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A Time to Clear the Air
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12/5/2019 at 8:29:02 PM GMT
Posts: 23
A Time to Clear the Air

Friends, I have a weight on my mind; a heavy weight. It’s compelled me to break my normal cadence of blog communications to offer this special edition, and I hope you’ll take the time to read and consider the perspective I need to share with you. Also, unlike my normal blog articles, this piece is a bit of a read; I value and appreciate the time you are giving to read my words.

The leaders of IAIP rocked your world this week when we communicated to you our intent to offer a dues-restructuring motion for each of you to vote on. We know that this wasn’t good news for all of you; nobody wants to pay more at a time when spending power is rapidly shrinking for most of us and wages aren’t keeping pace. Your IAIP leaders live and work in the same world you do; your experiences parallel ours in so many ways. ‘WE ARE YOU’ Each of your elected leaders came from the same membership you belong to and work in the same industry in similar professions. We are members of your local associations, councils, and regions. We’re in these roles because you put us here. You asked us to do the work of the association when you elected us, and I will honestly share with you that each of us takes this work seriously and the weight is heavy. You charged us with leaving IAIP better than each of us found it; the duty of every leader at every level. We each said ‘yes’ to that charge and commitment. And we meant it; we take it very seriously.

We know that our members struggle trying to get or keep employer support for their IAIP activities and our retired members are making tough choices as they make ends meet on fixed incomes. The weight of this dues-proposal is significant for me personally, and for each of the IAIP leaders that you elected. So, we understand if you felt a ‘punch in the gut’ response to the proposal or if you’re one of the few who expressed their anger or frustration on social media. (Though I ask you to reconsider the use of social media to express frustration or anger – if your concern is that we need to bring in members, imagine what potential members or current members must think of us seeing such volatility in the dialog between our members on social media).

What we’re asking of each of you is to:

·       Read the proposal and the supporting information that answers many of the questions that have been raised.

·       Discuss with us your concerns so we can explain to you in more detail what is driving the request.

·       Let us share with you the strategies that will rebuild IAIP and position it for long-term success in the future.

·       Let us hear your constructive suggestions and feedback; if you think there are other opportunities to help drive our long-term strategies, share them with us.

But I want to ask of each of you one more thing… I ask that you consider the facts. Give benefit of the doubt to your elected leaders; do not assume malice, incompetence, carelessness, or ignorance in an ‘us versus them’ fashion. Understand that we have taken this step very cautiously, and we offer it with humility and good intention. After reviewing all the facts, considering the pros and cons, and discussing with us your concerns and additional solutions you believe will help us reach our goals, then vote your conscience and respect that each of us has our own perspective… not every member will agree with your position, or mine. Our differing perspectives make us stronger and allow us opportunities to expand our thinking.

Please allow me to provide some information that corrects some of the misinformation that has been stated or clarifies what has been incorrectly assumed. Any decision you reach, any vote you cast about this proposal should be well informed and based on truth. To make serious decisions based on incorrect information could be devastating for any business, including IAIP.

Membership Decline:
There are several factors causing a decline in membership that is shrinking the association and its revenues. The greatest of them is that the membership model is no longer sustainable in today’s business and social culture. Membership groups of all kinds across the country are facing the same struggle that IAIP faces in trying to retain and build membership. Your elected leaders have been trying, unsuccessfully to reverse this trend for approximately 20 years. These are the facts; there is no dispute in these. Does anybody believe our past leaders working on this problem were all incapable or unwilling? I would argue that is not the case; I think our past leaders did an admirable job trying to build the association while meeting the expectations of our members. I would argue that our expectations that they deliver success in an environment that no longer supports our model was not realistic or fair. Our past leaders did everything within their means to deliver what we wanted; the model no longer works. It’s a typewriter in a world of smart phones and laptop computers. It’s time to change gears; we cannot keep doing the same thing, setting the same expectations and employing the same tactics to produce the desired result, when we know these things do not work. Do you have the solution? Can you turn the association around? Applications for International Secretary are on the website. Elections for RVP in several regions are coming up very soon. Councils and local associations are looking for the people who can make a difference. If you’re one of those people, we want to see you out there participating in IAIP leadership. We welcome you, along with your ideas, your energy and your expertise. If you’re more comfortable sitting out and electing others to carry this responsibility, we need your support in allowing us to do it. This is the reality.

