Calling All ASAE Allies

Guest blog from my Include Is a Verb co-author, Sherry Marts (S*Marts Consulting)

A couple of weeks ago there was a fairly lengthy thread in the Executive Management Section on ASAE Collaborate, with the subject line “ASAE Committees/Sections Feedback” (member login required). At one point, that conversation turned to talking about gender-based (and other) harassment at ASAE meetings. Bob Skelton, who holds the title “Chief Administrative Officer and In-House Counsel” at ASAE, posted a couple of messages that indicated (if you read between the lines) that ASAE does not have a written Code of Conduct for ASAE events, and simply expects “everyone” to “just know” that harassment isn’t permitted and that anyone who is harassed should report it to ASAE staff.

This approach is about as useful and effective as a screen door on a submarine.

However, we do have options.

Scientific societies provide an example we can follow. They have jumped on this issue because their members were taking action on it independently. It started with “Astronomy Allies” at the American Astronomical Society, which then spawned “Physics Allies,” “Entomology Allies,” and probably more I don’t know about. These are groups of members, mostly but not entirely women, who started by simply volunteering themselves as people who would listen to and advise anyone who was harassed or bullied at their association’s meetings. They had buttons printed that they wore at the meeting, and they spread the word via social media, paper flyers, and word-of-mouth. The groups have grown to the point where they now need application and vetting processes to handle the volume of volunteers they get every year. You can find more information at:

They did not ask permission, and, as far as I know, have never bothered to seek forgiveness either.

So maybe what we need is ASAE Allies. And the upcoming annual meeting, August 12-15, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, might be a great place to “introduce” them.

I can’t do this by myself, so I’m looking for some Early Allies. You, maybe? Or someone(s) you know? I won’t be attending that meeting, so we would need someone who is attending to step up to spearhead this on-site.

I’m willing to reach out to the “allies” groups to learn from their experiences, work on a website, get some buttons designed and printed, and do a training webinar for allies.

Want to be an Ally, or learn more about what an Ally does? Email me at



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Membership 101: Why Did They Join?

My last membership 101 blog post addressed the question: how do I know when it’s time two puzzle pieces that don't matchto ask a prospect to join my association? 

The answer was: by studying your data. Data can tell you when is the right time to ask, and what you should emphasize in your slate of programs, products, and services when you do ask.

Why does that matter?

Your association no doubt has a long list of member benefits, programs, products, and services you provide. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But even though your members and prospective members share some common interests, they don’t all want and need exactly the same things. Not all aspects of your value proposition are going to be equally appealing to everyone.

What you need to do is learn what your prospects – and members – are there for, what they’re trying to accomplish, what their most pressing problems are, and then provide that.

Segmentation in your marketing and communications helps you target the right offer to the right person at the right time.

For instance, a prospect who’s just finishing up school might be most interested in your job board and career services. So when you’re pitching her to join – or renew – you’d want to emphasize that.

A mid-career professional might be ready to learn about your certification program, so as you’re describing your member value proposition to her, you’d want to be sure to highlight that.

As I covered in the previous post in this series, a given individual might like to attend webinars, or buy books, or attend face to face events, or volunteer, or support your advocacy efforts, etc.

How do you know what’s most important? Active and passive data collection.

On the active side, you ask questions like:

  • What are your most important professional goals?
  • What are the biggest persistent problems and challenges you face that you can’t seem to solve on your own?
  • Why did you join (or renew)? What were you looking for?
  • Are we delivering on that?

On the passive side, track what people do. Remember, what a member says she wants and needs may not align with what she actually does. Tracking behavior is an important reality check on what people say. I might say that I want to eat nutritiously, but if I consistently order the fries rather than the kale salad… Your members are no different.

You have a wonderful, extensive list of member benefits. But most individuals join for 2-3 key things, and those vary from person to person. Your job is to find out what those are  for a given individual and focus your marketing efforts to her around them.

(And now the stick part of the equation: if you constantly promote your list of 15 benefits, and your member is only here for two of them, she might start questioning why she’s paying dues that funds all that stuff she doesn’t use. I’m not saying you NEVER want to share the full list with your members – people’s needs change over time – but be careful about how you do that, and don’t do it in every communication. Constantly promoting stuff she doesn’t use also shows the member that you don’t know her or care about what’s important to her, which is another message you don’t want to be sending.)

