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.

Inc. Names Fonteva 286th Fastest Growing U.S. Company in 2014!

Inc. Names Fonteva 286th Fastest Growing U.S. Company in 2014!

We are pleased to announce Fonteva’s debut on the Inc. 500. Fonteva earned the 286th position on the 2014 Inc. 500.

In its 33rd year, the Inc. 500 recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in America. Fonteva is proud to be among this distinguished group of companies, which Inc. magazine President and Editor in Chief Eric Schurenberg believes represent “the fearsome creativity of American entrepreneurship unleashed.”

"We built Fonteva to bring innovative cloud technology to the association industry,” says Fonteva CEO Jerry Huskins. "To be recognized as one of the fastest growing companies in America by Inc. 500 Magazine is a tribute to the confidence our customers and employees have placed in us.”

To qualify for this year’s list, Fonteva had to grow more than 942 percent since the start of 2011. Other newcomers to the list include Go Pro, Bridger and Tough Mudder. Fonteva is also ranked as #17 for the Top 20 Virginia companies and #19 for companies in the Washington D.C. metro area.

The Inc. 5000’ s aggregate revenue is $211 billion, generating 505,000 jobs over the past three years. “We are proud of all that our dedicated team has accomplished and appreciate their continued commitment to our success,” says Fonteva President Paul Lundy.

The best is yet to come!

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Getting Oriented: 4 Ways to Help New Board Members Feel Welcome

Getting Oriented: 4 Ways to Help New Board Members Feel Welcome

Take it away! This is the 29th in a series of posts that have been featured on Fonteva’s blog to highlight 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.

Being a new board member can feel a lot like being the new kid in class on the first day of school. Everyone has friends and seems to know what to do but you.

In this scenario, the teacher’s goal is to help that new student feel welcome and get acclimated as quickly as possible. When associations orient new board members, their goal is similar: make them feel a part of the group and get them involved in its activities.

Darylen Cote’s article in PTO Today magazine, a publication distributed to more than 80,000 parent-teacher organizations nationwide, offers some good suggestions for effectively orienting new board members. There are four that I would like to highlight here:

1- Have volunteers ready to greet newcomers cheerfully at the door. From the very beginning, you set the tone. Make sure that your group and several key members are prepared to make the atmosphere welcoming and inclusive. Conveying the message that the group is glad they are there makes interaction positive from the start.

2- Offer a variety of avenues for meaningful contributions to the group. If you have set major projects for the year, provide an overview that details timelines, the tasks to be accomplished, and a rough idea of the time involved. This helps people find a niche that matches their interests and time available.

3- Divide the group into project committees immediately following your overview for a short first meeting. This is another way to help folks meet people with a similar interest and for you to gain specific commitment for projects right away. If your group is new or hasn’t moved very far ahead with its planning, you might want to simply brainstorm or outline tasks to be done, such as working out meeting logistics, planning monthly programs, or coming up with a list of possible projects.

4- Create a buddy system for personal follow-up. The responsibilities of a buddy include contacting a new member between meetings to follow up on any questions the person might have. A friendly email with a reminder of the next meeting is appropriate. This method creates a direct connection between your older and newer members. If older members are mentoring newer members in this way, inclusion becomes almost a given.

You might think about how these ideas translate to your association. The sooner your board members get oriented, the better they will be able to serve your organization.

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Portal Pointers: 5 Reasons Your Board Benefits from a Portal

Portal Pointers: 5 Reasons Your Board Benefits from a Portal

Even the most dedicated board members are pressed for time and likely confronted with multiple priorities on a daily basis. Your association needs to make it as convenient for them to serve as possible.

They need the capability to access board documents at anytime from anywhere. Your board members also need to be able to collaborate with one another even if they aren’t face to face.

Board portals make this possible. Organizations in all sectors around the globe have started to implement this technology to help their boards function more effectively.

Here at Fonteva we definitely think this trend towards e-governance is a step in the right direction. We created Fonteva For Associations with robust committee management features, such as defining and assigning committee positions and management structures, communicating with entire committees, tracking, publishing and distributing committee documents and minutes; and creating individual committee calendars and discussion forums.

We knew that streamlining and automating these tasks would help association boards operate more efficiently. A recent article from Better Boards Australasia highlights five specific benefits of implementing board portals, and I have summarized them briefly here:

1- Save time and money. Given the limited amount of time that boards spend together, it is important that board meetings are run effectively and that necessary data and documents are provided to board members efficiently. Board portals can save hours of staff time before and after every board meeting.

2- Improve governance capabilities. Precipitating smoother proceedings in the boardroom allows the board to spend more of each meeting on high-level functions and makes it easier for them to improve their governance capabilities.

3- Facilitate remote board meetings. Board portals can easily facilitate remote access for board meetings. In conjunction with video or telephone conferencing, a board portal can make remote board member access a viable and manageable option. The enhanced capacity for collaboration, communication and document sharing provided by board portals is an ideal support mechanism for remote board members.

4- Reduce paper usage and waste. The world is increasingly moving away from paper and onto the computer screen. Given the substantial size of board papers, monthly editions for in or around ten board members for every organization is a lot of paper.

