December 30, 2008

Why I Blog...

I started my blog in June of this year, and I have really enjoyed sharing my thoughts and ideas with my readers. How many of you are out there, I don't really know, but I appreciate you spending a few minutes reading my thoughts when I post.

As I was sitting here staring directly into the beginning of 2009, I was thinking about why I blog. Normal? Maybe not... Necessary? Absolutely... My reasons for blogging are probably similar to a lot of others who are already doing it, but hopefully this will shed a little light for some who are thinking about starting a blog of their own:

1. Community-building -- A major part of why I blog is because blogging builds community. The association blogosphere is a place where ideas and knowledge are shared, friendships are fostered, and engagement is enabled. I have read so many insightful posts by others that have really helped me in my work, and know that others who are blogging feel the same way. We all want to be a part of a community, and I am no different. The association blogosphere is a community of which I am proud to be a smal part!

2. Providing My Perspective - My perspective is valuable (if I do say so myself...), and my blog is a place where I can provide it easily. It might not be accepted by everyone, and some people may not think I am right, but there are things that my perspective brings to the conversation that others' don't. In addition, the perspective of an aspiring association executive is an important one for those who are in the leadership roles to hear.

3. Getting Out of the Routine - In my day job, I focus on one specific organization, in one industry, with its very specific goals and culture. I find a great deal of enjoyment in being able to blog about issues that are more macro in nature, and that are in some instances things that I am not doing regularly in my day job. That gets me excited, and allows me as an aspiring association leader to really gather my thoughts and opinions on areas of association management that I will need as I move forward.

4. It's FUN - The fact that blogging is fun is a HUGE plus for me. For anyone who likes to write, the opportunity to write what you want, when you want to, is really something that doesn't happen often!

So that's why I blog. Why do you? What do you love about the blogosphere?

December 22, 2008

An Ode to the Twelve Days of Christmas

A fun little post to ring in the holidays... Hope you get a kick out of it!

The Twelve Days of Membership (for Association members)
Sung to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas

On the first day of Membership, my association gave to me, a certificate that was very lovely

On the second day of membership, my association gave to me, two member discounts, and a certificate that was very lovely…

On the third day of membership, my association gave to me, three educational webinars, two member discounts, and a certificate that was very lovely…

On the fourth day of membership, my association gave to me, four quarterly magazines, three educational webinars, two member discounts, and a certificate that was very lovely…

On the fifth day of membership, my association gave to me, five CEUs, four quarterly magazines, three educational webinars, two member discounts, and a certificate that was very lovely…

On the sixth day of membership, my association gave to me, six professional mentors, five CEUs, four quarterly magazines, three educational webinars, two member discounts, and a certificate that was very lovely…

On the seventh day of membership, my association gave to me, seven job bank referrals, six professional mentors, five CEUs, four quarterly magazines, three educational webinars, two member discounts, and a certificate that was very lovely…

On the eighth day of membership, my association gave to me, eight fundraising solicitations, seven job bank referrals, six professional mentors, five CEUs, four quarterly magazines, three educational webinars, two member discounts, and a certificate that was very lovely…

On the ninth day of membership, my association gave to me, nine monthly luncheons, eight fundraising solicitations, seven job bank referrals, six professional mentors, five CEUs, four quarterly magazines, three educational webinars, two member discounts, and a certificate that was very lovely…

On the tenth day of membership, my association gave to me, ten social media applications, nine monthly luncheons, eight fundraising solicitations, seven job bank referrals, six professional mentors, five CEUs, four quarterly magazines, three educational webinars, two member discounts, and a certificate that was very lovely…

On the eleventh day of membership, my association gave to me, eleven volunteer committees, ten social media applications, nine monthly luncheons, eight fundraising solicitations, seven job bank referrals, six professional mentors, five CEUs, four quarterly magazines, three educational webinars, two member discounts, and a certificate that was very lovely…

On the twelfth day of membership, my association gave to me, twelve monthly e-newsletters, eleven volunteer committees, ten social media applications, nine monthly luncheons, eight fundraising solicitations, seven job bank referrals, six professional mentors, five CEUs, four quarterly magazines, three educational webinars, two member discounts, and a certificate that was very lovely…

Giving Members What They Expect...

When you dial 411, what do you expect? I expect to receive information that I have called to ask them about, because that's their purpose, and the reason they exist...

In the past two days, I have called 411 twice (once was Vonage's "Enhanced 411" oooh aaah...), without any luck in getting the information I needed. How do you think this has made me feel? I have been extremely frustrated, especially when I have been able to go online immediately after calling and have found the information both times by searching Google...

I think this experience is instructive of how our members sometimes feel when they call our associations, and don't get the information they need when they are looking for it. They feel frustrated and annoyed, which could hurt our chances at retaining them as members when the time comes for them to renew - hurting the association's bottom line.

1. How many times have you heard about members calling and not getting a response in a timely manner?
2. Or, how many times have members been frustrated about the fact that they couldn't get the information they were looking for when they were looking for it?

How associations handle these types of situations is extremely important, and in this right this second culture, members expect to have their questions answered quickly. If they aren't getting what the expect, they may go elsewhere.

What has been your response as an executive to situations like #s 1 and 2 above? How have you helped your staff to understand the importance of member service and member relations? What are you doing to ensure that your staff is meeting the needs of your association's members and giving them what they expect?

The bottom line to me is that the effectiveness of an association is directly correlated to the satisfaction of members, and the satisfaction of members is directly correlated to the effectiveness of the association's staff in giving members what they expect when they expect it.

Am I wrong?

And oh by the way, I have learned my lesson with calling 411 - it won't be happening again. Have your members come to the same conclusion about calling/rejoining your association?

December 16, 2008

Associations in a Down Economy: Talking the Talk or Walking the Walk?

So lately, it seems as though the doom and gloom has been everywhere! Ebeneezer Scrooge has multiplied by about a million, and they all seem to have a radio or television show...

However, in what should be no surprise to association professionals and executives, I am here to tell you that I (as well as many of you Association bloggers) believe associations are MORE IMPORTANT in a down economy than people/members may think. The problem as I see it is that we need to be letting our members know it and we need to be backing up this claim!

I posted a few months back now about things we should be doing to prepare for the down economy, and that there are many opportunities at which we should be looking.

As I re-read that post, I thought to myself "is cutting programs and outdated communication vehicles really an opportunity?" The answer is yes in terms of keeping the association viable, but not really in terms of providing tangible benefit to members in difficult times.

So in this post, I guess I wanted to try to come up with a few ways that associations can become MORE IMPORTANT to your members in these difficult times:

1. Make Networking Easy -- Networking is a HUGE benefit of membership in most associations, so how can your group provide ways for your members to find its value in this down economy? Are components offering local get-togethers? If so, promote them! Can you use social media tools like a group on LinkedIn to enhance networking? If you don't have one, start one!

2. Supplement Professional Education Offerings with Personal Development Programming - While your association might be more professional in nature and offer CEUs and other ed opportunities in a professional sense, there is always value in providing personal development programming for your members. Just think - your association offers a personal development program on "resume writing" for people who haven't updated resumes in years. They see the value, and have more loyalty because of it, which talks directly to a recent post by Ben Martin about being ready for when the economy turns around. You have kept a member by helping them when they needed it.

3. Communicate Regularly About What You're Doing to Assist - Members won't know what you can offer unless you are telling them about it. Promote the things you're doing on your web site and through your other regular communication vehicles.

