Outsourcing is a great way to engage highly specialized expertise at a lower price than engaging a full-time staffer. Membership associations have a number of outsourcing opportunities. These fit into 3 broad categories:
- Full service or hybrid services from an association management company (AMC): The full-service model outsources everything. The board of directors engages the AMC to deliver all back-stage and front-stage tasks, and the AMC provides an Executive Director who reports to the board. The hybrid model has one or more full-time employees (e.g. Executive Director) and the balance of the association management tasks are delegated to an AMC. The AMC reports to the Executive Director.
- Events: The association delegates the management of one or more events to an external service provider. This may or may not be an AMC.
- Contract Services: The association delegates stand-alone tasks such as:
- Bookkeeping, audit/review
- IT (managing hardware, software and technical support for in-house staff)
- Webmaster (taking care of website updates)
- Government Relations/Advocacy
This post focuses on what you should consider in terms of legal and contractual considerations. These are relevant regardless of the type of outsourcing.
You should always have a contract with your service provider(s); regardless of whether it is a company or an individual. Your contract should include these provisions:
- Clearly defined and measurable deliverables
- Price (fixed annual price or hourly rate)
- Process for engaging in non-contractual “extras” and out-of-pocket expenses (e.g. travel)
- Service level agreement (SLA). This describes considerations such as response time and turnaround time for the deliverables.
- Intellectual Property (IP). This clarifies who owns what. You own the IP that your association brings to the partnership and your service provider needs to make clear what of their IP you may use but not own, and terms under which you may or may not continue to use the supplier’s IP after the contract concludes.
- Exit terms. What are the terms under which either party may terminate the contract? This should include a notice period even if the contract has a fixed end date.
- The contract should include a provision that each party has the appropriate level of insurance (e.g. general liability, errors and omissions)
- If your service provider is delivering services that require compliance on member privacy, anti-spam, labour and/or other legislation, spell this out in the contract.
Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)
If you’re engaging an individual, it may be appropriate to treat them as an “employee” for CRA purposes and make the standard payroll deductions from their compensation. This is to ensure that your association does not become liable for taxes they are responsible for remitting to the CRA. As a rule of thumb, if their major source of revenue is from your association, then treat them as an employee. Keep in mind, this partnership may mean that your association has the same obligation of notice for termination as if they were an employee.
Consider your options, choose what’s right for your association and protect yourself by taking a professional approach to your partnerships. For a more comprehensive view of your outsourcing opportunities watch our webinar on outsourcing here.
Written by Anne Mazile – Manager, Marketing
As a young professional in today’s workforce, I always enjoy hearing about my colleagues’ experiences. Whether they’ve been in the workforce for 25 months or 25 years, hearing others talk about their past adventures is always fascinating. Changes in technology, work-life balance and work culture are just a few of the important shifts in offices around the world.
Attitudes about membership associations have also changed. In the past, joining an association was a no brainer. At times, joining an association was the only way to get access to valuable resources and networking opportunities. These days, connecting electronically is often cheaper than the traditional face to face conversation. Also, finding industry information has never been easier. All you need is an electronic device with an internet connection to access the latest news.
Why should young professionals join associations? Simply put, why not?
- Information Resource. Membership associations are still a great resource for information. Associations are a great starting point to get industry perspective and insights. The content provided by associations are curated to cater to you and your industry. Researching information online might be more accessible today but time is everything. Let the association do the legwork for you!
- Professional Development. Associations also offer numerous opportunities to perfect your skills. Young professionals can gain new skills that can help them excel in current and future jobs.
- Networking Opportunities. Make connections and grow your network! Networking opportunities are still a big part of many associations’ member value. Mentorship programs are also a great benefit.
Tips for joining an association:
- Ask for financial assistance. Associations are a great resource. But, financially, they may not be accessible to everyone. Paying for a membership out of pocket can be an hindrance to joining an association. Ask your employer if they would consider paying for your membership for your professional development. In the end, they’ll also benefit from your engagement.