Image found here.

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Walking Your Talk on D+I

For those of us who are “on the bus” on the value of genuine diversity and inclusion, this is Concentric circles of diversity and inclusion workthe crux of the matter: how do we effectively walk our talk on D+I? 

We have to work from the inside out, starting with our own selves, taking steps to uncover and combat our implicit biases, understanding where we do – and do not – have privilege, and answering the question “Now that I know, what will I do?”

To quote Include Is a Verb:

That is, how will you move from unconscious reaction to conscious responsibility? How will you use your privileges to help others and, at the same time, let them use theirs to help you in areas where you lack privilege?

Only then can we begin to move outward, to working on our associations as workplaces, then to our boards of directors and other volunteer leaders, then to our members, then to the professions and industries we serve.

I’d like to conclude this week’s focus on Include Is a Verb: Moving from Talk to Action on Diversity and Inclusion with another quote from the whitepaper:

There’s a poem that begins, “When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.” As the man relating the parable lives his life, he realizes that was too grand a goal. He scales back to changing his nation, only to recognize that, too, as too grand a project. So he decides to focus on his town, and then his family. By the time he’s an old man, he realizes that the only thing he can change, the only thing he can control, is himself, but that when you change yourself, that impacts the people around you, and the people around them, and through that, you can change your nation and the world.

Start there. Pick one thing to change in yourself. Then think about one thing you can work on in your workplace with your colleagues. Then identify one program your association o ers that you can enlist your volunteers and members to help you transform. Small steps will add up to big shifts over time.

My co-author Sherry Marts and whitepaper contributors Joe Gerstandt and Jess Pettitt will be joining KiKi L’Italien for an Association Chat focused on Include Is a Verb on Tuesday, July 11 at 2 pm. You can register here.

And, of course, don’t forget to download the whitepaper itself at It includes interviews with a DELP mentor/scholar team (Shawn Boynes and Desirée Knight) and with Cie Armtead, the current chair of ASAE’s D+I committee; sidebars from noted D+I experts Jessica Pettitt, Joan Eisenstodt, and Joe Gerstandt; and case studies of three associations that are doing outstanding D+I work for the audiences they serve (the Association for Women in Science, the Entomological Society of America, and the Geological Society of America).

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Why Do Our D+I Efforts Fall Short?

Our D+I efforts fail for a number of reasons:

  • Beautiful statements and a handful of ghettoized programs don’t fundamentally change behavior.
  • We create “goals” that are not actionable and have no measures attached.
  • Every single person has implicit biases – sometimes against things that they themselves are – and we don’t do enough to combat them.
  • Mandatory training tends to bring out our inner misanthropic teenager: “You’re not the boss of me!”

Fortunately, there are proven strategies to combat all of these problems, one of which is consciously training yourself to be an ally.

What is an ally? To quote Jessica Pettitt’s sidebar on allyship:

An ally supports the struggles of a historically underrepresented group even though she is not personally a member of that group.

Becoming one involves doing work on oneself and then reaching out to engage in advocacy and agency, and her sidebar includes details of how to go about all those things.

To learn more, download your free copy of  Include Is a Verb: Moving from Talk to Action on Diversity and Inclusion, at, no divulging of information about yourself required.


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What Makes the Association D+I Environment Unique?

In short, relationships.

Most of the focus on diversity and inclusion in the for-profit world is on staff and, to a lesser degree, boards of directors (which, of course, only some for-profit companies have).

The association operating environment is much more multi-layered.

Of course, we also have staff teams and boards of directors. But associations have very different relationships with our boards than for-profit companies do. Although our members are also our customers, the membership relationship is vastly more complex than the consumer relationship. We also have relationships with – and responsibilities to – the professions and industries we serve for which there is no parallel in the for-profit world.

The case studies in Include Is a Verb: Moving from Talk to Action on Diversity and Inclusion clearly illustrate the challenges inherent in and opportunities granted by our unique operating environment:

  • The Association for Women in Science has successfully navigated the transition from a largely homogenous board of directors to one that is truly inclusive, while also avoiding the trap of tokenism.
  • The Entomological Society of America has created a strong code of conduct for their events that not only aims to reduce instances of harassment at events but also provides a concrete action plan for dealing with them appropriately when they do occur.
  • The Geological Society of America has responded creatively to the dual imperatives to recruit more people into the field and to increase the diversity of those recruits.

