30 November 2012

Content Curation and Membership Associations

It's the final day of whitepaper release week, which means it's time to focus on what associations can do about the problem of information overload to better serve our members.

From my new whitepaper, Attention Doesn't Scale: The Role of Content Curation in Membership Associations:
Content curation provides a potential path to a new type of thought leadership, one that is more suited to a world where information is no longer the scarce resource. Focus is. Meaning is. Wisdom is.


Our audiences need our help. But they need it in non-traditional ways. They need our assistance learning to think clearly and creatively when surrounded by ambiguity and complexity. They need our aid placing what is happening in the world around them in context so they can ascertain potential implications, determine the most likely outcomes, and plan appropriately. And they need to be able to make good decisions, personally and professionally, in a sometimes-chaotic climate. 
 Want more? Download your free copy at http://bit.ly/WVpP4a.

On a separate note, posting might be a little slow next week, as I'll be at the Higher Logic Users' Group Super Forum and the ASAE Technology Conference. You, too? Look for me and say hi!

29 November 2012

The Solution: Content Curation

From my new whitepaper, Attention Doesn't Scale: The Role of Content Curation in Membership Associations:
Information overload is not only a factor of volume. It’s also heavily influenced by the fact that the large disparity in the sources of incoming information leads to an even larger disparity in the topics and focus of the information. We have plenty of data – too much, in fact – but we lack meaning, a sense of how all the streams of information coming in fit together to point us to wise decision-making. The curator adds context, trust, and meaning to that previously disaggregated mass of stuff.
Want more? Download your free copy at http://bit.ly/WVpP4a.

28 November 2012

The Problem: Information Overload

From my new whitepaper, Attention Doesn't Scale: The Role of Content Curation in Membership Associations:

The concept of information overload was originated by futurist Alvin Toffler in his 1970 book Future Shock as part of his depiction of a world in which the rate of change would accelerate to the point that governments, society, and individuals would be unable to keep up – would, in fact, be “future shocked.”

The new wrinkle is that, while it was always possible for any given individual to publish to the web (assuming, in the early days, she could find a hosting service and learn to write HTML code), technology now makes it simple for anyone and everyone to publish rich multimedia content from virtually anywhere at virtually any time. Hence the zettabyte problem mentioned above, which is estimated to cost the US economy as much as 25% of the average knowledge worker’s day to lost productivity, which adds up to a $900 billion drain on the economy.

Want more? Download your free copy at http://bit.ly/WVpP4a.

27 November 2012


Did you know that it's #GivingTuesday?

"What is Giving Tuesday?" you ask.

From their website:

On Tuesday November 27, 2012 charities, families, businesses and individuals are coming together to transform the way people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season.

It’s a simple idea. Find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to join in acts of giving. Tell everyone you can about what you are doing and why it matters. Join a national celebration of our great tradition of generosity.

At a time of the year when it's easy to focus on what I want to get (Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and the whole acquisitive, commercial holiday season), Giving Tuesday asks us to focus on what I can give to organizations that make my own local community better.

The site allows you to search based on your state. Here's the list of participating nonprofits in DC, for instance. (I'm a firm believer in thinking globally and giving locally.)

I'm personally supporting Woolly Mammoth Theater Company. I've been a long-time supporter of Woolly. They mount productions that challenge me and make me think. They do tremendous things to support the work of new and minority playwrights. They make the arts accessible to everyone with all sorts of free and discounted ticket programs.

I'd love it if you'd support them, too, but really, *any* community based nonprofit group you choose to support today will benefit - and so will you.

Edited 11/28/12 to add: I'm excited to report, per Woolly Mammoth, that they exceded their fundraising goal for the day with $10,815 coming in from 49 donors.

26 November 2012

Attention Doesn't Scale

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to present on the topic Attention Doesn't Scale: The Role of Content Curation in Membership Associations for the Indiana Society of Association Executives. As a component of that presentation, and with Jeff De Cagna's advice and assistance, I wrote a white paper on the same topic.

This week, I'm going to be blogging about what's in the white paper.

My basic premise was:
  1. Information overload, while not a new problem, has gotten so much more severe in the last few decades as to turn a difference in quantity into a difference in kind.
  2. Membership associations are making this problem worse for our members.
  3. But we don't have to. Switching from an information creation mindset to an information curation mindset is one potential way out of our dilemma. 
I'll be writing  more about each of these points in turn this week, but in the meantime, please pick up a free copy of the white paper at http://bit.ly/WVpP4a  (I don't even make you give me your name and contact information first), and take a quick look at the slides from the ISAE event:

22 November 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing you and your loved ones a very happy Thanksgiving.

(Back Monday)

21 November 2012

What I'm Reading

20 November 2012

What Is Cost to Serve?

