Does planning your 2022 events have you a little overwhelmed ... or a lot? The ADG Events team shares the secrets of their success in this handy top 10 list. Give them a call if you need help with your next event!

1. Communicate Effectively and Proactively: Clear communication among members of our teams and with clients, vendors, sponsors and other stakeholders is essential to client relationships and event success.

2. Plan Early: Begin the planning process early to ensure all deliverables are on time.

3. Cultivate Trust: Cultivating an environment of trust among team members to maximize team productivity takes commitment and communication.

4. Follow Up for Future Success: Conduct attendee surveys, post event team meetings and committee recap meetings to drive future event success.

5. Pivot with a Purpose: as we have seen over the past couple of years, pivoting aspects of events may be necessary, we want to be thoughtful about how and what we change in our events to accommodate hybrid events in the future.

6. Put Everything in its Place (Mise en Place): Organize and create timelines and work plans and make them accessible and convenient to all team members.

7. Remember that the Devil is in the Details: The smallest detail is as important to event success as the biggest detail.

8. Adopt a Purpose-Driven Mindset: Decisions that are aligned with the purpose of the event and the organization’s mission can make goal setting easier and tough decisions clearer.

9. Think Outside the Box: Look for new ideas to enhance our clients' event experiences.

10. Prioritize Customer Service: Make customer service and member satisfaction a priority in pre-planning work, on-site, and post-event work, too.


Click here to download ADG's Top 10 Elements of Successful Event Planning.

Fixing these problems can turn your publication into a powerful membership growth and retention tool

By Bill Carney

Over the past 30 years I’ve conducted dozens of workshops designed to help editors publish more effective association newsletters. In conjunction with those workshops, I’ve critiqued hundreds of publications. While there are plenty of bad practices I’ve come across, I find that there are five mistakes I see over and over that tend to ruin the effectiveness of these publications. I’d like to share those five “deadly sins” with you now.

1. Not understanding the purpose of an association newsletter.
You’re not working for the Washington Post, so many of the tenets you learned in journalism class – like being unbiased – need to be set aside. Don’t be confused about the purpose of your newsletter. While it’s important to inform, congratulate and thank your members in your newsletter, never forget that the main purpose of any association newsletter is to sell! You’re selling meeting registrations, exhibit space, sponsorships, certification programs, continuing education products and – by extrapolation – you’re selling membership and membership retention.

The main thrust of your publication and the articles within it must focus on this purpose. If you’re not selling through your newsletter – and selling hard – you’re doing it wrong.

2. Turning to a graphic designer to make your newsletter more effective.
If your newsletter is getting poor reviews from your members, don’t turn it over to a designer for solutions. That’s like taking your car to the car wash when it needs a tune-up. It may come out looking prettier, but it certainly won’t run any better. You need to fix the content.

The most valuable newsletter I read on a regular basis is CEO UPDATE, a source for association management news, trends and advice. This newsletter is produced in black ink only and has almost no graphics. It keeps my attention because it contains compelling information, it’s written well, and it draws me into specific articles with powerful headlines, subheads and photo captions. More on that later in this article.

3. Not writing effective headlines.
When we open a newsletter, we’re all scanners, not readers. We’re scrolling down looking for something of interest. A headline is a critical tool in turning a scanner into a reader – it’s the No. 1 “hook” that gets body copy read. If you’re not driving scanners into the body copy, you’re not doing your job, because almost all of the selling takes place in the body copy.

What I find is that most writers/editors spend two or three hours writing an article and then spend 20 seconds on the headline – if they actually write a headline at all. Many times, all I see are labels – “From the President” or “Annual Conference Update.” Those are not headlines, and they certainly don’t make me want to read the article. A headline should be gripping – it should ask a question, make a bold statement or list a benefit. And a strong headline might also be augmented by a subhead to further draw the scanner in. (See the headline and subhead of the article you are now reading!)

I suggest you spend as much time as it takes to write – and rewrite – your headlines so they will turn scanners into readers.

