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At Starkweather Association Services we believe in putting good karma on the wheel. So hopefully, the posts below provide some insight or get some conversations flowing.


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Top tags: agile  change  Change Management  implementations  management  SaaS  scrum 

5 essential considerations for SaaS implementations

Posted By Melinda Starkweather, Wednesday, May 11, 2016


 With 10 years of implementing the YourMembership platform for associations and other businesses, we've learned a few things about SaaS adoptions. Bringing in new operational technology can challenge old assumptions, strategy, positions of power, and ingrained habits, all while opening doors to efficiency, new value and new revenue. This process can be simultaneously exciting and aggravating. When organizations have stumbled during an installation, it is because they did not ask themselves the questions below.


1.     Is your current strategy working for you?

We’ve had organizations tell us that they were finally ready to transition from paper, or a home-grown data-base system to a new SaaS. Great! But if you have a strategic problem, no SaaS will fix that. It’s like trying to go someplace with a bad map. You can change cars, but you still won’t get where you want to be. This seems obvious, but some groups think new technology will solve strategy issues. If your key metrics aren’t where they should be, new tech won’t fix it. For example, we worked with an organization that had lost about 1/3 of its membership in six months because a new competitor offered benefits that the other organization refused to. A new AMS won’t keep members who want innovation.


2.     Does the SaaS work well for your strategy?

If your strategy is working for you---you’re moving the needle in the right direction—make sure that the new SaaS is the best choice for your strategy. Determine your key metrics. How do you want to make money or get members? Find the tool that will make that easiest.


3.     Do you understand all the costs of the change?

Besides the up-front cost of the subscription, what other costs may be necessary to support the transition? Is your network or internet provider up to the task? Will your team need help learning and adjusting to the system? If you aren’t aware of the study of Change Management, take a look and save yourself headaches during implementation. Otherwise solid employees can slow down and disrupt an implementation for any number of reasons. The cost of upgrading technology can often be more than the cost of the subscription.  It may be the loss of a great employee who didn’t get enough support during the change.


4.     Is your staff ready for the change?

Implementing a new technology can mean that your team will have to change how they work, who they interact with, and how they interact with your client base or membership. Your team will need time to learn the new system and time to adjust to doing things differently. Do they have deadlines that conflict with the implementation? Give them a break. Hire some help so they don’t burn out. Make sure that their goals are aligned with organizational goals.


5.     Is your customer base/membership aware of the change?

Organizations often think of of a SaaS change as something their team works on in isolation. Communicate the change to your customer base so they understand the changes in the user experience, however slight. If the new SaaS provides your customers added value, let them know!


Melinda Starkweather, CMP is a partner with Starkweather Association Services, LLC, preferred partner to

She practices and writes about bringing change management practices into smaller organizations.


Tags:  Change Management  implementations  SaaS 

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Limit scope-creep and create buy-in for projects with user stories

Posted By Melinda Starkweather, Monday, April 18, 2016




SAS White Paper          




What happens when someone on your team realizes halfway through a technical implementation that he completely forgot about a really important part of his job? That requirement needs to be tacked on to the project and the project scope creeps.


Scope creep means more time, more money and more disruption. How can we limit it?


When adopting technology, one of the more challenging steps is planning the transition. An essential part of this is getting users to recall all of their essential tasks, so those can be included in the new system. It’s human nature to forget a thing or two. We also want successful implementations where users buy-in to the change instead of resisting it.


User stories can help with both. The idea of user stories came from Agile software development and Scrum management practices. (Because we run SaaS adoptions, we use aspects of Scrum a little differently than when it’s used for development.) User stories are an elegantly simple idea. A person creates a short, 1-sentence narrative about a specific task they need to do.


Here’s an example:


As a (type of user), I want (to do something/something), so that (value). 


As a lumberjack, I want a large axe so that I can save a girl and her grandmother from a wolf.


Each story creates a project requirement or task.


Most people enjoy talking about themselves and what they do. They get to justify their positions and authority in the organization. When they can describe their responsibilities as a story: “As a ________, I need/want _____________, so that I can _____________”, it’s easier than creating a bullet list of requirements.


Their user story creates context and sparks memories. As the user talks about their tasks, they remember and add more details. As users create their stories, the exercise stimulates “context priming” which helps them recall more associated stories.


