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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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The Importance of Mentorship

Posted By Kate-Madonna Hindes, Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, April 14, 2015


My whole life I’ve tried to look beyond athletes or individuals who choose to advance their career, illegally. The same applies to business executives who have committed fraud or personally benefited from unethical transactions. It’s hard to see how anyone who plays by the rules can succeed in such a cutthroat world. When trying to analyze areas in my professional life where I’ve found success, I was surprised when I found the key to success sitting in my own lap! Mentorship is the one true practice that will ensure success in your business.


The importance of mentorship between a superior and a new employee is often overlooked in the business world. Companies hire new employees expecting them to sit through a day of "(Insert Company Name Here) Crash Course” and hit the ground running the next day. It simply doesn’t work like that. A relationship between mentor and mentee can be one of the most successful ways to ensure an employee is performing to the best of their abilities throughout their transition into a role.


This relationship is not only very beneficial for the new employee, but also the business. The potential benefits of the mentor, mentee, and company are quite impressive. Here are just a few of the benefits.



1.      Increased Knowledge- The more knowledge that can be shared about the company, the ins and outs of the position, and each individual’s preferences, the more effective the new employee will be in his or her position.

2.      Networking- The new employee should be given the chance to meet everyone in the office. Not only will introducing them to coworkers make them feel like they belong, it will also give them the perception of promotion, positively impacting their work ethic.

3.      Comfort- By creating a relationship that extends beyond the professional lives of a superior and a newbie, the newcomer will be willing to reach out for help in a lot of scenarios that he or she potentially wouldn’t in normal circumstances.



4.      Becoming a Teacher 101- Although they most likely didn’t go to school to learn how to teach, every management role requires one to be a professor of their branch and industry. Having a mentorship will help you more effectively and efficiently train in mew employees.

5.      Breaking Bad Habits- Where would your company be if management held every single employee "best practice” that they learned 20 years ago dear to heart? By training in new employees with the shiny company policies, management will be more likely to review how they go about their daily work, tidying up some areas they’ve become more lax about.



6.      Employee Retention- Employees like companies who invest in them. By instilling confidence in the new employee and showing that your company cares about their success, they are much more likely to remain part of your team.

7.      Comprehensive Training- While some new employee training programs claim to be intensive and all encompassing, no one week training crash course will be as effective as a training program that keeps checking in on itself week after week. This relationship will allow you to curve employee performance continually as they grow within the company.

8.      Motivated Employees- This relationship will allow the new employee to find a niche within the company and get them more excited about their role. This will create a vested interest in the company’s success. Sparking this enthusiasm will create an employee base that comes to work smiling instead of one that punches in grumbling about how full their plate it.  


There are many other benefits that are less tangible and often small enough to dive under the radar when thinking about the benefits of mentorship. Implementing a solid mentorship program within your business will ensure success for the mentee, mentor, and the company as a whole. 



This post was written by Erik Hillesheim, Research Associate at Ewald Consulting. Reach Erik at ErikH@ewald.com. 


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Tags:  engaging millennials  marketing 

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8 Tips to Get People to Open Direct Mail

Posted By Kate-Madonna Hindes, Friday, April 3, 2015

If you’re anything like me, you spend a good portion of your morning cleaning out your inbox, quickly deleting emails that you deem uninteresting or irrelevant. Those emails have about two seconds to grab my attention, to make me want to open them.

Then you come home from the office and grab your mail. Almost as rapid-fire as the morning’s “delete email” process, many mail pieces find their way into my recycling bin. Eye-catching helps. Design helps. Color helps. But it is no easy task for a piece of mail to land on my “keep and open” pile.

If you’re in the world of marketing, you want to be one of the lucky ones – one of the chosen emails that get clicked through, read and shared. One of the mail pieces that gets opened, read and saved. But how can you up your chances?  Here are some tips that will help make this happen:


1) Intrigue with Your Subject Line

There is something to be said for creating a subject line that grabs attention, since many times, that might be the only shot you’ve got to get someone to even open the email. I believe the subject line is the most important part of the entire email.  You know to whom and why you are reaching out, so be sure to think about that before selecting the type of subject line you want. Some pointers:

  • Keep it short and sweet
  • Use controversy, shock, humor, personalization, mystery, alliteration, questions, a promise of a list (I’m much more likely to open an email that says “Top 10 Best Minnesota Pizza Joints” or “Who Likes Deep-Dish Pizza?” than one that says “Minnesota Pizza Places.”)
  • Avoid spammy words such as “Buy Now” or “Free”
  • Creating a sense of urgency can work to your advantage. If today is the last day for me to register at an early bird rate, you better believe I’ll want to know that in my subject line.
  • Leave ‘em hangin’. If you really want a high open rate, feed people a taste but don’t offer up the whole menu. “The scholarship winners are…” or “You’ll never believe who is coming to the XYZ event…”


2) Know Your Audience

Do you have a quality email list? What does everyone on the list have in common? Do they share a career choice? Would they all benefit from attending a specific conference? Are they all in one part of the country? To what kind of niche are you reaching, and why? Find the commonality and use it to your advantage when writing your email. Not only will it make it feel more personal to the reader, but it will be more effective in achieving its end goal. 


