December 11, 2009

Addendum to my Big Idea Post...

So I posted yesterday about the Big Idea that essentially talked about empowering people at the lowest level.

Well, today, I saw on Twitter a Guy Kawasaki post that linked to this really interesting post talking about 50 ways to foster a culture of innovation within your organization. I especially liked #s 8, 11, 35, 37, 41 and 50. These speak to the fact that Kristin Clarke's original big idea that she proposed is in fact a good idea in terms of empowering those who might be at the lower level. Those people often have great ideas, but might not feel as though the culture is in place to allow them to get them into the right hands.

I'm going to think about how we might be able to incorporate some of these ideas into my organization. I'd encourage you to do the same...

December 10, 2009

Big Idea Month: Empowering the Lowest Level Staffers

December has been deemed Big Idea month by Acronym, ASAE & The Center's blog. They've asked association bloggers to either come up with big ideas and write about them, or write about some of the ones that were posted by readers in the comments section of the post linked above.

One big idea I'd like to discuss and write about was proposed by Kristin Clarke: "What if associations promoted all of the lowest-ranking staffers to VPs for a week--what changes would they immediately make?"

My first thought - WHOA! That's a big idea, and a radical one at that. However, I'd like to put a little twist on it... I think an even more radical idea would be to make the VP and the lowest-ranking people change places for a week (not just put the lowest ranking people in the VP's chair)...

It would be instructive not only for those at the lowest levels to see the different vantage point, but it may also be incredibly valuable to the association for the VP to see life like it is for those at the lowest levels for a week. What are members frustrated about? Why are the processes at that level so tedious? Why is it so hard to get my voice heard by those at the highest level? All of these things would be beneficial for the higher level staffers to see.

As another aside, I have always said that I would LOVE for the members of my current organization to spend one day working at the office to see life from that vantage point. I think if that happened, there would be a different level of understanding between the membership and the staff about service, responsibilities, and just the overall aspect of how the organization runs on a regular basis. I guess they call what I am talking about an internship program, so perhaps we'll need to start one!!

Back to Kristin's original idea, I really think empowering the lowest level employees to make their voice heard about what changes need to be made is a great idea! But my question is - shouldn't this already be happening without having to make them a VP for a week? Shouldn't we already be soliciting this feedback on a regular basis if we are to be a great association? I would think if you could build that kind of culture, a culture where every staff member no matter what their level was confident to make their voice heard, you'd be in a pretty good situation. You'd also be better prepared to make change that the rest of the staff supports and understands.

December 3, 2009

Blogging on the Forum Effect

Over the next four weeks, I am going to be blogging on the Association Forum of Chicagoland's FORUM Effect blog relating to something I have been doing for the last three + years: working from home.

I wrote a story in their November/December issue on this topic, and am expanding on it in my posts over the next month.

My first post talks about the first of the five D's of working from home that I developed - dedication. As you can see, I talk about how you must be dedicated to your craft, your association, and your co-workers to make working from home a positive experience.

I'd like to thank Heather and the folks at the Association Forum for giving me the opportunity, and hope that you'll take a look over the next few weeks at my posts.

As always, thanks for reading...

December 2, 2009

Speaking Up for the Extroverts...

I read an interesting story on recently called Why Introverts Can Make the Best Leaders. It's an interesting story that talks about five traits that make introverts great leaders.

I think that all of writer Jennifer Kahnweiler's points are well written and make sense, but I'd like to speak up for extroverts to talk about some of their leadership traits by commenting on what Jennifer used as traits of introverts...

1. They Think First, Talk Later - I think this is a good trait for a leader, but I think even extroverted leaders understand that you have to be in control of yourself to be seen as credible. Credibility comes from knowing what you're talking about and being able to articulate your point when needed - i.e. being measured and thinking about your response as it relates to a situation. Every leader that I have ever met has understood this, whether they were an introvert or extrovert.

2. They Focus on Depth - No argument here. Depth is important when considering issues. However, I think that leaders need to be willing to trust those who work with them to focus on the depth (i.e. the weeds), while the leaders focus on the overarching mission, future vision, and goals of the organization. If they get caught up in every little minute detail of a specific project, that might cause some of their employees to not feel empowered, and thus not feel as though they are being led...