5- Decrease board member risk. Boards can rest easy in knowing that all their important information is accessible only via the secure online environment of a board portal, which more often than not, will offer greater safeguards and top-flight security than physical servers maintained on premises.

If your association doesn’t already have a board portal, these benefits certainly make the case for investigating this option further. Let us know if we can help point you in the right direction.

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Stress the Best: Re-evaluating How You Respond to Stress

Stress the Best: Re-evaluating How You Respond to Stress

Most of us have a love-hate relationship with stress. Some of us find it motivating and even think we work best under pressure. Others find it almost debilitating to the point of being unable to complete basic tasks as effectively and efficiently as they would like.

Regardless of which category you may fall into, stress is a fact of life. According to Dr. Heidi Hanna, CEO and founder of SYNERGY, a coaching and consulting company that specializes in customized health and wellness Platform Solutions for individuals and organizations, medical experts estimate that 75 to 90 percent of doctor visits are stress related. Hanna says that if you constantly feel as if there are not enough hours in the day and are constantly connected to “a technologic communication leash,” you are not alone.

In her new book, Stressaholic: 5 Steps to Transform Your Relationship with Stress, Hanna discusses the impact of chronic stress on the body, mind, and spirit and outlines how a simple shift in mindset can dramatically improve our relationship with stress. She acknowledges that stress in and of itself is not bad and can be used for growth and innovation as long as we allow ourselves adequate time for recovery and consistent recharging of our operating systems.

Hanna’s Stressaholic Recovery Process restores system-wide resilience against stress in five simple steps:

1- Rest to balance brain chemistry with strategic relaxation and recovery.
2- Repair to calm and nourish cells with energy-enhancing nutrients.
3- Rebuild to strengthen mental and physical fitness to optimize energy.
4- Rethink to optimize perspective to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat.
5- Redesign to develop a structure for ongoing energy management.

As I considered the five steps highlighted here, I was reminded of how they are applicable to management of technology. Too often organizations use their AMS to the point of overstressing the solution and its users. When staff and members use it, they see challenges instead of opportunities.

In contrast, a solution like Fonteva For Associations has built-in stress reduction. Based on my observations, two of the biggest stressors associations must manage are uncertainty about the future and lack of information about their members and other stakeholders. Fonteva For Associations helps put this stress in perspective by giving organizations tools to customize a 360 degree data view of their operations.

Each user can customize the solution with dashboards and reports that highlight his or her specific goals. This capability helps eliminate the stress of not being sure where you stand with your overall goals and objectives. As Hanna suggests in her book, appropriate stress management helps people “journey from exhaustion to enlightenment,” and we’ve designed Fonteva For Associations with this ideal firmly in mind.

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Don’t Tax Your Systems: 3 Ways to Improve Customer Service

Don’t Tax Your Systems: 3 Ways to Improve Customer Service

Take it away! This is the 28th in a series of posts that have been featured on Fonteva’s blog to highlight 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.

Hail to the chief – the new chief financial officer for the District of Columbia, that is. Last week Jeffrey S. DeWitt released his strategic plan for the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, and it seems like he is on the right track towards addressing and ultimately remedying a plethora of problems that have frustrated the city’s 600,000+ residents for quite some time.

The plan is built around seven objectives, the first of which is focused on customer service. And DeWitt clearly sees the connection between improving customer service and upgrading the technology systems used throughout the district’s fiscal operations. For instance, the Office of Tax and Revenue has become infamous for long wait times by phone and failure to respond to written inquiries in a timely manner.

While there’s never an excuse for poor service, in this instance the tax office’s antiquated phone system is a large part of the problem. According to a recent article in The Washington Post by Mike DeBonis, “the phone system that handles the agency’s customer-service hotline ably queues the first 50 callers as they wait for assistance.” Subsequent callers are met with a click and a dial tone.

DeWitt has made replacing the 15 year-old phone system one of his top priorities. He took three key steps to identify these priorities that I think serve as an important lesson for us all about how to approach upgrading customer service.

1- Find out what your customers want. DeWitt’s office held almost 60 meetings with Advisory Neighborhood Commission members, civic associations, business groups, nonprofits and other outside groups in addition to dozens of sessions held internally.

2- Prioritize your efforts, identify necessary resources, and establish timelines. “The months-long [strategic] planning process involved whittling more than 100 key projects to 24, each with an examination of the funding and staffing required and an estimated timeline for completion,” DeBonis wrote.

3- Establish short- and long-term goals for improving technology. “A fix to the 51st-caller problem will be debuted in short order, DeWitt said.” Then, as outlined in the strategic plan, by 2017, the tax office should have its phone system fully integrated into a customer management system that will track all interactions.

“The long-term centerpiece of the strategic plan is a modernized computer system that is set to be rolled out over the coming three to five years,” DeBonis wrote. According to DeWitt the new system will allow for other innovations that will improve taxpayers’ dealings with the city, such as tracking their income-tax refunds online or allowing businesses to get “clean hands” certifications that they don’t owe the city money, which is a prerequisite for securing licenses and permits or doing business with the District.

DeWitt deserves credit for getting this important process of upgrading the district’s technology started. We engage in similar activities with our association customers on a daily basis. One of primary goals is to guide them through making enhancements that will help them avoid taxing their systems—and their customers’ patience.

