Archive for July, 2021

Design a Hybrid Experience That Delivers to Both Audiences

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CASSS is taking a slightly different approach for its upcoming hybrid annual meeting. Although planning it as one event, the group also knows the experience won’t be exactly the same for in-person and virtual attendees. Here’s how they are planning a valuable experience, no matter where a person is participating from.

CASSS is in the planning stages for its January 2022 hybrid annual meeting, but the professional scientific society is taking a new look at how to approach it. While recognizing that the conference must have shared components and connected audiences, the group also is fine with the event having two different feels, depending on if a person attends in person or online.

“We’re planning it as one meeting, but we are looking at how to have two different experiences,” said Anne Ornelas, senior operations manager at CASSS. “We’re really focused on what will happen in person and then making sure we connect the dots with our virtual audience.”

Right now, the plan is to provide valuable experiences for both attendees, be as inclusive as possible, and recognize that both attendee experiences won’t be exactly the same.

Because parameters related to the event’s physical space may change, depending on safety standards or social-distancing requirements, CASSS plans to continue its roundtables—where teams of 10 to 12 attendees participate in a facilitated deep-dive discussion—as virtual, even for in-person attendees.

“The roundtables worked really well for us virtually this last year, so we are continuing with that,” Ornelas said. “In person, we would have had to have that spacing at the hotel.”

To keep the in-person and virtual attendees connected at live sessions, questions will be asked the same way for both audiences: via an online system.

“If they are onsite and want to ask their question, they will go onto the website,” Ornelas said. “All the questions will be funneled into one channel, so the moderators will be able to ask the question no matter who it is. They won’t know whether it’s from the virtual or onsite, which is great because it eliminates the virtual people getting left out.”

While the goal is to be inclusive when the audiences are experiencing the same content, there is also the recognition that not all content will be the same.

“Our reception, the exhibit hall—to be able to connect with people that way will be only available to the in-person audience,” Ornelas said. “We are working to have some virtual engagement activity, [maybe] something like a cocktail mixer to buy the ingredients at home and make in conjunction with the group online, so that they have something to do together.”

To ensure there’s enough time to clean and sanitize according to protocols that may be in place, CASSS plans to have longer breaks in between live sessions. “We are creating a longer day and reducing some of the content,” Ornelas said. “So, the ability to do things in virtual as well will allow us some flexibility.”

For example, the virtual roundtables will take place during one of those extended breaks in the live action. While the roundtables allow live attendees to participate virtually, the event will also have technical seminars, which are created by sponsors and only available to the live audience. Most content that is streamed—depending on contracts—will be available for on-demand viewing after the event to both sets of attendees.

For CASSS, the hybrid event provides the opportunity to serve all its members and stakeholders, because many just aren’t able to be onsite. “It’s not even up to the person if they want to come,” Ornelas said. “It’s whether their company will allow them to travel. In some cases, if they work for a health authority in Europe, they may not be able to come to the United States.”

Ornelas said other organizations looking to hybrid events should focus on your attendees and ways to connect them. “Be thoughtful,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be complicated. Don’t ignore either audience in one way or another. Make sure you’re connecting them in some way.”

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[Webinar] It’s Time to Shake Things Up at Your Next Event

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There’s never been a better time to experiment with new meeting elements or to say goodbye to some time-worn ones, Dave Lutz, managing director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, said in this recent VCC post. Dave will talk about his forecasts for future trends for association events at a virtual education session on July 15 at 10 a.m. EDT for the Reston Herndon Meeting Planners, “Ready or Not, Here They Come: 5 Post-Pandemic Conference Design Changes.”

He believes leadership will be more open to change after a live-event hiatus. Bring your questions for Dave, who will be joined by moderator Phil Rappoport, founder of Virlybird, at this “ask me anything” hour-long session.

For more information, and to register for this free event, visit the RHMP Web site.

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Seven Social Media Platforms to Keep an Eye On

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Now is a great time to expand your knowledge of social media beyond Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, thanks to a new crop of social venues.

