Be the Mockingjay: What the Capitol Can Learn from Associations

By: District Three
John Galligan, Sigrid Hazelwood, Danielle Jessup, William Lessley, Rachel Luoma,  CAE

In the dystopian world of the Hunger Games, all resources flow into the Capitol where the rich and powerful greedily refuse to let the resources flow back out to the 13 districts who supplied all the goods and services to begin with. This, of course, is what brings about their downfall. Surely, if Panem were run like a non-profit, they would have never found themselves in such a situation.

The staff in our office bring together resources across all areas of association management which allow us to work as one large team for our clients. The organizations we work with allow us to improve our members’ lives which, in turn, causes the members to give back to the organization. Those Capitol people were really dense!

We all are looking for ways to improve our current organizations. Below are some ideas that you could incorporate into your association to better serve your members.


Membership retention and recruitment is everyone’s responsibility. From your volunteer leaders to your part-time intern – membership is the lifeblood of your organization and is therefore everyone’s job. Make sure your organization’s leaders and staff are effectively communicating the vision to everyone involved. If your staff and leaders don’t understand how everything relates to membership, help them make the connection and hold them accountable for their role in recruiting and retaining members.

Empower staff to branch out and learn about what each other are up to in regards to program areas. You have to be inquisitive to find out what your members need – it’s no different in the office! By asking questions and hearing what other staff members are working on, they can better  collaborate and ensure that everything is geared towards membership.


Meetings and events are changing. One way to help increase awareness of an event is to create a story; add meaningful purpose as to why this event is taking place. Market it. Don’t just include the when and where.  Expand on the why and incorporate the story of the event into this section. It is also important to modify the message to the different types of groups (i.e. attendees, vendors, press).

Activities: Incorporate memorable activities throughout the event that expand on the “storyline”.  For example, if the theme of an event is to “Overcome Challenges” start each morning with an interactive activity.  This can be accomplished through a challenge course.

Social Media: Have a platform that allows those who have registered for the event to interact. When this is done prior to the event, it helps create a “buzz”.  People start talking and prospects start listening.  It can help increase attendance and engagement!


(Success Board. Digital Image. N.D. Web. 11 August 2014

Volunteer Management

Minimizing Risk: Reducing association risk is one of the primary responsibilities for association staff.   While items such as antitrust, confidentiality, insurance, conflicts of interest, apparent authority, liability, governance, contracts, discrimination, etc. are not fun, they are extremely important for the association.  When was the last time you reviewed your governance documents to ensure that the association is protected?  The Association Law Handbook, by Jerald A. Jacobs is a phenomenal resource for knowing what you should be doing to protect your association.  They even have a comprehensive legal review as an appendix in the book to help guide you and your association.

Outlining Expectations: One of the most important aspects of volunteer management is communicating expectations.  If you don’t already provide your volunteer leaders with a job description then you should consider doing so.  If you do provide it to them, when was the last time you reviewed them.  The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) has a library of some wonderful samples from other associations at  A job description will help to outline the responsibilities, behaviors, job functions, etc. of your volunteer leaders.


Price: Start with the basics. People need to know how much it costs up front to see if it is a possibility. What is your circulation or social media reach? Does your price warrant the coverage? People aren’t just buying ad space, they are buying a return on investment. Advertising is used as a vessel to create branding and recognition. Find out specifically what the company is selling and who their target audience is. You need to know what a company hopes to get out of advertising in order to serve them best. Let them know the basics and then ask questions.

Follow up: If you speak with someone about advertising let them know they have a great resource and send them information. Make an introduction and get them what they need to make a decision. Send your Media Kit. Don’t have one? Make one. Selling ads is like placing ads. You need a presence to be a viable option for when they do advertise. People want to invest with a steady company that delivers on what they say they will for a reasonable price. Even if you get a “no” just send an email when an issue is coming out or see if they want to be included. Seeing their competition advertise is sometimes the easiest way to make a sale.

Member Services

Data Entry: Working  in a Member Services role, you most likely handle a lot of data entry. It seems like a small task, but making sure everything from payment to contact information gets entered in correctly is a big deal. All of the information that is put into the database is later used for pulling membership reports, accounting, meeting planning and target marketing so it is crucial for the data entry to be accurate.


(Success Street Sign. Digital Image. N.D. Web. 11 August 2014

While there are many more aspects to association management, having a solid foundation is a key to success. By embracing the strengths inherent in each of your staff/departments, your association can be stronger and better equipped to fulfill your mission and vision.

May the odds be ever in your favor!





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