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The Why and What of Member Services

Posted By Barb Mann, Director of Operations, Thursday, December 15, 2016
Updated: Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Member Services department plays a crucial role in an association management company (AMC). The major focus of this department is customer service — keeping members happy — thereby contributing to member retention and promotion. Members are the lifeblood of the association, making it vital to serve their needs in any way possible.

An efficiently run department communicates professionally and effectively with association members and leaders to achieve the organization’s potential and fulfill the association’s mission and goals. Member Services staff understand that members are involved in their association to grow in their profession and advance their credibility in their industry.

Member services is often the first point of contact members have with their association — and sometimes their only contact — so these interactions provide evidence of how well the association is being managed. Knowing that an understanding partner is a phone call or an email away provides security to members that they have made the right choice to be active in their professional trade association.

A great member services representative provides excellent customer service by listening to the inquiry, understanding the question or problem, empathizing with the member, and offering a solution. This representative has a clear and complete understanding of all aspects of the organization to be able to assist with complex inquiries and can handle the day-to-day needs of all association members. The department answers membership questions, provides information to access membership benefits, and trains members to make full use of their membership through online benefits (such as searchable directories, professional development webinars and publications).

Additional roles of a member services department include working proactively to avoid problems or difficulties members might encounter accessing member resources, renewing memberships, and registering for association events and functions. Being on the front line and having a constant finger on the pulse of the organization, member services staff offers feedback to all other departments on best practices as members actively use their association’s services. 

Tags:  AMC  association management  customer service  member services 

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Run Hard to the Finish Line

Posted By Bill Monn, Vice President of Client Relations, Thursday, December 1, 2016

Sports are a good example to use to make this point. Every track coach since the ancient Greek Olympics has implored their athletes to run hard to the finish line. Every football coach since Knute Rockne has urged their players to run all the way to the end zone. Hockey, basketball, soccer – every sport can point to the improbable play where someone was caught from behind or didn’t give a full run all the way to the finish line and paid a heavy price.

Turning to managing your association, running hard all the way to the finish line is a great message for all leaders to use the last weeks of the year to push hard and finish strong to set up next year for success. Here are some ideas to get your head in the game to do that.

Make a list and check it twice. Some key questions should be:

  • Our strategic plan or goals for the year – did we accomplish them? Why/why not? Is there time to get them done, make a dent in them or position them for the coming year? Are they still relevant?
  • How’s our budget look? Did we perform as well as we thought? Where are we off? Too optimistic on revenues? Unexpected expenses? Are we better off compared to a year ago? Do we need to put a team of smart people on this now to get next year right?
  • Key metrics of the association – are they pointing up or down? Is membership growing, stagnant, shrinking? Is attendance at our programs, conferences, events growing? Is industry support strong?
  • Is the association doing what it is meant to do? Are members happy, engaged, enthusiastic? Have we asked them lately? Do we need to formally take their temperature?
  • Finally – and don’t miss this one – has the world changed? Has anything happened in our industry or elsewhere that impacts our industry? Has anything changed since we made our goals for the year? Probably yes, so take time to understand and pla

One forward-thinking leader that comes to mind loved the end of the year because all the outside noise in the world helped to force greater concentration on the important matters at hand. Said another way, this leader reveled in the opportunity to take dead-aim at a time when it was easy to be distracted. The leader made it a game, made it fun, then made it work.

This thoughtful leader asked his board to come prepared to a brainstorming meeting with an idea that would greatly benefit the organization but was (almost) impossible because of time, money, resources. Take the blinders off and think big without worrying, for the moment, about how to get it done. The energy created by the ideas was intoxicating. And once a good idea got rolling it is almost impossible to stop. In short order, a great idea was begetting more ideas and it was like hanging ornaments on a Christmas Tree. If the idea is good enough, somehow the barriers of time-money-resources get taken care of.

Also worth remembering is that creativity and purpose come in many colors and shapes. While those people we call the “idea creatives” will be brainstorming the new and cool, a good leader will be identifying the people who are passionate about buttoning up details. These are the folks you want massaging your budget and creating that financial plan that will let the new ideas fly.