If your association is still trying to get a grasp on Snapchat, you may be behind the times when it comes to social media trends.

Despite the fact that the dominant social networks—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube—get the most attention, social media is continuing to evolve, and there are some interesting social networks worth watching even if you don’t have a use for them yet.

Among them:

Clubhouse. The most high-profile of recent social media apps, this tool features breezy audio conversation, creating a level of intimacy missing from large social networks. (Other factors creating heat: The network is invite-only, iOS-only, and loaded with celebrities.) The concept is hot enough that both Twitter and Facebook have started working on competitors of their own.

Discord. Akin to a more mainstream version of Slack, Discord first gained popularity in the gaming community because it allows conversations over voice, video, and traditional text chat. (Signifying its gaming roots: Its logo looks like a controller.) Despite initially being seen as niche, Discord has broadened its appeal, doubling in size during the pandemic to more than 120 million monthly active users. That surge puts it on pace for growth similar to Snapchat (265 million daily active users), Pinterest (459 million monthly active users), and Twitter (192 million daily active users).

Signal. A desire for more privacy mixed with a growing concern about larger social networks has helped draw attention to this secure chat application, which broke through to mainstream audiences last fall. According to Fast Company, its success is partly due to a privacy policy update by one of its primary competitors, the Facebook-owned WhatsApp, that was unpopular with users because it allowed more data to be shared with third parties.

Caffeine. Twitch is clearly the biggest player among live video-streaming networks, and YouTube’s live offerings are also popular, but the pandemic has helped raise up other players as well. One new entry to the field is Caffeine, formed by a team of former Apple executives in 2018, which serves as a platform for what founder Ben Keighran calls “social broadcasting.” Caffeine has attracted a slate of celebrities by offering a way for them to stream content directly to their audiences.

Planetary. A big concern among social media fans is centralization, in part because of factors such as openness, privacy, and moderation. This concern has been driving the creation of alternative social network experiences, such as Mastodon. The brand-new Planetary, which launched to the public just last month, is an attempt to create a mainstream version of a social network built on distributed principles. Its founder, Evan Henshaw-Plath, was Twitter’s first employee. (Henshaw-Plath is also helping with a formative effort to decentralize Twitter.)

EarBuds. An audio platform like Clubhouse, EarBuds encourages curators to share what they’re listening to with a broader audience. Founded by a former football player and directly inspired by his experiences on the field, EarBuds and other similar tools could help bring back an intimacy lost in the digital era.

Text messaging. Bet you didn’t expect to see this here, did you? Well, texting is having a bit of a renaissance because of new tactics that could help organizations reach broader audiences. Recent tools such as Subtext, which works sort of as a Substack for texting, have emerged to take advantage of the broadcast capabilities and high response rates of text-based social media.

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Why a Good Argument Is Good for Your Association

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Healthy disagreement is essential for your association to move forward. A few experts have thoughts about how to make sure you’re debating, not fighting.

Associations talk a lot about being “consensus-driven,” which is generally a good thing—after all, an organization can’t move forward unless it agrees on its direction. But “consensus-driven” is a problem if consensus is the starting point, not the end goal. Rubber-stamp boards, or organizations meant to echo leadership’s particular vision, may be moving. But not necessarily forward.

What you really want is a “debate-driven” association, one that is open to discussing a variety of ideas with a mindset at arriving at consensus eventually, but not right away. A recent article from MIT Sloan Management Review clarifies this point nicely: “At their core, all great strategies are arguments,” write Stanford Business School professors Jesper B. Sorensen and Glenn R. Carroll.

The trick, of course, is that you want a good argument. Disagreements are valuable, so long as they don’t become exclusionary, paralyzing, or lead to hurt feelings. Indeed, the authors make a distinction between arguing and fighting. To avoid the latter, they lay out a process for what they call “constructive debate,” which is designed to test and explore biases and misunderstandings.

