Professional organizations have undergone a myriad of changes in recent years and the prevalence of social media has both benefited and added a new layer of challenges to the industry. Professional organization executives recently met at the Las Vegas offices of City National Bank to discuss the industry and most agreed, collaboration is key.
Connie Brennan, publisher and CEO of Nevada Business Magazine, served as moderator for the event. The magazine’s monthly roundtables bring together leaders to discuss issues relevant to their industries. Those discussions are recorded and a condensed version is included in the following pages.
How has the digital age changed the way professional organizations operate?
Natalie Wainwright: In the age of Twitter and Instagram, which is huge for my personal business as well as the organization, we all have opportunities to connect with one another. I can easily reach out to anybody at this table and shoot them a LinkedIn [request] and hopefully they give me the time of day. In the age of technology, why should anyone come invest two hours of their day, once a month? Giving them tangible value when they show up to the lunches, that’s what we’re trying to do.
Chris McGarey: CCIM of Southern Nevada is the same way. We didn’t think email was going to be important 20 years ago when we were a diehard for our fax machines. We look at it now and social media is how things is communicated. Technology really boomed the last couple years with getting our message out. Most of our classes are attended by somebody who saw it on social media or had [information] forwarded to them from somebody that saw it on social media. We do an electronic newsletter, we still mail out one newsletter per organization rather than a newsletter to each individual member and we do an electronic version that gets passed around for our sponsors.
John Aldrich: We do a lot, we’re on Twitter and we’re on Instagram, we send emails, we are trying to cover everybody. We find that, when they’re older, they see the emails; younger [members] see the tweets. We also struggle with getting younger people in and helping them understand why it’s helpful to be part of the organization.
How do you stay relevant to your membership?
Peter Guzman: Under my presidency, we have sent new members to the Metro Chamber, to the Asian Chamber, because I have no problem doing that. My first and foremost presidential responsibility is to have [members] grow their business. They’re not going to grow if they’re just hanging out with me. I trust these organizations, we have no problem sending them over there. You stay relevant by making sure that your organization is visible, you have to build that trust. I think building trust is the key.
McGarey: One of our biggest challenges is finding content that hasn’t been duplicated by somebody else or another association. We’ve all got golf tournaments, we’ve all got luncheons every month and so our challenge has really been finding topics that generate interest. The other issue is getting the next generation interested in what we do. There’s a big gap nationally, the average age of a CCIM is in the mid-50s, and it’s been very challenging to get the younger generation interested in what we do.
Mary Beth Sewald: One of the things that I’m doing, as a new person at the chamber, in our attempts to be relevant, I give out my cell phone number all the time. I ask our members, and non-members too, what do you need? If you could wave your magic wand and the chamber could do anything to make your business more relevant, what could the chamber do to be indispensable to you? It’s very important and we’re able to do a lot of what they want. They’re not asking for the moon.
Sandra Roche: We’re trying to come up with some different ideas to bring members in and provide more value for their membership. Our dues aren’t high, so that’s something to look at, people can join. We reach out too and ask what do members want? That’s why we’re looking at having more professional development with a mentor group that’s a reasonable price people can afford.
How important is collaboration?
Sewald: When we can serve our members and collaborate and work together to serve the community, everybody gets engaged and they get excited and motivated and they want to continue those partnerships.
Sonny Vinuya: There are 48 different organizations under the Asian banner and each of those organizations have different ideals. If I can just make them realize the power of being together we could have one voice. What I’m trying to do is reach out and collaborate with each [organization], the ones that are willing of course.
Wainwright: I wish there was more collaboration, especially with something like SIOR and CCIM, where there’s a designation. CREW doesn’t bring that element to the table. We bring mentorship and leadership skills and empowering women and the men that support us. It would be great if there was more of an opportunity for [CCIM] and SIOR to collaborate. There’s a lot of room for us to all be working together.
Sandra Roche: We also want collaboration with other organizations. We don’t all need to have all these events, why can’t we share and pull speakers and different ideas together? We’re small and we’re all volunteer. Collaborating with some of the bigger [organizations] may be a great way to help each other.
What role does lobbying play for professional organizations?
Vinuya: We have a government affairs committee and we make connections where we can. We review [legislation] and then make the right move for our membership.