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May the Force Be with You: Nonprofit Community Benefits from Deploying Salesforce

May the Force Be with You: Nonprofit Community Benefits from Deploying Salesforce

Editor’s Note: I am pleased to introduce the second in a series of interviews that will be featured on our blog to highlight important insights from key industry observers. We hope their insights will be useful to you as make strategic decisions for your association.

Our second interview is with Rob Jordan, founder and CEO, Idealist Consulting. Named one of the Top 100 fastest growing companies in Oregon, Idealist Consulting provides organizations with advanced technical Platform Solutions to help them run more effectively. Recently Jordan talked with Associations Today and shared his perspective on how organizations can leverage Salesforce.

“Absolutely,” Jordan responds when asked if he thinks nonprofit organizations (NPOs) are becoming better informed about Salesforce and how its functionality can benefit them. “NPOs are more complex business entities than those in the private sector, and it is exciting to see them realize how the flexibility of Salesforce is their best option for facilitating the processes associated with maintaining B2B and B2C relationships simultaneously, which is not only difficult, but requires extraordinary innovation,” Jordan notes.

Associations Today: In recent months, with what kinds of projects have nonprofit organizations asked for your assistance/expertise?
As you know we are primarily a Salesforce shop. In the early years of Salesforce, most organizations that came to us had never used Salesforce or were learning about it for the first time. Now, folks reach out that have had Salesforce for years, and they are asking us to “refresh” or “optimize” their existing CRM. We refer to these clients as “rescues,” and they often come to us because a) their partner did not deploy Salesforce correctly or b) they did not develop it themselves correctly. This trend is likely to only increase in the coming years.

AT: What are the “pain points” that are most often communicated to you when clients first engage Idealist?
User adoption is the biggest one by far. This is usually because they were told (which is right in many cases) that Salesforce is easy to adopt.  However, what they did not consider is that the more they customize Salesforce the more a knowledge transfer is needed for healthy user adoption. I fully understand the motivation to put feature requests before adoption, but great features with low adoption is not going to be a healthy deployment no matter how you slice it. For this reason we have launched an affordable webinar training to help nonprofit organizations get up and running quickly.

AT: How do you help them think through the process of selecting a new Association Management System?
We look at Platform Solutions that have open application programming interfaces (API) and that do not require an internal server. Salesforce (no big surprise) is where we start. We then look at 1) budget, 2) launch time and 3) features to help them navigate which solution is most appropriate.

AT: What’s one the most rewarding projects that you’ve worked on recently?
We have so many interesting projects. That said I would have to say it was a project between Impact NW and a private sector real estate firm, Envoy.  They are both clients of ours, and they are actively enrolled in our Pay It Forward program.  In this program the nonprofit receives one donated consulting hour for every 20 hours the private sector engages Idealist Consulting.

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Insights in a Dash: Reports Board Members Value

Insights in a Dash: Reports Board Members Value

If you’ve served on a board in the last decade, you’re familiar with the proverbial board book that goes out to members before each meeting. You also probably remember thinking, “They can’t expect me to go through all this material by then.”

You may have also been on the other side of the equation as the preparer of such materials. Hopefully, assembling information for your upcoming board meetings no longer involves making copies on three-hole-punch paper.

Most organizations have graduated from shipping actual report binders to electronically distributing PDF tomes that board members are expected to download and review. And there’s probably lots of information contained in them. However, how much of it is being presented effectively?

There’s often a better way to communicate these key points to board members. If you haven’t already incorporated them into your board meetings, consider creating dashboard reports.

As Adrienne Graham, owner of Leapfrog Training & Facilitation, recently highlighted in an installment of the Center for Nonprofit Stewardship’s “Tips from the Experts” series, “the dashboard report provides a succinct, visual tool to measure your organization’s advancement towards its mission, track progress on key indicators and evaluate the performance of major programs and services.”

Graham went on to suggest several ways dashboards can help boards be effective:

*Save time by reviewing highlights.
*Track progress towards goals.
*Bring all board members up to speed around a shared knowledge base.
*Better see and understand system dynamics.
*Spot potential problems.
*Identify patterns and anomalies among similar entities and diverse factors.
*Maintain a governance perspective.

I share Graham’s view of how useful dashboards can be to association boards. When we developed Fonteva For Associations, we knew how important the robust reporting functionality would be to our customers.

Our reports and dashboards solution utilizes drag and drop technology that makes it easy for them to create custom reports. They gain valuable insight into the association’s key metrics and easily create graphical charts for any report. They can also schedule them to be delivered automatically to board members and other key members of their team. We are committed to helping them provide insights in a dash.

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Be Calculated on Facebook

Be Calculated on Facebook

Take it away! This is the 27th in a series of posts that have been featured on Fonteva’s blog to highlight 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.

“Is this going to generate any revenue?” It’s likely that this question comes up when your association discusses implementing a new product or program. Certainly, discussions about social media have raised the question about whether organizations will garner any ROI from investing time and resources into this communication channel.

In general, investments in social media are difficult to monetize. However, organizations are taking steps to identify revenue-generating social media strategies. For example, Alliant Credit Union in Chicago added a simple tool, a loan calculator app, to its Facebook page in November and has already seen return on its investment.

