer – most often for their publications and conferences – represent another opportunity for generating non-dues revenue.

According to Tristan Louis, a contributor to Forbes.com, on the mainstream market, average revenue generated per premium app ranges from $625 to $4,000. Depending upon your association’s goals and objectives, you can put this dollar range into context.  In some instances, your goal may be to cover the cost of developing your app. In others the goal may be to contribute additional revenue to the bottom line for a specific event.

As you consider which apps to make available to your members, opportunities for generating revenue likely will factor into your decision-making process. Recently, Kelly Donovan, team leader for online marketing with Naylor Inc., highlighted four ways to generate non-dues revenue from apps, which I’ll summarize briefly here.

    1. Sell advertising space. As Donovan points out, “most mobile app vendors that provide conference, event or news apps reserve space within the app for advertisers.” These ad spaces might include banners, splash screens, and promoted posts. In general, if your association can segment industry-specific advertisers so that the messages they offer are relevant to your users, advertising space within an app is unobtrusive.
    2. Obtain an app sponsor. Perhaps, there’s an industry partner that wants to reach your members in a non-traditional way.  Donovan says, “Ask if they'll sponsor your app for a flat fee, and offer the company the advertising spaces mentioned above. Companies enjoy this option because they can more easily launch an integrated marketing campaign when they own an entire suite of advertising options.” Obtaining a sponsor for your app makes a significant contribution towards covering your overall app-related costs.
    3. Charge a fee to download the app. While your members might expect your association- or event-app to be included as part of their membership or event fees, consider making your app a member-only benefit and charge non-members for the privilege of using it. Donovan points out that “this may cause some additional administrative work on behalf of your staff or mobile vendor,” which you’ll need to take that into account when anticipating app costs.
    4. Offer in-app features for an additional fee.  As Donovan explains, “another fee structure to consider is offering the app for free, but charging users for certain in-app features. For example, you might include a customizable calendar within your app, but charge a small fee for the app to send the user a reminder about when their event begins.”

By all accounts, use of mobile apps and their acceptance as a primary source of information is only expected to increase. Given that, associations will want to consider how they might capitalize on this trend to take full advantage of this mobile money maker.

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Don’t Fight, Write

Don’t Fight, Write


TAKEAWAY TUESDAY

Take it away! This is the 14th in a series of posts that will be featured on Fonteva’s blog highlighting important strategies associations can take away from other industries. In today’s sixth-degrees-of-separation world, your members are assessing your association not just in comparison to similar organizations but in relation to the totality of their experiences as consumers. As such, we want to help you stay abreast of key trends and best practices, those takeaways that may benefit your association.

It may be that you have to talk with a staff member whose performance is not up to standards. You may need to communicate with a volunteer leader about behavior that’s out of bounds. There could be an industry partner who needs to be gently reminded of the requirements for communicating with your members.

In my opinion, all of these interactions fall under the category of difficult conversations. Often times, we build up considerable anxiety about having these conversations, which only increases the likelihood of our emotions getting the better of us and not achieving the desired outcome. According to research from The University’s Chicago’s Human Performance Lab, “writing may be an effective way to boost your performance in pressure-filled situations.”

Conflict resolution expert Dr. Tammy Lenski cited this research in a recent blog post.  Lenski says writing about your thoughts and feelings frees “your mind to put its resources where you need them most when you’re under pressure.” Here’s the advice that she offers to her clients and students about using this exercise to prepare for a difficult conversation.

    1. The writing must be expressive, that is, it must focus on your thoughts and feelings about the upcoming event.

 

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Watch Yourself: When a Selfie Becomes a Situation

