What The Book of Mormon Taught Me About Association Management

Written by Sheri Singer on September 6, 2016

Editor’s Note: I attended Sheri’s session at ASAE16 and found the insights from her panelists to be invaluable, so I asked her to write an article summing up the points.

For ASAE16 I thought about using a symbol of the Salt Lake City as a metaphor for associations—winter sports, mountains, Mormons. Since I had just seen the musical The Book of Mormon, voila—What the Musical The Book of Mormon Taught Me About Association Management was born. In this “new” format, seven speakers spoke for several minutes using the musical’s storyline as a metaphor to illustrate lessons in association management.

While some questioned the concept, overall, it caught fire with a lot of pre- and post-session publicity. Here are some of the takeaways we provided the approximately 500 attendees:


True association leaders rise to whatever challenges they face and are thoughtful about addressing every situation. Great leaders leave their ego at the door and have the courage to face their fears. They take responsibility for their actions and tell their association’s story authentically. Finally, leaders create a belief system that their members, officers and stakeholders support.

Membership recruitment

Your new member information is the first impression of your association, so make a good first impression. Members are looking to your association to provide them solutions for their issues through tools such as webinars, conferences, toolkits, best practices, social media posts, etc. When you can show the value your association offers members, you have improved your member retention.

Branding and reputation management

Your brand is the way your association supports your industry or cause. Consistency is key to a strong brand. And it starts with messaging that resonates with your target audiences. Your brand boils down to this: Do people know you (your recognition factor), like you (your member-value proposition) and respect you (are you the face of your industry)?

Social media

Social media has changed more in the past six months than since 2007 so association executives need to challenge their assumptions. And because social media has changed so dramatically you need to learn where your members are today—what platforms are they using right now. Finally, you need to adapt or die—focus on adapting daily.

The role of humor

Using appropriate humor in your association can humanize your organization, break barriers, add levity, secure your audience’s attention, prove your point, and even increase memorability. Look for humor in unexpected places—sometimes the quiet people have the best material. And while you may not hit everyone’s funny bone every time, humor may be a successful way to convey your message.

Diversity and inclusion

Overall, there is a lack of diversity in associations—especially among top executives and boards. Diversity isn’t about changing a policy—it’s a shift of organizational thinking. Define your association’s barriers to diversity—Is it your policies, professional development, talent management? Diversity only will be accomplished in an environment of accountability and adaptability.

Producing a Broadway play is similar to putting on an annual meeting

Tell an inspiring story that reflects your members’ values. When you choose speakers, think about who will touch, re-energize and resonate with your audience. The stage creates the setting and represents your brand and story, and a “Wow” factor ensures your meeting is memorable. Promote your meeting using every platform appropriate for your attendees.

Above all, just as in the Book of Mormon, association management should be fun!

The “cast” of this ASAE16 learning lab included Juan Amador, CAE; Lindsay Currie; KiKi L’Italien; Addy M. Kujawa, CAE; Al Rickard, CAE; and Tom Quash, CAE.