According to Mary Wisniewski’s article in Bank Technology News, the tool has helped to generate close to $1 million in auto loans for the credit union since its debut and drove 478 prospects to Alliant’s online auto loan application within the first four months. Every organization’s strategies for increasing engagement with social media and driving more traffic to key areas of interest online will vary, but there are some important takeaways from the credit union’s efforts.

    • Encourage users to generate content and share it with “friends.” Once visitors to the credit union’s Facebook page use to the calculator to determine their monthly loan payments, they can share that information with friends and family.
    • Actively promote new tools and apps that you introduce. The credit union advertised the calculator on its website’s homepage and through posts written on its social media channels.
    • Establish yourself as an easy point of reference. A cloud-based tool, the calculator uses cookies to save users’ calculation results, so when they go to the credit union’s website, they can avoid having to resubmit their data.

Wisniewski acknowledges that “financial institutions have long made calculators available,” but notes that “introducing the pricing tool through Facebook is meant to target new prospects, particularly younger customers.”

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No More Excuses

No More Excuses

In my experience working with organizations, they can always find a reason for not moving forward with a potentially innovative idea or program. Often these reasons are thinly veiled excuses that ultimately prevent organizations from reaching their goals.

We all make excuses sometimes, but you don’t want that to become a habit. It’s important that staff at levels in your organization view making excuses as a last resort rather than standing operating procedure.

Along those lines, I agree with business strategist Dan Waldschmidt’s assertion that “people fall back on excuses and give up on trying to reach their goals.”

Waldschmidt is the author of Edgy Conversations: How Ordinary People Achieve Outrageous Success. He says, “Most of us have dreams, and many of us have big ones, but few of us actually see them through.”

Think about his observation within the context of the aspirations that you have for your association. Are you achieving the goals that you want? If not, what’s impeding your progress? Chances are any number of excuses is at the root of the problem.

Waldschmidt offers several suggestions for “jumping off the excuse train and forging the path to your goals.” Here are three that I found particularly relevant, both personally and professionally:

• Stop working on things that just don’t matter. Not everything needs to be done in place of sleep. If you work for a boss, then you owe them solid time. You can’t cut that out. You can, however, cut out television time, meetings and anything else that gets in the way of achieving your goals. Replace entertainment with activity toward your goal.

• Ask yourself, “What can I do better next time?” And then do it next time. If you spend a decade or two earnestly trying to be better, that’s exactly what will happen. The next best thing to doing something amazing is not doing something stupid. So learn from your mistakes and use the lessons to dominate.

• Proactively take time to do things that fuel your passion. Exercise is a great example. Living in the moment requires you to live at peak performance. A huge part of mental fitness is physical fitness. A sparring or running partner is a great way to refresh physical competition. Physical activity accelerates mental motivation.

Any one of these suggestions could make a difference in how you contribute to your organization’s success while encouraging others to do the same. In today’s fast-paced, competitive environment, you really don’t have time for excuses; instead concentrate on Platform Solutions.

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Give Your Blog a Boost: 3 Ways to Increase Traffic

Give Your Blog a Boost: 3 Ways to Increase Traffic

Build it and they will come. That’s hardly the approach to take to managing your association’s blog effectively.

With an estimated 100 million blogs and growing, the blogosphere is a big, busy place. Getting noticed takes care and feeding of your blog. Since I started blogging, I have gained a better understanding of the time and commitment it takes to make our blog relevant and readable.

Of course for most bloggers, including me, the goal is getting more readers and more traffic. Recently,’s Susan Gunelius shared some great tips for boosting blog traffic. I would like to highlight three of them here.

*Write well and write often. Frequently updating your blog with useful content is the first step to building your blog's audience. The content you write is what will keep readers coming back for more. Make sure you have something meaningful to say to them and say it often to maintain their interest and keep them loyal. Furthermore, post frequently to increase the number of chances you have for your blog's content to be noticed by search engines such as Google or Technorati.

*Use and update your blogroll. By adding links to sites you like in your blogroll, the owners of those blogs will find your blog and will be likely to add a reciprocal link in their blogrolls. It’s an easy way to get the link to your blog in front of many readers on other blogs. The hope is that some of those readers will click on the link to your blog on the other blogs’ blogrolls and find your content interesting and enjoyable turning them into loyal readers.

*Harness the power of comments. Commenting is a simple and essential tool to increase your blog's traffic. First, respond to comments left on your blog to show your readers that you value their opinions and draw them into a two-way conversation. This will increase reader loyalty.

Second, leave comments on other blogs to drive new traffic. Make sure you leave your blog's URL in your comment, so you create a link back to your own blog. Many people will read the comments left on a blog post. If they read a particularly interesting comment, they are highly likely to click on the link to visit the commenter’s website. It's important to make sure you leave meaningful comments that are likely to invite people to click on your link to read more.

If you haven’t already, try implementing at least one of these tips. Give your blog a boost and keep building your community.

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Taking It to Extremes: A Different Approach to Marketing

Taking It to Extremes:  A Different Approach to Marketing

Take it away! This is the 26th in a series of posts that have been featured on Fonteva’s blog to highlight 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.