A word of caution is to not turn over the budget and financial planning completely to a buzz-kill who will be developing a long list of “cant’s.” Best case is you’d like some creative thinking and if/then propositions – if we fund A then perhaps B can’t be funded this year. A great, creative-minded financial planner is worth their weight in gold – the gold they will find to fund the creative ideas.

Tags:  association management  goals  strategic plan  year-end review 

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The Association's New Year's Resolution

Posted By Emily Le, Wednesday, December 30, 2015

With 2015 in the rear view mirror and the Times Square Ball now dropped, about 147 million Americans affirmed some personal goals for 2016. As the new year has arrived, what aspirations do you have for your association? After years of working with associations, Ewald Consulting has come up with a few stellar New Year's resolutions that your association may want to consider adopting and committing to for continued success through next December.

  1. Review and commit your organization to sticking to your budget

With each new year, we must remember that your association’s budget is a great tool to strategically plan and monitor the finances of your organization, if created correctly. One problem that we see many associations run into is that their budget is based on assumptions and not facts. Always build a realistic budget that reflects what is happening in the organization, not around other goals (i.e.: don’t base your budget off of the idea that you’ll be successful in growing membership 20% this year. Base it on your current membership numbers). Once the budget has been created, keep in mind that it must remain flexible and responsive to opportunities and threats that may emerge during the year. Another way to create an involved budget is to include everyone that it affects. By involving board members, program managers, development staff, finance managers, and executive directors, your organization will be much more likely to stick to your budget.

  1. Review your Board of Directors

As the new year kicks in, it might be a good time to take a look at rejuvenating your board. Often times, a board can benefit from new leadership, even if the current board is doing an okay job. Bringing in some fresh faces and perspectives can spur innovation, renew the organization’s energy, and reemphasize your mission and purpose. By disrupting the status quo, you may push your organization back on the path they have been very slowly moving off of. If you don’t think this is the right course of action for your association, consider investing in a leadership retreat to have the same effect on your current board.

  1. Take a look at your events

How did your events go this year? Were participants especially excited about a certain venue or speaker last year? The new year is a great time to reach out to some of your more active members or to revisit the results of last year’s post-conference survey. Planning the venue at a new and exciting location, bringing in new speakers, or changing up your education sessions are all great places to start thinking about implementing change. With your annual conference being the major touch-point with a majority of your members, it’s pertinent that your organization commit itself to ensuring an incredible experience.

We hope your association saw amazing successes in 2015 and that they continue into the new year. By committing yourselves to excellence in these three areas, you’ll be well on your way to doing so. If your association ever wants to augment its events, marketing, professional development, communications, sales, or finances, our team is here to help. Feel free to give us a call at (651) 290-6274 or email us at paulh@ewald.com. We’d be happy to hear about what you want to accomplish and how we can play a role in getting you there.

Here’s to a wonderfully successful and fun 2016 - cheers!

Tags:  association management  budget planning  New Year's 

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CAE-Approved Provider Renewal

Posted By David Ewald, Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Updated: Monday, October 12, 2015

While we always strive to be the best in the association management world, it’s sometimes just as gratifying to know that we are also the first. We got a nice reminder of our pioneering status last month when Ewald Consulting retained its credentials as the nation’s first association management company to be a Certified Association Executive-approved provider with the American Society of Association Executives.


As a CAE approved provider, Ewald Consulting offers training programs which help participants fulfill the professional development requirements that allow them to maintain their own CAE credentials. We offer programs that qualify participants for CAE credits, and we maintain participation records in accordance with CAE policies.


That’s a mouthful, but the CAE credentials mean that in addition to being a place where local, national and international associations come for full-service management, Ewald Consulting is also a place where association members and staff can receive certified training within ASAE. This was the first association management company to receive that certification, so that is another well-earned accolade for those working hard as our company grows.


Great work by all involved in maintaining our first-in-the-industry status.

