Third-Party Research Provides Association With Objective Results


A major association conducted interviews with 35 of their members. Afterward, they asked: Were they too close to the situation to render objective conclusions? Did their involvement with members shape their conclusions?

The association decided they wanted a third-party, trusted advisor’s opinion, and turned to Accountability Information Management, Inc. (AIM). The association provided AIM with comprehensive documents that did not identify the individual or company being interviewed. AIM examined over 20 companies in these documents to satisfy the client’s objectives:

1) Identify the impact COVID-19 had on individuals and on member companies.
2) Uncover any trends and highlight problems and recommendations regarding committee work (like, how the association can manage committees better).
3) Evaluate members’ satisfaction with the association itself. AIM was also asked to provide any additional insight the interviews revealed.


The 35 documents provided by the association were comprised of 44 pages of text using 22,676 words. There were four overall questions used during the interviews to provide a structure to the conversations. Often there were additional questions asked during the interview. The documents suggested that the conversations were more of a dialogue, rather than a precisely scripted interview. Therefore, AIM had to standardize the conversations to help achieve the objectives for the project. AIM  first converted the documents into a complete Excel® database. All interviews were numbered. Specific text was segmented into different categories for analysis. AIM created 31 key comment categories (i.e., bored stiff, committee issues, leadership, etc.). As a result, the 504 comments were slotted into one (rarely more than one) of these 31 categories. This gave AIM the ability to do a more in-depth analysis.

For example, many of the 504 comments mentioned “zoom” meetings, which were an outcome of COVID-19. These comments were tied to different parts of the conversations. Categorizing them allowed AIM to summarize them regardless of their positive or negative tone. This approach allowed AIM to concisely draw pertinent conclusions about what was really being said. The analysis, therefore, uncovered issues that were not readily apparent in the aggregate.

To further illustrate, comments on the need to improve virtual meetings was a sentiment that came out in numerous areas of conversation. By properly databasing it within a category, AIM was able to uncover a major issue among the members. Many members also had high levels of stress due to time commitments being required for committee meetings. Unless the comments are aggregated into a database, such issues would be overlooked entirely.


The client viewed the final analysis and report as “excellent work.” There were some findings that reinforced the association’s early impressions, however others in the AIM analysis “were new, startling and useful.” The director shared the report with the association team to “gain the benefit of their individual thinking compared against that of experienced researchers.” The project proved what AIM sees repeatedly: that clients are often “too close” to the “forest” to see the trees. Providing such insight has become a staple in the AIM organization.

For questions or more information on how AIM can help you, email Patty Fleider at  or call 847-358-8558.