- Pick the membership that works for you. Many times, associations offer varying levels of membership. Make sure to pick the category that fits you best. You want to get the best value for your membership.
- Get involved. Paying for a membership is one thing. Using the resources is another. Researching and evaluating the available opportunities may be a big undertaking at first but, over time, the tools you use may offset the cost of your membership.
Joining an association may be considered to be old hat by some but I would encourage others to look into associations that cater not only to their professional life but personal as well. Find resources that aid your professional and personal life outside of your bubble! Ideas that work for one group may work for yours. I always want to learn new life hacks and time management tips! The old adage that there’s an association for everything still rings true today. Find the hat that fits – it’s out there!
You know that you’re offering great value to your members but are your directors and staff clear on what it is? Are they all on the same page, singing the same tune? Or do they get flustered when they are asked to explain your association’s value to a non-member?
Your MVP is the bedrock of your association and it deserves special attention.
- Is your MVP clearly articulated and compelling? Your MVP is not a list of member services. It is a statement of highly relevant value expressed from the perspective of the member. It answers the WIIFM question.
- Can your directors and staff all state the MVP in their own words and give real-life examples?
Your MVP is a meal. It’s a combination of comfort (carbohydrates), critical resources (protein) and freshness (vegetables). Here’s the recipe.
Carbohydrates (Comfort): This element of member value is about belonging. Your members feel part of the bigger picture. They share common issues and needs and they connect with other members who “get it.” They recognize we’re all in this together. That sense of belonging = COMFORT.
Protein (Critical resources): This element of member value is about the resources that members receive. It may be stakeholder relations, up-to-the-minute information, or connections that increase business. This is the “meat” of your MVP. Engaged members use your resources for the benefit of their career and/or their business.
Vegetables (Freshness): This element of member value is about mixing it up and keeping your events and programs new, changing and exciting. Be brave and change at least one thing each year. If you keep serving the same meal your members will get bored. Take a chance on something new!
There are three key elements to defining, using and delivering on your MVP.
- Take the time and effort to develop a compelling MVP.
- Train, train and retrain your directors and staff so they can confidently state the MVP in their own words and give real-life examples of how the association has helped individual members. Encourage your directors to add a personal note that describes how the association helps them specifically.
- Keep your MVP delivery fresh and interesting. Don’t get stuck in a rut
Want some help with your MVP? Find out more.
In today’s trade show world, exhibitors are questioning the ROI (Return on Investment) of participating in trade shows. What’s the problem? Here’s what going on.
- Many trade shows are faltering and this taints the value of the successful trade shows
- It’s difficult for exhibitors to quantify the value of lead generation at a trade show
- It’s expensive. The cost of exhibiting is much higher than just the cost of a booth
- Booth staff have to work at odd times (weekends, evenings, etc.)
- It’s the same show every single year; same old thing
Many trade show hosts are focused more on generating revenue from their exhibitors, through booth sales and sponsorships, then they are delivering value and returns back to their exhibitors. This in turn makes exhibitors and sponsors feel neglected.
Others feel that simply making more calls or increasing the frequency of their email blasts/social media posts will be the magic elixir. It’s much more than a numbers game. It’s about delivering a compelling and demonstrable ROI to exhibitors and sponsors.
Here are our tips for success:
Tip 1 – Work WITH exhibitors to achieve goals
- Ask Questions, LISTEN, and deliver – What are their goals? How can you help them achieve them? By asking, listening, and helping, you have a much better chance of making the sale.
- Partner with them – Make them feel they have ownership in the show.
- Collect and share attendee data. Use your registration system to collect useful data about attendees. What buying decisions do they make or influences?
- Testimonials – Collect quotes and/or videos from exhibitors. What value did they get from exhibiting at the show?
Tip 2 – Focus on attracting qualified buyers to your show
- Give your exhibitors discount codes to send to their contacts/sales leads.
- Partner with other shows to cross-promote each others’ events.
