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How To Build A Press Kit

Posted By Jess Myers, Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Updated: Monday, February 2, 2015
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When you want the media to know all about your organization, and all about your current issues of interest, there are two basic ways to go about it.

You can answer the phone when they call, and spend 15 minutes telling them all the ins and outs of who you are and what you’re about. Those opportunities are great, if rare. More often than not, media relations are a proactive, not reactive, business.

The second approach is to prepare a press kit, so when the media wants to know about you and what your group advocates, you’ve got all of the information prepared in a convenient package for them. Press kits are a staple of the media relations word, and can be tailored to meet whatever project you’re advocating, or which segment of the media you’re reaching.

The classic press kit is a paper folder filled with several types of information that you hand out, or mail, to members of the media upon request. The more modern press kit has entered the electronic realm, with most press kit materials deliverable via email, and the capabilities expanding to include audio and video.

Whether you go paper or electronic, press kits should contain some of the same basic elements:

  • Press release – This is the heart of any press kit. It provides the newest news, regarding whatever is hot right now for your organization. It could be an announcement of an award winner or a promotion, a reaction to a hot issue in your realm, the preview of an annual conference, etc. It should be the first thing people see when they open your press kit.
  • Background – Have information about your organization. Who you are, how long you’ve been around, your mission, your membership numbers, etc. This can be in bullet point “quick facts” format or as a narrative.
  • Bios – Key members of your organization, if relevant, should have bio sheets in a press kit. A simple one- to three-paragraph description of who they are and why they’re an important part of your mission. Include head shots in reproducible form if their photos are needed or likely to be used by the press.
  • Statistics – It’s hard to describe a pie chart over the phone, but in a press kit, it’s a perfect place to include any charts, graphs or other visuals that illustrate your core points.
  • Photos – Anything visual is good, as it catches the eye and it works to tell your story.
  • Business cards – Absolutely vital to include ways that people can make contact after the fact. Many folders come with a built-in place to hold business cards. If not, in a physical press kit, staple a card to the top page, so it’s visible when people open the folder.

It’s good to keep a few basic press kits on hand as handouts when meeting with the media, as a basic backgrounder on your organization and your issue. It’s also wise to make .pdf files of your handouts, so they can be easily emailed, if you’re not physically meeting with members of the media.

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The Association “Data”ing Game

Posted By Kathie Pugaczewski, CAE, CMP, Vice President, Communication & Technology Department, Wednesday, January 28, 2015
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With access to technology tools that in the recent past were limited to Fortune 500 company budgets, associations now have the ability to effectively and strategically play the “data”ing game. Our challenge now is limited to human resources coupled with unlimited technology choices. To be impactful and sustainable, we need to create relevance and meaning from the proliferation of information.  And while it’s tempting to go wide and try several strategies, we need to take a deeper dive in fewer areas to start the “data”ing game and commit to a few strategies long enough to create lasting results.

Data tells a story.  It connects the dots and provides context and creates meaning so we can make better decisions to meet and anticipate the needs of our members. It appeals to the whole brain – right and left - with both qualitative and quantitative components to complete the picture.

Amazon, iTunes and google all use data attributes to drive sales, customer engagement and loyalty. They know our preferences and sell more to us by utilizing the data we give them with our transactions. We can do the same with our members on a different scale.

Our primary data source that we can start with is our member database. We keep “score” every month with our excel dashboard of joins, renews, total members as well as member retention. But are we doing anything meaningful to change the outcome of the game? When we use members’ specialties and interests to drive involvement, create community, identify trends, develop new offerings, we are aggregating the data and giving it back to our members in ways that are relevant to them on a personal level.

Our website stats show us who is visiting our website, how long they are staying and when they leave. A strong ongoing content development plan that builds resources will give our members a reason to return again and again.