obama-red-sox-baseball “Have smart phone, will photograph self with others, and post online immediately.” This seems to be the prevailing attitude among Americans. According to Techinfographics.com, a million plus selfies are taken each day. We appear to be a nation obsessed with taking selfies and posting them online. As I travel around the country introducing associations to Fonteva For Associations, I have witnessed this phenomenon first-hand in airports, restaurants and other venues. Many associations are encouraging their members to take selfies during their major meetings. Even President Barak Obama has been caught in the act. He received negative press attention earlier this year when broadcast reports from Nelson Mandela’s memorial service captured him as he appeared to be taking a selfie with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and British PM David Cameron. Another recent selfie taken with the President has also caused quite a stir. During a White House ceremony to celebrate the Red Sox World Series win, slugger David Ortiz took a selfie with the president and posted it to his Twitter account. Boston Globe writer Michael B. Farrell reports that Ortiz’s selfie was retweeted 40,000 times. Who wouldn’t grab the opportunity to take a picture with the President? Most of us would. The difference is probably none of us is a paid social media ambassador like Ortiz, who has a contract with Samsung.  Of course the company posted the photo on its own Twitter account. When the “spontaneity” of his actions was called into question, Ortiz insisted that taking the photo with Obama was his idea and not a marketing ploy orchestrated by Samsung. Certainly, the President wasn’t aware of the player’s relationship with the company, according to White House press secretary Jay Carney. I would agree with Farrell that this scenario raises some important questions about the role of social media in marketing:
  • When is a social media moment also an advertising event?
  • Are the celebrities genuinely excited or motivated by money?
  • Should people be wary that every celebrity selfie is an endorsement of some kind of another?
These questions are becoming increasingly relevant for professionals working in all sectors, including association executives. For instance, let’s say your president or CEO takes a seemingly innocent selfie with a vendor at your annual meeting. If that vendor Tweets the photo, could that be construed as an endorsement? You’ll likely need to think about how your organization wants to address yet another complexity of social media. Watch yourself out there!  
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App of the Month: Conga Composer

App of the Month: Conga Composer

Yes, there probably is an app for that, for just about anything you want to accomplish professionally and personally. But how do you know which apps are the best ones for your association? With so many of them being available, it can be hard to know which ones will be most effective for your organization. Just because there’s app for that, it doesn’t mean that you need it.

One of the biggest benefits Fonteva For Associations users are able to take advantage of is access to the more than 2,000 business apps available through the Salesforce App Exchange. In fact, you may be using various software Platform Solutions and don’t even know those same Platform Solutions have built an app for Salesforce users. Some good examples are Eventbrite for events, Box.com for document storage and collaboration, and Vertical Response for email marketing.

All of the apps featured on the App Exchange can be downloaded and used to extend the functionality of both Fonteva For Associations and Salesforce, and I’ll be highlighting one app from exchange the every month so that you’ll have a better idea of what’s available and may be most useful to you in your work.

The fourth app that I would like to highlight is Conga Composer developed by Conga, a company based in Broomfield, Colo., providing the most frequently used set of reporting and document creation tools for Salesforce CRM and Force.com applications.

This app helps users create personalized templates for presentations, reports, invoices, contracts, and other documents and produce consistent output every time. They can easily deliver customized documents, presentations and reports using Word, PowerPoint, Excel, HTML email and PDF forms from standard and custom objects. This app is great for designing and printing badges for your conferences!

One user’s review emphasizes flexibility and affordability of the app:

“My business case to use Conga was easy. It saves time and effort, and for the price charged, it’s [an] excellent value. I needed to create statements, invoices, accounts plans and lots more. The flexibility of being able to use Excel, Powerpoint and Word really helped me to create nice looking templates that impressed [other] users who were going to have to press the Conga button and send [documents] to the customer.”

Another review highlights how easy the app is to use:

“I have heard of many other nonprofits using Conga that I had to give it a try myself. I was impressed how quickly I could get up and running. Plus the standard template library is super helpful to see what capabilities are out there. I am very excited to showcase this app to others to see how it may be a fit for them.”

Given this functionality, think of the time and efficiencies your association’s meetings or marketing team could gain using Conga Composer. Read more online to see if this app might be right for your association.

 

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Getting Greener All the Time: Associations Highlight Earth Day

Getting Greener All the Time: Associations Highlight Earth Day

TAKEAWAY TUESDAY

Take it away! This is the 13th in a series of posts that will be featured on Fonteva’s blog highlighting important strategies associations can take away from other industries. In today’s sixth-degrees-of-separation world, your members are assessing your association not just in comparison to similar organizations but in relation to the totality of their experiences as consumers. As such, we want to help you stay abreast of key trends and best practices, those takeaways that may benefit your association.

