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News & Press: Arizona Business News Updates

Organizations and the quest to stay relevant

Friday, December 14, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rhette Baughman
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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 gotten smaller.

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 and attendance.

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 accordingly.

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 of relevance.

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 biggest impact

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

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