What other ways are your associations stepping up and providing value to your members in this down economy? What am I missing?

What do you think about my not so bold claim above that associations are more beneficial during economic downturns? Are we talking the talk or walking the walk in helping our members through this?

Are there any associations out there doing cool programming that you can share with others?

As Mike Myers used to say on Saturday Night Live, "I'll give you a topic... Associations: talking the talk or walking the walk... Discuss..."

November 24, 2008

Deconstructing Thanksgiving...

Thanksgiving is a holiday about giving thanks (duh!), but how is your organization giving thanks to its members, vendors, leaders, volunteers, etc. as we near the holiday? I'll tell you how ASAE is doing it - by sending a blast e-mail from John Graham to all of its members (which sadly I have already deleted because I would have loved to link it here...)

To me, giving thanks to the groups of people I spoke of earlier needs to be done in more of a personal way. The contrived "let's send a thank you out to everyone in the association from its leader just because it's the right thing to do" doesn't serve the association well. Everyone can see right through it, and it doesn't really achieve its intended goal - to make people feel good about the organization by thanking them for their service.

Some of you reading this are probably saying to yourselves "this guy is such a curmudgeon. He can't even take a thank you and leave it alone." The fact is that someone saying thank you should mean something, and the person saying it should know why they're thanking me... I'll tell you what - if at the next ASAE function John Graham can come up to me and tell me why he was thanking me this week, I will be impressed.

Instead of the bulk thank you, I prefer that our organization's leaders and staff members take a few minutes to thank those people who have made a difference to them personally throughout the year. This makes the volunteers/members/vendors feel as though they are being appreciated by the organization, and especially by the person with whom they work closely.

I did this last year to the people I felt deserved thanks from me, and the response was outstanding. They felt as though they were truly being thanked for their hard work (which they were), and they knew that I understood what they did to derserve the organization's thanks. Now, as we get closer to the holiday this year and we roll it out with the rest of our staff, a number of people may get more than one note. How would you feel if you received heartfelt notes of thanks from three different people in an organization to which you belong? Would you feel as though it was contrived, or would you feel as though you were making a tremendous difference to that person and the organization as a whole? I know which way I'd feel...

So I encourage you to take a few minutes and thank the people who have helped you throughout the year in a personal way this Thanksgiving. You will be doing your organization a wealth of good!

By the way, if you receive a note of thanks from me this year, don't worry, you deserve it!!

November 17, 2008

The Volunteer Experience

I was reading ASAE & The Center's Acronym blog today, and came across an interesting post from Nick Senzee called Is There a Volunteer Problem? My answer to this interesting question is kinda... How PC of me!!

I think in most instances, we have a volunteer management problem, not necessarily a volunteer problem. I think that all too often, our associations place people in a volunteer management role who have no idea the effort it takes to lead volunteers. This leads to mismanaged volunteer leaders, which leads to mismanaged committees, which sometimes even leads to mismanaged boards. This leads to an ineffectual organization, because in many cases, our associations depend on volunteers to do most of the work.

In one of my first posts ever on this blog, I talked about eight things to keep in mind to be an effective volunteer manager. I think that all too often, we don't think enough about these as tenets to live by in leading volunteers. The ideas are simple - listen to your volunteers' needs, communicate regularly, set expectations up front, and recognize their effort when they work hard.

As one of the first commenters of the aforementioned post by Nick mentioned, "There are many people who want to volunteer, however, in their past experience they probably weren't utilized in the manner they wished and thus got discouraged. Or, they felt those managing them were a bit inept." It's true. I have seen it with my own two eyes...

On the other side of the equation are the volunteers themselves, and the fact that sometimes, they take on more than they can handle. I still don't put all of the fault on them, however. As volunteer managers, we need to be able to recognize when this is happening, have a conversation with the volunteer, and diffuse the situation before it causes headaches for the organization through lack of follow through, etc.

If we make the effort to understand our volunteers' needs and desires, we can and will alleviate ourselves from having to deal with "a volunteer problem."

Am I right? Wrong? Thoughts?

November 5, 2008

Isn't it Ironic?

So last evening, I posted about how I don't like how sometimes people use technology just to use it. I know, I sounded a little jaded talking about technology and social media...

It's funny, because as I was typing that post (on a blog which is a social media tool), I was also using Facebook (another social media tool) to see what my friends were saying about the election in their status updates, and Twitter (another social media tool) to get the results of races involving our members for the US House and Senate out to our organization's followers.

Does that make me a hypocrite for railing against technology and social media while also using three social media tools at the same time?? To steal a phrase from Alanis Morrisette - "Isn't it ironic?"

As much as I sometimes don't get the fascination surrounding social media, I find myself using it more and more... I am blogging in numerous places on numerous topics, Twittering, Facebooking, Flickring, etc. I am using it in my personal life more and more, and I didn't even really realize it because the culture of society these days is just expecting you to be using social media apps.

While I am using it personally more and more, I still think that we as association executives need to be thinking about how we're using the different tools and all of the technology out there. As I said in yesterday's post, using technology just to use it makes no sense. We need to be thinking about developing plans for how each tool can enhance our messages, our overarching communications strategies, and our organizational mission.

I was amazed at the ASAE & The Center Annual Meeting how many people came to the BloggerCon saying they were thinking about starting a blog for their organization, but didn't know what a blog was or how to set one up. That's an example of what I was talking about yesterday - using technology just to use it... I don't get it...

So to close up this post, I'd just say that I'm starting to see the prevalence of social media in today's culture, and am understanding how much effort is going to need to be placed in developing a strategy for how we can effectively use these tools in our organization.

Last night, I think I used one social media tool effectively to bring news to our membership in real-time, enhancing the overall mission of the organization. It was a good first step, but we need to go farther if we're to be successful in using it long-term.

November 4, 2008

Using Technology Just to Use it..

As I am sure everyone else has, I have seen a great deal of posts about new technologies and social media recently. The posts all are essentially the same - social media is going to change the way we do business in associations. In some cases, it already is. The prevalence of Facebook and MySpace certainly are examples of this.

I agree that there are some very beneficial and worthwhile social media tools and other technologies available, but in some cases, are we just using technology for the sake of saying we're using it? 

My impetus for this post came this evening as I was watching CNN's coverage of the election. They were showing the "Magic Map" and for some reason decided to develop and show a 3-D visual of the Capitol right next to Campbell Brown. I said to myself - "what purpose did that serve?" It was technology for the sake of saying they were using technology. It didn't seem to have much benefit for the viewers.

I have just seen them have a "hologram" of Will.I.Am from the Black Eyed Peas beamed into the studio from Grant Park in Chicago to do an interview with Anderson Cooper. While it was something I had never seen, I asked "why?" What benefit did the hologram serve? It was just like any other remote interview that is done...

I guess I just think that as we're going to get on board with the technological advances that are coming down the pike in our associations, we also need to be sure that the technologies we're using are actually providing value and a tangible benefit to our constituents. We need to have a strategy. I think at times we get so enamored to say "we're using the latest technology" that we forget to think about its benefit.

I'm now of my soap box, but this is something I really think that needs to be examined as we move forward. Am I wrong?

October 21, 2008

The Economic Crisis and Associations

While not many people can find much that is positive about the economic crisis that is happening, ASAE's blog Acronym had a great post about how associations are stepping up to assist members and others navigate the downturn. Very commendable on their part!

