Celebrating Associations: Association for Corporate Growth

Celebrating Associations is a weekly blog produced by .orgCommunity, celebrating the achievements of associations and the great impact on the industries they serve.

CelebratingAssociations-Dots-LessTextAssociation and History: Founded in 1954, the Association for Corporate Growth has 59 chapters and 14,500 members around the world. ACG serves 90,000 investors, executives, lenders and advisers to growing middle-market companies. ACG’s mission is to drive middle-market growth. Headquartered in Chicago, ACG provides events, online tools, structured networking opportunities, market intelligence and other business-building resources for middle-market dealmakers and business leaders who invest in growth and build companies.

About its Members: ACG brings together every segment of the growth community. They include private equity professionals, investment bankers and intermediaries, attorneys, auditors and accountants, lenders, corporate development officers, company leaders and others focused on the middle market.

We’re Celebrating at the ACG Because … of its popular suite of media offerings created just three years ago, which includes a digital magazine, Middle Market Growth website, weekly e-newsletter and daily newsfeed. MMG media keeps more than 90,000 middle-market dealmaking professionals up to date on news, trends, best practices and thought leadership on all segments of the middle market.

MMG.Org screen shot

We’ll learn more in an interview with Kristin Gomez, ACG’s vice president, communications & marketing.

Q: What do you think ACG has done particularly well in the last couple of years?

A: Over the last three years, ACG has ramped up its communications efforts in so many ways. First, we launched a monthly digital magazine—Middle Market Growth. Next, we introduced an additional rebranded suite of smaller digital media that includes: podcasts, videos, webinars, and daily and weekly newsletters. We have ramped up our social media efforts and use our network to push out important content and also keep track of what’s happening in the private equity industry. Lastly, we have introduced brand standards, creating a more polished look and feel for everything that is communicated to our members and external audiences. It’s a huge effort completed by a great team of marketing, creative, editorial and communication professionals who work on the team.

Q: What’s a particular challenge that ACG faces?

A: On the communication front, competing in an age of information overload is a challenge for ACG, as it is for all association publishers who are trying to get their content in front of key audiences. Because ACG members are professionals in the private equity space, our readership goes first to major publications like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Bloomberg in addition to smaller, specialized industry publications.

While these publications are typically the first stop for our members, it does provide ACG the opportunity to use our publications to cover the latest trends and news specific to our industry and from the point of view of our members and their peers. We do this by focusing on not only the latest deals and investment patterns, but by showcasing the people who are doing the deals. The human curiosity of “who’s featured this month in MMG” works in our favor.

The other challenge—and this goes for all publications and most media—is revenue. We are constantly trying to figure out ways to attract advertisers and develop content offerings that support the financial weight of producing the magazine without compromising the integrity of our publications.

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Q: If you could wave a magic wand and accomplish or obtain anything for ACG, what would it be?

A: Greater continuity between our chapters. ACG is a global organization with 59 chapters worldwide and they are the lifeblood of the organization. However, their size difference and membership mix creates varied challenges that must be met with a customized approach. Because they are the local presence, it’s critically important that they are supported and have a strong footprint in their communities.

My biggest wish is that we had more tools to help on a daily basis to attract new members and retain existing members. We are currently working on that at the global level. We are finding that the most desired tools are marketing and communication resources. By the end of the year, we hope to have built an entire library of marketing and communications tools available to all chapters through our new web portal. So if a chapter is looking to promote an event, create a new newsletter or find best practices to recruit and retain members, they can rely on the global headquarters for the guidance and resources they need.

Q: What do you think will be the biggest challenge facing associations over the next 10 years?

A: Membership. I think declining membership and the association structure as we know it is not the most sustainable model to cater to the Millennial generation and beyond. Working in associations for the last 12 years, I see a shift in the needs and wants of these new and up-and-coming professionals. No longer is the “I’m a card-carrying member” mantra of any prestige to this group. They want a sense of belonging, community, an opportunity to network and a place to develop their career. They can get that in other places beyond associations today. Also, there is a lot of dogma in associations and change is not as quick as it should be so this becomes less of a value proposition to a younger generation.

My wish for ACG is that it is able to embrace a new crop of financial professionals and quickly assimilate them into the leadership of this organization. I believe it’s a risk to make this demographic wait years to get on important committees and the boards of directors. Their opinion can sway peers to either join ACG and invest in the organization or choose to search elsewhere because they feel there isn’t a place for them here. The good news is that many of our 59 chapters have picked up on this trend and have created programs to include professionals under 35 into their leadership structure as well as offer events and programing that connects Millennials to each other and more seasoned professionals in ACG. In this way they are bridging “the gap,” resulting in a happier, more loyal member.