3. They Exude Calm - I think calmness in the times Jennifer describes is again, a positive trait for an introvert. However, I want someone leading my association or organization who is going to rally the troops to meet goals, be the loudest cheerleader for the association, and inspire others to act in betterment of the organizational mission. I think that understanding when calmness is needed is obvious, but you have to be willing to also exude passion to be a great leader.

4. They Let Their Fingers Do the Talking - I understand that documentation is necessary, and I also understand that being able to articulate your points in writing is important. I think when leaders embrace social media tools like Jennifer points out, that's a great thing... However, when a leader sits in his/her office and shoots off 100 e-mails instead of picking up the phone to call an employee or member, I'm not sure that inspires people to follow them. I'm not sure that a leader who only blogs and sits on Twitter all day is seen as credible. Knowing when to write and when to communicate more personally should be common for all leaders - not just introverts.

5. They Embrace Solitude - Leaders need to clear their heads - get away from it all every once in a while. But, I want a leader who is visible - someone who inspires me to be better by the fact that I can see their dedication. Occasional solitude is fine, but embracing it too much to the point of being a recluse is not my idea of a great leader.

I guess to close, I believe that in many cases, inspiration is what employees and members are looking for in a leader. If someone inspires them to be a better employee, general member, volunteer, etc., that is a positive thing for an association/organization. Can that person be an introvert? Absolutely. Are they the only ones who can do so? Absolutely not.

November 9, 2009

Advice for People Looking to Get into Association Management

This week, the national unemployment rate went over 10%, just another example of how the economy is still in its recovery phase. It's tough for people out there, and it just seems like it's hitting every aspect of the job market, including associations.

However, in taking a quick look at the job board on ASAE's web site, and on the Association Forum of Chicagoland's web site, there are over 200 open positions looking for qualified people to fill them. The job market in associations is certainly not as barren as some areas.

So, as I was thinking about the job market and the association world, I thought about the career advice that I have received in the past. As I've come up, I have received a lot of great career advice, and have tried my best to provide some good advice to current students who are trying to find jobs as they are entering the workforce.

So, my question to you is: what's the best career advice you've ever received, whether it's specific to association management or your chosen niche within the field? If someone asked you today what are the three biggest qualities that they need to be successful in finding a job with an association, what would you tell them?

Looking forward to your comments.

November 5, 2009

Quoted on - A great piece, but context is needed

So a few weeks back I was contacted by a writer from who had seen an old post on this blog about Defriending and whether it was generational. She was doing a piece on defriending using social media and the different ways people reacted to it, and wanted to know about my experiences with it.

The story can be found by clicking here. I think it is a good piece that definitely gives a well rounded view of how a number of different people handle defriending on social media sites, how people feel, and it even has some science included in it with the research that was done.

As you scroll about 3/4 of the way down the piece, you see a few quotes from me, and I wanted to talk about the context in which they were made. (One of the positives of having a blog, right? The ability to give context to things you've said!)

Throughout my conversation with the writer, who as I said did a great job with the finished piece, I talked about value. The fact is, I want to receive (and provide) value in my interactions within the social web. I don't necessarily think the quotes that were used reflect that fact, so here's my context.

My first quote, which talks about the people whom I defriend, was in the context of me not necessarily receiving the value I had expected from my connections with those specific people. There are many, many people I do find value from, but my litmus test is whether someone is providing me value. That is how I have made my decisions on the people I have defriended (which is a pretty small number honestly).

Moving onto my second quote about ending online relationships, I think it comes back to value. What I said is the way I feel - if someone decides to no longer follow or connect with me on the social web, they obviously weren't getting the value that they thought they were going to. That's OK with me... I don't want someone hanging on just because they don't want to hurt my feelings, and I would expect that would be how most people would feel.

This experience being interviewed was an interesting one... I was torn on whether I wanted to participate, and after deciding I wanted to and seeing the story, I think it was a worthwhile experience.

