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We are people people.

We’re excited about what we do
and have passion for our profession

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I received the loveliest note from a dear friend yesterday. Handwritten on a humorous greeting card only she and I could truly appreciate, she thanked me for our friendship and for just being me. It was simple and unexpected and I’ll cherish it forever.

I have another friend who mails me postcards every few weeks — kitschy relics he picks up at antique stores and re-uses. My favorites are vintage photos of old supper clubs and motor inns. I save them all.

I have, in fact, a box full of special notes, letters and cards that go back to my childhood — precious messages written by hand from high school friends, my mother, my grandmother, my husband. They mean a lot to me and I wouldn't dream of throwing them away.

In a world of knocked out texts and emails, hand-written notes are an anomaly. Think about the last time you received a hand-written note by mail. I bet it got your attention and made you slow down so you could appreciate the message. Maybe it was nice enough that you tacked it to your office wall for everyone to see. It made you feel good didn’t it? Kind of special?

What if you extended that same feeling to your association members? Imagine the impact a sincere, hand-written note would have on member satisfaction and retention.

It starts with prospective members. What if you had a targeted list of pre-qualified prospects and your CEO hand-wrote a special note to each inviting them to join your association or attend one of your events as her guest. Wow! At the most, they’d join or attend. At the least, you’ve opened a door of communication that will likely be reciprocated, but most certainly remembered.

For new members, a hand-written welcome, along with your “new member kit,” is a great first step to building relationships and engagement.

Get yourself a set of branded notecards or stationary and start reaching out today. Consider these ideas:

Letters of congratulations for

  • Certifications
  • New jobs
  • Promotions
  • Births
  • Marriages
  • Retirements
  • Business growth
  • Industry awards

Letters of thanks to

  • Sponsors
  • Event volunteers
  • Authors or blog contributors
  • Speakers
  • Board and committee members

There are so many ways to connect personally with your members and make impressions that last. It requires extra time and thought, for sure, but that extra touch will be remembered and appreciated, and will likely translate to greater member satisfaction and increased retention.

Now, grab a pen and make someone feel special today!

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welcome mat

Members are the driving force behind any organization, and a new member’s first impression could be the deciding factor in their length of stay, participation and whether they, return should they ever decide to leave.

New members and prospects must be a high priority, focus should be on answering their questions, familiarizing them with the goals and mission of the organization and getting them involved with the various groups and committees as soon as possible.

Here are a few extra actions you can take to ensure an affirmative lasting impression:

  • From initial contact as a prospect, to the actual approval of membership, the organization’s staff is in a unique position to impress the new member with a positive (or negative) experience. It is a simple task; always be responsive and attentive to any new member or prospect.
  • A new member welcome packet, whether by direct mail or email is essential. You can include a welcome letter, membership certificate, informational brochures, by-laws of the organization, information on the next conference, your business card and anything else that may be useful.
  • Board members or elected officials should be assigned to contact the new member personally, either by phone or email. They can explain why they are members and what benefits they receive as members. They can also act as additional contacts for questions. The new member is hearing from someone who is in the same industry and can relate to issues unique to the industry they share.
  • Invite the new member to the next conference, webinar or tradeshow, at a discounted rate, if possible. The main reason most join an association or trade group is to network with peers in their industry. Don’t let the new attendee become adrift at sea. You need to take the reigns and guide their first experience at a major function, to make it as profitable and worthwhile as possible.

For your next conference:

  • Create an ambassador program designed to let those who care deeply about the mission of your organization guide new members through the first years of membership. The ambassador can also introduce them to peers within the organization to encourage networking.
  • When promoting an event, in social media posts and newsletters, include the names of new members who will be attending. Add their picture and a brief biographical sketch, so everyone can get to know them before meeting face-to-face. If you have an online directory, consider posting member photos next to their listing.
  • Host a new member reception to introduce them to the governing members of the organization.
  • Create new member ribbons, or provide a way for the new member to be identified at an event.
  • Don’t forget to follow up with all attendees of events, especially new members. Ask them to complete follow up event evaluations so you can improve upon the experience, find out what they want to see next and if they need any assistance in networking with members they met. Get them to invest their ideas into improving the association.

All these suggestions will ensure new members feel they are welcome and important components of the organization. The goal is to encourage new members to renew their memberships, increasing retention.

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Christina w Cert

Get in your time machine and go back two years. Imagine you’re at a dinner with ten peers and an accomplished C-Suite Exec. The food is delicious and the conversation is stimulating. Then someone mentions that they are pursuing their CAE. There is a grand pause. EVERYONE around the table nods their heads in agreement and admiration. For the first-time this evening you feel like an outsider. You have no idea what “CAE” is, but you nod your head too, not wanting appear misinformed, praying no one calls you out. Before long you learn that several others have obtained their CAE, including the C-Suite Exec. Words like “domains,” “LERP,” and “SPIE” spill out in conversation . . . Geez, more acronyms! Curious, you go home that night and look it up: The Certified Association Executive (CAE) credential through the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). Hmmm, sounds intimating.

This is how I first learned about the CAE, maybe you have a similar story? What I did next was most important. Three things stand out as I look back and map out my journey.

1. Ask around
The CAE was foreign to me. I asked a lot of my peers and mentors what it was all about, and why it was worth pursuing. What were their journeys like? At what stage in their career did they take the exam? Did they study? I got mixed responses, but one thing resounded clear: everyone’s journey was unique and personal. Mine was too.

