The Center for Association Resources

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Is an association management firm focused on helping Non-Profit associations succeed in their mission.

Branding steps for Not-for-profit organizations

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

Branding steps for Not-for-profit organizations

The association market is becoming more competitive, and members more demanding. Not-for profit organizations must work harder to secure the fundamental relationships that fuel their stability and growth. Building distinctive relationships between your organization, its members and potential members, is what branding is about.

We are often asked what makes the difference between an organization with an average brand and one with a distinctive/successful brand? Our answer is always the same…it’s the leaders, volunteers, staff and members who actively and enthusiastically engage in living and experiencing the unique brand promise day in and day out that makes the difference. An organization with an average brand becomes an organization with a great brand by living its values; that is the key ingredient for world-class association performance.

Aligning your organization, operations and culture around your brand values brings the promise to life and creates a deeper, stronger relationship with members, and increases prospective member interest.

A brand stands for the relationship that an organization has with its volunteers and staff, as much as it represents the relationship that it has with its members and prospective members through its product and service offering. For a brand to come to life, the organization must be internally aligned to deliver the brand promise through the organization’s culture, reward systems, key success activities and structure. In other words, the organization must ‘live’ the brand values in its day-to-day interactions. And its leaders must demonstrate their commitment to these values through behavior as well as communications and activities, demonstrating sincerity–not just rhetoric.

The most successful organizations demonstrate their commitment to their brand values in various ways including:

  • Effectively using communications to raise awareness and demonstrate its shared beliefs and vision reinforcing member focus

  • Giving volunteers and staff a deeper understanding of the brand promise and the behaviors and values the promise demands

  • Enabling all volunteers and staff to understand how their own work processes and responsibilities contribute to delivering the brand promise to members and prospective members

  • Changing and improving products and services to be in line with its brand promise and member needs

Areas of Opportunity for Not-for-Profit Organizations

The Center for Association Resources works to identify opportunities to align and enhance the organizations’s brand by studying industry trends, and its members. It is highly desirable that the brand be expressed in ways that optimize the potential of the organization and its members. Our discovery activities will include an evaluation of the existing brand to ascertain its equity and, if necessary, we will explore alternate naming possibilities. This realignment will also help to broaden offerings to the defined targets more effectively and efficiently. Specifically, we determine ways in which organizations can strengthen their relationships by supporting the marketing activities of their members.

Following is a summary of the process that we recommend in order to understand where and how a specific organization is perceived in the marketplace, what that means in terms of opportunities and how to make the most of those opportunities by creating a powerful brand.

We continue to work closely with organizations to leverage our branding process and insight in order to strategically position your organization, its core competencies, values and offerings. In short, our goal is to differentiate your organization and its offerings, and to ensure the delivery of a consistent branded experience. The Center for Association Resources puts into practice these same principles of responsiveness and offers a level of receptiveness to client concerns and market issues unusual to other full-service branding firms. As marketing and communications experts, we recognize the importance of developing messaging from the outside in as well as the inside out, and all of our processes support this strategic positioning.

Methodology Overview

Our brand development and integration methodology consists of three phases:

  • Phase 1, forms the assessment phase of analysis to establish the baseline level of required brand value from internal and external viewpoints and to determine segmentation opportunities and receptivity. With a baseline established, brand strategy development leads to recommendations that support an organization’s specific goals designed to humanize and differentiate the organization, examine its offerings and to focus implementation activities in the expression of the newly aligned brand for each service-centric opportunity within each segment (prospects, members and member’s practices).

  • Phase 2, the implementation phase, typically includes tactics such as integrated communications programs, and member and sponsor development programs, advertising and marketing campaigns, promotions, process and technology recommendations and enhancements, and behavior change programs designed to establish a branded experience across all segments.

