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What's up the pike?

Who better to ask about preparing associations for the future than association executives? The authors of "Reshaping Your Association for the 21st Century," Paul S. Forbes and Bruce Butterfield, CAE, invited seven chief staff executives to share their perspectives on what kinds of changes association executives should be anticipating. All seven were asked the same 10 future-oriented questions, and selected here are some of their most thought-provoking answers.

Coincidentally, one rainy morning in January I had the good fortune to meet Hugh McCahey. In December of last year, McCahey retired from the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America after a 30-year career, 26 years of which were as manager of the chamber's association programs. McCahey is now an association adviser to the law firm of Webster, Chamberlain & Bean, Washington, D.C., and he continues to serve as a consultant to associations and to teach at the chamber's Institutes for Organization Management. For the record, McCahey closed the door of his old office on New Year's eve and reported to his new job the following Monday. This man has a passion.

I was curious to know how McCahey would look into the future from his special perch. His comments are refreshingly perspicacious. And I hope the following interview manages to convey, as he did in person, McCahey's respect for the profession and his exuberance about the prospect of taking on the 21st century. McCahey's remarks are followed by those of our seven association chief executives.

Learning to Listen

ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: What would you say are the most critical issues facing associations over the next 10 years?

McCahey: One of the big challenges is twofold: how well we're able to listen and interpret what we're hearing, and what publics we ought to be listening to. We've all been taught to stand up and give a speech; we're trained to talk. Listening, on the other hand, is something we don't do very well.

Listening is an art form. It's something we have to work at. And we have to identify the right audience. We have to have our antennae aimed in the right direction, not just at internal publics, but external publics as well--at those who have an impact on our industry and those whom our industry can impact.

ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: Can you give an example of what you mean by not listening?

McCahey: I will never forget the time I was moderating a television program on association issues and instead of listening to what was being said, I jumped ahead to asking the next question on my list. I was projecting instead of picking up feedback--I had neglected to listen. The program would have been of more value had I picked up on the feedback and used the guests as a resource.

Tapping the best and brightest

I also see more and more talented men and women coming into the profession. They're better educated and more creative. And one of the challenges of association management is, how do you really tap that resource, all that talent? It's exciting to think about, it's exciting to be around these young men and women, but the question is, how do you harness all that ability and turn it loose? How do you give it room to be creative? If you don't, you lose it.

Another area I think associations should deal with is in getting a profile of that individual they call a member. What's different about that member, what's changing, what are the pressures--in terms of competition, in terms of downsizing, and so on--that member experiences? Associations need to get a better feel for the environment in which that member is functioning.

Knowing more about members

ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: How will having this information affect what associations do?

McCahey: A profile will help with questions like, how do I involve members most effectively? I'm convinced that unless we know more about that member and his or her environment, we can't really address that question.

I think that member is different from 10 years ago. I think the competition for time is fierce and getting worse. So in effect, you as an organization are

competing more fiercely today than 10 years ago for the attention of that member. Or getting him or her to serve on a committee or board.

Chances are your member's profile says busy, busy, busy, which means that if you're communicating in writing, you'd better figure out how to get a communication to a busy, busy, busy person. Which probably argues for short, concise information.

Orienting volunteer leaders to the future

ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: Do you have any comments about how governance of associations is likely to change?

McCahey: I see a need for the governing apparatus and staff to have a better feel for who should be doing what in the power structure that makes sense. And it ought to be in English so that men and women who serve on boards or committees can understand what's expected of them, have a better feel for staff's role, and so on. And that argues for continuing education.

I see the value of governing bodies spending more time dealing with the future--discussing, arguing, debating where do we want to go, what do we want to be like, how do we achieve that. In my mind this should be more and more the responsibility of the governing body. I'm arguing that boards of directors have a bigger responsibility for the future, for the positioning of the organization. It's time to get men and women who represent constituencies to debate and sweat and argue about what's coming down the road and how we're going to deal with it.

Targeting communication

ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: A common thread in the answers our seven executives provided in responding to Forbes's and Butterfield's questions about the future was communication technology. Do you have any comment about that topic?

McCahey: Obviously I agree that communication technology is changing how associations provide information to their members. We can see it now all around: concise, to the point, targeted kinds of communication as opposed to catchalls. Targeted communications that are really zeroed in on your membership in terms of segments and what's different about those segments in terms of need-to-know information. And how you best can serve those segments.

