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What Makes a Successful DAMA Chapter


by Daniel Moody, President, DAMA Melbourne, Australia

How Healthy is Your Chapter?

There are currently thirty-two DAMA chapters around the world. They range in health from "survival" (Will anyone turn up to this month's meeting?) to "peak fitness", where the member base is growing and meetings are enthusiastically attended. The reasons for these differences in health are complex, but there are some critical factors which explain why some groups thrive and prosper and others are on the verge of extinction.

This is the first in a series of three articles on how to improve the health of your DAMA chapter:

  • Part 1 looks at how to measure your chapter's state of health using the "balanced scorecard" (diagnosis)
  • Part 2 describes strategies which may be used to improve the health of your chapter (treatment)
  • Part 3 demonstrates how the ideas may be applied in practice via an actual case study

Part 1: Measuring the Health of Your Chapter - The Balanced Scorecard

The Balanced Scorecard is a performance measurement system developed by Robert Kaplan and David Norton from the Harvard Business School (Kaplan, Robert S. and Norton, David P. "The Balanced Scorecard-Measures That Drive Performance", Harvard Business Review, January-February, 1992). This revolutionized the practice of performance measurement in the business world by expanding its focus from purely financial measures to all areas of business operations. Traditional performance management systems focus on financial measures like return on investment and earnings per share. However these give a very one-dimensional view of performance. They also represent an backward looking perspective- they measure past successes (or failures) but say little about what might happen in the future (which is usually very different to projections of the past).

The Balanced Scorecard allows managers to see the performance of the business from four different but complementary perspectives:

  1. Financial Perspective: how are we doing financially?
  2. Customer Perspective: how well are we satisfying our customers?
  3. Operational Perspective: how efficient are our internal business processes?
  4. Innovation and Learning: how are we continuing to improve and create value?

A limited number of indicators (3-5) are identified for each perspective, to keep it as simple as possible. By combining all these perspectives into a single report, the balanced scorecard gives managers a fast but comprehensive view of the "health" of the business.

The DAMA Balanced Scorecard

Running a DAMA chapter is like running a business. It has customers (its membership), finances (membership revenue and administrative expenses), staff (committee members) and business operations (running meetings, conferences etc.). An important difference of course is that a DAMA chapter is a non-profit organization-its objective is not to make money but to promote the discipline of data management and the professional development of its members. Like any business, performance measurement is an essential part of effective management and achievement of business strategies.

A suggested balanced scorecard for a DAMA chapter is shown in Figure 1 below, consisting of 20 key health indicators. The most critical measures are marked by stars (*) and are called vital signs. These are the "life or death" measures of chapter health.

FINANCIAL

  • Total Revenue
  • Total Expenses
  • Net Profit (or Loss)
  • Balance *

MEMBERS

  • Total number of members
  • Number of new members
  • Percentage of renewing members (repeat customers)
  • Member satisfaction with services (as assessed by annual survey)
  • Annual growth in membership *

OPERATIONS

  • Days notice of events
  • Number of people reached by event notices
  • Event lookahead
  • Number of event hours delivered
  • Average number of attendees at events *
  • Average satisfaction with events (as assessed by evaluation forms) *

INNOVATION

  • Number of new services provided to members
  • Number of different event formats
  • Number of different topics
  • Number of new committee members
  • Number of high profile speakers *

Figure 1. The DAMA "Balanced Scorecard"

Financial

Even though a DAMA chapter is a non-profit organization, having a healthy bank balance is a important health indicator-it reflects the size of membership and success of revenue generating events. A healthy bank balance is also a key enabler for chapter operations-it determines the chapter's ability to put on events and attract high-profile speakers. The following financial measures are proposed as part of the scorecard:

    1. Total Revenue: this can be broken down into membership revenue and events revenue. As in any business, it is important to have a clear idea of your revenue stream from year to year.
    2. Total Expenses: this can be broken down into events and administrative expenses. It is particularly critical in a non-profit organization to keep a close eye on expenses and to identify major variances between periods.
    3. Net Profit (Or Loss): revenue less profit for the year. It is important to note that a DAMA chapter should not necessarily make a profit every year. In fact, if the balance is getting too high, it may be desirable to make a loss by spending money on member services.
    4. (VITAL SIGN) Balance: this is the most important financial measure for a DAMA chapter. I would say that a healthy bank balance for a DAMA chapter is somewhere between $10,000 and $25,000. Any less than $10,000 limits the ability of the chapter to put on events and risk capital on new ventures (e.g. development of a website). Any more than $25,000 may be potentially embarrassing for an organization which is supposed to be non profit-members may ask whether they are getting value for money.