3) Get to the Point

If I open an email and have to scroll more than once, forget about it. Keep your emails short and to the point. You know why you’re writing it, so let your readers know right up front. Of course, you can  (and should) add some information backing up the point, but pour all of that out after you’ve made your point. Don’t overwhelm your reader. This can be said for the content within an email as well as the regularity of blasting out the emails. If a company sends me more than three emails per week, I’m much more tempted to hit the Unsubscribe button.


4) Choose the Best Send Time

People sleep at night, so don’t send a blast email during the night. Then they wake up , buzz through their inbox while sipping their coffee, and are much more generous in their delete selection than they would be if they received that same email in the middle of their day. For business-related emails, try avoid sending on Mondays, Fridays, and weekends.




1) Make it Visual

The layout matters. The image/word relationship matters. A clean visual look that does not overwhelm or bore me? Yup. It matters. If you know who will be receiving this mail piece, use your best judgment to gear your look towards what will entice them most. A big part of marketing is knowing your market.


2) Cover Your Basics

There are some important pieces you’ll never want to forget on a mail piece – your brand, event dates, locations, and times. Assume people know nothing and start from square one. Hit them with the specifics once the important, basic stuff is out of the way.


3) Consider Your Medium

How will your message be received? A back-to-back postcard may hold less information but can pack more punch sometimes than a full catalogue. An envelope can serve as just one more figurative wall for recipients to break through to get to your message, so be sure to consider that. Obviously, items sent as a different size or on a special paper, etc. will be much more attention-grabbing, but also will be much more expensive to create.


4) Make it Personal

If done tastefully and smartly, customizing a mailing with a name or another tidbit of personal information can be very beneficial. It can make a person feel more like an individual rather than just one of the herd. And who wants to be a part of the herd? Not me.


This post was written by Nicki Brunner. Nicki is Ewald Consulting's Art Director. 

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Six Things to Remember When a Reporter Calls

Posted By Jess Myers, Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Interacting with the media can sometimes be intimidating, but it does not need to be. Following six simple tips for dealing with the media can help make the difference between a productive interview and a disaster.

1)     Be prepared. Or more accurately, don’t be unprepared.

You’re in the middle of nine things at once, when you get a call that you’re not prepared to deal with. So don’t. Ask what they want to talk about, ask for a few sample questions, and ask for their deadline. Politely tell the person on the other end that you will have to get more information and call them back. Then, vitally important, get the information, and call them back. Make yourself some notes that answer their questions, and underscore the main points you want to get across. Don’t go into the call if you’re unprepared.

2)     Know who you are speaking to.

If you get a call from the lifestyle writer for your local community newspaper, odds are they’re probably looking to write a nice, positive story, and it’s something in which you will want to participate. If you get a call from an investigative reporter at Dateline NBC and they have questions about policy, it’s probably something different and you should be more cautious.


In addition to knowing who you’re speaking to, anticipate their questions, and have thought-out, helpful answers ready.


3)     Everything is on the record.

When you’re talking to a reporter, you’re never “just chatting.” Everything you say, from the minute you say hello, to the minute you hang up, can and will be used. Saying, “this is off the record” means very little to most reporters. In fact, most will say “then don’t tell me” if it’s off the record.


4)     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.

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

The mark of a great politician for years has been the ability to take a question about a problem and provide an answer about an opportunity. So 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 web site, and appropriate answer would be to cite all of the measures in place to find and fix web site problems. They ask about a problem, you talk about a solution.

6)     Don’t argue or debate.

The old adage on dealing with reporters has been, don’t get into a fight with folks who buy ink by the barrel. Always remember, they will have the last word. At worst, say “we clearly see things differently, but let me look into that further.” And again, look into it further, and call them back.


If you have questions or concerns before the interview, speaking with a media relations professional can help. Even if it’s just for a few minutes before you conduct an interview, a professional can help develop talking points, relax and focus you, and remove some of the intimidation. Ewald Consulting’s media relations department is on call to help with these kinds of situations. Call or email anytime we can be of service.