Oh, and by the way, my fellow ASAE Communications Section Council Member, Cecilia Sepp, was also quoted and did a nice job of getting her position across. While she and I differ in how we use our social networks, I think we both agree that this experience was a fun one!

November 3, 2009

The Rise of Webinars - Too Many, Too Fast?

Ok, I get it... Webinars are the new fad in education, both within specific associations and across industries. They seem to be a cost effective alternative to in person meetings, and provide an opportunity for more regular and frequent education for people who are often spread across many different time zones and areas of the country/world. They are really a positive when done correctly, but I have a question for all you association folks out there...

Are you getting a little webinared-out (i.e. worn out by webinars)?

In watching Twitter regularly and seeing the promotions, it seems as though if I really wanted to, I could sit in on an hour webinar each hour during an eight hour day about say, social media...

Some of these webinars might be from people who legitimately can do a great job in educating people about certain things in the industry - industry experts so to speak. However, I often see promotion for webinars that are nothing more than veiled sales pitches for a specific company trying to get into the association space, thus just causing cyber noise for me.

Am I the only one who is seeing this trend, and beginning to get a little tired of all of the webinars? How do you make your decisions about which webinars you sit in on? Have you personally sat in on any really bad webinars? If so, tell us about it...

Again, I'm not against webinars per se if they're done correctly by a respected professional, but this incessant rise in the frequency of webinars seems to be getting under my skin for some reason...

October 23, 2009

Interns - If You Use Them, PAY Them...

It's been nearly two months since I have posted something, and for some reason, I haven't been that upset about it. I've actually been enjoying sitting back and reading others' thoughts, just taking it all in.

However, in reading something today at lunch, I felt compelled to write a post about a topic about which I have a lot of passion - internships. Specifically, paid vs. unpaid internships.

I was reading a post by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on his blog, and it almost made my blood boil... Cuban is frustrated that he can't hire a bunch of unpaid interns to produce videos, compile statistics, etc. that could then be distributed widely to news outlets and bloggers across the world. I actually like the idea he has here in terms of developing the content and providing it to people, but I REALLY don't like how he was trying to make it happen.

Personally, I believe interns should ALWAYS be paid, even if they're getting college credit for their internship. Why? It's simple. If someone that you decide to hire (whether they're an intern or an employee) is doing work that is benefiting the organization, they deserve to be paid for the work they're doing.

Many times, interns are college students who are taking a summer to get experience leading up to a career in a chosen field. They're dedicating their summer to working for your organization/company, building their skills for their future, and foregoing the opportunity to have another job to make money for their upcoming school year. They're dedicating themselves to you and working hard to make sure they're getting the best experience (and a good reference), thus helping your organization succeed. Yet, all too often, companies and organizations don't pay these people. It's just wrong.

A couple other observations: how engaged can someone really be at work if they know they're not getting paid? How happy can they be? How much real productivity can you expect from someone who's not getting paid? Imagine that you had to go to your office for a full week and knew you weren't getting paid anything. Would you put as much effort into your job that week? Now, imagine 12 weeks of 40 hour work weeks not getting paid, but being expected to work hard and benefit the company/organization... Yeah, not real appealing is it?

You want the people who are interning for you to be inspired to do good work, right? You want them to enjoy coming in and feel as though they're having a positive experience, right? Then pay them.

Relating this back to associations, I know many non-profits and associations don't have a lot of excess money lying around to pay interns. I get it. However, I also get that there usually is enough to pay them something, even if it's a monthly stipend for their housing and meals... Do something for these people who are dedicating themselves to making your organization better for 12 weeks. Be an advocate for them. They deserve it.

So, no matter whether you're like Mark Cuban and have a lot of money, or are a small association and don't have much at all, I urge you to think about the interns you're hiring and how you'd feel working for nothing for 12 weeks...

Ok, my blood is back to a simmer, so I'm done.

August 26, 2009

Lesson Learned: Trust is Key in Volunteer Management

So I was lucky enough this past weekend to serve as a volunteer for the Solheim Cup, the women's golf equivalent to the Ryder Cup where the US takes on Europe to see who's best in women's golf. (US won 16-12!! GO USA!)

