Dear Association Leader:
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 2014. 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 and current member participation and to 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 that could use our help helping it grow, you are welcome to give me a call at 850-222-6000.
Robert Skrob, CPA, CAE
The Coalition of Affordable Housing Providers organized a political committee (P.C.) in 2013 and conducted a fund-raising campaign for candidates for the state House of Representatives and the state Senate with great success in its first-year effort. This year, the CAHP P.C. really began to pick up steam and raised $75,500 in funds, exceeding its goal of $60,000. These funds gave CAHP members access to important legislative decision makers to educate them about affordable housing issues.
Prior to the 2014 legislative session, CAHP members were able to meet with key members of the leadership to educate them on how the state and local housing trust funds help their respective communities and the importance of funding them statewide. During the legislative session, CAHP worked with the Sadowski Coalition, a nonpartisan group of more than 30 statewide organizations that came together in 1991 with the goal of obtaining a dedicated revenue source for Florida’s affordable housing programs.
They also worked with the Governor’s Office to put SAIL and SHIP funds into his budget request to the Legislature. The State Apartment Incentive Loan program (SAIL) provides low-interest loans on a competitive basis to affordable housing developers each year. This money often serves to bridge the gap between the development’s primary financing and the total cost of the development. The Florida Housing Finance Corporation administers the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program (SHIP), which provides funds to local governments as an incentive to create partnerships that produce and preserve affordable homeownership and multifamily housing.
CAHP leaders had an opportunity to meet with Senators Gardiner, Negron and Galvano to discuss conference committee expectations. CAHP’s legislative team aggressively engaged and followed up with appropriation chairpersons, transportation and economic development members and staff to educate and seek full funding. In the end, $167.66 million of housing trust fund monies were appropriated for housing programs. This appropriation level represents 75 percent of the funds estimated to be distributed into the housing trust funds and available for appropriation during FY 2014-2015. It is also the highest level of funding since FY 2007-2008—a huge success for the industry.
It's challenging to identify funding sources for associations. You never want to increase dues for your members. Increasing sponsorship revenue always sounds like an easy way to boost your budget—until you discover that sponsors have a lot of choices, including downgrading their participation or even not participating in your association at all.
That's what makes the experience of the Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizations so unique. The association had to increase revenue to continue the industry's government relations programs. FADMO turned to Membership Services, Inc., to design a completely new program that provided additional benefits to sponsors in exchange for increased revenue.
MSi designed the Destination Marketing Connection Program. The new program leveraged FADMO's two largest assets, its Destination Marketing Summit and the FADMO annual meeting. These events give sponsors face time and are the premier events within Florida's destination marketing industry.
The major innovation this year was that the Destination Marketing Connection Program created several tiered packages. The largest package, FADMO's Diamond Partnership, included exclusive access and promotion at both annual events, recognition within FADMO's weekly government affairs updates as well as advertising in the newsletter. For lower investment levels, FADMO offered Platinum, Gold and Silver partnerships, which included benefits tailored for every budget.
Another key to the program was the limited availability of each level of sponsorship. Three of the four levels sold out, and we were forced to keep a waiting list. This means at renewal time this year, we'll offer existing members the opportunity to upgrade or renew their positions and then open up any available partnerships to the waiting list.
These packages, which featured additional sponsor benefits together with exclusivity, increased program revenue by 40 percent in the first year. FADMO generated $12,966.68 in excess of its budgeted expectations for the program and funded its successful government affairs program.
In 2015, we are working with FADMO to implement several additional innovations, including higher pricing at the lower partnership levels and removing the Platinum Partnership to make the program easier to understand for all partners.
The Florida Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials was established as a means of exchanging information for the purpose of improving low-income and affordable housing and community services. Nearly 70 years later, we continue to build upon those values that have built the association into a success. And now FAHRO is expanding its invitational statewide basketball tournament in the spirit of President Maria Burger's biennial theme "Innovate. Perpetuate."
While housing those who are most vulnerable in our communities is the primary purpose of Florida's public housing agencies, we also pride ourselves on our efforts to educate, inspire and support our residents to become self-sufficient. In furtherance of that effort, FAHRO offered its 2nd Annual Invitational Statewide Basketball Tournament and invited all of our member agencies to sponsor a team of kids ages 14-18 to compete for the title "Kings of the Court."
Nearly a dozen teams from all over the state traveled to Orlando for the three-day tournament, allowing more than 50 kids to be exposed to an environment and a city that most had never encountered. Not only does the tournament expand these young people's horizons, it also provides them with valuable lessons on competition, excellence, sportsmanship and personal growth. And before you tell yourself that the event is merely a feel good shoot-around, let us assure you that while many of the competitors are not varsity players, they practice hard and play extremely high-caliber basketball. In fact, a few of the players are sought-after college basketball recruits.