Member Benefits:
As illustrated in the proposal, IAIP dues are not in line with current dues structures of competitive associations. Our ‘pricing’ has not kept pace with the economy and the market. Businesses do not typically succeed by pricing themselves below their competition while providing service levels that meet or exceed that of their competition. Lower prices mandate lower service levels, with very few exceptions. IAIP is expanding services:

·       we added leadership, sales, and business skills course inventory,

·       we added free (for most) monthly e-learning opportunities,

·       we introduced the monthly leadership newsletter,

·       we significantly improved our magazine and the content it provides,

·       we are offering members new engagement opportunities through Town Hall Meetings,

·       we added a formal mentoring program for members,

·       we added the job bank to the website,

·       we are preparing to offer virtual or special interest communities to give members alternative ways of connecting,

·       we are making changes to our convention to expand our audience and your ability to build your careers and business network, among many other service enhancements that have been, or will be implemented.  

Some of these may not be relevant to all of you; you may or may not be satisfied with the value or service you’re getting from these enhancements. But the expansion of benefits is clear and undisputable. If the value of these benefits or their relevance to you needs work, we have opportunities for you to help us fix that through Task Forces that serve every year to refine and enhance the benefits delivered to members. Let’s redirect your concern there, if that’s the issue we need to address.

The Member Experience:
Members have enjoyed price protection for years, while also enjoying expanded or enhanced services, yet membership continues to decline. Polling our terminated members reveals that in most cases, none of the factors we control are the reason they have left. When value is reported as the issue, most commonly the dissatisfaction or lack of value is tied to the local association or council experience – the content (or lack of) offered in monthly meetings or the way people are treated or made to feel in their local associations or councils. You will see that I have published a series of blog articles this year stressing the importance of kindness, respect, tolerance and appreciation. This is purposefully intended to address this concern. We may not control everything, but that which we do control we need to own and act upon to make ourselves better. The value proposition starts with each and every one of us! Seeing harsh criticisms or judgments directed at our volunteer leaders or the work we’re doing only reinforces this concern and illustrates the problem. Think of how you might feel receiving some of the comments that are published on social media, directed at our association and its leaders. Imagine how you might feel being a non-member or potential member reading these comments – knowing that engagement in IAIP means being judged harshly and based on misinformation or assumptions by some. Would you join? If you were new and another member criticized you in ways that were not constructive, making you feel badly about the work you did, would you want to stay? The first part of this point reflects the facts – the reality. The last half I ask you to think about in considering your own perspective and standards.

Revenue Diversification:
If you attended the November Town Hall Meeting, you heard that 85% of IAIP’s revenue comes from you – the member – through dues and purchases of IAIP projects. To depend so greatly on a single source of revenue is an immediate threat to any business. In risk management terms, think of this as a concentration of risk that is unacceptable… too much wind exposure in a coastal area. To be healthy, it’s imperative that we expand our sources of revenue. If you’re thinking that you don’t welcome IAIP reaching into your pocket and want to see your costs reduced, understand that we are trying to take you to that place; we want the same things. If we can do this, in the long run it allows us to bring in more revenue with less burden on you, the member. To make the investments that will position us to offer additional products and services to an outside customer base means an up-front investment by those of us who are here right now. The investment dollars need to come from somewhere. If we make the necessary investments from our reserves, our forecasts reveal this may shorten our life-span by approximately one year. It can make the difference between us having the time to build and offer new products and services and then build a revenue stream from them or building the new products and services but not having the necessary time to build that revenue stream. Successful strategies may never have the chance to turn the financial situation around if we don’t have enough reserves to support us as we build and mature those revenue streams. We shared our timeline in the November Town Hall meeting; if you were not able to participate in the live presentation, please take a moment to listen to the recording on the IAIP website.