Q: What do you enjoy most working for ACG?

A: Hands down, the people. We meet so many great people through Middle Market Growth. The magazine has given ACG the opportunity to interview and meet countless top financial professionals who buy and grow middle-market companies and brands as well as feature the accomplishments and stories of our members. It’s been a true honor to hear from such educated and visionary people, and it’s a pleasure working for this industry.

Share YOUR Story: What great things is your association doing for its profession or for its operations? How is your organization delivering on its mission and its strategic plan? Contact heather@orgcommunity.com for details about submitting a story or to be interviewed. 

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Celebrating Associations: Orthopaedic Trauma Association

Celebrating Associations is a weekly blog produced by .orgCommunity, celebrating the achievements of associations and the great impact on the industries they serve.

CelebratingAssociations-Dots-LessTextAssociation and History: Nearly 2,000 members worldwide belong to the Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA), which has been shaping musculoskeletal injury care for 32 years. The Rosemont, Ill.-based association provides the most current information on diagnosis, optimum treatments and ways to treat and prevent traumatic musculoskeletal injury to bone, muscle, ligaments, tendons and the spinal cord. In 2015, OTA transitioned from third-party management to being self-managed. OTA now experiences more independence for initiating complex business administrative projects and developing alliances.

About its Members: OTA represents orthopaedic trauma surgeons, as well as researchers, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, residents and fellows.

We’re Celebrating at the OTA Because … of its many meaningful collaborations with other groups that are advancing OTA, the specialty and the orthopaedic field as a whole.

We’ll learn more about OTA’s inter-organizational collaboration in an interview with OTA Executive Director Kathleen Caswell, CAE.

Q: What’s a particular challenge that OTA faces?

A: Our members are highly engaged, really forward-thinking people. They have more great ideas than we can possibly keep up with. We are a small association, with only seven full-time and three part-time staff. To overcome unlimited resources in staff and funding, we’ve entered a number of partnerships. These partnerships make it possible for us to do things we may not be able to do alone.

Q: What are some of these partnerships, and how are they beneficial to OTA and its members?

A: There are six examples I’ll share of partnerships that help move our mission forward.

  • PSAs. OTA partners with American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) to increase awareness about a variety of safety topics through jointly funded public service announcements ranging from motorcycle and ATV safety to distracted driving and falling prevention. With both societies’ logos attached to the PSAs, the messages are more impactful and more credible.
  • Research grants. Research and education are core to OTA’s mission. Through multi-center projects and multi-organizational funding, OTA can help with offering larger grants that support members with cutting-edge research leading to breakthroughs addressing orthopaedic trauma. OTA along with the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (OREF), AO Foundation, Society of Military Orthopaedic Surgeons (SOMOS), among others, pull resources to support research to improve function, eliminate pain, and restore mobility that individual organizations couldn’t fund on their own.
  • Disaster preparedness and response. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, OTA joined forces with several specialty organizations, including AAOS, SOMOS and POSNA to leverage their expertise and help the field better prepare for and respond to disaster situations. The team provides a customized, orthopaedic-specific training course to help prepare members for service in disaster situations. The project team also helped create and populate the AAOS-Registered Responder Database, which connects trained volunteers with response agencies in the event of a disaster. Through the recent escalation of mass casualty events and terrorism, the Disaster Preparedness Project Team realized an even greater need for a more organized approach to disaster response, and is working to identify opportunity to strengthen and improve disaster preparedness into the future.
    OTA President Theodore Miclau, III, MD, at the Indian Orthopeadic Association’s 60th Annual Conference in December 2015 in Jaipur.


  • International knowledge exchange. OTA initiated a “Guest Nation” program in 2011 for sharing knowledge and experience with international colleagues. For example, the OTA entered a destination program with the Indian Orthopeadic Association (IOA) in 2015: OTA members delivered an education trauma presentation at the IOA’s annual meeting in December. In return, representatives from IOA will participate as symposium presenters at the OTA Annual Meeting in October. OTA is providing complimentary meeting registration and booth space for IOA and is offering a one-year complimentary membership to interested colleagues from India provided that they meet the current membership requirements. Since 2011, similar arrangements were made with organizations in Germany, Brazil, China, Mexico and Italy.
  • Advanced education. Sometimes these alliances are as simple as partnering with one specialty group. During the AAOS Specialty Day in March, the OTA and the American Orthopeadic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) will take part in a half-day joint session and offer scientific programming relevant to both audiences.
  • Scholarship offerings. OTA partners with SIGN Fracture Care International—a humanitarian group assisting orthopaedic surgeons in 52 developing countries with surgical implants and training. Each year, two SIGN scholars receive a $10,000 scholarship to attend the OTA Annual Meeting. A SIGN fracture lab is also offered at the OTA Annual Meeting.

