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 2012.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 interction.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
He wants a grand slam, and he is challenging both members and staff to make this year's annual convention the highest attended in the history of the association. If experience is any indicator, everyone stands ready to answer the call!
The road ahead will not be easy for any housing agency. You only have to read and listen to what is being communicated from Washington to realize we are the target. In the midst of this recession, housing budgets will be disproportionately reduced compared to other federal budgets. As a result, we must be more creative, more resilient and more determined to succeed. We must speak with "One Voice," but before we speak, we must determine what our message should be. We can do that only through collaboration, including ideas from the smallest agency to the largest. I look forward to seeing you very soon, as we begin this journey of lifting FAHRO to new heights.
Taking the stage at the annual convention just a few weeks before being installed as president of FAHRO, Marcus Goodson issued this challenge to the membership to respond to his call to action by being active and engaged participants in their association. The response has been overwhelming throughout the first half of his term, and Marcus is determined that we outdo ourselves again this year!
FAHRO agency membership has surged, with all but a few agencies being active members, and we set a new attendance record at the 2012 Executive Directors' Forum. Not only did the Forum have great participation, but it also provided a new purpose this year. Several retiring agency directors timed their departures to follow the event so they could attend with their successors to ensure a smooth transition of their agencies continuing to draw on the experience and support of their FAHRO family.
Our on-demand regional training program continues to be a tremendous success in driving high-quality, budget-conscious education to agency members on the topics they need, when they need them, and close to home. The result is providing in-person training at prices that often rival what typically can only be offered online.
Another association success that continues to blossom is the Florida Public Housing Authority Self Insurance Fund (FPHASIF). This FAHRO-endorsed program continues to post annual gains in membership and savings for its members, all while maintaining its position as the most financially stable insurance program serving Florida's housing agencies. FAHRO was able to work with the Florida Legislature to pass legislation that enabled FPHASIF to provide this important coverage to members at an affordable premium.
Still, Marcus is not content with shattering several FAHRO records and having the last three years represent three of the four highest attended annual conventions, not to mention a packed exhibit hall that has proven recession-proof. He wants a grand slam, and he is challenging both members and staff to make this year's annual convention the highest attended in the history of the association. If experience is any indicator, everyone stands ready to answer the call!
The job of educating lawmakers is never done. That is especially true this year with so many new freshmen legislators.
The father of modern advertising, David Ogilvy, is famous for saying, "You aren't advertising to a standing army; you are advertising to a moving parade." This means that just when you think you have communicated to everyone in your prospective customer market, you need to start again because your audience has moved on and there is an entirely new group of people to address.
This is especially true of the Florida Legislature because of today's term limits. Every two years we have a new crop of freshmen lawmakers who ran for the Legislature for their own reasons. They were excited about criminal justice, education or perhaps tort reform. Most likely they know nothing about your issues. Term limits guarantee that almost the entire Legislature is brand new, ignorant of your issues, every eight years.
The Coalition of Affordable Housing Providers invested a lot of time last summer to create a new tool to educate lawmakers about Florida's affordable housing system. Documentary tax stamp fees fund tax credits for which developers can apply to build affordable housing communities across the state. Each year the Legislature must reauthorize the use of these "Sadowski funds" for affordable housing versus all the other priorities they might otherwise use the money to support.
CAHP volunteers are now armed with a presentation they can display on an iPad when they visit lawmakers' offices in Tallahassee. While it provides an effective visual aid for the legislators, what is more important is that it is a valuable tool for volunteers to make sure they are prepared, confident and on message when they visit their lawmakers.
The job of educating lawmakers is never done. That is especially true this year with so many new freshmen legislators. CAHP has worked throughout the year to make sure it is prepared for the 2013 Legislative Session.
Being a member of the FMWA sends a clear message to consumers that they have finally found someone they can trust.
Since the average American will move less than a dozen times in their lifetime, hiring a professional mover is not something most of us do regularly. Yet when we do, we are placing an immense amount of faith in the folks who are packing, loading and taking possession of all our worldly possessions. Combine that with a healthy fear of having your stuff hijacked by extortionists and all the stress that typically accompanies a move, and consumers find themselves looking for a solution to whom they can trust.
Enter the Florida Movers and Warehousemen's Association, the architects of the state statute that became a national model for regulating the household moving industry and protecting consumers. After making it a 3rd degree felony to hold household goods hostage and closing the loophole that allowed the "bad guys" to broker moves in the shadows, the association has turned its sights on helping the public cut through the clutter of everyone who wakes up one morning and decides they can hitch a trailer to their truck and call themselves a "professional mover."
By raising the bar above the statutory minimums and setting a code of ethics and standards of professionalism, as well as a mediation program for consumer disputes, being a member of the FMWA sends a clear message to consumers that they have finally found someone they can trust. Building on its reputation for success, the association is actively working with its partners at the American Moving and Storage Association to bring its popular and successful ProMover® program to Florida. The ProMover® program has gained national awareness and success as the higher standard for professional movers, guiding consumers' choices and gaining universal support from major van lines.
