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Associations: Preventing credit card fraud: Lesson #1 “Carding” attacks and prevention?

Authors: Joseph Stangl CPA, CFO, Air Force Association; Julie Duncan, Association Practice Leader, U.S. Transactions Corp.;

What if you were suspended from accepting Visa/MasterCard, AMEX, and Discover?

As an Association you probably rely heavily upon your members/customers paying by Visa/MasterCard, AMEX, and Discover for membership dues, continuing education, certifications, event registration, and a myriad of other activities.  So imagine what would happen to your business if you couldn’t accept credit card payments for any period of time.  Even the prospect of not being able to accept credit cards for even 30 minutes due to your services being down during the peak time of registration for an Annual Event would be a major problem.

In this 1st article in a series on credit card fraud for Associations, we discuss the implications of a common fraud occurrence called “Carding.”  If your Association is hit with a Carding attack from a fraudster, it could lead to an immediate suspension of your credit card processing services (also called merchant services) for an indefinite period of time which could result in significant loss of revenue or reputation to your Association.

What is Carding?

Carding is a form of credit card fraud where thieves use stolen credit cards to run up fraudulent purchases and/or to sell them to other people. This information is often bought on the dark web. People perpetrating this type of fraud are called “Carders”. Because credit cards are often canceled quickly after being lost, a major part of Carding involves testing the stolen card information to see if it still works. Bots are often used to run a large volume of card numbers in the shortest amount of time to verify if the card is still active.

If you see a large volume of small transactions being tested on your merchant account, it is possible your account is being used to test stolen cards. You must react quickly and deliberately.

What should I do if I suspect Carding on my account?

Credit card fraud can be a significant problem for merchants with widespread consequences. If you are a victim of fraud or suspect fraudulent transactions, take the following actions:

  1. Contact your merchant bank and notify them that fraudulent activity has taken place.
  2. Issue a VOID or CREDIT to the card or cards to avoid chargeback fees from your merchant bank.
  3. Verify security of your login and password information both internally and on your website.
  4. Contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or hosting company to see if they have a record of the IP addresses where the fraudulent transactions came from. Next, have your account restrict access from those IP addresses.
  5. Complete a full virus and malware scan of all systems involved including your website and computer stations.

How do I detect and prevent future Carding activity?

As with other fraudulent activity, there is no one thing to detect and prevent all Carding. We suggest implementing a layered approach, including the following features and activities:

  • Use a CAPTCHA: CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) creates challenges to ensure that payment attempts are not sent by automated scripts or bots.
  • AVS responses:  The Address Verification System (AVS) checks the billing address that buyers provide at checkout against the address that the credit card company has on file for them. The credit card company sends a response immediately to let you know if the billing address matches. The common responses are:
    • Full address match
    • Address match only
    • Only the zip code provided matches
    • No information matches. The credit card company will not stop a transaction if the AVS response is No unless the card has been reported lost or stolen.Unfortunately, this can also create an issue of declines for your valid merchants, so it will require you to use discretion regarding the level of strictness you apply to this setting.
  • CSC/CVV responses:  The Card Security Code (CSC) or Card Verification Value (CVV) system checks the 3 or 4 digit number of the credit card and verifies it during the authorization processes. The common responses are:
    • Y-matched
    • N-does not match
      You should only accept transactions where the CSC/CVV matches.

Typically when credit card information is purchased illicitly it does not include CSC/CVV information.  Under PCI Compliance, the storage of the CSC or CVV number is not allowed, so when systems are hacked a credit card information is exposed, the CSC/CVV numbers are not available.

  • Velocity checks on your shopping cart:   Velocity is the number or speed of payments made within a certain period of time, for example, 10 payments sent from the same customer within seconds or minutes of each other. Monitoring this activity is important. Even with donation sites, it may be unusual for a user to make low dollar payments in rapid succession. Payment velocity can be monitored by dollar amount, user IP, billing address, BIN (Bank Identification Number which is part of the 16-digit card number), or device. Discuss this option with merchant service provider.
  • Shopping cart session velocity:  This refers to the number of times that one buyer can attempt to complete an order in one shopping cart session. By putting a limit on the attempts in one checkout session, you have visibility into the number of shopping cart declines which may assist in identifying a possible Carding situation.
  • Authorization/capture:  If you are using authorization/capture, review the transactions during the authorization period. If you believe that you are being targeted by Carding activity, do not capture the funds. If you have already captured the funds, you have the option to issue a refund rather than wait for a chargeback.  In this instance, issuing the refund is better than waiting for a chargeback since the chargeback fees can be $15.00 per transaction or higher.  Having a high number of chargebacks will also cause your Association to be “flagged” by Visa/MasterCard/AMEX and the banking system as being a target for fraud which makes you a higher credit risk.
  • Credit card BIN checks:  The Bank Identification Number (BIN) is the first six digits of every credit and debit card. Not only does it provide information regarding the type of card that is being used (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover), but it can also be used to find the name and location of the bank that issued that particular card. This information can be very important in detecting Carding. Typically, you should see a wide dispersal of cards with the same BIN. For instance, you may receive two payments from cards with the same BIN in a month; with Carding, especially if credit card information has been purchased online, you may receive ten payments from cards that have the same BIN, within a day or two. Tracking BINs may help identify this activity.