Members

This is the most important quadrant of all, because it measures the chapter's success in satisfying its customers. The standard measures used for this quadrant in the business world are number of repeat customers, number of new customers, market share and satisfaction with services provided. The following measures are proposed for this quadrant:

    1. Total Number Of (Financial) Members: this is a measure of the size of your "customer base"
    2. Percentage Of Renewing Members (Repeat Customers): this is an excellent indicator of member satisfaction. A certain amount of natural attrition is to be expected each year (around 10%), but more than this may indicate problems in satisfying member needs. This is also a measure of the efficiency of the invoicing function and degree of follow up on non-payment of membership fees.
    3. Number Of New Members: While it is important to get members coming back, it is equally important to attract new members.
    4. Member Satisfaction With Services: an important part of staying in touch with member needs is to conduct a member satisfaction survey each year (this can be done as part of the membership renewal process).
    5. (VITAL SIGN) Annual Growth In Membership: this is one of the most important indicators of the health of a DAMA chapter, and combines measures 6 and 7 into a single measure. This shows whether your membership is growing or shrinking.

Events

This quadrant measures the efficiency and effectiveness of chapter operations. The key output of a DAMA chapter is its annual program of events-this includes regular meetings, seminars, "DAMA days", workshops and training courses. Measures of operational efficiency used in the business world relate to either the timeliness, quantity and quality of services delivered. The following measures are proposed for this quadrant:

    1. Average Days Notice Of Events (Timeliness): this is the number of days before the event that notices are sent out. Meeting notices should be sent out 2-3 weeks in advance of the event so that people have adequate time to schedule the event in their diaries.
    2. Number Of People Reached By Event Notices (Quantity): an important part of getting new members and increasing attendance at meetings is to advertise outside your membership list. This does not mean taking out advertisements in the national papers for each event, but taking advantage of as many free (or affordable) publicity channels as possible.
    3. Event Lookahead (Timeliness): an important measure of the effectiveness of planning and organization in a DAMA chapter is how many events have been scheduled in advance. Many DAMA groups do their planning on an event by event basis-they think about who the next speaker will be when the current event is over. This is the "management by crisis" approach, and represents an event lookahead of zero! The most professional approach is to schedule all events at the start of each year and so avoid such monthly crises (although this is much more easily said than done).
    4. Number Of Event Hours Delivered (Quantity): this is the total number of hours of events delivered over the course of the year. For example, six 3-hour meetings during the year would result in a total of 18 event hours. This is a measure of the production or "output" of the chapter and is a measure of the "value for money" provided to members. An alternative output measure would be number of "people hours"-the number of hours of each event multiplied by the number of people attending each event.
    5. (VITAL SIGN) Average Event Satisfaction (Quality): this measures the level of satisfaction of attendees with event they attended. This may be assessed by evaluation forms handed out at the end of each event.
    6. (VITAL SIGN) Number Of Attendees At Each Event (Quantity): this is one of the most important indicators of chapter health. The number of attendees, both members and non-members, should be recorded for each event.