Our accounting software can identify trends in membership, professional development and conference revenue as well as identify low net revenue offerings that may not be driving value for the members that we should consider cutting so we can focus on what’s most valuable to the members.
On our email stats are we breaking through the online noise with a compelling message? Is it too often or not enough? Is it visual enough? Is our social media enhancing our communication strategy? Are we facilitating conversations and offering compelling content that engages members into an ongoing conversation and community?

When we go deeper, beyond the act of merely collecting data, we can see patterns and make predictions to serve our members better as well as engage them in the work of the association.

According to ASAE’s Decision to Volunteer, the top five inhibitors to volunteering include:

  1. Lack of information about opportunities to volunteer –create an association job board
  2. Conflict with other volunteering activity – diversify volunteer base with short term commitment opportunities
  3. Never asked to volunteer – number one reason people don’t join as well – ask, people want to give
  4. Lack of information about virtual volunteering  - social media, emailing members, defined projects
  5. Lake of information about short-term assignments – committee structure not working, create action teams

The top five drivers to Volunteering

  1. It’s important to help others – it’s not all about what we can do for them but rather what they can do for us
  2. Do something for profession/cause important to me – mission needs to be compelling – are we inspiring?
  3. Feel compassion for others – altruistic motivation
  4. Gain new perspectives – learn from peers, mentorship and career growth
  5. Explore my own strengths – personal development, something they may not be getting from their job

Associations must get into the “data”ing game to retain and gain members, engage volunteers, create content for our websites, target professional development offerings, increase sponsorships, exhibitor and advertising sales and give data back to the members in a form that they can use in their own professions. A few moves, and let the games and success begin!

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Posted By Monte Abeler, Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, January 20, 2015
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You’ve probably heard the famous phrase, “If you fail to plan you plan to fail.”  Undoubtedly, there is a lot of evidence proving the validity of that phrase.  Kodak would be one example, as the photography giant was completely overrun by digital photography. However, a plan doesn’t magically transform into success all by itself. That would be like trying to create water with hydrogen alone. You need the oxygen! It would be like a farmer having seed and a plan for what to do with it, but never actually sitting down in the tractor and making the effort to plant; there’s a component missing. You probably know where I’m going with this.  Yes, we truly need both direction and action.  So what is, “Dir-Action,” exactly? It’s an epic combination of direction and action, giving you an opportunity for success. 

Take some time to ponder the following questions:

  1. Do I (we) have a clear direction?

    If your answer is NO, I would recommend holding a strategic planning session.  You can find countless advice and opinions on the best way to conduct strategic planning, and there a lot of successful ways to do it. When it’s all said and done, just make sure you know the mission, understand the direction, and are clear on the goals set to move forward. If your answer is YES, continue on to question two. 

  2. Are you taking intentional action on your direction?

    If your answer is NO, I would encourage you to pinpoint the reason why action isn’t happening. Common causes include vagueness in regard to who is responsible for certain tasks, a lack of accountability to complete assigned responsibilities, apathetic volunteers, volunteer work overload, and the absence of a timeline. Once you have the reason pinpointed you should be able to reestablish forward progress.  Smartsheets, Basecamp, and ProWorkFlow are three resources you may wish to consider to help with project management and deadline completion. If your answer is YES, then congratulations are in order.

Tags:  clear direction  ewald consulting  kate madonna hindes  success  take action 

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Social Media, Associations and Libel: Do we need new laws?

Posted By Laurie Pumper, CAE, Friday, January 9, 2015
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social mediaIf someone says something negative about your association on Facebook, what action should you take? What if someone makes accusations about one of your members – perhaps that the member has acted unethically or illegally? How can associations protect themselves from unfavorable publicity?

Similar questions have been with us for as long as associations have existed, but social media platforms have made it much easier for bad news to travel fast. For instance, if a former member or disgruntled former staff member made allegations to a reporter, the reporter would typically ask the association for a response. If the response indicated that the accusation was clearly false or overblown, the reporter would likely kill the story. With Twitter, Facebook, and hundreds of other platforms that allow people to easily post derogatory – even libelous – comments on social media, the job of association staff and volunteer leaders is more difficult.