I also wanted to point out that as we in the association management profession are looking at this downturn and its impact on our bottom lines, I believe that there is tremendous opportunity that when things are going well, we don't always think about. You're probably asking yourself 'where does this guy think there is opportunity in a recession?'

I believe that this economic downturn gives our organizations a great opportunity to really step back and look strategically at our offerings, and become more lean and agile by looking at each of our programs objectively to see if they are meeting the original purpose of their existence. To steal a phrase that one of our presidential candidates is very fond of "using a scalpel" to trim the fat.

The questions that this should have us asking right now are:
  • Is this program or service really serving the membership? If no, why not and is there another way to accomplish what we're trying to do with it?
  • What are specific ways that we can make the dues money we get go farther?
  • What are specific ways to bring in more non-dues revenue?
  • How can our current offerings generate more revenue?

I hope these questions aren't news to anyone, and that you are all asking them a lot more often than when we go into recession. It just seems to me as though the economic downturn gives us an even more urgent need to ask them to determine if we are meeting our members' needs.

In my eyes, while it's not a great situation to be in, it's not all doom and gloom. It's an opportunity for us to re-prioritize and redevelop our plans to meet the needs of the everchanging association and economic landscape.

September 30, 2008

Where's the Leadership?

I'm sure you all remember the Wendy's commercials from the 80s with the old woman asking "Where's the beef?" If she were still alive today seeing what's happening on Capitol Hill, she'd likely be asking "Where's the Leadership?"

I know, I know... This blog has mainly focused on association topics in the past. Don't worry, I'll tie this post back to associations at the end...

Back to leadership... In watching this whole "bailout" episode unfold, I have had a number of questions... How in the world did we get to this point in the first place? How in the world did the Secretary of the Treasury do such a BAD job in communicating about the plan to Congress and the American people to get consensus? How could Congress not understand that there is a big problem, and without swift action, there could be major economic issues?

I guess my answer to all of these questions is that there is a tremendous lack of leadership in Washington - from all parties. At the beginning of Congress getting involved, each and every one of them said that politics would be put aside and that a deal would get done. I don't believe that ever happened. In fact, immediately after the bill failed yesterday in the House, rather than getting back into a room to work on negotiating a new bill, each side went on television and blamed the other for the bill's failure. That's not leadership.

Then, with an economic crisis looming, the Congress took time off to go back to their districts for the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. No offense to all of my Jewish friends, but our leaders should not have left. Heck, I would expect my leaders to be in session even on Christmas if an economic crisis like this was looming. It's not about what holiday it is, it's about being leaders and making something work to avoid what many people are calling a disaster.

I also find it interesting that the bill failed one day before they all were heading back to their districts, where they will likely campaign (since many Congressmen are up for re-election.) Those who voted against it could tell their constituents that they were listening to them, and that they should be re-elected. Those who voted for it can talk about how they were trying to do what's right for America in getting something passed, even though it's not the ideal bill... Using this bill as leverage in their re-election campaigns is not leadership.

Don't forget about the Secretary of the Treasury, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the current President, and the Presidential candidates... Their lack of leadership also helped to get to where we are today. Paulson and Bernanke failed to convince the Congress that this was the right thing to do by showing them how this will not only affect Wall Street, but also Main Street. They also failed to put provisions within the bill to account for that. Our current president has been nearly mute throughout this, aside from his two or three speeches that he has made. Lastly, the Presidential candidates have both said that Congress needs to get something done. Guess what Obama and McCain? YOU ARE IN CONGRESS!! Go back and be the leaders that you're going to need to be when one of you becomes the president-elect in a little over 35 days!

Ok, so now I'm tying this back to associations... I think that we as association leaders need to realize that we need to be able to do a lot of things well - consensus-building, communicating, persuading, working when it's necessary, etc. In addition, we need to realize that something that is proposed might not be perfect, but if it is something that needs to get done to avoid a crisis, we need to have the guts to act. There are leadership lessons to be learned in this whole "bailout" situation, and if we as association leaders don't think about and understand them, our Boards might just step in and say, "Where's the Leadership?" and we'll be out the door...

Am I wrong on this? What do you think?

September 24, 2008

I'm a PC: Part 2

Saw this on Fast Company's web site today relating to the "I'm a PC" effort by Microsoft. Looks like most people don't think they recaptured the tag line from Mac...

This relates to my last blog post, on which Lindy Dreyer had a great comment about the reason that Microsoft waited to launch this. I still think they waited too long, and am still wrestling with how we in associations can make sure that innovation is top of mind as we are moving forward!

September 20, 2008

I'm a PC...

As you may have guessed from some of my posts on this blog, I am an avid television viewer. I have a lot of favorite shows, and try to catch most of them each week. Last night, I was watching a re-run of one of my favorites, The Office, when it went to a commercial.

At that point, I saw a clever new Microsoft ad called with the theme "I'm a PC", an obvious play on the Apple ads that are already out.

When I first saw it, I said to my wife, "what a great ad! Very clever!" She immediately shot back, "Yeah, it's great, but it's two years late!"

In thinking about her comment, I realized that she was right. We have been seeing Apple inundate the airwaves with their great ads with the two guys saying "I'm a Mac" and I'm a PC" for at least a year or two. The Mac always seems to win in those little duels. Apparently Microsoft finally had enough of it, and came back with this ad to counteract it. Why now? Why did it take so long?

It got me thinking about our work in associations and how many times there are great ideas that are developed on the staff or volunteer levels that just take so long to get off the ground because of the approval process or bureaucracies that are evident within our associations. I'm sure you know what I am talking about - the great non-dues revenue ideas that are developed, the new volunteer structure that would streamline the organization's work, etc.

How can we as leaders help to move the process for innovation forward so it doesn't take so long? Do we have processes or bureaucracies in place that limit the creativity and innovative ideas from our staff because the process takes so long? Do we have policies in place that hinder our abilities to move things forward quickly to respond to the needs of members?

For two years, Microsoft has let a competitor take market share while they seemed to be just sitting there. Now, they have come up with a creative and innovative campaign to get that back, but is it too late? I guess time will tell...

September 19, 2008

Succeeding a Legend

So Associations Now had a story in August about Succeeding a Legend, which was a very interesting read. I think it could be a difficult thing to have to succeed someone who was extremely successful in a position. That has become evident in something I have been watching unfold outside the association community.

As a devoted viewer of NBC's Sunday morning public affairs show Meet the Press, I was deeply saddened when Tim Russert passed away. Russert was a leader who asked the right questions even if they were uncomfortable for his guests, was completely down the middle never showing his own biases, and was altogether well respected for his preparation for each show.

Since Russert's passing, the show has been led by Tom Brokaw, well respected himself for his excellent career as a television journalist. However, as the leader of Meet the Press, he is struggling mightily to replace Russert. The show has lost its hard edge. It's as if Brokaw is lobbing in slow pitch softballs and allowing his guests to hit them out of the park. He doesn't ask the hard questions like Russert did. He doesn't push the guests when they stick to their talking points without answering his questions. In essence, I just think he's struggling to fill the shoes of the last leader of the show, a man who was the face of it and gave the show its reputation.

Perhaps my opinion of Brokaw's struggles is because Russert WAS Meet the Press... I think it's a good lesson for us as leaders to not allow our associations to become that dependent on one person. It is bigger than just us, and we need to be stewards of it while in leadership roles - leaving it better than how we found it.

