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Where are the YPs?

“How can I recruit young professional members if there are no young professionals Vince Vaughn stock photo young professionals entering our industry?”

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot recently, not least of which because I have a client that is in this EXACT situation. Their industry is blue collar, but it is also one with excellent career and salary prospects and a clear educational track. That track just doesn’t happen to include college.

Associations Now recently profiled an initiative by the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association focused on exactly this: recruiting young people into the industry.

I’d guess that PHCC and my client aren’t the only associations struggling with this.

One of the things that basic math tells us is that associations are in for a bit of a rough patch related to membership. The fact of the matter is that GenerationX, currently in their prime career and, thus, association membership target, years, is a smaller cohort than the retiring Baby Boomers and up and coming Millennials. And while the internet didn’t kill membership for the Xers (in fact, Xers join associations at higher rates than Boomers), we’re in the middle part of the narrow part of the hourglass. Which puts pressure on associations to hang on to retiring members longer and recruit young members earlier than we historically have.

On the “hang on to them longer” front, we are assisted by the fact that Boomers are retiring later, and far more partially, than their Silent Generation forebears. While what Boomers are looking for from their memberships and what they’re willing and able to contribute as members of our professional communities may shift, they aren’t hitting 65 and bolting out the door, gold watch in hand, to move to Florida and fish full time.

On the “recruit them earlier” front, though, we’re having more trouble, not least of which because, for some of us, young people aren’t showing up to our professions or industries in the first place.

What can we do about that?

Associations have enormous untapped advantages in filling the workforce pipeline for the professions and industries we serve:

  • We have direct connections to, and existing relationships with, employers, so we know what they need in entry-level and junior workers.
  • We own non-college certification and credentialing. No other sector has as much experience with this as we do.
  • We’re lightening fast, at least compared with hidebound higher education.
  • We know how to educate non-traditional students in non-traditional settings.

To learn more about what you association can do to help create your universe of future members, check out The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm, the latest Spark whitepaper, co-authored with Shelly Alcorn, CAE, Alcorn Associates Management Consulting. It includes case studies of associations that are doing good work in educating the next generation of professionals in their industries, and practical steps you can take right now to position your association for success in this critically important arena.

Get your free copy today at http://bit.ly/29CIquL.

(No, your eyes do not deceive you – that *is* Vince Vaughn back there on the left in that stock photo, which is part of the delightfully silly collection he released tied to a movie back in 2015.)

 

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What Really Worked in 2016?

Beth Brodovsky, who hosts the Driving Participation podcast (and if you haven’t checked it conversation bubblesout yet, what are you waiting for?) recently asked a bunch of her former guests this insightful question for a year-end episode.

Here’s my answer:

One thing that really worked for my clients was talking to their members. I know that sounds obvious, but associations tend to – in my opinion – over-focus on surveying people to the detriment of other methods of learning about our audiences. I’m not saying that surveys aren’t important or a necessary part of our data gathering efforts. But they aren’t the whole picture.

Surveys can be particularly useful as an early warning system for identifying problem areas in your value proposition, if they’re properly designed and administered, and if you ask the right questions.

They’re not great at “blue ocean” situations, though. If you’re trying to learn about future goals and desired outcomes, new challenges, or emerging trends in the profession or industry your association serves, surveys are not effective. You learn about those sorts of things much more effectively and efficiently through open, honest conversation.

Association professionals can sometimes be nervous about talking directly to members in an unstructured way. What if they’re angry about something, or have complaints, or ask questions we can’t answer, or have requests we can’t meet? Those are all reasonable fears. I would argue, though, that it’s better to invite the momentary discomfort that comes from finding out something negative than it is to ignore it. When you know, you can do something. When you choose not to know, members walk away and you have no idea why.

In 2017, I would encourage your readers and listeners to start a formal program of regular audience conversations. There are lots of ways this can be accomplished: regular in-person or virtual focus groups, town hall style meetings or calls, tasking staff members or volunteers with calling one or more members a week, working with your chapters, setting up regular member visits, an emailed or online open-ended question of the week, doing Appreciative Inquiry style peer interviewing, hiring a consultant to conduct interviews, a mix of the above, etc. But regularly gathering and widely sharing this sort of information is vital for the long-term health of your organization and your relationships with your constituents.

Edited to add: the podcast is up now. Find out more and listen at http://iriscreative.com/dp137/.

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What Will 2017 Hold?

Aptify set out to answer this question, at least for associations, in their recent e-book: Top Association Management Predictions for 2017.

