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member benefits II

Why should I join [input name of your organization here]?

I used to fear this question. Not because I didn’t know, but because I never took the time to put together a clear and concise list of the benefits of membership. Even though I’ve been with the National Air Filtration Association (NAFA) for 10+ years, this question could make me freeze in my tracks.

After working with AMPED for a few months, they suggested I put together a list of benefits – why had I never thought of this before? At first it was a little intimidating, I could only think of three or four reasons that had been clearly defined. However, when I sat down and brainstormed (and peeked at other organizations’ lists of benefits) I realized just how much NAFA had to offer!

Go through your certifications, publications, member’s access, affiliate associations and by-laws. Look at every program in your association and realize the magnitude of benefits. Use this list while on the phone, with email and through U.S. mail. You will look like the expert you are in no time. Now I can confidently state why you should join NAFA.

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Each week you read on our blog how we all “wear many hats!” While this is the case for many association professionals, I feel that it is particularly true for AMCs like AMPED. Between the various needs of our different clients, some days we can be all over the place! I thought it might be fun to document one whole day at work to get an idea of the wide variety of tasks we tackle. It would have been hard to capture it all, but I did my best. Enjoy!

7:25 a.m. — Kiss dog and husband goodbye. Yes, in that order.

7:25:10 a.m. — One more kiss for the dog - she’s so cute. Off to the office!

7:43 a.m. — Pass by my usual drive-through Starbucks. Running a bit late. Decide I can make it without caffeine today.

7:56 a.m. — Arrive at office. Spend a few minutes reviewing each of my in-boxes (six total). Respond to messages that have quick answers and prioritize my day.

8:00 a.m. — Laugh at self for thinking I could survive without caffeine. Grab a coworker and head to Starbucks. We are both named Emily and we both get iced coffee. That really throws the baristas off.

8:05 a.m. — “The other Emily” and I use the walk back from Starbucks to discuss a knowledge-sharing session my colleagues had yesterday that I missed due to a call with a potential member. I give her a heads-up that I need her help pulling a specific set of abstracts from a recent client meeting to add to the client website.

8:30 a.m. — Recurring calendar reminder: time to update a client’s member list in email marketing service site. This particular client has rolling membership renewals, so their member list is constantly changing. They use this service to send out weekly e-newsletters and upcoming webinar invitations, so it is vital that it is consistently up-to-date.

8:45 a.m. — Lynda will be in the office today. Write up a quick list of items to discuss with her, including an upcoming client Board meeting.

8:53 a.m. — Follow up with emails from members for a particular client regarding their membership directory listing. Make changes to the database if required.

9:30 a.m. — Come across a voicemail from last night for a client member who wants to renew their membership. The message is a bit hard to understand, so I spend a few minutes searching the database for partial phone numbers and names to see if I can figure out who this is.

9:35 a.m. — Find the company name and confirm the phone number. Review my notes from the renewal workbook. Oh, awesome! This was a company that previously told me they weren’t planning to renew their membership. My follow-ups had worked! *Pats self on the back*

9:36 a.m. — Pick up the phone to dial the member.

9:36:15 a.m. — Realize the company is in California, where it is only 7:36 a.m. Ugh. *Hang up phone and create myself a calendar reminder for 11a.m. to give them a call back.*

9:45 a.m. — Calendar reminder pops up to write AMPED blog. Already on that! *dismiss*

9:56 a.m. — Pop over to “the other Emily’s” office for her to show me how to find those abstracts. Turns out to be super simple. Spend the time originally dedicated to writing my blog to updating the client website. Web updates for this particular client aren’t typically in my job description, but I work closely with the volunteer leader who inquired about it and I know the person that would normally take care of this has a lot on her plate, so I don’t mind at all. (Reason #536 I love working at AMPED – we all do this sort of thing for each other.)

10:20 a.m. — Microsoft Word crashes. Luckily, both documents I had been working on saved.

10:25 a.m. — Website updates complete. It bothers me that previous entries on the page are inconsistent. Spend time cleaning up the format and notify volunteer leader that the page has been updated. Notice that one portion is completely missing. I assume the client will want it added in, so I send an email to a colleague to find missing info.

