No one who knows more about making associations grow than the team at Membership Services, Inc. As the only association management company that specializes in membership marketing, recruitment and retention we've become experts in helping associations achieve their mission through membership growth. We do this by relentless focus on growing membership participation, sponsor recruitment and attracting vendors excited to participate in the association.
Rather than give you a list of services, here are a few examples of our clients and the success they experienced during 2013. There’s nothing confidential about what’s revealed here, but it is enlightening. While so many nonprofits complain about decreasing donations and growing competition, our associations thrive and expand in so many ways.
Although the associations are diverse there is one common denominator, growth through excellent communications. People are busier and more distracted than ever. There is a flood of free, disorganized content thrown at them from every device, media and interaction. Our communications are fine-tuned to encourage new member recruitment, current member participation and achieve industry public policy objectives.
The stories revealed here are inspiring successes, but what is more important, they reflect the cutting-edge, real-world best practices of association management today. I hope you find these stories informative and fun to read.
If you know of an association who could use our help helping it grow, you are welcome to give me a call at 850-222-6000.
Robert Skrob, CPA, CAE
Through letters, the members of the Coalition of Affordable Housing Providers communicated with U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson:
Today about 35 percent of all households live in rental housing, and their annual income is on average less than half the annual income of homeowners. Yet three-quarters of all federal expenditures on housing—tax expenditures and direct spending—go to support homeownership.
According to the June 2013 “State of the Nation’s Housing” report from the Harvard Joint Center on Housing Studies, the country faces a growing affordable rental housing crisis. In 2011, there were only 6.8 million affordable units for 12.1 million extremely low-income renters nationwide. This affordability gap is exacerbated by higher income households competing with low-income renters for affordable units, as well as by widespread structural inadequacy in affordable housing stock. As a result, there exist only 30 adequate, available, and affordable units for every 100 extremely low-income households in the United States. The gap between affordable units and low-income renters in need of housing continues to widen each year, and the Housing Credit is virtually the only significant source of capital to address this need.
When Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch outlined their “blank slate” approach to tax reform, in which they will initially eliminate all exclusions, deductions and credits, and will add them back in only if they have sufficient support from their colleagues in the Senate, the members of CAHP responded.
CAHP mobilized a grassroots advocacy program to educate lawmakers about the value of affordable housing tax credits to the state’s economy. This work had an obvious impact on improving the appreciation for this program, both in Washington, D.C., and in Tallahassee.
This effort was just one of many successes for the Coalition of Affordable Housing Providers. In 2013, membership increased by 50 percent as additional companies were attracted to CAHP’s ongoing advocacy efforts.
In addition, CAHP organized a CCE and conducted a fund-raising campaign that brought in $60,000.00 to support candidates for the state House of Representatives and the state Senate. These funds gave CAHP members access to important legislative decision makers to educate them about affordable housing issues. This is a terrific outcome for a first-year effort.
CAHP is well positioned to make several legislative gains in 2014. A growing economy puts increased pressure on rental rates. The work that affordable housing providers do to provide safe and reasonably priced housing for the 35 percent of our state’s population that doesn’t own a home creates jobs and grows Florida’s economy.
To build a stronger bond among members of the Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizations, Membership Services, Inc., invested significant resources into expanding the editorial content of FADMO’s monthly newsletter.
Already a leading publication among Florida’s tourism industry, in 2013 the newsletter expanded to include members’ commentary on current events and profiles of new tourism directors in addition to the news it has been providing for years. This format helped to foster relationships and connections among members in between industry meetings.
This improved relationship proved important during the Florida Legislative Session when a bill was sponsored that would have diverted the Tourist Development Taxes, which counties use to conduct their tourism marketing activities, toward public safety expenses. The industry responded with a grassroots advocacy campaign dedicated to educating members of the Florida Legislature on the value of tourism marketing. While that effort was a success in 2013, it’s imperative for the association to remain vigilant in 2014, as the same lawmakers who proposed this expansion will be back.
In furthering one of its primary legislative priorities since 2004, FADMO filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit brought by a group of Florida counties against online retailers such as Expedia and Travelocity. The online travel business model has these companies remitting sales and Tourist Development Taxes on only the wholesale transaction. Counties brought forward a lawsuit that reached the Florida Supreme Court for a decision on the issue. FADMO provided insight to the court on the impact this decision could have on the projects supported by these revenues.