Talk with your merchant service provider, your AMS/LMS/Events Registration service provider, and/or your web developer.  See what solutions they recommend. A coordinated, proactive approach will ensure your Association will be in a better position to weather potential threats.

If you would like more information about how US Transactions Corporation helps Associations, please contact us directly at WadeTetsuka@ustranscorp.com or Julie@ustranscorp.com.

 

References

n.d. Credit Card Fraud Analysis. Accessed 12 9, 2019. https://cardconnect.com/launchpointe/payment-security/credit-card-fraud-analysis.

Reviewed by James Chen. 2019. Fraudulent Activity: Carding. April 9. Accessed 12 9, 2019. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/carding.asp.

n.d. What do I Need to Know About Carding Attacks, Prevention, and the Payflow carding prevention module?https://www.paypal.com/mq/smarthelp/article/what-do-i-need-to-know-about-carding-attacks,-prevention,-and-the-payflow-carding-prevention-module-ts2243#what-is-carding.

 

 

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Association Executives from over 70 Associations attend Presidential Forum Virtual Symposium Day 2 to discuss Member Engagement & Acquisition as well as Non Dues Revenue Strategies

Association Executives from over 70 Associations attend Presidential Forum Virtual Symposium Day 2 to discuss Member Engagement & Acquisition as well as Non Dues Revenue Strategies

On June 30, 2020, over 70 Association Executives convened for Day 2 of the Association Executive Virtual roundtable Symposium.  Session #1 and #2 were held previously in the month.  Session #3 was about how the various associations in attendance are using data and technology to drive member engagement and acquisition.   The peer-to-peer discussion was co-moderated by Reggie Henry, CTO, American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), and Villy Savino, VP Technology Transformation at CoreNET Global.   Session #4  was about Non-Dues Revenue. What has your Association Done [orTried to Do] to Create an Alternative Revenue Stream.  This peer-to-peer discussion was moderated by Prabhash Shrestha, PMP, CAE; Group EVP and Chief Digital Strategy Officer, Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA)

For Session #3, in summary some of the biggest takeaways were as follows:

–         Reggie Henry kicked off the conversation by doing a Zoom Poll of the audience which revealed:  most associations in attendance viewed their adoption of technology for member engagement as 2-4 on a scale of 5.  The second questions asked about the use of AI (artificial intelligence) in which a vast majority of associations said they were not using any AI driven algorithms in their software technology.   The final question related to the impact of covid-19 on engagement where the audience was evenly split into three categories whereby covid-19 was either making member engagement easier, more difficult, or no-change.

–         Sense of belonging and hyper-personalization were key attributes of how to elevate member engagement and acquisition.

–         Associations are seeing the use of unstructured data as being increasingly important to drive decisions.

–         Regarding unstructured data one association shared that they did polling of early career professionals (millennials) during their conference.  This led to findings that many were PhD candidates so needed access to research and technical material, and many were also looking for career advancement or to find a new job.  This information led the association to design a career center based on these needs.  It also helped inform them of the value of the technical and research materials of their association.

–         Associations talked about how they measure and drive engagement.  Some key elements of engagement included educational course attendance, volunteerism, voting, committee membership, participation in any aspect of the association.

–         One association mentioned using netForum’s A-score system as a metric for member engagement.  They look at 10 different criteria for the member engagement score.  The limitation is that it is only based on member data in netForum, but phase 2 is to incorporate data from their LMS and their community collaboration platform.

–         Another association shared their loyalty model.

–         Putting more attention to newcomers and getting people more involved with committees.

–         Engagement is about what the member thinks about the value of their membership.  One association asks members “what are the top 5 things you are trying to get done” and see how the Association can help.

–         A couple of associations mentioned Prop-Fuel as a member engagement software in use.

–         Issue for small associations is the lack of resources available. How to incorporate new innovations with limited resources.

–         1st three years is the critical phase for determining if a member will stay long-term or not.

–         One association mentioned their focus on getting back to basics – helping members with networking and connections, quality education.

For Session #3 our sponsor was Rasa.io  Ron Berns shared Rasa’s eNewsletter product used widely by associations which utilizes AI (artificial intelligence) to tailor each eNewsletter’s content to the interest of each reader based on what he/she had clicked on previously from a content-perspective. Ron showed how this is valuable for member engagement/personalization as well as a tool for acquisition (measuring what content your audience is interested and how it might shift over time depending upon current affairs).  Ease of implementation is also an important feature of Rasa. For more information see www.rasa.io.  Contact Ron Berns, Senior Sales Executive, ron.berns@rasa.io,  Phone (301) 706-6060

For Session #4, in summary some of the biggest takeaways were as follows:

–         To start the dialogue, Prabhash Shrestha provided the audience an extensive catalog of various non dues revenue that associations are currently engaged in:  digital ads, sponsored social posts, micorsites, mobile apps, affiliate marketing partnership programs, association directories, content (subscription, syndication, pay per access, publishing, data reporting), API technology solutions, market intelligence, industry statistics, journals & publications, co-created online events, magazine and eBooks, online learning, credentialing , job board, support services (e.g., call center, education provider, technology support, etc.), admin services to chapters & affiliates.