  • Phase 3, creates strategies and programs for the maintenance of the brand over time, and measures the effectiveness of the branded experience against the baselines established during brand evaluation. By reapplying the brand valuation benchmarking technique, return on investment (ROI) and the importance of branding throughout the organization, within each offering, and within each defined segment can be evaluated and demonstrated quantitatively.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Fund Raising, Marketing, Non-Profit, Planning, Strategic Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , , ,

Marketing for sponsors and exhibitors

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

For a non-profit organization that doesn’t get too much money via donations, sponsors and exhibitors can be your most important key to success. With the huge advance in technology in the past couple years, the tools and strategies of marketing have changed drastically. For example, if you would have brought up the idea of advertising on Facebook ten years ago, people would have thought you were crazy. Now Facebook is a great way to advertise. One reason it is great is because hundreds of millions of people log in to Facebook every day. If you are reaching an advertising audience of that many people, chances are at least a couple hundred people would be interested in your non-profit organization. This leads to sponsors and/or donators. It is extremely simple and cheap to create an advertisement on Facebook. I know from experience that an advertisement on Facebook can be created in a little less than 5 minutes. It also does not cost too much money. You can even specify who your audience is based on hobbies, age, location, political views, etc. The possibilities are endless.

After talking about the new ways to market, I am going to talk a little bit about the old-fashioned type of ways to do it. As always, the best way to reach people is to talk face to face. I have found from experience with my non-profit organization that going to political events is a great way to meet people face-to-face, but you have to make sure you show up with a political party that matches your views. For example, if you are a pro-life (anti-abortion) group, you should NOT show up at a Democratic event. You SHOULD show up to conferences like CPAC, or to your local congressman’s town halls, fundraiser, etc. (if he is a Republican), but obviously, the same thing works for a pro-choice group except with a Democratic party. Going to these events allow you to meet people who share your point of view, and some of your best sponsors can come from these type of events. Plus, it is always a good thing to get to know you Congressman for many reasons (no matter what political party).

In the end, it is up to you. Some of the best methods of marketing for sponsors come from the least used or new methods that you can come up with. So think, if you were a possible sponsor, what would attract you to a non-profit organization?

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Fund Raising, Leadership, Marketing, Non-Profit, Planning, Strategic Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , , ,

Marketing for sponsors and exhibitors

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

For a non-profit organization, marketing is a key factor in getting people to know who you are, what you do, who you serve, why you are accomplishing this mission, how you are doing and where you are focused.  The new parts of your non-profit organization are what keep people excited.  What is changing?  Why is it going that route?  How are you going to accomplish your goals with the new program while keeping the heart of the program intact?  These are the things your non-profit’s marketing department must uphold in order to utilize the key factors of progress and growth in the world around you.
New things are the spice of an organization.  In order for the mission of the non-profit to stay focused, the first step to tell sponsors is that it makes sense.  Why does it make sense?  If you are working in the education realm, perhaps building charter schools, then it makes sense to bring in a technology arm of your non-profit. Not only for the sake of growing the business, but for the future of design in the classroom, possible growth areas within the school and the students lives.  It might not make sense for your organization to offer a grant for adventure travel.  When growing an arm of the non-profit, you have to see where it fits into the overall mission.
One great way to get your message out is to exhibit your non-profit at a fair or to partner with a business and have a booth with a knowledgeable non-profit representative to speak about your group in association with the business.  If you are expanding a technology in schools, as stated above, it would make sense to work with Cisco, IBM, Oracle, or another software company who can also help you develop it.  This way the technology is utilized in the classroom; and many interested people see your organization in partnership with a major company.  This gets people excited about the growth potential you have and may possibly increase your funding.  It will get business people thinking about the power of your group.
When you talk marketing with sponsors and exhibitors, the most important thing to remember is how you represent your passion about a particular subject.  If you are devoted to closing the achievement gap in schools by building charter organizations, you need to make sure that comes across in your presentation to them.  You are always marketing when you talk with someone, and its always an opportunity to make a connection with them.  Everyone has a story and it just depends on how your non-profit and your story intersects with theirs.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Fund Raising, Leadership, Marketing, Non-Profit, Planning, Strategic Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, Training, , , , , , , ,

Benchmarking for success

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

Benchmarking is a measurement tool non-profits can use to gauge both their success and needs for improvement.