Today is Earth Day, and all around the world, celebrations and special events will be held to raise awareness about the environmental concerns facing the planet. The official theme of Earth Day 2014 is Green Cities. This campaign focuses on helping cites around the world becoming more sustainable by reducing their carbon footprints. It centers on three key elements: buildings, energy and transportation.

These three areas have been on the collective minds of association leaders for quite some time, especially since their organizations host some of the largest events in cities around the U.S. and increasingly around the globe. Discussions about greener meetings have resulted in the rise of both paperless and virtual events.

Of particular note is the formation of ASAE’s Convene Green Alliance in 2007. Founded by 16 high-profile associations, the alliance’s mission is to provide education, share real-world experiences and leverage the collective voice and buying power of all its members to lessen the environmental impact of associations and the meetings/events they sponsor.  Membership in the alliance is complimentary for all associations and similar nonprofit organizations. CGA provides networking opportunities for associations and suppliers to exchange ideas and strategies for developing and executing environmentally friendly policies and practices.

Certain types of associations (i.e. conservation or recycling) may traditionally come to mind when thinking about these issues, but I would like to briefly highlight the efforts of two organizations that one might not necessarily count among the usual suspects, who are promoting Earth Day to illustrate that their industries care about the environment.

You may have thought that red and white were the only options, but The Wine Institute, an association of 1,000 California wineries, wants you to think green as well when it comes to their product. During its third annual Down to Earth Month celebration this April, members across the state have engaged consumers, policy leaders, and the media in learning about California wine’s eco-friendly practices and the people and places behind them.

Perhaps, the most eco-friendly diners will want to pair their “green” wine selection with a “green” entrée, bison. The National Bison Association recommends delicious, naturally-raised buffalo as the perfect choice for entertaining during this year’s Earth Day celebration.

According to the association’s executive director, Dave Carter, ““Earth Day was established to draw our attention to the importance of respecting all of the factors that make for a healthy planet. What is more appropriate in our part of this planet than to enjoy the delicious meat from the animal that has been a vital part of our ecosystem through the ages?”

There are two key takeaways here. First, our collective efforts are often more significant than they would be individually. Second, it’s worth taking the time to observe the world around us to see how we might be more “creative” in drawing worthwhile connections between our organizations and critical issues that need to be addressed. Happy Earth Day!

 

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Friends and Followers Make Great Colleagues

enterprise-social-networkingGiven the amount time people – including your association’s staff members –spend using social media, employers in all sectors are eager to find a means for harnessing this level of engagement to their benefit in the workplace. Enterprise social networks may be the answer. In the simplest terms, an ESN is an internal workplace that streamlines communication among co-workers. Deloitte predicted that 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies would have fully or partially implemented ESNs by the end of last year.  ESNs are being identified as ways to give employees a sense of online community and establish connections between departments, especially within larger organizations. According to new research from Frost & Sullivan, the number of full-suite enterprise social media subscribers is expected to rise from 208 million in 2013 to 535 million in 2018. For example, Macy’s uses Tibbr, which has a profile layout similar to Facebook where employees can list interests and past projects. T-Mobile uses Jive, a mobile-ready ESN with profile functions that allow users to make recommendations and identify profiles of people they should get know within their companies based on shared interests and related areas of expertise. The Frost & Sullivan research also indicates that the benefit of enhancing business operations through social channels has begun to appeal to decision-makers. Frost & Sullivan also note that “the need to improve communications and collaboration in workplace to increase employee engagement, accelerate decision-making and boost overall productivity is driving the global enterprise social networking market.” Would an ESN make your association more collaborative and efficient? It could be time to start asking that very question. Here at Fonteva we value the sharing of information among our team members above all else. Technology tools geared towards this aim seem like a good step forward for all organizations.  
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Tax TV