- Source a list of qualified buyers and invite them personally to the show.
- Look at offering special shuttles to pick-up VIP buyers and offer other incentives to entice them to come to the show.
- Make a list of the top 20 to 30 qualified buyer companies, and make a personal visit to them to find out what their goals are for your show. Share this with your exhibitors – existing and potential.
- Testimonials – Collect quotes and/or video from attendees. What value did they get from attending the show?
Tip 3 – Convert pre-registrants into actual onsite attendees
- Starting 4 weeks before the show, inform them why they must NOT miss the show.
- Profile exhibitors and floor demos.
- Who is showing a NEW product?
- Who are NEW exhibitors?
- What are the on-floor demos?
- Offer incentives to attend. If they show up, they will receive further discounts from selected exhibitors, on future association events, or any other incentives.
- Make scheduled appointments at the show between exhibitors and buyers. That will help ensure that they commit to the show.
Tip 4 – Have exhibitor demos on the show floor
- Give a select few some extra space to perform “in-booth” / hands-on experiences in their booth at scheduled times (multiple times over multiple days if needed).
- Create a demonstration area where multiple exhibitors can come together to produce a group demo where all the pieces come together.
Tip 5 – Offer an Exhibitor Concierge
- A single point of contact to help exhibitors achieve their ROI.
- Help them plan their booth.
- Help them train their booth staff.
- Offer helpful tips on exhibiting.
Tip 6 – Create a pre-recorded webinar
- Provide tips for success at the show.
Tip 7 – Keep It Fresh
- Change it up every show.
- Reward large space and long-term exhibitors with prime space or first choice of location.
- See what new technology can be used in booths and on your show floor.
- Go back to old ideas that can be re-used. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it won’t work again.
All these tips, or even just some of them, will help start the process of gaining new exhibitors, new attendees and putting life back into your show. If you can do only one thing – PLEASE LISTEN!
Are you looking to take your show to the next level? Contact Erik Naar to learn how we can help!
Change is critical. It’s also risky. There are 4 inescapable facts to keep in mind.
- We cannot succeed without regular, meaningful change
- Some changes will fail
- Some changes will fail at first but become successful over time
- There will always be a vocal contingent of opposition
There are some changes that are simply essential. You have to do them on an ongoing basis.
Don’t keep serving the same meal. No matter how good it is, people will tire of it. Even if your event is awesome in every way, it will die if you don’t keep it fresh. Also, don’t forget to keep your event price current. Make sure you know your costs and that your price at least ensures break-even.
Keep ahead of the curve. The content, format and delivery of your member programs must continuously position your association as the leader in your sector. Take a chance on radical new ideas for content. Borrow ideas that are working in other industries and professions.
Member Discount Partners
These are the companies you partner with to deliver their services to your members at a special member price. Are your partners working with you to deliver great value to your members? Or not? It’s better to have one great partner that values their relationship with you than many who deliver sporadic, inattentive service to your members. If a member is disappointed with their first call to a partner, they’re not likely to continue down the list. They’ll just assume the whole program is of no value.
As your industry or profession evolves, it’s important to ensure your membership categories are keeping up with the changes in your sector. Are they still relevant or do they need revisions? It’s also critical to increase member prices on a regular basis. Remember, your costs go up every year. If membership prices do not go up by at least the cost of living each year, you’ll be forced to make a large price increase down the road.
Tips for Pricing
- Communicate increases well in advance
- Use association leaders as advocates
- Keep increases regular, to keep them small
Tips for Member Categories
- Keep it simple: No more than 3 categories
- Do market research in advance: Where is there potential confusion? Who will be impacted?
- Get feedback
- Communicate, communicate, remind
Managing the Opposition
There will always be opposition to change and often the most vocal opponents are long-term, highly influential members. Sometimes they fear losing the comfort of a known quantity. Sometimes they resent the dismantling of a program or event that they helped initiate years ago. How do you deal with the opponents?