Q: Who gets the credit for recognizing these opportunities to collaborate?

A: The leadership of both the OTA and partnering organizations—which includes many doctors who are also great visionaries. And some credit also goes to the staff offices, who implement the initiatives.

Q: If you could wave a magic wand and accomplish or obtain anything for OTA, what would it be?

A: It would be increased resources to allow us to move forward with all the great ideas from the OTA leadership and membership. There are more ideas and initiatives than there is funding and manpower.

Q: What do you think will be the biggest challenge facing associations over the next 10 years?

A: Member engagement of younger generations and making sure what you offer is relevant and meaningful. You must demonstrate how you are changing with the times. Also, funding is a challenge—whether those resources come from the industry, government or dues-paying individuals—and probably will continue to be a challenge.

Q: What do you enjoy most working for OTA?

A: The work the field does is meaningful and important. We work with a passionate group of doctors that continues to raise the bar for the type of care they provide to patients. Their passion is contagious.

Share YOUR Story: What great things is your association doing for its industry or for its operations? Contact heather@orgcommunity.com for details about submitting a story or to be interviewed.

Not yet a .orgCommunity member? Invest in yourself and your organization by joining the .orgCommunity, which nurtures innovation in leaders through peer-to-peer interactions and programming.

Celebrating Associations: American Association of Endodontists

Celebrating Associations is a weekly blog produced by .orgCommunity, celebrating the achievements of associations and the great impact on the industries they serve.

CelebratingAssociations-Dots-LessTextAssociation and History: Endodontists are root canal specialists, and endodontics is one of nine dental specialties formally recognized by the American Dental Association. The American Association of Endodontists, founded in 1943, is dedicated to excellence in the art and science of endodontics and to the highest standard of patient care. The AAE inspires its members to pursue professional advancement and personal fulfillment through education, research, advocacy, leadership, communication and service.

About Its Members: Endodontists are dental specialists with an additional two or more years of specialized training beyond dental school. The average endodontist completes 25 root canal treatments a week. The AAE, headquartered in Chicago, represents more than 8,000 members worldwide; members include active endodontists, educators, residents and general dentists interested in the specialty.

We’re celebrating AAE because … It is undertaking a branding initiative that will feature the unveiling of a new logo at its annual meeting in April.

And also because … The organization is looking for growth outside the United States. In fact, the AAE received a 2015 MarCom Award for its mailer to international members about the organization’s continuing education option, called the Live Learning Center

We’ll learn more in an interview with Trina Andresen Coe, M.S., AAE’s acting executive director.

Q. What do you think AAE has done particularly well in the last couple of years?

A. “I think an area where we have really started to shine in the last few years is in our communications and the image that we are presenting to our members and to the outside world. We have recently received awards for marketing and communications, and we are currently undergoing a branding initiative that I think will really help us to take the next steps in presenting ourselves in a consistent way across the board.”

Q. Can you talk more about how that communications and marketing element has improved?

A. “Our board has been working the Baldridge Criteria for Performance Excellence in Organizations. We had a committee utilize these criteria as a framework to identify ways in which we can improve quality throughout the organization. One of the things that committee focused on was communications: Are we communicating to audiences in a consistent manner? Do we have a consistent voice? Do we present ourselves in a consistent way, is our information deployed in a consistent way and how are we changing how we communicate based on what we’ve learned?

After focusing on that for a while, that special committee decided to take a closer look at our brand. Who is the AAE to our members, to other dental professionals, to the public? We found that we need to apply our identity and voice in a more consistent manner. So that’s how the branding initiative was born – through efforts and discussions that related to improving the quality of everything we do here at our organization.

We’re in the final stages of our new branding initiative, we are planning to unveil our new logo at our annual meeting in April. We will see how it goes – I’m excited, and also a little nervous. We have solid work behind it, that I know for sure!”

The 2015-16 AAE Board of Directors, pictured at the Interim Board Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Q. What’s a particular challenge that AAE faces?

A. “Number one is resources. In an association, you’re always going to have a limit on the resources available to you, and a limitless amount of expectations from your board, from your membership, even from your staff who want to do things differently, better, faster. All of that translates into ‘We could do a lot of that faster if we had more money or more staff.’ That’s not unique to us, certainly.

