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Breathe LIFE Into Your Association SWAGGER With C.P.R.

Have you ever reached a point in your association where you feel like your organization is on the verge, or is currently drowning in the wrong strategic direction, marketing strategies, member apathy, tradition, or board politics? Do you feel like you are SO under water that you will never see the light of day again? Many associations I speak to around the country are currently suffering from some, or all of the above mentioned issues.

Let's examine the numerous potential root causes that can lead associations to this point, including:

  • Poor Board decisions

  • Being close-minded to the change in demographics within the association

  • Not seeking to raise the value proposition to something meaningful

  • Continuing to do things they way they have always done them

  • Refusing to change with the market of associations

  • Ignoring technology advances

But take note...things are never as bad as they seem, and you can crawl, fight, and swim your way back to the surface. All you need is effective C.P.R. to "BREATHE LIFE" back into your association! In my experience, associations that are drowning in the above issues, really need to engage C.P.R. to bring their association back to life. Now you are probably asking yourself, "Tom, what the heck is C.P.R. in the world of associations?" Let me tell you. C.P.R. stands for:

  • Charisma

  • Passion

  • Relevance

In 2005, like many today, our association was suffering from a low value proposition, old thinking, and uncertainty about the future. In 2006 we decided to focus on our association's C.P.R. impact. I'm here to tell you that the growth in the last 12 years has been off the charts:

- Over 2,400% growth in combined net reserves for Association & Foundation

- Average 95% annual retention rate

- 83% of members engaged in one or more programs

- 33% increase in annual dues income

-132% increase in non-dues revenue

Do I have your attention now? Let's look at each of the elements of C.P.R.:


Members today don't just want programs...they want their membership to be a meaningful experience; a lifestyle where they see strength in numbers and feel a swagger or vibe by being a member of the association. Think about it...have you ever walked down a convention hall at 10:30 pm when there are three or so conferences going on at the same time? You always pass on the ones where there is nothing going on inside to speak of. ...but the one where you hear amazing music, maybe some dancing, people engaging one another in discussion...then you stop and peek in because you want to know what's going on, and most likely would love to enter and find out what's so exciting with this group. That group has CHARISMA! They saw their final night dinner as much more than just a closing was a chance to make memories, network with others, and emotionally connect with people.

I recall at our latest conference, being out with one of our biggest supporters. He stood up at a dinner of about 20 of us, and gave a toast. With conviction, he said the tag line I say at the end of every one of my association videos: "HERE'S TO NOT JUST BEING STRONG, BUT TO BEING MTI STRONG!" I have to tell you, as the CEO of this group, my heart started racing, and I wanted to get emotional because I saw for a moment that we were tapping into our member's emotions. It was awesome!

So my question to you is, does your association have CHARISMA? Does your outreach to members draw emotion? Do members feel a vibe about who they belong to, so as to say..."don't mess with our company, we belong to our association!"

If your association does not have CHARISMA and a swagger, I suggest you look to appoint someone to the position of "Charisma Energy Officer." This person's purpose is to figure out how to utilize all available meeting, communication, and volunteer resources, to create the same CHARISMA you see in NASCAR and WWE Wrestling. Those groups are the best at tapping into their fans passion and emotion...and it pays!


PASSION is something that can be leveraged out of CHARISMA. Many members will already have a passion for your association for the following three reasons:

  1. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves

  2. They want to be a part of something that is exciting

  3. They want to be a part of an organization that will empower them to get involved

Members who don't have that natural passion can be won over in time. As these members see the level of emotion growing in the association, they see great things taking place, they see transformation in the industry, and they connect the dots of that transformation to better performance within their company or profession. They can develop a PASSION for your association.

To create passion, it is a MUST that you implement an active strategy that includes print, digital, and high-emphasis on video for your association. Members can't get excited and develop passion for what they can't see or hear. I hardly EVER see people getting emotional over something they are reading in a newspaper, but people watching talk shows or news stories get excited, irate, angry, happy, and down right emotional. It's because video brings people into the experience.

Remember, an association without video, is like a good steak with no taste. Do what it takes to create passion in your association. Your members who don't attend your meetings need to have the same emotional connection to your association, as the members who attend meetings.


RELEVANCE gets back to one phrase I have stood on as the key to membership recruitment, engagement, and loyalty:

"Doing things for your members that they can't do for themselves effectively"

If you put all of your focus on this one area, you will maximize your value proposition and member engagement. Too many associations are still hanging onto benefits and programs that fall into two categories:

  1. Those members can get for free

  2. Those that you are going to do whether I'm a member or not

Doing things for your members that they can't do on their own is the "golden handcuffs" to keeping members forever. When a member considers non-renewing, the thought that needs to come to mind is, "We HAVE to renew or we are going to lose _________ (list of key association benefits)."

In developing high-value programs, it is important that you LISTEN for your member's highest pain points; where friction, anxiety, and stress exists in their daily operation or work life. When you hear common pain points, then these are high-value program opportunities.

My question is, "Does your association have 'perceived value' or 'actual value?'" Actual Value is that set of benefits that give you a lock on members, and that members need in order to gain a competitive advantage in their company or profession. If not, you need to start working on them now. Members are spending big dollars outside of associations on consultants to help them change their business models and become more efficient. That money should be going to the association, because the association is able to leverage those dollars more effectively as a group.

Quit thinking small, and begin thinking large! Don't be afraid to think BIG! Ask yourself, "If we could do two things that would TRANSFORM our member companies, what would they be?" Then go DO IT! Five years from now, you will be looking back saying, "I never thought we would be able to do was once just a dream, but now it's a reality, and our members love us for it."

Don't drown in the water of bad strategic planning, apathetic members, and bad programs. Give your association the C.P.R. it needs TODAY! Hit them with some CHARISMA, PASSION, and RELEVANCE! It will change their life and your association!

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