Tags:  ASAE  association management  CAE-Approved Provider 

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Summer at Ewald: A reflection and farewell

Posted By Mattie Roesler, Intern at Ewald Consulting, Monday, August 31, 2015

When I started my internship with Ewald Consulting Group back in June, I had no idea what to expect. I would soon discover that at Ewald I had the freedom to develop my own summer learning experience, because the management team at Ewald encouraged the interns to take advantage of any opportunity we could. If we wanted to sit in on a sales presentation? No problem.  Develop a new social media campaign involving the company’s pet fish? Go for it. The more innovative the idea, the more excited our employers would be. I quickly learned that at Ewald, I was not just an intern, on call for coffee runs, shredding files, or moving boxes. I was a member of the Ewald Consulting team, where my ideas and time were just as valuable as the other employees. At risk of sounding like a love letter to all of my employers and coworkers, I simply wish to say thank you for giving me an environment to excel in I also wanted to share some of my favorite lessons and experiences.

1.       Ask and you shall receive

This is the biggest lesson I learned at Ewald. It took a little while for me to understand how to get the most out of my job here. Another intern, Erik Hillesheim, can take a lot of credit for this. He taught me to be assertive with my aspirations at the company by getting involved. At his urging, I asked if I could sit in on a Government Relations team meeting early in the summer. Without that meeting, where I discussed some of my potential career interests, I would not have been invited to the Special Legislative Session, nor would I have been asked to help with Google’s Anti-Sex Trafficking Conference where I met a large network of amazing people. This taught me a valuable lesson: people, especially employers, want you to have a great experience. However, they can’t help you if you are not assertive about your wishes. It will never hurt you to try. Thanks Erik.


2.       Business should never be too serious.

I think everyone at Ewald Consulting, especially my boss Paul Hanscom, lives by this motto. Whether it be cackling during a call-a-thon with the “funky fresh” sales-team, Yoga breaks in the Member Services department with Katie Wilkerson, or even just a meeting to plan membership outreach, people are always laughing. In business, laughter acts like oil- it keeps a business running smoothly.


3.       Learning isn’t always easy

As previously mentioned, business can be nothing but fun. Sometimes. Other times, I had to learn to roll up my sleeves and learn some hard lessons. Some days were full of database entry or angry members on the other end of a phone call. Sometimes I made mistakes in a document or forgot to send a report. This helped me to engrave Dave Ewald’s “Always Double-Check” policy into my mind forever. Learning is tough, because it is almost always preceded by a mistake. However, Ewald’s Marketing Director, Kate Madonna-Hindes, is the keeper of the Band-Aids for these moments. I heard her say more than once that the most you can do is own up to your mistake and keep on moving. Another sincere thank you goes to you, Kate.

 Along with these lessons, I will walk away from Ewald with an expanded network of business contacts, mentors, and above all else, friends. Thank you to everyone at this company who made this summer so rewarding. 

Tags:  association management  associations  internship 

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The Top Five Infographics for Associations

Posted By Mattie Roesler, Monday, August 17, 2015

As an Association Management group, Ewald Consulting oversees and develops strategy for many of our clients. This means, we get access to some of the most relevant information FOR associations, provided BY other associations! We thought it would be exciting to share some of the helpful findings we’ve come across, and what better way to do it than through our favorite infographics? Special thanks to all the companies and websites that created them, cited below.

 A Day in the Life of a Small Staff Association

The many hats of Association employees

Sometimes it’s hard for members to understand the complications of running an association. This infographic lays out a perfect depiction of the challenges association employees conquer on a daily basis. And who doesn’t love these hats? (memberclicks.com)

What membership benefits do Millennials Value

What membership benefits do Millennials Value?