Now, by no means was I a top level volunteer - I was on the Programs committee. In fact, I never saw a staff member during my entire volunteer experience. With 1,600 volunteers as a part of the event, I was not surprised by this. I was managed by another volunteer, who did an admirable job for someone who doesn't manage volunteers on a regular basis.

As usual, I tried to pull something that I could use in my future from my current experience, and what I really learned this time was that TRUST is paramount! There are times when the staff, even with all of their preparation and experience, can't account for all of the intricacies of what might happen.

Here is just one example:

We were told to hang out at the entrance ready to sell programs until when people came in. Well, with only two of us at the main entrance and hundreds of people in line, we were going to get slammed when the people began piling in. So, instead of waiting until people came in and crushed us, we decided that we were going to walk down the middle of the crowd and sell as they were waiting. We ended up selling a number of programs, and weren't slammed when the crowd was finally allowed to enter. It was quick thinking and just a bit of common sense that made that experience more palatable for us volunteers, and the staff had nothing to do with it.

It was a real lesson for someone who often works with volunteers and at times, is a little more territorial than I should be.

To close, here are a couple of questions to consider:

How can we as associations encourage innovation with our volunteers?
How can we ensure that they feel empowered to make decisions that are going to make the experience better for them and the association?
How can we learn to TRUST our volunteers more, and allow their contributions to be celebrated when they do something that makes the experience better?

Thanks for reading...

Still Think Social Media is a Fad?

Watch this:

Special thanks to co-workers Beau Hanger and Kyle Libra for turning me onto this. Very interesting!

August 24, 2009

Twitter and Its Reach...

I saw an interesting story on the web site for The Chronicle of Higher Education today, called Teens Don't Tweet. It talks about a new piece of research from the Nielsen Company that says Twitter's surge in popularity and growth is not being fueled by young people.

The second paragraph was extremely interesting to me:

"Twitter’s footprint has expanded impressively in the first half of 2009, reaching 10.7 percent of all active Internet users in June. Perhaps even more impressively, this growth has come despite a lack of widespread adoption by children, teens, and young adults. In June 2009, only 16 percent of website users were under the age of 25. Bear in mind persons under 25 make up nearly one quarter of the active US Internet universe, which means that effectively under-indexes on the youth market by 36 percent."

If you recall, I posted on this blog back at the end of July about the infatuation with the younger generation on texting as opposed to Twitter. Texting is a tool that they are already using, and one that we are underutilizing as a means of communicating with our members.

But, what I really want to get at is all of the conversations at the ASAE Annual Meeting that related to "focus on the strategy, not the tools." I think too often (my own organization and myself included), we are experimenting on different tools without a real strategy in place to start with, which is not the right way to do things. A strategy needs to guide us to which tools we will utilize.

As much as Twitter is the phenomenon right now, it may not be a long-term tool to accomplish the strategy that should be in place. Looking at what the younger generation is talking about (or not talking about in the case of Twitter) now, will allow us to have a better understanding of the types of tools that we should be utilizing as a part of our strategy.

So, how can we develop a strategy that will allow us to not have to reinvent the wheel every time a tool goes away?

I'd love to hear your comments on this post below. Thanks for reading...

August 18, 2009

Day 3 Recap of ASAE 2009

I talked about what usually happens to me on Day 2 of conferences in my post yesterday. I think that finally happened to me on the third and final day of the event. It was a bit lackluster for me, really because of the closing general session.

Sadly, what was my most anticipated session didn't go as planned... It featured Fareed Zakaria from Newsweek. Unfortunately, due to the length of time it took for all of the business that was crammed into the session, I had to leave to head to the airport to make my flight. In new ASAE chairman Velma Hart's speech, she talked about not sitting on the sidelines and complain about what was happening. Instead, be involved to make the change. This post is not meant to be from the sidelines, and I have some ideas as to how to fix the final session...