Some members like everything you do; others hate everything you do. And you might feel like neither group is worth too much of your time. After all, they are at opposite ends of the extreme, and your primary goal is to market to the average member.

Traditionally, appealing to the needs of the average consumer was the focus of much of the marketing that organizations did. However, “understanding those consumers who lie ‘in the tails’ of the bell curve” could lead to the discovery of “truly innovative breakthroughs” in the delivery of products and services.

This is the view put forth by Harvard Business School researchers Jill J. Avery and Michael Norton in a recent HBS teaching note, “Learning from Extreme Consumers.” In a recent article, Michael Blanding, senior writer for the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge blog, shared some key insights from their work. Here’s my take on two that I found particularly relevant to our work here and that of associations.

1- Learn to distinguish between what people say and what they actually do. As a former marketing manager for female shaving products at Gillette, Avery went beyond reviewing surveys and focus groups to visiting women in their homes.

In focus groups, women claimed they changed their razor blades regularly; however, when researchers visited them in their homes, they learned that they frequently forgot to restock their blade supply in the shower. Based in part on this observation, Avery spearheaded the launch of Venus razor with in-shower blade dispenser, making the product more convenient and increasing its sales.

According to Avery, “such hidden opportunities can become even more apparent by investigating ‘extreme consumers,’ since they can overemphasize thoughts and behaviors that all consumers of a product may share.”

Perhaps, this scenario could translate for your association in terms of membership and/or marketing staff members visiting members in their workplaces to see how they actually use (or don’t use) their membership benefits.

2 - Put yourself in the shoes of your most “difficult” customers. You can gain important insights from observing people who find it difficult to use your products or services. A case in point is when engineers with Ford wore bodysuits that mimicked the vision and range of motion of the elderly to redesign the Ford Focus.

According to Norton, one of their greatest insights was the difficulty they experienced when reaching up across their bodies to get to the seat belt. “Until you are actually in the car in that situation, it would never occur to you,” he said.

Blanding summed up this exercise well: “By donning the suits, designers essentially turned themselves into extreme consumers.”

Consider this scenario. You could ignore members who say it’s difficult to use your website and dismiss their “negative” feedback, or you could seize the opportunity for making improvements by putting yourself in their places. Keeping members could mean taking your marketing efforts to extremes. 

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Top Talent: 4 Ways You Could Be Repelling the Best and the Brightest

Top Talent: 4 Ways You Could Be Repelling the Best and the Brightest

 “Want to be on the ground floor of building great cloud applications for businesses? You will be working within a very fast growing and exciting software development company focused on associations, non-profits and public sector businesses.”

This is the language that appears on the careers page of Fonteva’s website. Your association probably uses similar wording in the hopes encouraging the most talented people to seek careers with your organization.

We’ve tried to keep it simple. We have a one-page form that gathers all of the interested person’s contact information and then asks this question, “What makes you special?”

On the other hand, we would all do well to take a pause and realize this same question works in reverse. Prospective employees want to know what makes you special as an employer.

Of course, we all want the most talented and special people to come work for us. Yet, according to contributor Liz Ryan, we may be doing “a better job of driving talented people away than reeling them in, both during the selection process and after the talented person comes on board as a new employee.”

Ryan goes on to discuss her Top Ten favorite Talent Repellents, and I would like to highlight four of them here:

1- Black hole recruiting portals. If it takes a job-seeker an hour to complete all the mind-numbing fields in your applicant tracking system, the best people have already fled for greener pastures.

2- Robotic communication. Once you start to communicate with applicants in the selection pipeline, what kinds of messages do you use? The evil passive voice type (“Your application has been received”) is a surefire talent barrier. Why not say “Wow! Thanks for applying for a job with us. Give us a few days to look at our openings and your background. We’ll back in touch, either way!”

3- Hear no evil feedback systems. When no new information comes in, things break down. If your employer doesn’t have robust, active, constant feedback mechanisms in place and an appetite for hearing about life on the street, you’re pushing away talent as we speak.

4- Godzilla processes. Some processes are good, but lots of them are cumbersome, slow and stupid. If people who come to work ready to rock it are prevented from doing their work because some fear-based process is gumming up the works, I guarantee you’re losing talent. People might be sitting at their desks when you walk by, but their hearts and brains are elsewhere.

I tend to agree with Ryan that employers don’t do these things intentionally. As she points out, often “they can’t see how their systems, policies and attitudes frustrate and repel great people.” Perhaps, it’s time to take a closer look at how your association recruits potential employees.

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App of the Month: Predict People and Profits with Scout Link for Sales from Scout Analytics

App of the Month: Predict People and Profits with Scout Link for Sales from Scout Analytics

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?

So far this year I’ve highlighted six apps from the Salesforce App Exchange so that you could get a better idea of what’s available and may be most useful to you in your work. The seventh app that I would like to highlight is Scout Link for Sales.

How much are your customers/members worth? This app provides predictive analysis to help organizations maximize the lifetime value of their customers. Through predictive pricing, retention monitoring and trial scoring, membership sales teams could potentially increase revenues and profits 10 to 15 percent.