–         one association talked about a business innovation and readiness model that they are developing for use by their members.

–         Another association developed an accelerator/incubator program to fund early stage companies that are targeting to serve the members of the association.  Those early stage companies that are successful will become affiliate partners of the association and the association will be able to garner future ongoing royalty income.

–         Digitalized publication for members and non members

–         Working on a data exchange platform

–         Extensive Webinar series and focused on becoming more of a learning organization

–         Expanded offering for member professional development.

–         One association created a new product development process to define how new ideas will be hatched and brought to market as products.

–         Connecting members, sponsors and exhibitors as a fee for service.

–         Industry partnerships.

For Session #4 the sponsor and subject-matter expert was Celerity.  Albert Thibault, Director of Business Development, shared an overview of how Celerity helps Associations build out their digital presence to enhance revenue generating opportunities.  Examples he shared included Somos and Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) where Celerity was able to provide the digital platform for successfully launching new revenue streams.  More info: www.celerity.com  Albert Thibault can be reached at AThibault@celerity.com phone (202) 907-5597.

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Association Executives from over 70 Associations attend Presidential Forum Virtual Symposium Day 1 to discuss Association Event and Conference management in the presence of covid-19

On June 17, 2020, over 70 Association Executives convened for a Virtual roundtable Symposium to discuss Event and Conference management issues.  Session #1 was about the technology adoption and attendee experience related to transitioning from in-person to virtual conferences.  The peer-to-peer discussion was led by Jason Paganessi, VP of Technology from American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).  Session #2 was about navigating the cancellation or rescheduling of in-person conferences/events, specifically the unprecedented legal, insurance and financial aspects.  This peer-to-peer discussion was co-moderated by Nori Jones, CFO of SHAPE America, and Mark Espinosa, CFO of American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).    

For Session #1, in summary some of the biggest takeaways and surprises were as follows:

–         In transitioning the in-person to virtual annual conference, one Association chose not to use the word “cancelled” in any of its communication to avoid potentially negative stigma.

–         Several Associations mentioned [much] higher attendance with the virtual conference compared to the historical in-person annual conference – in one case a 6-fold increase in the number of attendees.

–         Engaging trainers to help speakers with their online presence.

–         Happy hours were an effective draw for sponsors.

–         Didn’t need a software platform, just used Zoom or Gotomeeting.

–         The virtual event is viewed as a good selling point for getting previous non-attending members/non-members to later attend in-person events.

–         Lack of attendee interaction was a shortcoming that one Association wanted to overcome the next time.

–         Conducting the virtual conference across a long window (e.g., 2 weeks) was considered too lengthy.

–         ASAE will be hosting a Virtual Platform Demo Day on June 29-30.  Good opportunity to see these vendors in one place.

–         1st time virtual conference using Zoom – had only 1 negaive feedback out of 250 attendees!

–         Some other technologies used by the Associations included Social27 built on Microsoft Teams

–         Using pre-recorded presentations and then having attendees use the live chat to comment and ask questions.

–         Use of virtual Breakout rooms

–         Posting on-demand videos from sponsors

–         Incorporated online shopping experience in combination with conference.

–         Official wellness sponsor with online trainer to lead brief exercise breaks.

–         One issue is replicating the networking experience of an in-person event online.

For Session #1 our sponsor was Aura Innovative Technology who briefly shared their mobile registration app used for virtual and in-person events. Aura is a specialist Aptify implementations and cloud hosting company.  Aura also developed an association management software solution based on Oracle’s popular NetSuite software.  www.aurachicago.com  For more information contact James Chen, CEO, jchen@aurachicago.com,  Phone (312) 479-6211

For Session #2, in summary some of the biggest takeaways and surprises were as follows:

–         Getting out of cancellation fees took a lot of negotiation, but was successful.

–         Using the local ordinances, state executive orders, and CDC guidelines to support legal arguments for getting out of your conference related contracts.

–         Staying in touch with local officials, visitors centers, and conference center management to know what direction they will be taking on local ordinances and being in the know as soon as they are announced.

–         Working closely with attorneys to tailor the cancellation letters.

–         Some Associations had communicable disease coverage, but this appears no longer available in the future or is prohibitively expensive.

–         Some Associations processed all attendee refunds to make the claim on insurance.

–         Some Associations mentioned willingness of attendees and sponsors and exhibitors to transfer fees to next year’s show.  Always give this option instead of refunding everyone was the advice by some Associations.