Marketing value

I think another challenge in the next couple of years will be for the association to better market its value to its constituency. To show more clearly and concisely on an ongoing basis why that member should in fact continue to invest his or her time and money in the association.

I'm arguing that it isn't a given--that the continuing need to market the value of the association is very real, even in associations that have great programs and great services. They need to market, to reinforce why that member should in fact be making a fiscal and personal investment in the organization. And we need to tell them in English what the return on their investment is.

I'm talking about marketing the soul of the association--some of the things that are not all that clear, like the value of the association's government relations work and the value of the time the association spends positioning the image of the profession.

You have to get feedback from the members, you have to feel their pulse on a continuing basis. Do they know what they're getting for their buck? The challenge is to capture the association's soul and guts, put it in English, and then communicate to a member that this is in fact of value to him or her, personally or for his or her business or profession.

Executives look ahead

What will be the most critical issues facing associations during the next 10 years?

* Internal Revenue Service threats (unrelated business income).

* More-sophisticated members will demand more-sophisticated services.

* The internationalization of the marketplace will require a broadening of association thinking and horizons.

* The increased speed of communication and the need for instant response.

Richard M. Hornaday, CAE

* There will be an increased propensity for splintering into smaller specialty organizations, particularly in the high-tech areas. The very premise of associations will continue to be challenged in a volatile regulatory environment.

Derrick Crandall, CAE

* How to dramatically reduce time needed to ascertain member needs.

* How to be more quickly responsive to members with respect to policy decisions; distillation and distribution of salient information; and service offerings.

* How to customize association services to needs of individual members.

* How to develop efficient networks among associations that have crossover members.

Michael Forrest

* Shrinking membership base due to mergers, buyouts, and downsizing, resulting in competition for dues dollars.

* Competent staff to lead and manage changes required in associations.

* Rising cost of operations.

Judy T. Neel, CAE

How will associations be different a decade from now?

* I think members will become more integrated into the workings of the association from a governance standpoint, not an administrative standpoint.

David A. Karcher

* The better associations will be more staff becomes more professional and members have less time for volunteer activities.

* After a period of consolidation, international networks and groupings of associations will emerge in the form of international federations that are much larger than today's associations.

Richard M. Hornaday, CAE

* Fewer layers of governance.

* Use of task forces exclusively except for executive committees.

* Smaller boards.

* More-streamlined decision making.

* Different forms of communication to members and for education.

* Greater use of technology in operations, communication, and member's benefits.

Donald K. Gardiner, CAE

* Associations will become less centralized. They can be located in peripheral areas where there are better operating environments. Also in the future, a number of associations may consolidate some of their more-generic functions, such as publishing.

Derrick Crandall, CAE

How is governance of associations likely to change in the future?

* |We'll see~ an end of the pyramid. Flatter. More team oriented. Teams composed of staff and volunteers working together and accountable to the board. A new awakening of the meaning of fiduciary responsibility. |Associations will~ spend resources on what adds value.

Robert H. Angle

* Associations will sponsor more-participatory forms of decision making. Meetings will look more like Bill Clinton's town meetings. Product-oriented, staff-driven associations will increasingly seek for-profit status.

Derrick Crandall, CAE

|It~ must become more streamlined in order to respond to change. Large boards and numerous standing committees will in many associations be replaced with smaller boards whose role is to establish and monitor association policy and with task forces formed to address specific issues, make recommendations to the board, and then be disbanded. Task forces will involve a larger number of members with diverse interests and will require a shorter time commitment to the association.

Judy T. Neel, CAE

How are staff working and reporting relationships likely to change in the future?

* Staff working and reporting relationships will become more decentralized, with greater direct reporting responsibilities to the membership. In other words, more of a staff-membership liaison type of an administrative organization.

David A. Karcher

* Supermultimanagement companies will arise that will manage groups of very large international associations.

Richard M. Hornaday, CAE

* More specialists working remotely via computer modems at home; more flex-hour jobs; more use of specialist consultants; day care centers on association premises; more use of retired specialists in part-time work.

Donald K. Gardiner, CAE

* Staff evaluations will be based on team accomplishments. The star system will die.

Robert H. Angle

Is there any advantage to moving from nonprofit to for-profit? If so, what?