After a dominating performance in the first year, the reigning champs, the Tampa Housing Authority, faced stiff competition from several teams. Still, Tampa persevered in pursuit of its repeat to make it to the finals. In the final game, Tampa faced a scrappy Daytona Beach Housing Authority team that had well established its credentials to be in the finals as well. Daytona won the tip off, and with it, the first half. The strength and talent of Tampa remained undeniable, however, as the team fought its way into the lead in the second half. While the reigning champs seemed poised for a repeat win, the Tampa team could not seem to distance itself from its challengers. The game remained close.
With seconds to go, Daytona's sharpshooter pulled up just feet after he crossed half court to drain a three-pointer that tied the game and forced overtime. The two teams continued to trade punches in overtime, again with neither team being able to put it away. With mere seconds left until the overtime buzzer and down by two, the same Daytona player who forced overtime elevated just outside the key to strike the final blow and give his team a one-point victory over the defending champions.
It was an unbelievable ending to an incredible event that taught valuable lessons to kids who will carry those experiences to a brighter future.
Plagued by the great recession and the burst of the housing bubble, Florida's professional movers continue to keep on trucking. With the housing market on the upswing, the moving industry is also improving. FMWA continuously receives calls from Floridians who want to start a new moving company, which is a great sign for the future of the industry.
Now in its second year, the Florida ProMover designation continues to grow. This designation takes the worry and the hassles out of moving by helping consumers easily identify quality professional movers in the Sunshine State. Florida ProMovers are authorized to display the program's logo only after undergoing an extensive background check to make sure they are who they say they are.
FMWA is proud of its commitment to giving back to the community, and more especially, of its members' community involvement. We currently endorse two charities for their work to end hunger in our communities, kidsPACK and Move For Hunger. kidsPACK was founded in Polk County, Fla., by FMWA Past Chairman Randy Browning. This program provides food for children to take home and serve as sustenance when they are not at school. This is crucial for kids who otherwise go hungry on nights and weekends when school-subsidized meals are not available, and the program is proud to be feeding more than 1,275 kids every single weekend. Moreover, MSi is honored to have team member Corey Mathews serve as vice chairman of the kidsPACK board of directors and assist in the program's development and growth to feed more kids in Florida.
Along with kidsPACK, FMWA also partners with Move For Hunger, which collects food from moving customers and donates it to local food banks. This program takes advantage of consumers choosing to reduce their moving costs by cleaning out their pantries and donating food items through their movers to local food banks. At last count, Move For Hunger has assisted in contributing more than 4 million meals to those in need. FMWA member mover AMWAT Moving & Storage was recognized as the 2013 Move For Hunger National Mover of the Year.
These two programs are greatly dependent on the ability to move large quantities of food, and our members are able to provide this assistance because we care. FMWA will continue to be the home of reputable, reliable and responsible Florida movers who are dedicated to helping the communities that make our businesses possible.
The first year of a management relationship is a period of learning, understanding and building. In fact, it could easily be compared to flying a plane while building it. Still, as accomplished association managers, we must persevere and provide immediate value to the relationship during the transition process. Now with our first year of management in the history books, we are poised to launch to greater heights from the incredible foundation we have built with the Florida Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Through various cost-saving measures, MSi was able to reduce the expense load of Florida ASLA by 15 percent while increasing membership in the chapter. Among key achievements for the chapter this year has been revamping its budgeting and financial management process, developing a policy manual, streamlining its continuing education filing procedures, automating its various application modules, developing a strategic plan and creating a centralized repository of institutional knowledge and information.
For our members, professional recognition for their outstanding work is critical, not just for its ability to advance their individual careers, but also to advance the public's awareness and appreciation for what landscape architecture brings to our communities. The chapter was honored to have two members elevated to the ASLA Council of Fellows: Michael Kroll, ASLA of Fort Lauderdale, as well as Mario Nievera, ASLA of Palm Beach. Additionally, 32 landscape architects and students were awarded with honors for their exceptional projects in the chapter's 2014 Design Awards Competition. These honors include Award of Merit, Award of Honor, Award of Excellence, Frederic B. Stresau Award and Environmental Sustainability Honor.
Reeling in at the Reef was the theme for the 2014 annual conference at the luxurious Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo. Landscape architects from all over the country attended the event to catch a glimpse of this private community with stunning garden displays and outstanding architecture. In addition to the garden and eco tours, members received world-class education during the day with a reception overlooking the Atlantic in the evening. Members will certainly be talking about this rare experience for many years to come—or at least until next year's conference.
Although the Florida Association of Professional Employer Organizations was successful in stopping any harmful legislation in 2014, it continues to battle individuals who purposely spread misperceptions. On October 14, at the Office of Insurance Regulation's rate hearing for the National Council on Compensation Insurance, Charlie Kennedy on behalf of the Roofing, Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors Association testified in part:
We do continue to be concerned with cheating and fraud, and it is a result of the PEO industry. Insolvencies of recent carriers that support PEOs and the fronting operations of some carriers by corrupt PEO operators have given the industry a black eye, and it's well deserved. Those who cheat on payroll and avoid experience modifications hide under PEO policies.