Disagreements are valuable, so long as they don’t become exclusionary, paralyzing, or lead to hurt feelings.

That means applying some structure. Going in, the group needs to be clear about the purpose of the conversation and the question they’re tasked with addressing. It needs to get all the relevant leaders in the room. And it needs to assign two key roles: a facilitator who ensures that everybody offers input, and a devil’s advocate who can openly (but tactfully) challenge the validity of the ideas shared.

The process, they write, should eliminate the organization’s hierarchies during the debate. In a constructive debate, the CEO’s opinion carries no more weight than anybody else’s. “Although the ultimate decision still rests with them, their authority should not be used to squelch debate,” Sorensen and Carroll write. “Instead, they should play subdued roles, not shoot down ideas, and allow their own arguments to be challenged by those with less power.”

Sorensen and Carroll have some good recommendations for how to visualize the ensuing discussions and then take action on them. But one of the main benefits of a constructive debate is that it surfaces assumptions and biases that restrict an organization. The reason an association believes it will enjoy member growth in the next five years may be built on a false premise about the industry. Only by putting that premise under scrutiny will the organization be able to change tactics. It means, as they write, “having the courage and the discipline to say ‘no’ to one course of action in the uncertain hope that another will be more promising.”

And that may explain why many organizations don’t take on the challenge in the first place. As much as I respect the process Sorensen and Carroll lay out, I fear that its formal structure may be too rigid or difficult to apply for a lot of organizations, especially those that are facing internal dysfunction. (The article doesn’t cite an organization that’s implemented this, but suggests that Amazon and Netflix put the general principle to work.) In which case your group may need to simply learn (or re-learn) how to argue.

At Harvard Business Review, business scholar Jim Detert has some advice for that, calling out words and phrases that tend to stymie discussions, or turn debates into fights. Skip the claims that things are “clearly” or “obviously” so; don’t be absolute in statements (“you always…,” “you never…”); don’t tell others what to do; and never, ever say, “Don’t take this personally.”

You can come up with your own examples, of course; many are common-sense approaches to conversation we learn when we navigate any kind of interpersonal relationship. But they key point isn’t that there are particular rules to having a conversation. It’s that you may need to look at what’s going on in your organization that’s keeping you from having an honest conversation in the first place.

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A Bold Approach to Membership Aims for Growth, Recognition

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Streamlining its offerings by sunsetting nonstarters and focusing on what really matters to its community is one association’s optimistic, long-game strategy for confronting a post-pandemic world.

When it comes to membership, there are times when it’s important to put a higher level of investment back into member benefits and resources. That time is now for Christina Lewellen, CAE, executive director of the Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools (ATLIS), as the group emerges relatively unscathed from the pandemic.

Last year, when trying to create a 2021 budget in the midst of the pandemic, Lewellen used a green, yellow, red system to put a dollar figure on the anticipated member renewal rate. The system paid off, and ATLIS ended up six figures ahead of where the team thought they would be. “It feels like now is the perfect time to be aggressive about membership,” she said.

A low-cost data cleanup, a new online community, and a revamped print magazine are among the bold updates the group is tackling.

Low-Cost Data Cleanup

ATLIS is a young organization, which grew very fast and then hit a plateau. Lewellen, who took over as executive director two years ago, realized its contact list had grown stale and needed fresh names and a new context. First up? She brought in a paid intern to make sure the group’s data was clean because she knew when the organization emerged from the pandemic, communicating effectively with the community would be essential.

Lewellen trained the intern how to manage the database so she could make sure email addresses and contact information were correct. If there were bad addresses or bouncebacks, the intern went in and did the hard work of scrubbing the information.

“It wasn’t easy, it was tedious, and it took all summer to complete, but that was an investment I knew we had to make,” Lewellen said. “We don’t have an endless budget, but if you’re willing to invest the time, you’ll find a solution.”

