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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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Keeping Your Association Safe from Bad Public Relations

Posted By Jess Myers, Thursday, November 3, 2016
Updated: Monday, November 14, 2016

The time to shop for a fire extinguisher is not when you smell smoke. In the same vein, when you have a public relations crisis on your hands, that’s not the time to think about putting a P.R plan in place.

By definition, a crisis that affects or involves your association is bad news, and the way to lessen the impact of bad news is to have a plan in place before trouble strikes.

Some basic tips on a PR plan:

Know in advance what you want to say if bad news comes.

  • Picture a bad thing that could happen involving your association, and then think of your ideal response. Write down your response. Keep a list of potential good responses. These are called “talking points,” and they can make a huge difference.
  • Having a prepared, well thought-out response, versus a potentially damaging off-the-cuff response, can vastly improve the image of your association in a time of crisis.

Know who you want to deliver the message.

  • Appoint a single spokesperson to deliver messages on behalf of the association in times of crisis.
  • Make sure everyone in your association knows who the spokesperson is, and that when they are contacted by the press, they say, “Please contact our spokesperson.”
  • This is vitally important for controlling the message and making sure one voice, rather than several voices, is speaking on behalf of your association.

Be mindful of what you can and cannot share.

  • In times of crisis, the press may ask about a variety of sensitive information. Things like financial records, legal proceedings, and information regarding minors. While we hate using “no comment,” it’s fair to be mindful of what information you simply cannot legally offer, and to say that.
  • It’s fine to tell a reporter, “I’m sorry, but I do not have any information I can share about that.”

Know that everything you say and do is “on the record.”

  • You are never “just talking” with a member of the press.
  • If a reporter calls, from the moment you say “hello” to the moment you hang up, anything you say can be used in their story.
  • If you are being interviewed on TV or radio, the interview hasn’t ended until the reporter has left the room. Be very mindful around microphones. Always assume they are turned on and recording.

 Don’t bluff.

  • Reporters can smell bluffing a mile away. If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s OK to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t have that information. Let me get it for you or find someone who can answer that.” In fact, it’s much better to say that than to try to fake your way through an answer.
  • If you don’t understand a question, ask for clarification. Trying to bluff your way through an answer is going to leave the reporter unsatisfied, at best, and can be disastrous.

If you’re asked about a problem, talk about a solution.

  • For example, if a reporter calls and asks about a safety issue, talk about all of the strict measures in place to help prevent safety problems.
  • If the reporter asks about an issue with a budget, an appropriate answer would be to cite all of the measures in place to check and balance budgets. They ask about a problem, you talk about a solution.

Every now and then, we smell smoke. The way to keep that smoke from becoming a fire that damages your association’s reputation is to have that fire extinguisher (in this case, a solid PR plan) in place, ready to go, before the smoke detector starts blaring.

Tags:  crisis management  media  PR plan  public relations 

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Association Event Planning

Posted By Murphy Pickett, Thursday, October 20, 2016
Updated: Monday, November 14, 2016
The Event Planners Association explains it perfectly when it comes to succeeding at conference events. There are many details that go into planning, executing, and growing from association events. Sometimes, there are bigger pictures to look at and larger goals in mind. So, what does it take to be successful while participating in your association's conference? Take a look at this piece on what it takes to improve your next event, but succeed at it as well. http://bit.ly/2crcMra

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Association Event Case Study

Posted By Murphy Pickett and Jess Myers, Thursday, October 6, 2016
Updated: Thursday, October 6, 2016

In the Association world, you can expect plenty of conferences. Whether you’re a member of a certain association, a volunteer, or on an association’s board, there will always be some sort of event to attend or prepare for.

Recently, our Event Department created a case study on conference revenue and the accompanying boost in attendance.

Here are 3 ways we found to boost conference revenue with a before and after look.

1. Planning

  • Changed the program from all Plenary to Plenary and breakouts.
  • Increased networking opportunities with chapter/SIG meetings, roundtables and more interactive panel sessions.
  • Analyzed previous year’s evaluations and did mini focus groups with previous attendees to get recommendations on topics and industry related educational needs.

2. Execution

  • Better keynotes and breakout speakers with more focused content were sought and secured, committee/member liaisons worked with speakers to deliver appropriate, high-quality content.
  • Increased marketing and outreach efforts, social media. LinkedIn and Facebook.  Generated a marketing plan.
  • Invited sponsors and exhibitors to join us on a call about what ROI/exposure they were expecting from the conference.  What were some valuable offerings they wanted and how could we increase their visibility with attendees.

3. Feedback

We found that conference success rates improve as attendee’s are more satisfied. Deeper discussions, increased networking opportunities, and strong keynote speaker appearances contributed to the jump in success which only improves associations as a whole.


If Ewald can help you with your next conference, reach out to Paul Hanscom at paulh@ewald.com for more information. 

