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 http://innovation.cnbc.com/ 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!