FADMO also expanded the support it provides individual members within their communities. On behalf of FADMO, Executive Director Robert Skrob spoke at several local community meetings in Gadsden, Pasco and Polk counties. This provided members with an opportunity to educate members of their communities about issues at the statewide level that will have a local impact.
These past successes and improved member communication tools give FADMO an excellent foundation for success in 2014.
One of the most critical roles of any association is to help ensure the success and perpetuation of its industry. This theme has become central to the focus of the Florida Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (FAHRO) over the last year. Florida’s primary providers of affordable housing to our state’s most vulnerable citizens have experienced underfunding since the 1980s and have made it their mantra to find new ways to do more with less. This, despite being expected not only to provide decent, safe and affordable housing, but also a host of social services that are often mandated, but not funded.
Through a biennial strategic planning process, FAHRO takes the time to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses as an association. The association’s leaders and members also scan their environment to identify opportunities and threats that lie beyond their control so they can prepare for them. FAHRO’s members have always been mindful that the day could arrive when chronic underfunding by the federal government would pose a threat to the continued existence of their affordable housing agencies. Though not yet here, those days now seem within sight. The good news … FAHRO has been preparing.
Over the last decade, Florida’s housing agencies have been working through their association to diversify their housing portfolios and to be entrepreneurial in pursuit of their mission. By enacting landmark changes to housing statutes in 2005 that made it considerably easier for housing authorities to pursue tax credits and other initiatives promoted by the association, housing authorities are slowly developing alternate funding streams. Replacing the cornerstone funding source of these agencies is likely impossible, however, so it becomes imperative to formulate a comprehensive strategy to simplify, supplement and synergize their operations to ensure continuity.
Newly seated FAHRO President Maria A. Burger has made the theme for her term “Innovate. Perpetuate.” Two words say it all. Building on the success of her predecessors, Maria has already achieved unprecedented participation and member engagement through surveys and in-person strategy meetings. Emerging from these discussions are three consistent messages: 1) The federal government needs to fulfill its obligations to affordable housing programs by fully funding them; 2) To the extent that full funding is not achieved, regulatory relief from Congress and HUD to alleviate costly and unnecessary administrative burdens is essential; and 3) Changes to Florida statutes are needed to provide greater flexibility and to allow expanded entrepreneurism among housing agencies to serve their clients.
Together, FAHRO will innovate new strategies and methods to ensure the perpetuation of the affordable housing industry and its mission to provide homes for Florida’s most vulnerable citizens.
Professional employer organizations (PEOs) provide outsourced human resources to businesses throughout the state. In fact, Florida is the largest state for the industry, with 6 percent of all workers employed with a PEO.
For more than 25 years, the PEO industry has worked hard to educate business owners, lawmakers and the general public about the benefits the PEO industry provides. Yet several myths about the industry persist.
To help dispel these myths, the Florida Association of Professional Employer Organizations (FAPEO) partnered with NAPEO (the national association) and the Workers’ Compensation Institute to develop a training curriculum about the PEO industry. One of the featured speakers at a training event was the chief economist for the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), Harry Shuford, who recently completed an in-depth study of the PEO industry.
Mr. Shuford reviewed two years’ worth of data and concluded that many of the myths perpetuated about the PEO industry are not borne out by the facts. In fact, during the session about his research, Mr. Shuford presented his data along with the comment:
Our research into PEOs has shown that the empirical evidence disproves the myth that PEOs are “the problem” in the insurance industry. But that is where psychology comes into play. For more than 20 years, people have had in their minds that PEOs are a problem. So, whenever a problem does occur with a PEO, that problem gets noticed more than it would for any other company. Now we have empirical data so you can compare what has been going in the underwriting marketplace with the PEO contract compared to the regular insurance contract. It will take time to change people’s perceptions, but now we have the evidence PEOs need to improve their image in the marketplace.
FAPEO has published these findings about the industry to equip PEOs with accurate information to use in their advocacy efforts. And the association plans to publish a brief for lawmakers so they can learn the truth about the benefits of the PEO industry.
