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ASAE Great Ideas Ignite Session: Associations – Let’s Date First

March 26, 2012

Thank you so much to the incredible audience at ASAE’s Great Ideas Conference tonight. I must admit to being terrified about my first Ignite presentation, but you made me feel right at home. For those new to Ignite, the format has 20 slides, automatically advancing every 15 seconds.

UPDATED: The video is now available! You can watch below, or read what I was supposed to say in the text below.


Thank you as well to the event sponsors for making the event possible:

I also had lots of questions about the images. They were all purchased through BigStock, and were created by koun (ioannis kounadeas).

And, without further ado… the presentation

Associations: Let’s Date First

I have never been so nervous about a presentation – I feel like I have first date jitters! I attended my first ASAE event last year, right here at Great Ideas. One of the recurring themes was how associations can recruit and engage young association professionals. It got me thinking about what makes me join associations.
What I came up with is that it has to do with the same principles that apply to dating. That might be an unusual conversation to have at a professional conference, but hey – this is Ignite! So here we go: Associations, Let’s Date First!
Let’s start with some don’ts: First off – I would never, ever, ever, date someone who contacted my through spam messages. Ditto for associations, if you want me to join or engage, you have to show me that you know me. I’m much more likely to say “yes” to an association if a)    a trusted friend makes the recommendation b)    someone actually asks me, directly
It goes a long way to making sure that I’ll come to more events if someone follows up with me after I participate in something. It’s even more important if I have volunteered. I want to feel like I matter. A quick note, card, message, balloon bouquet will make all the difference. On the flip side though… don’t call (or email) me too much. That’s creepy.
Why do we always want to get engaged? Sometimes, it’s nice to just be friends. There are lots of associations outside of my direct field, that I’m interested in but I’m not going to pay the full membership fee to join. I would, however, happily pay a limited access fee. By recognizing tiers of engagement, associations could redefine membership.
Can we do some things that don’t cost more money? And… don’t make me feel bad about it, or give me a complex about it. I am a mom with two kids, I have two degrees, I work three jobs, I speak three languages and I volunteer. I am fantastic!
No one likes their line stolen. I don’t necessarily need recognition for my ideas, but I don’t want someone else taking credit for it either. There’s a fine line between thought leadership and thought stealership. I think that when associations try too hard to “own the content” they ultimately make it faceless and doesn’t encourage me to share more with you.
For my industry research project for my MBA, I studied the motivation factors for high performing volunteers in a professional association. I found that the opportunity for personal or professional recognition and feeling appreciated is important to a strong majority. I want to be noticed!
I don’t actually want you to solve my problems But I do want you to be there for me. Listen to me, encourage me, support me, even commiserate with me. I keep hearing associations talk about how they need to adapt their services to provide members with solutions to some major issue – like the economy.  To which I ask, “Does that line really work for you?”
I guess I’m more of a modern-day Princess, ready to wield my own sword against the challenges I face. I’m not looking for a knight in shining armour, but I would appreciate having an association that can sharpen my sword for me between battles. A foot massage wouldn’t hurt either – after all, sword fighting in heels deserves special treatment!
Make sure that you don’t forget me when someone new shows up. I’ve attended association events where there is so much focus on welcoming new members or prospective members, that they forget about the long-time members – you know, the person you’re supposedly engaged with?
Before I start sounding too negative, there are some great dating tips for associations that can help to truly engage members and to reach the ultimate goal: a long-term commitment. To start off with, I want you to recognize that I am unique.
Just because the last person you dated liked going to events and social networking, it doesn’t mean that I will. I’d like us to build a relationship that works for us. Instead of offering me a bunch of benefits I’ll never use, why not give me membership credits that I can use for the type of relationship that I want?
I mentioned earlier that the opinion of my friends is really important to me – I want them to say good things about an association. Tall order for an association perhaps to undertake this, but what it boils down to is managing the association’s culture as well as its services.
I like receiving frequent small encouragements from my association. I don’t need the big ring (or award) – though it is nice! I want small encouragements regularly: tell me you like my shoes, connect with me on twitter. Something that shows that you’re in the people business, not the email business.
I mentioned as well that I don’t need you to rescue me, but opening doors can go a long way. Connect me with the people I need to meet, help me with my education, and create opportunities for me to shine.
Flashy events, pretty newsletters and great parties might attract me initially. But I need real substance, such as high quality education, a strong return on investment and opportunities for my career, to stay involved or “get engaged”.
Sometimes I need a little boost, it might be personal or professional. I want you to help me advance in my career – give me meaningful volunteer opportunities that help me develop new skills, if you like what I’m doing tell others. Help me to grow my business and career.
I want you to demonstrate through your words and your actions that you care about the things that matter to me, like sustainability. Make sure that what you’re doing is authentic, and show me that we have shared values, and ideals.
If you practice all of these dating rules, I promise I’ll accept your engagement proposal. Thank you so much!
4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2012 9:03 am

    Once again, excellent concept and execution! I look forward to seeing you present at future ASAE events.

  2. April 5, 2012 6:38 am

    This is beautiful! – Quite entertaining! I plan to retweet.

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