The revenue intelligence generated from the app can be easily integrated into so that membership sales organizations can maximize revenue from renewals and trials. They can efficiently identify optimal pricing for renewal and focus on trials that are most likely to convert. Each membership (or subscription) up for renewal can be summarized in terms of usage and classified as at-risk, an up-sell or a cross-sell.

This app’s functionality is definitely applicable to associations. They want to know the lifetime value of their members so they can make the appropriate investments in resources for them. This app is no crystal ball, but using it will increase your ability to predict the future value of members.

Given its functionality, think of profits and people your association could gain or retain using Scout Link for Sales. Read more online to see if this app might be right for your organization.

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Go Gaga with Your Marketing

Go Gaga with Your Marketing


Take it away! This is the 25th in a series of posts that have been featured on Fonteva’s blog to highlight 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.

While she may not have a current Top 10 hit, Lady Gaga continues to be build her brand through masterful marketing that creates both wonder and loyalty among her fans. According to contributor Denise Lee Yohn, “business people looking to make an indelible in-person impression through customer experience should follow her lead.”

In her recent blog post, Yohn went on to make several observations about Lady Gaga’s skills as a marketer. Here are four lessons I drew from Yohn’s perspective on the musical performer’s approach to marketing:

1- Bring new-ness to your customer experiences. Lady Gaga’s six costume changes during the course of a two-hour performance keep concertgoers interested. As Yohn notes, “the anticipation an ensuing novelty hold your attention.”
She suggests that organizations might take a similar approach to managing their websites: “Instead of locking in your website design, logo, visual images, and avatars, think about how to refresh them frequently enough to attract and keep people’s attention.”

2- Let members/customers behind the scenes. Lady Gaga executes one of her costume changes on-stage. By doing so, “she’s taken something normally hidden backstage and brought it out for all of us to see.”
“Pulling back the curtain on your business is a risk,” Yohn acknowledges, “but it just might pay out by drawing people closer to you and making your brand seem more human.”

3- Make brand experiences personal. Throughout her performances, Lady Gaga acknowledges her fans personally in a variety of ways. She reads letters they’ve sent her and talks about how they made her feel. When clothing and other items are thrown on stage, she poses for photos in or with them. And, most significantly, according to Yohn, “she invites some folks to meet her backstage after the show.”
The lesson is in thinking about “your brand experiences as two-way dialogues between you and your fans.”

4- Tell stories about your organization. Yohn observes that Lady Gaga uses storytelling powerfully throughout her shows. From remembering experiences writing songs to recounting times spent with loved ones, “she use stories to express her values and bond with her audiences.”
I agree with Yohn’s assertion that “brands, too, can use storytelling to cultivate emotional connections.”

Further, her description of Gaga as a “one-of-kind-marketer” from whom we can all learn is in line with my thinking about how successful organizations approach marketing and connecting with their stakeholders.

When we created Fonteva For Associations, we wanted to give associations a valuable tool for monitoring and tracking important components of these relationships. However, it’s up to you to use this information to create meaningful experiences that strengthen the connections and along with them, your brand. 

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What Drives You? A Fundraising Exercise

What Drives You? A Fundraising Exercise

Sometimes it’s hard to find the “fun” in fundraising. Even when you care deeply about an organization’s mission, asking others to support it financially can be difficult. Yet, if you join the board of a nonprofit organization, this will be one of your most important responsibilities.

In their book Train Your Board (And Everyone Else) to Raise Money, Andrea Kihlstedt and Andy Robinson suggest facilitating an exercise to help board members and other volunteers reconnect with why they were driven to work with your organization.

After all, as they observe, “Nobody ever joined a board or volunteered for a nonprofit because they loved going to meetings, talking about policies and procedures, or looking at spreadsheets. They join because they want to make a difference in the world.”

Here’s a brief summary of the exercise they recommend for reducing “fundraising to its most fundamental level: two people talking about something they care about.”

Time Required: 10-15 minutes
Audience: Anyone involved with your fundraising campaign: some combination of board, staff, and volunteers
Setting: A quiet space large enough for people to pair up, talk, and hear each other
Materials: Flip chart paper and markers (optional)

Facilitating the Exercise

    • Ask people to pair up, preferably with someone they don't know well.
    • Instruct the partners to ask each other the following questions:
      • Why are you involved with this organization?
      • Why is our work important to you?
      • Tell me about a time when you saw our mission in action and what it meant to you.

Encourage partners to add whatever follow-up questions are needed to flesh out the answers. Such a follow-up might be "Can you tell me a specific story or example about your involvement with our work?"

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Who’s Who Wednesday: Paul Davis

Who’s Who Wednesday: Paul Davis

Throughout 2014, we want to give the blogosphere the opportunity to get to know the Fonteva team and our clients better. To that end, we've introduced a new monthly feature, Who’s Who Wednesday. This month we’re pleased to introduce you to Paul Davis, Director of Community Engagement for MHAOK. The Mental Health Association of Oklahoma advocates for people impacted by mental illness and homelessness in communities throughout Oklahoma. In this role, Davis oversees events, fundraising and advocacy. He began working with the organization six years ago after graduating from Drury University in Springfield, Missouri with bachelor’s degree in international relations. He has traveled to Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, inclusive of 12 countries. He hopes to return to the Middle East in the future. Meanwhile, his parents and sister also moved to Oklahoma, and he and his wife just welcomed their first child, a five-month old daughter named Mia. Fonteva For Associations was the ideal tool for his team. “Fonteva For Associations is a data architecture that we’ve been able to integrate into all of our business processes for the community engagement team,” Davis says. Read on to learn more about him. 1 - What’s on your desk right now?