1. The opening "entertainment", who were dancers and a guitarist, could be cut. First off, that started about ten minutes late, and then that took up about ten minutes itself (i.e. 20 minutes of time in all...) Eliminate that stuff and you'd get to the keynote a little quicker.

2. How about having the new chairmen of ASAE and The Center give their keynotes at the OPENING session, to key up the members for their vision of what the association should be doing? I think the last board meeting of the previous board happens before that opening session, so that would be logical to me. Perhaps I'm missing something though...

3. I didn't get why the person from the Ontario Tourism Board was included in the closing general session. Why would they not be in the opening session talking about what there is to do in the city, etc.? She talked about things we should see while in the city. Umm... We were all leaving either later in the day or the next morning.

Anyway, I think the ASAE 2009 Annual Meeting was absolutely great, but that final session left a bad taste in my mouth. I sat there for an hour and a half waiting for Zakaria to speak, but instead of hearing him, I was just overwhelmed with too much content that seemed like advertisements. I hated having to leave, but with the way the event was scheduled, I would have been in Toronto rush hour trying to get to the airport for my 7 pm flight. Just wasn't something I could risk, and so I missed what would have been a real highlight for me.

I hope these tips are taken for what they're worth - constructive criticism on what was otherwise a really great event!

Thanks for reading...

August 17, 2009

My Day 2 at ASAE Annual Meeting '09 - Full of Hits!

After a great first day at the ASAE Annual meeting, I was prepared for a slight letdown. It's just something that usually happens to me at conferences for some reason - a great first day full of excitement at being there, and then a lackluster second day without all of the adrenaline from Day 1.

However, to my pleasant surprise, this year that did not happen! I had a fantastic second day, and am really jazzed for everything that is still to come!

A Recap

The day started with a bang, as Charlene Li, author of the book Groundswell, took the stage and did a great job at talking about utilizing social technologies to enhance community. As I have talked about on this blog in the past, having raving fans is important, and with the social technologies that are out there these days, building that groundswell of support from those raving fans is easier than ever. It was a thought provoking session on how we can put her ideas to use in our own organization. Letting go of control is a key to this, which is something that we need to embrace!

Following that session, I was lucky enough to get a seat in the standing room only session led by Jamie Notter on dealing with conflict in a constructive way. He gave seven practical tips on how to effectively deal with conflict in your organization and with people, and I think it was an outstanding opportunity for me to gather some insights into an area where I know I need some work. Thanks a lot Jamie!

I was able to have lunch with a former co-worker, who is having a fantastic experience in his post-fraternity career. I enjoyed catching up with him and hearing about the fun things he's been up to.

This afternoon, I sat in on a session led by Francie Dalton that talked about Motivating the Unmotivated. It was the standout session of the conference thus far, talking about the seven different types of people you are likely to have as bosses or subordinates, and how you need to handle them in your management up or down. I thought this session provided a great deal of very practical information, and was done in such an exciting and invigorating way that I stayed engaged throughout. I am looking forward to reading and listening to all of her resources that she provided to attendees as we left. Outstanding session!

As I finish this, there is still more fun to come. I am meeting up with a group of fun fellow professionals for dinner in about an hour, and then heading to the YAP Party a little later on. It will be fun to hang out with the group of folks that will be there, many of whom I will meet for the first time in real life.

That's the great thing about social media tools - you are able to develop real relationships with people who live hundreds and thousands of miles away, and when you meet in person, it's like you've known one another for years. I am excited about this opportunity, and about what's still to come tomorrow on Day 3!!

Thanks for reading...

August 16, 2009

First Day of ASAE 2009 in the Books

What a day today! I woke up at 3:15 am to catch a flight to Toronto, and am running on fumes now at 9:15 pm after an exhilirating day at the 2009 ASAE & The Center Annual Meeting & Expo.

Upon arriving at the Convention Centre, I was able to take part in the Expo and meet a number of vendors for a very specific thing that is coming down the pike for my organization - online elections for one of our Board members... It was interesting to talk to them and hear about their strengths and in some cases, weaknesses.