Innovation

Innovation and organizational learning are key determinants of long term success and competitiveness of any organization. Similarly, to ensure long term survival and to be able to attract new members, a DAMA chapter needs to continually improve its processes and try new things. Many groups stick to the same formula for years, which results in boredom and stagnation. This leads to reduced membership levels and attendance at events, and ultimately to the demise of the group. The measures proposed for this quadrant are:

    1. Number Of New Committee Members: new committee members are needed each year to inject new energy and ideas into the organization. However it is equally important that most of the committee members stay on (albeit in different roles) to ensure continuity and maintain levels of experience. Somewhere between one and three new committee members each year is probably optimal.
    2. Number Of Different Types Of Events: a variety of different event formats (workshops, presentations, seminars, debates) is important to maintain members' interest.
    3. Number Of Different Topics: a wide variety of different topics is required to cater to all members' interests. An unusual or "off the wall" topic each year can liven things up.
    4. Number Of New Services Provided To Members: the chapter should be constantly looking to expand the services provided to members beyond just running meetings.
    5. (VITAL SIGN) Number Of High Profile Speakers: this is one of the most important factors in maintaining member interest and increasing attendance at meetings.

How to Use the Scorecard

The first thing to do is to start collecting the data needed to produce the scorecard on a regular basis. It is quite surprising for a professional association in the area of data management, that so few chapters routinely collect and use data to help manage their operations. To start with, you should:

  • record when event notices are sent out
  • maintain up-to-date membership records
  • record the number of attendees at each event (both members and non-members)
  • get people to fill out evaluation forms at each event
  • carry out a member satisfaction survey each year (on renewal of membership)

To use the scorecard effectively, you need to monitor the values of the performance indicators on a regular basis. The best way to do this is to produce a quarterly report of the measures defined in the scorecard, and hold a committee meeting to review the scorecard. Most of the indicators are relevant to a particular committee position-for example, membership indicators are the responsibility of the Secretary (or VP-Membership Services), while financial indicators are the responsibility of the Treasurer (or VP-Financial Services). If a problem is found with one of the indicators, the committee member responsible needs to take corrective action.

It is important to compare scorecard data from quarter to quarter and year to year and look at variances. This way you can see whether attendances at events are improving or declining, your membership is increasing or decreasing and if your members are satisfied or unsatisfied. You should aim to improve performance on all indicators every year-this requires continuous improvement and innovation, and provides a challenge for every committee member.

Conclusion

The information defined in the DAMA scorecard is essential for the efficient and effective operation of a DAMA chapter, or indeed any professional association. Remember the old saying: "if you can't measure it, you can't manage it". If you are serious about improving the health of your chapter, start using the scorecard as your primary management tool. Monitoring these health indicators is also about "practicing what we preach". Data managers are constantly telling other people about the importance of data as a management resource-if it is such an important resource, why aren't you using it to manage your chapter?

Thanks to Amanda McKinlay (Secretary, DAMA Melbourne) for her ideas and suggestions for this article. Please send your comments or questions to Daniel at: dmoody@sba.com.au.

Part 2: Improving The Health Of Your Chapter

by Daniel Moody, President, DAMA Melbourne

The DAMA Balanced Scorecard

Part 1 in this series looked at how to measure the state of health of your DAMA chapter using a balanced set of measures—the DAMA Balanced Scorecard. The DAMA Balanced Scorecard allows you to see the performance of your chapter from four different but complementary perspectives:

  • Financial: how are we doing financially?
  • Members: how well are we satisfying our members?
  • Operations: how efficient are our operations?
  • Innovation: are we continuing to improve our processes and try new things?

SuccessfulChapters1.gif

This second article looks at strategies you can use to improve the health of your chapter. Eight strategies are described, together with their major impacts on scorecard indicators.

Strategy 1: Mix It Up!

An important part of maintaining interest and enthusiasm in a chapter and attracting new members is to experiment with different event formats and different topics. Many groups stick to the same format for years, resulting in boredom and stagnation. For example, if you normally have daytime meetings, try a dinner meeting. If you normally have evening meetings, try a daytime session. If you normally have formal presentations at meetings, try a workshop format.

Last year we held a half day workshop on Scenario Planning run by a facilitator with a non data management background. The session involved participants to imagine possible future scenarios and how they would respond to them. This was one of the most popular sessions of the year because it got people involved. Earlier this year we featured a one day seminar on creating and delivering presentations, featuring one of Australia’s most well-known public speakers. While this is not specifically a data management skill, it is something you must be able to do well to be successful to communicate data management concepts to senior management. This resulted in the highest satisfaction rating for any session we have ever run!