Technology Investment:
One of the investments we know we need to make is in upgraded technology – our OWN systems. The requested dues revenue is not going to our partner in management services, Meeting Expectations, or to any efforts to upgrade their computer systems. ME’s computer systems run their business; our computer systems run ours. Meeting Expectations provides the hardware, computers, phone systems, file servers and systems required to operate their business and support us. IAIP’s technology systems including the website, membership database, event registration, learning management system, and communication tools are woefully inefficient. These outdated systems create an unacceptable amount of manual or duplicate effort, and as an IT professional & leader, I am completely within my area of expertise telling you that IAIP’s systems require replacement for us to be competitive and to deliver our expansion of products and services.

We have a task force working on a gap assessment, to help us identify required functionality and to make recommendations as to alternative solutions that leverage more current technology. It is true that the recommendation has not yet been made. We don’t know what system will be recommended or what service enhancements it will provide, beyond the requirements we’ve already defined. But, there is no question that a technology upgrade is necessary and it’s not likely to be gifted to us. We will need to buy it or license it. Our website and its features are the greatest source of member (and non-member) complaint, over any other member concern. The task force working on this is addressing a subset of technology requirements for the association; the non-dues revenue task force and education task force are working on additional technology requirements that will allow us to expand our products, services and customer base. The technology these strategies require will also require an up-front investment.

Association Management:
There remains concern among some over the cost of managing IAIP and lack of understanding as to what management services we have purchased. We are contracted for specific categories of service, entailing a specific number of hours and resources for each. Your Executive Committee and Board of Directors ensures that our costs are in line with services provided by similar providers and meet our service level expectations, and the Executive Committee reviews the performance and price model for these services annually. Since contracting with Meeting Expectations, we have expanded the scope of our required services and the demands of our members have considerably increased as well. Yet, Meeting Expectations has come to us each year, volunteering to waive the contractual increase in management fee and proposing a shifting of responsibilities to allow their staff to perform the same services with less expensive individuals, reducing our fee every year. They have voluntarily withheld payment for their own services during times when we have cash shortfalls, allowing us to keep our funds invested and maximize returns during times of investment prosperity. In September, I signed an addendum to AGAIN reduce our management fee, while still providing the same level of service and supporting the expansion of scope that has been our members’ expectation. Meeting Expectations has proven themselves, many times over, to be a strategic partner to IAIP, working toward the same goals and prosperity that we aspire to; they are not vendors seeking to take advantage of us. I state this as fact. Managing vendors, building strategic partnerships, negotiating services and contract terms are the greatest part of my profession, just as yours may be evaluating risk or investigating claims. In using an association management company, we modestly reduced our operations cost. Managing our operations is a cost of doing business; the responsibility is ours to manage expenses and to generate enough revenues to continue operating. That responsibility belongs to the leadership of IAIP – your elected officers, and not to the individual member.

Volunteer Management:
It has been stated that the management and administration of our association could be easily managed internally, by our members. This is not true. Our association was once managed, in its early years by volunteers. Because it could not be done so properly, IAIP hired staff to take it over. Years of maintaining paid staff and a building to house them (not to mention, associated costs of the business) also proved unsuccessful, as our volunteer leaders were not able to adequately manage and oversee their activities. Services were not up to par, expenses were higher than they are today, and member complaints were many. Without going into details of the state of the association under paid and internally managed staff, and out of respect for the confidentiality rights of those ex-employees, I will suggest you simply ask the perspective of any of the IAIP Board Members who served at that time and participated in the change to an outside management company.  

I will offer an example of what the association did look like under member administration. There was a time when local associations billed, collected and remitted the dues of their members to IAIP. After the financial statements of the association revealed declining revenue and entire associations disappeared (along with their member rosters) for months into each fiscal year, we came to understand that some of the volunteer leaders were not remitting their dues and member lists to IAIP until many months after they were due. IAIP had no records of what members belonged to these associations, and no revenue to fund the services being provided. Members who did not pay dues dropped because they did not receive their renewal notices from their local associations. Associations collecting large sums of revenue on behalf of IAIP were not maintaining adequate insurance to protect our funds. The result was a change in policy to require all dues to be invoiced by and paid directly to IAIP – simply so we could know what members belonged and so we could receive and protect the revenue that is so imperative to our ability to provide services.