Benchmarking can be defined as the standard of excellence by which other activities should be judged.

Though benchmarking was first used in for profit businesses, it is also a useful tool for non-profits. Benchmarking includes activities such as goal setting, comparative measuring, and identifying and implementing best practices. Some key benchmarking activities include defining what a successful outcome is in relation to the non-profit’s services, gathering lessons learned, and defining and applying best practices from these lessons. Determining what measurements are meaningful is vital.

A non-profit can use benchmarking to compare their current performance against their own past performance, or that of other similar non-profits. The scope of the benchmarking can include all aspects of the organization, such as fund-raising, measuring administration costs, and providing services relevant to the organization’s mission. For instance, one measurement the public often considers prior to making donations is the percentage of an organization’s administration costs versus the percentage of funds that are actually used in providing services to the intended population. If an organization has established benchmarks which identify whether the organization is keeping the percentage constant or declining, this could prove valuable to future donation revenue.

Another key measurement for organizations is how well they are implementing activities crucial to the organization’s mission. For instance, a human services organization could poll the consumers of their services to find out what aspects worked well and what needs improvement.  Benchmarks ideally should be specific and measurable. Vague benchmarks will be difficult to measure and will likely not provide useful information.

Top management often needs to lead the way towards benchmarking. Those in the field providing services often do not immediately see the need for benchmarking. Challenges for establishing and implementing benchmarking activities include overcoming individuals’ resistance to change as well as defining measurements and success for disparate or complex activities. Involving field personnel in the benchmarking process may facilitate overcoming some of these challenges.

Benchmarking for non-profits is not a one size fits all endeavor. The organizations culture, mission and locality must be considered. For instance, an organization whose mission focuses on the fine arts may have very different benchmarks than one servicing basic human needs such as sanitation and health care.  An analysis of needs versus goals should be done with the unique circumstances of the organization in mind.

Establishing and communicating the achievements of benchmarked measurements can increase public confidence in the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization.  Public perception of the organization’s effectiveness is also an important item to gauge.  Feedback from surveys, focus groups and online comments can be used to measure how the organization’s activities are perceived by the public. Positive public perception can have a direct impact on donations, so this is an important area to monitor.

Though non-profits may have a few obstacles to overcome when implementing benchmarking, the improvements in goal accomplishment and public reputation are worth the effort involved.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Fund Raising, Leadership, Marketing, Non-Profit, Planning, Strategic Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, Training, , , , , ,

Using members in the member development campaign

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

Members are the heart and soul of non-profit organizations. Therefore it’s advantageous for your organization’s current members to play some role in the recruitment of new members. But what are the best ways to get your members involved in the member recruitment process, and to what extent should they be involved? There are traditional techniques as well as new techniques that incorporate social media to consider.

First, consider providing some type of incentive to members who can recruit people that they know to join. This rests on the philosophy that people are more likely to join or support an organization that they already know people in, and that members know people who have similar interests to them that may be in line with an organization’s mission statement or agenda. A for-profit example of this is Groupon’s model, which gives free products/services to members who can convince three of their friends to also join and make the purchase. The benefits from this approach, while essentially incorporating the structure of a “pyramid scheme,” provide the opportunity to expand your numbers exponentially.

Second, another approach you may take is to form a “street team” – recruit members to come out and volunteer at fairs, expos or other public places where they can give one-on-one presentations to others about your organization. This type of member-to-member recruitment is especially popular among young people who are looking for ways to become “activists” in their causes. Although it may be somewhat difficult to recruit people to volunteer large amounts of their time, this approach is appealing to some members because it caters to their desire to be “on the inside” of a cause that they’re passionate in.

Third, consider using social media tools to encourage your members to become involved in recruitment. There are several considerations and approaches that can incorporate social media, but I’ll discuss a few. First, consider having “membership drive days.” On Twitter, for example, many accounts take part in “Follow Fridays,” in which users tweet the handles of accounts that interest them and deserve to be followed. You may email your members, for example, and ask them to take part in Follow Friday. This will also create awareness among your members of your organization’s social media presence.

