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Associations, Blog

Michael Webb established the Charities and Associations Exhibition, known thereafter as CHASE in 1991, and kept it going for an astonishing 24 years! Earlier this year Glenda Parker, of Hart Square, gathered a ‘coalition of the willing’ in London to re-launch it for its 25th anniversary. The result – from a standing start in January – was available for all to see a couple of weeks ago. But was it worth all the effort?

Well, if you work for a membership organisation, you don’t need me to tell you that change has been rapid in recent years. Associations, institutes, and charities have developed joined-up systems and active member engagement processes. Their outward appearance has become slicker, their business acumen honed. Much of this is down to the digital revolution.

They are also innovative, adaptable, and increasingly fleet of foot. Because, they’ve had to be. They’re correspondingly independent, task focussed, and frequently small to medium enterprises. They are moreover fundamentally about people. And the best way to engage with people is to bring them together under one roof. Where you can entertain them, enlighten them, challenge and energise them!

And so, while it might have been time to light the 25th candle on its birthday cake, it was also time to take a fresh approach to chase25, bringing it up to date with a new venue, structure, exhibitors, and themes. With a show reflective of change, but without abandoning its heritage.

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be! But if there was any latent yearning after the past, it was soon dispelled by the new surroundings, and the show’s fresh new format.

Yes, digital loomed large amongst the day’s themes. But then so did innovation, culture, and leadership. All served up as an appetising smorgasbord providing satisfying treats in portions ranging from amuse bouche to belly busting.

Julie Dodd’s reflections on the moral issues exposed by new technology, and its power to do good, during her Michael Webb lecture, was timely. Kevin Cahill, former CEO of Comic Relief, charting the transition from passion driven start-up to charity institution, opportune. And Band Aid, Live Aid and Live 8 co-founder Midge Ure’s juxtaposition of the challenges of promoting a cause in both the analogue and digital universes spanned by his career, revelatory!

But, it was Midge Ure who, for me, came up with the unspoken theme of the day when he attributed Band Aid’s success to “finding like-minded people”. As he put it, “we put all our little soap boxes together to form a world stage”.

Surely – the realisation dawned on me – that is at the very core of what charities and associations do every day; gather like minds in a common cause. But this time chase25 showed us how to do it even better! I, for one, can hardly wait for next year!

The Editor
Association News
Edition 284

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Associations, Blog
Figures revealed by the Financial Conduct Authority’s head of technology, resilience and cyber, Robin Jones, in a speech on 25 January 2018, show that a total of 69 material cyber incidents were declared to the FCA in 2017 – an increase from 38 in 2016 and 24 in 2015. That’s a rise of more than 80% last year alone!

Those numbers may seem insignificant when viewed in the context of ONS statistics that suggest there are about 1.9m incidents of cyber-related fraud each year. And, that the National Cyber Security Centre recorded over 1,100 reported attacks last year. That is until you take into account the requirement to report material cyber incidents to the FCA imposed on regulated financial services.

In these cases ‘material’ means attacks that lead to a significant loss of data, or the availability or control of IT systems; that affect a large number of customers; or result in unauthorised access to, or malicious software present on, the company’s information and communications systems. So, if cyber-attacks are a big deal in the tightly regulated area of financial services – a sector that you might expect to be exceptionally resilient – then how much of a problem are they for SMEs, trade associations, charities, and institutions?

Considering the rewards for cybercrime surpass most other forms of criminal activity. It is low risk, high reward, and it is relatively easy and cheap to be a cybercriminal. And technology is so integrated into our lives that 93% of business is conducted online. Then the problem is probably bigger than we imagine!

In fact the National Cyber Security Centre sees it is a tier one threat, next to terrorism. With sixty-six percent of small businesses having been the victims of cyber-attack or phishing campaigns last year, costing each one an average of £3000, according to some estimates. So, that puts most of us in the frame for a potential attack. But have we anything of value worth stealing?

What could happen? Email inaccessible. Other systems failures, including payroll, accounting, and ordering. Account information lost. Money and goods stolen. Data lost or compromised. Strategic plans and trade secrets stolen. The list goes on!

But what of the impact? Apart from the operational impact, lost earnings, inability to support customers and suppliers, and the need to repair systems? Ransom demands and extortion can lead to the loss of money and goods that are vital to your ability to continue trading. With the potential knock-on effect of lost competitive advantage, and damage to brand image. Plus, with the advent of more stringent GDPR requirements, the potential for regulatory penalties and fines!

