Take advantage of technology
If you are a business line manager in an industry association, or member association, you know that these organisations have a unique set of operational challenges. The administrative burden can be quite significant and, from our experience, is usually concentrated in a few key areas.
In this article, we flag four areas that we find many industry associations struggle with. We’ll provide some tell-tale signs to watch for and suggest how you can make improvements – based on our experience working with a range of organisations like yours.
In future updates, we’ll deep-dive into each area in more detail. (Note there are other areas such as regulatory concerns that we’ve not covered here, and not every association will be affected by all four of the areas below.)
We look forward to receiving your feedback about these topics and hearing about your association’s experiences.
1. Events management – making it less of an administrative event
Running events is an important source of revenue for many associations, but are you aware of the administrative cost involved? Many managers of the associations we start working with are surprised when we show them the vast amount of resources consumed by the event administrative process.
As you are aware, event management involves many moving parts; registration, sending invitations, processing payments and post-event follow up. Do you still manage part or all your event operations on a manual basis? If so, your staff or volunteers could be spending a lot of unnecessary time and the process will be more prone to error.
For instance, we’ve found that many associations were still operating a semi-manual payments system which required some resource-intensive manual reconciliation (e.g. between Eventbrite and an internal database). Additionally, delays with data input and reconciliation sometimes meant that event confirmation for members failed to operate on a ‘first-come first-served’ basis.
Look at how smoothly your post-event activities are working. Are you still sending materials in the post (e.g. certificates, resources, marketing materials, etc.)? Or perhaps manually creating multiple versions of the same email and replacing the recipient name? These are just a few indicators that show your systems are overdue for a clean-up!
How we can help:
We can help associations automate the whole event management process – including creating an online event catalogue, running an online registration process, handling enquiries during the run-up to the event and building a payment system into the registration process.
2. Grants administration – reducing labour costs from start to finish
With a high industry profile and a reputation for being impartial experts, associations may be designated as official Grant Administrator bodies by their relevant government department. As a line manager, you’ll be aware of the responsibility this entails and you may well find the process a real headache!
After working with several associations in this area, we’ve seen that the process of collating information from grant applicants, (usually members), can be extremely labour intensive – starting with the way Expression of Interest forms are handled.
First, for members to demonstrate their need for a grant, they often need to provide you with a lot of detailed information. If any aspect of this involves receiving forms, data entry, phone calls, collating management feedback or anything else manual then there is an opportunity for your association to benefit from some serious time-savings.
Even after grants are allocated, there is usually an ongoing requirement to demonstrate the funds have been used as originally intended – which means a continuing workload for the industry association. How are you currently executing the grants process? Now imagine if all this was automated.
How we can help:
The team at Brennan have worked with several large industry associations on their grant application process, in particular to automate their initial data collection. The work we do here can lead to substantial reductions in workload.
3. Collecting payments – moving online to automate this time-intensive activity
Membership subscriptions, merchandise sales, training programs – there’s a range of payments that associations need to manage on an ongoing basis. But unless this process is handled efficiently, it can be a big time-waster.
Do you ever find yourselves chasing up payments from members for goods and services they’ve already received? If yes, then you know that a) it can be too much of a nuisance so sometimes people get away without paying and b) there must be a better way!
How we can help:
The team at Brennan have helped associations set up online payment systems where members pay upfront with their credit card details before taking delivery of the items they purchased. As online payments are becoming the norm, people prefer this method anyway as it is simple and convenient.
Another advantage of streamlining the payments system is where certain items are only available to specific members. An automated system makes it easier to manage different services for different members.
4. Member accreditation programs – removing the burden of paper
Another area we see a lot of opportunity for associations is member accreditation, or qualification programs, where members seek to expand their own professional expertise and CVs. There are various ways these can be conducted.
If you run one of these programs, do you require individuals to send in documentation to be assessed? Or perhaps you are running a classroom based training program? Maybe you need to bring in specialist expertise? If any of these sound familiar, there is a clear opportunity to reduce the time burden on your association.
How we can help:
The team at Brennan worked with one association where there was a huge amount of accreditation paperwork to collect, store, and review. We transformed this manual, paper-reliant process into a seamless online process, saving the association hundreds of hours of time and literally freeing up an entire room which had been dedicated to storing paper!
How does your association stack up?
How is your membership association managing the four key areas described above? Are you spending too much time chasing payments, de-duping data, or processing too much paper? In short, do you sometimes get the sense that your association is a clunky administrative machine rather than being run optimally for its members and the wider industry?
Another revealing indicator is where you have a high staff turnover, the number of complaints has risen, or your staff or volunteers are not enjoying working with your association. In our experience this means there is a strong possibility that your processes are sub-optimal and costing your association more than you think.
In our experience working with other organisations, a good place to start is by asking these questions.
There is likely to be other areas not mentioned here that are important to your association – let us know. Addressing these areas with a small outlay could make an immediate and significant impact on your organisation.
For a limited time, we are offering industry associations a complimentary consultation to provide a high-level audit of their operations. We’ll show you some quick and easy ways of how moving to more automated systems can have substantial pay-offs in terms of time savings and less administrative costs for your members.
We would also love to show you a demo of our Microsoft cloud-based platform specifically designed for industry and member associations, all based on our experience and expertise with organisations like yours. We call it CAMS. Talk to us today.