10:30 a.m. — Three email campaigns were scheduled to go out today to notify various groups for one of our clients about an upcoming webinar. Watch notification emails as they come in to make sure everything seems right. Notification emails end up in my clutter inbox. Give clutter a quick once-over to make sure there is nothing important.

10:33 a.m. — Review inboxes and respond where necessary. One question required a bit of research, so I spend a couple minutes searching through documentation for an answer. Not finding what I need. Send an email to the person who will have the answer.

10:41 a.m. — Office manager, Trisha, comes in to let me know that she ordered a Graze Box trial for the office. *Yay! We love snacks.* Speaking of snacks…

10:42 a.m. — Grab snack from fridge.

10:47 a.m. — Tony pops over to discuss a potential member for one of our clients and come up with a quick plan to keep them engaged.

10:54 a.m. — Jeanne asks me about award order for client Board member. Shoot. Should have filed original email in ”waiting for response” folder. Send reminder email to Executive Director to select the award.

10:56 a.m. — Process new member application and send email with invoice and payment instructions.

11:12 a.m. — Realize reminder had popped up to call member in CA from earlier. Dial number, but learn that contact is only in office on Monday and Friday. Get email address from secretary and send follow-up. Create reminder for me to follow up on Friday. Respond to other emails while in Outlook.

11:47 a.m. — Process continuing education reimbursement application for a client member. Members receive up to $50 reimbursement every two years, so I first check to make sure this particular member qualifies.

11:52 a.m. — *HR hat on.* Discuss staffing plans now that two of our interns are gone for the summer.

12:00 p.m. — Only halfway through the day? Hope people are still reading! Discuss onboarding/orientation plan for new volunteer leaders with outside Executive Director for one of our clients.

12:05 p.m. — Help Tony and Brittany prepare for meeting with a client partner member. Discuss 2017 sponsorship package, including membership, conference registration, marketing support, etc.

12:20 p.m. — Quick walk around the Square. Stop at local cheese shop to put together Wisconsin-themed gift basket for aforementioned partner member meeting. *These are the really rough parts of association management.*

12:40 p.m. — Catch up on emails while eating lunch. I normally try to eat outside on nice days like this, but I’m taking the afternoon off on Friday and want to keep things moving.

12:55 p.m. — Calendar reminder for member database training with new Latin America staff person for one of our clients. Pull up documentation, database and screen sharing software. Quickly finish lunch.

1:00 p.m. — Give high level overview of membership database to new Latin America staff. Thankfully I have all of the most common database procedures documented. Our cloud server allows me to share the documentation via a web link to ensure that our Latin American staff always has the most current version of the document.

2:15 p.m. — Reach out to account manager for VoIP service to follow up on a new phone order and inquire about headsets for some staff that share offices.

2:21 p.m. — Update membership and staff reports for upcoming client Board meeting. I’ve already had various staff members update their areas, so I just need to finalize my sections.

2:30 p.m. — Does it bother you when you ask someone two questions in an email and they only respond to one?

2:46 p.m. — Provide updated membership numbers to finance manager so she can update budget forecast for client.

2:48 p.m. — Receive answer to question from 10:33 a.m. Pass along response to member and quickly respond to other emails while in Outlook.

2:52 p.m. — The new member application I processed this morning has made payment online. Complete processing membership and send welcome kit.

2:55 p.m. — There’s someone with a megaphone yelling outside my window. It’s always something . . .

2:58 p.m. — Review graphic and member listing for publication in a client’s magazine. Doing so reminds me of some web updates to make. Create reminder to do so once I receive answers to a couple questions.

3:13 p.m. — Follow up with a few new client members for their logos and text for their listing on the website.

3:18 p.m. — *IT Person hat on.* Boot up former employee’s laptop to look for document. Not able to find it. Deliver bad news to colleague.

3:28 p.m. — Yep! I was right – the client asked about that missing portion of the website from 10:25 a.m. Good thing I’m already on it.

