Time for a New Association Verb

Written by Garth Jordan on July 11, 2019

Three Verbs

After 20 years working in VP, COO, CFO and CSO roles for associations, it’s become clear to me that our industry shares many common approaches to helping our members lead, learn and connect.

At a high level, associations often apply these three verbs on their web sites and in their various marketing campaigns. Many of us even use them in our mission statements. At our core, across our industry, there’s not much deviation in these verbs.

Further, we’ve done a solid job of monetizing these verbs over time. We consistently added new products and services to the portfolio of what we sell to help people lead, learn and connect…to our credit, we’ve become quite good at it.

The simple table below shows a handful of examples of what we provide to members and business partners as part of our lead, learn and connect product and service offerings.

A Fourth Verb

Listening with an empathetic ear, I’ve run multiple Design Thinking sessions with hundreds of members from the associations for which I’ve worked. Ultimately, I realized the qualitative input from those various memberships was telling me a consistent, compelling story that could drive our industry toward important change.

The feedback gave me an opportunity to create a unique insight from a meta-point-of-view. It’s why people join associations, go to our meetings, attend our webinars, participate in our communities, buy our products, and more.

It took 3 steps to find the unique insight.

Step 1 – Collect and Summarize

Collating and reviewing the meta-feedback revealed a consistent theme, that members want to be part of:

  1. Identifying meaningful challenges for their profession and industry, and
  2. Creating impactful solutions with their community.

Step 2 – Empathetic Simplification

These two themes can be re-phrased in an empathetic and member-centric expression, revealing that members want their associations to help them do two things at the same time:

  1. create better solutions and
  2. become better problem solvers in the process.

Step 3 – Find One Word

Reduced to a one-word unique insight, association members want our industry to become great at a new verb: SOLVE.

This process of finding a unique insight got me asking the challenging question: “How might we purposefully design member products, services and experiences around SOLVE, not just LEAD, LEARN and CONNECT?” Can we take advantage of what we’ve accomplished over the years and expand our repertoire? I think YES

SOLVE: Moving from Insight to Opportunity

Our new solve core function could easily become a:

  1. completely new association model all together, or
  2. a new “product or service” of the association world

What might either look like? Here’s a brief proposition of what our industry’s new solve verb (or meta-product-line) might be - and a tiny bit about what it isn’t:

  1. It’s not a passive membership. Instead, it’s an engaging experience for problem identification and problem-solving within a profession and industry.
  2. The experience is professionally-facilitated, highly inclusive, and community-focused. It includes solution-development conferences along the way for the most vexing challenges. But at the center is a solve-focused community platform that runs year-round for well-rounded, asynchronous engagement.
  3. An association’s members identify the meaningful challenges of their profession and industry. The association’s job is to build community around each challenge to be solved.
  4. It uses a clear methodology to impactfully problem-solve, like human-centered design, design thinking, scenario-based solving, etc.
  5. It develops professionals via learning-by-doing (not by passive learning).
  6. It creates better solutions, and creates better solvers.

SOLVE will be our fourth verb…a member-centric, financially lucrative boost to our association industry’s lead, learn, and connect legacy.

Feel free to email me at gjordan@hfma.org or find me on LinkedIn to learn how you and your organization can help build on what so many of our members need. Let’s do this together!