In addition to these efforts, members of FAPEO visited Tallahassee on March 18 for the PEO CEO Legislative Summit. Members had appointments with their local lawmakers and had the opportunity to educate them about the benefits PEOs provide to their local communities.
The last few years, since the burst of the housing bubble, have been as hard on the moving industry as any out there, with Florida being among the hardest hit. In fact, it is estimated that at least 30 percent of the industry went out of business or consolidated during the last four years. Those who survived downsized and managed through the challenge, much as the association has been forced to do. However, like its members, the Florida Movers and Warehousemen’s Association (FMWA) has never lost sight of its purpose or that better days lie ahead.
Last year’s annual report noted that FMWA was working to implement the Florida ProMover® program in conjunction with its partners at the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA). In the early part of the year, that effort bore fruit with the official launch of the program. Less than a year later, there are almost two dozen registered Florida ProMovers, making it the second largest and fastest growing program of its type in the nation.
As part of the launch of the Florida ProMover program, FMWA attended the industry’s national conference in Atlanta and hosted a press conference at the Florida Capital Press Center, where association leaders educated the press about the program, receiving coverage both by television media and National Public Radio. These efforts ensure that FMWA will continue to grow consumers’ awareness of the ProMover program as the gold standard of professional movers in the industry.
Building on the popularity and success of this program, FMWA has been working with its national van line partners to promote the Florida ProMover program and membership in the association. Several national van lines have already reached out to their agents to endorse this effort, which has fueled a 15 percent growth in FMWA membership.
Florida’s movers and FMWA are thrilled that Florida’s economy and, by extension, its professional movers have gotten our state moving again!
We all can remember starting off in our careers, or even being further along and wondering about the next step. Most of us figured it out somehow, or we got guidance from a colleague, or we even went a different direction. What we all wish we had was a clear path for progressing in our careers. Thanks to the Professional Insurance Agents of Florida (PIA of Florida), the insurance agency world need no longer want for that direction.
Over the past year, PIA of Florida has worked to create a remarkable educational track for insurance agents. From pre-licensing to agency ownership, the association has all the courses an agent needs. PIA of Florida has developed courses all over the state so that with only a short drive, agents can obtain a professional designation or catch up on continuing education requirements. Each program, assembled through the association’s various educational partners, is designed to shepherd participants at all levels, from interested in the field of insurance to agency ownership—or any point along the way. The beauty of the system is its flexibility. It does not presume that everyone wants to be an agency owner, or even that they wish to reach a pinnacle designation; however, regardless of one’s level of experience—from novice to veteran—if an insurance agent is looking for “what’s next,” the PIA of Florida Career Path provides the next step.
Steps on this journey through the insurance agent’s career path include programs offered through PIA of Florida’s educational partners, including The Institutes, which offers the Accredited Advisor in Insurance (AAI) and the Accredited Customer Service Representative (ACSR) designations; the AIMS Society, which promotes the Certified Professional Insurance Agent (CPIA) designation; and the Central Insurance School, which created the Professional in Insurance Account Management (PIAM) and the Certified Professional in Insurance (CPII) designations. These partners allow PIA of Florida to offer nationally recognized designations to set agents apart in the competitive insurance industry.
Education has and will always be a cornerstone value of PIA of Florida, and the official launch of the Career Path will ensure that Florida’s insurance agents continue to be able to look to their association as THE place to go to grow their skills and to advance their careers.
It is this confidence the members have in their association that contributes to the continued growth and success of PIA of Florida. Combined with the association’s other core values of communication and advocacy, where the association was the sole voice to quash language that would have usurped agents’ commissions to pay for an experimental program, Career Path makes PIA of Florida Always the Right Step!
Most of the MSi family of clients have been with us for decades and know that the secret to our success is the continued growth and accomplishment of our existing client base. For that reason, MSi rarely accepts new clients. When we do, it is something we do with careful thought and consideration. Nearly three years since we accepted our last client, we opened our doors to the Florida Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (FLASLA) in the last quarter of this year.
FLASLA and its members bring with them a rich history of service to the state of Florida and its citizens through the intelligent design of outdoor areas to achieve environmental, social and aesthetic outcomes for society. From an organizational perspective, FLASLA boasts an incredibly strong structure of engaged volunteers who are committed to the industry and their association. However, their professional management history has been somewhat inconsistent, resulting in volunteer leaders not always having the systems and support they need to accomplish their objectives.