A really great tool for this process is Trello. Developers commonly use sticky pads to write out user stories then group them in organizational threads. Trello is like an E sticky pad.


It’s our experience that the most risky piece of every implementation isn’t the technology. It’s the people. While technology works logically and accurately, people can get emotional, touchy and resentful of change. Human beings don’t simply shift with each new command line. (If only it were that easy.) We’ve seen people turn a project sideways when it ran counter to their self-interests.


One of the techniques that we’ve found to be beneficial is change management. 


Change management has several practices to help the “people side” of change, but one of the primary tenants is to get team members to buy into the future vision and feel like they are a proactive part of it.


Change brings disruption and threatens control. By having team members create user stories, they get to drive change in the direction they need. They control the parts of the implementation most important to them. Giving users a voice and listening to their needs will expedite their enthusiasm for a project.


Because these stories are relevant to the tasks that fill someone’s day, creating them drives project buy-in from the users, and incorporating these into the project establishes incentive to actively participate in the change process.


If you regularly install a specific SaaS or other technology you often see repeating patterns.  A great way to use these patterns is to create a list of user stories for selection. Recall is a more difficult cognitive task than recognition. By creating a list of user stories to select from, you limit the difficulty of the cognitive task, allowing more energy to go to recalling other user stories, unique to a user’s experience. The more detailed user stories you have, the more the user feels in control of the change, and the more likely his buy-in and cooperation with the implementation. The more complete the user stories, the more complete the list of requirements. When this happens, the less scope creep tangles up a project.

To sum it up here is one of my user stories:


Melinda Starkweather, CMP is a partner with Starkweather Association Services

She practices and writes about bringing change management practices into smaller organizations.


Tags:  agile  change  management  scrum 

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Why One Minute YM?

Posted By Melinda Starkweather, Monday, November 30, 2015
Updated: Monday, November 30, 2015


Making YM easier, one minute at a time


Our clients and partners recently started to see One Minute YM pop up in their in-boxes. You might be wondering why we started doing this.

1.YM is complex and constantly changing

2. Your time is valuable

3. It’s the best way to learn


At Starkweather, our goal is to get our clients as facile with YM as quickly as possible. To do that we spend time researching the best ways people learn.


Learning YM can be a tricky task because there is are so many capabilities, and people often get overwhelmed “cramming” as much YM information as they can during the implementation.


Moreover, if you don’t repeat tasks often enough, it’s easy to forget. That’s why we created our easy-to-follow SmartBooks. But to really learn, it’s best to have many short exposures to information. Thus, One Minute YM.


The scientific terms are “spaced practice” and “mass practice”. Spaced practice is many repetitions of smaller pieces of information. Mass practice is cramming as much as you can into one session. When people cram, they lose 80% of the information they learned in as little as two days. What a waste.


Our free One Minute YM videos cover different topics from basic YM to change management to YM tips & tricks. You can watch the video, as many times as you want, and contact us if you want to dive into that subject deeper. If you have something you’d like to see covered, let us know!



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5 steps to lead volunteers through change

Posted By Melinda Starkweather, Monday, November 16, 2015
Updated: Thursday, November 12, 2015


The field of change management is revitalizing the way organizations manage change. If you’ve never heard of it, change management is “the people side of change”. Using specific tools to address predictable human behaviors, along with psychology and strategy, change management helps move reluctant team members along the path to embracing new technology or whatever the change might be. Rishad Tobaccowala says it best: “The world may be digital, but people are analogue.” He goes on, “To change they need not just facts but meaning, stories, emotions and inspiration.”


What are your options if you don’t manage employees, but volunteers? They may not feel the same compulsion to follow a change in technology or strategy if they aren’t paid. Volunteers may feel as though they do enough, and aren’t paid to deal with the headaches that come with learning something new. They’re complaining and threatening to stop much-needed change.


What do you do?


ACKNOWLEDGE    Change is hard. Let your volunteers know that you get that. Don’t minimize    it, but describe the exciting reasons why that change is worth the effort. Explain why this difficulty is worth their while.


DETERMINE   Who is impacted by the change—can they undermine the change or can they
lead it? Select a team of change agents who understand the vision of the future. Train and prepare them to lead others. Manage the volunteers who are resisting the process. They may battle change for many reasons. If they feel like they are losing some authority, address that. If they feel like this change destroys their past work, acknowledge their contributions and let them know you are eager to see what they can do with new technology.