So what are the threats to my business, what are my vulnerabilities, and are there any counter measures I can put in place? Phishing attacks, that involve emails claiming to be from reputable companies, try and trick staff into revealing personal or company information, such as passwords and credit card numbers, are some of the most common, and are best detected by training and vigilance.

Ransomware – software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid – and malware, specifically designed to disrupt, damage, or gain authorized access to a computer system (which can sit on your system for up to 230 days before activation), along with a distributed denial of service, are the most common threats. Regularly updating anti-virus software and completing patching regimes are the first line of defence. But, outdated operating systems like Windows XP are particularly vulnerable because they are not supported or updated and are therefore liable to attack.

More practical measures to combat insider threats involve awareness training. Disabling USBs and other unnecessary hardware, separating user accounts, removing software, and implementing administration rights, can all be effective in overcoming insider threats and mistakes. Above all, switch on your human firewall and develop a cautious secure mind-set.

But what if I need extra help? That generally comes in two forms. The first line of defence are the expert services of a specialist IT support company that will assess your systems, recommend and install defensive barriers, and devise pro-active company security protocols. They may also test the vulnerability of your system periodically using simulated attacks; suggest and monitor staff training programmes; and use heuristic filters to protect against as yet unknown threats.

The second line of defence – cyber insurance – may seem like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. Far from it. Although insurance is no substitute for vigilance it can offer a valuable safety net if the worst happens. From a single point of contact through to restoration and recover services, practical help from insurers will also include legal assistance and forensic services (from specialists like Xenace). And, not forgetting that your finances and reputation will suffer – public relations cover!

But, before we leave the subject of finances, what does insurance cover? Losses could involve simple theft of funds, but might also result from hackers accessing data and demanding a ransom to release it, and income lost when viruses paralyse systems. But the knock on effect could also extend to fines and penalties incurred through data protection non-compliance, legal action by customers following accidental loss of data, and interruptions caused by the paralysis of third party providers.

At first glance Cyber-crime might appear to be a nuisance, and a distraction, from the daily routine of running a membership body. But it can quickly spiral out of control, causing untold damage, not only to finances, but also to brand image, reputation, and member confidence. So prevention in the form of technical expertise is most definitely best. But if you need a cure then insurance is there to help. Or better still, why not belt and braces?
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Associations