In the monograph, 13 association pros (including me) share their thoughts about the future as relates to topics like member engagement, online learning, culture, innovation, membership models,  growth, M&A in the AMS space, and change management.

Here’s a taste of the bite-sized, thought-provoking observations you’ll find inside:

Excerpt Aptify ebook on 2017 trends in association management

Download your free copy today!

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Further Election 2016 Association Industry Responses

ASAE has posted further clarification of their position on the incoming administration.

While I am heartened to see ASAE specifically mention “…work[ing] with the new administration in a manner consistent with our commitment to diversity and inclusion…,” I believe it to be, overall, an inadequate response.

I should note that ASAE’s response was published before the Letter to John Graham and Scott Wiley came out on Monday, November 21. So it, of course, is not a direct response to that letter. However, ASAE offers nothing by way of specifics as to how we will go about protecting those who are most at risk among our own employers, our members, and other audiences we serve.

Reasonable people of good will can disagree vigorously on policies that impact both business and the public. This disagreement often produces compromise policies that are superior to the original positions of either side.

However, questioning the fundamental rights and full humanity of our fellow citizens and of the citizens of the world is a moral issue around which there can be no compromise.

My co-authors/co-signers may also wish to weigh in with their thoughts, but I remain firm in my position that ASAE needs to take specific steps to:

  • Ask Mr. Trump to repudiate his rhetoric that is in direct violation of our pillar on diversity and inclusion.
  • Ask Mr. Trump to denounce the hate crimes, attacks, and violence that are being perpetrated by his supporters in his name.
  • Appoint an ombudsman.
  • Pledge to increase transparency around and community involvement in how political and policy-related decisions are made.

Among the other specific steps the letter’s authors requested.

MANY associations are taking strong positions that manage to balance pledging cooperation without compromising on their core principles or attempting to normalize behavior and rhetoric that should not be normalized. The SocialFish blog has an excellent post listing and quoting excerpts from some of those statements, and, as I noted yesterday,  associationvoices.com is collecting more. I urge you to follow @assocvoices on Twitter to keep abreast of that conversation and, if your association has issued a statement, to email it to associationvoices@gmail.com for inclusion in the project.

 

 

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Association Industry Response to the Election

As you may have seen in Associations Now Online, ASAE recently signed onto a National Association of Manufacturers-organized letter of support to President-Elect Trump.

While this has been common practice in previous presidential elections and while this letter was arranged before the election to be sent regardless of which candidate won, several of your colleagues were dismayed by the tone of the letter, as many of Mr. Trump’s statements on the campaign trail and some of his actions since the election are in direct violation of ASAE’s “pillar” statement on diversity and inclusion.

We have written a letter to ASAE CEO John Graham and board chair Scott Wiley, expressing our concerns and asking ASAE to take seven specific actions. While we, as an industry, do need to remain engaged in the political process regardless of who is leading it, these actions are intended to ensure we remain true to our core principles at the same time.

Many of you will not agree with us – and that’s OK.

Many of you will agree with us, but, because of your position in our industry or because of the industry your association represents, will not feel that it’s appropriate for you to sign on to the letter – and that’s OK too.

If you would like to do something, here are some options:

  1. Read the letter.
  2. Sign onto the letter.
  3. Share this blog post or the link to the letter (http://getmespark.com/letter-to-john-graham-and-scott-wiley/) with your colleagues.
  4. Speak out in your own words on social media (don’t forget to use the hashtag #assnchat).
  5. Contact John Graham directly to express your concerns at 202.626.2741 or jgraham@asaecenter.org.
  6. Think about what cause is most important to you – freedom of religion, freedom of the press, climate change, immigration, mass incarceration, women’s reproductive rights – and donate or volunteer your time (or both) accordingly.
  7. Share your association’s story via a new project that’s just launching, associationvoices.com. Email associationvoices@gmail.com to tell your own stories about how your association is taking action to support diversity and inclusion, defend the first amendment, or benefit society as a whole.

 

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Letter to John Graham and Scott Wiley

Monday, November 21, 2016

John Graham, President & CEO, ASAE

Scott Wiley, Chairman, ASAE

Dear John and Scott:

This letter is a call for meaningful community-wide dialogue and action on behalf of a nation at risk.