–         In some cases paid speakers were not flexible on the fees, while many other accommodated with lower fees or offering to do multiple virtual event presentations for the same cost of the one-time in-person keynote.

–         Rebooking hotels to future date has helped Associations from losing deposits.

–         What if there is an outbreak at the hotel that you are doing a future in-person event.  How to handle potential liability exposure was seen as an issue.

For Session #2 our sponsors and also subject-matter experts were attorney Richard Bar from  GKG Law as well as insurance practitioners Patti Loftis and Derek Symer from AHT Insurance,  and Greg Plotts, CPA from Aronson LLC.   Our subject matter experts, well versed in legal and insurance matters related to conferences and cancellations, provided the association executives additional guidance during the peer-to-peer discussion.

  • Richard Bar is the practice nonprofit specialist and was named to Washington Post Magazine’s Washington DC 2020 Super Lawyers List. https://bit.ly/2CO1E4Z.    Rich can be reached at RBar@GKGLaw.com, Phone (202) 342-6787.
  • AHT Insurance is a leading insurance practice for associations and nonprofits.  Read their latest professional guidance on your transition to virtual events and conferences: https://bit.ly/3i56GKu.  You can reach Patti and Derek at PLoftis@AHTins.com,  phone (703) 737-2234 and DSymer@AHTins.com,  phone (202) 845-8260.
  • Greg Plotts is a partner in the nonprofit/association practice group of Aronson LLC, a leading CPA firm in the Metro DC region helping many associations on their event cancellations and navigating through the economics of covid-19.  More information: www.aronsonllc.com.  You can reach Greg at GPlotts@aronsonllc.com, phone: (301) 231-6226

Symposium Day 1 concluded with Happy Hour.  The association executives got a chance to be the first to see the results of a nationwide survey of Associations on the topic of Event Cancellations caused by covid-19.  This groundbreaking survey was conducted by ORI, Inc. over a 2-month period and provided the audience with extensive insight into how covid-19 has impacted the operations of associations.  The results were presented by Kathy Benson, CEO, and Jay Yeo, Consultant.  You can get more background information, and/or obtain a copy of this report electronically at: https://bit.ly/2ZeZFOG.  For more information contact Kathy Benson at KathyB@oriresults.com, Phone (571) 257-3205

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Results of Nationwide Association Survey on Event Cancellations caused by COVID-19.

Results of Nationwide Association Survey on Event Cancellations caused by COVID-19.

Association Executive attendees of the Presidential Forum Symposium on June 17, 2020 were the first to receive the final results of a groundbreaking nationwide Association survey conducted by ORI, Inc. entitled COVID-19 Association Event Cancellation Survey.

The report examines how associations are navigating the repercussions of cancelling or rescheduling conferences amid the pandemic. As a bonus, the ORI report also included the results of a recent survey taking the pulse of how the crisis is affecting associations more broadly—at the organization and individual levels—to provide additional valuable insights. Follow the link below to access the final report.

AI-driven insights. ORI analyzed the stories that association leaders shared using leading-edge AI-powered text analytics technology to detect the recurring themes, sentiment, and emotion expressed in their comments. This crisis is affecting us all in different ways, so we felt it was critical to examine your association peers’ personal experiences—in their own words.

High-value insights. Check out the full report to explore the top findings and themes, including:
• 42% of respondents cancelled 1 – 3 events, while 22% cancelled 10+ events
• 49% of respondents commented on their experiences moving from in-person to virtual/hybrid events
• The importance of building strong relationships and working together to find alternative solutions emerged as a top theme—particularly in relation to working with venues, conference centers, and hotels
• Many respondents encountered difficulties around insurance not covering pandemics, negotiating cancellation conditions, and needing to invoke the Force Majeure Clause
• Reimagining what future events will look like, revenue loss, and a reduction in retention dominated the anticipated long-term effects of event cancellation
As the repercussions of COVID-19 continue to be felt across organizations around the globe, the ORI, U.S. Transactions Corp., and Aronson teams hope that this report will help you gain a better understanding of how the crisis is affecting your peers—and inspire you with innovative ideas for pivoting and adapting during these trying times.

For more information contact:
Kathleen M. Benson
CEO & Co-Founder
ORI
571.257.3205
KathyB@ORIresults.com
www.ORIresults.com

Wade Tetsuka
President
U.S. Transactions Corp.
866.442.3327
wadetetsuka@ustranscorp.com
www.ustranscorp.com

Greg Plotts, Partner
Rob Eby, Partner
Aronson LLC
301.231.6226 or 301.231.6291
GPlotts@aronsonllc.com
Reby@aronsonllc.com

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HOW DOES YOUR ASSOCIATION DRIVE MEMBER ENGAGEMENT AND ACQUISITION using data and technology? Membership/Marketing Directors from 39 Associations attend Presidential Forum Virtual Roundtable to discuss their best practices and issues

Co-Moderators Melody Jordan-Carr, VP Membership, American Trucking Association (ATA) and Darryl Walter, Director of Membership, Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) led an amazing discussion among 39 Association Membership and Marketing Directors on June 9, 2020 for the Presidential Forum Roundtable via Zoom Web-conference.