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Membership bodies of nearly every stripe find themselves wrestling with the idea of internationalisation at some point in their development, but what are the pitfalls?
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Associations
  There used to be a tradition around this time of year where broadsheet newspapers would ask politicians what books they were taking on holiday as their summer reading. Some went for populist options to show they were ‘in touch’ with the electorate. Others chose heavyweight tomes by Proust, Ayn Rand, Thomas Piketty, or similar, to flaunt either their intellectual or ideological inclinations! Frankly, I doubt that any of their selections got read. Both Piketty’s ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ at 696 pages, and Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ at over 1100 pages are frankly too heavy to be supported whilst lying prone in a deck chair. And Proust’s ‘À la Recherche du Temps Perdu’ at over 3,000 pages would give you a pretty hefty blow to the head if you fell asleep whilst holding it aloft! However, I’ve found a book that all politicians should put on their summer reading list. Its light, at just 300 pages including notes. It’s a paperback, so shouldn’t cause injury. And its message doesn’t require any interpretation. First published in 2015, The Joy of Tax by Richard Murphy, isn’t on any best seller lists any more, nor is it bang up to date. However, I reckon it should be required reading for politicians of either stripe. Not that they will of course, because dogma does not permit such forays into joined-up thinking.  But, even if you don’t subscribe to the author’s ultimate prescription for the ideal tax system, this little book is the perfect primer for the understanding of tax. Not only does Murphy remind us of the history of taxation and what exactly tax is, but swiftly deals with the naysayers who seek to undermine it for their own purposes. He also demolishes some of the canards that have become the backbone of much debate around the subject.
Laissez-fair capitalists my rend their clothes and tear out their hair at the notion, but tax can also have a social purpose. Murphy reminds us of the pillars on which an equitable tax system should be built and the fundamental ideas that can help fashion it. A ‘must read’ for ALL aspiring politicians!
Murphy was appointed Professor of Practice in International Political Economy in the Department of International Politics at City University London in 2015, as a part-time appointment involving research and teaching. Previously he had been a visiting fellow at University of Portsmouth Business School, the Centre for Global Political Economy at the University of Sussex, and at the Tax Research Institute at the University of Nottingham. He was the founder of, and remains on the Board of Directors of, the Fair Tax Mark. www.penguin.co.uk ISBN 978-0-552-17161-8
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Associations
At the back end of July Hart Square held a seminar entitled ‘Get Personal or Get Ignored’, featuring contributions from Rachel Weber of dotmailer and Steve Smith of City & Guilds. Here’s my verdict:  Allen Reid Plumbing the depths of his experience Allen Reid, director of client projects at Hart Square, the niche not-for-profit tech consultancy, ruminated in July on the lack of insight that most NFPs have into their customers and members’ personal preferences. Typically Sarah, Allen’s archetypal customer, is not interested in your work silos. She has her own, and she’s not going to waste time on yours. In fact she only opens one in fifteen emails, unless they happen to be from a colleague. Nevertheless, in most associations a ‘spray and pray’ methodology is still employed: scattering a plethora of messages over Sarah, most of which are irrelevant to her.    Even as far back as the turn of the 20th century, when nearly all advertising was via printed media, this was recognised as an inefficient way of promoting a message. However, in those days there was little other choice. Even John Wannamaker, one of the pioneers of American department store retailing, is quoted in 1917 as saying, “I know half of advertising is wasted, we just don’t know which half”. And, according to Allen at least, little had improved as the century neared its end, and he began his career as an analyst. His experience, and that of Hart Square, proved that the keys to personalised messaging are data, systems integration, and staff empowered to make use of that data. However, in most organisations, there is no point staff having ‘good ideas’ because current systems are too clunky to make pursuing them worthwhile. Very few associations can deny holding their data on multiple spreadsheets. Partly because ‘knowledge is power’, and those wielding that power fear that losing it will undermine their role in the organisation. However Allen – whose motto is “if it moves, track it” – contends that automated interactions should free up staff to do things that only humans can do. And frankly associations have got to re-think their role in an era when they are no longer information ‘gate-keepers’. Rachel Weber Linking the two presentations Rachel Weber, senior account manager at dotMailer, highlighted the benefits and technical improvements that could be achieved by installing a system such as theirs. Allied to all important timing, organisations could move to email personalised with mail-merge by name, branch, and areas of interest. Personal preferences can also be recorded, giving an advantage to sales teams tasked with sustaining client relationships. Internally the practical advantages to the association are: simple and quick data transfer and synching; easy email set-up; unique customer view with data held in one place; and automated actions.Overall, Rachel’s advice to not-for-profits is to get trained, clean up existing data, implement developments in stages, and test everything as you go along. A discipline underscored by the final speaker. Steve Smith City & Guilds are a global leader in skills development, providing services to training providers, employers, and trainees across a variety of sectors.  Today’s workplace demands training, and two million learners are working towards one of their qualifications, developing their talents and abilities in the hope of career progression. Whilst vocational qualifications, technical qualifications and apprenticeships are valued by employers world-wide. So the task of integrating and personalising data and communications was no mean achievement. The journey started in 2012 with no targeted audiences and over a four to five month tender period built into a brand refresh and the construction of templates. The original concept was a three-year strategy, bringing in other departments over time. Rapid progress followed, and by 2014 they were looking at customer preferences and interests at a granular level. In 2015 it was decided to bring in the sales department, and the old system of disseminated Excel spreadsheets was abandoned.  Hart Square held their hands throughout the process, asking relevant questions and helping define objectives, like what data was needed, how to capture it, and how and what to measure. In 2017 the system went live with the global sales team using Microsoft Dynamics! But did integrating their ESP with CRM have the desired effect? The answer is yes, with deliverability up two percent, opens up forty-one percent, and clicks up by a staggering two hundred and twenty-five percent. They also have forty-one percent new contacts! The future holds the prospect of further integrations, possibly including Hootsuite, Sitecore, Eventbright, and SAP. But what are Steve’s top tips for success? First, gain executive sponsorship and governance for your plans, including a Board level steering group, and have clear objectives from the outset. In their case they decided to think big, start small, then scale-up quickly. Next, always involve users from the outset, and plan for infrastructure to support the growing needs of the business. And lastly, use an external partner for scale, and don’t ever under-estimate the support you’ll need after going live! Steve’s last tip – and my verdict? Don’t let the IT department lead the process!!!   Michael Hoare  
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