    • A can of Vernor’s ginger ale
    • A statue by American painter and sculptor Frederic Remington
    • A purple and gold floral patterned tea cup and saucer (“That’s how I take my coffee.”)

2 - Who are you following on Twitter?
Carolina Hurricanes (“I lived in N.C. when they first became a hockey team and drove 2.5 hours each way to attend the games.”)

3 - What's the best advice you ever got?
“Trust the process. Don’t focus on the conclusion but the process, and the right result will present itself.”
—Michael W. Brose, Executive Director, MHAOK

What's the most played song on your iPod or iPhone?
“Fancy” by Iggy Azalea  If you weren't working for MHAOK, what would you be doing?
I would be working in the Salesforce economy. I love the flexibility of it. It’s easy to apply to almost any business case. What are your favorite apps?
Mailbox (“It’s the only way I can manage my inbox.”)  What is your favorite Fonteva For Associations feature? Why?
The events functionality is what we’re most reliant upon. Our annual gala raised $1.2 million last year; and our annual conference draws 700 attendees.

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Staying Above Water: 4 Leadership Lessons for Times of Adversity

Staying Above Water: 4 Leadership Lessons for Times of Adversity


Take it away! This is the 24th in a series of posts that have been featured on Fonteva’s blog to highlight 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.

Anote Tong’s leadership experience during the past 11 years gives new meaning to preparing for the worst. Tong is president of the small island nation of Kiribati, which is literally being swallowed by the rising sea.

Recently Tong had a conversation with Lillian Cunningham, an editor at the Washington Post, as part of the paper’s “On Leadership” video series. He talked at length about the challenges he has faced in helping his constituents prepare for the demise of their country as well as the difficulty of communicating their plight to the international community.

“But how does one plan the demise of one’s own country? I can assure you it’s not fun or exciting,” Tong told Cunningham. “It’s scary, but you’ve got to overcome that fear and you’ve got to think positively.”

It’s unlikely that any of us will be faced with a situation this dire, but Tong’s observations about what it means to lead during times of adversity are applicable to the work association leaders are charged with carrying out on behalf of their members. After reading his story, I came away with four particularly insightful leadership lessons.

1-Take responsibility for creating Platform Solutions: “As a leader, I have no right to lead if I cannot find a way out. So I had to create Platform Solutions that did not exist. I had to think about relocating our people and the best way to do it.”

2-Prepare people for the future: “It’s our responsibility today to make the decisions that would ensure the future of the next generation, and the generation after. For those who choose to go, our responsibility as leaders is to prepare them. We have to provide them with the kind of education that would ensure that if and when they relocate, they would move as citizens who are skilled and would find jobs and who would move with dignity.”

3-Speak up for your cause even when no one wants to listen: “When I started speaking about climate change at the United Nations general assembly, it was not very exciting for me — it was very frustrating because nobody was listening. There was a major preoccupation in the international arena with terrorism, and here I was trying to communicate my story, a story of what climate change meant for the future of our people.”

4-Focus on the bigger picture. “In leadership, you have no choice but to take a wider perspective and be more holistic in the way you see things, because you are accountable. You are not accountable for just achieving something you were assigned to do, but you’re actually responsible for the lives of people.”

Next time you find yourself faced with difficult leadership scenarios, consider these insights. Think of Tong, and you’ll be inspired to move forward regardless of the challenges that might be ahead for your association.

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Bad Email Etiquette: 3 Habits to Avoid

Bad Email Etiquette: 3 Habits to Avoid

Most of us probably can’t imagine life before email. How did we ever manage without it? Well, Christopher Marriott, vice president and principal consultant at The Relevancy Group, reminds us that once upon time, the primary mechanism for communicating information to the masses internally was the good old-fashioned memo.

“If someone in your company needed to communicate some news to the staff, everyone got the memo,” Marriott writes. He goes on to say that if you had some “snarky comment” about the memo, you had to pick up the phone or go to a coworker’s desk to convey it.

Now in the age of “reply all,” it’s much easier and faster to communicate those snarky comments. Herein lies the both the primary advantage and disadvantage of email communication. Sure, it’s fast and efficient even, but as Marriott points out, “email is dangerous in the wrong hands.”

In just one click, you can offend the entire office, and the same goes for your customers. “Before email, you didn’t really have the ability to easily and quickly offend a large portion of your customer base,” Marriott writes.

He offers a short list of habits he recommends breaking in your business correspondence and email marketing campaigns to avoid communicating poorly and sometimes inappropriately:

Don’t take auto-fill for granted. If you’ve ever received an email the sender clearly didn’t intend for you to see, auto-fill was likely to blame. As Marriott notes, “you really need to pay attention to the list of people to whom you’re sending an email. In the name convenience, Outlook makes it too easy to screw up.”