4. Not understanding the power of a photograph.
Your newsletter scanners will usually read headlines, subheads and pull quotes – but they will also stop and look at photographs. You can make a photograph as powerful as a headline by understanding that the power of a photograph is in the photo caption, not in the photo itself. A solid photo caption can turn a scanner into a reader.

Don’t simply label the photo – “Joe Jones at this year’s annual conference.” Turn the scanner into a reader with a captivating caption – “What are the three most important factors that can help you retire early? Joe Jones gave us a wonderful blueprint for early retirement during his keynote address at this year’s annual conference. Details are included in our conference coverage article.”

5. Not publishing your newsletter frequently enough.
Sorry, but publishing your association newsletter quarterly is simply not acceptable. At a minimum, we need to be out in front of our memberships every month telling them about all the wonderful things we’re doing for them with their membership dollars. Otherwise, the information is stale and we’re not communicating enough to really connect.

Remember the CEO UPDATE newsletter I raved about earlier? It’s published every two weeks – and it’s printed and then delivered to me by U.S. Mail! That in itself is so unusual these days, it might be worth exploring for your newsletter. But at the very least, you need to expend the effort to get out in front of your membership at least once each month.

Of course, there’s more to consider when it comes to an effective newsletter. But if you can take care of these five problems, you’ll go a long way toward producing a much more effective publication. Believe me, it’s worth the effort.

Bill Carney is Vice President of Association Services & Business Development at ADG. For more than 30 years he has been helping associations of every size and scope grow and retain their memberships, become more financially stable, produce more effective publications, fill conference seats, sell out exhibit halls, establish certification programs and set new sponsorship sales records.

Along with cooler temperatures, colorful leaves and pumpkin spice everything, fall brings the countdown to the “giving season.”

It’s unfortunate that giving is perceived as seasonal, but we get it. Between the fall and winter holidays and year-end tax deductions, if there’s going to be a giving season, it’s the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be telling you about some of the worthy organizations ADG supports during the “giving season” and all year round. As a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE), we decided to celebrate our 25th anniversary by focusing this year’s efforts on organizations that serve female or majority-female populations.

Here is an overview of the groups you’ll be hearing more about.

WERC logoThe Capital District Women’s Employment & Resource Center (WERC) is a not-for-profit organization that works to advance women's success in the workplace by building their economic and personal independence. Since 1988, WERC has provided quality workforce development services to more than 9,000 women from New York’s Capital Region who have lost their source of support due to divorce, separation, or their spouse's job loss, disability or death. Single mothers or women who are facing the loss of public assistance benefits also qualify for WERC's training programs.

WERC staff and volunteers assist women with career exploration, preparing and posting resumes, computer literacy, communication, interview skills and other essential aspects of the job search process in one-on-one and group settings. Job placement assistance is provided to all participants during and after their training.

WERC is a participant in the New York State Displaced Homemaker Program (DHP), which has been providing workforce development training, resource assistance and job placement services to women in transition since 1978. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DHP recently began Project PIVOT (Providing Interactive Virtual Office Training), in which women learn how to use Zoom, take part in a virtual interview and take advantage of home-based alternatives to Microsoft Office.

In 2020, The Women’s Fund of the Capital Region became a program of WERC. The Women’s Fund provides resources and support to financially insecure and nontraditional female students in the greater Capital Region by awarding scholarships and emergency funds and partnering with local organizations. This new relationship benefits both organizations. WERC women may now apply for Women’s Fund scholarships, and scholarship recipients can access WERC job-seeking resources.

WERC serves about 300 women annually and proudly boasts that 90 percent of those employed through the organization keep their jobs. They also note that every dollar invested with them puts $14 back into the local economy.

Want to help? WERC offers multiple options for cash donations, with 100 percent of the funds donated directly benefiting the women it serves. You can also donate supplies, volunteer for a committee, or donate gently used business apparel to the GreatFinds Women’s Thrift Boutique, which partners with WERC and other nonprofits to provide women in need with affordable work wardrobes.