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Association Finances

Posted By Murphy Pickett, Thursday, September 22, 2016
Updated: Monday, November 14, 2016

As we all know, finances are a crucial aspect of nearly every association. As the season becomes busier and busier, make sure you are up to date with everything going on in your finance department. What can you do protect, aid, and implement positive change for your association as a whole, but also in the finance area specifically?  

You may have missed this piece on Association Finances and how to protect them. There are plenty of resources available to you in order to keep your financial department on track. Read more here to discover ways to keep your finances safe. http://bit.ly/2bJsHwW


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Recapping Board Performance: Practice Meets Strategy

Posted By Murphy Pickett, Thursday, September 8, 2016
Updated: Thursday, September 22, 2016

On August 31, I attended the Board Performance: Practice Meets Strategy event co-hosted by Association Forum and Association Management Center. This session was promoted as “key strategists will share corporate lessons learned and how their experiences translate into organizational performance in the association community,” and that was what piqued my interest. We do quite a bit of work on strategic planning with our clients and I was curious as to how the planning process and implementation in corporate America differs from the non-profit industry. I also wanted to learn what strategies could translate to help improve the implementation of our client strategic plans.

The panel presentation kicked off with speakers Mark Miller, Partner, Performance Improvement Consulting, Ernst & Young, LLP and Carrie Shea, Managing Partner, Phoenix Strategic Advisors, sharing the process they use when working with Fortune 50 corporations. Their process included both an internal and external analysis where the board and senior management consider the following:

        External Analysis                                                                        Internal Analysis

1.     Industry Trends                                                                           Purpose (core values), Vision and Goals

2.     Consumer Trends                                                                       Core Competencies

3.     Competitor Positioning                                                                Structural Assets/Barriers

4.     Technology and Innovation                                                         Financial Positioning

The Board would then go through a process where the strategic initiatives developed during the SWOT Analysis would be vetted and prioritized in order to find 6-8 critical strategic initiatives. From these strategic initiatives, the Board would develop its strategic plan that cascades down throughout the company and divisions. It was noted that often the planning process will involve staff at all levels to get buy-in and help identify core issues/ideas from each level of the organization.

A few key takeaways I got from this part of the presentation:

  • Many of our groups follow a similar process, where a SWOT analysis is conducted, strategic initiatives are developed and prioritized, and a formal strategic plan is adopted. Rarely, though, do we have a group that takes a month or several months to complete the process. The process is usually condensed into a half-day, one-day or two-day meeting.
  • In most cases, corporate clients are not conducting full strategic planning sessions annually. More commonly, the board will meet and review progress, adjust timelines, revisit initiatives for as the industry evolves.
  • First, start with defining and focusing on core competencies. From there, expand into opportunities that are adjacent to the core and beyond the core. As you move away from your core, the risk increases. Focusing on your core can be difficult to do as new opportunities present themselves.

The program continued with Mitchell Feiger, CEO and President, MB Financial, Inc. Mitch discussed how the strategic planning process works with his Board of Directors and how the strategic planning is communicated and implemented across the 3,000+ employees of MB Financial, Inc. Mitch is in a unique position as he is the only employee to sit on the 11 person Board of Directors.

With the general differences between for-profit and non-profit boards, I found myself thinking about how the board dynamic might change if non-profit boards took a page from corporate America:

  1. Composition – If non-profit boards recruited for talent, knowledge or skills that would help advance the organization rather than having board members elected, how might that change the board process, culture and outcomes for the organization?
  2. Term and decision making – If the resolutions and actions you made as a board stuck with you in perpetuity, rather than your 2-3 year term on the board, how might that affect the board process?
  3. Constituents – If decisions you make were done solely to increase value to shareholders, rather than to the various segments of your membership, how might that change the board deliberations?

Mitch also talked at length about the importance of defining core values and how that influences the corporate culture. MB Financial has a “Culture Committee” that ensures the core values permeate throughout the company. These are the thoughts that were going through my mind during the presentation. I walked away energized, thinking about how to meld the best of both worlds within the governance structure of non-profit organizations.

Finally, Linda Caradine-Pointsett, PhD, MBA, MJ, Account Executive, Association Management Center, and Executive Director, Society of Cardiovascular Anesthesiologists, shared highlights from her doctoral research which focused on organization leadership. An interesting differentiating point between for-profit CEOs and non-profit CEOs came in the discussion about strategic plan leadership. In the for-profit world, the CEO is celebrated for having complete and total ownership of the company strategic plan, whereas in the non-profit world, CEOs often need to tread carefully so as to not overstep the board. Many of the thoughts throughout this piece were introduced during Linda’s presentation.

