Organizations and the quest to stay relevant
Friday, December 14, 2012
Posted by: Rhette Baughman
Perhaps you have heard Arizona has more non-profit organizations
per capita than most states. Maybe you have simply noticed the
increasing number of community and business organizations. This is both a
blessing and a curse.
A blessing because these organizations are doing good work
serving our community. A curse because the pie to support them has
Although each organization serves a specific purpose
or niche, there are a couple of reasons why we have seen an increase in
new organizations over the last five to 10 years. First, the barrier to
entry is not hard to overcome. It doesn’t take much to start a nonprofit
in Arizona. Second and more significant in my opinion, is the efficient
means by which to communicate with stakeholders. Social media and email
marketing tools such as Constant Contact and Infusionsoft have made it
easy to effectively communicate to the masses, and the cost is minimal.
Do you remember getting a printed newsletter from
your chamber of commerce or trade association? Monthly newsletters are
practically nonexistent these day, yet not that long ago, they were the
primary source of communications for organizations. They were expensive,
too. Most organizations could not afford to mail a newsletter to
promote their programs and events, so those that did got the attention
Competition for membership and sponsorship dollars is
at an all-time high. Changing demographics in the workplace are also
playing a stronger role. Baby Boomers were arguably the best thing to
happen to business groups, Rotary clubs and other civic organizations.
Baby Boomers are loyal and willing to commit long term. As Baby Boomers
leave the workforce decreases, and are replaced by Gen X and
Millennials, an organization’s value proposition needs to change
What we offer, how we communicate our message, and the way we deliver
it are more crucial than ever. Belonging to a civic or business group
because it is "the right thing to do” is quickly fading. Business
professionals don’t stick around in the same places as long as they used
to; so meeting their current needs, and being flexible and willing to
adapt is essential to an organization’s ability to sustain a high level
Relevance is what sells memberships and keeps people
engaged. An organization can’t be everything to everyone. It can’t cover
all bases (politically and socially), and throwing programs at the wall
to see what will stick is a recipe for disaster.
The Arizona Small Business Association (ASBA) is no
exception. Having been in existence for 40 years is no guarantee that we
will be around for the next 40 years. We must remain relevant.
Not that long ago, ASBA’s Southern Arizona office
looked and functioned like it was the Eastside Chamber of Commerce, and
many referred to us as that. Today, we are a very different
organization. We have proactively reinvented ourselves to serve a unique
purpose and not duplicate activities.
As a statewide business organization, our vantage
point is from a higher altitude, and we are much more focused now. I
describe ASBA as a statewide buying group that leverages the purchasing
power of 11,000-plus small businesses to help them save money on
everything from paper clips to medical insurance. We help our members
make money by connecting them through a unique social media tool that
promotes them and helps them get found.
Finally, we are a political organization that
strongly believes what is good for Arizona small businesses is good for
Arizona. Our lobbying efforts are also focused statewide. You will find
us camped out at the state Capitol when the Legislature is in session,
because that is where we are concentrating our efforts and can make the
It’s all about relevance and the perpetual quest to increase it.
At the end of the day, a non-profit organization is
no different than a for-profit business. It has customers, bills to pay
and needs to stay in business and succeed. Perhaps the biggest upside to
having so many organizations in our state — while the size of the pie
remains the same — is that we have become highly efficient and more in
tune to the needs of our members and community. Those that fail to
change will cease to exist.
Jerry Bustamante is senior vice president of
public policy and oversees the Southern Arizona office of the Arizona
Small Business Association, 4811 E. Grant Road, Suite 262, in Crossroads
Festival, (520) 327-0222.
Source: Inside Tucson Business