One week ago, Associations Now Daily announced that ASAE signed a National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) letter “to the president-elect” expressing a desire to “work productively” with the incoming administration. While we recognize this same letter would have been sent to Secretary Clinton had she prevailed in the Electoral College, many of us read it as an attempt to normalize a candidate who displayed a level of ignorance, intolerance, and indecency unprecedented among modern major party presidential nominees. Mr. Trump ran an intentionally divisive campaign that included:

  • Proposing a religious test for entry to the United States, which is a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (Since the election, Mr. Trump’s advisors have publicly discussed the implementation of a registry for Muslims, which many see as the precursor to internment.)
  • Indicating that he would require U.S. troops to torture enemy combatants and bomb their non-combatant families, both of which are violations of the Geneva Convention.
  • Bragging about engaging in sexually predatory behaviors without consequence because of his celebrity status, boasts which have since been corroborated by more than a dozen victims.
  • Promising to deport nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants, which would cause great economic cost to the United States and its businesses, and untold human suffering.
  • Openly mocking physical mannerisms of a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter who suffers from arthrogryposis, and then denying the incident occurred despite clear-cut video evidence.
  • Threatening to jail his opponent, despite the fact that she has never been convicted of any crime, which is a violation of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

There is no need to elaborate further. The challenge before us is clear.

 For those of us signing this letter, the most important question is what happens next. On January 20, 2017, a new administration will take office, led by an individual whose character, rhetoric, and policy positions place our country’s most vulnerable populations at even greater risk. These diverse communities include association members, volunteers, and staff who are expecting ASAE to hear their voices at this perilous time. The question is whether ASAE, and by the extension the association community it serves, will choose to listen to those voices and take steps to help protect people who are now under direct threat.

Through this letter, we are asking you and the ASAE Board of Directors to recognize the uniquely dangerous moment at which our country finds itself, and answer our call for community-wide dialogue and action on behalf of a nation at risk. We recommend that ASAE take the following steps:

  • Issue a second letter calling on Mr. Trump to publicly repudiate his divisive rhetoric and policy proposals before Inauguration Day. Consistent with the described process of preparing the NAM letter, we would ask ASAE to seek support for this letter from philanthropic, professional, and trade associations; non-profits; and other organizations across the country.
  • Call on Mr. Trump to forcefully denounce the hateful attacks against women, racial, ethnic, religious, and other minorities that have been made in his name since Election Day as fundamentally wrong and incompatible with our shared American values.
  • Communicate both publicly and privately to elected officials at all levels of government that ASAE and the association community will oppose divisive rhetoric and policies that place the lives of Americans at risk, and create a communications toolkit for individual association members, volunteers, and staff to use as part of their own advocacy outreach.
  • Develop a more transparent and inclusive process of organizational decision-making around ASAE’s advocacy and public policy activities.
  • Appoint an independent ombudsman from outside of the current ASAE organizational structure to whom any association member, volunteer, or staff person can raise concerns, pose questions, or seek advice on how to address the personal or professional issues that may arise from Mr. Trump’s (and his followers’) divisive rhetoric and policies.
  • Work with societies of association executives (SAEs) at the local, state, and regional levels to organize a series of town hall meetings to nurture an open and honest dialogue about the future of our country, with the intention of bringing people from across the political spectrum together as Americans.
  • Integrate into the Power of A campaign and ASAE’s Public Policy efforts a much stronger focus on issues affecting vulnerable populations, and gather and share more information on diversity and inclusion, equity, and social justice concerns.

While none of these measures can fully protect our country’s most vulnerable populations from the power of the Federal government under Mr. Trump’s direction, we believe they will build confidence across the association community in ASAE’s commitment to tolerance, fairness, and decency in our national life, and create new mechanisms for resisting the codification of Mr. Trump’s bigoted belief system into dangerous policies with potentially dire consequences for millions of Americans.

Now is an excellent time to show why associations have always advanced America.

We agree with both the substance and spirit of ASAE’s statement of commitment to diversity and inclusion, which begins with the sentence, “[i]n principle and in practice, ASAE values and seeks diversity and inclusive practices within the association management industry.” In this instance, we ask our association to recognize the urgent need for our profession to work together to take constructive steps on behalf of the entire nation and its people.

There is much discussion today about the long-term relevance of associations. At this uncertain moment in our country’s history, ASAE can demonstrate the significant impact associations can make by taking an unambiguous and just stance to preserve the integrity of the democratic process, protect vulnerable Americans, and defend the future of the American experiment. We hope you will concur and will act decisively for what is right.