2. Meeting the requirements
I spent a lot of time on ASAE’s CAE webpage. I had already met some CAE eligibility requirements, but did I have enough qualifying professional development activities to meet the 100 hours? To find out, I began meticulously cataloguing my hours in a spreadsheet. I found eligible hours in a variety of places: I looked through my ASAE profile (Login>My Account>Education History). I scanned through my work calendar from the past three years. I searched through my email for “CAE.” And I contacted both ASAE and the organizations that hosted programs to confirm those that were applicable. Sounds like a lot of work, and I’ll admit it was.

I was surprised to find out I had already accumulated 80 hours. Getting the final 20 was fairly easy: I signed up for free webinars.* It’s amazing how many free webinars are out there once you start looking. It doesn’t have to explicitly offer CAE credits to be applicable, programs that touch on any of the nine knowledge domains could count too. You can even count up to 10 CAE hours through mentoring and coaching, like I did.

3. Committing to take the exam
Next biggest decision: to take the exam in December or May? It’s only offered twice a year, and through my chats with peers, everyone encouraged me to take it when the content was fresh in my mind. Since my plan was to include three months of rigorous studying pre-exam, the decision on which month to take it was crucial. What three months were best for me to invest studying time? Were there any conflicts with the exam dates (maybe a work conference or board meeting already scheduled?).

Fast forward and it’s now six months out from the time I would take the exam. Now it’s November, and I was pregnant with my second and due New Year’s Eve. For me I was either committing to taking the exam the following May (studying during maternity leave and a potential job transition) or choosing to wait until the following December (several months down the road, when I’d have two young kids running around). Yeah, I chose May. The nail in the coffin was when a wise woman told me that she studied while going through a massive renovation on her home. Literally, no running water. If she was successful at that time, then I could be too.

If you take anything from this article, know that the CAE is only as daunting as you allow it to be. Smart time invested in learning about the process and other’s experiences can be time well spent. Stay tuned for part 2 of this article, in which I share my study plan and exam prep process.

Congrats to those who have decided to pursue their CAE, and good luck as you begin the adventure!

*Free webinars can be found at ASAE’s upcoming events page, the Wild Apricot blog with a listing of monthly free webinars, Collaborate events page, and the CAE Candidate community.

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I like to watch Tara Hunt’s Truly Social series on YouTube. She did an episode on 5 Types of YouTube Videos Brands Should Make. It gave me pause.

One of my ongoing responsibilities here at AMPED Association Management is to produce regular publications for some of our clients. When a new issue is dropped, we announce it, with content highlights, across our various social channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and the client’s online community.

These promotional announcements used to be text-only, and perhaps a little text-heavy. We’ve begun including an image, often of a staff member reading or presenting the new issue. We try to make sure the image is fun and engaging, and helps to put a personal face on the client association. Sometimes, we do video announcements that similarly feature a staff member presenting the publication and running through content highlights. Organic and engaging? Yes! But, the ideas in Tara’s video up the entertainment value and do so while keeping the process easy and the tone light. After watching the video, I have been thinking about different ways to apply many of these formats to benefit our clients.

One of Tara’s suggested format types, “Hauls,” reminded me of the “What’s in your bag” feature I sometimes see in magazines, where they lay out what a certain socialite is supposedly carrying around in her tote bag. I thought this might make a fun publication announcement:

The bottom line is that we want to provide content that members will find valuable, and that will cement our client’s position as an important source of information for their members. And, we want members to find our social presence entertaining. If your content is entertaining, your audience will like it, comment on it and share it. Their connections will then see it. And, they’ll all find themselves compelled to return later to see what’s new, building their personal connection to your association.

I look forward to the day when a member lets us know that they look forward to an upcoming magazine issue with anticipation, excited to see how we announce its release.

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CSIA Accessories Photo anon

Working in association management, it is important to find ways to connect with and recognize association members. The certification program offered by our client, the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA), provides a great example – the chance to recognize member companies that have achieved CSIA Certification or certification renewal.

Recognition of companies that successfully complete an audit is a good way to boost the visibility of the certification program. More importantly though, we understand the amount of hard work and dedication that members put into preparing for a certification audit and are eager to acknowledge this achievement!

These are some of the ways CSIA members’ certification success is recognized.

Social Media Recognition
One of the most immediate ways we acknowledge CSIA Certified and recertified companies is through social media. In a matter of minutes, a post announcing a company’s certification can reach so many people. In terms of simplicity and effectiveness, social media is certainly one of the most successful recognition tools we use.

Certified Membership
Upon successful completion of the certification audit, a company is classified as a Certified member. By providing this membership category CSIA Certified companies are easily recognizable. This membership category also provides unique benefits such as access to certification-specific materials and a larger discount off the purchase price of an online profile on CSIA’s online marketplace, the Exchange.

Certification Materials
Certified companies receive a packet of information from CSIA soon after their certification is processed. Materials sent include:

  • Certification plaque (sent to companies certifying for the first time). 
  • Date bar showing the current certification term that is attached to the company’s plaque. A new date bar is sent each time certification is renewed. The plaque is designed so that a company can attach each date bar in order. 
  • A certificate is sent via email (so that the company can share it electronically with clients and post it on their website) and in paper form for display.
  • Stickers – These have proven to be popular with members. We often receive requests for additional stickers and companies have enjoyed sharing photos of the creative ways they have found to display their stickers.

Annual Conference Recognition
The annual CSIA Executive Conference brings the industry together and we have found that it is an ideal time to recognize Certified members. Conference recognition methods have included:

  • Slides/signage listing CSIA Certified members
  • Name badge ribbons
  • Recognition of CSIA Certified members during a conference event (such as a dinner or awards ceremony).
  • Photo ops

We are always searching for new, creative recognition methods to try. No matter our approach, the primary intent of certification recognition is to connect with the member and to demonstrate that we take their accomplishment seriously. It is our experience that members who feel appreciated by and connected to their association add a great deal to its success!

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