TH Mgmt. Recognized for AMCI Accreditation

In a recent article by the Association Executives of North Carolinas (AENC), TH Mgmt., Inc. was recognized for its ongoing commitment to the AMC Institute Accreditation.  “AMC accreditation is definitely the gold standard,” Theresa Salmen, President of TH Mgmt. said. “It ensures we provide the quality of service our clients expect.”  Click here to read more.

2016 Association Meeting Trends

Written by Melissa Klingberg.

What your organization should be looking for in the New Year

  1. Hotel Negotiations Get Tougher – We are experiencing a seller’s market when it comes to hotels negotiations, which is quite the opposite of what Associations have been facing since 2008. Negotiate with care as attrition and cancellation terms are expected to become stricter. According to Hospitalitynet.com, “the global hotel industry revenue is predicted to reach $550 billion US dollars in 2016. The industry revenue was worth $457 billion US dollars in 2011, which showcases an increase in revenue of almost $100 billion US dollars in the past five years as we move into 2016, if this prediction proves to be true.”
  2. Reducing Food & Beverage (F&B) Budgets with Rising F&B Costs – According to Successful Meetings’ 2016 Trends Survey, 49% of hotels reported that they will be reducing their event F&B budgets. Hotels will be flexing their muscles and increasing F&B costs, especially when following expensive foodie trends such as serving organic, locally-sourced products from farm to microbrews to create a memorable experience for attendees.
  3. The Ever-Shrinking Keynote Speaker – The growing popularity of TEDx type of talks continuing paired with dwindling attendee attention spans have meeting planners looking at different mediums to reach and connect with their attendees. Shorter sessions with high-impact content continue to be of interest to planners in an attempt to gain attendee satisfaction and connection to the organization.
  4. Expectations of Attendees – Attendees want an experience during their meetings. Simply put, the same-old general session and trade show simply doesn’t cut it any longer. Organizations are putting their foot on the gas pedal and upping the ante on themed parties, interactive trade shows with Wi-Fi-lounges and music. According to Successful Meetings’ 2016 Trends Survey, nearly two-thirds of the planners polled said the “need to create a compelling meeting experience” for attendees was one of the most important trends to follow in order to create effective meetings in 2016.
  5. Get Fit! – Another trend which some planners may find fun is adding wellness programs to annual conferences and events. From activities such as Sunrise Yoga, 5k fun-runs and even pedometer challenges, event planners are playing off the wellness train to get attendees engaged and fit at the same time. I don’t know about you, but I smell a sponsorship opportunity.
  6. Social Media is Still Going Strong – Yes, we are still talking about social media. As images and videos get more views and events provide a great outsource for them, event marketers and participants will increase their social photo and video tools. We all know about Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, but what is new exactly? According to Corbin Ball Associates;
  • While Instagram isn’t new, planners and attendees are looking at this platform with new light as it has doubled its use in the past three years with over 300 million users. Considering Instagram is fundamentally mobile, it is effortless for attendees to use at conferences and events.
  • Snapchat has built a brand out of disappearing photos and videos (4 billion daily video views alone). It now offers ‘Live Stories,’ a curated stream of user submitted Snaps and videos from various locations and events. Users who have their location services on at the same event location will be given the option to contribute Snaps to the Live Story. The end result is a story told from a community perspective with lots of different points of view. The feature doesn’t identify who created which snaps, only showing that they were all captured at the same event.
  • Videos are also seeing increasing usage at meetings. Facebook introduced auto-playing video in December 2013 and saw the number of video posts jump 75% the next year. This ubiquitous and highly mobile channel has become a staple for use at events.
  • The Vine app allow users to post six-second videos and then share them to Twitter which is also seeing use at meetings.
  • Periscope, purchased by Twitter, provides similar services and will likely prevail due to a better interface and its support from Twitter. With 10 million people registered (in just 4 months), watching more than 40 years of video each day, Periscope will be a force to be reckoned with for events. Meeting planners should prepare for even greater Wi-Fi and cellular bandwidth usage as well as increasing copyright challenges.

Sources:

  • http://www.smartmeetings.com/news/78559/10-meeting-predictions-2016
  • http://www.successfulmeetings.com/Strategy/Meeting-Strategies/Top-Meeting-Trends-2016/
  • http://www.corbinball.com/articles_technology/index.cfm?fuseaction=cor_av&artID=9236
  • http://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/4073336.html

Three Ways to Foster and Maintain Member Engagement

Written by Leisa Gill.

tmw16-pic375aSome of the biggest questions we ask ourselves as association management professionals focus around member engagement. “How can we keep our members engaged?” “How can we strengthen our relationship with members and encourage them to stay active within our association?” For many associations, our clients included, members are the reason we exist, causing it to become crucial that we get and keep them engaged. Here are three tips for associations to help foster and maintain member engagement.

