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Trending 40: Association Innovators

Innovation is not just a word reserved for tech startups and automakers. Associations and nonprofits are using all kinds of strategies to become more cutting edge. Today kicks off a series of profiles of the people doing some of the most innovative work. Meet them in person at a networking event Jan. 27 in Crystal City.

Chris Moyer
Public Affairs Director, American Gaming Association


Changing Mindsets State By State

Recent project: Launched initiative called Gaming Votes early last year. Showcases the economic benefits of the casino gaming industry through big events with AGA CEO, gaming employees from member companies, community leaders and members of Congress. Gaming Votes is also educating nearly 1 million gaming employees about candidates’ views of their industry. The program painted a fuller picture of gaming benefits to cities and states, from charitable contributions to good jobs to enjoyable entertainment.
Lessons learned: Timing can make the difference between a successful event and media tour and one that falls flat. Also learned that views about gaming vary significantly from state to state. 
Best way to be innovative: Look for opportunities to be creative every day; leadership should set a tone that encourages ideas from everyone; and always look for ways to enhance everything and to be more efficient and effective. 

Fern Oram
Content Marketing and Communications Director, Construction Financial Management Association


Borrowing Innovation Never Hurts

Recent project: Integrated content marketing and marketing automation software for the last two years—realigning culture to be more content-centric. The project’s success came from clarity in the endeavor, identifying champions in the organization who would rally around the project and research to cement correlation between others’ successes and forecast successes of the project participants. 
Lessons learned: Pacing the project helped garner buy-in and made the process seem less disruptive. 
Best way to be innovative: Don’t be afraid to “borrow” innovation from the for-profit world. Look, listen and learn from everything else out there and make them your own.

John Mathewson
EVP, The HSC Foundation


Bringing Innovation To Community Healthcare

Innovative project: Launched a home care company in DC, expanded it into Maryland and now makes nearly 45,000 home visits a year. Also, formed a partnership with a behavioral health provider for a Life Skills Center to provide innovative treatment in the community for youth diagnosed with ADHD. Also runs year-round adaptive sports programs for children with disabilities and their siblings and expanding services to offer autism evaluation and treatment. And added a mobile element to foundation’s seating and positioning equipment clinic that’s able to move to different communities. 
Lessons learned: Value of working with partners is enormous; future of healthcare and how overall health is defined will continue to change well beyond clinical indicators.
Best way to be innovative: Establish a climate and environment where people are comfortable with change and thrive in creating new ideas. Invite disruption and cannibalize existing services when necessary. Celebrate transformation as things go forward. 

Erin Berry
Marketing and Communications VP, BoardSource


Making Content King

Innovative project: Recently traded in a promotional-based marketing communications strategy for a more robust content strategy and began educating organization’s network more effectively, de-emphasizing direct sales approach. Kicked off project using HubSpot as new marketing automation solution and partner HighRoad Solution for implementation and training. Dashboard monitors the interests of the organization’s network of over 100,000 nonprofit leaders to better understand their wants, needs and behavior. Click-through rate has tripled to 15% and acquired over 100 new leads. 
Lessons learned: Always engage the IT team in the beginning of big integration projects, research new technology solutions in great detail (took six months to finally choose HubSpot) and get team excited about the change so everyone is motivated to work hard and not be burdened by the work. 
Best way to be innovative: Make sure the senior leadership team includes a marketing professional. Marketers drive demand for an organization’s resources, products and services and feeds the growth pipeline.

Pete Kaminskas
Member Relations VP, CompTIA


From Two Orgs To A Single Brand

Innovative project: Guided organization through CompTIA’s purchase of TechAmerica in May 2014 and determined which programs should be retained and how best to integrate those into CompTIA’s structure. Advocacy programs were moved to CompTIA’s existing government affairs shop, allowing for a suite of state, federal and international policy services. Shifted public sector programs into CompTIA’s existing membership structure and relaunched all legacy TechAmerica programs into a single brand
Lessons learned: Financially successful and well-received programs in one association don’t always translate into success at another. 
Best way to be innovative: It’s becoming more necessary for trade associations to carve a unique niche to be relevant. Those that are simply “me too” associations that mirror other groups have a steep hill to climb. 

Janet McNichol
HR Director, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association


Knowledge Is Power

Innovative project: Been on a two-year journey to educate ASHA’s staff to be more healthcare savvy. Also defined the behaviors an engaged consumer demonstrates, so employees understand what they’re being asked to do.
Lessons learned: Convenience is key in healthcare. We have to make getting the safest and most appropriate care easy for people. Current tools are not well integrated, but they’re improving all the time.
Best way to be innovative: Know the culture where you work and identify what’s supportive of innovation and what’s getting in your way, and then come up with a plan to get you where you want to be. Encourage learning that broadens people’s perspectives because innovation is not as much about having great ideas as it is about making connections.