And why does it matter?

Every membership organization faces this sooner or later, and the answer, while simple, is not easy.

At its most basic level:
Revenue per member – Expenses per member = Cost to serve a member 
Simple, right?
"If membership is $100 a year, and it costs us $60 a year to mail each member our journal, that's our cost to serve, and we bring in $40 a year in revenue per member. Go us!"

Not so fast, Sparky.
  • What do you mean by “member”? (Is it just people who pay full fare dues? What about consistent audiences like your corporate supporters?)
  • How much revenue does each member actually contribute to the organization? (Do they ALL pay $100?)
  • What does it cost to recruit and retain each member? (It's probably not $0.)
  • What's the FULL list services all members use? (It's probably more than just your journal.)
  • What services do only some members use?  (Hello, annual meeting.)
  • Which services are used by audiences outside the membership? (Website? Advocacy programs? People LOVE to free ride on that stuff.)
  • What do all services actually cost to provide, in both direct and indirect costs? (Oh noes! Staff costs!)
  • How are the revenues from those services really allocated? (What percentage goes to the board's current pet project?)
In order to remain financially healthy, membership organizations must know how much additional revenue or expense each member brings to the organization.

Knowing how much revenue each additional member brings helps an organization understand more clearly how much is reasonable to spend on member acquisition.

Knowing how much expense each additional member brings helps an organization understand how to price dues and make decisions about which programs, products, and services should – or should not – be revenue generating and, in the case of programs, products, and services that are consciously chosen to lose money, how those losses can be offset.

So: what DOES it cost to serve your members? The answer may not be what you think it is.

19 November 2012

Always the Last to Know: Tech Trends

Dan Scheeler (National Quality Forum) and I are doing a session on technology trends and how they're going to change work and the work place in the future for the ASAE Technology Conference in 2 1/2 weeks, and we need your help.

We've put together a short TwitPoll to find out what tech trends YOU think will have the biggest impact on how and where and why we work in the coming years.

Dan and I plan to open the session by presenting on the top trends YOU identify. Then we're going to facilitate a discussion among all the participants about additional trends YOU think are important. Then we're going to break up into table discussions so you can talk with each other about how those trends are going to affect the workplace over the next 15 years. After report out, we'll spend some time talking as a group about how this look at future could or should change things when we all go back to the office the week of December 10.

Sounds good, right? So take the quick poll to help us start it strong. And please share it with anyone you think might be attending the conference - the more responses we get, the better the session will be.

16 November 2012

Friday Top 5

It's the second of my Month of Thankfulness posts. Having just been through a fairly contentious election, I thought today might be a good time for a Friday Top 5 focused on what I'm thankful for as a citizen of the United States.
  1. I'm thankful that I live in a representative democracy, where many brave, passionate people, like the suffragettes and the civil rights marchers, have fought to make sure every person's vote counts.
  2. I'm thankful that, although we still have a ways to travel, we've made so much progress, even in my lifetime, on issues around race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability/disability, and other key measures of diversity.
  3. I'm thankful for the Bill of Rights. It's hard to pick favorites among them, but I do have to give a major shout out to the First Amendment.
  4. Even though I grouse that the media has become overly beholden to corporations and too many "news" outlets are merely ideological entertainment masquerading as objective journalism, I'm thankful for a free press that is mostly well-intentioned and mostly tries to get the facts straight and reported correctly.
  5. I'm thankful that I live in a country where every day, so many wonderful people fight to increase tolerance, and justice for all people (not just "rich people" or "people who are like me" or "people who believe what I believe"), and to make our society more caring, and to protect our environment and minority rights, and to bring the arts to everyone (not just people who can afford them), and to feed and clothe and shelter people who need that kind of help...and sometimes, sometimes, they even win.
Image credit:BronteHeroine

15 November 2012

"That Sounds Risky..."

Back in June, Leslie White (Croydon Consulting) and I presented a session for ASAE's Finance and Business Operations Conference (FHRBOC). It was a simulation on risk management. We had assumed, given that it was a room full of accountants, that everyone would a common understanding of, and language around, risk.

Boy, were we wrong.

And it got us thinking: when senior teams are trying to make decisions together, do they suffer from the same problem? A lot of what we do or consider doing in associations involves the assumption (and hopefully mitigation) of risk. What if senior teams don't share an understanding of what that means? How can they even have good, open conversations?