The story referenced above gets it right for legacy leaders - make a succession plan before it becomes necessary, be welcoming but not overbearing to your successor, and leave gracefully without causing issues. You have given the association much over the years - make sure you're not handcuffing your successor in continuing to move it forward!

By the way, I still will watch Tom Brokaw, and I hope he will begin to be more like his predecessor in how he handles the show. At the same time, I realize that he shouldn't be tied to those expectations. I guess I need to work on my expectations, just as some of our Boards and members need to work on their expectations of leaders in their associations succeeding legacy leaders!

September 18, 2008

Working Remotely – The Positives and Negatives

In the September 2008 issue of Associations Now, Keith Skillman wrote a story about Successful Telecommuting, and did an excellent job writing about some of the things associated with working remotely.

As someone who has been doing so for the past two years, I wanted to add a few things to Keith's excellent story:

1. Handle the Four D's of Telecommuting
  • Discipline – The first ‘D’, discipline, is essentially knowing what needs done. If you can have good discipline and understand what needs to be done at which time, you are on the right track to having a successful situation. Discipline and time management go hand in hand to ensuring you're able to get your work done.
  • Diligence – This relates to getting your work done no matter what comes your way. If you work diligently, with all of the distractions that sometimes are there while working at home, you're all set.
  • Determination – If you are determined to work hard to complete the work, you are going to be able to effectively work remotely with little problem.
  • Distractions – As was discussed in the "diligence" point, there are going to be distractions while working remotely. It is all about limiting and managing the distractions that come your way to get your job done.

2. Be Sure the Folks at Home Support Your Telecommuting

  • Make sure expectations are set up front with not only the office, but also your roommates, spouses, kids, etc. Certain hours are your work hours, and laundry, dishes, and other household chores are not going to be done during those hours. The expectations need to be there so it's as if you are actually in an office as opposed to being in your home.

3. Leave Work at Work

  • As Keith mentions, it's important to have a designated place to do your work. After you're done working, leave that room and don't return! It's very tempting to continue to go back into the "office" to finish something up after the workday is over. Are your non-remote fellow employees doing this? Not likely, so it's not something you should be expected to do, nor should it be something you do regularly.

If you're thinking about telecommuting, and your organization allows it, think before you jump. After reading Keith's story and these few additional thoughts, be sure that you are someone who will thrive in this experience.

Remember, at the end of the day, it's YOU who has to be able to get the job done effectively no matter where you are working.

September 17, 2008

Born After 1980? If so, You're Not Dumb!

An interesting follow up to my late-August blog relating to Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants, and my Gamers Galore post from yesterday following up Jeffrey Cufaude's. Check out the video below from

In the video, Palfrey talks about a web site with a wiki where you can help to shape the discussion on this topic, and a blog talking about it as well.

Gamers Galore

I read an interesting post today on Jeffrey Cufaude's blog about the research he had read about kids and gaming. Apparently, according to Pew, nearly every teen and adolescent aged 12-17 are playing some sort of game - whether it be on the computer, on a console, or on their cell phone.

Jeffrey pointed out that because of this, there is some definite need to examine how we're providing the training and development experience to members in this age group.

At my organization, people of this age group are very close to many of our newest members, and are getting to the very close to age range of our potential members. Over 4,500 of our members are collegiate members, so this is something we really need to be paying attention to. As I see it, there are five major questions to think about:

1. How can we use the knowledge in this research to enhance our opportunities at reaching these potential members? 
2. After recruiting the members, how can we continue to engage them in the same way to provide them the value that they're looking for? 
3. How does our current experience translate to these needs that are incredibly evident with this research?
4. How will engaging this strategy work with other members who aren't in this age range? 
5. How will we evaluate the effectiveness of engaging in this strategy of recruiting members?

These are questions with which we're going to need to grapple sooner rather than later. I'm game...


September 16, 2008

Providing Exellent Customer Service

You may remember me writing recently about employees who seem to sometimes be handcuffed by the policies that are in place at their place of employment. If they were empowered to be able to handle a situation as it arises instead of being bound to the policies in place, the customer experience would many times become much better. However, policies are necessary in certain cases - I just wish people would know how to articulate them!

I had a situation today with my apartment complex, where I called to have service completed on my place. I told the woman who answered the phone that I needed to make a service appointment, and that I was leaving right then, and needed them to come this afternoon instead because I preferred to be there while they were working. I was told "I'll make sure they call before the come, no problem."

Well, as you may have guessed, 5 pm came and not a soul had come to my apartment to work on it. I went to the office to talk to them to be sure that the service appointment was made, and the woman said "our policy is 24 hours for a service call, and I never told you that they would be there this afternoon." I gently told her that I was under the impression that they would be since she said they would call before coming, since I specifically said I needed them to come this afternoon instead of in the morning. She essentially said "I put in the appointment." and stopped talking...

How could this situation have been avoided? All the woman had to do was tell me the policy when I called originally. Sometimes, policies are in place for very good reasons. I get it - if they didn't have a 24-hour policy for the service calls, everyone would expect their work to be done right then. However, this situation did not need to happen. All she needed to do was react to my comment about leaving and that it would be better if they came this afternoon. She could have made the point to say "I'll make sure they call before they come, and by the way, our policy is 24 hours for service calls, so they'll be there sometime tomorrow."

That would have satisfied me. Instead, I'm now hoping they stand by the 24-hour policy she told me today, which would mean someone will be here by 9:30 am tomorrow. Perhaps I'll have another post about that tomorrow!

Are there times when we in our associations don't articulate our policies effectively, and thus cause more hardship than there needs to be? Is there a policy in your association relating to good customer service? How do you assure that your employees are doing well?

September 12, 2008

The Emergence of Self Forming Groups

So I was reading an interesting post today on Maddie Grant's blog about whether ASAE is dying. 

In a nutshell, Maddie quoted someone who said that they were getting more value in reading blogs and using Twitter than they were getting from ASAE, due to all of the vendor-related e-mails that they are getting from ASAE. I don't personally agree, and I guess I really haven't seen THAT many vendor-related e-mails from them. Perhaps I am missing them though.

In answering Maddie's question, personally I don't think ASAE is dying at all. 

I actually think that the fact that people are willing to express their displeasure about what they're seeing means that ASAE is actually something they care enough about to talk about what they think (positive or negative.) It would probably be more constructive to tell ASAE what they like or dislike, but either way, it shows that they are invested in the organization.

Maddie also talked about YAP. For me, YAP doesn't take the place of ASAE. It is an added opportunity to engage with association professionals, but it is a different engagement opportunity with people in a similar age and experience range. It's a great supplement to what ASAE offers, and having it I think helps ASAE members get more for their money... (I'm guessing you aren't finding too many YAPstars who aren't members of ASAE also.) I think ASAE also gets a great deal from the unofficial relationship.

I also hate to point this out, but I would guess that the majority of people who are ASAE members are not like the person who was quoted in the original post... Most association executives who are ASAE members likely are not reading these blogs on a daily basis, nor are they using Twitter religiously. Heck, in looking at Principled Innovation's AST Executive Summary, only 51% of associations have any monitoring or some involvement in the blogosphere... That is a relatively small number, which I would guess correlates to the number of ASAE members who are engaged in the actual reading and monitoring of blogs regularly. Perhaps I am wrong, but that's my guess. 