Valuable Resources

During the pandemic, ATLIS started hosting town halls, which brought people together for opportunities to crowdsource solutions. Lewellen’s team realized they had tapped into an organic, fast-paced resource that members needed. At the same time, community platform provider Higher Logic came out with a pared-down, less expensive product that offered two online community discussion boards, which was the right fit for ATLIS.

Lewellen also revamped the organization’s print academic journal and transformed it into more of a trade publication, which she views as a vehicle for membership recruitment and retention. The magazine will highlight people in the industry through profiles and photographs and will also feature a supplier directory. During the pandemic, Lewellen noticed that people were sharing supplier information on spreadsheets, so she saw an opportunity to create a new resource.

In addition, ATLIS plans to leverage the brand from the print magazine redesign and use the same name—Access Points—for the online community. “The idea is to keep the conversation going based on the thought leadership in the magazine and transition the conversation to a platform that is more sustainable coming out of the pandemic,” she said.

Here’s the surprise: Both the new print magazine and the online community are open to the public and are not member-only benefits. When the ATLIS community gets together, they tend to espouse the benefits of the organization, so the association decided to make the community boards open to the public to “let the community sing our praises for us,” Lewellen said. And when they click on links for more information, that will lead to resources that are behind the member wall.

“We have to be disciplined and make sure if we’re giving it away for free, there’s always a bridge to a paid ATLIS member benefit,” she said.

The bold changes are aligned with ATLIS’s successful emergence from the pandemic. “We can’t just bang our heads against the wall hoping for different outcomes with the same set of products,” Lewellen said. Playing the long game and really focusing on products and services that are making an impact on the community is a priority.

“We’re hammering it hard, making sure people are aware of who we are and that we’re growing,” she said.

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Add Cultural Flair to Keep Event Attendees Engaged

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Now more than ever, planning engaging meetings is critical and leaning into culture can be the key to success.

The pandemic has altered many aspects of business, most notably in the MICE sector. From Zoom meetings with former officemates to virtual conferences with thousands of peers, this past year has brought creative challenges—and solutions—no one could have predicted.

While we have adapted to virtual and hybrid meetings, many elements of the in-person versions were missed—both the tangible and intangible. One example is the inclusion of “local flavor” often programmed into events to showcase a destination: incorporating cuisine, music/dance or other arts that elevate the guest experience. Authentic local partnerships have become more important than ever, and maximizing your resources will aid in distinguishing your event from the competition’s while providing an immersive and memorable experience for guests.

The 2021 Global Meetings and Events Forecast from American Express predicts that in-person meetings throughout 2021 will be smaller than before the pandemic. Meeting planners may find that they are planning events for a new generation of clients with different priorities. Attendees will want to feel their time is well spent. Millennial guests desire engagement and crave a greater sense of connection; a perfect way to achieve that is to incorporate local culture and appeal to each of the senses.

Food may be the first thing that comes to mind, as cuisine creates many shared experiences and is commonly an element that unites consumers despite backgrounds and cultures. According to the recent Cvent report outlining key trends to expect in 2021, people are more focused now on immunity-boosting food and amenities related to health and mindfulness, which is important to keep in mind.

Entertainment is another option that can be fun and memorable; Maybe your next meeting break can include a performance to keep your attendees engaged, or a cooking demonstration by a local chef. Ultimately, it’s important to find ways to make an event translate well digitally for attendees logging on from home.

No matter what the future holds, most forecasters agree that virtual events will be part of the MICE industry in some form for the foreseeable future. When planning these events, it’s important to incorporate authentic experiences to help your content stick while keeping attendees immersed, interested, and engaged.

Discover Puerto Rico is a not-for-profit Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) whose mission is to make Puerto Rico visible to the world as a premier travel destination by collaboratively promoting the Island’s diversity and uniqueness for leisure and business travel and events. Showcasing a blend of Spanish, Taino and African roots, the destination’s cultural flair offers a unique experience that makes for ideal event engagement, from cuisine, art, and music—all without the need for a passport.


