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, 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 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 ( 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
  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, Email 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.


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, 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, 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, no divulging of information about yourself required.


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The Perfect Storm

I’d like to share some sobering statistics about higher education and employment:

  • In the United States, students graduate from college with an average debt load of nearly $29,000.
  • Total student debt in the U.S. is $1.23 trillion and rising.
  • 47% of college-educated workers under 25 work in jobs
    that do not require a college degree.
  • Worldwide, 73.3 million people under the age of 25 are unemployed,
    representing 36.7% of total global unemployment.
  • In the United States in 2015, 32% of employers reported
    struggling to find qualified workers.
  • By 2020, 65% of all jobs in the United States will require some
    form of postsecondary education or training.
  • By 2020, the shortfall of postsecondary-educated Americans will
    approach 20 million.
  • 47% of jobs in the United States will be significantly impacted by artificial intelligence and automation within the next decade.

Over the next week, I’ll be blogging about and sharing excerpts from The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm, the eighth white paper in the ongoing Spark collaborative series.

Written with Shelly Alcorn, CAE (Alcorn Associates Management Consulting), the white paper reviews research on the disruptions currently affecting both K-12 and postsecondary education, talks about the future of a workforce impacted by skills gaps and automation, and details what Shelly and I believe to be inherent association advantages in being part of the solution to this significant global socioeconomic problem.

The white paper also features sidebars by Tracy Petrillo, EdD, CAE, Chief Learning Officer, EDUCAUSE (and recent recipient of ASAE’s Professional Performance Award), discussing Competency-Based Education, and by Polly Siobhan Karpowicz,MBA, CAE, ASAE Research Committee, on new research the ASAE Foundation is undertaking in this area.

We also share case studies of organizations doing excellent work preparing their audiences for the future of employment:

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

The white paper concludes with practical advice for associations that are eager to get started reshaping education, the employment market, and lifetime learning for the professions and industries you serve.

I’ll be blogging more about the white paper this week, but in the meantime, download your free copy of The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm at, no divulging of information about yourself required.

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

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What REALLY Drives Success for Your Association?

Information overload – we all experience it personally, every day, with our emails and Signal versus noisesocial media feeds and online media and print media and broadcast media, and that’s hard enough to manage. But in 2016, our associations ALSO struggle with information overload. We have many rich sources of data about our members, our other audiences, and our operations that we can mine in a dizzying variety of ways, so many, in fact, that it can be almost impossible to separate the signal from the noise.

On July 19, Trevor Mitchell (American MENSA) and I had the opportunity to address this topic for DMAW’s Lunch and Learn series, presenting “Defining and Using KPIs for Measurability and Success.”

We started the hour-long webinar by talking about the importance of discovering what REALLY drives success for your association. It’s not always the most obvious thing. For instance, in associations, we often focus on member count, and up is always good, right? But if you have a limited universe of potential members, or you’re recruiting marginal members that lead to a lot of churn, maybe constantly increasing membership isn’t actually a KPI for your association – maybe something like market share (that is, what percentage of your overall universe is involved) or member share (that is, how involved are your existing members) would be a better choice.

We also covered the four key categories of KPIs, the siren song of vanity metrics (and how to avoid it), and the importance of measuring what really counts, all illustrated by Trevor’s stories of MENSA’s journey toward identifying their KPIs and using them to drive decisions and create change.

The full recording is now available for free download, so you can learn how to make sense of your data options and identify the levers to push that will genuinely move your association forward.


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