Thursday, July 31, 2008

Baseball in San Diego during ASAE

BMart, DGamm and I took in a ChiSox game last year. So this year, we are making it a Padres vs. Phillies game. Open to all takers.

Game is Saturday night at 7:05. Tickets will be between $15-$20 depending on how many people come which will dictate where we sit.

If you would like to go, let me know by Monday August 4 at noon. Either comment here or shoot me an email at

Sorry Elizabeth, no overzealous Philly fans are allowed ;)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

International Blogging and New Media Association Relaunched

See the Press Release here.

In the context of all the recent conversations, would this group be better served as an association or the hated term, self-formed group?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


There have been many conversations about discounting dues. The best I can remember can be found here.

For those offering new member discounts, once a member goes to renew, I am guessing you have them start paying regular dues. How much do people complain? Once you start offering a discount to new members, do current members complain?

I am up for renewal on one of my magazines. I thought the price seemed high. I Googled the magazine and found I could get it at a 25% discount from a number of online retailers. So, I emailed the customer service department to find out why. Here is the response I got:

{blank} Magazine has always valued its loyal renewal subscribers; however, there are times when {blank} must add new subscribers to its subscriber list. This can be done in several ways: {blank} may offer a subscription plus a premium at the basic subscription rate, we may offer a subscription for less than the basic rate, or we may allow our agents to offer a subscription for less than the basic rate. Please note that these are special one time only introductory offers. Upon expiring these subscribers are renewed at the regular renewal subscription price. We try to be fair in our methods of doing business and from time to time we will make special one-time-offers to our renewal subscribers.

If we can be of further assistance, please let us know. To ensure your future concerns are handled in a timely fashion, please include all previous e-mail correspondence.

What is different about this from associations is, the number of options. If you want membership, you have to deal with one entity. For subscriptions, I can deal with hundreds and find the best price. They really aren't one-time introductory offers if I can find them anytime online from a number of retailers. And I would be willing to guess that the magazine pays a fee to the online retailers for each subscriber obtained. So why wouldn't you offer the same price they offer and keep the whole thing? It sounds like you would make more money and make people happier. What is stopping me from letting my subscription run out and just buying it every year from one of these retailers for a cheaper price?

25% is quite a difference. What would happen if you let Wal-Mart sell your memberships tomorrow for 25% less than you charge? Would people still go directly to your association to renew?

What if you flipped traditional thinking? What if first-time members paid X, but when you renewed, it was cheaper? I would love to hear Tony's take on that one.

The Innovation Routine

I have stepped back away from Shirky for awhile because my magazine pile was getting a little out of control. Here are the mags I try to read monthly, in no particular order:

1. Associations Now
2. Inc
3. Fast Company
4. HR Magazine (SHRM's publication)
5. Forum

I love Inc and Fast Company. Great stories and many nuggets that can be applied to association work. In the June Inc, they talk about innovation. I thought this was an interesting piece that might help you in the way you innovate or brainstorm new things at your association.

Obsolescence and Banking

In some ways, the recent conversations have asked if associations will become obsolete. Greg pointed out that some associations have run their course, while others mentioned how as the world changes, and industry may cease to exist (see Shirky talking about scribes).

Although not really association related, I wonder when checks will become obsolete. It still baffles me when I go to Giant and see someone write a check. In the era of online banking and debit cards, there aren't too many situations that require having a check. Plus, it is the one form of payment that you aren't sure or not if it is good.

I like Bank of America's savings program where they round up your purchases and put the change into your savings. What a great idea. Now, could some non-profits team up with BOA and have them round up and put the change in account as a donation to that charity or foundation? Now that would be something!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Just read a nice article about the USA Basketball team that will competing in Bejing. The last statement was terrific.

There's something to be said for humility. Until an athlete bows his head, after all, no one can hang a gold medal around his neck.

Apathy vs Ignorance

Today was trash day in my neighborhood. It amazed me that in my little townhouse court, I saw 4 CRT monitors and/or TVs put out for the trash guys to pickup. Don't people know that those TVs have harmful things in them and that there are several electronics recycling programs available?

I am guessing some know and some don't, even though I feel everyone should know at this point. So then here comes a question like Ben's - Do they care? As shown by the TVs in the trash, no.

Are there topics like this in your association with your members? Are you struggling between figuring out if it is apathy or ignorance? I know I am.

PS - Something tells me there could be a really cool graph to display an apathy/ignorance curve of some sort.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Association Survivor

I was just going to comment on Ben's latest post, but then figured it needed an entire post of its own.

I still go back to my original statement. There will still be a need for associations/institutions to handle larger scale projects that require economies of scale and true, professional management. Many of these things do fall into Ben's category of "problems that most people don't really care too much about, but that need to be handled." But what we are really talking about is opportunity costs. Economics 101. It's not that people don't care. It is that people care about other stuff more. They care about their jobs, their families and having fun.