VHCCVeterans & Community Housing Coalition (VCHC) assists military veterans and their families in seven upstate New York counties who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless. Services include transitional housing, permanent housing, support services and temporary financial assistance.

“But wait!” you’re probably thinking. “Didn’t you just say you were supporting organizations that serve mostly women? Aren’t most veterans men?”

Yes, but … We support VCHC because it’s one of the few veteran-centered charities offering services specifically for female veterans and their families.

Guardian House, a transitional residence for women, is the only supportive housing program for homeless female veterans in New York state, and one of just seven in the entire United States that is funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Homeless women veterans face the same issues as the male veterans. In addition, a large percentage is living with the pain of military sexual trauma,” VCHC notes on its website. “With staff support (residents) work on their issues and when ready transition to a productive, independent life in our community.”

It gets better! VCHC’s latest initiative is a housing program for female veterans with children that will allow the mothers and kids to stay together while Mom gets the help she needs in transitioning to civilian life.

“There currently is not a single facility to house a Veteran Mom and her children together while she receives the services she has earned and deserves,” they write in a letter to potential supporters. “These moms are often separated from their children, or simply given a housing voucher and sent off to fend for themselves without the support they need if suffering from an addiction, recovering from PTSD, or in many cases, been victims of sexual trauma.”

Want to help? VCHC accepts donations of cash, goods and gift cards; learn more here. If you’re in New York's Capital Region, consider attending the 2021 Veterans Ball, scheduled for November 7 in Saratoga Springs. The evening includes dinner, dancing to live music, a silent auction and an honor ceremony, and an opportunity to learn more about VCHC and its work.

LifePath logoLifePath is the new name of Senior Services of Albany, which has been helping older adults remain independent and living in their communities since 1952. While not specifically a women’s organization, the majority of financially insecure seniors it serves are women, as are the majority of caregivers.

Nutrition plays a large role in LifePath’s mission; it offers community dining at locations around Albany County and a Meals on Wheels program that delivers more than 600 meals daily to homebound seniors. In addition, the PASST (Providing Assistance & Support to Seniors in Transition) assists those returning home from a hospital or rehabilitation center with meals, wellness checks and additional support services where needed. These services have been shown to improve healing time and reduce hospital readmissions.

It’s not all about food, though. Activities ranging from book clubs and bingo to crafts and swing dancing lessons are offered in person at senior centers around the county and, since COVID, via Zoom.

Seniors and their loved ones can also access educational programming and counseling on health insurance options, health and wellness, grieving, and other topics.

For 25 years, LifePath has presented the Third Age Achievement Awards, which celebrate those who have made significant contributions to the community after turning 60. For 30 years, it has produced the Capital Region Senior Expo, the largest gathering of aging service professionals under one roof in the area.

Supporting seniors means supporting those who care for them as well, and LifePath has a variety of programs for caregivers, including one-on-one counseling, seminars (in person and via telephone) and respite care.

Want to help? You can donate online to support LifePath’s overall mission, or make a dedicated donation to the Senior Hunger Relief Fund, which provides meals for seniors in crisis who do not meet the criteria for Meals on Wheels eligibility.

Need catering? Support Meals on Wheels by hiring the team to prepare and deliver food to your home or office. Proceeds go back to the program.

LifePath also has multiple volunteer opportunities available, whatever your skill set or schedule.

Those are the three organizations ADG has made a special commitment to this year, but they are not the only ones on our “giving list.” Here are a few more that we have been proud to support over the years:

In addition to supporting charitable endeavors with our dollars, ADG provides management services to several nonprofit charitable organizations, such as:

There’s strength in numbers, and that includes financial strength. Whether donating directly to a worthy cause, encouraging their members to support it, spreading the word about it or all of the above, professional trade associations are uniquely positioned to give back.