For comments that simply portray facts in an unflattering way but don’t rise to the level of libel, an association’s best defense is a robust presence on social media and in the community it represents. If your members know about the good work your organization does and are familiar with your Facebook page or LinkedIn discussion group, they are likely to come to the association’s defense with their own positive comments. If your association has been featured in positive news articles in the trade media or general media, the public is less likely to be swayed by a negative comment, especially if it comes from a lone voice.

Although still relatively rare in the association world, there have been many instances when someone posts false accusations against a certain person or against an organization. Even if an association decides to take legal action — which can be time-consuming and expensive — it’s possible that the person who made the damaging comment(s) has no or few resources even if a court finds the association had a provable economic loss. For an individual who has been defamed, the process of trying to correct the damage is usually even more daunting.

Although it was written more than 20 years ago, momentum seems to be building for states to enact a law making it easier for individuals and organizations to set things right.

Since 2013, two states (Texas and Washington) have enacted the Uniform Correction or Clarification of Defamation Act (UCCDA). The Council of State Governments (CSG) included the Act in its 2014 list of suggested state legislation. A commentary published in November 2014 in the StarTribune newspaper says that a bill to enact the UCCDA will be introduced during the 2015 session of the Minnesota Legislature. Among other elements, the UCCDA states that a person can make a request for correction or clarification from the defendant. Getting a correction could go a long way toward repairing a damaged reputation. The law would require that the wronged person/organization make a good-faith attempt to request a correction or clarification within 90 days after knowledge of the publication in order to recover anything more than provable economic loss. The UCCDA states that a request for correction or clarification is adequate when it:

  • is made in writing and reasonably identifies the person making the request;
  • specifies with particularity the statement alleged to be false and defamatory and, to the extent known, the time and place of publication; alleges the defamatory meaning of the statement;
  • specifies the circumstances giving rise to any defamatory meaning of the statement which arises from other than express language of the publication; states that the alleged defamatory meaning of the statement is false.

The fact that the proposed legislation allows for action up to 90 days after learning about false or misleading information is helpful; it could be difficult to uncover damaging information soon after publication when it is the work of an individual not known to an organization. Other aspects of the proposal would bring clarity and needed updates to the issue of defamation and libel. If enacted, the legislation will be very useful to associations, businesses and individuals trying to maintain a good reputation.

The correct way to update libel law for the Internet age,” commentary article by Jack Davies, Star Tribune, published November 26, 2014, accessed January 2, 2015.
The Council of State Governments Knowledge Center, Uniform Correction or Clarification of Defamation Act, accessed January 2, 2015.

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Preparing Your Volunteer Leaders to Deliver Value

Posted By Shannon Pfarr Thompson, CAE, MPA, Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, December 30, 2014
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Everyone knows it is good practice to orient new board members. Annual new board member orientation sessions have become commonplace for the good reason that by getting new board members up to speed, they start off ready to succeed for your organization. Reviewing items such as the bylaws, policies and procedures, staff and board relationship, and other key items provides new board members with the tools and comfort level they need.

However, organizations often overlook training for their other volunteer leaders. Committee, special interest group (SIG), chapter and task force leaders are appointed by boards to implement important work for the organization, but frequently they are thrown into their roles without much guidance or training. This can lead to frustration and less-than-stellar results.

This year, one of the organizations I lead began biannual orientation sessions for new leaders, and I’ve been impressed with the difference it has made. The president and staff developed an agenda that takes volunteers through the most important aspects of the organization, divided up the list to best address each item, and then presented it via a webinar.

Using webinar technology allowed us to show organizational documents, demonstrate where leaders can find valuable information on the association’s website and also how to use the private part of the website specific to their committee, chapter or SIG. We had a chat available for questions during the meeting.