While I say that, I do think that associations like ASAE need to be looking at what may happen in the future and prepare for it. More of us younger professionals are monitoring blogs more often, using Twitter, and engaging in different ways. We want to be able to easily comment and provide feedback on stories that we read. We also are not necessarily excited about being inundated with vendor-related e-mails and solicitations. ASAE needs to take this into account as they determine the future of how they are providing service.

As Maddie said, I am a big fan of ASAE. I don't want to see it go away, die, be swallowed up by self forming groups, etc. I also am not going to sit here and bad mouth it on this blog. It's something from which I find value, and I hope that you do as well! 

September 10, 2008

Newest Volunteer Gig

Check out the description of my newest volunteer gig...

Check out the roster of fellow professionals...

How Policies are Perceived...

Am at our office this week, and had an interesting conversation at the lunch table about one of our staff members' dealings at the dreaded DMV. All of us have these stories of going there to get new plates and having to sit there for hours and hours...

The story that I was told went a little something like this:

He went in to renew his antique plates for his old car that he owns. He had the registration and everything he is required to have to get it taken care of, but when he gets to the counter, he is told that a State Patrolman needs to go to his house to "make sure it is actually a 1963"... He told them that he had never had this happen, and that all she had to do was look up the registration that he had in his hand that THEY PROVIDED in the first place, to make sure it was a 1963. However, she said that her hands were tied by the policy. Now, is it just me, or in this case, does the policy not seem to make sense, especially when the woman could easily figure out that it is in fact a 1963 that they have already registered and are just renewing? Seems like a faulty policy to me, and gives the impression of bad customer service...

So, being the good aspiring association executive that I am (ah hem), I said to everyone sitting around the table "makes you think if any of our members think some of our policies are as ludicrous as we think the DMV's are..." It got people talking, and we identified a few that are likely in this situation, and we thought and talked a little bit about how the members feel about them. The consensus was that the ones we came up with are really constitutional issues and things that would need to be changed by our Convention, but I think the conversation was good to have and identified a few things that might make for good topics as we head into our Convention.

I think a lot of times, in the case of the DMV and in our own situations, there are policies in place to help the workflow and for other reasons that outsiders don't understand. So my question is, why aren't we trying to help them understand so they do feel empowered, and so they do understand the reasons that we have them? Why aren't we communicating about our policies so there isn't the negative feelings and connotation out there about them?

My questions to you are: do you have situations like this where the policy says something that in some instances just needs to not be followed? If you do, how have you decided to handle them or change them? Are your employees bound by the policies, or do they have the opportunity to do as they see fit to provide excellent customer/member service?

September 5, 2008

Transparency in Association Work

Personally, I believe that continually providing value to members and unabashed transparency are two areas that are EXTREMELY important in association work.

Does any association do a good enough job at either or both? I don't know the answer to that question. However, I do know that as I try to work my way up the ladder for a future career as an association executive, these are two areas that I would insist upon moving forward, while continuing to enhance and move forward the strategic plan of the association...

Speaking about transparency specifically, I once interviewed the president of a college in North Carolina who is a member of my current organization, and he had a tremendous answer to a question about his leadership style:

"I don’t believe in hiding the ball. My philosophy is, if you’re not open with the data, people are going to start speculating, and usually speculations are worse than the reality. They always think that if they’re not in a meeting that they think is important “I wonder what goes on there…” For example, in senior staff, we deal with the annual budget, the strategic plan, feedback from parents and students, what we’re going to have for lunch that day, and whole variety of big and little issues. A lot of what we discuss is boring, but folks on the outside don’t know it until they can see it. The other reason I do it is that, if I am make a decision after looking at a certain set of data or facts, and if I let those facts out to everyone else, people on campus should come to the same conclusion I did. And, if they don’t, I think there needs to be a discussion, because I could be wrong, or they could be wrong."

If you didn't know that it was a college president making that statement, you might think it was an association executive. It is so applicable to our work, that I think it is worthy of putting some thought into. In many instances I think that we aren't as transparent as we ought to be because we think of what the negative consequences of something will be as opposed to thinking in terms of what is best for the members that we're trying to serve. In the quote above, he is looking at the decision from the eyes of his constituents - what will they think? How do these decisions affect them?

Transparency is important, and by being open with the data and information, we are allowing our members to be involved in the process - a very positive way of doing business.

Anyone have different thoughts?
Have you seen or worked in associations that are completely transparent with their work? What has been the result?

September 4, 2008

Salary Requirements/Human Resources Question

I was reading another blog recently, Newly Corporate (for new professionals in business), and they had a post about salary negotiations, and when it's appropriate to bring up salary in the interviewing process. I have always found this to be an interesting topic.

One of the questions in the comments that arose was "what do you do when a company says that you MUST submit your salary requirements with your resume?" An interesting question indeed that talks about a recruiting practice that puts the applicant at an immediate disadvantage by having to be the first to name a number...

I find it interesting that many times when an organization or company puts that in their position description, they will not provide a salary range within it so the applicants know whether they're in the same ballpark. To me, that is not a good practice due to the fact that in some instances, the applicant will put in a lot of time honing their message for their cover letter and tailoring their resume to the position (if they're smart), and it will end up being a waste of time because they didn't know that they were nowhere near the range of the position to which they were applying...

I posted in a comment to the post that if a company or organization is requiring you to provide your salary requirements, they should also be willing to provide you the salary range for the position if you ask.

Now the questions that will hopefully bring it back to associations:
  • Am I right?
  • Has anyone recently pursued a position in which you were required to provide a salary requirement in your application materials but didn't know the salary range of the position?
  • What did you do?
  • Is this practice appropriate?
  • Does your association or organization use this practice in recruiting talent, and if so, how does it work?

September 3, 2008

When is Too Much Social Media Too Much?

I read an interesting post on a cool blog called Blogclump asking where people draw the line on social media. Like the post's author, Matt, I sometimes feel like my blogging, Twittering (@brucehammond), Facebooking, MySpacing, LinkedIning, and commenting on other blogs that I like, get to be a lot...

My personal answer to his question is that for the most part, I go to places and am engaged on tools where I know someone, or tools that I have heard will be beneficial to me. Since most of my friends are not on Friendfeed, or since they aren't using Digg or StumbleUpon, I just don't use them... I haven't figured out how they will benefit me, so I have yet to take the leap. My guess is that a lot of people feel the same way.

I have met people on Twitter, and that's the reason that I am engaged on that tool. As for Facebook and MySpace, all of my friends are there and we are able to easily keep in touch. As for LinkedIn, I am professionally networking with many people, some of whom I already knew.

As to Matt's final question about how to get out - I'd say don't, unless you aren't finding value in the tools you're using... If the tools, as Lisa points out in her comment, don't enhance your capability to act or give you value, they're not worth your time. Why feel as though you're behind, when you aren't necessarily getting value from the tools you're concerned about? If you were finding value, you'd find time to keep up with them.

As we in associations talk about often, stick to what gives you value and you'll be alright!

Your Association's Messaging and Channels

I was watching HGTV the other day, and notcied an inordinate amount of commercials for Lowe's. I found it interesting that I hadn't really noticed that before - that Lowe's is being extremely smart in getting its message out on the appropriate channels where the people most likely to shop there are...

It's the same reason that the companies who exhibited at the ASAE Annual Meeting did so - they had a captive audience of the people who are the MOST likely to utilize their services.

I think this relates well to what we're doing in recruitment of members to our associations and how we are communicating with them.

When recruiting members, how are we developing our messages to get the most out of them, and are they being put on the right channels to get the most out of them? For recruiting newer young members, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and other social media tools might be the best channels to utilize. 