There were a number of additional highlights for me:

1. The session about Associations Now's crowdsourcing experiment on one of their recent issues really was outstanding. They highlighted a lot of great things that they did, but also laid out a great deal of ways in which they felt they could have improved their experiment. I really find that the real jewels and lessons for others come from the mistakes that were made that people are willing to share. I appreciated Lisa, Joe and Samantha's willingness to share the few areas in which they felt they could have been more successful.

2. The awesome impromptu tweetup following the first bank of educational sessions allowed me to meet a great deal of people I knew virtually, but not IRL (in real life). It was great to spend some time with an alumnus of our organization, Eric Casey, as well as all of the others. I love that there is so much social media being integrated into this year's ASAE Annual meeting.

3. I sat in on an interesting session called 10 Steps to Use Social Media to Engage Volunteers, which was led by a Communications Sections Council buddy Jennifer Ragan-Fore. She and her co-presenter really did a nice job of explaining the concepts behind engagement of volunteers using social media, without getting bogged down in the vehicles. I thought that was a really great aspect of their session. Not all platforms work for every organization, and by not talking about specific platforms too much, I think they held my attention a lot more than if they would have talked about Second Life the whole time... I just don't think that we would be successful using that tool... The concepts were really great though.

4. The Gold Circle Awards Ceremony was great, as outstanding efforts in communications over the last year were recognized with awards. I believe that there were a number of very deserving award winners, and I congratulate each and every one of you.

The evening ended with a quick dinner, and me heading back here to the hotel to get some work done for tomorrow. I am looking forward to a GREAT Day 2 (for me, Day 3 for everyone else.)

Until then, it's now B.E.D.T.I.M.E.

Thanks for reading...

July 31, 2009

The Future of Our Communications - Texting?

Just saw that this is my 100th post on this blog. Pretty cool, but I wanted to get into something that is hopefully a little more interesting - whether we should be doing more to get our arms around texting and its importance in today's culture... Here's why I started thinking about this...

My wife came home from work the other day (she works at a therapeutic day school with kids ranging from age 6-15) and told me a story. She said the students asked her about whether she was on Facebook or any other social netoworking site, to which she replied no. She then asked them which one she should join and their thoughts on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. They told her the following:

- MySpace is out. No one uses MySpace anymore.
- Facebook is awesome.

Both of those answers were pretty obvious... However, their answer to Twitter was what was interesting... None of them knew what Twitter was, and when she explained it, they said that they didn't understand the point and that they all text to accomplish what Twitter does.

I also just read Joe Rominiecki's great story in the August issue of Associations Now called Make the Move to Mobile (you probably have to sign in to read it...), which talked about texting in great detail. The most interesting line in my opinion - "Nielsen research shows that, as of the second quarter of 2008, the average mobile user sends more text messages per month (357) than places calls (204). Text holds the advantage in age groups up to 44 years old."

Also, check out this article from CBS News. The last paragraph has some really interesting stats. They include: "The surge in text messaging is being driven by teens 13 to 17 years old, who on average send and receive about 1,742 text messages a month."

Whoa! Those two pieces of information are big news in my opinion, and I don't know that most associations or companies really understand the prevalence of texting in today's youth culture (who will be our members in less than ten years in some cases). Looking at myself, I don't text much at all, but looking at people younger than me, that's their preferred method of communicating.

How can we as associations and companies do a better job in getting on board the train that is already moving - using text messaging to hit our future members with our messages today?

How can we use text messaging to engage potential members and communicate about our benefits without turning them off?

How can we engage our current members for their help in utilizing texting to hit younger potential members?

I'm asking, because right now, I don't know the answer...

July 27, 2009

Social Media is Great, but Face to Face Still Trumps All

The title tells the story, but I'll give you the back story of why I thought about this post.

I recently returned from my organization's biennial Convention, a five-day event in which undergraduate and alumni members come together to do the business of the organization, learn new skills and have fun. This year's event was the largest in ten years, and it seems as though everyone had a great time.

We had many brothers taking advantage of our Twitter hashtag, reading our blog, and checking out our photos that we posted on Flickr to get a sense of what was happening. Our use of social media was pretty successful for our first try at it.