As leaders in IAIP, we have all struggled with volunteers who are eager to serve, but circumstances change and their ability to deliver declines or disappears entirely. Many of us have seen situations where volunteers possessed critical documents of our association, but disappeared over time, and our records with them. We’ve seen the local association Treasurers and Council Custodians who struggle or fail to submit the required tax filings each year, jeopardizing the not-for-profit standing of the entire association. Think about every committee you have served on and the number of volunteers who have not delivered on their commitments, for good reasons and bad. Imagine the most critical services our association provides, the products we sell, the customers each of us are, being placed in the hands of those volunteers. Imagine you, the member and the customer, being asked to contribute 20-30 hours each week to the work of managing IAIP, in the same way your elected Board Members are contributing, and then trying to reconcile that commitment with the demands and the needs of your employer and your families. Not only would service levels be uncertain and unpredictable, but revenue streams could be severely interrupted, non-compliance with tax and regulatory requirements could jeopardize our future, and there are so many more negative consequences of such a move. We cannot ask volunteers to manage our association any more than we would ask a locksmith to perform the underwriting or claim settlement tasks of our insurance businesses. We do what we do best in insurance, our association managers do what they do best in the association management and convention planning services they have the training and experience to deliver.

Focusing on the REAL Problem:
In the November State of the Association webinar, we shared the many ways members can help us achieve the strategic goals of the association. Are you on a task force, helping us to build and deliver the solutions that will solve our revenue challenges? Knowing that our Task Forces are struggling with ambitious and critical strategic objectives that will make, or break the future of our association, and knowing that there are too few volunteers willing to take on the work of these task forces, how can we realistically expect these same members who cannot commit to the Task Force work to commit to the greater responsibility of association management and administration tasks? Such an expectation may be idealistic but is not realistic. The Finance & Administration Task Force IS working on a governance model that will evaluate the services being provided now, and identity which services should continue to be delivered by the association management company and which can be turned back to the membership and its volunteer leaders to deliver.

We hear your concerns, we accept your constructive feedback and ideas, we are acting on them. Are you one of the people who are willing to help? Please contact me directly to be placed on a Task Force. You CAN help us to achieve our goals and help us to rebuild IAIP with your time, energy, and commitment to our strategic objectives. If we are successful in implementing those, we will resolve our revenue challenges and won’t need to focus so much on our expenses and our association management. Consider what may occur in any of our businesses where revenues are not what they need to be; the first, and easy target for many managers is people like you and me – those who provide the products and services. Those of us who represent an expense and do not directly generate revenue are treated as commodities; we become the first targets and may find ourselves losing our jobs. In our own work environments, is this the solution, or would the organization be more successful letting us continue providing the products and services our revenues depend on while others heavily invest in an ability to generate additional sources of revenue? If you work in an agency, when a producer doesn’t make his or her budget, does it help the organization to terminate or reduce the number of Account Managers or is the real solution to correct the revenue problem? Demands upon all of us will be greatly relieved by additional sources of non-dues revenue. THAT is the challenge that requires our attention.

Change Requires an Investment:
In the November State of the Association webinar, I also shared the two greatest threats to our future… time and roadblocks. Time is not on our side. We have performed financial forecasts and there is little question about the time we have left, before our reserves are exhausted. We do not have the luxury of holding up the strategic steps that are necessary to turn our association around. To make only small changes will not be enough to develop, implement, and market new products and services or to expand our customer base. It takes time to build. It takes time to implement. It takes time to develop and mature, in order to create a significant and sustainable revenue stream.

But before any of this, it takes an investment. Our association has not invested in its infrastructure in many years. It has not made a significant investment in many more years. Can you imagine living in a house that has outdated electrical, where the plumbing has not been repaired or replaced, and the roof is leaking? Can that home become livable and sustain the safety and security of your children if you replace the front door? A small investment is not going to transform our association or ensure its future. An investment or focus that is misdirected is not going to do so either. Delay will not help us. Fear will not help us. Anger or frustration certainly will not. Being unkind or abusive to your volunteer, elected leaders is counter-productive and unfair. Again, these are facts. Following is perspective… Speed, cooperation, a clear path, teamwork and trust will help us succeed.

We know what the solutions are. We know what the investments need to be. We have the strategies, and your elected leaders unanimously have supported them and believe them to be the right steps forward. We have confidence that the path forward, which we’ve identified at your direction and after hearing your input, is the right path. What we need is for you to have the same confidence in us. You elected us. You are us.