Here are some of the key things we included in our new leader orientation:

  • Organizational info – the tax status and what it means, the articles of incorporation, bylaws and policies and how they all relate
  • Key board and staff contacts – where leaders get support and who they should go to with questions
  • Important meetings – so leaders may plan ahead and see how these meetings benefit them
  • Financial policies – how their group fits into the budget and how to request funds
  • Communication tools – how to share information with their group, the board, and all members
  • Their responsibilities – to be a strategic leader, to consider leadership succession, to serve as an ambassador to members

By the end of the second orientation (after honing the original agenda), we found that leaders’ questions had been answered and they felt much more comfortable in their new roles as volunteer leaders. We hope it will also result in lower volunteer turnover and an enhanced willingness to step forward because leaders feel more supported. A small time investment has ended up providing a large benefit to our organization because we have volunteer leaders who understand their role, how it fits within the larger picture of the association’s activities, and they have the information and tools needed to hit the ground running. We look forward to the great results that these informed leaders and their teams will produce for our members!

Tags:  delivering value  ewald consulting  leadership  shannon thompson  volunteer 

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Sound Bite Friendly: Talking Points to Keep on Message

Posted By Jess Myers, Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Updated: Thursday, December 11, 2014
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When a reporter calls, the most important guideline you should keep in mind is: “don’t panic.” Once you’re calm and following lesson one, the next most important guideline is to have a goal for the interview/interaction with the media.

By having a goal, I mean to have a message you want to convey about yourself, your organization, your event, etc. When you talk to a reporter, speak in headlines. For example, if your dream headline for the story is, “Ewald Consulting is experiencing rapid growth,” I would make that sentence a talking point.

We hear the term “talking points” used frequently, especially during election season. Simply put, a talking point is a one- or two-sentence summary of your position.

Talking points are valuable to have ready before going into an interview — whether the medium is television, radio, newspapers or online journalism. You can use talking points not only as notes for what you want to say, but also as a way to refer to key messages you want to convey in the interview. And because many of us, when we get nervous, tend to ramble and say more than is needed, talking points are a great tool to keep us “on message.”

Here are some examples, brief talking points we put together for a retailer about its Black Friday weekend hours and specials:

  • Responding to incredible demand from shoppers, we are again offering extended hours on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, and are distributing a multi-page sale flier with hundreds of great deals.
  • The great deals for convenient online shopping started in the first week of November, with our company offering free shipping with no minimum throughout the holiday season.
  • For those who want to skip the checkout lines, we are offering a free “buy online, pickup in-store” option at each of the stores in our network.
  • Hundreds more great deals are available. Full details can be found in our sale flier

As you can see, none are too extensive or overly detailed; they’re just simple one-sentence talking points designed to help the interview subject get to the point, deliver key messages and convey the most salient information to a reporter. We like to say that the seven-word answer is always better than the 27-word answer.

If you anticipate a reporter’s call, it’s good to have a set of talking points on hand. Again, speak in headlines: think of the three to five main points you want to convey – your goals for the interview – and have them ready in bullet point form. If a reporter catches you by surprise, it’s OK to buy some time. Say that you need to call them back in 30 or 45 minutes, and use that time to craft some talking points for yourself.

Tags:  ewald consulting  jess myers  pr  public relations  talking points 

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Why Personal Connections Still Matter

Posted By Anna Wrisky, Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Updated: Thursday, December 4, 2014

Personal Connections

We live in a culture that spends more time communicating via email, text messages and social media than we spend talking to one another or meeting face to face. Although communicating digitally is convenient, it has major drawbacks.

Sending an email to someone is great when you need to outline a process or share documents or text. It also allows the sender and recipient to communicate on their own timeline, on their own terms. However, a personal connection is lost. I work with many volunteers, members and colleagues who I have only spoken with through email. I don’t know the sound of their voice, their hobbies or interests — and in some cases I don’t even know what state they live in. When you communicate only by email or text, small talk is lost. We may share tidbits of personal information, but it’s much more difficult to create a personal friendship or relationship in an email thread.

The best way to resolve conflict or to clear confusion is in person or over the phone.