* There are several advantages and disadvantages. For-profit status will provide an incentive for key staff to be compensated through direct results and profit participation. If income is derived from goods and services, for-profit status allows you to more truthfully trace where the income is. Disadvantages: If you want to be focused on the needs of the members, more than goods and services need to be considered. Future needs of the members need to be debated and shaped.

Derrick Crandall, CAE

* Only to manage tax liabilities or to secure financing for a new venture.

Michael Forrest

How is new information technology likely to change the way you communicate with your members?

* Demand video to meet on-demand educational needs is coming.

David A. Karcher

* Instantaneous communication capability tends to give an unnecessary sense of urgency to areas where there otherwise would be none.

Richard M. Hornaday, CAE

* |New technology allows~ member surveys via 800 or 900 telephone numbers and computer response calculations; |it allows~ automated member benefits and services ordering and billing.

Donald K. Gardiner, CAE

* As recently as 1985 we had a data base with a provision for member telephone numbers. Now with the advent of cellular phones and other methods of communication, our members can no longer be reached at one number. For example, our data base now shows that our average board member has six phone numbers. We are looking forward to simplification of this process. Each person will have a single number that will follow him or her wherever he or she happens to be. This will be a major advance.

Derrick Crandall, CAE

How will the economic and financial structure of associations be different 10 years from now?

* Shrinking dues dollars and greater competition from other associations and from the private sector will result in associations adopting financial systems that will provide more information. Total cost allocations, margins, product mix, market research, and product life cycles will become increasingly important in financial management.

* The ratio of dues to nondues income is an ongoing controversy. It seems certain that dues income will not be sufficient to pay for all services and overhead, and that associations will continue to derive a good part of their income from nondues sources.

Judy T. Neel, CAE

How is the generational, ethnic, racial, and gender makeup of tomorrow's association members and staff likely to be different from what it is today? What will that mean for associations?

* A question mark is the influence of the baby busters. They are less interested in joining organizations. They are more educated and more analytical. They don't want to be part of the status quo. There's a lot more awareness of demographic diversity, but there's always a lag between the cultural makeup of society and the cultural makeup of association membership.

Robert H. Angle

* There will be a demographic gap in middle management, offering great opportunities for minorities to move ahead.

Richard M. Hornaday, CAE

What long-term changes do you see occurring in the relationship between government and associations?

* I think that with the onset of campaign finance reform, coupled with term limitations, associations have to gear up to address the education requirements of a new and younger Congress. That means proactively relating to staffers as well as elected officials as a means of assisting them in meeting the needs of their constituents. Staff will become a lot more powerful with inexperienced members of Congress.

David A. Karcher

* Government will place more reliance on associations to serve as opportunities for consensus building with broad groups of citizens.

* Government will look more closely at associations as sources for future public officials.

Richard M. Hornaday, CAE

* Political action committees are not sitting well with the public. Lobbying is a real question. We have a lot of parochial causes interested only in short-term results rather than long-term strategy. If society accepts team approaches, traditional lobbying will change.

Robert H. Angle

How will associations determine what products and services members will need in the future? How will these services be delivered?

* Services will be developed and coordinated by the national association.

* Customization and delivery of services will be handled regionally or through local associations.

Richard M. Hornaday, CAE

* More of us will rely on focus groups, opinion research, and other for-profit techniques. I don't know how they will be delivered.

We abandoned doing a one-size-fits-all monthly memo wrapping up what's going on. I now do a series of personal letters that are customized to the particular interests of different member niches.

The new information technology allows us to custom-design such letters easily for niches of members.

Derrick Crandall, CAE

The Chief Executives

Robert H. Angle Executive Director American Society of Interior Designers Washington, D.C.

Derrick Crandall, CAE President American Recreation Coalition Washington, D.C.

Michael Forrest Executive Director College Placement Council Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Donald K. Gardiner, CAE Executive Vice President National Association of Professional Insurance Agents Alexandria, Virginia

Richard M. Hornaday, CAE Executive Vice President Door and Hardware Institute Chantilly, Virginia

David A. Karcher Executive Director American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgury Fairfax, Virginia

Judy T. Neel, CAE Executive Director American Society of Safety Engineers Des Plaines, Illinois

Ann I. Mahoney, author of the interview with Hugh McCahey, is editor of ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:interview with chief executives of associations
Author:Mahoney, Ann I.
Publication:Association Management
Article Type:Interview
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Previous Article:Reshaping your association for the 21st century.
Next Article:What you earn.

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