IRS TAKEAWAY TUESDAY Take it away! This is the 12th in a series of posts that will be featured on Fonteva’s blog highlighting important strategies associations can take away from other industries. In today’s sixth-degrees-of-separation world, your members are assessing your association not just in comparison to similar organizations but in relation to the totality of their experiences as consumers. As such, we want to help you stay abreast of key trends and best practices, those takeaways that may benefit your association.
Tax TV Yes, today’s the day. Perhaps, you’re one of those people who filed your tax return months ago just as soon as you received the necessary documents from employers, financial institutions, etc. On the other hand, you could be among the one-third of Americans that the IRS says wait until the last minute to file their federal taxes. Preparing those annual returns is not a task most of us look forward to. Certainly, the sheer volume of information and instructions alone is daunting. In an effort to make its materials more accessible, one of the least popular government agencies has taken its case to social media. YouTube is at the center of the IRS’ social media efforts. The agency posted its first video there four years ago, and viewers can watch three different channels for short, informative videos in English, Spanish and American Sign Language. These channels feature more than 100 videos that have been viewed more than 7.5 million times. Videos are also available through the IRS Facebook and Tumblr sites. In addition, according to the agency, more than 95,500 people follow the IRS Twitter feeds, one which provides news and guidance for tax professionals. Further, more than 5.5 million people have downloaded the free IRS2Go phone app, which is available in both English and Spanish for Apple and Android devices. The totally redesigned IRS2Go 4.0 provides features to help taxpayers check on the status of their tax refunds, obtain tax records, find free tax preparation providers and stay connected with the IRS through social media channels such as YouTube and Twitter. For me the key takeaway here is that if the IRS can do it, so can you. If your association is still hesitating to develop a comprehensive social media strategy, what are you waiting for? Social is too important of a channel for communicating with your members and other stakeholders to leave untapped. As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve seen how useful video has been to some of our customers in communicating about new or improved member benefits like the enhanced portals that are available through Fonteva For Associations. Perhaps, it’s time your association took to TV to tout its benefits and programs.        
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Marketing and Management Tips from March Madness

UConn-celebrate-2014-National-title TAKEAWAY THURSDAY Take it away! This is the eleventh in a series of posts that will be featured on Fonteva’s blog highlighting important strategies associations can take away from other industries. In today’s sixth-degrees-of-separation world, your members are assessing your association not just in comparison to similar organizations but in relation to the totality of their experiences as consumers. As such, we want to help you stay abreast of key trends and best practices, those takeaways that may benefit your association. “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” —Michael Jordan Jordan’s perspective on what it takes to win championships seems a propos as March Madness came to a close Monday with the championship game between the Connecticut Huskies and Kentucky Wildcats. What separated these two teams from the 68 others that qualified for the tournament? According to CNN.com reporters Ralph Ellis and Matt Smith, “Neither team was expected to make it this far. Kentucky was a No. 8 seed in its region, while Connecticut was No. 7.” One could argue that they just got lucky, but I tend to agree with Jonathan Moran’s observation that “the teams that go deep in the tournament year after year play as a cohesive unit.” Moran, senior product marketing manager for SAS Customer Intelligence Platform Solutions, recently broke down Jordan’s three components for success— talent, teamwork and intelligence—from  a marketer’s perspective, but I think they apply to almost every area of your association. Here’s a brief summary. Talent: What happens to star players who aren’t surrounded by a capable squad? They become demoralized; they can't win by themselves and they can't get the support they need. Star marketers without the right team or tools get just as frustrated. Starved for resources, their marketing projects and programs fall short—or fail to get off the ground.
Teamwork: To win ballgames, you have to work together. Lots of talent doesn’t guarantee you'll win the highly contested games. The teams that win can sustain a high level of performance for 40 or more minutes 3-4 days in a row—without faltering. But working hard doesn't always mean working smart. Does your marketing team get trapped by disjointed efforts or wild shots? How do you improve on how you are working as a team today? It's a combination of managing time, resources, and technology efficiently. Intelligence: Where does intelligence show up in collegiate athletics this time of year? You'll see the top teams using all the information around them to make smart decisions. [The best teams] combine talent with exceptional coaching and diligent study of the tapes to win championships and perform at a high level year after year. …Teamwork and intelligence lift everyone up a level; that's how you build a national contender in college hoops and a global contender in business. If you take just a moment to consider these three elements, you’ll likely see some clear analogies within your association’s culture. It’s not a bad time of year to think about how well your team plays together and whether they are headed for a championship.
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Attracting and Keeping Members: 5 Obstacles to Overcome

Attracting and Keeping Members: 5 Obstacles to Overcome

Getting and keeping members is the lifeblood of all associations. And they’re often puzzled when prospects don’t join or members don’t renew. How could they resist being members of such a great organization? Well, the short answer is they can and they do. Of course, there’s much more to the membership value proposition than this.