So, in a way Ben, I guess you are right. Associations will continue to thrive because people have better things to do.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Interesting Blog

Inc Magazine has several guest bloggers on their website. One interesting one is Jay Goltz and his blog Boss School. Interesting to read the comments and hear what small businesses are going through.

From CSI to Member Benefits

It is going to take me minute to get to my point, but I figured I would give you my crazy train of thought. My wife and I have a game where we try to figure out how our brains jumped from one thing to a seemingly unrelated other thing. So here is the road map to the point of this blog post.

I saw that William Petersen is leaving CSI, the CBS TV show. It reminded me that I totally missed last season. I figured I should catch up on the show before the season starts. Turns out, CBS doesn't put all old full shows online. NBC and ABC do. So now, I may not really watch CSI this fall since I missed a bunch of shows last season. Why wouldn't you put up old episodes to help drive traffic to the new ones?

So here it is. Are you giving your members old products for free to help drive traffic to new ones? If not, maybe you should be. The best example I can think of is market research. If you have a new version of the study out, why not send all your members a copy of the old study? You can say you want your members to have the solid data available to help them do business. So here, take this study for nothing. But, if you want the most up-to-date data, this new study is available for purchase.

I am sure this could work with other benefits/products/services. There are probably arguments against it, but just like me with CSI, you may have people expecting it. And if they don't get it, they just walk away.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cost Benefit

At ASAE Annual in San Diego, I am leading a discussion in the Decision to Join Lounge on Sunday at 3pm. The topic is how DTJ applies to trade associations. I have been a big trade association cheerleader in trying to get ASAE to do a DTJ for trades, which I hear is their next study.

So, I am going through DTJ again, just preparing some things for my talk (which is right after Blogger-Con BTW). I discovered, or was reminded, of an interesting dichotomy.

The first sentence of the book reads: "A person’s decision to join an individual membership organization is not a cost-benefit analysis." However, when the folks who had ever dropped membership in an association were asked the main reason why, "Did not receive the expected value to justify the cost of dues" was the #1 answer.

Long story short, don't think that you don't have to worry about cost/benefit. It may not be the main reason people join, but it will be the main reason they stay.

Monday, July 14, 2008


I passed the very tough entrance exam, and now this blog is listed on the Non-Profit network of Alltop, a “digital magazine rack” of the Internet (as they put it).

Check it out and see what other YAPstars you find!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Today's Nuggets from Shirky

I didn't read as much as I wanted to over the holiday weekend, but I did get a few nuggets that I wanted to share and get your thoughts on.

If everyone can do something, it is no longer rare enough to pay for, even if it is vital.

Here Shirky talks about the demise of the profession of scribes. But think about it in terms of your association benefits. If the only benefits you offer are things people can get other places for nothing, you better have a true value proposition other than those benefits. And chances are, discounts or member pricing on conferences, etc. aren't going to cut it.

Here is something you can show all the naysayers at your associations when it comes to blogs and social media:

It's also easy to see why the audience for most user-generated content is so small, filled as it is with narrow, spelling-challenged observations about going to the mall and picking out clothes...And it's easy to deride this thing as self-absorbed publishing -- why would anyone put such drivel out in public?

It's simple. They're not talking to you.

It's not always about you. And that's ok. But when it is about you, you want to be there to hear it, and answer if appropriate. Because if you are not, it will never again be about you. And if you lose one engagement, how many more are bound to follow?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

More from Shirky

Ok, so it looks like I will be posting my thoughts fairly frequently when it comes to Shirky's book. Here is my latest nugget:

In particular, when a profession has been created as a result of some scarcity, as with librarians or television programmers, the professionals are often the last ones to see it when that scarcity goes away. It is easier to understand that you face competition then obsolesence.

This is talking more about a profession, but could be about associations too? Any thoughts?

Ben Talks About Self Forming Groups

See my comment on his take, too.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

More on Groups and Shirky

Can I tell you that I love reading Shirky's book while having this great conversation at the same time? Anyway, Lindy had an interesting comment on my last post. I want to take a piece of it out for you:

We have a great group going and a lot of momentum. We're getting calls and e-mails from big name authors, speakers and potential sponsors. But we don't want to do this stuff in a vacuum. We want the professional arm of our industry to step up and help us out and make the big stuff happen.

I think this goes right along with what Shirky says in Chapter 2. Essentially, with transactions costs dropping so much, activities that couldn't be taken on before are now being taken on by self-forming groups. At the same time, there will still be a need for institutions to handle larger scale projects that require economies of scale and true management.

Therefore, associations should embrace the small, self-forming groups and be there to jump on board when the small group has reached a point that it can't do what it wants to without the help of a larger institution.