A quick Zoom Poll of the attendees at the outset revealed that almost all of the Directors viewed their Association to have some level of technology adoption in place to help them with member engagement and acquisition.  Only 5 attendees said that they are using some form of AI (artificial intelligence) software to assist in this process.  With the onset of covid-19, about half of the attendees considered their level of effort needed to maintain member engagement was about “the same” as compared to pre covid-19;  the other half respondents were split evenly between finding it “easier” or “harder” to engage members in the post covid-19 environment.

One of the Directors mentioned that their top priority is constantly updating and maintaining the accuracy of their member and non-member database.  Several associations spoke about the difficulty of managing member data that was housed in different silos of the organization, and challenges to consolidate that data into a single warehouse.

Communication within the department as well as across the association was viewed as critical for success.  One director mentioned the issue of not having an internal communication plan.  Another director shared a strategy which is working effectively at his association whereby an ongoing marketing calendar updated each week is available to all departments so that they are aware of the timing of outbound communications.  This solved a previous issue of having various departments sending out emails or promotions to members in a non-coordinated manner leading to frequent “bombardment” of emails to members.

Another director shared how she is using data to help inform how to engage members.  For example, utilizing a community-software, the director regularly reviews posts by members to determine topics of current importance.  Her association then curates content around those topics and utilizes that material for outreach to members and non-members.  In addition, by tracking the last time that a member logged-in, this director is able to determine what new information to send out to the member based on what they may have missed since the last time they logged in.  They also utilize an app for push notifications to their constituents.  Regarding the adoption of new technology, this director also found it valuable to have a Board member on the association that is tech saavy, and then to engage that Board member to assist in championing the adoption of new technologies or tech-based initiatives.

What has been the effect of covid-19 with regard to member engagement?  One director mentioned that they opened up the association’s online resources to members and non-members alike at no cost.  This led to a large increase in new memberships and renewals.  They also created a non-member newsletter which also helped in driving member acquisition.

Our sponsor was Rasa.io, a company specialized in online newsletter creation for member based organizations utilizing AI to curate the content.  The result is that each e-Newsletter is automatically customized to each recipient based upon the content that he/she has read in the past.  Why You Should Stop Doing Newsletters Manually  Ron Berns, Senior Sales Executive, from Rasa.io gave a 7-minute overview of eNewsletter product and how Associations like ASAE American Marketing Association and others utilize it. For more information contact Ron Berns at ron.berns@rasa.io

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ASSOCIATION ADVOCACY during covid-19: how does your Association manage to push its organizational priorities in Washington; what new technologies has your Association been utilizing to advance your advocacy mission?

Advocacy Directors from 20 leading Association met on May 28, 2020 via Zoom Web-conference for a peer-to-peer discussion lead by Robert Schwartz, Ambassador Program Manager, Land Trust Alliance.

Noteworthy was that many of the Associations have been able to innovate in very meaningful ways during the pandemic, in spite of budgetary constraints.  The CEO of one Association held a video-meeting with a leading congressman. Another Association started holding a series of interviews with Association members and the CEO.  Town Hall meetings involving local chapter members and the local member(s) of Congress were reported as being successful.  Likewise, an Association invited local members of Congress to attend Board meetings by video conferencing.  Community webinars are more frequent and well attended at another Association which resulted in helping to define a more compelling advocacy agenda.   It was important to develop a bullpen of member-advocates that you can call upon to join a conference call with a member of Congress which may be staged at the spur of the moment.  Pivoting from the idea of an annual Capitol-Hill Day to multiple advocacy days spread out during the year is starting to evolve.   Working in partnership with other Associations with an overlapping mission was also another innovation which helped both for outreach and for cost sharing.

Although Congress may be closed to face-to-face office meetings at this time, the members of Congress and their staffers have been very accessible.  Another Association noted that the federal Agencies have also been accessible during this time.

Regarding technology and tools, Associations reported success with conference calls to the congressional offices.  Go to Meeting, Zoom and other video conferencing tools have helped Associations get local-advocates in front of their respective member of Congress.  Microsoft Teams is widely used for internal meetings by several Associations on the call.  Canva is a free app that one Association uses to create graphics and to stage emotion-garnering photos as part of the Advocacy outreach.  Utilizing the video-conferencing software as well as special features like Zoom “room” function to rehearse the calls beforehand has also helped a couple of Associations be more impactful.  Adobe connect was used by one Association to allow all advocates to access in real time the latest advocacy materials online.  Some “closed-captioning” capabilities exist with video-conferencing software, although none are reported to be working perfectly enough to replace having a live sign language interpreter on hand when needed.

A couple of healthcare related Associations indicated that covid-19 served as a driver for a policy change in Congress on reimbursement for telemedicine, allowing the industry to achieve in 10-weeks what has been an active agenda item for over 10-years.