Effect On Scorecard Indicators

  • Increased attendance at meetings
  • Increased meeting satisfaction
  • Growth in membership
  • Increased membership satisfaction

Strategy 2: Hold A Revenue Generating Event

As discussed in the first article, it is essential to have a healthy bank balance to put on major events and attract high profile speakers. Membership fees are sufficient to cover the basic operating costs of a chapter (mailing costs, printing costs etc.) but are generally not enough to generate any significant capital. As a result, most DAMA chapters operate on a "break even" basis. The best way to generate sufficient revenue is to run one or two fee paying events each year featuring high profile speakers.

A good idea is to run the event in conjunction with a special offer to attract new members. This year we ran a fee paying event with a discount for members equivalent to the cost of a year’s membership—this effectively allowed non-members to join for free, and resulted about twenty new members. Corporate sponsors to minimise upfront and risk!!

Effect On Scorecard Indicators

  • Increased revenue
  • Increased expenses
  • Increased profit (if you get it right!)
  • Increased attendance at meetings
  • Increased meeting satisfaction
  • Growth in membership
  • Increased member satisfaction

Strategy 3: Get Someone Else To Do Your Dirty Work!

A tedious but essential part of running a DAMA chapter are the administrative tasks needed to maintain your membership and run meetings—things like copying, mailing, processing membership applications and invoicing. These are usually the tasks that are done worst in most DAMA chapters because committee members don’t have the time or the interest to do them properly.

A good way to improve the professionalism of your DAMA chapter and relieve committee members of such boring and time-consuming work is to outsource your administrative functions. This can drastically improve the efficiency of internal processes, improve the level of service to members as well as freeing up committee members for more creative pursuits. Some of the improvements that can result are:

  • Reduced turnaround time to respond to member queries and requests for information
  • Reduced cycle time to process membership applications
  • Improved timeliness of meeting announcements
  • Improved timeliness of invoicing
  • Better follow-up of membership subscriptions
  • Effect On Scorecard Indicators
    • Growth in membership as a result of better collection of membership subscriptions and follow-up of membership queries
    • Increased member satisfaction as a result of more professional and prompt response to queries and applications
    • Increased revenue (through better collection of membership subscriptions)
    • Increased expenses

Strategy 4: Produce An Annual Calendar Of Events

A good way to get your chapter running more efficiently is to organise the entire year’s program at the start of the year and send out a "calendar of events" to members. You then only need to send out one page reminders three weeks or so before each meeting. While this is a lot of work to start with, it saves time in the long run by avoiding last minute crises as a result of JIT ("just in time") meeting planning later in the year. It also improves the professionalism of the chapter as perceived by members, and they can write the dates of the meetings they are interested in their diaries well in advance. Finally, the calendar is a great marketing tool for sending to potential new members.

  • Effect On Scorecard Indicators
    • Increased meeting lookahead
    • Increased notice of events
    • Increased attendance at meetings
    • Increased member satisfaction

Strategy 5: Get Some Feedback From Members

Most DAMA chapters operate on the basis of very little "hard" information about what their members want—as a result, they operate based on conjecture or anecdotal evidence about what members might be interested in or (more often) what the committee members are interested in. As in running a business, it is important to get regular feedback from your customers about what they like and what they don’t like.

The two most important sources of information from members are:

  • Meeting evaluation forms: these should be distributed at the end of each meeting and people asked to fill them out before they leave—time at the end of the presentation should be allowed for this rather than just leaving forms on chairs. To be most effective, the evaluation forms should be simple as possible—one page at the most. They should allow people to write comments and suggestions for improvement—often this is more valuable than the ratings themselves.
  • Membership survey: this should be carried out every year as part of the membership renewal process. As with meeting evaluation forms, to be effective, the survey has to be as simple as possible—one page at the most.
  • Effect On Scorecard Indicators
    • Increased attendance at meetings
    • Increased meeting satisfaction
    • Increased member satisfaction
    • Increased member renewals

Strategy 6: Get The Committee Working

One of the most important factors in the health of any DAMA chapter are the committee members themselves, in terms of their enthusiasm, energy and ideas.