For older members, perhaps hard copy brochures and ads in print publications are the most appropriate channels to recruit members. 

My question - is there enough thought being put into the channels our associations are using to recruit and communicate with our members and potential members? If not, why? If so, who took the proactive steps to develop these messages and determine the channels that they would be "broadcasted" on?

It certainly seems to me that the Lowe's Corporation has it right in targeting their messages to the people who have the BEST chance of acting on the messages they're trying to get across. 

September 2, 2008

Handling Today's "Right This Second" Culture

So with technology, we all live in the "right this second" culture. In the September issue of ASAE's magazine, Associations Now, Amy Blagriff talks about handling this culture in the A Day in the Life column.

Specifically, she asks the question: How do you handle this "everybody wants it right this second" culture, while at the same time moving forward on projects and programs that your board and members want to do?

As someone who in my early career used to be completely affected by hearing the "ding" of Outlook when a message appeared, I now turn off my sound and Outlook as a whole for much of my days when I am working on specific projects that don't require me to be utilzing e-mail. I have decided to use e-mail right when I get into the office to clean up my box from the night before, as I am preparing for lunch to clean it up from the morning, and for at least a half hour before leaving for the day to clean it up from the afternoon. If it takes longer than that, I stay at work a little longer...

My opinion - I have a job to do just like everyone else, and if someone needs something urgently, someone should give me a call. I have let my boss know that it is important for me to do this so I can get my work done, and he is fine with it. I have also let others know my way of working as they e-mail me and need something.

I LOVE Amy's idea that if an e-mail is going to take longer than 5 minutes to write, she picks up the phone. I plan on using this idea as I move forward since likely, if it takes more than five minutes to write, it is too complicated to put in an e-mail anyway...

Just as an aside, one of the most interesting blog posts I have ever seen relating to e-mail is this one from Seth Godin. He gives 36 ideas on e-mail, and thoughts to consider when writing your e-mails... Very good ideas...

Anyway, that's how I would answer her question... How would you?

September 1, 2008

The CAE Designation - The Journey Begins

I know I am a little late to the game in talking about the ASAE & The Center's Annual Meeting, but it's better to be late than to never show up!!

For any of you who attended the Volunteer Breakfast on Saturday morning, did you feel the air kinda go out of the room and the blood begin to boil when the guy stood up who said he was a member of the committee who writes the questions for the CAE Exam? He stood up and talked about that committee's accomplishments, and I just couldn't help but hear a few people cursing that committee under their breath!

It wasn't me... yet!

However, it very well could be a year from now, because I am beginning to develop my study plan for sitting for the CAE Exam next year. I attended an event put on by the Association Forum of Chicagoland that talked about the CAE, and gave some background and tips to help us pass the exam. I have to be honest, it scared me a little...

The exam seems very thorough, which is a good thing to command the respect that a professional accreditation deserves, but perhaps not for someone who has only a little over five years' experience. They recommend reading a number of books to get the primer that you need to understand some of the topics you'll be tested on. One of them, The Association Law Handbook, is 592 pages... That's not a typo... 592 is the correct number... I have not read a book that has 592 pages perhaps ever. (Don't comment on what that says about me please :-)) It's a huge assignment, one that will take a lot of dedication, and a lot of money.

However, I personally feel as though professional accreditations are essential to showing your dedication to your chosen profession, and help you develop and retain your knowledge in many different facets of that profession. That's why neither the time reading and studying, nor the money that I'm going to have to spend, are going to get me down.

I am ready to begin this prepartion - wish me luck (and give me any advice you can)!!!

August 30, 2008

Why Do YOU Work for Associations?

So I was communicating with my brother recently by text message, our new preferred way of communicating now that I have a bigger cell plan, and I was telling him about an exciting interview I had just done with one of our very high ranking and important members who is a high ranking executive for a professional sports team.

He texted me back "why don't you use all of these connections you have to work for a professional sports team?" (shocking considering he is a sports writer and blogger...) I texted him back saying "because I work in associations, and I WANT to work in associations for my career."

I cannot type his expletive-laced response here for fear that it will turn off my earliest readers, but I'll just say that he let me have it about my assertion that I want to work in the association world for my career.

I guess I just don't get it... I have a love for association work. He has a love for writing, designing newspaper pages, and talking about sports. To each his own, right?

Personally, my reasoning for working in associations is that I get tremendous satisfaction out of knowing that I am making a difference for the members, for helping to develop the next batch of leaders through my words that I write on paper and in cyberspace, as well as the work I am doing elsewhere in the association. And I think I'm darn good at what I do... What's wrong with that? Plus, the added bonus is that I have been able to make personal connections with some of our highest ranking members, AND made personal connections between those members, which enhances their positive feelings about the association. These are things I am passionate about - helping people find the value in the organization for which I work, and feeling like I am doing something that is bettering others.

Have you ever had anyone ask you why you're working in the association or non-profit world? What has been your response?

August 28, 2008

Great Blog post

Very interesting post on one of my favorite blogs. The woman who wrote this is a former leader in the PRSSA Chapter at my alma mater, and her continued success is outstanding to see.

The quote is what I was really interested in - "Entrepreneurship is living  few years of your life like most people won't, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can't." 

Very interesting to think about, and I think Jamie really encapsulates what the thoughts are about being an entrepreneur.

Bringing this back to associations - what are we doing in our associations, or as individual association professionals, to move beyond the 9-5, watching the clock attitude? Are we taking enough chances? Are we empowering our employees to understand that success means not necessarily working the normal 9-5 hours? Are any of us taking advantage of the potential of being entrepreneurs? 

Amazingly Interesting...

...and very forward thinking. I just saw this video that was posted on PITV that is by Susan Fox talking about Digital Immigrants vs. Digital Natives (thanks for posting Maddie).

What an interesting topic, and an interesting way of looking at the generational differences that are evident in our memberships. How are we communicating and interacting with our members who are in these different categories and life stages? Is there thought being put into the medium of our messaging to account for these potential issues?

In my own organization, I am seeing the Digital Immigrants really acclimating themselves into the culture of the natives, as they continue to use digital more and more. At the same time, I don't think we can confuse them beginning to use it as a necessity with being as comfortable with it as the natives. So, we have kept our print publication as a bridge between these different groups. We haven't gone all digital, but that's the future and we continue to inch that way.

I certainly think that we in associations should be cognizant of the differences in our Digital Immigrants vs. Digital Natives in their needs. Digital Immigrants will likely never become as proficient as the Natives, so we shouldn't force them to be with the way we are communicating and with the programming we are offering.

Again, very interesting topic.

Renewed Interest and Excitement

So after attending the ASAE & The Center's Annual Meeting, and attending the BloogerCon session, I have a renewed excitement and interest in getting back into the swing of blogging. I have taken my hiatus from posting to develop some ideas and plans on how I am going to manage this, I am back and raring to go.

It also didn't hurt that Maddie, whose blog is one of the top 5 association blogs out there, mentioned Future Association Executive in a recent post. Thanks a lot for the mention - you're a super cool dudette!

So, after a short hiatus, I am back and will begin posting again over the weekend. I hope to hear what you like/dislike through the comments area!

You'll hear from me soon!

August 7, 2008


I am planning on taking a hiatus from posting on this blog. The reason - I am going to take the advice of many bloggers that I have come in contact with recently and sit out from writing a bit...