Phyllis Gurgevich: It is our role to advocate for the banking industry and more. As an organization, anything in the state that will promote economic development and support financial literacy, those are what we’re seeking change on whether that be legislatively or regulatory wise. We call it educating and that’s all we can aspire to do. We assess an issue, put together the real world facts of it, educate people and walk towards the best outcome.
Sewald:. We’re assessing all the issues now.There were over a 100 bills last year that we worked on behalf of our members and the community at large. We’re thinking some of those might come back but we’re still assessing what actually will come back and what we’ll be up against this next session. We have a government affairs committee and they do a lot. We operate by committee and vote consensus before we go forth with messaging.
How big of a challenge is time, and people, management?
McGarey: It is tough. Just getting people involved is challenging. We’re all busy, especially in our industry. We were fine for about six, seven years while we were trying to figure out what happened back in 2008. Once the market started to pick back up, we’re all busy again. We are very fortunate that we have a great membership that will volunteer but it’s tough. We have 10 percent of the people doing 90 percent of the work.
Vinuya: Because we are volunteers, finding the right people with the same passion you have and then finding people you can really trust and count on [is a challenge].
Aldrich: Our board is about 13 members and they’re all lawyers and we’ve done exactly that. We found the right people that have the same vision as we do that we can count on. It’s been great because we are looking for people and we have been very successful finding them. We never have to make assignments. Everyone speaks up, says they’ll do it. Sometimes it’s more than three that end up on the committee and then they churn on it and we meet the next month.
Roche: Our board went from, when I started a year and a half ago, maybe six people to 18 at our last board retreat. It’s growing and the energy is there and we’re getting it. I’m very busy at my job as a vice president of a construction company and general contractors so I try to tie it all in with everything I’m doing. I have just resurrected a foundation that was set up for the National Association of Women Business Owners this year. I’m excited just to get that started and going again.
Tim Rogers: As a different perspective than an organization, we struggle sometimes to find enough employees and enough committed people that are going to add value to our organizations on a daily basis. There are so many organizations and only so many people. You can add value and not just be a member but be an active member. That’s important to everybody nowadays. Companies don’t just want to be a member but want to add value and be a part of something that will help the community as a whole.
How do your organizations impact the community?
Gurgevich: Our bank members are probably the largest industry that contributes to communities and businesses and charitable events and so I’m really proud to champion them and to see how involved they are with the community. It ranges and they’re very involved. Our bankers will be coming together for the first time this year with a mission and a vision of creating a culture of saving in Nevada. And so we’ve picked three programs to endorse and are encouraging each of our members to participate in some capacity in each of those projects. We think that we can actually move the needle on creating a culture of saving in Nevada and look at the prosperity report and actually have some impact into enabling everyone who lives in Nevada to have a better future through saving.
Aldrich: Everybody’s a volunteer whether it’s a volunteer member or the volunteer department, there’s nothing mandatory for us. We have a community service committee that’s putting things on all the time, we do all kinds of stuff all over the Valley.
Guzman: We have a foundation at the Latin Chamber of Commerce. We’re very proud of our foundation, which exists to do one thing, give scholarships. I revamped it three years ago. Instead of giving $1,000 or $2,500, we decided to go full ride with kids so we’re putting them fully through college. Right now we have 35 students. We just beat out UNLV for $550,000 in inbound [dollars]. That’s really put our foundation on the map. We’re going to be able to take that and use is as a match. Other big organizations want to know you’ve received something like that before they match it.
Kelly Gaines: We typically partner with other associations, primarily the Southern Nevada Home Builders Association. They have a foundation, Home Aid of Southern Nevada. Desert Rose High School is something we’re working on right now with home builders as well. We’re doing a lot of clean up work. We have a project to have some of the students come out and help and we would provide them boots or tools, things like that. A lot of what we do, in regards to community involvement, has to do with our industry, construction. I would like to, as the incoming president, get out and expand that. Our association has been really involved with the construction industry but I’d like to partner with other associations outside of the construction industry because we are made up of 150 members that are business owners, not all in construction.
Wainwright: We want to be much more focused on our immediate community and nothing to do so much with commercial real estate, just more giving back to the people around us that need the help. That’s been one of our biggest initiatives in the last year and it’s been a big success. People that I never thought would join the organization are joining because they like our community element. They like the fact that we’re not just here for an ROI on our businesses but we’re here to give back.