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Membership Pro Tip: Retention Starts With Onboarding

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Making onboarding all about the member is an excellent strategy for recruitment, retention, and engagement.

“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression” is a saying that applies to membership, says John Lingerfelt, CAE, senior manager of member communities at the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. After all, retention efforts begin as soon as you start the onboarding process for a new member.

How Does It Work?

It’s important to understand why a member has joined your organization. “You can’t put everyone in the same bucket and assume that they must all want the same benefit,” Lingerfelt says.

Using information from surveys, member applications, and onboarding webinars helps to personalize the member onboarding experience and shows that you are prioritizing their interests and being responsive to them from the get-go.

“You have to make sure the member feels like they’re not just a member of the organization, they are the member of the organization,” he says.

Why Is It Effective?

Personalization makes the new member feel like it’s their association and that the organization has a vested interest in what matters to them, he says. That builds a foundation of loyalty that extends the lifetime value for a member, and they also are more likely to remain a member.

It also increases recruitment efforts because a satisfied member is more inclined to tell their friends, colleagues, or businesses about the value they get from being a member, which can encourage others to join too.

“If you really want your retention efforts to be fruitful, you have to start with personalization in the onboarding process,” he says.

What’s The Benefit?

It goes back to: What’s in it for me? When a member joins an organization, they want to feel like they’re getting a benefit out of it—something that is important to them.

For associations, it can result in increased retention or more members. “Word-of-mouth advertising is some of the best recruitment any organization can ever have,” Lingerfelt says.

Do you have a membership pro tip? Please share in the comments or send me an email.

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Five Tips for Creating Effective Knowledge-Sharing Documents That People Will Actually Use

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A smart discipline and workplace culture around knowledge-sharing documents will help generate resources that employees will feel comfortable turning to, an expert on knowledge management says.

With workers shifting roles more frequently than ever these days—and, of course, simply going on vacation—being able to transfer knowledge between team members is an essential task for many organizations.

The reason? Not having that knowledge handy can create major headaches for your team. One IDC study found that data professionals often struggled to find information, with nearly a third of workers spending their weeks looking for hard-to-find information buried somewhere in the cloud. It’s an issue even in stable organizations, but as the workforce at large uses the return to the office as an opportunity to take their careers in a different direction, this problem could increase in the coming months.

“You want to avoid someone leaving an organization who has only ever stored documents on their desktop, and no one else has access to get to them,” says Jennifer Pflaumer, a knowledge management expert and the immediate past president of the Association of Independent Information Professionals.

Organizations need a consistent approach to knowledge-sharing so that information survives even when the people who generated that information move on. And it’s just as important that the information be organized in a way that people will actually find useful when they need it.

Pflaumer, who runs information management consultancy Paroo, offered these tips for association pros to consider when developing a knowledge-sharing protocol:

Use a centralized information-sharing resource. Pflaumer recommends tools that lend themselves to the hive mind, such as internal wikis and collaboration software. Wikis can help to organize resources communally and collect useful links, and collaboration tools such as SharePoint help collect key documentation and resources relevant to the entire organization so that someone new to the organization can hit the ground running. And these aren’t limited to the mechanics of doing a job, either. She also recommends making room for elements such as org charts, missions, values, and objectives, along with the organization’s strategic plan. “All those kinds of things that give you a sense of what the organization values, what the key projects or objectives are of the organization to know where you fit into that,” she says.

Build your documents around roles, not people. Even if leaders have been in their roles for two decades, that doesn’t guarantee they’ll stay there forever, and it can be hard to capture their institutional knowledge. While longtime employees’ personal relationships come in handy, Pflaumer recommends not building knowledge-sharing documents around people, warning that it can create challenges in keeping the information evergreen. One strategy she recommends for capturing more practical information tied to institutional roles that might not fit into other forms: building a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document that can offer answers to common questions employees have.