In another social media approach, you may encourage your members to create rich content for social media platforms, like their own YouTube videos with personal appeals for members to join. To provide incentive, you could make it a “contest” with prizes to see who can produce the most creative product. This approach directly involves members in creating messaging for the member recruitment campaign, and will increase member interest in your social media platform and subsequently your organization in general.

It doesn’t necessarily take slick PR or trained spokespersons to have a successful member recruitment campaign. By involving your members in the process, you’ll not only put more minds to work on the task, but also create stronger bonds between members and your organization.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Fund Raising, Leadership, Marketing, Non-Profit, Planning, Strategic Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , , , , ,

Creating awareness through SEO

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

Search engine optimization or SEO is vital to any nonprofit organization trying to create awareness of their cause. However, many nonprofits feel intimidated when faced with search engine optimization.  They may think it is extremely complex, or that it requires a large budget.  However, the truth is, SEO does not require an expert.  The only things necessary for successful SEO is time, patience and the desire to learn.

There are many benefits to SEO.  SEO increases the traffic to websites and rank in search engines such as Google.  It also increases the nonprofits “visibility”.  Although an expert can be utilized for SEO, the nonprofit can accomplish successful SEO on its own, as well.  There are no short cuts to SEO, it takes time.  However, one will see success soon enough by following these useful tips.

First of all, successful search engine optimization requires solid, clear goals.  One should organize their website by answering all of these questions.  Is information, such as events and new products or services, up to date?  Can people make donations online?  What can visitors do on the website?  Are forms asking the right questions?

Next, the nonprofit should determine who they want its audience to be.  An ideal audience includes potential donors, press, members of the organization and present, as well as, past beneficiaries seeking support.

Keywords are crucial to any SEO strategy.  When launching an SEO campaign, one should make a list of relevant keywords used repetitively on the site.  One should also pay close attention to “meta-tags”.  A meta-tag or “invisible text”  is not displayed on the pages of the site, rather it is in the HTML code which SEO robots analyze.  The elements of meta-tags specify page descriptions, keywords and images.

Content is crucial.  Content should not only be clear and compelling, but it should also be unique, engrossing and geared towards the audience.  Headlines should be descriptive and not contain any ID numbers.  The body’s content should be formatted in HTML context, rather than graphical, so that the robot can read it.  Using a clickable anchor text helps to boost the site’s ranking.  A breadcrumb trail offers users the ability to view various pages on the site.  This is often found horizontally across the top of the homepage below the headline.  Headline tags offer this option, as well.  There should be no more than 450 to 600 words on each page, and keywords should be in bold or italics so that users can identify them.  Internal linking or cross linking is perfect to use for navigating within the site.  In-bound links are useful too in bringing traffic to one’s site.

A site map should be created and posted on the nonprofit’s website, as well.  This allows robots and users to quickly and easily navigate within the site. A site map is terrific in helping with the usability and navigation of the website.  When creating a URL, one should be sure to use keywords and file names to raise SEO.  Making use of such things as documents, spreadsheets, pictures, videos and presentations also help an immense deal.

Finally, by signing up with Google’s Webmaster Central and Google Analytics, one can see how well their site and inbound links are doing, and how much traffic is going to the site.  By checking this on a regular basis, one can adjust their strategy as needed and can create a highly successful website for their nonprofit organization.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Fund Raising, Marketing, Non-Profit, Planning, Strategic Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , , , ,

Hotel contract negotiation

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

Negotiating a contract with a hotel for your non-profit organization can be a difficult and time consuming process.  There are often many layers of the hotel to go through, mainly dealing with contracts, fundraising, their tax write off ability and, as a founder or negotiator of the contract, a lot of people to talk to at the hotel.