In a recent post to the MGI Tipster blog, Rick Whelan, president of Marketing General Inc., sheds light on five obstacles associations need to overcome to attract and keep members.

1. Accept that no matter what you offer, most prospects will never join, and every member will leave at some point. There is a percentage of the population who are nonjoiners. In fact, being a nonjoiner is a personality trait of most introverts. And an ever-growing number of prospects (and maybe even members) are also suspicious of groups. They don’t think they need what your association offers, or they believe they can get what you offer for free somewhere else.

2. Your association may have an awareness problem. You send out promotional materials that the prospect or members many times did not request, that are confusing, lack a strong and compelling offer, and make it difficult to join or renew. The harder you make the process to join and renew, no matter what the valid reason, the fewer the people who will join or renew. 

3. You need to address the no-one- I-know-or-have-ever-heard-of-is-a-member syndrome. Unless you can show potential members that others who have made it in their field are members, that their friends and associates are members, and that they will be better in their career and perhaps even richer in knowledge or money for joining, you will never get or keep their interest.

4. You don’t know your competition and what they offer that you do not. When you plan your membership marketing, keep in mind that drawing comparisons (pro or con) between you and your main competitor is a good and valid way to increase your response rates, even if your main competitor is not another association.

5. Your membership offer does not convey any value.You seemingly do not have any indispensable or “must have” benefits or services. You offer the readers nothing that they really need or realize they really need. In their mind, the dues you want do not match the value you offer.

I think Whelan makes some excellent points and would add that to overcome these obstacles, associations may need to utilize their AMS software in different ways than they have in the past that allow them access data more readily and be flexible in their reporting on membership trends.

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Social Stats: Fact or Fad?

By now, you know how I feel about data. As far as I am concerned, for associations, data and decision should be synonymous. You can’t make the best strategic decisions without having the data you need to support them. Further, you need all of your data in one place for consistent analysis. Fonteva For Associations enables customers to eliminate point Platform Solutions and manage all transactions and interactions from a single database. This creates a better environment for viewing and managing data, and as a result, leadership can make more informed business decisions. At the same time, I share a concern recently expressed by Jerry W. Thomas, president and chief executive officer of Decision Analyst Inc. Thomas says, “Often, without thinking, we tend to see all data as equal, but rarely is that true. The corporate world is awash in data. It streams in from all directions 24 hours a day, and the data deluge continues to worsen.” I also agree with his view that in some instances, “more data often means more confusion. Which data are correct? What data can be trusted?” These are important questions that Thomas goes to discuss at length as he offers his point of view on nine types of data, ranked from most trustworthy to least. Here I would like highlight some of his key points about the trustworthiness of social media data. According to Thomas, while “social media data are, perhaps, most valuable as an early-warning system—of something going wrong, of a competitive initiative, or of an unexpected aberration,” they must be viewed with some level of skepticism several for reasons:
  • Sample size. Many product categories and brands are scarcely ever mentioned in social media, making sample sizes too small for data reliability.
  • Lots of noise. Social media comments are influenced by the news cycle, special events, media advertising, promotions, publicity, movies, competitive activity, and television shows (i.e., there is a lot of noise in the data).
  • Ease of manipulation. Social media data are subject to manipulation. You may think you are following an important trend in the data, only to learn later it was a clever ruse to confuse by a competitor.
  • Reliability of source. As social media comments are identified and collected via Web scraping, we almost never know the exact source, the context, the stimulus, or the history that underlie a comment. These unknowns make interpretation risky, indeed.
Certainly, your association’s social media data are worth evaluating from both a quantitative and qualitative perspective. However, you need to do with some degree of skepticism, so you’re able to separate fact from fad.
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On the Frontline: 4 Management Tips from the Military

