Creating Member Experiences and Engagement

Shari Pash is an Institute for Organization Management faculty member and I always like to attend her webinars.

Here are my notes from a presentation sponsored by Institute.


Emphasis on the overall experience of your programs.  You need to be creative and innovate moving forward.  Digital is the new normal.


She posed the question.  What’s the holistic member experience?


Transactional vs Relational?


  • Transactional - looking for that dollar for dollar value.
  • Relational - investment as a way of doing business, having their back and industry while keeping it personal.


She went on to talk about sponsor experiences - matching up a company with a specific event or program of work (think thought leadership).  What about a happy hour on a topic of the sponsor?


You could send a bottle of wine, have it reviewed by a Sommelier and then have the sponsor present on a specific topic that your members would be interested in.  Your event is digital but the wine tasting makes it an experience too!


How are experiences created?  Your experiences for your members need to show emotion, make interactions personal, and interesting.


She talked about micro-moments, different experiences along the way that creates loyalty to your chamber.  They can be different things for different businesses.


It’s all about how you make your members feel!  You remember the famous quote from Maya Angelo, “people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”


I’ve said it here before, it’s about the member not about you.  How are you helping them solve problems in good times and in bad?  If you have specific examples, repurpose and communicate that through your social media channels.


She talked about your A, B, and C members and think about how to create experiences for all three (they will be different).


Your A members should be your key focus upfront.  They may be your high dollar members or your altruistic members, those that contribute because they believe in what you do on behalf of business and the community at large.


She talked about reviewing your digital experience for members and do you need to update it?  Think about creating a digital plan, especially for your nonmembers.


Good advice!


How are you engaging with your members or your potential members?


Don’t get short-sighted by not looking long-term.  You’ve heard the phrase, “this too shall pass.”  As we know, in a K economic recovery, not all businesses are hurting, but some are hurting more than others.  Create a foundation for the future and how you will engage with your members moving forward.


“Support the Business Community” - that could be your “relationship” message.  Remember, we talked about transactional vs relationships earlier in this blog post.  This could be powerful and it’s the message that resonates with that altruistic member.


Shari went on to talk about experience marketing, connecting with existing members through your brand and messaging.


Your messaging should be authentic, organic, conversational while making connections with your members.


Continue on building a strong community!


For more resources from Shari go HERE.

Chamber Mergers and Alliances: Stronger Together

I attended a fascinating ACCE webinar, on the title of this blog post, with CEO's with experience on the subject matter.

The topic of mergers has been around for a while, but now more than ever, the discussion is happening more and more, in communities around the country.

The following are my notes in a rapid-fire discussion based on their presentation.

They started by discussing both the anatomy of a merger and the challenges of a merger.

Anatomy of a Merger
  • You need two strong chambers and two strong CEO’s.
  • You can build a bigger, better and stronger chamber for the community.
  • What can you do better together?  Advocacy, programming, sponsorships, etc.?
  • Desperate or aspirational?  That’s the bottom line when chambers are thinking about a merger.  Mergers will have a better chance if they are aspirational.
  • Hire an outside consultant to facilitate the hard questions (knowing that each CEO could facilitate a discussion, but it allows a 3rd party to say the things that need to be said, while keeping/leaving the CEO’s whole).
  • One committee to do board due diligence (keep it small), and make sure you have representatives from both chambers on that committee.
  • Identify the sacred cows of each chamber.
  • What are the non-negotiable's (i.e. no staff lay-offs, etc.)?
  • Should both offices be retained with new name?
  • Should the new chamber be led by co-CEO’s?  Not the best model but a big hurdle for most mergers would be removed, in the short-term.
Challenges of a Merger
  • Voting volunteers off the board.
  • Who is the new CEO or do you have co-CEO’s (as stated above)?
  • Both chambers need to agree.
  • Most mergers will have chambers coming to the table from different positions, one is usually hurting more than the other.
  • If the chambers come from a competitive background with each other, that’s a big hurdle to get over.
  • The other challenge is when missions don’t align of the two chambers.
They couldn’t stress enough that stakeholders, from both entities, need to be involved in the process, (i.e. task forces, committees) to help the merger with the key questions.
They did discuss options such as a contract for services model prior to a formal merger (think dating before getting married), as well as, the bank model where you centralize certain services (HR, membership, Finance, CRM), and have branches to serve the community.
A couple of final comments on lessons learned and best practices from the panelists included:
  • Listen to your stakeholders;
  • All parties need to be at the table;
  • Make a business case;
  • Get advice from your peers across the country that have gone through the process; and finally
  • Hold us harmless (a company pays what they paid both chambers at least during the first year).
For an article from ACCE on the subject go HERE.

