Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Clinging to the Status Quo

I had the pleasure of facilitating a Membership Idea Swap at ASAE today. We had good attendance and a good meeting. But one thing that someone commented to me on after was that so many people were stuck on doing things the same way that have always been done. When confronted with a new way or a new idea, the initial response was to say that won't work.

I think many people fear change. It is natural. But even if you fear change, you can deal with it in a positive way. You don't have to jump instantly to "it won't work." Some ideas are just that. They are meant to spark further innovation or discussion. But if your reaction is that "it won't work," you will miss the chance at that further innovation and discussion.

So, keep your ears and minds open, wherever you are!


Scott Oser said...


As you know I was at the Swap with you yesterday. I thought the conversation was good but we definitely didn't spend much time on figuring out how associations could use new models to succeed. We tended to talk more about the challenges that associations face with the current model.

As I mentioned at the Swap itself I think this happens because associations are inherently risk averse. Working on a new model would force them to try some radical things that would put their money at risk. If the new model works it could really increase their revenues but as far as I can tell most just are not confident enough to take the leap.

Yesterday we spent some time talking about mission. I wonder if the reason that associations are not willing to gamble with their money and freely consider radical change is because they worry that if it doesn't work they will no longer be able to do the good work they were originally created to do.

In conclusion I don't think anyone at the Swap was really saying "this won't work." I think they were saying they don't know how to make it work and have enough on their plates to worry about already that figuring out what to do next is not even in the picture.

Maddie Grant said...

I was also at the Idea Swap, and I thought the whole thing was extremely depressing.

Check out this slide from ASAE (link is to a post by Chris Carfi): http://www.socialcustomer.com/2008/09/on-free-and-bus.html - percentage of gross revenue from member dues is down from 54% in 1977 to 29% in 2002. How much further down is it in 2008? The truth is, dues are less and less important (without being unimportant) but I think the vast majority of association execs still think they bring in a much larger percentage of revenue than they do.

If more people actually saw that this trend is happening already, they would think much more about different pricing models, and not take what should have been a great high level discussion and turn it right back to "let's force people to have to pay us dues so they can have access to our services".


Scott Oser said...

Hey Maddie,

I hate it when you hide your feelings and don't let everyone know what you are thinking.

I have been thinking about this whole membership model thing since the Idea Swap. I was wondering if anyone could think of a way that an association could test a new model without risking what they have relied on forever. Can anyone who is much more creative than me think of a way an association could have a sort of incubator program where they would test something more radical? Could it be a certain class of membership that truly flipped things upside down? What does everyone think?