Aim for consistency across departments. While the IT department and the marketing team may have different concerns, if their approaches don’t match, it can create headaches for those stepping in who need to find information. Pflaumer admits it can be challenging, but if done correctly, manageable. “I think it’s extremely important, and easier said than done—obviously you have different people and different ways of organizing things,” she says. “But I would say as much as possible, it’s important to have the same types of structures or organizational systems available for the different departments to move through.” This means a consistency in file formats, folder layouts, naming conventions, and template designs. The information should feel like a single piece—after all, if the knowledge-sharing documents are confusing, people won’t use them, making their benefits null.

Bake knowledge-sharing into your culture. Pflaumer says that association pros are far less likely to run into headaches down the line if there are organization-wide expectations of consistent documentation and knowledge-sharing. “I think it’s really important to build knowledge management into the culture of the organization so it’s a part of your daily work, not as an afterthought,” she says. By doing it this way, organizations can avoid the need for a “brain dump” when someone leaves an organization.

Consider consistency within the cloud. In the past, even poorly organized files might have lived in one consolidated filing cabinet. In the digital era, files can be stored anywhere, making it even easier to organize poorly—and inconsistent sorting can ensure things are easily lost. “It’s important to have the right systems in place to manage all this documentation that’s being created and everything else—photos, videos, audio files, or whatever the organization is creating,” she says. “You need to have a map to those systems—what system does what, which system is used to store which types of assets—and then really make sure that your infrastructure is able to support and maintain your digital knowledge base.”

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Build a Membership Forecasting Plan That Works

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Having a strong spreadsheet template—along with valuable data points from within your organization—can help make member forecasting an essential planning tool. It can even help you boost renewals.

When it comes to understanding what your membership picture will look like a year or two from now, a little data crunching can go a long way.

Beyond being a boon for spreadsheet nerds, a strong member forecasting tool can lead to effective ways to boost renewals and increase interest in member services.

Robin Muthig, who served as director of membership at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) before leaving that role earlier this month, says that the strategy is particularly effective for organizational members who have to account for member dues within their annual budget.

“For us, it feels like an extra way to make sure that they’re going to renew their membership,” Muthig says. “Right before most people are planning their fiscal year and for their budgets in September, [in] October, we send them an email that says, ‘Here’s what we think you owe and dues for us next year.’ So, we rarely get a phone call that says we forgot to budget for renewal.”

Of course, “rarely” has exceptions—during the pandemic, the renewal picture faced uncertainty. The good news was that most members were renewed through 2020, but the question was whether they would stick around through 2021. Muthig—who recently presented insights on this topic at ASAE’s Marketing, Membership & Communications Conference (MMCC)—says BIO took a conservative approach in their forecast, but the organization was able to avoid many of the worst potential fallouts because of strong investment in the industry.

“Our member companies were doing well, even those that aren’t working on COVID,” she says. “We were very lucky there.”

Some suggestions from Muthig for effective member forecasting:

Find a good template. Muthig speaks of the spreadsheet BIO uses, which was the basis of the template she shared during MMCC, in hallowed terms. “That is our magic document that we live in all year,” she says. The spreadsheet requires a bit of setup—Muthig says that every association member needs to be accounted for, including their dues basis (how much they paid in prior years, how much they expect to pay next year, when their renewal date is, and so on), as well as traditional retention and drop rates—but the result is a document that your organization can build around each year as you optimize your member renewal operations. “The other thing that’s key is to know how your accounting works,” she adds—explaining that quirks in the way people pay could have an impact on the overall shape of the forecast.

Learn what makes members stay. A good approach to member forecasting can help to highlight areas in which the association can improve data points such as retention rate. In the case of BIO, Muthig says that, at a high level, there’s an 85 percent chance that any member is going to stay. But parsing out the data opens up an opportunity: If a member signs up for the organization’s purchasing group, the odds become closer to 99 percent. “It is a chicken and egg kind of thing there, but looking at our engagement has made us better understand our retention and vice versa,” she says.