In its original form, the ProMover® program is limited to looking at federal motor carrier standards and focusing on long-distance moves.To advance the program to the state level, looking at in-state and local moves, the AMSA is turning to its state partners to ensure the high standards are maintained. Florida is working to become just the third state-level ProMover® provider in the nation, a major value to movers, moving consumers and regulators alike--preserving the FMWA's reputation as the place to which the public turns to find the "good guys" in the moving industry.
...in every case, FADMO was successful in advocating its position.
Our annual meeting increased our host city's population by more than 10 percent! That's right, our attendees surged the city of Cedar Key's overall population.
We enjoyed a strong turnout for the Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizations' annual meeting, and Cedar Key, Fla., provided a unique meeting venue.
While most Floridians have heard about Cedar Key, only a few have been lucky enough to visit. It's a remote fishing village located on Florida's Gulf Coast, population 693. Nothing like Cedar Key could exist near an interstate exit. It's a step back in time.
At its inception in 2000, the Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizations established the tradition of hosting its annual meeting in the home county of its chairperson. Since Carol McQueen of the Levy County Tourist Development Council was the FADMO chairwoman this year, tourism marketers from throughout the state came to Cedar Key for the annual meeting.
Cedar Key doesn't have any resorts or convention hotels. There isn't even one property that could host all our attendees. Instead, our attendees stayed in five different properties around the island. We held the meetings at the Cedar Key Community Center, beautifully decorated with artwork representing the community.
The meeting was a huge success. Attendees loved the laid-back atmosphere, and they expressed their appreciation for meeting "outside the box" of a big convention hotel. The largest meeting size that can be accommodated is 75 to maybe 100 attendees; however, if the meeting fits, Cedar Key provides a one-of-a-kind experience.
The annual meeting capped a great year for FADMO. As county-designated tourism marketers, destination marketers have a broad responsibility for the tourism industry within their communities.We tackled several important legislative issues during the 2012 session, and in every case, FADMO was successful in advocating its position.
The highlight of the legislative session was the Legislature's recognition of the job-building impact of Florida's tourism industry by appropriating $54 million to VISIT FLORIDA to fund an aggressive marketing program on behalf of the state.Tourism is the largest industry in Florida, employing more than 1 million Floridians. Increased funding for tourism marketing will attract more high-value visitors to Florida versus all the other vacation choices they have.
This increased marketing at the state level expands the reach of each local community's marketing efforts. With statewide visitation up, tourism is also up within many communities throughout Florida.
FADMO had a great year. With the Destination Marketing Summit held in April to provide education opportunities for all destination marketing organizations' staff, monthly newsletters to bring the industry together and the successful annual meeting in Cedar Key, the Florida tourism industry is well positioned to compete to attract visitors to Florida's many diverse communities.
An idea that was too divisive to discuss in 2009, even within the industry, was successfully passed into law in 2012.
There was bitter disagreement about whether it was the right direction for the association.
A vocal minority believed the PEO industry should approach Florida lawmakers to create a client-level reporting option for SUTA (state unemployment tax). Others vehemently disagreed. Some said it wouldn't help the PEOs that wanted it; others believed it could undermine the industry.
As executive director, Robert Skrob called the first industry gathering in the state to discuss the topic on Sept. 29, 2009. Over the previous four months, a special committee of volunteer industry leaders had gathered each month to discuss proposals for reforming Florida's unemployment compensation program. During a recent increase in unemployment benefits, claims had been awarded even when undeserved by the claimants. Individuals who had refused to work at available job opportunities were receiving benefits. This spike in benefits awarded, along with the general rise in unemployment, had forced Florida to borrow more than $3 billion from the federal government.
While the participants didn't come to an agreement during that first meeting, over the next few months a consensus began to take shape. On Aug. 4, 2010, the FAPEO membership resolved to propose a client SUTA reporting option and came together to increase the industry's participation in the elections fund-raising process. In just a few months, the industry had agreed upon a plan.
In 2011, although the client SUTA reporting option was well received by the Senate, it failed to pass in the House on the eve of the last day of the legislative session. Undeterred, FAPEO brought the bill back in 2012 and succeeded. An idea that was too divisive to discuss in 2009, even within the industry, was successfully passed into law in 2012.
Then came implementation. FAPEO worked with the Florida Department of Revenue by hosting a telephone workshop for industry members to get their questions answered directly by decision makers at the DOR. This was a huge time saver for DOR regulators. Not only did they hear firsthand from the impacted businesses about questions they had about the law, but when they gave an answer, they were providing it to more than 100 stakeholders at the same time.
