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While the top-three areas of internal focus remain the same from last year - operational planning at the top - spending on technology infrastructure has shown an significant decline.
This was among the findings of the TRENDS Financial & Operational Excellence (FOX) Report discussed at the TRENDS Live Breakfast this week in Washington. David Kushner, CEO, Kushner Companies, and Steve Lane, president, Vertical Leap Consulting, led the discussion among senior association management professionals including a panel of association COOs.
The April 22 Association Trends Live survey and breakfast discussion focused on key lessons from the Financial & Operational Excellence Survey, presented by John Kagia, director of ORI, which conducted the FOX Survey for TRENDS, kicked off the discussion with key lessons from the study of 331 C-suite officers:
Similar to 2012, respondents noted their top-three areas of internal operational focus were 1) operational planning; 2) strategic planning; and 3) marketing, with corresponding planned major initiatives on these areas.
Of interest was a significant decline from last year regarding technology infrastructure spending, which Kagia explained was due to companies having finished updating legacy systems, deployed CRM models and integrated social marketing. While the survey respondents anticipated the number of staff and salaries to increase, health benefits, perhaps due to the Affordable Care Act, were expected to remain level.
Regarding nondues revenue, the survey results again reflected the most popular sources as meeting registrations, advertising/sponsorships and investment income, though the last category dipped slightly due to the economy.
Turning to member engagement, the speakers emphasized the need to learn not only what members want, but the best way to deliver. Drew Gruenberg, COO, Society of American Florists, found that members welcomed advice on how to be a better a business executive, and clear, concise messages are the best way to do so. Laura Lott, COO, American Alliance of Museums, noted that changing the group's name from “Association” to “Alliance” reflected a culture change that was emphasized in their recent strategic plan with an increased attention to both museum and museum professional members. Elizabeth Keyes, COO, American Pharmacists Association, described the goal of deploying content digitally to members and nonmembers.
The table top interactions, an opportunity to learn from peers, focused on member engagement, the impact on the business model, and using data from multiple sources or platforms to serve member segments. Among the practical suggestions was an association that developed a one-page strategic plan, used the plan to inform discussions on capacity and resources, and even utilized the format to streamline both annual staff evaluations as well as weekly high-level progress reporting.