Thank you for reading this far and allowing me the privilege to speak freely, candidly, and of course, the great honor and privilege of serving you.



Cindy J. Prud'homme, AINS, CPIA, CIIP, CLP
International President 2019-2020
Home Email: Breezie_C@prodigy.net
Cell: 810-282-7089


12/6/2019 at 3:33:16 PM GMT
Posts: 58
Wow !! This is a great piece of communication to explain our association and its future. Many past leaders have been trying to pave the way to determine our future and this board is definitely building on those ideas and charting a new, exciting course for IAIP. We must continue to work hard to build and maintain this association, as we know its value. However, complacency is not an option and our next steps will determine the future of IAIP. We must stand united and remain positive during this instrumental change. All associations, organizations, businesses and families adapt and change every day. IAIP is up for this change and we are here to support the great leaders, who are working tirelessly to initiate the change needed. We are here, ready to roll up our sleeves and support the dues increase to keep IAIP viable. Linda Luka - Past Int'l. President

Linda H. Luka
2017-18 IAIP President



12/9/2019 at 3:28:23 PM GMT
Posts: 5
Continuing the conversation

Excellent explanations Cindy!

As Region 3 RVP, I've received a few additional questions since the announcement that I'd like to share.  It's likely others have these same questions/thoughts as well.

Don't you think folks will leave because of the increase?
Yes.  Some of that is very unfortunate.  You are prime examples - you bring so much to the table as a members.  However, some will leave over any dues increase more than $5 - $10.  We have to be able to adjust for that.  Some folks were going to non-renew anyway, and like to be able to have someone to blame.  Some have been on the fence about it, aren’t engaged as members, complain about everything that’s done without offering any solutions, and in general drag down the morale of the entire organization.  If this is what pushes them out the door, then, sad as it is to see folks go, sometimes, it’s just time.  You ladies know folks like that, and you also know I’m not categorizing “retirees” or any other group.  I know it’s kind of picking on Jan and Betty Curry, but they are GREAT examples. Both retired now, but still active, engaged, inspiring, helpful members!  We need folks who see problems and look for solutions, ask questions, and try to make the organization better.  We all complain from time to time but other than venting a little frustration, it doesn’t do any good if you don’t follow it up to at least TRY and fix the problems.

Will this actually help?
We know we’re asking for a lot.  And – that’s also part of the thought process behind the increase amount – if we do a significant increase, we can implement some “quick fix” changes that will have a real impact right away.  If we were to try and creep along and piece-meal the process, two years from now we would be in the same position we’re in today.  How much does this organization mean to you? (and not just you specifically, but anyone struggling with the idea of the dues increase)  $50/year –  what if we can implement even 1 or 2 improvements by this time 2020, a usable website?  Text alerts? Convention app? Special Interest Groups? Group messaging/chat (that’s actually usable)?  What if one of the improvements we can make is a selection on how dues are billed, annually, quarterly, or monthly? That was actually one of the questions on another region’s Facebook page.  That could also turn into a recruiting tool.

Speaking of recruiting tools….   How does it feel to talk to someone about recruiting knowing you’re going to send them to the website to sign up?  I often feel like I need to apologize before they ever see the site because it’s difficult to navigate.  Is that the impression we want to give?  Of course not!  So, an investment there – which will likely take TIME in addition to money, will net HUGE benefit from member satisfaction when it works the way it should, cut down on staff time spent answering questions that you should be able to easily find on the website, AND be something that we, as members, can be proud of and proud to show off to prospective members and prospective sponsors.  I think revamping the website to a more useful tool should be our number 1 priority as it will hit so many hot spots: aid in recruiting, add member value when they can find useful information, aid in securing employer support for members, aid in securing sponsors.  There’s just SO MUCH that a good website can do that ours can’t.  If I were prioritizing the needs, I’d address communication tools next: the blast email service is cumbersome and requires too much manual input from ME when there’s an attachment to add.  We need things like automated texts, group chat, etc.  I think moving to Zoom is a step in the right direction, but we need to take a few more just like that.