Audit Committees: Do You Have One?

While the Sarbanes-Oxley law requires public traded companies to have an audit committee, I would suggest it is good practice if your chamber has one too!

To me it’s just as important as having that annual financial audit.

Yes, they can be expensive, but who would not want that stamp of approval for your board and membership at large.

For a previous blog post on annual financial audits go HERE.

We talk about transparency in our organizations and what better way to show that than having that annual financial audit and creating an audit committee that reports to your board of directors.

I would make the suggestion to use it as a tool to tell your story!

At the end of the day, we need to run financially sound chambers if we want to help our business members succeed.

For a great resource on audit committees go HERE.

Trust: As a Leader This is a Must

I always enjoy Justin Patton's presentations on leadership.  The latest was no exception.  He started off talking about one’s “Presence vs Leadership Presence.”

He said we all have presence but that is very different then leadership presence.  Some individuals have a presence that has a negative impact on others.


Justin talked about trust and stated that, “trust is the unwavering belief that you have my back.”  He defined trust in terms of loyalty, security, engagement productivity.

He went on to talk about how ego (arrogant, condescending) is the biggest detriment to becoming a great leader and losing trust by lying, not being consistent, or accountable.


He then spent some time giving advice on how leaders who have lost that trust can take steps to repairing the trust they’ve lost.


  • Take full accountability for your part;
  • Ask for or extend forgiveness;
  • Demonstrate a change in behavior; and
  • Be willing and available to talk.


He went on to talk about how you can create your own roadmap to trust and offered the following comments:


Truth - people interpret the truth differently.  Your truth is not the only truth.


  • Actions of truth - candor, consistent, track record, take accountability.


Transparency - clarity.  People fill in the holes with fear.


  • Actions of transparency - share intentions, explain the why, be available, admit mistakes.


Tact - ability to manage your intensity (passive vs aggressive).


  • Actions of tact - manage intensity, listen to understand, pause before responding, be aware of body language.


Togetherness - ability to put the relationship before yourself.


  • Actions of togetherness - demonstrate empathy, honor boundaries, extend trust, apologize when needed.


He ended the webinar with the comment that the best leaders “Communicate to Build Trust, not Compliance.”


For more information about Justin Patton go HERE.

Why Strategy and Foresight Are Not the Same Thing

I wrote about this subject in a previous blog post that can be found HERE.

This post is based on a session I attended with Jeff De Cagna, a leader in the field of Foresight in the association community.

Strategy vs Foresight:

Strategy plan vs strategy learning!  Both are about intentional learning.

Strategy process (36 months) should be done by the under 40 members, more than just your board, think your YPG groups.

Foresight practice (84-months) should be done by the over 40 members - what could the world look like in 2027?  Prepare for plausible futures for the benefit of our successors.

That is the responsibility of your board.  And by the way, you need to have some “under 40” folks on your board too!

He went on to talk about the attention challenge of our boards!

  • Concentration - getting decision-makers to stay focused on the difficult questions.
  • Curiosity - get decision-makers to devote their attention on a transforming world.

What’s the major difference of the two?

He talked about the 70-20-10 rule of time spent by boards on the future, work of the board, what’s going on now is based on current practices.  Jeff argues your board should be spending 90 to 95 percent of its time on the future.

Your chamber needs to be able to pivot from a legacy organization vs being able to transition.

He goes on to talk about the “Duty of Foresight,” as an addition to the Duty of Care, Duty of Loyalty and Duty of Obedience responsibilities of boards that I’ve blogged about before HERE.