How has your messaging changed (or not changed) due to covid-19?  In the Zoom poll we conducted of the Associations, 75% said they made a conscious effort to change their messaging to dovetail with covid-19 issues.  Thanking members of Congress for the work they are doing during the crisis is an important part of the advocacy outreach.  The innovations noted above were all a reflection of Associations changing their messaging and the method of delivery of their messages.

Has your Association done a Virtual Fly-In?  Only 3 Associations of the 20 in attendance reported having done a Virtual Fly-In.

In addition to the Advocacy Directors in attendance, the sole sponsor Soapbox Consulting provided the group with important subject matter about advocacysoftware that enables organizations to conduct Virtual Fly-In events and manage ongoing appointments with members of Congress and their staff.  Christopher Kush, the CEO of Soapbox offered 3 important lessons learned from many client engagements.  #1 – conference call phone in being more effective than webinars and video-calls; #2 – make it simple for advocates and the legislative member to communicate – e.g., Gotomeeting at the most simple level of use; #3 take pictures for social media, both for your Association as well as the Congressional office.   POC:  Christopher Kush kush@soapboxconsulting.com

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How has COVID-19 Changed Your Associations Business Model? What are you doing as a CFO/COO to be a change agent in your Association?

Marc Charon, Chief Financial Operating Officer, National Quality Forum (NQF) moderated the peer-to-peer discussion among 40 Association CFO/COOs on May 20, 2020 for the Presidential Forum Roundtable via Zoom Web-conference.

For many Associations in attendance, COVID-19 has increased the profile of the Association vis-à-vis its members, the professional community, and the public at large.  The Association is being viewed as a trusted partner and an important resource for information about safety, industry operating guidance, and education in general.  One CFO mentioned their Association was offering emergency grants to Members, as well as 3-month extension on dues at no cost.  Another CFO mentioned that pivoting to virtual events and education has been very successful with larger attendance and therefore greater visibility for the Association.  While this has been less revenue for the Association, it also accounts for significantly lower costs without on-site conference costs (venue, food, hotels, etc.).  Diversification of revenue is an area that needs focus, but no quick fixes on that front were reported.

On the expense side, COVID-19 has altered the landscape significantly for many Associations.  One CFO mentioned that he is looking at every contract and re-evaluating the cost structure and/or necessity of the vendor.  Bonus and pay cuts were reported by several Associations.  Several Associations reported moving to outsourcing entire departments in order to have more flexibility with cost structure, as compared to having employees handle non mission related work.  If staff leave voluntarily, they no longer re-hire, but re-assign duties or outsource.  One CFO said travel expenses will never go back to the level it was before.   A couple of CFOs also mentioned that COVID-19 gave them an opportunity to re-evaluate marginal programs.  One Association stopped print publications that previously were sent out to Members as part of their dues, relying instead on online publication and the related reduction in cost.

On the balance sheet side, several Associations reported using reserves to ensure that staff could be retained during COVID-19.  With low interest rates, utilizing lines of credit were also recommended by a couple of CFOs as a way to have cash on reserve, and for additional peace of mind during times of uncertainty when Cash is King.   One CFO reported utilizing the Cares Act to take advantage of employee retention credit which will result in savings of over $200k by deferring payroll taxes.

Regarding the point about being a change agent, one CFO makes a concerted effort to reach out each week to all department heads in order to break down silos. Weekly staff town hall Web-conference meetings and “bring your pet” opens the human side to the current distancing situation. COVID-19 also has brought about new approach to member engagement.  The planning piece is very critical with the future still uncertain – if 10% drop in revenue we do “x”, if 20% drop in revenue we do “y”, etc.  A couple of CFOs mentioned that it was difficult to get the Board to either agree to utilize reserves, or to consider the discontinuation of marginal programs.

One Association reports they are starting virtual roundtable meetings with members so that they can each learn from each other during these unprecedented times.  Another CFO mentioned that their approach to member engagement in the future will be more streamlined and delivered differently — virtual platforms is now a year-round 365-day initiative.

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How Does Your Association Attract and Retain Top IT/Software Talent?

That was the topic of discussion when CIOs and CTOs from 35 leading Associations met on May 6, 2020 for the Presidential Forum Roundtable via Zoom Web-conference.  The peer-to-peer discussion was moderated by Prabhash Shrestha, EVP & Chief Digital Strategy Officer, Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA).

It’s tough to compete against the glamour companies for talent – Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and the like.  But Associations have a mission driven focus which can also be an attractive draw for talent, even if it is for a short term.

Shrestha asked the group two questions:  1. What is your main pain point when it comes to resources and talent? Networking, Cloud, Development, Mobile, Strategy Skills? Are you outsourcing at all?   2. What has worked in retaining talent and what has not?

Several CIOs mentioned that the biggest issue is finding talented IT people who can also translate business objectives with technology.  Being able to ask the right business questions is critical for a successful IT person.   With the advent of COVID-19 a couple of CIOs noted that they put development work on pause, and it is forcing them to reassess their top priorities based on the business needs of the Association.  The immediate challenge for many CIOs is helping the Association to virtualize their Conferences – using in house and outside resources.