2008_0318_cheney_troops TAKEAWAY TUESDAY Take it away! This is the tenth in a series of posts that will be featured on Fonteva’s blog highlighting important strategies associations can take away from other industries. In today’s sixth-degrees-of-separation world, your members are assessing your association not just in comparison to similar organizations but in relation to the totality of their experiences as consumers. As such, we want to help you stay abreast of key trends and best practices, those takeaways that may benefit your association. On the Frontline: 4 Management Tips from the Military “I learned everything I needed to know in the military.” This might well be the mantra of successful entrepreneur and proud Texan David M. Smith. “The Army provided me with more fun and interesting experiences and principles than college,” he says. The founder and owner of two petrochemical companies, Smith argues that most students in MBA programs nationwide will never have “that military experience.” So he condensed what he has learned into 10 essential principles that he believes are applicable to both military and business endeavors. I would like to highlight four of those principles here that I think speak to some of the management challenges associations encounter:
  • Take the offensive to win. Defense alone never wins. There have been numerous efforts in history to construct some form of “impregnable” defense that will withstand all invaders; ultimately, none were successful. Whether in war, sports, or the business world, victory depends upon taking some kind of offensive initiative.
  • A good general always has enough troops. Whether you’re a general, lieutenant, private or middle manager – make sure you're marshalling your resources wisely. For the layperson, that might translate to never making a purchase you can’t afford.
  • Have a primary and a secondary objective. In a military unit or in a business team, you should have one clearly defined primary objective, understood by all persons in the unit. If a secondary objective is absolutely essential, it is better to have one preplanned, and not created during the heat of combat.
  • “Clean the lint off the helix.” This quote refers to the screen on clothes dryers that catches lint and frequently needs to be cleared. Cutting corners, like overlooking the helix, can ruin an officer’s uniform – an important part of the military and business community. Little details are often very important; when overlooked they may have large consequences.
Whether you agree or disagree with Smith’s stance that military service trumps education, he offers some valid tactics for us all to consider as we work to lead innovative and forward-thinking organizations. Ready or not, in today’s competitive environment, associations are often on the frontlines representing their members and/or maintaining their territory. What’s your battle plan?
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Protect Your Friends and Followers

social-media-protection Consider this scenario. You take all that time to get friends and followers, and it turns out the contractor who was hired to help manage your social media sites actually owns them and not your association. According to Rob Sumner, CAE, Esq., it’s possible. “Make sure your association always maintains control of the sites,” Sumner cautioned during a recent interview with Association Adviser. “You don’t want to invest time and effort into your sites and get [a lot] of followers, [and] all of a sudden have the rug pulled out from under you.” Here are the key takeaways from Sumner’s conversation with Association Adviser, which is produced by Naylor Inc.:
  • Employees can make factual statements about the association and name, but they can’t confuse the public into thinking they are speaking on behalf of the association.
  • The biggest mistake many associations make is just assigning the youngest person on their staff to be the social media person, with senior management not being knowledgeable enough about maintaining control of ownership of the sites.
  • Many motivated employees or volunteers start popular social media pages on the association’s behalf—but that doesn’t mean they own the site or can take it with them if they leave the organization.
These are all critical points that warrant your careful consideration. Social media sites are so popular because they provide opportunities for engagement and collaboration. In recognition of this trend, private social communities are a key component of Fonteva For Associations. Our customized member portals are probably the most popular feature with our customers. They provide a protected environment where their members can share key community resources and news as well as participate in vital discussions and network with peers.
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More Instead of Less: 5 Ways to Get More Leads/Referrals on LinkedIn

linkedin2 Recently, Inc.com contributor Jeff Haden posed a question that got me thinking a little differently about my 500+ connections on LinkedIn. Haden says, “Everyone seems to be on LinkedIn. So you are too. But are you actually generating leads and referrals?” Chances are most of us – myself included – have put the majority of our energy into “linking to” people. But to what end? According to Haden, if we truly want to cultivate our connections on LinkedIn as potential customers and business partners, we need to spend a maximum of 20 minutes per day prospecting more effectively. Here are five of the 10 ways Haden believes you can use LinkedIn to build your business relationships (Source: Sandler Training, a sales, management, and leadership organization):
  1. Prepare a digital version of your 30-second commercial and include that text in your LinkedIn profile. The main thing to remember about LinkedIn is this: It is a huge, never-ending, virtual networking event, and you have to be ready with the right response to, “What do you do?” Your 30-second commercial is the answer to that question, as told from the point of view of a prospect in pain that eventually turned into your happy customer.
  2. Play fair. Only “connect” to people you actually know. LinkedIn will backfire on you if you pretend to know people you don’t. Always ask for introductions to people you don’t know.
  3. Build out your lead list. Spend five minutes a day investigating the connections of your contacts to see whom you don't know personally but would like to meet. Make a note of those to whom you would like introductions. Start first with the "Recommendations," since those are most likely the strongest relationships of the LinkedIn user you are viewing. Ask for the recommendations outside of your LinkedIn account via email or phone. You'll get a quicker answer. (And you'll get the chance to quickly reconnect with your connections.)
  4. Follow your current clients and prospects. Spend another two minutes each day looking up your current clients and top prospects. Find out whether they have a company page. If they do, follow and monitor it.
  5. Post an update. Spend 60 seconds each working day posting an “Update” to your LinkedIn network. Use the daily update to share a link to an article or a video that is relevant to your prospects and customers. Or use the “Pulse” (used to be known as “LinkedIn Today”) feature on your LinkedIn dashboard. Each time you post an update you get displayed on the feed of all the people with whom you are connected. But never sell when you post updates. Add value and share expertise instead.
It’s clear that making connections is just the beginning of using this online network to the fullest. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my profile.
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Bank On Collaboration