3:31 p.m. — *All hats on.* Catch up with Lynda: potential clients, potential employees, upcoming client Board meetings, client financials, life.

4:32 p.m. — Review inboxes. Someone requested a list from a recent client meeting, so I repurpose one that I already have rather than starting from scratch.

4:40 p.m. — I won’t get to a larger project that I had planned to work on this afternoon, so I move it to tomorrow’s calendar. One of our clients is implementing a complete Association Management System to replace several independent systems (event management, email marketing, abstract management, etc). Moving a client to a new database is a big project and takes lots of prep work, so I block off an hour or so on my calendar every couple days to chip away at it.

4:42 p.m. — There’s a line out my door since I’ve been away from my desk. Assist colleagues with a few questions regarding financials and where to find specific documentation.

4:53 p.m. — Prepare projects for intern to work on tomorrow.

4:59 p.m. — Check survey sent to a client board regarding their availability for an in-person meeting. Send reminder to members who have not responded.

5:01 p.m. — Review calendar and to-do list for the day to ensure there was nothing missed.

5:03 p.m. — Shut down laptop, lock up. Head home to my cute dog (and husband)!

5:06 p.m. — *IT hat back on!* I notice an email on my phone from a colleague who accidentally deleted a file. Unfortunately she hadn’t saved it at all yet, so I am unable to recover. Deliver the bad news.

5:50 p.m. — Send background information files on a potential client to a new employee. I can do this from my phone. *Cloud computing for the win!*

5:59 p.m. — Okay now I’m done working for the day. Heading in to the gym.

9:04 p.m. — Peek at inboxes on my phone one last time. I like to have an idea of what will be on my plate when I get in to the office tomorrow. I swear I’m done now.

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Many associations use social media marketing to post content to various platforms as a means for getting their message out to as wide an audience as possible. As one website, todaymade.com, put it, “social media is about dialogue, not push marketing.” That would be the social part of social media. And, we as humans are social beings. Imagine who you would rather spend time with—someone who talks on and on about themselves without letting you get a word in edgewise, or someone who asks you about how you are doing, wonders what your opinions are and genuinely seems to care more about you personally than about impressing you.

Not too long ago, I attended a lunchtime talk by the social media team at American Family Insurance. The speakers were pretty delighted with Twitter as an ideal platform for interacting and building engagement with their target audience. I got to see their words put into action. As the program was beginning, I tweeted that I was looking forward to attending the program. Within minutes, American Family had favorited my tweet, and tweeted @me that they hoped I find the program helpful. Later that afternoon, one of the speakers tweeted @me, thanking me for attending. Now, that’s some really attentive engagement.

Here are 5 ways associations can use social media to engage members:

  1. Tweet a welcome message @new_members when they join your association and congratulatory messages @members who achieve successes or milestones.
  2. Design posts for engagement by using compelling visuals or humor, something to evoke an emotional response.
  3. Thank people for “liking” and “sharing” your content.
  4. Allow for commenting on blog posts, and respond in a timely manner to comments on your blog, FaceBook and Twitter posts, even if just to say thank you for the comment.
  5. Encourage the use of a brand hashtag by promoting it in all related internet and print marketing.

Another example demonstrating the power of engagement took place at the annual conference of one of our clients. We had a first-time exhibitor who became a super-user of the conference’s mobile app. Beginning before the conference even began, he was posting photos and status updates frequently, commenting on the photos and updates of others, and messaging with staff and registrants. Although he had never before met anyone in attendance, participants knew who he was and many already felt connected to him. Needless to say, by the time he hosted his booth in the exhibition hall, he had built relationships and he experienced a steady flow of prospects stopping by to talk with him.

Social media marketing is valuable because it facilitates engagement. Engagement is important because that interaction strengthens members’ understanding of, relationship with, and trust in your association.

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According to the Corporate Leadership Council, employees with lower engagement levels are four times more likely to leave their jobs than those who are highly engaged. Do you think the same can be said of our members? Those who we can get engaged will stay with us over the long haul while those who never feel a connection will move on fairly quickly?