Of course, these comments aren't true. The Roofing, Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors Association has its own self-insurance fund. Each time one of its members chooses to work with a PEO, the association's revenue declines. The association is trying to use the lawmaking process to give it a competitive advantage in the marketplace. This presentation is just one example of the non-truths lawmakers hear about the PEO industry.
When the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations published the results of a study by a respected Washington, D.C., research firm, FAPEO sprang into action. This study clearly demonstrates that companies that use PEO services grow faster, have lower employee turnover and succeed at a higher rate. FAPEO used the data to create a simple one-page info-graphic to help educate lawmakers about the range of benefits PEO clients experience.
In addition, FAPEO provided this tool to members to use within their marketing efforts. When PEOs insert the info-graphic with their proposals, use it to educate client advisors such as attorneys and accountants and provide this tool to current clients, empowering them to generate referrals, FAPEO members grow faster. This increased growth more than covers our members' entire investment in FAPEO dues. It's just part of our dedication to promote and protect the PEO industry.
As a PEO grows, it takes clients from insurance agents, workers' compensation carriers and self-insurance funds. Some of those competitors go to lawmakers to criticize the industry and to advocate for new anti-PEO laws to help them compete. While we continue to help our members grow, a large part of FAPEO's value is what competitors outside the PEO industry aren't able to accomplish because of our strong advocacy program.
Professional insurance agents provide their customers with peace of mind and the knowledge that if something bad happens, they won’t lose everything. When the big storm hits or a costly accident happens, your insurance has you covered. What happens when your insurance agents need help? They look to PIA of Florida.
PIA works in a challenging environment compared to most associations—it has direct competitors serving the needs of Florida's insurance agents. Still, this is no different from what our members face every day, so all we have to do is earn the commitment of our members and make sure we are giving them what they need so they won't ever think about leaving us.
Our model is simple. We are committed to being agile in adapting to meet the needs of our members and being responsive to their concerns. A consistent challenge for professional insurance agents is having access to the diversity of products necessary to obtain and maintain their customer base. This year, PIA of Florida partnered with Security First Insurance, a strong and reliable carrier that is writing policies all over the state, to appoint agents because of their affiliation with PIA. This has been a tremendous benefit for the association, which has aided in its more than 16 percent membership growth over the last quarter.
PIA of Florida is already working on a half dozen other partnerships that could yield similar opportunities for agents and greatly expand the membership benefits of the association. These new partnerships will exponentially increase value for existing members while attracting an even broader base of new members to the association.
In addition to membership growth, PIA of Florida continues to increase its other offerings. Its annual conference, Agent Expo, continues to grow year-over-year in terms of both loyalty and results, with 2015 already poised to shatter records. We also revamped our agent professional liability program, forming a new strategic partnership to support our continued growth, which has already resulted in a nearly 32 percent growth in profitability.
In just a few short years, PIA of Florida has gone from a quite challenging position to a future that is very, very bright.
It has never been more important for Harley-Davidson dealerships to run their businesses efficiently, reducing costs and maximizing every revenue opportunity. Dealerships that create a culture of success, watch their numbers closely and reward members of their team continue to experience growth.
To encourage dealers throughout the state to improve their operations, dealers came together to create a world-class training program for dealership personnel. During 2014, this training program expanded to five weeks of training for all levels of dealership personnel.
Florida has become the envy of Harley-Davidson dealers throughout the country because of its education program produced by the Florida Harley-Davidson Dealers Association. In other states, Harley dealers have to contract directly for their own training classes or send their employees to Milwaukee. Florida dealers benefit from having the costs of training shared by all dealers through the association. It's a commitment to make everyone better based on the theory that a rising tide lifts all boats.
More importantly, the association has fostered a closer working relationship with other Harley-Davidson dealers. It's always frustrating when you lose a sale to a competitor down the street. Through these training programs, however, we are creating a culture where it’s understood that other dealers aren’t the primary competitors. Rather, Home Depot, Best Buy and the boat dealerships are more important competitors for our customers' purchases. By working together, we can all improve and continue to grow our dealerships.
The 2014 training program featured sequential training for salespeople, sales managers, service managers and Motorclothes managers. Robert Skrob worked with subject matter experts to create a custom curriculum for each of these important dealership department managers, and the training offered in September was built upon the previous training in July. This way the sessions were able to address more advanced dealership issues than would ever be possible outside of a costly one-on-one consultation.
The Florida Harley-Davidson Dealers Association has proved that working together makes everyone more productive and profitable.
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.
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 members of our team:
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.