I’m sure you’re just as sick with this buzzword as we are, but in order for an association to stay relevant it must cater to millennials in addition to their current members. (www.exchanges.wiley.com)

Distanced Association vs. Engaged Association

Distanced Association vs. Engaged Association

Co-creating value within your association is a great way to keep members engaged and ensure your relevance. Nothing feels better than having your members come back year after year praising your association for the value it provides. This infographic does a great job sharing the difference between a distanced association and an engaged association. (Amanda Kaiser, www.smoothpath.net)

Non-Profit Association tax breakdown

Non-Profit Association tax breakdown

Still a little confused on what your finance department is working on? This infographic is a fun way to spice up the topic of non-profit company taxes!  (associationsNOW.com)

5 ways to use promotional products

5 ways to use promotional products

Though many associations have a system for promotional products, this infographic gives some innovative suggestions on the most effective ways to get a bang for your buck with  members and potential members! (www.4imprint.com)

Tags:  association management  associations  infographics 

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Fish and Wits - Winston's Words of Wisdom

Posted By Winston the Betta Fish, Thursday, July 16, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, July 14, 2015

In July of 2015 Winston, a descendant of the first ever AMC Fish, was born into the Ewald family. Winston’s blood line traces back many generations to the creation of associations. His wisdom was lost at some point during the 18th century until he was recently rediscovered in a small river in Thailand. He has come to us to share the best association insight that can be found on the web. Each week he shall select 3-5 articles that prove most useful to association professionals all around the world. Here is what Winston has to say about this week’s articles:


1. “Our first article this week comes from a white paper released in May of 2015. ‘Leading Engagement From The Outside In: Become an Indispensable Partner in Your Members’ Success’ is a must read for all association executives. It challenges typical engagement strategies focusing on what association executives value, not members. By turning engagement on its head, Caraveli and Engel are able to give associations new ways to think about engaging their members.” Read this whitepaper here

2. “Another great read this week was an Associations Now article about hiring leaders from within and outside of your organization. It seems as though every association grapples with this tough question. On one hand you have the person who knows the ins and outs of how the association runs and on the other you have a fresh set of eyes and a higher level of understanding of management. Has your association faced a similar dilemma? We’d love to hear about it” Read the article here

3. “Last but certainly not least was an article by Adrian Segar about we are all wasting time being perfect. He introduces the idea of “risky learning”, or ‘[trying] new things with the certainty that we will learn something different, perhaps something important that we would not have learned via a “safe” process, and [being] prepared for the possibility to “fail” in ways that teach us something new and fresh about our process.’ He gives a very interesting perspective that you can bring back to your association!” Check out the piece here


If you have any articles that you think Winston may not have seen feel free to email his assistant, Erik, at erikh@ewald.com. They’ll be sure to review your article and share it with the world!

Tags:  articles  association management  associations  marketing  Winston 

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Building Online Community, Capturing and Nurturing Member Loyalty

Posted By Kathie , Monday, May 18, 2015

Associations have always been about community, like-minded people with similar interests in professions or causes gathering to advance individually and as a whole. In recent past, building community in associations happened in person at our conventions and professional development programs.


Technology now affords us the opportunity to engage with our members year round with online communities, increasing the member value proposition if designed and delivered effectively. Just because you can technically build the online community doesn’t mean that members will come. If you’re going to build an online community, be aware of the ongoing commitment of time and resources to make it about enhancing and evolving relationships, not one-time transactions.

The first and most familiar online communities are Facebook and LinkedIn. Associations now have easy access to the tools to build member-only communities on their websites. With our members accustomed to the usability of Facebook and LinkedIn, we are competing with these platforms and need to have compelling reasons to create members-only online communities that are active and create value.

Online communities need to have a specific purpose with communication strategies to create conversation, collaboration, connections and new learnings. We need to facilitate that process and build momentum to create ongoing value.

There are a variety of features in online communities including forum discussion groups, file sharing, directories to list members and allow one-on-one communication, searchable databases to connect through like attributes, wiki-like collaboration on documents and sharing through social media tools. The key is determine which tools to use and why and not to use every tool if not necessary. Start with a few, keep it simple, give clear directions and get members to own the facilitation.