MSi has already made great progress in developing and implementing an improved database to make it easier to communicate and interact with members, as well as to identify and recruit potential members. Additionally, we have begun the process of implementing uniform systems and procedures, as well as a central repository of the association’s information. The result will be to bring much-needed stability and continuity to this great organization.
An added bonus for us, as great lovers of the state of Florida, is to be able to promote the amazing work of Florida’s landscape architects through their annual Design Awards program. Among the 2013 winners was a revision to the master plan of historic Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales that simultaneously preserves the vision of philanthropist Edward Bok and the design of Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., while allowing for the expansion to include new features, such as a Children’s Garden, an Education Center and improved circulation for the visiting public.
As we look forward to the future, we are excited to work with FLASLA to continue to grow the association’s annual conference, which is recognized as the largest of its kind in the nation. We also will work to diversify the association’s programming and revenue streams while building the systems necessary to support the group’s volunteer structure and to create organizational stability and continuity for years to come.
For more than a decade, Florida Harley-Davidson dealerships enjoyed record year-over-year sales. Dealers everywhere were successful.
In the years since the 2008 recession began, business has been a lot tougher. Running a dealership efficiently, reducing costs and maximizing every revenue opportunity have never been more important.
In response, dealers throughout Florida came together with the Florida Harley-Davidson® Dealers Association (FHDDA) to create a world-class training program for dealership personnel. During 2013, this training program expanded to three full weeks of training for all dealership employees.
Florida has become the envy of Harley-Davidson dealers throughout the country because of its education program. In other states, Harley dealers have to contract directly for their own training classes or send employees to Milwaukee. In Florida, dealers can benefit from economies of scale, having the costs of training shared by all dealers. It’s all in an effort to make everyone better, employing the theory “a rising tide raises all boats.”
More importantly, the association has fostered a closer working relationship among dealers who are starting to understand that other dealers aren’t their primary competitors. Rather, Home Depot, Best Buy and the boat dealerships are more important competitors that, together, FHDDA members can overcome.
The 2013 training program featured sequential training sessions for sales managers, service managers and Motorclothes® managers. The training in July built upon the class attended in April, and the class in October built upon the two previous sessions. This sequential training model can address more advanced dealership issues than would otherwise be possible, outside of a costly one-on-one consultation. Robert Skrob worked with subject matter experts to create a custom curriculum for each of these important dealership department managers.
The Florida Harley-Davidson Dealers Association has proved that working together makes everyone more productive and profitable.
At Membership Services, Inc., we encourage members of our team to build fulfilling careers and personal lives. This ensures they are motivated to provide a positive image of the association every time they answer one of our member’s phone calls. Here are brief updates on our team.
In addition to the great services Membership Services, Inc., provides for our associations, Robert Skrob and his team also work with several consulting clients to help them within their businesses.
This year included a significant upgrade in facilities and capability for your association headquarters. Membership Services, Inc., moved to a new headquarters office within Tallahassee, Florida. You are welcome to visit us the next time you are in Tallahassee. In the meantime, here is a photo tour:
Here are the six phases of membership marketing that we implement for our associations here at MSi:
Establish trust with members so they believe you can and will accomplish what you promise, you have the resources to fulfill your mission and you’ll follow through on your commitments.
Ensure your members feel they are welcome and that other people just like them are also members. Build a relationship with members so they see your association as "the place for them."
Demonstrate that "what they get" value far surpasses anything members could receive by investing their dues dollars somewhere else, including not spending the dollars at all. Illustrate this ROI in a compelling, transparent manner.
Create opportunities for members to take action to help fulfill the mission of the association and to accomplish their personal goals. Move them from passive recipients to active participants.
Put members into contact with other members to foster relationships. In the end, members stay connected to their association because they feel a connection with other members. The sooner you build those relationships, the sooner you have a member for life.
Once you have fulfilled the first five phases of membership marketing, your association’s #1 recruitment asset is its existing members. Give members the tools they need to recruit new members, and create a culture of positive recognition for your member ambassadors.