Tags:  ewald consulting  jess myers  media  public relations 

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The Biggest Thing I’ve Learned in Marketing

Posted By Sai Yang, Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Untitled Document

I’ve been working with Ewald Consulting for almost three months as a Digital Marketing Specialist. I’ve learned many lessons about marketing and content development. I feel very blessed with what I’ve already experienced and know there’s even more to come.

I’ve recently started writing down a lessoned learned each day. Sometimes they’re really small (like, sleep more) and sometimes they’re larger.

One important lesson I’m learning is:

keep it simple

I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying, “less is more.” When putting together content for social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you’ll want to make it simple. Consider what your audience needs and consider your purpose with every post.

I started noticing that there was more engagements and interactions, once I began putting fresh content on our social media. For example, if someone wrote a blog post for our website, I shared it on social media. I learned to add new, relevant content for social media- simply because it increased our engagement. And, believe it or not- simple was best. People enjoyed our posts about the team and internal workings of Ewald Consultant most!  

Remember:  When developing content for social media choose your words wisely. When you start to write a lot on a single post, you can lose your audience’s attention. Therefore, you’ll want to put the most important caption at the beginning and make it simple by giving less. I know, that’s one thing I learned!

Tags:  ewald consulting  keep it simple  lessons  marketing  sai yang 

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Testifying at the Capitol: March Ewald Webinar

Posted By Valerie Dosland, Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Updated: Monday, March 2, 2015

As our 2015 Legislative session is in full swing, do you have a solid plan in place when you testify at the Capitol? Our own Valerie Dosland, Director of Government Affairs, touches on key points to help prepare you to give the best testimonial before Congress.

» Listen to the webinar here


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An affinity for success or failure?

Posted By David Ewald, CAE and Kathie Pugaczewski, CAE, CMP, Thursday, February 26, 2015
Untitled Document

Three quick tests to gauge the strength of your affinity program

Non-dues revenue has steadily become more essential as associations aim to balance their budgets through diversified income streams. Membership dues are no longer the leading revenue source for many associations. The search for new sources of non-dues revenue often includes consideration of potential affinity programs.

Done well, an affinity program can be a way to reinforce the association’s value proposition to individual and corporate members. Done poorly, it can become a catch-all discount program that dilutes the message to members and distracts staff and volunteer energy away from work that is central to the association’s mission without adding substantial value. Perhaps your association is considering an affinity program of its own. If so, here are a few quick steps may to get you started.

It is important that any affinity program meet three tests:

  1. Exclusivity of Access. The program must provide a real benefit to members that is not easily available to them through other means or off the street through "hard bargaining."
  2. Benefit to the Association. The program must include a significant benefit to the Association from the providing entity. This benefit must be more than "you will get more members because of this affinity program." In other words, there should be a financial incentive or free in-kind service to the association in exchange for endorsing or adopting the program. It should also align to the association’s mission.
  3. Provider Marketing. There must be willingness and intention by the providing entity to actively market the program.

In addition to these three tests, affinity programs are most likely to be successful if they address an industry-specific need of the members. The American Society of Association Executives and Center for Association Leadership has published a variety of articles that discuss affinity programs and affirm this point. It is important to prioritize what you are going after for the member. Bear in mind that those you approach about an affinity program must see something in it for themselves as well.

How to begin

  1. Prioritize a list of up to 10 different programs that could best meet the criteria discussed above.
  2. Survey members regarding their preferences and collect data from them regarding the potential market size so that can be leveraged when approaching potential providers. Also, review your current data on your members to develop a profile of your membership. Don’t underestimate the value that your members bring to the table if there’s a good match between the affinity program and your membership. If there’s real interest, the program will succeed and add real value to the member value proposition. It must be win-win for both the member and the affinity program and a real partnership where both parties are vested in the success of the program.
  3. Selectively approach vendors to implement a few programs at a time so the association can gauge interest and success. These results can be leveraged if the association decides to approach additional vendors in the future.

It is essential to keep in mind that implementing these activities can be very time-consuming — so they really must accomplish something that makes it worthwhile for both the Association and the member. If it adds real value, it will be worth the effort to put time and resources to the activity. In addition, it must be integrated in the marketing plan for the association as we need to remind our members of the value of their membership throughout the year as well as expand the membership base by providing a compelling value proposition.