WIFS Pink Out receptionWomen in Insurance & Financial Services, for example, has held several events in 2021 to benefit Twisted Pink, which raises funds for research into metastatic breast cancer. At its 2021 National Conference alone, WIFS hosted a trunk show and jewelry pull in partnership with Kendra Scott, and a silent auction of goods donated by members, sponsors and exhibitors, with proceeds donated to Twisted Pink.

Members and friends of WIFS could also use a checkout code when making purchases online from Kendra Scott during the four days of Conference, even if they didn't attend, with a portion of their purchases donated to Twisted Pink.

Nearly $5,000 was raised for this great cause, and that's just from the jewelry pull and silent auction. We could see more once Kendra's contributions from the trunk show and online sales are factored in.

This post is not a boast. We wanted to tell you about the great work these organizations are doing and encourage you to support them if you can. If your association is interested in becoming more involved with charitable work but you aren’t sure how to start, don’t hesitate to ask us for some pointers.

Nonprofits that are fortunate enough to have extra money in the bank are often reluctant to part with it, especially if they’ve been through hard times recently – a recession, or the current pandemic – and income streams have dried up.

That’s normal. Nonprofits are run by humans, after all, and as humans we have been conditioned to save for a rainy day. Indeed, it’s good nonprofit stewardship to have enough in reserve to cover at least a year with little or no income.

If your organization is not investing the rest, however, those rainy days may come sooner rather than later. We’re not talking about investing in stocks, bonds or mutual funds; we’re talking about investing in overhead.

The O word is a loaded one, we know. Charities in particular can face public backlash if they are perceived as spending too much on overhead at the expense of their mission. Donors, especially individuals, want their gifts used to feed the children or fight the disease, not pay for an executive director’s salary, travel expenses or office rent. Many foundations have rules about what percentage of their grant money can be spent on overhead versus programs – and that percentage is often unrealistically low.

“You have to spend money to make money” is not just a saying. An organization needs to invest in infrastructure – staff salaries and training, facilities, equipment, fundraising – to achieve the best results from its programs, properly measure those results, and effectively communicate them to donors and prospective donors.

There’s a name for this: the Overhead Myth. In 2013 and 2014, the CEOs of America’s three leading sources of information about charities -- GuideStar, Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance -- published a pair of open letters, one addressed to donors and one to nonprofits, explaining why the overhead-to-mission funding ratio is not a reliable measure of an organization’s effectiveness.

“In fact, many charities should spend more on overhead,” they wrote in the donor letter. “These expenses allow a charity to sustain itself (the way a family has to pay the electric bill) or to improve itself (the way a family might invest in college tuition).

“When we focus solely or predominantly on overhead, we can create what the Stanford Social Innovation Review has called ‘The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle.’ We starve charities of the freedom they need to best serve the people and communities they are trying to serve.”

In the letter to nonprofits, the authors suggest three things organizations can do to dispel the Overhead Myth:

• Demonstrate ethical practice and share ethical data about performance.
• Manage toward results and understand their true costs.
• Help educate funders on the real cost of results.

“Too often nonprofits contribute to the Overhead Myth by highlighting financial ratios as their core accomplishment – especially in their fundraising materials,” they write. “Tragically, this can be at the expense of meaningful performance metrics and reinforces funders’ confusion. Funders need to understand the truth if they are to change their behavior.”

This applies equally to professional trade associations and other nonprofits that rely on member dues and sponsorships for their income. For these organizations, investing in overhead may take the form of hiring a lobbyist to beef up their advocacy work, a highly sought-after speaker to attract more conference attendees, or a consultant to assist with overhauling their education or certification programs. All these things add value to the member experience; without them, members and sponsors will desert the organization, taking their dollars with them.

Of course, these spending decisions are ultimately up to an organization’s board. We encourage association executives reading this to share the resources linked above with their treasurers, other officers and board members. If you need help convincing them of the importance of investing in the organization’s long-term health, give ADG a call.