This session was thoughtfully composed in a logical manner where the corporate process and implementation were discussed as well as the impacts and takeaways for non-profit organizations. The presentation by the panelists was both thought-provoking and practical. This was the second session in a three-part series; the final presentation is in production and will focus on culture. I intend to be there as well.

Tags:  analysis  board  board performance  strategy 

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The Danger of Posting Golden Content During the Olympics

Posted By Erik Hillesheim; Finance and Data Associate, Thursday, August 11, 2016
Updated: Thursday, August 11, 2016

As August rolls in, we Minnesotans not only look forward to the 80 degrees and humid days, cabins, and lakes, but also wait in anticipation for the Olympic games. Around the office, Paul Hanscom can be heard by the distinct scratching of his 5 o’clock shadow in the flicker of his laptop, awaiting the 3 a.m. Olympic medal tally update on CNN.

Spirits are high and people are excited to see the greatest athletes from all around the world gather to compete and embody the international values of friendship, respect, and excellence. For companies and associations alike, marketing departments are looking for ways to leverage the excitement and connect with members and consumers around this awesome community.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), however, says hold your horses, not only to equestrian fans, but also brands and businesses all around the world. By taking an in-depth look at permitted marketing content around the Olympics, the recent changes in rules surrounding this content, and the core of the debate that drove the change in the rules, your association can learn how to leverage the Olympics hype within the restrictions of these new rules.

Official Brand Protection Guidelines, created by the IOC to protect Olympics sponsors, provide a promise to official sponsors like McDonald’s and P&G to safeguard the exclusivity of content surrounding the events. Rules that apply to businesses and associations not sponsoring the Olympics include not using trademarked phrases and/or words as well as references (direct or indirect) to the location of the games including but not limited to the following:

  • Olympian, Olympic, Future Olympian, Olympiad, Paralympics, Paralympiad
  • Gateway to gold, go for the gold
  • Let the games begin
  • Pan Am Games
  • Team USA
  • Road to Rio, Rio 2016

You also can’t modify words to include Olympics in them, such as cinemalympics. Hashtags from the games are prohibited. Using Olympics logos is a no-no. You can’t even reteweet official Olympics accounts or use Olympic athletes in your social posts. Most disappointing to us, however, was that you couldn’t host Olympic-themed contests or events for employees. With all of these restrictions, companies and associations are severely limited in what they can do with their marketing efforts.

This past year, Rule 40 was modified to accommodate brands that aren’t official sponsors of the Olympics. It now allows for Olympic athletes to be featured in general advertising that doesn’t mention Olympics or its intellectual property. Debate has focused on how much this will actually help brands, especially those that don’t have a partnership with someone such as Michael Phelps. With the way that marketing campaigns must be structured under the revision, small businesses and associations have a much tougher time monetarily running one of these campaigns. On the other side of the coin, the IOC is worried about protecting the payoff to its partner brands and the potentially diminishing value of their deals.

Like other brands, your association is probably looking to leverage the Olympics to build your engagement and reach. Working within the boundaries of the Brand Protection Guidelines can be challenging, but here are a few ways that your association can use the Olympics to push awesome content to your current and potential members in case you aren’t already sponsoring Michael Phelps:

Campaign around alternative terms for the games

Because a majority of references to the games aren’t allowed, try referencing the games by using hashtags such as #TheBigEvent or #TheWorldwideStage. This avoids restrictions without sacrificing the connection members will make with your marketing efforts.  

Mobilize creativity quickly on current events

This strategy was possibly perfected by Oreo at the Super Bowl this past year when the power went out. “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark”, connects with Oreo’s audience, doesn’t infringe upon IP of official sponsors, and boosts brand impressions and engagement. While difficult to be this creative AND timely, this can be an extremely effective and inexpensive way to promote your association. With a transportation infrastructure, housing, and drinking water that might not be completely ready for attendees and athletes in Rio, there are bound to be a few surprises. We advise you to always err on the side of caution, especially since these are serious problems and may have direct, and potentially harmful, effects on people. The last thing you want is to pay the price for trying to be too creative.

Create campaigns around ideas that align with the Olympic spirit

Nike’s Greatness Campaign and Under Armor’s Rule Yourself Campaign are great examples. They portray competition, hard work, humility, respect, and diligence, all values commonly associated with the games. Even if you don’t have an Olympic athlete as a brand ambassador, content can be geared, especially via video, to match the persona of the Olympic spirit and connect with members.


There’s no better time to put your marketing content in front of such a huge variety of eyes all focused on the same thing. Look to take advantage of this unique event. If you need to get some creative juices flowing, here’s an article with 7 impactful Olympics campaigns. Would your association like a free social media audit and consultation?

Questions around social media best practices?

We’re more than happy to help you draft a small, medium, or large-scale campaign for the Olympics. Feel free to shoot our Marketing Director an email: Katemh@ewald.com. In the most broad and ambiguous terms, “We hope your association’s marketing can find itself on the podium and in the spotlight after #TheBigEventInBrazil this year.”