Don’t create cross-channel disconnect. Your email marketing campaign might be top notch, but what happens when a customer actually picks up the phone to call and talk to someone? “…The email goodwill built up over time was blown to bits in less than a minute,” Marriott writes of a recent call he made to an airline.

Don’t send messages without comparing them with the most up-to-date transaction data. There are few things more aggravating than making a purchase or registering for an event and then receiving an email with a better offer from the vendor than the one that you’ve already taken advantage of. Marriott notes, “The art of suppression is one that is not practiced as much as it should be in e-commerce and email.”

“All of your site transaction data should be made available as quickly as possible (instantaneously isn’t too soon) to your email marketing database so that suppression rules can be applied against certain campaigns to ensure they are not sent to someone who would rather not know about your sale/double points/bogo,” he writes.

By far, one of the features of Fonteva For Associations that our customers value most is having member data, like member dues payments, continuing education credits or event participation all in one place making it easier to create segmented lists. However, it’s evident that automation without consideration has the potential to negate the efficiencies the organization hoped to achieve.

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Great Expectations: Getting What You Need from Your New AMS

Great Expectations: Getting What You Need from Your New AMS

Editor’s Note: I am pleased to introduce the first in a series of interviews that will be featured on our blog to highlight important insights from key association industry observers. We hope their insights will be useful to you as make strategic decisions for your association.

Our first interview is with Wes Trochlil, founder and president of Effective Database Management. Wes helps associations put their data to work. Recently he talked with Associations Today and shared his perspective on how associations might approach looking for a new AMS.

“Associations often have grand plans, but haven’t thought through what their AMS can or could do,” Trochlil observed. “At the same time, AMS vendors often feel that most associations are underutilizing their software. This can result in unmet expectations on both sides.”

Associations Today: What's the first question you ask associations when they indicate they're in the market for a new AMS?
Why are you looking? Usually there are specific functions that they cannot perform with their current AMS, due to one of three scenarios:
1) They have a home-grown system.
2) They are using an off-the-shelf system that is not well maintained and utilized.
3) They need an upgrade because they outgrew the technology, which could be custom or off-the-shelf.

AT: What are the major pain points associations have with their current AMS prior to selecting a new AMS?
The single biggest one is website interactivity/self-service. Members and customers should be able to go online and conduct transactions with their association. From the member’s perspective, “I can do that online with everyone else; why can’t I do it with you?”

The issues I see most often are that members: 1) Can’t do anything online, 2) Can make changes but they don’t update in real time, and 3) Can see their history with the organization, but can’t do interactions they expect to – for example, they have member profiles but no continuing education information or record of events attended.

AT: How do you help associations manage their expectations during the AMS selection process and thereafter?
I emphasize that throughout the process we'll be making a lot of decisions, and we have to acknowledge that sometimes we’ll make the wrong choice. And when we make the wrong choice, we have to be flexible enough to go back and fix things later.

In addition, always be very clear and open with your vendor. If you run into problems, raise those issues with the vendor sooner rather than later.

Further, the association needs a database team that meets regularly – once a week during implementation and less (twice a month) after going live.

AT: How do you recommend associations manage implementation strategies when they change?
The key is open communication both internally and externally. Implement anything you can in terms of tools and processes that will improve communication. My most successful clients implement internal user group meetings.

AT: How do you measure progress/success during the implementation?
Identify three to five factors that they will measure after going live (e.g. more web interactivity). Having a narrow focus increases your odds for success. If you’re showing progress, people will be more pleased than not.

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Go for a Goal: A Lesson in Leadership from the World Cup

Go for a Goal: A Lesson in Leadership from the World Cup

Take it away! This is the 23rd in a series of posts that have been featured on Fonteva’s blog to highlight 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.

You may be among the millions of people world-wide watching the World Cup. As the field of competitors narrowed from the original 32 teams to the four that remain to play in the semifinals this week, author and executive coach Sam Horn asked an important question: “Isn’t it intriguing how countries from around the globe, many of whom are normally in conflict with each other, come together and compete in harmony?”

As Horn observes, it’s worth noting that “athletes from opposing nations temporarily put their differences aside to determine who is the best in their sport.” She goes on to posit what this highly visible example of cooperation and collaboration might mean for leaders of organizations.

Perhaps, your association has departments internally that compete for budget dollars or groups of volunteers who seem to be at odds for one reason or another. Ultimately, there will be some price to pay for these conflicts. While it may not be possible to eliminate them completely, Horn asks leaders to consider whether they could “introduce a global goal that gives everyone cause to work with each other instead of against each other.”

She shares an example from her time working in the hospitality industry in Hilton Head Island, S.C.: “Restaurant managers normally saw each other as competitors, but our owner reached out to other leaders in the industry to propose they join forces to raise money for the community with a Taste of the Island event.”

According to Horn, “the relationships created that day turned a divisive industry into a connected community.” Does a similar opportunity exist to unite groups internally or externally throughout the industry or profession your association represents?

I like Horn’s notion that watching the World Cup might inspire us all to think about how we can work better together. The theme for this year’s event is “All in One Rhythm,” which highlights the goal of everyone being on one accord throughout the tournament. If it’s good enough for the world, then it’s good enough for our organizations. The desire to encourage collaboration rather than conflict is a sign of true leadership on and off the field.

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