To download your free copy of  Include Is a Verb: Moving from Talk to Action on Diversity and Inclusion, visit, no divulging of information about yourself required.

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Key Concepts in Diversity and Inclusion

As Joe Gerstandt points out in his sidebar in Include Is a Verb: Moving from Talk to Action on Diversity and Inclusion, clarity is key. We need a shared and widely understood vocabulary of “concise, clear, actionable language” in order to make progress on D+I.

So that’s where Sherry Marts and I start: by defining terms, some of which may be familiar to you and some of which may be new.

  • What do we actually mean when we use the term diversity? What about inclusion?
  • What “counts” as diversity, and why does it matter?
  • What is intersectionality? How does it affect us?
  • What is “covering,” and why is it a problem?
  • What is tokenism, and how can we move past it?

Or as Joe put it:

Powerful statements of commitment to diversity and inclusion matter. But without a clear understanding of what we mean when we say “diversity” or “inclusion,” widespread agreement on how that will affect our daily actions, and a shared sense of responsibility for taking those actions, such statements are ultimately meaningless.

So that’s where we start, with creating the shared understanding necessary for meaningful action. To download your free copy of  Include Is a Verb: Moving from Talk to Action on Diversity and Inclusion, visit, no divulging of information about yourself required.

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Include Is a Verb

Associations know the research that the Millennial generation that is rapidly becoming the Cover image Include is a Verb whitepapermajority of our workforce and membership base is the most diverse generation we’ve ever had in the US – and that the yet-to-be-named generation coming up behind them is even more so.

We know that increased diversity and real inclusion produce increased innovation, better decision-making, faster and more creative problem-solving, better outcomes, and an improved bottom line.

We know that D+I is the right thing to do.

And we tend to have strong statements that reflect all that.

The place we often struggle is with turning our beautifully crafted D+I statements into real change in our staff teams, our volunteer leadership, our memberships, and the professions and industries we serve.

In Include is a Verb: Moving from Talk to Action on Diversity and Inclusion, Sherry Marts, PhD (S*Marts Consulting) and I tackle the challenge of turning associations’ powerful talk into equally impactful walk. We share some key concepts in D+I, discuss what makes the association D+I environment unique and the pros and cons that come with that, and provide concrete steps you can take for yourself, your staff, your volunteers, and your members to become a truly diverse and inclusive organization.

The whitepaper also includes interviews with a DELP mentor/scholar team (Shawn Boynes, CAE and Desirée Knight, CMP) and with Cie Armtead, the current chair of ASAE’s D+I committee; sidebars from noted D+I experts Jessica Pettitt, Joan Eisenstodt, and Joe Gerstandt; and case studies of three associations that are doing outstanding D+I work for the audiences they serve (the Association for Women in Science, the Entomological Society of America, and the Geological Society of America).

I’ll be blogging about the whitepaper for the rest of the week, highlighting some key findings and action steps you can take, but in the meantime, I invite you to download your free copy at – we don’t collect any data on you to get it, and you won’t end up on some mailing list you didn’t ask for. We just use the as an easy mechanism to count the number of times it’s been downloaded.

And don’t forget to check out the other FREE Spark whitepapers, too:

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Membership 101: How Do I Know When To Ask?

My last membership 101 post ended:beach proposal photo

You continue to do that [make offers] for a few cycles, THEN ask her to marry you, once you both know it’s right.

Which begs the question: how do you know when is the right time to ask?


If you’ve constructed your ladder of engagement correctly, you started with asking your lead to do something free and easy (maybe signing up for your free e-enewsletter). When she did, you tracked what she clicked on, then offered her a free resource (infographic, webinar, whitepaper) on that topic. When she took you up on that, you offered her something that cost money (another webinar, a resource on the same topic that wasn’t free), which she purchased (hopefully).

By tracking what other new members have done with your association prior to joining, you can estimate how many cycles of offers you need to go through before pitching membership.

By tracking what that particular prospect is responding to (both topic and platform – she might be really interested in leadership OR she might be really interested in infographics OR she might be really interested in both), you can make sure that the additional offers you’re sending her will be appealing.

By combining those two, you can tell when is the right time to ask, and what you should emphasize in your slate of programs, products, and services when you do ask. My next post will explain why that’s important.