When it comes to talent search, one CIO noted that it was important to keep in mind that you may need different people to cover different talents, e.g., an innovator vs. a maintainer will be two different people. Another CIO mentioned how critical it is to “hunt” for talent.  Find a good person and hire him/her away from their existing employer is better than culling resumes.  Regarding early career IT talent, make friends with professors and get them excited about what you are doing as an Association.  If the professor is excited, he/she can be your “recruiter”.   Everyone seemed to agree that “resume” shopping is a thing of the past and is not the best path to success.

Regarding retention of talent, one CIO mentioned how important it is to consider yourself as a “coach” and also to partner with the HR leadership in your Association so that they learn about your projects and goals.  Showing your staff how their work ties directly back to member engagement and member experience keeps them excited about the work they are doing.

In addition to the CIOs in attendance, the sole sponsor @Exelaration shared with the group their unique and highly successful model of mentoring upperclass and graduate students in IT fields and placing them with companies at a more competitive rate than more experienced hires or outsource IT firms.  One of the COOs in attendance who currently uses Exelaration for staffing on important IT projects mentioned how the experience has compared to using outsource IT firms.  After 6 years, the results have been better customer service and less breakage.  This COO pointed to the quality of IT talent, and the quality of the technical supervision over the IT interns which were critical success factors.    For more info: https://exelaration.com//   POCs:  Allen Tuggle allen.tuggle@nextupsolutions.com  or Steve Cooper  steve.cooper@exelaration.com.

The Presidential Forum Association CIO Roundtable series was co-founded by Prabhash Shrestha, Group EVP & Chief Digital Strategy Officer, Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) and Wade Tetsuka, President, U.S. Transactions Corp.  wadetetsuka@ustranscorp.com 

 

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Association Executives from over 40 Associations attend Presidential Forum Virtual Roundtable to discuss Non-Dues Revenue Growth – what has your Association done [or tried to do] to grow top line revenue and bottom line results?

This was another amazing discussion among Association Membership and Marketing Directors on April 29, 2020 for the Presidential Forum Roundtable via Zoom Web-conference.  The peer-to-peer discussion was moderated by Kimberly Hall, Director of Membership, National Association of Counties (NACo) and Karim Guirguis, Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer, American Bankruptcy Institute

The discussion started with a quick Poll of the attendees to determine what level of non-dues revenue the attendees are already engaged in.  The group was evenly split with about a third having revenue of less than 25% in categories other than Dues and Annual Conference.  Another third of the attendees had diversified 26-50% of their revenue outside of Dues and Annual Conference, and another third had more than 50% from outside of these core activities.  The second Poll question asked if attendees were currently working on an initiative to increase non-dues revenue by 10% or more.  About half were doing so, and the other half were not currently engaged in a new initiative.  The third Poll question asked the attendees if they had previously implemented a new activity for revenue growth, and if so, how long did it take to become successful?  About half said it took 1-3 years to achieve success.  A quarter said it took less than 1 year, and a quarter said it took more than 3 years.  Therefore, based on the Poll, we had a very broad representation of Associations when it came to non-dues revenue experience.

Attendees shared various stories about their non-dues revenue activities including business services to organization members, health and safety certification for organization members, staging virtual small and large group meeting for members with opportunity for sponsorships.  Several Associations commented on new opportunities for sponsorship revenue due to Covid-19 because vendors and associate members are seeing greater value in the virtual events hosted by the Association as a way to be in front of the membership.

Many Association spoke about how their research and data are important under-monetized assets of the organization.  One Association started a subscriptions program of their content and expanded the paid readership beyond its organization members by successfully offing it to the employees of those member  organizations who were not members.   Several Associations indicated that they have opened up their content for free to members during the Covid-19 crisis, but see an opportunity to monetize those research/data assets in the future as members begin to appreciate more its value.  One Association spun-off four different business activities into for-profit entities because of their success – this was largely based upon taking the Association’s data and research and making it more easily accessible to members and non-members alike on a fee basis.

Our sponsor was FUSE Search which is a company specialized in content visualization for Associations.  The premise is using key Search Words to allow users (members, non-members, employees) to pull data on the Association’s website from all sources – AMS, LMS, communities (e.g., Higher Logic), social media.   Adam Hostetter, CEO, did a brief demo showing examples of other Associations who currently utilize the FUSE Search solution.  This fit in well with the discussion about monetization of the Association’s data as an important non-dues revenue source.  For more information contact Adam Hostetter at adam@fusesearch.com for Johnny Clayton, Client Engagement Success, at johnny@fusesearch.com

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Association Executives from over 80 Associations attend Presidential Forum Virtual Roundtable to discuss CONFERENCE CANCELED – Now What? – How is your Association navigating the repercussions of canceling or rescheduling your Event.