If you want to host a dinner at a hotel, you have to have a solid estimation of your visitors.  The important thing to remember here is that your attendees to your fundraiser are there to be entertained.  It is their checkbooks that are opening up for the sake of your organization.  They have to feel pampered.  Make sure you organize a few solid negotiating points for the hotel, like live music, vegetarian options for food and a cash bar.  I say cash bar because that will offer the hotel a chance to recoup some of the losses that they would face should they offer a large conference room for your organization.  Not only that, it is critical to use their name on your flyers, website and possibly offer them some future cross-marketing potential.  This way, the hotel recognizes that you are offering a service to your visitors (a live band), considering their needs as well as your own (vegetarian options) and the hotel is offered something as well.  The cross-marketing is an excellent point of negotiation because the duration of their involvement lasts beyond a single event.  Your organization recognizes them in terms of a strategic partner which may help you in the future.

Beyond conference rooms and fundraising partnerships, if your organization needs rooms at a hotel for a non-profit fair or are simply traveling for the purpose of expanding your organization, remember to network market your organization.  The more people who are educated and aware of your purpose and mission, the more leverage you can have in that town.  Ask for recommendations from friends, contacts, even law firms in the area.  If you can connect those you already know with people in the states or countries you are visiting, you can gain a lot of structured leverage.  Governmental organizations are thrilled to have non-profits because they take some of the public service burden off of the governments back.  Contact you local government, of whom your organization should have a strong relationship with and see if they know anyone in the city you are visiting.  They can use their contacts and networking for your organization and put you in touch with the hotels with either a discount or if you are lucky, a free room!

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Fund Raising, Marketing, Non-Profit, Planning, Strategic Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Marketing for success

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

Successful marketing is a discipline with an importance that is often underestimated in the management of non-profit organizations. Traditional marketing for for-profit firms involves a number of complex disciplines working together to find potential customers and put the company’s product in their hands. This is done with the goal of making a reasonable profit on the sale of the product. Non-profit firms often don’t have customers or products in the traditional sense, so the value of strong marketing is sometimes overlooked. However, by understanding the worth of marketing and knowing how to avoid some common mistakes, a non-profit organization can enjoy thriving success.

The first step in developing a successful marketing strategy for a non-profit organization is to understand the goal of the marketing efforts. One chief goal of marketing is to build and maintain a visible, credible company image. While a non-profit firm is not generally looking to sell a product to customers, they are always looking to sell their vision and mission to potential donors and volunteers. Marketing efforts should be geared towards creating a consistent identity for the company and making sure the community of potential donors is aware of that identity. There are several important steps which can be taken in order to achieve this.

One crucial step is to build a website. A strong internet presence can allow people unfamiliar with your organization to stumble upon it; in addition, potential donors and volunteers will often search for your organization’s website as the first step to finding out more information. A well-maintained website is crucial when trying to establish a strong, visually-communicated identity. The website can also be very helpful in disseminating information such as newsletters, event calendars, donation methods, and benefits of your organization.

Another important aspect of marketing which is especially important for non-profit firms is relationship management. Traditional for-profit firms know the advantage of maintaining customer information and being able to retrieve it quickly; this helps returning customers to feel as if they are truly appreciated. This process is even more critical when building relationships with donors. You should never find yourself asking major donors, “What did you say your name was again?” Get to know your donors and make them feel that their donations are well worth it. Whenever possible, explain to them where their money is going and how it is being used to benefit the surrounding community.

An additional marketing effort which should not be overlooked by non-profit organizations is the active search for alliances with local organizations, governments, and businesses. These alliances can bring extra visibility to the organization, as well as bring in extra money. For example, non-profits will sometimes engage private companies for donation-matching agreements for a particular fundraiser. This increases the visibility and rapport of both the non-profit organization and the private firm.

Above all, the biggest pitfall to avoid is thinking that the inherent goodness of your non-profit firm will bring in the money you need. Even though your organization may be doing work for a good cause, you will still need to create visibility and credibility to locate and attract potential donors. A successful marketing strategy can help to accomplish these goals and keep your organization thriving.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Marketing, Non-Profit, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , ,

July 2017
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