In the association world, there is so much knowledge, expertise, and experience that can be shared among organizations. In connecting our own network of clients and industry partners, our hope is that there is less reinventing of the wheel when it comes to problem solving. Associations have a finite amount of resource, it should not be wasted trying to solve the same problems that other organizations have already solved.
It was with that in mind that we gratefully accepted an invitation to speak at an inaugural conference of five school business official associations committed to learning from and growing with one another. One of the organizing associations was the Ohio Association of School Business Officials (OASBO) and its Chief Operating Officer, Kim Laugherty.
Kim and OASBO were an LRC client back in 2014 and the insights from their research are still being used to guide decisions being made in 2017. Kim asked us to present on the importance of making data-driven decisions and the impact the research had on their own organizations.
When it comes to data, the association landscape looks vastly different in 2018, compared to even 5 years ago. Everyone is talking data. Data is more accessible than ever, but with that comes a caveat: not all data is good data. In order to make well-informed strategic and tactical decisions, we find that most associations need at least some guidance on how to most effectively collect, analyze, and deploy insights within their organizations.
We covered several topics with the ASBO groups, several of which you’ve probably heard us discuss before:
- Member satisfaction is not member engagement.
- Associations need to be tying behavioral outcomes (retention, referrals, participation, involvement, non-dues revenue – the true “ROI”) to their relationship measures.
- Asking members what is important rarely helps to establish priorities.
- Younger members want to engage differently than previous generations – you must be willing to adapt accordingly.
In reviewing OASBO’s insights from 2014, it was interesting how relevant many of the learnings still are four years later. One of the biggest challenges for the organization was that its membership had one of the strongest Engagement profiles that we have seen in more than twenty years: 69% Strongly Engaged, 28% Moderately Engaged, 4% Weakly Engaged.
With such a strong set of relationships and “best-in-class” evaluations across its key experiences, it would have been easy for them to become complacent, to pat themselves on the backs and continue with the status quo. At the time, we challenged OASBO to think about where it could go next. What new elements of value, or experiences, could the organization create for its members? What current value elements or experiences could the organization enhance or evolve, anticipating how members’ needs may be changing?
It was easy to put new ideas on the table. Most associations can easily come up with a list of things on which would like to spend an infinite amount of resources. The reality is that we don’t have an infinite amount of resources; therefore, the more difficult discussion was identifying where it should be reducing its focus or even sun-setting programs to free up the resources necessary to continue to strengthen those relationships.
Admittedly, Kim and her team are still struggling with walking away from certain segments of their membership that they know they are spending too much time servicing, for little return. They are also struggling with letting go of legacy programs that are costing them a significant amount of resource. Yet, they have the data that supports the decision when they are ready to make it.
Our group of twenty or so were receptive to new ideas, challenged each other not to fall into the same traps, and encouraged ideation and brainstorming that would take their respective organizations to the next level. To make that next great leap.
As associations are challenged to do more with less, it has become increasingly imperative that they leverage the connections that they have at their disposal. Let’s not forget that you’re likely not the only organization navigating those waters. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand and ask for help. The association network is far and wide, and wants to help you achieve your own unique definitions of success.
If you need help with your association, fill out our contact form and start your conversation with a member of LRC’s Client Services team.