What associations can learn from elections.



In Washington, DC there is a two to three week analysis of every election cycle. We have Monday morning quarterbacking at its finest.
There are also valuable information or “lessons learned” from this historic election.  Associations are a great deal like a long campaign, so I’ve always found the election process a great lab to learn . These items resonated with me:
Actively pursue a diversified membership. Most association events I attend look more like the crowd at the concession speech in Boston than the victory celebration in Chicago. And, I realize in many cases the industries we represent are not ethnically diverse. However, I’m looking for any type of diversity, gender, age, political affiliation, types of businesses serving your industry. We need different opinions and approaches to make our association more relevant to demographics that will have certainly changed.
This topic may already be a part of your board of directors discussions. But to be honest, the members around that table are not going to solve the problem. The organization as it exists today has served them well. How in world are they going to help you plot a strategy?
Task #1: Establish task forces comprised of non-members, young members that don’t participate, women, to address how they would build an association relevant to them. Make a CSuite person responsible.
Identify swing voters essential to growth. I don’t mean this in a political sense, although that may need some work too for all I know.
The Obama campaign identified the key voters they needed in the right places to be successful. My home state of OK didn’t matter. The commonwealth of VA is another matter.
My wife hit a targeted demographic – suburban female in Northern VA. The Obama campaign called her, sent her mail. I was expecting a motorcade to pull up to her house…and she is a registered Republican. They believed she would make the difference.
So, where are your swing voters? Where are the niches of critical positions in member companies or member categories that can move the needle. Spend energy on these key “voters” to drive membership, event attendance, etc. more than the person that has attended the annual meeting for twnety years in a row. You’ll get him/her anyway.
Task #2: Dive into one membership demographic and micro target it in 2013. Learn what you can about this members business processes, its challenges – and build your messages and marketing for them! Run each program through the filter…will it resonate with this new target audience?
Build a grassroots operation designed to enable your organization growth.
And finally, who are the passionate, energized door knockers in your industry? Your organization could consider giving these people a wealth of resources to tweet about the association, provide them complimentary registrations to invite prospects to a meeting. Give them a title or waive all education programming for them for a year.
A testimonial from a respected person is the number one way to sell. And, we just don’t use it enough. Or, the referral program is not comfortable for them to use. Instead of asking for a membership referral or testimonial, an invitation to a popular program or event may be easier for the advocate to help you.
Task #3. Develop a grassroots team of your most passionate advocates and put them to work. Innovate with them develop a model which is scalable.
Let me add just two more items.
Is your meeting something built for the attendees that have gone for the last twenty years or the event to attract someone in your industry that has never attended?
Do you use a printed annual report to communicate the value of membership…or a video which is cutting edge, can be updated, goes viral and can have immediate impact…
This election was a great opportunity for associations to learn. There was a great deal to learn how to convince the electorate to “vote” for our organizations.
Vote early and vote often.


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