Another challenge we might share with other organizations relates to the challenge that boards face in strategic planning and really prioritizing what are the top three, top five number of things we’re going to focus on this year – and what can wait until next year? And what can wait until five years down the line? I think there is a challenge in prioritizing and even in getting rid of programs that are no longer filling the need that they once filled. It’s hard to let go of things, and it’s hard to say this thing is not as important as this other thing. I think that’s the part about strategic planning that’s hard for any board, and that has implications at all levels of the organization because a better and more focused strategic planning discussion is going to result in a better and more focused staff.”

Q. Can you talk about your membership and your success with capturing endodontists in the United States?

A. “We have endodontist membership categories: our active, educator, life or retired members; they have similar interests. We also have associate members, who might be a general dentist who is really interested in endodontics, and the resources that appeal to them might be slightly different than what appeals to our active members. We also have membership categories for students, residents and international members, as well as professional staff who work in endodontic practices.

In the United States, we’re at about a 92% market share of endodontists. We always want to make sure we maintain that and that we get strong numbers of graduating residents that are joining AAE and we’re keeping up with renewals. But it’s not going to be a significant growth area for us. The international members really are an area where our organization has seen growth over the last several years and where we continue to get more members.

One of our brochures that won the MarCom Award this year was a brochure for the Live Learning Center, which is our online learning center, and it was mailed to all of our international members. We’re trying to get the word out to the international community that we have great online learning resources. Our Live Learning Center is a really good deal in terms of dollars and the CE credits and education that’s out there. It’s a lot more cost effective than traveling to a meeting, staying in a hotel, and paying for the meeting registration. We’re trying to market that resource to the international group.”

Q. If you could wave a magic wand and accomplish or obtain anything for AAE, what would it be?

A. “This is something we’ve started to work on in conversation, but if I could wave my magic wand and have it done tomorrow, I’d have an online networking community for our members that is fully integrated with our AMS and fully integrated with the online learning center. It would be a place where all of our members could go and have exchanges on clinical topics, it would serve as a learning resource for them. Our younger members are always expressing their desires for an online community where they can talk about clinical issues, and we’re working on trying to meet that need. But I’d like it to have all the bells and whistles and be in place by tomorrow!”

An AAE member learns cutting-edge surgical techniques through a workshop at AAE15, the association’s 2015 annual meeting. Photo by Nataworry Photography.

Q. What do you think the biggest challenge facing associations over the next 10 years will be?

A. “Associations being able to adjust their approach so that they can move on things a little quicker than we have historically done. We tend to be a little bit slow in terms of decision making and processes and bureaucracies and I think that is somewhat of a challenge when it comes to taking the next technological leap. … We need to find a way to get comfortable moving a little quicker.”

Q. What do you enjoy most working for AAE?

A. “I really enjoy our members and the relationships that I’ve built over the years. Serving in the position as acting executive director has given me a different perspective on everything we do at the AAE, and I’ve gotten a chance to really get to know the officers of this organization very well. That’s been a great experience for me. We’ve been going through some transition here, and they’ve been very supportive of me. They’re really nice people. Our members are really nice people.

Our staff is also fantastic; they’ve also been through a lot the last couple of years because we’ve had some changes at the top level. That can be very hard on staff. Our staff has stuck it through, they’re still giving everything their all. I’m lucky to have them here.”

Share YOUR Story: What great things is your association doing for its industry or for its operations? Contact heather@orgcommunity.com for details about submitting a story or to be interviewed.

Not yet a member of .orgCommunity? Invest in yourself and your organization by joining the .orgCommunity, which nurtures innovation in leaders through peer-to-peer interactions and programming.

Celebrating Associations: APICS

Celebrating Associations is a weekly blog produced by .orgCommunity, celebrating the achievements of associations and the great impact on the industries they serve.

Association and History: CelebratingAssociations-Dots-LessTextAPICS is the professional society for supply chain and operations management professionals.  It provides research, education and certification programs to advance supply chain excellence and innovation. In 1957, 20 production control managers met in Cleveland to form the American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS). It became an international organization in 1961, upon chartering the Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, chapter. Today, APICS stands more than 45,000 members strong—headquartered in Chicago, but representing supply chain management professionals around the world.

About its Members: APICS professional members either support or serve various areas of end-to-end supply chain and operations management. About 80 percent of the membership is based in North America, while 20 percent is located throughout the world. Individuals and companies belonging to APICS may participate in education and training, access industry publications and research, and pursue internationally recognized designations. APICS credentials include: Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM), Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) and Supply Chain Operations Reference Professional (SCOR-P).  Later in 2016 APICS is launching a new credential: Certified in Logistics, Transportation and Distribution (CLTD).