ACCE’s Horizon Initiative: Chambers 2025, in my mind, is a product of Foresight, but the deal is you have to continue to look at it and update as you look to the future in at least 10-year increments.

He ended with a few statements on how we must question orthodox beliefs, build new capacity, and design next practices (this is not about best practices).  Best practices are based on the past!

For more information on the study of Foresight by ASAE go HERE.

Sponsorship Tips

I recently attended a great class on sponsorship tips led by Brad Lacy, IOM, CCE, President and CEO, Conway Area Chamber of Commerce.

The following comments below are from my notes during this great two hour session.  He started with:

Trouble Signs of Sponsorship Programs

  • Nobody's buying;
  • We need your support (never use this line).  You are not a charity; and
  • Nobody's attending.

Successful Sponsorship Programs

  • Events sold out;
  • You exceeded your goals;
  • Renewed sponsorships at a high number for same event last year;
  • You're communicating the value; and
  • You're customizing based on each sponsors needs.

He went on to talk about how your pitch to a potential sponsor should be focused on showing the value of the program or event.  You must understand your target audience, and understand your product.

What documents are your sponsors/investors receiving, a follow-up collateral piece with their logo, pictures of event and list of speakers?

Show how they are supporting the community while getting branding recognition w/logo placement.  Follow-up with a collateral piece to show your event and sponsor participation.

And that collateral can be used for recruiting new sponsors as well as showing the value to those sponsors who attended the event.  Your collateral piece might include:

  • Pictures;
  • Content;
  • Community connection; and
  • Showcasing the leaders at the event.

It’s never about supporting an entity (i.e. chamber, YPG, etc.).  It’s about showing value - access to XXX number of people that they could do business with in the future.

He went on to talk about creating an event/program that works for your sponsors (i.e. time wise)?  Think about the small business member whose office opens at 10:00 a.m.  Are you creating opportunities for them to sponsor an event on their off hours?

That's a great way to take any barriers away from participating as a sponsor at one of your events.

Good luck recruiting sponsors for your next event!

Guide to Governance

recently attended a class on governance for chambers and associations with Bob Harris, CAE.

The following are my notes.  It was hard to keep up with Bob, he was giving tips and best practices in a rapid-fire presentation.

Here we go!

Best Practices:
  • Conduct an annual orientation for your Board of Directors with governing documents reflected in your minutes.  What a great way to protect yourself.
  • Make sure they know their fiduciary responsibility – Duty of Care, Duty of Loyalty and Duty of Obedience.  For a previous blog post on that subject go HERE.
  • Protections of the board (4)

o   D&O - Directors and Officers insurance
o   Incorporated
o   Indemnification
o   Volunteer immunity

  • Put your mission statement on the back of your Board of Directors tent cards at your meetings.  Also, it should always be on your meeting agenda too!
  • When selecting board members, he used these words in what to look for “time, talent and treasury.”  I have always said “passion, intellect and money.”  We’re saying the same thing!
  • Average size board is 15
  • Chambers typically meet once a month, he suggested try meeting every other month.
  • Associations generally meet three times a year.
  • What’s your tag line?  Vision.Value.Voice. – not a bad start to build on!
  • Ex-officio members appointed to board because of their position somewhere else - bottom line, you’re on the board or not?  I am not a fan of ex-officio members and I’ve stated that multiple times on this blog.
  • 2015 California law doesn’t allow non-voting ex-officio board members.
  • If you send the Mayor (ex-officio member) your agenda, it just became public.
  • Your 990 is your only public document.

Tips on good board governance:

  • Board sets policy, staff implements that policy
  • Board should be concerned on issues beyond their term.
  • How many committees do you have?  Committees should match up with your strategic goals (i.e. four goals, four committees).

He ended with a review of our governing documents:

  • Articles of Incorporation (contract with state)
  • Mission (purpose of existence)
  • Bylaws (relationship to members)
  • Policies (interpretation of governing documents)
  • Strategic Plan (roadmap of organization GPS goals, priorities, strategy)
  • Annual Budget

And a final statistic, 9% of your budget should be spent on technology based on research by (ASAE and ACCE).