Even with this priority completed, the industry remained committed to its increased participation in fund-raising for the 2012 election campaigns. As an industry, contributions doubled in 2012 versus 2008.This required frequent communications with members, demonstrating how this money would be invested as well as illustrating the expected benefits.
FAPEO's work on the client SUTA reporting option and it elections fund-raising efforts have positioned the industry well going into the 2013 Legislative Session. Industry members and leaders have positive working relationships with many members of the Florida Legislature as well as great rapport with each other.
Through the FSCF's involvement, perceptions of the industry were transformed from being part of the problem to being an important part of the solution.
When workers' compensation fraud became a front-and-center issue for Florida CFO Jeff Atwater, the Financial Service Centers of Florida and its members found themselves being targeted as the scapegoat of this complex problem.
At the request of the Department of Financial Services Division of Insurance Fraud, CFO Atwater initiated the "Money Service Business Facilitated Workers' Compensation Fraud Work Group." Initially, even the name suggested that financial service centers were effectively the reason why workers' comp fraud was occurring. However, the FSCF immediately sprang into action, reaching out to the CFO and his team to ensure they understood that our industry should not be singled out because of the actions of a few bad actors and a complex scheme that involved a half-dozen different industries.
As part of the work group, the FSCF successfully made our case that our industry was not the source of the problem. We also provided key recommendations on responsible regulations that would make it more difficult for this type of criminal activity to take place and easier for law enforcement to detect illegal actions and prosecute the offenders. While the industry didn't agree with the entirety of the recommendations that resulted from the work group, the proposed regulations were substantially less damaging than those initially suggested and reflected the more global nature of the problem. As one FSCF representative stated, "Placing all the responsibility on the financial services industry is akin to trying to stop a train with the caboose."
By the time the issue reached the Legislature, the issues had been more properly framed, and the legislation reflected well the quality recommendations made by the FSCF to curtail any abuses while minimizing the increased regulatory burden placed on responsible financial service centers. Our incredibly proficient team had established that, as stakeholders, we provide tremendous insight into how to solve complex problems in a reasonable fashion. Of course, it required a command of the issues and access to key policy makers to have the opportunity to educate them on these matters, but with all these pieces in place, what could have been a painful and costly issue for the industry was rapidly converted to one where we became the problem-solvers instead of the problem--even before the legislative session was gaveled to order.
The association's training program became the envy of the country.
For more than a decade, Florida Harley-Davidson dealerships recorded 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 to create a world-class training program for dealership personnel. During 2012, this training program expanded to three full weeks of education 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 an effort to make everyone better, with the theory that a rising tide raises all boats.
More important, the association has fostered a closer working relationship with dealers who are starting to understand that other Harley dealers aren't their primary competitors. Rather, Home Depot, Best Buy and the boat dealerships are more important competitors that, together, all Harley dealers can overcome.
The 2012 training program was so successful that the association is increasing the training in 2013.This year's education program will feature sequential training for sales managers, service managers and Motorclothes® managers, meaning the training in July will build on the class they attended in April and the class in October will build upon the two previous sessions. This way we can cover more advanced dealership issues than would ever be possible, outside a costly one-on-one consultation. Robert Skrob has 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.
PIA of Florida continues to make headway on causes critical to the profession.
"I have to be on this call for the future of my business. I just can't afford to miss it!" a new member exclaimed on the phone. He had just joined the Professional Insurance Agents of Florida from an email marketing campaign that promoted the PIA Agency Success Series--seven radio-style interviews on key agency operations topics that were completely free to members. These programs were broadcast each week via telephone seminar to make them inexpensive for members to participate. Each program featured a guest expert on topics focusing on how agents could boost their agency's profits and systemize their business operations in today's economy.
That is what the PIA is all about--finding those benefits that are critical to the competitiveness and success of agents and delivering them affordably so members can focus on generating business and growing the bottom line. This is all detailed in a "Call to Action" for the industry that articulates the association's vision for the future of the independent insurance agency delivery model in Florida. This document makes clear the PIA of Florida's important role within Florida's insurance industry.
We also brought on a new sales team for our Errors and Omissions program that has streamlined our delivery system and has recruited a new and affordable product that takes all the stress out of obtaining Agent's E&O coverage. Both members and members-to-be alike are flocking to this program that provides them more options and better rates than ever before.
The PIA has also become the first to offer the Certified Professional Insurance Agent (CPIA) designation statewide throughout Florida, building a tremendous group of committed agents, with more than 60 of them getting their designation this year. We also have numerous other training programs in development that will bring more certifications and essential continuing education to Florida's professional insurance agents.
These efforts ensured that members of the PIA of Florida were able to provide input to their lawmakers in Tallahassee, advocating several important reforms to Florida's badly broken system of insurance regulation, working to restore Citizens to a responsible program and curtailing the fraud and abuse that costs policyholders millions each year. While the fight resembles a marathon much more than a 40-meter dash, we continue to make headway on this critical cause.
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:
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.