Key strategies to building an online community include:

Invite – ask thought leaders, millennials and mid-career members to participate and drive conversations

Good instructions – help members with their user name and password and how to retrieve it if they’ve forgotten. Create “rules” of engagement and define the purpose of the community

Prompting and prodding – get members to come back by cross-promoting on the website, emails and social media what’s happening and discussion on the online community

Personalize it – encourage members to upload photos and gather interests, attributes and key data points to find commonality amongst the community

Gamification – create points, incentives and make it fun with a little friendly competition

Consistency and commitment – foster the community, keep conversations and sharing going, ask thought-provoking questions, discuss trends, share tools and strategies that are compelling and will drive return visitors

Position and Market It – online communities are a great way to find experts, network (without selling) and ultimately are a great resource for social and collaborative learning.

There are many different ways to make your online community a benefit for your members.  The Association for Staff Physician Recruiters is currently using an online community to support both their live annual conference and fellowship program and their on-demand fellowship program.  The handouts and documents for the conference and on-demand webinars are posted to the community for download and members granted access as they registered. 

The Qualitative Research Consultants Association has created many different online communities to support their regional chapter groups and special interest groups as well.  This allows members to segment by location and topic of interest and network virtually.  Members are able to create their own events for networking or webinars, connect on and offline and also have a discussion forum for sharing resources and best practices. In addition, their members-only Forum Discussion Group is a vibrant exchange of thoughts and ideas on business issues and opportunities, research questions, social networking, suggestion box and industry news.

Several other associations are using the online communities to create mentorship relationships to assist newcomers to the field and the association.  The online community assists in creating the mentor-mentee pair, providing mentorship resources and a forum to assist in the pairing and networking.  In addition, group mentoring programs are a preferred method for millennials to engage with mentors.

In each of these cases, the online community is a specific member benefit that creates value for the association member and the organization as well. 


Members join our organizations for a sense of belonging and community so creating relevant experiences both online and in-person is critical to retention and member development. More and more for-profit companies are changing their business strategy to a “membership” model, creating loyal and long-term customers. Other good models for building online communities that foster impactful peer to peer connections and collaboration include LinkedIn, Match.com, Weight-Watchers, Salesforce.com, Marketo, Sierra Club, Amazon and Pinterest. In her new book, “The Membership Economy,” Robbie Kellman Baxter lays out detailed strategies and case studies from these companies that’s well worth not only the “read” but the actual implementation in our own organizations.



Tags:  association management 

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The Value of Strategic Planning

Posted By Kate-Madonna Hindes, Monday, May 11, 2015
Updated: Monday, May 11, 2015

Have you ever learned a valuable lesson by trying to fit a large easel into the backseat of a Mazda6?  I have.  And I’d recommend you just learn from my experience rather than trying it on your own. One of the organizations I work with was going through a full-day strategic planning session that particular day and I had agreed to bring the easel and large notepads so notes could be taken and hung around the room.  One problem; the easel was too long to fit in my car, or so I thought.  I tried everything.  It was too wide to lay in the back seat, it wouldn’t fit diagonally from front to back, and I couldn’t get it in far enough to lay it parallel with the length of the car.  I tried every angle, every seat adjustment possible, and even came close to tearing up the interior of my car.  All this was taking place in plain view of the windows of many of my co-workers and I was on the verge of giving up.  Frustrated, I draped myself on the easel and gazed toward the ground not knowing what I was going to do.  And then I saw the buttons on the easel legs.  So much frustrating effort and all I had to do the entire time was simply push the button to fold the legs in half.   Needless to say, it fit in the back seat with room to spare.


Sometimes associations find themselves in a metaphorically similar situation as I was in.  They know what the association needs (the easel needs to be in the car) but they are trying all the wrong strategies to accomplish the mission (trying to force the easel to fit in the car).  That’s the beauty of a successful strategic planning session.  Not only does it draw out the necessary end goal, but it also brings clarity to the necessary steps of accomplishing the mission (identifies the buttons on the easel). Every strategic planning session will be different, but it should have three primary parts: data gathering, an efficient and effective session, and a plan for follow-up action. 


Firstly, gather data.  The better the data gathering the better the strategic planning will be.  Research the target market, know the members’ needs (surveys are helpful), understand the competition, complete a SWOT analysis, review successes and failures, and collect reports from the committee chairs and board members.  Board members and committee chairs should answer questions such as “What is ABC missing as an organization?”, “What is the biggest obstacle facing ABC in the next 3 years?”, “What are three things ABC should be doing as an organization that is currently missing?" All of this information should be gathering, compiled, and given to strategic planning attendees with ample time to review and digest.


