Wile E. Coyote’s Guide to Association Management

By: Rachel Luoma, MS, CAE

On any given day at least two to three cartoon theme songs are running through my mind!  As I write, I am singing the Jake and the Neverland Pirates theme song.

It could be that I have two young children, or the fact that I love cartoons.  However, regardless of the reasons, I can’t help but draw parallels between cartoons and association management.  It seems that there are several lessons to be learned about how to build better associations from watching cartoon.

So, as my children would say, “Yo Ho Let’s Go”! 

Looney Tunes™

Looney Tunes Clip Art from Word
LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. WB SHIELD: TM & © WBEI. (s15)

Take Looney Tunes™ for example. What started out as a few short films has spawned a worldwide media franchise, spanning decades, consisting of movies, television shows, merchandising, licensing, theme parks, etc.

What does this mean for associations?

Diversity + Adaptability = Sustainability

When was the last time you looked at your financial statement from a strategic standpoint?

  • Where is your money coming from?
  • Do you have multiple income streams such as membership, meetings, publications, product sales, etc.?
  • Is your income well–balanced and diversified?
  • When was the last time you conducted an audit on your various programs and services to determine return on investment?

Also, does your association have a strategic plan?

  • When was the last time you reviewed and updated it?
  • Have you recently done an environmental scan or scenario planning?
  • Is your governance structure set up to allow for quick action should you need to adapt to a scenario or situation?

Looney Tunes™ is proof that a great concept can only take you so far.  You have to work to ensure that your association remains relevant and can do so through diversification and adaptability.

Rugrats

© 2015 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved. Nick and all related titles, logos and characters are trademarks of Viacom International Inc.
© 2015 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved. Nick and all related titles, logos and characters are trademarks of Viacom International Inc.

What seemed like a general show depicting common life experiences that become adventures in the imaginations of babies was much more.  Rugrats™ portrayed various situations from the perspective of the child and showed how their perspectives were different than their parents’ generation.

Fast forward to 2015, where according to the PEW Research Center, millennials are now the largest generation in the labor force.

YP Data from PEW Research

As an association, if you are not engaging the young professionals (YPs) in your industry, you are missing important perspectives.

Engaging YPs is critical for associations to bridge the generational divide and to remain relevant and on the forefront of change.

If your association doesn’t have a formal YP program, below are a few ideas for getting started:

  • Identify a few influential young professionals and seek ways to engage them in your association, whether it is on committees, task forces, board leadership, as thought leaders, etc.
  • Consider starting a YPs community, whether it is online, through social media outlets or in person as a way to communicate and engage with YPs.
  • Offer a YP rate at a meeting or conference or hold a social event for YPs at your annual conference.
  • Or one of my personal favorites – find a YP and ask them how they want to engage in your association

Whatever, you choose to do, Rugrats™ was spot on – engagement of this demographic is key to building a healthy and viable association.

Inspector Gadget™

© 2015 DHX Cookie Jar Inc.
© 2015 DHX Cookie Jar Inc.

Who can forget the story of the dimwitted detective who was fitted with bionic gadgets that aided him in his fight against Dr. Claw?

The moral of this story was how technology impacted Inspector Gadget™, just as it impacts associations.

Reggie Henry, CAE, the Chief Information Officer of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), recently spoke at the 2015 FSAE Annual Conference about technology trends and their impact on associations. He was dead on about the impact that technology has had and continues to have on associations.

Mobile Device UsageOne thing that he talked about in his session was the impact of mobile devices on marketing, communications, membership, information technology, etc.

The use of mobile devices continues to rise and has a significant impact on how our associations present their information.

As such, it is important to make sure your association website and media is mobile friendly.  If your website visitors have to pinch and rotate their screens to access information, chances are they will look to someone else to get that information.

Here are a few tips for evaluating your technology for mobile use:

  • Create a micro-volunteering opportunity and ask members to visit the website on their mobile devices and provide feedback.
  • Work with a website or technology development company to review your website and make suggestions to make it more user-friendly.
  • Create a website scavenger hunt and ask your staff and/or volunteer leaders to go find those items on your website and provide feedback on challenges and opportunities.

It used to be that associations were the keeper of information, but now I can find pretty much anything on the internet.  So take a cue from Inspector Gadget™ and manage your technology or people will go elsewhere.

What great advice can you glean from watching cartoons?

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RachelLuomaBio

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