Plan. It is important to hold a planning session at the start of each year, where each committee member sets out their goals for the year. This can be used to develop a "Chapter Action Plan" defining deliverables, dates and responsibilities for the year. You should hold regular committee meetings (e.g. quarterly) to review progress in achieving these goals.

Share the Work. It is also important to share the workload around. The biggest task in any DAMA chapters is organising meetings. The traditional approach is for one person to arrange all meetings, which means an inordinate amount of work for one person. A more effective method is to take turns arranging meetings—that is, each committee member is the "producer" for one meeting each year. It also means that people can afford to put more effort into organizing their event.

Avoid Burnout. Another important issue in maintaining energy and enthusiasm in the committee is to encourage new people to join the committee. Running a DAMA chapter is a demanding job, especially when you have a full-time job to do at the same time. To avoid burn-out and stagnation and encourage new ideas, you need to regularly turn over your committee members.

  • Effect On Scorecard Indicators
  • Getting the committee working effectively will have a positive effect on all scorecard indicators.

Strategy 7: Form Alliances with Other Professional Associations

An important part of increasing attendance at meetings and encouraging growth in membership is to advertise outside your existing membership list. An excellent way of doing this is to look for similar organizations (professional associations) who would be interested in jointly promoting events.

In Melbourne, we have run joint events with the Australian Computer Society (ACS), the DB2 Users Group (DUGS) and the Australian Institute of Information Management (AIIM). We now jointly promote all of our meetings through the Australian Computer Society (who have about 15,000 members) and give their members a discount on attendance to all of our events. As a result, we have broken all meeting attendance records this year.

  • Effect On Scorecard Indicators
    • Increased number of people reached by meeting notices
    • Increased attendance at meetings
    • Growth in membership
    • Increased expenses (through increased mailing and printing costs)

Strategy 8: Make It Fun!

DAMA meetings should not be all work and no play. It is important to create a relaxed atmosphere, and plenty of opportunities for social interaction and networking among members. According to Des Walker (President of the Canberra Chapter), "the real meeting starts when the presentation is over".

We provide beer, wine and soft drinks following most meetings, and offer a door prize for members—usually a dinner for two. While this might get expensive if you pay for it out of member funds, we ask local consulting firms to sponsor meetings and supply drinks and refreshments as part of this—this saves on the cost of the venue as well. Earlier this year, we featured an overseas speaker and followed the presentation with a wine and cheese tasting, featuring local Victorian produce. This year, for the first time, we are holding a Christmas Party.

  • Effect On Scorecard Indicators
    • Increased attendance at meetings
    • Increased meeting satisfaction
    • Increased member satisfaction
    • Growth in membership
    • Increased expenses

Conclusion

This article has outlined eight strategies you can use to inject new life into your chapter. The matrix below summarises the effect of the strategies described on the health indicators defined in the DAMA Balanced Scorecard (/ indicates a positive effect while x indicates a negative effect). This matrix can be used as a planning tool for improving the health of your chapter—for example, if your membership numbers are down, look at the strategies which help increase membership numbers.

Points to note:

  • You will notice that most of the strategies have an impact on the "Members" section of the scorecard. This emphasises the fact that a healthy, growing membership is the lifeblood of any chapter.
  • You will also notice that Strategy 6 (Get The Committee Working) has a positive effect on all indicators—this is because having an energetic and motivated committee will improve all aspects of chapter operations.
  • The only negative effect that any of the strategies have are on expenses—sometimes you have to spend money to attract new members or improve services.
    The next article describes how the DAMA Balanced Scorecard has been applied in one DAMA Chapter.

Send your comments or questions to Daniel at: dmoody@sba.com.au. Thanks to Des Walker (President, DAMA Canberra) for his ideas and suggestions on this article.

© 2014 DAMA International, all rights reserved
Last Revised January 13, 2008
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