Membership is the lifeblood of every association. Without it, they would cease to exist. One of the most important functions of an association is communications, both up and down the organizational structure. The national headquarters has a need to communicate to its state and local chapters and to its members, and the members need to communicate back up to the chapters and national headquarters. One of the best forms of communication is through conference calls, including audio, web and video conferencing. Over the last decade, several specialty apps have been developed using conferencing services to accomplish associations' goals, enhance the quality of communication to its membership, generate new revenues and reduce costs. We have six specialty conferencing apps that associations can start using right away.
Associations can utilize plain old audio conferencing to hold administrative meetings up and down the association hierarchy. The national headquarters can hold conference calls with the state and local chapters and all of the organizational levels can hold conference calls with the membership, which can be recorded and saved for later playback by conferees who missed the call or by participants that just want to replay the call for specific references. One new feature with the saved recordings is that a link to the recording can be sent out to the moderator of each call in the post conference report email. When the link is clicked, the audio recording is automatically replayed, either on a desktop or mobile device. The moderator can share the email with the link to all of the conferees of the call so that anyone can listen to an instant playback of the meeting at any time. Operators from the conference service can also be utilized in these administrative conference calls to implement Question & Answer sessions and polling.
Conference service providers typically send out a monthly invoice for all of the conference calls to the moderator or the accountant that pays the bills for the association. However, some of these conference calls, such as lobbying calls, can be composed of conferees that are from other associations, which can cause a problem for the moderator, who set up the conference call. This moderator would get the one invoice for the call and then would have to either pick up the cost for the entire call or divide up the costs of each other participant association and collect from each of them. This is time- consuming and a royal pain in the shorts. One new app for associations and other non-profit organizations is called individual billing. With this new app, the service provider can divide up the invoice, based upon the total minutes spent on the conference call by each organization. Then the service provider can send out the specific individual bills and collect from each organization. This completely eliminates the need for any association staff to waste their time dividing up bills, billing and collecting them.
Sub conferencing is an operator assisted function that allows the operator to divide the main call into sub groups that can be partitioned into separate conference calls. After the sub groups have finished their specific business, they can ring the operator, who can then put them all back into the main conference call. An example would be a national association that would begin the large conference call with all of the participants from the entire United States. When the moderator of the call was ready, the operator would be summoned and then the call would be divided up into four sub groups, one subgroup for each section of the country. After the subgroups have finished conducting their regional business, then the operator would rejoin the subgroups back into one large call again. Sub conferencing is a feature or app that needs to be scheduled in advance with the service provider so that an operator will be available and knowledgeable to handle the call.
Many professional associations have a requirement to provide continuing education in the profession that they represent. In addition, many of these professionals are required to take so many continuing education classes each year to meet their continued certification in the industries that they work. Initially, these classes were held in person, which required time and travel. Next, these classed started being help via conference calls. As conferencing technology developed, these classes have now moved to the Internet and are utilizing web and video conferencing. Typically, associations have to develop the curriculum content, do all of the marketing and promotion, take all of the registrations, hold the webinar,send out the invoices, collect the monies for the courses and then send out the certificates that verify the course completions. One of the new conferencing apps, developed by conference service providers, allows for the association to focus entirely on the content of the course and who will teach the class, and allow the service provider to do all of the registrations, marketing, sending out the collateral materials, conduct the webinar with professional operators supervising the class, collecting all of the monies and sending out the course certificates. At the conclusion of the webinar, the service provider would provide a billing summary to the association along with a check for the difference between the total revenue for the class minus the costs of the service provider. Every webinar should be a revenue generator for the association.
Another app developed by service providers over the past decade is focus group interviews conducted via audio or video conferencing. In the past, focus groups were conducted in person and involved renting a facility and travel expense required to get to and from the event, both for the moderators and possibly for the research subjects. With the advent of conferencing technology, these focus groups can now be accomplished by using audio or video conferencing services, which greatly reduces facilities rental and eliminates travel expenses. These sessions can be recorded and taped for future playback by the researchers.
Affinity programs are designed to give certain associations an additional source of income. Many associations generate additional revenues by providing and selling products and services to their membership. Some conferencing providers have established affinity programs that allow the service provider to market conferencing services to the association's membership. Basically, the association gives the service provider permission to market its services to the membership and assists in promoting the services through the association's publications and communications to the membership. The service provider then develops the program materials, markets its services to the membership at a discount and then remits a monthly royalty to the association headquarters based upon the revenue generated by the program. An affinity program can provide a serious influx of new revenue to an association, providing that the membership be an appropriate user of conferencing services.