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association management

THE GIVING GAP: Driving impact & inspiring change through the stories we share and the experiences we provide.

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THE GIVING GAP: Driving impact & inspiring change through the stories we share and the experiences we provide.

Nonprofits are starting to experience a giving gap where they are relying on legacy donors to support their organization and cannot find new donors to give at the levels of the legacy donors. It is time for nonprofits to pivot and think differently if it wants to remain relevant and sustainable. Here is a road map to changing the narrative about how you think about nonprofits and the impact you are making.

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Why join?

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Why join?

We join associations for a reason:

  • To access their benefits e.g. health care or office supplies.
  • To network and gain new business.
  • To be a part of something positive

For lawyers, to practice law in the State of Michigan, you must be a member of The State Bar of Michigan. In full disclosure, I am an elected member of the Representative Assembly to the State Bar. 

Organizations pass policies that not all their members will agree on.  Even though those polices may be counter to one's own positions, it is important that an organization's members voices be heard and considered in crafting that position. 

For the State Bar of Michigan, there are many positions the Bar takes that not all of its members will agree on. One issue I think most attorneys can agree on, is an organization that will be the standard-bearer of ethics, to hold lawyers accountable for their actions or a place for lawyers to turn to if necessary.   See Bill would make State Bar membership dues optional in Michigan, Detroit News.

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Re-Thinking a Party and Re-Building an Association

I am not going to join an association if I don’t find value in it. As both the Democratic and Republican parties look to re-build they need to re-engage their members. Like any organization, its leaders need to communicate the value membership brings while constantly giving people reasons to join in its mission. This can be accomplished through the benefits they provide or the stories they tell to help people connect emotionally to the organization.

To be effective at that the organizations need the infrastructure and refine their business operations to reflect the reality of their industry, their membership and the world around them.  In addition the organizational leadership needs to build a sustainable organization to help attract a new generation of members.

Once the infrastructure is in place the messages need to be crafted to communicate organizational value. The agenda needs to resonate with the right audience and be communicated in a way that they will listen to it. The messages should be action-oriented. People join an organization because they share common values but also because they want to belong to something. So, give people a reason to get engaged.

Today, associations must also Re-Evaluate how it uses emerging technologies and the various media platforms around them to their advantage. We should only look forward in how we do things.

Once the messages are developed, now you can go out and raise money or increase membership. However, this too takes a new way to think about the how and why you approach others. As an organization, you should rethink your members or donors as “investors,” and work to create a donor relations program to keep them engaged in organizational activity – year-round.

While the organization raises money or seeks new members it should work diligently to find new candidates or younger members. The MS Society has created a Young Leaders Group, there are programs like Leadership Detroit and also the Michigan Political Leadership Program (of which I am a fellow and board member). But other organizations, including political parties can work harder at nurturing the next generation of leadership.

In restructuring a political party or an association, it will taking rethinking how the organization is structured, what the messages are that needs to be communicated, rethinking how you embrace membership and donors and finding ways to raise a new class of leadership. However, todays realities demand we re-think how we manage our lives and our associations.

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A Road Map To Moving Forward - It includes you!

With the recent State of the Union, State of the State, County and City, we now know where our elected leaders want to lead us. Each has laid out their vision for where they want us to go. Now it is up to us to help them. Whether we support their agenda or not, we each have a role in seeing our Nation, State, County and City succeed. It will only succeed if we give our opinion, show our support for specific issues or voice our opinions against regulations or legislation should it negatively impact your family, business or industry.

How do you do that?  This morning, I gave a similar presentation to the Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE) Association Management Academy at the American Concrete Institute and here is what I told them:

1.Figure out why you to to become more engaged in the political/legislatie process.  Does it fit into your mission or strategic plan? Are your members asking for it? Is your industry affected by legislation?

2. Learn about the legislative process, how the legislature works, How a Bill Becomes a Law (SchoolHouseRock) and what role lobbyists play (ThankYou For Not Smoking) in addition to other outside influences (Distinguished Gentleman).

3. Know the regulations and laws that impact lobbying, advocacy, campaign finance and ethics and why those laws were created in the first place. (Casino Jack)

Some useful resources include: ASAE; Clerk of the U.S. House; Secretary of the Senate; Senate/House Ethics Committee; or, your Secretary of State.
4. Know what your issues are. Begin to create an issues matrix to help identify the issue and prioritize them.
5. Identify the resources you can use to engage lawmakers in a discussion about the issues important to your members, industry
or business.
6. Get to know those whom you elected. You may or may not have voted for them, but they did get elected. So take the time to meet them, learn about them and teach them about the issues you care about.
7. Know what their agenda is. In Michigan, right now the legislative agenda is full of issues involving Jobs, People & Good Government. Knowing what the issues are will help open the door to solid discussions between you and those ultimately deciding on what the laws will be.

8. Become relevant. Knowing the agenda and staying on top of the news cycle will help your issues remain relevant. Provide the local angle to a national problem, take the legislative agenda in Lansing, Columbus or Albany and show others how it will impact you locally.

9. Become an expert. Lawmakers are pulled in too many directions with too little time to fully read and understand the legislative issues they are voting on (for the most part). By knowing the issues.

10. Proactively develop relations with lawmakers and like-minded organizations that can support you and your agenda and likewise you support theirs.

Relationships help empower people to act and it is important to develop those strategic relationships early.  To view the presentation vist: Helping Associations Create Government Relations Program.

*For education purposes only. Please consult an attorney for any legal advice. This post does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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