Involve volunteers in the change planning—both the change team and the resistors. Get their feedback and determine how to best pace and communicate the change. Let everyone know that the change process involves trying things, getting feedback, and then refining. The system will continue to change and evolve.


INSPIRE    Create a vision for your volunteers that’s so inspiring it will motivate them to work through the disruption. We too often glorify the past. Take a moment to glorify the future and its promise. Remind your team of the reason they volunteered and the benefits the organization provides. Show them how this change will further the mission and how similar groups have already gone in this direction. Inspire your team by celebrating quick wins to mark their progress.

CREATE    Create all new incentives, new manuals and new metrics to connect volunteers to your new system. Anything old will keep them anchored to the past. Create opportunities to celebrate your volunteers and their support of the new initiatives.


Continual appreciation and communication are the keys to keeping your valuable volunteers happy, engaged and moving forward.


Melinda Starkweather, CMP and co-founder of Starkweather Association Services brings big change management ideas to smaller organizations

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Strong value propositions can help your association

Posted By Melinda Starkweather, Monday, November 9, 2015
Updated: Saturday, October 24, 2015

Strong value propositions can help your association!

A strong value proposition not only inspires your members and potential members, it inspires your team. It’s the overriding vision that connects your strategy to your market and keeps you on track.


We’ve run into groups that can articulate their value proposition on cue and groups that don’t have the foggiest idea why they matter in the market.


What is a value proposition? A promise of what you will do or provide, and what someone else will receive.


Why is it important?

We’ve heard apathetic associations say: “Members have to join. It’s a law.” If your association has legislation that legally compels members of a profession to join your group, then you’re marketing needs are less significant. For now. Laws, like minds, change from time to time.


If you don’t have a legal mandate forcing people to join, you need to clearly tell potential members what you will do for them and why you’re better than any other competing association.


Create a good value proposition:

Tease out what makes your association special. Using common language, not jargon, clearly state what you do, how the customer will benefit, and how your services are uniquely better than other competing services. If you can, use a graphic to underscore and drive emotion.


1. Who are you? Why should a buyer take notice of you?

2. What is your benefit? What will they get?

        a. Your association may have many benefits. Select one or two benefits as a focus for your      
            message. Make sure that these benefits are the ones most valued by your current members.

3.  How are you unique?

4.  Why should they buy now? Can you add some motivation to this decision?


For example:


1. Image result for tree houseWe are the association of professional tree house builders

2. We provide comprehensive online education and certification that is accepted nation-wide.

3. We are the only tree house builders’ association that provides local interest and special interest group forums where builders can share their photos and consult with each other.

4. Join today and get the member price for our annual conference.



Disruption. If you think your value proposition isn’t important because you don’t have competing associations, watch out! If you’ve found a niche that makes money, someone else will be interested too. Even associations riding the wave from a legal mandate may find another association popping up to enjoy that privilege too. Remember, laws change. We met a group that was suddenly scrambling because their legislative mandate ended and they had to start articulating a solid value proposition and earn loyalty and money from a group that was previously captive.


When your organization is deciding about a change—adopting a new technology or offering new services—reviewing whether it supports the value proposition is the easiest way to determine if that change is in line with your goals. Swapping IT systems just for an upgrade may feel good, but if the new system doesn’t support your value proposition then it’s not worth the effort.


When you take the time to articulate why your organization matters, it not only drives sales, but provides a roadmap for growth.



Melinda Starkweather, CMP is founding partner of Starkweather Association Services and enjoys bringing big-industry ideas to associations and smaller organizations.

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In Kind Donations

Posted By Melinda Starkweather, Monday, November 2, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, October 28, 2015

In Kind Donations








Does your organization struggle with handling in-kinds donations? Here are some tips from Startkweather Association Services.


In-kind donations come in two forms:

1. Services performed that are worth a value

2. Items that have a value


In QuickBooks, in-kind donations are recorded as GJE or a general journal entry. You should set up accounts to cover:

1. Items that are donated (assets)

2. In-kind income

3. Services and labor donated (if you are donating, this is an expense; if you are receiving, it is an asset)


If this is new for your members, be sure to create a communications plan so they understand what donations are acceptable and which aren’t. You may always want to accept in-kind donations, or you may want to limit them to a certain event or time of year.