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Much More than Bean Counters

Posted By Murphy Pickett, Thursday, August 4, 2016
Updated: Thursday, August 4, 2016

Much More than Bean Counters

By Tommy DeMartino; Client Accounting Specialist


The Finance Department here at Ewald Consulting is not your typical bunch of bean counters. To best serve our clients, we wear a few different hats. One of our major responsibilities is processing the vast majority of event registrations and membership dues. This task alone involves multiple steps — first, entering the information and payment specifics into our database system; second, entering the payment information into our accounting system (QuickBooks, a financial tool commonly used throughout the world).


YourMembership is our online database system — it’s the world inhabited by our clients’ members and many of our co-workers, and it is the face of our clients seen by the rest of the world. The secondary database, QuickBooks, is restricted to members of our Finance department only. Making sure the data entered into both systems are identical is extremely important to the success of our clients.

Yet another system our Finance department uses on a daily basis is our credit card processing website. We partner with Affinipay and have had a successful relationship for many years. Affinipay also has a strong relationship with YourMembership, making our lives much more efficient and easier. The communication between YourMembership and Affinipay is so seamless that our clients’ members don’t even know it exists. Affinipay also works extremely well with QuickBooks. Each month our Finance department downloads credit card payment information into QuickBooks for recordkeeping purposes.

The credit card payment information, along with check payments we receive in the mail daily (then entered into both YourMembership and QuickBooks), combine to provide the income produced by our clients.

Another major aspect to our department’s responsibility is recording as well as paying expenses — bills, invoices, reimbursements, and other types of check requests. These are typically paid via check after being entered into QuickBooks. The other types of payments are recurring monthly credit card payments and wire transfer (money moving from one bank account directly to another electronically). Our Account Executives review these forms of Accounts Payable to indicate where they will be entered and flow into their monthly financial statements. Check payments are mailed weekly for each client.

The final major obligation our department undertakes is compiling our clients’ monthly financial statements. Creating these documents is a more conventional task performed by Finance/Accounting departments across the business landscape. These financial statements, which include the Balance Sheet, Profit/Loss Statements, and Income Statements, provide a numerical view of the client’s health. It also helps our clients’ leadership to plan for the coming years.


I hope this post has helped provide an inside look at the Ewald Consulting Finance Department.


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Meet the New Employee: Arzu

Posted By Murphy Pickett, Thursday, July 14, 2016

Meet the New Employee: Arzu


Ewald Consulting is proud to introduce one of our newest employees, Arzu Alimohd.


Arzu recently graduated from the University of Minnesota with a double major in International Relations and Political Science. Arzu plans to contribute everything she can to Ewald and make the most out of the opportunities she encounters along the way.


Q: What is your title here at Ewald Consulting?


            A: Membership Specialist


Q: Now that you are a full-time employee, what, if anything, do you expect will change with your work?


            A: As a part-time employee, I did not make many connections across departments. I am excited to work with more employees across departments to not only perfect the membership process for every association, but to collaborate with others to improve membership retention rates and the overall membership quality for all associations to ensure members see the value of joining.


Q: What do you love most about your job?


            A: Do I have to pick just one? I love that I am a part of a growing department. With the membership department being fairly new (just added in January 2016), I love that I am included in how the department will be structured in the future. Membership is one of the foundations of associations, so it is great to see how much we are doing as well as establishing a solid foundation for Ewald and our clients.


Q: Who is your greatest role model? And why?


            A: My parents, especially my mother, are my greatest role models. Coming to the United States over 30 years ago with nothing except their desire for a better life, they built their successes from the bottom up. They have gotten three children through college, and always remind us to be thankful for the access to good education. They are the most hard-working people I know.


Q: What is one thing most people do not know about you?


            A: My parents spelled my name wrong on my birth certificate. My name is supposed to be Arzu, which means wish or desire in Persian. I guess an O and a U can look similar!


Q: What made you come to Ewald Consulting?


            A: I learned about Ewald from a current intern, Natalie, who raved about how great a company it is. She informed me of a position that was opening, and I worked part-time as I learned the ropes of Ewald Consulting. From the beginning, I learned how unique and driven the company is, so when I found out about a position that was opening in the membership department, I could not help but apply! I talk to someone every week who shows me their dedication to their position and to Ewald. That assures me every week that I have found such a great company with dedicated employees who strive for their goals.


Ewald Consulting is lucky to have Arzu as a dedicated and loyal employee. We are confident she will do great things!



If you’re interested in an employment opportunity here at Ewald, take a look at our postings at http://bit.ly/1Jgh7VQ.



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MANAGEMENT | View all Management articles
A Successful Year Starts with a Solid Budget by Bill Monn
Read full article

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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