  If a member or client is upset, give them a call to remind them you care as a company and as a person, and to remind them that they are working with actual people and not machines. Hopefully their anger will be diffused when the call clears up the issue, or when a sincere apology is given for whatever mishap took place.

Phone calls and meetings keep us productive.

  We’ve all tried to work with others via email. The problem with only communicating this way is that each email is one-sided. It takes longer to bounce ideas off one another. Miscommunication and misinterpretation is common. Make the phone call or set up a meeting, at least for the brain storming and problem-solving portion of the project. Save the emailing for sharing documents and project check-ins.

Emails and texts don’t contain emotion. And they don’t give memorable experiences.

  The short, abrupt, to the point email that you wrote from your phone to a member who had multiple concerns about their project or membership can come off as cold and disconnected. Sure, you can check it off your to-do list, but what was that experience with your association like for them? How likely are they to recommend your services to others? How likely is that member to become engaged on a committee or even renew? Even these quick little responses are a chance to sell your association membership and your services. Sell the value of being a member through their experiences of working with your association staff.

Sometimes when I have a simple question for someone, I choose to use the phone instead of email or texting. This allows for conversation and connection, and promotes member engagement! Member engagement leads to member retention. Social media, email, and text messages are all great tools and resources, but taking that extra step to really connect with members and colleagues and volunteers face to face or via the phone is also important. Think twice before hitting reply or comment; that phone call or meeting might be more beneficial to you both!

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The Board Speaks: Getting on the Same Page

Posted By Darrin Hubbard, Wednesday, December 3, 2014
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Imagine this scenario:

You’ve just completed your daylong Board Meeting preceding your Annual Convention. Aside from the usual business items covered in the meeting, there was a strategic plan check-in and several sensitive or maybe even contentious topics were acted upon. Fast forward to the next day at the conference at the opening reception. A Past President, partner in the tradeshow and interested colleague asks, “How was the Board Meeting?”. How do your Board Members respond? Do they vent about a decision that did not go their way? Do they give three different answers? Do they share an outcome of a vote that was to be kept confidential until all parties were notified?

You may have left the meeting in agreement, but it is easy to see how you can lose control of the message quickly.And it is completely understandable when you think about the other responsibilities your Board Members have such as their job, thanksgiving plans, their kids, the grocery list, vet appointments… you get the point.

So what do you do? Some of our clients publish a column on board activity in the newsletter. This works well because you can articulate, word for word, the messages you want to share. The problem with this approach can be the timing. If your e-newsletter has a monthly distribution, what are your board members communicating before the information is distributed? When they liaise with your committees or partnering organizations, what messages are they sharing in the interim?

One good solution that I have found is to develop talking points. Track important conversations and outcomes during the meeting; as the final order of business, ask the board to agree to three brief talking points that are ready to be made public. What do you want people to know about the time the board just spent together? Send the agreed-upon talking points to the board in an email so they can refer to them when it is convenient. If you are proactive in developing the messages your board shares, you can better manage the communication and perception of the work of the board.

A few tips on talking points:

  1. No more than three talking points – focus on the most important points you want to be made public.
  2. Paraphrase – empower your board to use their own voice, not recite them word for word.
  3. Keep them short – make it easy for your board to recall the talking points.
  4. Put them in order of importance – do the prioritization for them.

Here are a few sample talking points that have been used over the past few months:

  • Approved committee recommendations to make website more user-friendly
  • Appointed task force to investigate credentialing
  • Established Nominating Committee and revised its scope
  • Approved operating budget for the upcoming year
  • Approved proposal to develop a new chapter
  • This year’s conference has a record number of attendees, including 25 first-timers
  • Signed an extension with the current publisher of the magazine
  • Strategic plan for 2015-17 was approved
  • Established a new award recognizing emerging leaders in the organization
  • Approved the concept for a new fundraising campaign

What does your board do? I’d be interested to hear what approaches are being used by other organizations.