Image found at Lesbian News.

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Membership 101: Ladder of Engagement

As I discussed in the last post in this series, membership is all about relationship building. ladder of engagementThe mechanism you use to build that relationship is the ladder of engagement.

Simply put, just like you wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on the first date, so you need to create and deepen your relationship with your prospects (and members) over time before asking them for further commitments.

The first communication someone gets from your association shouldn’t be an invitation to join – they don’t know you yet, and they have no idea if they’re interested in committing a significant amount of money to a full year of relationship.

Membership *is* a relationship, and both parties (the association and the prospective or new member) need to gradually increase cost, commitment, effort, and knowledge. You do that by constructing ladders of engagement, based on engagement paths, that gradually deepen involvement on both sides, until individuals get to the point that they’re comfortable making a larger commitment to you, and you know enough about them to ensure that commitment will be meaningful for them and meet their needs.

There are four main steps in the ladder of engagement:

  1. Capture – this is when you get leads in the door in the first place, virtually always by giving them something free but valuable to them that requires a very low level of commitment.
  2. Nurture – this is when a lead turns into a prospect, which happens as you learn more about her and begin offering her programs, products, and services that can help her achieve key goals and solve problems, moving gradually from free to low cost to higher cost.
  3. Convert – this is when you invite the prospect to join, in a way that’s tailored to his interests and needs, which you know because you’ve been learning more about him as you build the relationship through the nurture process.
  4. Partner – this is when that new member becomes a long-term, loyal, committed, involved member through the ongoing process of getting to know her better and offering programs, products, services, and opportunities for involvement that are increasingly tailored to her most important goals and most pressing challenges.

In practice, this might work something like:

  • Someone registers for a free user account for your career center to look at jobs and post her resume.
  • That person goes into your prospect database, coded as a prospect and with a “career center” origination code.
  • A week or two later, the prospect gets an email offering some free editorial content related to professional development, which she clicks on and downloads. That email MUST have a call to action, and you MUST be able to track whether or not the prospect took it.
  • A few weeks later, the prospect gets another email offering something else free – perhaps a free archived webinar, which she then views (same thing with the call to action and tracking).
  • Next, she’s offered something she needs to pay for, perhaps a paid report or webinar on career development, which she chooses to buy (same thing with the call to action and tracking).
  • Then you offer her membership, with the offer focused on all the additional professional development-related content she’ll have access to if she joins.

Notice that the prospect is only being asked to join (marry you) after you’ve established that she’s actually interested, and she gets a membership offer that’s targeted to what *she’s* interested in, not something generic that’s mostly focused on what the association thinks is valuable.

Ideally, you will create MANY ladders of engagement based around all sorts of segments – source of lead, career stage, professional interests and needs, geographical location, past purchases, demographics, etc. You collect some of this data actively – you ask for it. Some of it you collect passively by observing and recording what people do and grouping them by demonstrated behaviors.

But in all of them, you start with something that’s of interest but is free and requires little  commitment to get, often just providing one’s contact information. If your lead does that, offer him something that asks a little more of him. It can be money, but it doesn’t have to be – maybe you just ask for some demographic information about him, or ask about his interest areas. You continue to do that for a few cycles, THEN ask her to marry you, once you both know it’s right.

The fantastic, really simple graphic of the ladder of engagement above is from Beth Kanter. On an unrelated note, you should read her blog and follow her on Twitter if you don’t already.

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DC’s Capital Area Food Bank Needs Your Help!

Capital Area Food Bank logo

I was at my regular volunteer gig at CAFB this morning, and the shelves are BARE, y’all.

It’s typical for donations to fall off after the holidays, and more than once, I’ve gotten a call before my June or July visits to the Food Bank to tell me not to come because they don’t have work for volunteers.

But it’s only the beginning of April.

Hunger is a serious problem in the DMV, and CAFB distributes 45 MILLION pounds of food to over 500,000 people every year. But in order to give that food away to direct service agencies, they need food to distribute.

The bad news is they don’t have what they need right now.

The good news is you can help, and it’s easy and fun!


Run a food drive at your association or office.

It’s easy:

  1. Download their toolkits – how-to guides, posters, what to donate, they hook you up.
  2. Register your food drive.
  3. Drop off what you collect at their DC or NOVA warehouses.

“Together We Can Solve Hunger.”

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