We’re Celebrating at APICS Because … its membership strategy is improving member retention rates and helping APICS to grow.

We’ll learn more about efforts and outcomes in an interview with Jim Pavletich, CAE, APICS’ vice president of membership and customer experience, who leads the organization’s membership acquisition and retention strategy and oversees customer service and fulfillment.

Q: What drove the new membership strategy?

A: APICS leadership recognized that we had a problem with retaining members. My responsibility upon joining APICS in 2014 was to implement a membership strategy that would increase the value of membership to each individual member. APICS’ overall membership retention rate was at 64 percent; the goal for this strategy was to increase membership—for all dues-paying categories—to more than 70 percent. In 2015, we achieved 67 percent retention. This year, the goal is 70 percent retention.

Q: Describe some of the efforts underway.

A: In short, we have made a significant IT investment to better understand what our members are seeking from us. We now obtain the reason—the motivator—for members joining or renewing. We ask members to select one of several different motivators, which include: starting or advancing your career, enhancing your professional value, staying informed of industry developments, expanding your professional network, or seeking leadership opportunities within APICS. We now also track purchases, downloads and activity on our website per individual.

Based on “motivator” responses and activity tracking, we may change how we approach individuals. APICS offers dozens of “universal” membership benefits. So once we learn of an individual’s membership motivation and track their activity for a period of time, we essentially shuffle the list of benefits and bring to the top—once they log into the website or access the newly released membership mobile app—the most relevant benefits that meets what that particular member is seeking.

In December 2015, we also put in place a way to measure member engagement. Members are assigned a numeric value in the database that measures their engagement level based on an index. We zeroed in on several variables: how often a member logs into the website, whether the member attended the annual conference, if the member is a chapter officer, is in their first year of membership, has purchased a product or service, or has taken a certification exam. We process this information in the database and compare it against the data collected to arrive at a composite engagement score. Last year, the average composite engagement score was 17.5 for professional members; we want to improve that score by 5 points this year by increasing product sales and increasing the number of members accessing the website.

Meet the APICS membership team, which is delivering on the organization’s membership strategy. Pictured L to R: Steve Aspacher, Bryan Warren, Dana Day, Scott Parker, Kathleen Schroeder and Jim Pavletich.

Q: What indicates whether a member is at risk and requires attention versus one who does not?

A: We are working on member communications plans for various levels of engagement. For those scoring between zero and 20, we will have certain, targeted messaging about what we can do for them to improve their experience and also a plan for how often we will contact them. We will consider the outreach a success if we can get them to retain their membership.

Q: Any other new membership endeavors worth sharing?

A: We will be rolling out new membership benefit bundles in the months ahead to reward members for increased engagement. For example, those pursuing either the CSCP or CPIM credentials can elect to pay a bit more for the CSCP or CPIM membership bundle (versus the “core” membership package) and will then receive discounts on preparation materials, exam fees, certification frame or plaque, etc.

APICS’ Bryan Warren holds an iPad displaying the new APICS membership app.

Also, we’ve noticed that once people earn their certification, a lot of members stop their membership. We are hoping to reverse this trend by encouraging members to elect the less expensive, core membership bundle after they receive their certification and need contact hours to maintain it.

In addition, we no longer charge students for membership. As a result, we have seen a 66 percent increase in this membership segment in 2015 (About 7,000 APICS members are students).

Finally, we’re implementing web evaluation software so that members and customers can provide feedback on website navigation, content, look and feel, and performance to help us know where to target ongoing improvement. We will benchmark the website scores against Fortune 500 companies who also are using this software. We recently started to A/B test web pages—splitting among users the pages they see and measuring outcomes, so that we can know what our visitors prefer. This year we plan to make the entire APICS website responsive so that it delivers an optimal experience across all devices—smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc.

Q: Are you pleased with the results from all of these efforts?

A: Yes, we’re already seeing positive results from the pieces of this strategy that have been put into place. All of these changes are driving and showing value to members. Through this strategy, we are demonstrating to our members that we get who they are, and that we can tailor our offerings to what they are seeking.

Share YOUR Story: What great things is your association doing for its industry or for its operations? Contact heather@orgcommunity.com for details about submitting a story or to be interviewed.

Not yet a member of .orgCommunity? Invest in yourself and your organization by joining the .orgCommunity, which nurtures innovation in leaders through peer-to-peer interactions and programming.