I saw something recently in a Twitter Tweet from Ben Martin that said "Good Social Web Advice: lurk before you leap"... I didn't do nearly enough of that, or even really have a plan for this blog prior to just getting on here and starting to write down my thoughts, and to be honest, I think I have suffered because of that, and haven't really been able to build any type of audience or have a good sense of where I am trying to go with this...

Will be attending the ASAE Conference starting at the end of next week, and will try to pick up as many pieces of knowledge relating to blogging and other social media tools, before trying to get on the bandwagon without a Google Map that tells me where I'm supposed to go!!

Until the next time...

July 7, 2008

#11: Social Media

I'll tell you - social media is all the rage these days. If you aren't looking into it for some reason, you'd better get on the bandwagon so you aren't left in the dust when all of the other sites in the world are offering RSS feeds, blogs & vlogs, podcasting, etc. I've read a number of stories in magazines about Gen Y, and how they're different from those of us in Gen X and the Boomer years... That chasm will only grow wider if you don't embrace social media NOW, and begin learning what it takes to get your message out in the Web 2.0 world.

Check out a few suggested blogs I read in my Google Reader (it's a free RSS aggregator for those of you who don't know) each day. They all offer great information on social media.

  • For an awesome blog devoted entirely to social media, check out the Diary of a Reluctant Blogger blog. This blog offers a great deal of excellent pieces of advice and information relating to social media and its uses for associations these days. Her most recent blog, a primer for those who don't know much about social media (like me) on RSS feeds was great.
  • In addition, check out the guys over at the Principled Innovation blog. They also talk a lot about innovation and social media. One of their principals even has his own blog that talks often about social media called Certified Association Executive.
  • One more that you should check out for the latest on technology as a whole - Robert Scoble's Scobleizer blog. Robert is a columnist for Fast Company magazine, and has a great deal of outstanding insights into technology as a whole...
So, as I sit here and tell you about what's in my Google Reader on a daily basis, I hope you'll check out some of these blogs to bone up on your social media savvy... It's only a matter of time before social media booms, and you're left in the dust not knowing what it's all about!

July 1, 2008

#10: Three Lessons Learned from the Airline Industry

So I was thinking recently about things the airline industry has done lately (mostly all negative for customers), and saw a few lessons that we can learn to enhance our efforts as we move forward as association professionals.

1. Don't give away the lot for free to start - What the airlines did that was faulty was give away everything for free to start. They didn't charge for checking baggage, refreshments on the plane, or anything else for which they're now charging - things that people value. Now that they are charging for them, people are flabbergasted that they are being made to pay for these services, in which they would have found value had there been a charge from the very beginning.

People will pay for what they value, and we as association professionals should never forget that. Just look at what ASAE has done with charging for all of the webinars they produce and meetings you can attend. You know that what they are going to give you will be of value, so you pay to either attend a meeting or listen to a webinar. Provide value to your members, and you won't have to give away the lot for free.

2. Listen to your customers/members - If the airlines were smart, they would start listening to their customers, who have continually said that they would rather pay higher fares than be nickled and dimed to death upon arriving at the airport.

Perhaps this is something we can learn when looking at Conference attendance or educational sessions throughout the year... Perhaps if we gave our members a chance to share their thoughts on how they'd prefer to pay, we could learn a great deal and provide them with the experience that they want, before they have the chance to complain like airline passengers have been recently.

3. Efficiency Loss is Bad for Business - I think back to the Visa Check Card commercials that I have seen and how when someone uses cash, everything (the music, the dancing, the beautiful motion of the commercial) stops... That's what's happening at the airports today. You show up for a flight, and each person who is checking a bag now has to get their credit card swiped to pay additional charges. This loss of efficiency is not good for the airlines, and it certainly is not good for associations.

With many of our associations being very small staffed, we need to be planning and thinking about how everything we do is going to not only be in the best interest of the members, but also be efficient for members and the staff. How would a change like what's happening in the airline industry right now affect your small staff's efficiency and effectiveness as you move forward? Would you lose membership because your dues process for example was not efficient for members? How about if your convention registration process wasn't efficient for the members, and when they arrived, each and every one of them were made to pay an additional $XX at the registration desk? Planning, planning, planning...

June 23, 2008

#9: Championing an Idea and Gaining Buy-In

Saw an interesting piece in the ASAE Communication Section newsletter today. It discusses gaining buy-in for your ideas and gives tips on how to get the managers, executives and boards on board with your idea.

Another interesting piece that I have seen recently deals with learning how to champion an idea - a similar topic to what's above.

Check out both to learn more about working effectively with the leaders of your organization to get things done.

June 18, 2008

#8: Association Foum of Chicagoland Annual Meeting

I attended the Association Forum of Chicagoland's Annual Meeting yesterday, and it was a really great event. Hearing the outstanding keynotes, as well as receiving the knowledge that was shared in the breakout sessions, I feel a great deal more enthused and excited to continue in making change at my organization.

A quick note to those of you who have not heard Martha Rogers speak - try your best to hear her! The information that she shared in changing the way your are looking at the value of your members/customers was really outstanding to hear, and information that I have not gleaned from other speakers in the past. The fact that your members/customers are the MOST VALUABLE thing your association produces is a very simple concept, but one I hadn't really thought about in the same way that it was relayed to us in the closing session. It's not your products, your programming, it's not your publications - it's your members!

Rogers also really pushed the fact that we as association professionals cannot underestimate the fact that we need to give our members/customers what they want, when they want it, to truly market to them effectively. The way she put it - interact, remember, respond. We need to have a good institutional memory, and when they tell us XX is what they want, we need to provide it to them.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who made the day possible, and if you are an association professional, you should seriously take a look at this meeting when planning your professional development for next year!

June 12, 2008

#7: Playing to Your Strengths

So I am a TV buff - I watch a lot of it, and have a great deal of favorite shows. They range from comedy to drama to reality. Why am I telling you this, you might be asking?

Last night, while I was watching Top Chef, one of the contestants said something that I thought was quite interesting and very applicable to our work in Associations. He said that what a lot of people don't understand about Top Chef is that you have to take the challenge and bend it to your strengths. He said that too many people change their whole philosophy to meet the challenge that is presented to them rather than using their strengths to overcome the challenge.

As I thought about that statement, I came to the conclusion that there were a great deal of practical applications to our work.

We face challenges everyday, including in our component relations work, volunteer management, communications work, legal work, member services work, and as executives. My opinion is that it is how we handle those challenges and bend them to our stengths that determines whether our organizations are successful.

Over the past year or so, the publication of our organization was restructured and its mission was changed to fit more into the mission of the organization. In the past, it shared a lot of information about the organization, and provided information about our components written by them.

The challenge: how could we change the mission of the publication without totally making our members upset that it wasn't the same as it had been for nearly 100 years? One of our biggest strengths is that we are committed to our mission, and driven to achieve it on a daily basis.

Since the publication wasn't aligning to our mission as it was structured, and in order for it to align more appropriately, the organization's leadership realized that it needed to include more compelling stories that educated, inspired and entertained the members.

So, we met the challenge by utilizing the strengths that we possessed as staff members to write compelling stories that educated, inspired and entertained our members in areas that they could use in their day to day lives, thus aligning our publication perfectly with our organization's mission.

Since the realignment of the publication to meet the challenge that the organization faced, we have received a GREAT deal of very positive feedback, and we have been able to push the organization's mission much more easily without really putting it in the members' face over and over.

