The expression “same old same old” means the same thing has always happened, been done, or talked about but not acted upon, which implies that such thing tends to be monotonous, boring or unacceptable.
In the context of the New Year and in the midst of the pandemic, having a “same old same old” approach, theme or topic for your association may prove detrimental or even disastrous.
Here are a few things I have learned the past year from American association management expert and consultant, author and professional speaker Mary Byers:
- On value proposition. When members ask what they are getting for their membership dues, many associations reply by showing them a big list of things they do. Mary says it’s like throwing “spaghetti on the wall and seeing what sticks!” For associations to succeed in today’s crowded marketplace, they need to focus on value and not the things that they do; not features but benefits, outcomes and results. A clear and succinct value equals easier member acquisition and retention.
- On product and service offerings. There are three interrelated factors here: narrow focus, considered “fit,” and a built-in automatic review for products. Some associations have broad and unrelated businesses which compete for resources that are scarce, hampering mission delivery. It is imperative for them to determine if these businesses are fit for purpose. Associations are also good at adding programs and services but poor in eliminating those that should be abandoned or those considered as “sunset,” i.e., in decline or to be phased out.
- On demographics. Millennials now represent almost half of the workforce and the way they participate in associations is much different from the generations before them. They are digital natives and are more comfortable using technology, such as using apps for membership journey and education. So instead of an “either-or” strategy (either in-person or virtual; either digital or printed publication), associations should instead adopt an “and” strategy.
- On digitalization. Many associations chose to stay slow in their digital transformation effort, believing their members will be left behind if they move too fast. However, as more digital natives become members, they expect their association to embrace technology much quicker. This disconnect poses challenges to these associations that are now trying to catch up. Creating a “digital first” mindset has become even more essential now.
- On governance. The three key elements here are smaller competency boards, intentional onboarding and “DEI” (for diversity, equity and inclusion). Smaller boards of seven to nine members are easier for members to participate in and take responsibility. Competency refers to a specific area of expertise that the association needs to fulfill its mandate. An example is the need for someone in the board who is knowledgeable on digitalization if digital transformation is the goal. It can also be a need for board members who have soft skills like visionaries, team players and consensus builders. Intentional onboarding is orienting new board members to get their feet wet quickly, while DEI helps build an inclusive culture committed to increasing diversity and promoting fairness.
This article was published by the Business Mirror on January 6, 2022 and may not be reproduced without prior consent from the writer and Business Mirror.