I strongly encourage every member to read all of the information presented.  Ask questions, participate in the Town Hall meetings, give us all the feedback you have.  Finally - exercise your right to VOTE



12/9/2019 at 7:41:12 PM GMT
Posts: 23

Some additional questions came in via social media that I wanted to provide answers to.  Members, reminder... let's keep the discussion of this proposal here on our secured site, rather than airing our business and sometimes confidential or proprietary information out on social media.

What Are the Strategies We’ve Adopted?
Some members have been making suggestions as to ways we can generate non-dues revenue.  Some of these we heard last year when we were collecting member input, and in some cases that’s where some of our strategies were born.  I want to highlight the ones most likely to quickly help our financial situation.  All are with Task Forces right now, for development & implementation.  They were covered in the October Town Hall, if you want to give the recording a listen on the website.


Corporate Memberships – a combination of ‘bulk’ employee memberships in IAIP with a broad allowance of products & services included.  Corporate Memberships will be targeted to HR and Professional Development departments, seeking to develop their workforce.  These have a different target market and value proposition than Corporate Partnerships.  Corporate Membership may be an alternative for employers of existing members.  We envision this product incorporating high levels of employee engagement and participation in our conferences, so it has potential to expand the financial support afforded to current members by their employers.

Corporate Training Programs – a combination of services that would be offered to employers to deliver our educational products within their own premises, using IAIP trainers.  With 80% of the professionals in our industry likely to retire within 6 years, it’s imperative that employers quickly staff and develop the next generation of their workforce.  IAIP will help them with the latter.

Licensing Instructors – this recommendation came directly from the membership, and we agreed that it was a brilliant suggestion with a lot of potential!  IAIP is going to offer certification and licensing to businesses that wish to have their own employees (non-members of IAIP) teach our programs to their employees.  This would be an alternative for businesses that do not require our Corporate Training Program.
These are just some of the strategies we’re working on.  We don’t have all the details because they are still being designed and built.  We already have businesses asking for some of these services, and they are just waiting for us to have the infrastructure in place to deliver & support them.

Is This Enough?
The next item I wanted to respond to, or clarify is the notion that the dues restructuring will fully satisfy our needs.  The answer is, ‘not likely’.  It’s a significant start intended to help us get one or more of the above strategies into our arsenal and generating revenue.  Our hope, then is that the additional revenue stream will fund additional investments that are needed.  
We are looking at all possible avenues to generate the needed investment dollars, including our own non-dues revenue, the dues restructure, grants, and industry sponsorship.  The initial revenue generated by the dues change would be targeted to technology, most likely an e-learning platform to support the strategies noted above. Portions might also be directed toward marketing and promotion of these new products & services and development of the expanded customer base, through aggressive industry outreach.  In short, we must not only build and deploy the new products and services, but we must also have the infrastructure in place to administer them, the distribution capability to sell them, and the delivery mechanism to provide them.  We are currently positioned to offer the product of individual membership, which is no longer sustainable.  For my friends in Midwest auto-manufacturing territory, IAIP is ‘retooling’ its line, to offer an additional product line, new services, and to support a new type of customer.

Let’s keep the dialog going!  What more can we tell you about our exciting plans for the future and the ways that YOU can help us get there?

 


Cindy J. Prud'homme, AINS, CPIA, CIIP, CLP
International President 2019-2020
Home Email: Breezie_C@prodigy.net
Cell: 810-282-7089


12/10/2019 at 7:59:46 PM GMT
Posts: 13
Cindy, I appreciate your discussion of the dues issues before the membership. For those of you who don't know me I was RVP 1998-99 and served on the executive committee starting in 2010, ultimately serving as IAIP president 2013-14. It was during my term as president that IAIP moved the management of the association to Meeting Expectations. Several association management providers were considered and ME! was the best fit, both financially and service-wise. I do not recall the specific budgeting considerations however ME! had the flexibility that continues to be important to IAIP. Our association draws upon the expertise of ME! personnel, who know association management. IAIP has always been a member sponsored association who has tried to secure broader industry non-dues financial support. The leaders of IAIP know the seriousness of our current status and do not make this recommendation lightly. As noted above there are several strategies in the works. Please consider supporting this dues increase as it's critical to our future.

Sincerely,
L Jane Densch

Jane Densch


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