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The President’s Role at Conferences

Posted By Paul Hanscom, CAE, Vice President of Marketing & Business Development, Ewald Consulting, Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Annual Conference is the normally the largest assembly of your members in one location throughout the year. It is an opportunity for exchanging ideas, making connections, and advancing the state of the industry. As the “chief volunteer,” you have a unique role in facilitating each of these elements of the conference experience, all while allowing your conference planning team to take the lead in hosting the event.


Chief Ambassador

The annual conference draws new members, first-time attendees, and guest speakers from all over. These individuals likely do not have a well-established foothold in the association community and will seek opportunities to connect with anyone they recognize in the crowd. As the face of the organization, you are uniquely qualified to reach out to these individuals, welcome them to the event, and help them to make a connection with someone. Those who experience an event for the first time and develop a sense of belonging/connection will be much more likely to attend again in the future. Be sure to help these key individuals feel like an integral part of the conference community rather than experiencing it from a distance as an observer.


Discussion Facilitator

In the role of president, you become steeped in information and conversation about issues impacting the industry. You know your association members and conference attendees better than most and can serve to facilitate discussion between people who otherwise may not find a connection. Do not underestimate your ability to “grease the wheels” of industry communication by helping build relationships and foster ideas about how the industry you serve can grow, develop, and improve.


Steward of Recognition

Make time to connect with each sponsor and exhibitor representative and express appreciation for their support. This is also an opportunity to learn more about their interests and how they hope to continue gaining value from their support of the annual conference experience.


Find ways to recognize Past Presidents and industry leaders in attendance. You are one of the few people who know the full scope of contribution these people have made to the organization. Ensure that they are greeted appropriately and find a way to incorporate public recognition of their work as a way to inspire future leaders.

Tags:  association management  associations 

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Tell Me a Story: Using narrative to create more powerful messages for your association

Posted By Laurie Pumper, Friday, November 14, 2014
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From the time that we are young children, people everywhere learn how to make sense of the world through stories. I can hear some association executives now: “But how will that help our association’s bottom line? We need our board to focus on the numbers.”

My answer is that the power of narrative can help make sense of data. By adding context to numbers, your members are more likely to understand and retain the information. In addition to a spreadsheet, write a few short paragraphs about the monthly financial report: Is volatility in the stock market causing unusual swings in your investment portfolio? Were there unusual one-time expenses that make this month’s year-to-date figures seem completely off the rails — or do the expenses signal an important challenge that the board needs to address immediately?

If your nonprofit organization does fundraising, strong storytelling is absolutely essential to your success. Your annual report may show that 90% of funds raised go to directly improve the lives of young people…but without testimonials and pictures that show the story of your organization’s impact, your fundraising messages are likely to fall flat. I’ve volunteered for the Minnesota 4-H Foundation for more than a decade — and once we started including those success stories and photos of 4-H members doing interesting things, we saw better returns on our direct mail efforts. When we started using segmentation, so that (for instance) alumni donors who are especially interested in 4-H’s arts program get a story and photo related to that interest, results improved again.

More tips:

  • Include one or more case studies in articles that appear in your association’s publications. Getting the case study might be as easy as emailing or calling a member to comment on her experience.
  • If your organization does a survey to get feedback on your latest webinar, pull out a quote or two from an enthusiastic attendee that explains how useful the session was, or how it solved a problem — and use the quote(s) to promote your next webinar or your archives. This tactic also works well with promoting in-person events.
  • Rather than simply listing the names of the people in a photo, use the caption to tell a short story about what they were doing. Better yet, explain how it relates to your organization’s mission.

Additional resource:
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, by Daniel H. Pink, 2005. The book devotes a chapter to the importance of storytelling and provides exercises to improve your storytelling ability.

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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
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MEMBERSHIP | View all Membership articles
A Holistic Approach to Membership Recruitment by Darrin Hubbard
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VOLUNTEERISM | View all Volunteerism articles
Three Ways to Stronger Volunteer Engagement by Paul Hanscom
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