The PAR GOAT Award brings together the best and brightest association professionals who are impacting their organizations in transformative ways each year. Sean Soth and Nikole TenBrink, MPA, CAE joined this year’s PAR GOAT Award nominees to reflect on where the association landscape has been and where it is headed in 2023. Below are 6 mindset shifts that can lead to organizational improvements in 2023 and beyond. 

1. It's a Matter of Trust. Carrie Hartin, President of Sales, Solutions, and Services for MCI USA, focuses on trust as the driving force behind her partnerships with associations. While building relationships can be time-consuming, Hartin feels that it is the surest path to sustained growth in 2023:

“If you build relationships with partners and suppliers they will be willing to trust you when you introduce new ideas; they will be willing to trust you even if the new idea/concept is still being built.”

2. Sharpen the Tools in Your Association Toolbox. Colleen McKenna knows that many association professionals are not viewing LinkedIn as the potent community-building and revenue-generation tool it can be. As the founder of Intero Advisory, she has seen firsthand how transformative LinkedIn can be for mission-driven organizations looking to strengthen their contacts within industry. For those on the front line of revenue generation, McKenna recommends using the site as both a listening and engagement tool by “pulling together your members and partners within the LinkedIn community.”

3. Break Down Walls. As Bruce Rosenthal sees it, walls are meant to be torn down. In fact, he has devoted his professional career to breaking down barriers. As the convener of the Partnership Professionals Network, Rosenthal specializes in looking for unique connecting points that can create wins across the board.

As 2023 begins, he reminds those organizations looking to grow non-dues revenue that associations need to “move away from transactional sponsorships to transformational partnerships.” Partnerships require planning, communication, and an open mind. Rosenthal recommends turning to industry contacts early and often to eliminate barriers and create those true transformational partnerships in the year ahead.

4. Data Talks - Are You Listening? In her day to day role as Senior Vice President at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), Erin Pressley follows the motto ‘Test and Learn’. Pressley prioritizes growth but understands that in the world of associations, that growth can feel scary. She recommends that PAR members approach 2023 with a growth mindset by “creating a path for your team to create something new by using qualitative and quantitative data” to pilot and evaluate new products. Pressley reminds us that starting small is OK, noting that “small process improvements can yield great results for organizations!”

5. Educate Your Staff. Jeff Tenenbaum, one of the nation’s leading non-profit attorneys, understands that many association executives are wary of the four-letter word: UBIT. Tenenbaum recommends that association staffers from various departments, including business development, increase their familiarity with Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT for short). Since multiple stakeholders are often involved when new events and products are being developed, it is important that UBIT is taken into account. Tenenbaum reminds us that “If you structure things accordingly, you can often turn what would otherwise be taxable advertising income into tax-free corporate sponsorship income or tax-free royalty income.” Many resources, including those on the PAR website, can help guide UBIT conversations in your organization.

Tenenbaum says as association's commitment to growing non-dues revenue should override any concern about potential taxes. "Don't let the tax laws be the tail that wags the dog when it comes to non-dues revenue."

6. Keep it Short and Sweet. As an authority on corporate sponsorships, Lori Zoss Kraska would like association professionals to keep one word in mind: brevity. In her book The Boardroom Playbook, Zoss Kraska reminds those in a business development role that they should keep their message short, focused, and easy to grasp. Busy industry executives are overwhelmed with contacts, and a brief but potent message can stand out from the crowd. Zoss Kraska’s magic number? Keep your email outreach to 150 words or less: "Who are you, why are you connecting, and what do you want to happen next?” Focus on value, not detail!

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