Association Executives from over 80 Associations attend Presidential Forum Virtual Roundtable to discuss CONFERENCE CANCELED – Now What? – How is your Association navigating the repercussions of canceling or rescheduling your Event.

That was the topic of discussion when Association Executives met on April 23, 2020 for the Presidential Forum Roundtable via Zoom Web-conference.  The peer-to-peer discussion was moderated by Rob Eby, Partner, and Greg Plotts, Partner, both from Aronson LLC.

Attendees shared various stories about dealing with conference venues and hotels with the cancellation or rescheduling of event.  Varying degrees of resistance were met by the Association from the hotels and venue providers; the consensus was that it was important to document the legal restrictions (e.g., travel bans, large gathering bans, business closure declarations) and the timing of those restrictions (from Federal, State, Local, and CDC) in calling for the event cancelation and requesting deposits back or having deposits applied to future reschedule date.  Some Associations had purchased as early as 1-2 years earlier an infectious disease rider on their event cancelation insurance which they were able to claim from their insurance carrier.  Some attendees shared their situation of having an event planned for Summer/Fall 2020 and the current uncertainty surrounding that and how they would go about handling their contracts with the venue and/or hotel if it has to be canceled or rescheduled.  Several executives spoke about how they are moving to a virtual or hybrid conference format in 2020, but no one has reported successfully doing that yet. Regarding technology and vendors that specialize in virtual conferencing, executives on the call mentioned Intrado, Communique and Freeman-Digital.

As subject matter experts Jeff Tenenbaum, Esq. and Managing Partner from Tenenbaum Law Group PLLC (jtenenbaum@TenenbaumLegal.com) on the call as well as Dan Blaine, Account Executive from Marsh McLennan Agency (Dan.Blaine@MarshMMA.com) and Mark Robins, Partner – Association & Not-for-Profit Practice, Aronson LLC (mrobins@aronsonllc.com) attended the video-conference.  Tenenbaum pointed out that if Associations were willing to hold their conferences later in the year, it gives them a lot of leverage with the venues and hotels.  Also, Associations should be prepared that on-site Events will be less attended this year and next (perhaps as low as 50% of normal) due to travel restrictions that might be imposed on attendees by the employer and/or overall sentiment of uncertainty.  Additional information about legal considerations regarding event cancelation is provided on the links below from Tenenbaum Law Group PLLC.  Blaine pointed out how insurance policies written in the future will be restrictive regarding force majeure (i.e., pandemics will not give rise to a force majeure claim).  Robins commented on how accounting/tax considerations should be looked at for event cancellation so that you consider proper treatment before your fiscal year end.

Legal resources on to topic of Event Cancellation:

https://www.tenenbaumlegal.com/articles/covid-19-legal-strategies-for-association-meetings/

https://www.tenenbaumlegal.com/articles/the-cares-act-a-guide-to-the-resources-for-nonprofit-organizations/

https://www.tenenbaumlegal.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/298/2020/04/TLG-COVID-19-Legal-Strategies-for-Association-Meetings-1-2.pdf

One of the association executives also shared Information from the U.S. Travel Association as helpful resources for the attendees who were looking for more information:

Materials available from U.S. Travel and their partners on COVID-19 and its impact.  Keep in mind each week these numbers can change as more information comes to light and additional research, feedback and surveys are completed.

Please reach out to the DMOs you work with and do what you can to partner with them to keep America meeting and traveling while keeping everyone safe and healthy!

 

U.S. Travel Toolkit Hub on COVID-19:

https://www.ustravel.org/toolkit/covid-19-travel-industry-research

 

Economic Impact of COVID-19:

https://www.ustravel.org/sites/default/files/media_root/document/Coronavirus2020_Impacts_April15.pdf

 

COVID-19 Weekly Travel Data Report:

https://www.magnetmail.net/Actions/email_web_version.cfm?publish=newsletter&user_id=USTRAVEL&message_id=18489505

 

Traveler Sentiment:

https://www.ustravel.org/sites/default/files/media_root/document/MMGYResearch_Week2_FINAL_WEB.pdf

https://longwoods-intl.com/sites/default/files/2020-04/Coronavirus%20Survey%20Slides%20Wave%206%20FINAL.pdf

https://mk0destinationajcrrq.kinstacdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/April-20th-Update-from-Destination-Analysts%E2%80%99-Coronavirus-Travel-Sentiment-Index-Report.pdf

 

Back to Normal Barometer:

Back-To-Normal Barometer Briefing – April 15

 

 

Meetings Mean Business: Meetings Mean Business is a Coalition U.S. Travel help’s lead focused on the Meetings Industry.

 

Pre – COVID-19: Economic Impact of Meetings:

https://www.meetingsmeanbusiness.com/case-studies-and-research

For questions, please contact the Event host, Wade Tetsuka, rsvp@ustranscorp.com or the Moderators from Aronson LLC, Rob Eby reby@aronsonllc.com, or Greg Plotts gplotts@aronsonllc.com

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