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?