- Bring them inside the tent. Invite them to be on a task force or committee that’s driving change. If they feel they have input to the future, they are more likely to want to be part of it.
- Keep communication open. Don’t hide from the opposition. Keep the lines of communication positive and open and build relationships on common ground.
- Nothing works better than success. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Every successful change weakens the opposition to change.
By Asif Ahmed, Manager at Zzeem
Zzeem recently hosted an European-Canadian summit to exchange views on how associations and Association Management Companies (AMCs) operate across Canada and abroad. The 10-member delegation represented various Dutch associations and AMCs. There seemed to be a lot of similarities and differences between Europe and Canada not only in the way associations are run but also in what members perceive as value.
Current research demonstrates that networking is the major reason why people become members of an association in North America. Similarly, it stands true for the Dutch too. One member of the delegation noted that “an opportunity to meet peers and socialize” is the reason why people join an association and go to events. It’s the member to member interaction that everyone is looking for whether it be in Europe or North America. The other similarity that I observed was the fact that their members are looking for smaller, more intimate events where there are more opportunities to talk to the attendees as opposed to the big conferences with umpteen education sessions where people are busy trying to catch the next session.
One of the associations in the Netherlands has had huge success in achieving record attendance at their events by making them free for members to attend. The story doesn’t end there. They have gone a step further by penalizing the no-shows. Yes you read it right! They charge 30 Euros (CAN $45) as they consider it to be disrespectful to register and not show up at the event.
In The Netherlands, they have incorporated XDP which stands for Xperience Design Project.
The next generation of conferences are evolving as multidisciplinary, experiential marketing platforms to better personalize the learning and networking options for attendees. They’re also a hell of a lot more fun.
— Greg Oates
This is fairly a new phenomenon for the North American market. So what is XDP? It is an event built specifically for leaders who plan, design, execute, and support association events and want to:
- Attract and invite the right people to their events
- Create positive experiences for the audience before, during, and after the event
- Keep attendees engaged and, most importantly, coming back
Young Professionals Network (YPN) is yet another growing trend that all parties are experiencing with respect to the structure of their associations. The Europeans have made great strides to empower the younger members by letting them have their own Board and budget for events, which is laudable. However, the challenge they’re facing is the transition for the young professionals to move over to engagement in the ‘regular’ association (for a lack of a better word) once they have crossed 40.
At the end of the day, it was a very meaningful exchange and my regret is that we didn’t get a chance to record the audio of the conversation. Nonetheless, I am happy that they left with some sweet memories – of the mutual learning and the Timbits that we ordered.
The “Seven Year Itch” is more than just a romantic notion made famous by Hollywood, where partners take stock of their relationship and decide whether it’s working or it’s time to find something new and “better”.
This also happens to associations and their association management partners.
After all, association management is like any other relationship. In the beginning, each partner is excited and looks forward to a great future together. However, after a time, the “honeymoon period” comes to an end; reality sets in and both parties realize neither one is perfect.
It is at this point that both parties must address any challenges or concerns that arise – real or perceived – in a timely, open way. Otherwise, one or both run the risk of becoming resentful and dissatisfied. These negative feelings can further fester and negatively impact the relationship.
Communication is key to managing the “itch”! – 4 tips
- The moment you think you have an issue – big or small, address it right away.
- Keep all conversations open, honest and constructive with solutions and measures of future success identified.
- Coordinate quarterly “touchpoint” meetings with the association’s leadership and the association management executives to discuss the relationship. This is when you both highlight what works and where improvements can be made.
- Once a year, conduct a more in-depth annual review that includes board and staff feedback prior to your discussion.
Don’t be intimidated by the “Seven Year Itch”.
I am aware of many associations who periodically evaluate their management services and/or conduct an RFP process to compare other services and fees – often around the seven-year timeframe. This is healthy and is a great opportunity for each partner to assess the current and future relationship. It represents a new stage in your relationship, where both of you have the opportunity to build upon what you have accomplished together.