They are getting it, and it's because we were able to bend the challenge to our strengths and meet that challenge by doing so.

While we DID change what we were doing to meet the challenge, we really utilized our strengths as writers and as an organization that adheres to its mission to meet the challenge that was in front of us (i.e. we bent the challenge to our strengths.) I think this fits in well to what my favorite Top Chef said last night on the show...

June 11, 2008

#6: Volunteer Management

Volunteer management is obviously a huge aspect of what we do in associations and non-profits. As someone who has worked in volunteer management/component relations for the past two years, and has recently moved back to a communication-specific position, I have found that there are a number of things to keep in mind when doing volunteer management and component relations work.

1. Set expectations up front of both the staff member and volunteer.
2. Continually go back and examine whether you as a staff member and the volunteers are living up to the expectations that were set at the beginning.
3. Set goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) for your volunteers to accomplish.
4. Set up small wins for them to accomplish as they are working toward their goals.
5. Communicate regularly, but don't OVERcommunicate with volunteers.
6. Learn how to effectively utilize two-way communication - learn to LISTEN to your volunteers' needs.
7. Listen to Seth Godin's e-mail checklist when communicating with volunteers
8. Be sure to regularly recognize your volunteers with praise. (Remember to praise publicly and confront privately!)

Discussion Details:
  • Learning to manage volunteers is something that all of us as future association professionals need to know about, as it is an essential part of association work. Using the tips above, as well as some of the links below will help you to accomplish this.
Quick Links:

June 10, 2008

#5: Innovation

Saw a show last night on CNBC about Innovation that I wanted to share - check out to see a review of a few of the different shows, and to see more about the programming on the channel.

# 4: High Profile Members

As I worked today, I realized that we have really had good relationships with many of our highest profile members. As I thought about why, I came to a conclusion that it is because we have great member loyalty. For the most part, our members have a great affinity toward our organization.

In addition, I feel strongly that we have been able to maintain these relationships by asking members to be involved and engaged in educating other members on their positions. Since 2006, we have been doing online alumni spotlights of our most distinguished members to show them off to our other members. This has been a great help in educating our other members on leadership and how to get to the top.

Our approach in going to these members for their insight is letting them know that we are trying to promote them to our other members, and letting them know that they have a story to tell. They are generally very interested in allowing us to tell their story. This is a great thing, and hopefully something you can take back to your own organizations.

What are you doing to enhance your relationships with your most established and accomplished members?

Discussion Details:
  • Accomplished members are likely to be engaged in an organization they have a great ffinity toward.
  • Appraoching these members in a way that allows them to know that you are promoting their story is a great way to do it.
  • Asking them to share the insights they have gained throughout their career to help other members is a great way to get them interested!
  • Approaching them at a good time of their year is important (i.e. if a football coach, during summer is the best time, etc.)

June 9, 2008

#3: Utilizing Technology and Outside Vendors

How is your association utilizing technology to its benefit?

It seems as though that is a big question right now, and one that we're trying to wrap our arms around as we move forward. I have been transformed in my thinking recently in going through a strategy session with an outside vendor that we NEED to be utilizing technology more effectively than we are currently, and that just utilizing technology for the sake of it doesn't really accomplish anything.

As an aside, I have really also come to realize that while I have a lot of core competencies, knowing how to effectively leverage technology and web applications probably isn't one right now. However, as my boss pointed out, we are a membership organization, and we do that pretty well. We're not a communication shop. There are companies out there that are, and we need to be utilizing their expertise in that area to help us move forward...

I have also found that using technology is easy - using it correctly to get the most out of it, isn't always... My eyes were open wide as my boss and I were walked through a session on how the usage of such platforms as Twitter can really be effective in helping us communicate to our audience what we're trying to on a regular basis. I never would have thought to use it in the way that it was proposed, and I think it will be very beneficial to us to utilize it.

So, as I move forward, and hope as you do as well, I'm going to be thinking about how to leverage different pieces of technology effectively as opposed to just utilizing technology for the sake of it.

Discussion Details:

  • Using technology is easy - using it correctly is not.
  • Learning to use some of these new technologies can really enhance your communication areas.
  • Sometimes, asking people who are experts in certain areas to lead you through the process is the way to go - you can't know everything, and you aren't supposed to!

June 8, 2008

#2 - Thinking Outside Associations...

Is it just me, or do we as association professionals sometimes either get caught up in our own work or in our own industry, and not really look outside of it for good ideas and innovation?

I see it in my experience with my own organization working for the national headquarters of a men's general fraternity. I find myself often comparing what we are doing with others in our own genre and industry, and although that is necessary to gauge our niche within our industry, I think we get caught up doing it too often at the expense of innovation that is happening outside of our industry. Does anyone else feel this way in your organizations?

Innovation and change only come from people who are willing to make change happen. I have learned that by staying insulated in my own organization and industry doesn't help me innovate, and thus I have tried to improve my chances of innovating successfully by checking out those who do it for a living like those who are in the feeds on the right hand side of the screen.

Discussion Details:

#1: Time Management and Work/Life Balance

As a mid-level Association staffer, I have a great deal of obligations to my organization work-wise. I lead our communication efforts, and also have responsibility for member recognition and loyalty programming. I have also just accepted two volunteer appointments with professional development organizations, which are likely to take up a great deal of time.

In addition to all of this, I recently was married, which also puts a new spin on my priorities. My new wife is expecting me to make as much time for her as possible - something I also desperately want to do.

Likely, many of you are in the same boat in your careers - a great deal of job responsibility with a desire to make a name for yourself and move your career forward. How have you been able to manage your time to make yourself not only a valuable employee but also a valuable volunteer?

Recently, in a conversation I had with one of my association's members who is a Fortune 500 CEO, he laughed at the notion of work/life balance. He essentially told me that if you want a work/life balance, you will never get to the top levels of the corporate ladder.

However, we don't work in the corporate world. We chose to work in the non-profit/association world, and I want to have a good work/life balance. I believe I can get that through my job and volunteerism, but it will take some work.

What are some of the ways that you have been able to achieve an effective balance with your career, your professional development obligations, and your family? My thought is that through your comments, we can all benefit!

Discussion Details

  • Do you have an effective way to handle your work/life balance?
  • How are you trying to develop your career, while also making sure to be effective in your paying job?
  • In my experience, involvement is key. Being involved and showing your experience to more people than just those in your organization is a GREAT way to enhance yourself for a future job.
  • Creating work/life balance may be difficult for those in the corporate world, but for those of us in Associations, we can do it if we just choose to!

Links to Check Out

Introduction to the Blog

Hey everyone!

As I start this blog, I wanted to make sure to give a quick overview on its purpose, as well as how it will be laid out. I would be interested in any input that you'd be willing to provide on my posts, as well as any ideas for future posts (and guest bloggers as well...)

The purpose of the blog is to provide my insights and experiences in my association work to my readers. I am a mid-level Association staffer, and think there is insight that I have gained from which others in my position would benefit.

My blog's posts will include the situations that I experience, thoughts on how I would handle similar situations that I have encountered, as well as something I call Discussion Details that I gain from my experiences that are the main takeaways from the posts. I will also share stories that I find online that are relevant to either Association professionals or ares in which Associations need to look as they move forward.

As I begin my posting, I encourage you to comment about what you like and dislike, thoughts on whether I am way off or right on target, and ideas on future posts.

Thanks for reading!