Secondly, hold an efficient and effective meeting.   The strategic planning process is bound to unveil conversation topics and debates that could go on for hours if time allowed.  Some of these topics need to be flushed out, but having long conversations without structure can lead to an unproductive strategic planning session.  Set an agenda, overview the agenda with board members, and stick to it.  This will keep the session on task and better ensure the best use of everyone’s time for the betterment of the organization.


Lastly, set a plan for follow-up action.  A good phrase to go by is “Plan the work and work the plan.”  A strategic session takes a lot of time and effort.  Don’t put it in all the planning work only to be unclear on the strategies to accomplish the defined goals.  I’d recommend creating a strategic matrix that identifies the established goals, defines strategies to accomplish the goals, assigns responsibilities to appropriate board members/volunteers/staff, and sets a time frame for which to accomplish them.


Strategic planning is an important and valuable initiative.  Take the time to do it right and you’ll enjoy the benefits you were hoping for.  Proper preparation, meeting organization, and follow-up with give you the best chance at successful strategic planning.



This post was written by Monte Abeler, Account Executive at Ewald Consulting.


Tags:  association management 

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Make or Break Meeting Moments

Posted By Kate-Madonna Hindes, Monday, May 4, 2015

I met with Ewald Consulting Account Executive Monte Abeler to discuss his experience meeting with boards and committees for a variety of associations. He told me that he had recently had a great meeting and everyone walked out feeling energized and ready to take action. I wondered, why don’t more meetings end this way? We talked briefly and came up with a few make-or-break features of meetings we’ve both attended, including:


1.       Never meet without an agenda. It seems simplistic, but meetings without an agenda are a rudderless boat headed for rocks or drifting aimlessly along. Set an agenda that consists only of items that require a decision or input resulting in action. If you are invited to a meeting that lacks an agenda, politely insist on having one or be prepared to drift.


2.       As a participant in a meeting, ask the “dumb questions.” If a bold recommendation is made, ask about the underlying assumptions. For example, if a membership committee member suggests the goal of growing membership by 10%, ask why. Is there value in growing the number of members or is the committee trying to get off easy by using the total number of members as a proxy indicator of overall value the association offers through membership?


3.       Make sure participants are positioned to succeed in the meeting. Provide materials that require review well in advance of the meeting with explicit instruction that such materials should be fully digested prior to the meeting. Have a plan for preparing the meeting facilities as well as who will facilitate discussion, track time on each discussion item, and take/distribute minutes. Having the logistics of a meeting  set beforehand ensures that the meeting itself can get underway on time and the focus of everyone’s valuable time can be the topics of discussion.


4.       Start and end on time. In today’s busy environment where all meeting participants have multiple commitments, the best way to be respectful of everyone’s time is to ensure a prompt beginning and conclusion to your meeting. This will ensure future participation is dependable and prompt.


In addition to these quick tips, Kathie Pugaczewski describes in 20 Ways to Enhance Your Meeting Experiences how to make use of your association’s website before, during, and after a meeting to increase the value of the meeting itself and to perpetuate the ideas and outcomes from the meeting into the activities that follow it. Take a look and provide us with your feedback. 



This post was written by Paul Hanscom, Vice President of Marketing at Ewald Consulting. Contact Paul at: paulh@ewald.com. 

Tags:  association management 

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MANAGEMENT | View all Management articles
A Successful Year Starts with a Solid Budget by Bill Monn
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MARKETING | View all Marketing articles
9 Marketing Ideas for Your Organization by Kathie Pugaczewski
Read full article

MEMBERSHIP | View all Membership articles
A Holistic Approach to Membership Recruitment by Darrin Hubbard
Read full article

VOLUNTEERISM | View all Volunteerism articles
Three Ways to Stronger Volunteer Engagement by Paul Hanscom
Read full article

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