Build your forecasting program with input across departments. While spreadsheets can play a key part in building your member forecasting, their value increases if they begin with input from departments that can help shape the final result, Muthig says. For organizations starting out, it helps to get relevant stakeholders together to determine the approach. “You want your membership team, your finance team, and then you want someone from whatever departments are interacting with members on a regular basis,” she says. For BIO, Muthig says that they brought in the policy team, which often interacts with members around federal government relations—and that those teams were able to offer up useful information around whether members were likely to renew. Also important: collaborating with the IT department so that the most valuable data—quantitative and qualitative—can be accessed.

Account for different membership models. Clearly, a forecasting model would work most easily if everyone were on a calendar cycle, allowing for forecasting that can be consistently and reliably measured. But that’s not how memberships always function—members may sign up during different times of the year, or there may be external factors that discourage a calendar-based approach. In the case of BIO, there was the need to account for members who want to sign up for the annual meeting—away from the calendar cycle. “That’s a key factor to bring into that spreadsheet when you build it,” Muthig says, so that you don’t add income for the next year onto the current cycle.


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How to Address a Stubborn Communication Gap

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Research shows that leaders still aren’t on the same page with employees and stakeholders when it comes to communication, particularly around DEI. Some small but important changes can help.

Disconnects between leaders and employees are rarely hard to find, but the other side of the pandemic has made those gaps more visible in some ways.

For instance, the 2021 Businessolver State of Workplace Empathy report revealed sharp distinctions between what CEOs and employees consider important. Just about all employees (93 percent) who responded to the company’s annual survey said that remote work demonstrated an employer’s empathy, yet only 40 percent said they’ve had a remote-work option. Of those who did, two-thirds said remote work has made them more productive.

Moreover, while 85 percent of CEOs said they reached out to a coworker about a mental-health issue, only 37 percent of employees did. The separation is perhaps starkest, though, when it comes to DEI: While 96 percent of executives said their organizations are inclusive, only 80 percent of employees said so. And while more than three-fourths of executives said their company has DEI programs, only 44 percent of employees said so.

We’re willing to experiment and try new things, and it has worked.

It’s not hard to debate the particulars of remote work and HR that the survey discusses, but the numbers still suggest that crucial elements of work life either aren’t being handled consistently or aren’t being well communicated to employees. And either way, that’s a problem that falls at the feet of the CEO. As leadership consultant Heidi Lynne Kurter recently wrote at Forbes, “CEOs who lack the emotional intelligence to understand another person’s viewpoint or situation will find themselves losing their most valuable people.”

When it comes to the DEI piece, the Businessolver report concludes that organizations need to move beyond buzzwords and demonstrate “tangible actions from leadership.” What might that tangible action look like? One example was recently spotlighted in a report from the Chronicle of Philanthropy that showed how organizations took a “pass the microphone” approach to communicating on social justice issues. For instance, the MacArthur Foundation moved beyond the familiar expressions of concern from top leadership regarding racial discrimination and violence and instead invited its grantees to share their own stories and responses in its press releases. As the organization’s communications director, Kristen Mack, told the publication, “we’re willing to experiment and try new things, and it has worked.”

And tactics that work are still essential: 2020 thrust DEI issues to the forefront, but the Chronicle story points to a survey from the Communications Network that suggests many nonprofits are still struggling to define and support DEI efforts.

Associations want to put in the work here: The ASAE Foundation asked association leaders and employees throughout the pandemic about the opportunities during the crisis, and respondents gave high marks to the opportunity to shape the future direction on DEI. But “managing staff engagement” (which encompasses DEI) gets less emphasis: Associations are much more concerned with revenue (dues and nondues both) and member engagement.

That focus on finance is understandable, of course, after a year and a half of canceled meetings, lost jobs in various industries, and general belt-tightening. But if it’s true that employees see engagement and communication as key to their sticking around, the disconnect between communicating good intentions and following through on them will matter in the long run. Some small efforts can help close that gap and ensure that staff goodwill recovers along with the organization’s numbers.

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