Signed:

Elizabeth Weaver Engel, M.A., CAE, CEO & Chief Strategist, Spark Consulting

Sherry A. Marts, Ph.D., President and CEO, S*Marts Consulting LLC

Joan L. Eisenstodt, Chief Strategist, Eisenstodt Associates, LLC, and Past Chair, ASAE Ethics Committee

Jeff De Cagna FASAE, Chief Strategist and Founder, Principled Innovation LLC

Shelly Alcorn, CAE, Principal, Alcorn Associates Management Consulting

Dina Lewis, CAE, President, Distilled Logic, LLC

Mark Alcorn, J.D., M.B.A., Attorney, Alcorn Law Corporation

See who else signed.

Edited: A printed copy of the letter and list of all signatories was mailed to ASAE on Monday, December 12.

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Bridging the Education to Employment Gap: Where Can I Learn More?

Now that you’ve had a chance to learn a little bit about the disruption affecting education, the changes in the employment market (both in the US and world-wide), the “wicked” problem that perfect storm has created, and how Shelly Alcorn and I think associations are uniquely positioned to respond, what if you’d like to learn more?

We’ve got you covered.

  1. Download The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm white paper. Remember: it’s free! In addition to delving deeply into the various topics I’ve raised on the blog this week, it’s also includes association case studies, an extensive bibliography, and questions and discussion ideas you can use with your team or volunteer leaders.
  2. Listen to the Tagoras Leading Learning podcast, The New Education Paradigm, we recorded earlier this month with Celisa Steele, where we discuss the crisis impacting education and how associations could and should respond.
  3. Join us on Monday, September 12 at noon ET for a free webinar, Bridging the Education to Employment Gap, sponsored and hosted by Comm Partners, where Shelly and I will share highlights from our research into the dramatic changes affecting the realms of both education and employment, why we believe these changes represent such a tremendous opportunity for associations, and real stories of associations that are fully embracing their role in nurturing the next generation of professionals and members. The webinar also provides 1 CAE credit.
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What Should Associations Do to Bridge the Education to Employment Gap?

If you’ve been persuaded by the information I’ve shared about The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm the past few days that we do have a large-scale problem that associations are uniquely equipped to address (and I hope you have), the next question is: where do we start?

(fourth post of The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm release week)

Shelly and I have some advice to offer:

  • Adopt a strategic approach (which is generally good advice for just about any problem)
  • Conduct ongoing and in-depth workforce analysis (and we have some specific tips how to do that)
  • Clearly define actual competencies needed (stop the “degree as proxy” madness!)
  • Clearly define career pathways
  • Familiarize yourself with new learning technologies
  • Professionalize content delivery (no, it’s not OK to rely on volunteers for everything all the time – you may have to pay some people)
  • Consider certification
  • Create effective alliances (you don’t have to go it alone)

Not sure what that would all look like? Remember that we also provide case studies of associations doing good work in these areas:

  • HR Certification Institute
  • Maryland Association of CPAs
  • National Association of Licensed Practical Nurses
  • Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants

Find out more about how to do good while doing well in addressing this critical socioeconomic issue by downloading your free copy of The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm at http://bit.ly/29CIquL, no divulging of information about yourself required.

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The Association Advantage

Yesterday, I mentioned that associations have some inherent advantages in bridging the education to employment gap for the audiences we serve. What are they?

(third post of The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm release week)

  • Direct connection to employers
  • Experience with certification and credentialing
  • Market opportunity provided by our non-profit status
  • Experience with non-traditional students and learning environments

You can find out  more about how Shelly Alcorn, my co-author, and I think associations can leverage these unique skills by downloading your free copy of The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm at http://bit.ly/29CIquL, no divulging of information about yourself required.

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Disruption in Education

What are some of the forces impacting education in 2016?

(second post of The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm release week)

  • Incorporating technological advances in the classroom
  • Decreasing public funding
  • Increasing class sizes
  • High-stakes testing in K-12
  • Exploding student debt
  • Decreasing on-time college and university graduation rates
  • Scandals in for-profit education
  • Skills gaps and lack of agreement on the purpose of higher education
  • Disconnection between learning outcomes and required workforce KSAs

These forces combine to produce the statistics I cited yesterday: while more than 73 million young people, worldwide, are unemployed, in the US alone, 32% of employers can’t find qualified workers.

Shelly Alcorn, my co-author, and I believe associations are uniquely positioned to help address this gap. I’ll share more about how later this week, or you can find out now by downloading your free copy of The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm at http://bit.ly/29CIquL, no divulging of information about yourself required.

 

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