MGI Tipster Volume 1, Issue 19

When Membership Staffs talk, CFOs should listen…for what they need to do their job!

At the ASAE & The Center’s Annual Conference in Toronto, I was fortunate enough to participate on a panel of membership professionals and chief financial officers entitled Finding Common Ground in a Shifting Economy: When Membership and CFOs Unite! Here is a summary of that session with lessons learned for both sides.

We can all agree that there will always be some level of disagreement between CFOs and Membership Professionals. While CFOs deal with the daily business of running an organization, Membership staff are busy seeing current members and worrying about recruiting new ones…and therein lies the rub.

How much do we invest today to keep the organization going tomorrow? This is a tough question at any time, let alone now when we face 9.6% (and rising) unemployment, increasing gas prices and much more.

It was a great conversation which brought out many important points but the most important one is transparency. Here are a few highlights I took away from the session:


  1. Let membership staff know about every decision that impacts their department. Sounds silly but many participants shook their heads “yes” when this came up.
  2. Talk with the membership. Many CFOs at the session strongly recommended that all CFOs should take the time to speak directly with as many members as they can. Everyone agreed that this can be difficult, but every CFO said it helped them to better understand what the members need, how to better help membership staff, and how to—in the end—do their job a little better.
  3. Try to clearly explain your financial decisions to your membership team/leader. They do not see everything that you are involved in so if they ask for money for a campaign or a promotion, and you decide that the money would be put to better use somewhere else, explain that fully.


  1. CFOs are “numbers people,” so make sure you give them the numbers they need to make a business decision. These numbers include:
    • Response Rate
    • Cost to Obtain a Member
    • Renewal Rate
    • Average Tenure
    • Lifetime Value
    • Return on Investment
  2. Ask your CFO how best to present ideas to him/her. What kind of numbers and explanations does yours want? What makes a compelling argument to him/her?
  3. Timing is important. Month closing is a difficult time. If you have a request, perhaps it can wait until after month closing.
  4. Offer alternatives. If you have an idea, come in with several ways to accomplish the goal—Plans A, B and C.

If you have any questions on what these calculations are, when to use them, or how to use them, or if you’d like more information on the session and how to better communicate with your CFO, please contact Rick Whelan, President, Marketing General, at or call (703) 706-0350.

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