I hear people talking about member engagement all the time. It’s definitely a hot topic for associations right now and it’s an important one. As our members have more and more things competing for their attention and dollars, it’s critical that we get them to feel a connection to our organization — to engage with us and their peers. The theory, of course, is that the more engaged a member is, the better our chances of having them stay with the association when renewal time comes along.

There are so many ways to involve and engage our members in our association. We can ask them to serve on committees, offer them the opportunity to attend programs where they learn and network with their peers, invite them to present at conferences and educational events and build online communities for their use.

One of the things our association partner, the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives (WSAE) will be focusing on this year is member engagement. We’re targeting their online community as one of the places we’ll start. Some believe that if you build an online community, people will flock to it and it will flourish with little to no intervention. I’ve worked with several organizations that have started online communities and I have yet to see this work without some gentle pushes from leadership and staff.

Some of the many things we’ll be doing in 2014 to increase participation on wsae.org include assisting leadership in becoming visible in the community, encouraging people to blog, utilizing it to communicate with committees and the board, making announcements and carrying on education program discussions long after the event has ended.

We often overlook the need to start with the basics when getting an online community up and running or trying to pump some energy into an existing community. First, we need to make sure all members know the community is available and encourage them to create their online profiles. WSAE is running ads in its magazine and newsletter that spell out exactly how to login and set up a profile. We’ll also encourage them to set up a daily or weekly digest, so they have new postings delivered to their inbox automatically. We’ll also be running questions that have been posted to the community in the association’s newsletter. We’ll share the topic question, but direct them to the website for the answer.

How will we know if our efforts are successful? The system we use tracks engagement and offers reports. We’ll be selecting some key metrics to measure our progress and see if we achieve our goals. I’ll let you know how it goes!

If you’re looking for a place to see what your peers are doing or pose a question, join me on the Member Engagement – For Online Community and Membership Professionals group on LinkedIn. There are over 2,100 members discussing all kinds of engagement issues. It’s always interesting to join a group and then see how many people you know that are already participating. I guarantee you’ll find peers dealing with some of the same issues you do.

What about your member engagement? Have you done something that’s worked particularly well or maybe something you’d never try again? I’d love to hear what you do or are thinking of doing to engage your members, and I know others would too.

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Managing membership renewals for one association can be a juggling act: finding what members need to renew, generating the invoices, getting the invoices in front of the members, getting them to want to renew, and then sending reminders to members who still need to pay. Now, managing the renewals for three associations? You can go right ahead and call me crazy. Lucky for me, we have a great team here at AMPED and it’s “all hands on deck” around renewal season.

Renewal season at AMPED starts in early October. We get the whole team in a room and hash out our action plan. The three membership-based clients for whom we manage the renewals require a variety of renewal reminders (emails, mailings, phone calls, and social media), so we need a way to keep it all straight. Enter the good ol’ Excel spreadsheet.

I create an initial renewal calendar in Excel with a color assigned to each association that easily shows us when we’ll send each email/reminder/paper invoice, as well as when we will make phone calls or social media posts. The spreadsheet makes it easy to edit based on the team’s input. It’s also flexible for moving things around based on how the renewals are going. I also find it helpful to drop reminders in my Outlook calendar the day before a communication should go out so that I can get it set up in our AMS (or get lists ready for phone calls, invoices ready for mailings, etc).

Once the calendar is set, I draft a “master” renewal reminder for each client listing the benefits of renewal and how to make payments. This master reminder is reviewed by our writing staff, as well as the staff who work closely on each respective client, to ensure accuracy and that we are highlighting the best benefits. Each reminder thereafter will be a variation of this master reminder, so it is extremely helpful to be able to pull bits and pieces out of the master to create smaller reminders. We also devise a list of catchy email subject lines to use throughout renewal season.

From here on out, it is a matter of keeping very good documentation on what reports to pull for what associations to get the right output—I never want to confuse a member who has already renewed with an email reminding them to do so. I also like to give the team a heads up when an email is going out so they can be ready to grab the phones if members call in with questions or want to take care of things over the phone.

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