Well, as soon as we started thinking about good, open conversations, we realized we'd want to involve Jamie Notter (Management Solutions Plus), too.

So here's what we've come to:

In today’s environment, an association’s success is contingent on its ability to make good decisions quickly. Heading in the wrong direction, or simply treading water while you try to decide, will move you further and further behind your competition. Today’s competition is tougher, and the margins are thinner, so we simply can’t afford to fumble our way through decision making.

Nowhere is this more evident than at the management team level. Here you have a group representing diverse interests that is tasked with making strategic decisions to support the whole enterprise. Yet the topic of how decisions are made (and what methods and processes would be best) is rarely tackled explicitly. Despite the imperative mentioned above, we actually do fumble our way through decision making.

As consultants, we see this problem and want to do something about it, but only if it actually makes sense to association execs, and only if we're not duplicating what other smart consultants in the association space are already doing. So we have a few questions for you.

  • What is your experience with decision making at your organization?
  • What kinds of conversations do - or don't - you have about risk?
  • If you are experiencing problems in these areas, what impact is it having on your organization? Your staff? Your relationships with your volunteer leaders?
  • Is there a need here?
  • Have you worked with somebody great who's helped you through this, where we should talk to her first or just get out of her way and let her do her work?

Short version: we think there's a problem here, we're interested in trying to figure out how we fix it, but we're not interested in trying to reinvent a wheel someone else has already done a better job creating.

What are your thoughts?

14 November 2012

What I'm Reading

13 November 2012

Help Us Decide

Scott Oser (Scott Oser Associates), Dave Will (Peach New Media) and I are considering launching a webinar series.

“BOR-ING. Everyone has a webinar series these days.”

Ours is – we hope – going to be a little different.


  • They’re going to be SHORT. 
  • They’re going to be FREE.
  • They’re going to be about ALL KINDS OF TOPICS in association management.
  • They’re going to feature presenters, association executives and consultants, who are RECOGNIZED EXPERTS in their topic(s).

But we need your help to make it that way.

We need you to tell us what is most valuable for you, so we drafted a survey.

“Oh no! Not another survey!”

You might actually want to take this one.

The concept we’ve been working with is an Associations 101 or Top 10 Things You Need to Know About… (a variety of topics in association management). They’d come out fairly frequently and live in a library where you could listen at any time.

Sound good to you?

Then please help us out by taking our survey so that we can make the series the best it possibly can be.

12 November 2012

Always the Last to Know: Speek

Do you ever do conference calls?

(duh - of course you do)

Do you get tired of playing "who has the 800 number?" with the other participants?

(don't we all?)

Have you tried Speek yet?

It's a FREE service that is web/VoIP based - but you can use a regular phone to participate - and allows you to create a personalized link you can share to conduct a conference call anywhere, any time. 

How easy is it?

This easy:

So what are you waiting for? Get Speeking today!

02 November 2012

Friday Top 5

Theme month alert! November's Friday Top 5 posts are going to be devoted to things I'm thankful for.

This week: Spark Consulting edition.
  1. I'm thankful to Shira who, although not the first person to suggest going out on my own, was the first person to lay out the case that got me thinking seriously about doing it.
  2. I'm thankful to the MANY MANY association consultants who were willing to share their time and expertise with me as a I tried to figure out HOW to do it.
  3. I'm thankful to my fantastic first clients. Hopefully there will be many more in the coming years, but the first ones are the ones who let you realize that this could actually work.
  4. I'm thankful to my web firm who's giving me a great price on my gorgeous new site that should be up any second now.
  5. I'm thankful to my spouse who, when I first proposed the idea of launching my own business, said only: "I think you'll be great at it. I think you should do it," even though it was going to have a MAJOR impact on his life.      
Also, I'm going to be on the road for some great events next week, including ISAE's CrossConnect Conference, so posting is liable to be a little light.
Image Credit: Paula's Ponderings

01 November 2012

Got a Story to Tell?

Public service post today. A friend of mine is a paid blogger for Razoo, and she is looking for stories to tell. Her beat is organizations that are doing social good around the following issues:
  • food insecurity
  • homelessness, especially homeless veterans
  • the coming higher education loan default bubble
  • arts education
  • human trafficking
  • the immigrant experience in the United States
  • millennials engaging in philanthropy
 She also has a personal interest in anything with a foreign policy or international angle.

If you can help, either comment or drop me an email.