Tags:  affinity  affinity program  david ewald  ewald consulting  failure  kathie pugaczewski  success 

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Understanding Social Reach: Why Small Organizations and Associations Suffer on Facebook

Posted By Kate-Madonna Hindes, Friday, February 13, 2015
Untitled Document

There’s one truth to digital media: Reach, is an ever-evolving puzzle. In 2013, Facebook claimed that graphics were out performing text content. We saw a dramatic increase in graphically-enhanced posts which helped de-clutter long, text posts. However, Facebook changed their algorithm again in late 2013 and smaller brands took notice, mainly because it was their reach that was being hurt most.

At Ewald Consulting, we’ve noticed that organic reach, (reach that was shared from individuals, not bots or advertisements) was dramatically slowing. For smaller organizations and associations, this can hit harder, especially as overall organic content is calculated at being shown to less than 3% of a group or organization’s fans. This truth has created skepticism and caused many brands to dismiss Facebook as a communication and marketing platform. Facebook’s ever-changing algorithm and reach is causing brands to disengage from the platform both mentally and physically. When we view something as unworthy of our understanding or time, it creates resentment. As marketers, we need to stop resenting Facebook and start understanding Facebook for what it is: A tool.

While it may seem to some that social media and digital marketing are fickle, complicated worlds, they rarely are. Facebook recently released a report that stated that video content is shared more frequently than other posts. In fact, we’ve seen this underlining trend perform well across multiple platforms.  It’s not the video marketing that’s capturing eyes: It’s the fact that the video shared is worth watching.

"Facebook is a place where if your friends are discussing something, they're sharing something or commenting on something, a video can dramatically outperform YouTube, and that's never really happened before," said Brian Shin, CEO of Visible Measures.

I was recently quoted in Adweek discussing how important it is to remember that Facebook is an advertising platform, first and foremost. Whether you’re a non-profit or association organization, when we neglect to interact the way the platform demands, we are punished. Take advertising for example,

“The problem is when a non-profit refuses to pay for advertisements, or rely solely on Facebook for social messaging. Many non-profits forget about the value of conversation on Twitter and the impressions that Pinterest and Instagram allow. We knew organic reach was dwindling in 2013, social is a single facet of the diamond, and a marketing plan can’t shine without everything coming together.”

How can you get the most out of your Facebook investment? Marry great content with shareable graphics and video. Don’t hesitate to spend $20-30 to boost a post to a targeted audience. In putting on our association management hat, I often suggest to our clients to utilize Facebook’s targeting to help gain exposure for those that are on the fence about joining the organization.  While a single article may not help convert them to association members, targeted quality content with a call-to-action that is of value, will. Facebook is a tool, and should be treated like a tool. If we’re only using Facebook because it’s a free platform, our marketing will underwhelm and underperform. I often stress to organizations, that it’s an attitude change. We aren’t on there because it’s trendy. We’re on there, creating content that is shareable because we’ve invested in the platform and it’s a necessary facet to complete the marketing funnel.

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Engaging Millennials in Associations

Posted By Sai Yang, Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Untitled Document

As a Millennial, going into the workforce can be quite a challenge when I feel that I’m constantly being judged because of my generation. Millennials tend to get bad reputations, mostly from Gen-Xer’s and Baby Boomers. I grew up in a rapidly developing technology society; having access to information from any place, at any time, from any device. I find myself constantly multitasking; whether that is responding to emails, doing an intense homework assignment, and or juggling two jobs to name a few. Just because I don’t desire a typical 9-to-5 work day, this doesn’t mean I want to work less. As Millennials, our priorities are different now. Within a few years if not already, companies will find their association aging. Millennials will be everywhere and it can be tricky to work with them if you don’t know how to engage with them. Here are a few ways I liked to be engaged.

  • Learning and Development: It is important that I have ongoing and learning professional development. I am a team player. I enjoy working with others. To obtain growth, it is best that I work and learn from other employees in order to improve my work ethic.
  • Constant Feedback: Millennials are very familiar with social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. and the idea of constantly updating our status. We love feedbacks. We are looking to our management team and colleagues to be our mentors. I benefit greatly from receiving these feedbacks about the work I do. Millennials expect openness and transparency.
  • Responsibility: At any given chance, I want to be able to have ownership of my work. I want my work to mean something to me. The best way to engage Millennials is by having them be involved in the workplace. We have a very care-free attitude but we get the work done! 

Tags:  engaging millennials  sai yang  social media 

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A Successful Year Starts with a Solid Budget by Bill Monn
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A Holistic Approach to Membership Recruitment by Darrin Hubbard
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Three Ways to Stronger Volunteer Engagement by Paul Hanscom
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