  1. Engage members through your website by keeping your content fresh, relevant and easy to find.1 Your website is your primary identity online. It’s where people go to learn more about your association, register for events, receive news, and manage their membership profile. The goal is to keep members coming back to your website, and you can do that by providing relevant and timely content such as blog posts, membership updates, and industry information. Your website should be user-friendly and created with your members in mind. What kind of information are they looking for and where would they expect to find it? As more and more people are using their mobile devices to browse the web, it’s becoming increasingly important that your website is also mobile friendly.4
  2. Include more calls to action.2 Sometimes getting members involved is as simple as asking them to participate. But before you ask, have a list ready of all the ways they can get involved. Be sure include different levels of opportunities from short-term engagement (ie: taking a survey, liking a Facebook post, or sharing a blog post), to more in-depth engagement (ie: speaking at an event, becoming a volunteer, or joining a committee). Create buttons and messages on your website and social media that call for action such as liking or sharing a photo, rating something, or viewing a video.3
  3. Engage members through social media. A great way to ensure engagement is to connect to your members through social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). Typically, members are on the lookout for networking opportunities and relevant industry news they can share, and by pushing news and events out through your social media accounts, you can quickly become a “first stop” in your members’ daily social networking efforts.4 Your members want to know there is actually a person behind your logo. Social media allows you to connect on a more personal level, creating two-way communication and growing relationships with members.

Sources

1 – http://www.wildapricot.com/articles/tips-for-building-membership-engagement
2 – http://blog.socious.com/5-easy-actions-to-take-to-increase-member-engagement-next-year
3 – http://blog.socious.com/bid/65575/6-Rules-for-Engaging-Younger-Customers-or-Members
4 – http://www.matthewferrara.com/rssfeed/association_engagement/

 

 

How much is enough? Part 1 – Board Meeting Minutes

This question comes up for association boards frequently.  The key to this question is understanding the association and nonprofit industry standards and then being able to measure these standards.

How much information should be in your board minutes?

Boards often publish lengthy minutes out of habit or eagerness to demonstrate how much work they’re doing.  “But revealing details about who said what is a bad move, experts agree, because board minutes can be subpoenaed in litigation involving the association or even individual board members,” noted Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now.

So what should be in the minutes?  Minutes are a legal record of actions taken: the time, date of the meeting, the motions raised, whether they were seconded, and whether they carried or failed.  Minutes should not be a “he said, then she said” narration, but should rather focus on actions taken by the board.  Written reports presented to the board might be cited or even appended to the minutes.

What about executive session?

Boards meet in executive session precisely because deliberations on some matters need to be kept confidential, even from an organization’s members. Actions of the board based on executive session discussions (e.g., the decision to terminate a contract, to engage in litigation, etc.) should be done in open session (following the executive session and recorded in the minutes as any regular meeting action item would be).

How much is enough? Part 2 – Association Reserves

This question comes up for association boards frequently.  The key to this question is understanding the association and nonprofit industry standards and then being able to measure these standards.

How much should we keep in our association reserves?

After living through the last recession, this question comes up frequently, and the answer is “it depends.”  However, the industry standard is 50% of the budgeted association’s expenses for the year.  If you budgeted $500,000 of expenses for 2015, you would want to maintain $250,000 in reserves.  The theory is that the reserves allow you to operate status-quo for six months (assuming no other income was coming into the organization) and during that time, the board can evaluate and make decisions on the future direction of the organization.  Of course, your amount of reserves may be different, especially if you are involved in some multi-year or high-risk ventures that require a long-term contract.

When your board discusses the reserve policy, they should also discuss how you will retain the funds.  Will they be held in highly liquid accounts such as money markets or certificate of deposits, or should they be invested in the stock market?  Discuss the level of risk your board feels comfortable with.  We recommend that when your finance committee meets annually, both the reserve and investment policy is reviewed and discussed.  It is a great time to chat with your CPA/auditor and investment manager.

How much is enough? Part 3 – Check Metrics

This question comes up for association boards frequently.  The key to this question is understanding the association and nonprofit industry standards and then being able to measure these standards.

How often should we email our members?

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the number of emails we receive and now, there are so many other ways to feel connected.  Each organization is different in how frequently to communicate with members and which medium to use to do so. Monitoring key metrics will help unravel the mystery. It is an ongoing process that will change time-to-time, but finding key indicators and monitoring them is a great place to start.

For example, one of our clients, ULI Charlotte, was promoting each or their events with at least three emails.  When the number of events increased over the last year, we asked if this was the most effective way to communicate.  We determined that this was too many emails to send to our members so we created a periodic newsletter.  During the summer, we email the newsletter every two weeks.  During the rest of the year, we send the newsletter only once a week.  Members know they can get a quick snap shot of the organization with one email on Tuesdays at 10am.  This has reduced our event notices to once per event (unless otherwise needed) and reduced our emails by more than 50%, increasing our open rates to over 38%.

