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Often my clients will tell me they want to be more efficient with how they manage data. And that’s important. If we have to manage the data, we might as well manage it as efficiently as possible.

But it’s equally important to consider how effective we are with our data management.

As a good friend once said to me, if you’re managing crap, and you become more efficient, all you’re doing is making crap faster.

So it’s important to make sure that if you’re planning on making a process more efficient, be sure that the process itself makes you more effective. Consider why you’re collecting the date, what it’s being used for, and how it helps advance your organization’s mission. Maybe you’ll discover that becoming more efficient with that data won’t make you more effective after all.

And you certainly don’t want to make crap faster, now do you?

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I once met with a potential client who was seeking a new database. In a conversation with the executive director, she explained to me that she wanted a database that would collect all types of data about her members, including information about calls with her members.

When I suggested that there was software that would do this and that she would simply have to enter information about the call when she completed the call, she asked how the data would get into the database. When I told her she would have to enter the data herself, she said “That will never happen.”


Often I’ll meet with potential clients who are looking for new software because they believe the problems they are having are because the software isn’t “good enough” to do what they want to do. But in reality, it’s because the processes in place (or NOT in place) aren’t effective. And no change in software will address weak processes.

So before you jump to changing software to fix your problems, make sure the problem isn’t, well, you.

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As we all know, a sunk cost is a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. A good example of a sunk cost is the purchase of a new AMS to replace an old system. Once you’ve purchased a new AMS, there’s no going back. The money is spent. The cost is sunk.

The sunk cost fallacy is the belief that once the money is spent, there is no going back; one must continue down the road you’re on, because after all, if you change directions now, all that money would be wasted.

And while it may be true that the money already spent cannot be recovered, it’s also quite possibly true that maintaining the status quo (in this case keeping the new AMS) will be MORE expensive long-term than moving to a different system.

I’ve seen this happen more than once in my career. But I’ve also been fortunate enough to have clients who wisely came to me after making a poor choice of systems (without my help!) and realizing they needed to make another change quickly. They could see that keeping the new system would be more expensive in the long-run than cutting their losses now and moving systems again.

Yes, that sounds painful (and expensive!). And it is. But sunk costs are just that; sunk. You won’t recover them with a system that isn’t a good fit.

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A test database is a more-or-less exact copy of your live/production database environment. I often refer to this as a “sandbox” because the test database is a place where you and your staff can go to play, just like a sandbox.

The three primary uses of a test database are for testing, training, and documentation. All three of these are activities your association should already be engaged in. And all three of them should NOT occur in your live/production database. So by definition, you should have a sandbox environment.

Many associations I’ve worked with did not have these environments available to them (before I started working with them!) either because they felt it was an unnecessary expense of because their vendor didn’t offer one.

But this is a must-have. So if you don’t have one, talk to your vendor now, and get one.

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Working with a client last week on their selection of a new AMS, I was again reminded of how important it has become for associations to be able to track in their AMS not only transactions (e.g., membership joins and renewals, event registration, product sales, etc.), but interactions with members and customers (e.g., tracking phone and email conversations).

Something I’ve observed over the past couple of years is that associations are becoming more attuned to the fact that most associations are sales organizations. Whereas “sales” used to be a dirty word in association management, more and more associations realize they need a sales process and a sales mindset in order to be really successful.

And one big piece of that is keeping track of interactions with members and customers. So whether it’s tracking significant conversations (by email and phone), tracking in-person meetings, or tracking website downloads, keeping track of these interactions, in addition to the standard financial transactions, is helping associations to be more effective working with their customers and members.

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I started my career as a membership assistant at a trade association. We had 500 organizational members, and dues renewals were run once per year, late in the year, due on January 1.

But we also had a 90-day grace period, meaning the companies had up to 90 days past the due date to pay their dues. Which meant, of course, that we spent nearly six months out of the year chasing dues payments from current members (first dues notice went out in late October or November, last one went out in March).

It’s time for associations to get rid of the membership grace period. And here’s why:

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Of course, if you’re already on my announcements list, you would have received notice of this new article right in your email box. Not signed up yet? Click here to sign up.

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Dean, I think we’re on the same page. This post is from 09, I actually wrote a book published by ASAE last year building on this in more detail.

The Forrester model you adapted is complimentary to the work I did in Maximum Engagement. Two ways to look at it.

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