Bank On Collaboration

TAKEAWAY TUESDAY

Take it away! This is the ninth in a series of posts that will be featured on Fonteva’s blog highlighting important strategies associations can take away from other industries. In today’s sixth-degrees-of-separation world, your members are assessing your association not just in comparison to similar organizations but in relation to the totality of their experiences as consumers. As such, we want to help you stay abreast of key trends and best practices, those takeaways that may benefit your association.

Are all the right people in the room? It’s a question well worth asking, especially when it comes to creating new technologies.

For example, these days compliance employees at Bank of America are literally invited to sit at the table while programmers/developers create new technology for the bank. The goal is to create apps and banking software that is both secure and useful.

As Sean Sposito reported in Bank Technology News, published by American Banker, “the ubiquity of smartphones, along with banks’ need to iterate responsibly (read: regulation) necessitates a high level of collaboration between innovation and legal needs whereas in the past there would have been none.”

In addition, Sposito writes that “the growing partnership between departments has ramped up gradually over the past several years as the bank perfected its technology.”

The lesson here is that it’s important for associations to foster collaboration around creating technology. Even if progress is incremental, getting all the right people in the room will make the difference between innovation and stagnation.

 

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Let The Sunshine In

Let The Sunshine In

With the launch of X.com and PayPal in 1999–2000, Elon Musk revolutionized the online banking and payments transfer industries. I have always been impressed by his entrepreneurial spirit. His ability to think strategically and anticipate the future is incomparable as evidenced by his latest venture SolarCity.

Solar City is a public solar energy company. Recently, Washington Post Blogger Dominic Basulto shared his take on Musk’s approach to marketing/promoting solar energy to consumers as a utility. He attributes five insights to Musk:

    1. Solar energy is inherently an exponential technology. If there’s one thing Wall Street loves, it’s a good growth story, and that’s something that SolarCity has been careful to cultivate. The company already has 80,000 paying customers and expects to sign up one million customers within the next four years.
    2. Solar is a brand, not a utility. Elon Musk thinks about solar energy the same way he thinks about electric cars — it’s easier to sell if it’s backed by a highly-recognizable brand such as Tesla. As a result, SolarCity feels more like a traditional consumer brand, less like a faceless utility. The company has 30,000 fans on Facebook. That doesn’t sound like a utility.
    3. Solar is the rare business that can profit from cheap Chinese imports. Most companies are running scared of China these days, thanks to the ability of the Chinese to out-compete on price on just about everything. Elon Musk figured out a way to make the Chinese threat work for him, not against him. He got SolarCity out of the business of just selling and installing solar panels, and into the business of selling long-term lease contracts.
    4. Solar energy companies can tap into the power of the crowd. Perhaps the single greatest change in the solar business that can really propel the business ahead is its ability to tap into the power of the crowd. Shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy requires a massive change in preferences, habits and attitudes, and this is where the power of the crowd matters.
    5. You won’t hear about “peak sun” for another 5 billion years. Unlike a conventional fossil fuel utility, SolarCity doesn’t have to worry about running out of resources. We’ll never hear about “peak sun” the way we hear about “peak oil” because the sun isn’t scheduled to burn out for another five billion years.

Of these, two in particular resonated with me:

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