If you use YourMembership, creating an in-kind donation fund is easy. In the ecommerce section of YourMembership, click on donations and create a new donation. Call it In-Kind. Create a custom field for the unique donations. You may want to create two: one for services and one for items. If you want to specifically limit the donations, provide a drop-down menu of those items and an explanation that you don’t want anything other than those.


Strict Laws! The IRS has strict laws about how non-profits handle in-kind so be aware of the regulations. The donor is responsible for professionally (if possible) assessing and certifying the fair-market value of in-kind gifts. The IRS never provides tax breaks for time and services donated.


Remember your manners! Acknowledging gifts both privately and publically will encourage more giving. Find a place on your website for your donors, or in your next publication. If a donor provided $5,000 in services, she may not be able to deduct that on her taxes, but she saved you $5,000 from your expense sheet. Be sure to list her with the donors in the $5,000-$10,000 bracket.

In-kind donations are a great way for associations to save money and involve their community. For more information, see Starkweather’s One Minute YM video, or subscribe to our SmartBooks documentation.



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Is your team committed to your project? One question will tell you!

Posted By Melinda Starkweather, Monday, October 19, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Do you have a technical project on the horizon? Is your current project jammed up? Are you coming up to a deadline and want to make sure everyone is on board?

This simple question from change management expert Andrew Ravenscroft will give you instant insight into how your team is feeling about your project: “Does this feel like   a business project or an IT project?”


If your teammates in accounting, membership or events feel like your new implementation is just “an IT” thing, chances are, they won’t spend too much time or energy on it—even if they need to.


The answer to this question will tell you if you’ve done your job as a leader creating a vision that everyone understands. You’ll also learn if your team needs more education about the purpose of your project.


If your team feels like the project was initiated to serve an important business goal, and their key performance indicators will be facilitated by it, they are more likely to cooperate than if they feel like IT is just installing cutting edge technology.


If team members answer that your project is “just an IT thing” then you have work to do.


1. Explain how the project will help them. Be specific.

2. If their position isn’t specifically improved, explain how the project will help the organization as a whole.

3. If the project is causing disruption, address that, and provide a date by which that disruption should end.

4. If your team member is not onboard because he is intimidated by the technology learning curve, address that.

5. Create reinforcements and motivators for cooperating with the project initiatives

6. Ask more questions. Maybe this is part of a larger issue that has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with how the team isn’t working well together.



Melinda Starkweather, CMP

Bringing big change management ideas to smaller organizations

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4 ways associations can attract members to their sites

Posted By Melinda Starkweather, Monday, October 12, 2015

4 ways associations can attract members to their sites


John Steinbeck said: “If the story is not about the hearer, he will not listen.” Tell a good story about your members and they’ll want to listen. This is no small task in an age when people have become professional scanners, pausing only for a few key words that make their brain pop.


Tell a short story about your members. Give them strong visuals. Post photos. Share their successes and connect those to your value proposition.


1.Feature a member who had a great experience with your service. “After signing up for the Association’s online certification package, all of my employees are ahead of schedule for their continuing education. Your service saved me time, frustration and worry.” Tell a short and compelling story with the testimonial, along with a call to action.





2.  Create a desire for members to identify with your association. Do you have a review or ranking that will get some attention? Do you have a famous member? Post photos and short descriptions of members doing something worthwhile, whether it’s volunteering or accepting an award. If none exist, create an award for excellence and promote it along with the story of the winner.



                             3.  Turn your association’s value proposition into a compelling story. If you describe your value proposition as “We promote restaurants for our state” go get a new job. Your answer is “We help restaurateurs make their dreams come true.”  Post member photos and a story that reinforces this. If you take the pain and confusion out of tracking continuing education, show them


         4.  Give readers a hook to reel them in. “How Your Business Can Thrive with the New State Regulations”.  Ask a great question that is an issue for your members, then answer it: “Confused about the new state regulation? We’ll show you how profit from it.” Give them a limit to how much the article will cost them in time: 5 Ways our Association can save you money this year. (Reading 5 things is quick.)



Great books are hard to put down. Strong narrative is a magnet pulling your members in. Once there, you can drive action. By connecting ethos, pathos and logos (ethics, emotion and logic) to your brand, you’ll create a value-added story that members will want to revisit.


If you’re interested in more association best-practices, or need help with, contact us at Call 608-338-5032 or get to know us better at


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