RACE FOR RELEVANCE – NFDA Leadership Conference

By: Mary Byers

In 1960 20% women worked outside the home, now 71%. When a member would not renew, they claimed they did not have the money for dues, now the most common reason is “I didn’t have time to take advantage of your programs”. Associations have problems getting active members and officers. Time can hurt associations more than money.

We have always expected our members to come to us. How can we bring the association to the member? Some pressures of any association:  Dues/Return on Investment/Generational Values. Gen xers might join but will not participate in “time sucking meetings”. More targeted topics for smaller groups have worked both in person and by Skype type meetings. Younger members want a meeting to have meaning, relevant and fun.  For profit competition (CEU companies, professional newsletters, online funeral news).

Members want their association to help them work less stressfully, productively & profitably.  When we promote advocacy the non-member is smart enough to realize that this will get done whether they are a member or not.  Many associations are moving from committees to task forces. It is a more do-able commitment for most members. Ask members to “micro-volunteer”. Have them help on one activity, not on the whole program. Car dealer association members dropped from 30K to 18K since the 1970’s. Opportunity is to subdivide this large category and make it of value. Foreign cars, used cars, classic cars, hybrids, etc. They will be interested when you show interest in what they are specifically doing.  Media companies now own over 23% of trade shows. Your greatest potential is what you are already good at, but just not good at promoting or presenting to today’s’ audience. Associations are only spending less than 5% on technology but much more on printing. For profit companies spend at least 8% on technology.

Recommendations would be five-member competency-based boards. (The number can be changed but most boards are to large). Executive board meetings before general board meetings just told the rest that decisions have already been made so why waste the time to attend!  Smaller boards can each take personal responsibility and can make decisive action more quickly (and more enthusiastically).  Look at the quality of the board member rather than zip code or birth year. Applications and interviews might help weed these people out. The idea of consent agendas require that board members read their packets so it does not have to be repeated and take extra time at the meeting. Treasurer’s report is a good example. Any specific questions can be put in other categories (if the question is about convention expenses, put it in convention report). The Texas Trial Lawyers reduced their membership by 35% by a dramatic raise in dues. They took the funds and really raised the value through technology and more services for members. They made the strategy well known ahead of time. They found out that when “they paid more, they stayed more”. The retention rate is now 96%. The half hearted members offered nothing, were the highest maintenance and offered nothing in return; volume vs value.

Go out and get the people you NEED to get connected with, not the just from the people you know. If you get all the people you NEED on the bus, it doesn’t matter where the bus is going and what happens along the way, the people onboard will figure it out. Your circles of friends are just like you. You need people with different talents, different backgrounds and different approach than you to challenge you and make you grow. Move from the comfort zone.