When designing the newly created newsletter, we kept it short and sweet with three sections:  Upcoming Events, Spotlight and News.  It includes a list of upcoming meetings, member profiles, short recaps of meetings, and first-time announcements of upcoming meetings.  Registration to the events and open rates are higher than they have ever been.  We are monitoring these metrics and making sure we are keeping the newsletter fresh and relevant.

How Millennials want to do business

I am fascinated by this growing generation as the Millennials are the largest generation since the Baby Boomers. These digital natives are the force  driving a new era for consumer marketing, one focused on values, transparency, relevancy and engagement.

IBM Institute for Business Value asked, “what about business-to-business (B2B) marketing?” Increasingly, Millennials are assuming positions at work where they influence or make B2B purchasing decisions for their company. How do their consumer shopping habits affect their preferences and practices for researching business products and services and engaging with vendors?

More specifically, how does your organization engage with suppliers during the sales cycle?  This new trend can impact the way our organizations engage members.  For example, right now, 69% of the time Millennials are engaging in face-to-face meetings but in the future, face-to-face meetings are expected to decrease to 24%.  Another shift is email, now at 37%, we expect the engagement to be 69% in the future. Click here to see more ways millennials expect to engage with vendors.

This brings up the question of how relevant are our organization’s meetings?  Should you invest in online discussion forums?  What about face-to-face meetings with an online component?  Are trade shows becoming obsolete?  Take a look at your present association business practices and take note.

What is an Association Management Company (AMC)?

The AMC model allows all services to be customized to meet specific organization goals. Whether your organization is in the market for full-service management or specific services — strategic planning, membership development, communications and more — AMCs leverage shared resources across multiple association clients to increase means and capabilities including membership, marketing, finance, etc., while retaining the organization’s branded profile.

Full-service Management

Many AMCs serve as an organization’s headquarters, providing an experienced executive to work with a customized blend of other AMC-staff resources to manage day-to-day operations supporting members and become the public face of the organization. All of which is done with staff members who are experts in the critical areas of association management and operations that are essential for success. With years of experience in a nonprofit environment, AMCs lend strategic focus and put proven practices to work. Retaining an AMC can lead to enhanced buying power, improved staff efficiency, and reduced overhead costs.

AMCs are the right solution for thousands of associations, professional societies and nonprofits. Consider the benefits many organizations managed by AMC-member firms receive each year as compared to organizations with hired staff, leased or owned office space and other capital expenses.

Outsourced Services

Organizations often prefer an outsourced approach, such as AMCs, that offer scalability of service – staff and resources where and when they need it. Because AMC staff members are specialists in association management services, they serve as an extension of organization staff to help meet a client’s specific needs.

Outsourced services may include executive, administrative and financial management; strategic planning; membership development; public affairs and lobbying; education and professional development; statistical research; meetings management; and marketing and communication services.

Contact TH Mgmt. for more information about our customized services for your organization.

Nonprofits Learning from For-profits

Sometimes we believe the nonprofit world is an exception to all the marketplace rules, but over the past several years, associations have learned to quickly respond to the online demands and expectations of members.  So let’s look at some of the practices in for-profit businesses that have been effective and implement them in our associations.

It is likely that one area each association spends an extended amount of time in is renewing members. We spend time (as staff or volunteers) emailing, mailing and calling the members to ensure we get the dues payments.  This adds to more paper, time and sometimes email spam, to our messages about our association services. Membership renewals are an endless treadmill!

So let’s take a chapter from the for-profit playbook on auto renewals.  In an article in Success (May/June, 2015), the authors suggest that auto renewals offer benefits to both the association and the members alike, including:

  • Member Convenience – it allows members to enjoy uninterrupted service and avoid the hassle of manually processing a check or credit card payment.  Members receive a notice in advance and if they want to cancel their membership they update their online record, otherwise, no action is necessary.
  • Automation – let the machines do some of our work!  Programmed renewals allow for automation of much (if not all) of the process.  Let staff work on more mission-centric functions of your organization.
  • No Decision Points – sending a dues invoice each year provides an annual decision point for members and invites scrutiny:  “Did I get my money’s worth this year?”  “What am I getting for my dues dollar?”  Since many of the association’s benefits are throughout the year and not just one-moment in time, re-evaluation is based on the most recent experience.

Auto renewals are now a common practice at health clubs, Netflix, online applications and many other commonly used services. When considering auto renewals, check to see if your membership management software allows for this function.  Also, consider implementation.  Make a strong business case for moving to this function.  Most importantly, don’t forget to continue to promote and provide strong value to your members throughout the year.