However, those who were tracking the event on social media tools were not getting the actual Convention experience. They were not involved in all of the one-on-one conversations that were happening in the lobby. They weren't able to network with some of the really outstanding brothers who were at the event who are looking for potential employees. They weren't making their voice heard in our business sessions. They weren't even able to celebrate with those who were presented with awards. Instead, they were getting very small blips of information from watching our social media presences.

To me, social media is great. I use a great deal of tools to enhance my experience on the web. However, when there is a chance to be in person for something, THAT is where the real value lies. That's why I don't necessarily agree that associations will be doing all of their meetings in the future online, as some people have suggested. There is an experience being AT the event that you just don't get through social media.

As always, if you think I'm wrong, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!!

June 21, 2009

My Experience on the Other Side...

As some of you may know, I recently began volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters in my local area. It has been rewarding on a number of levels, and I think the experiences that I've had over the past couple months can be instructive for other associations and non-profits when working with volunteers.

As a volunteer, the three most important things that BBBS has done to make my experience memorable and make me want to continue are:
  • They show me how the time I'm spending is making a difference - Each and every time I meet with my little brother, it is evident that the time I am spending is making his life better. I am also able to see how MY life is better because of the experiences we are sharing. People want to be able to understand and see the value their time is having, not only on others but also themselves...
How is your organization showing its volunteers how their time and effort is making a difference? It's an important aspect of making your volunteers understand their importance.
  • They make it easy- BBBS provides me with the support I need when I need it. For instance, I don't know all of the events happening each month in my area. But, each month, our match support specialist provides me with ideas for events that are happening in which my Little Brother and I can participate. That makes my volunteerism easy, which again makes me want to continue helping.
What are some ways in which you can make the volunteer experience easier for your members?
  • They connect me with like-minded volunteers - BBBS allows me to interact with other volunteers through monthly events. They include picnics, bowling get-togethers, and other fun events where not only the kids can get together, but also the adult volunteers. In the events that I have attended thus far, I have been able to talk with some of the other volunteers to pick their brains so in the future, I can be more prepared for things I am sure to face.
Are you deliberately putting your volunteers in positions where they can learn from one another? If not, how can you make sure to make this a priority?

I think that as we think about the experience of our volunteers, these three simple ideas can really enhance the experience of the folks who make our organizations go.

Why not be more deliberate in making sure these are happening with your organization? Who knows, you might even get some of your satisfied volunteers writing blog posts raving about their experience...

June 15, 2009

Moving Away from the Status Quo

So I was pointed to two YouTube videos recently of Brad Delson, lead guitarist of rock group Linkin Park, giving UCLA's keynote address at its Commencement Ceremony. You might be thinking like I was - really? Brad Delson gave the keynote address at one of the country's top schools? The guitarist of a rock group?

If you watch the funny, heartfelt, witty speech, you will come to find out that he was a summa cum laude graduate from the school in 1999, and was planning on going to law school before following his dream of being in a band.

You'll also come to figure out that he was not the school's top choice to speak at the event (James Franco), or even their second choice (Conan O'Brien), and that he was asked six days prior to the speech to do it.

Delson's speech was FAR from the status quo. He stripped from his robe and cords into a UCLA basketball jersey halfway through it, and played a Britney Spears song on a guitar. He talked about plagiarism, spoke of his late-night meals at one of the "establishments" in Westwood, and made fun of the two people who declined the invitation to speak prior to his call.

While the speech was far from the status quo, you can see that the students LOVED IT! They will never forget who their college graduation speaker was, and likely will remember his words of wisdom for a long time, because it WASN'T the status quo.

I also think that UCLA deserves a great deal of credit for being willing to go outside the box with their choice, and to allow him to give a speech that was not the usual... When they received the text of his speech, which I am sure they did a few days prior to the event, they didn't freak out and cancel him. They embraced that this speech was going to be different, and their students benefited.

As I close, I think this is a perfect example of how doing something that is far from the status quo can benefit the audience. All presentations don't need Powerpoint, and they don't need to follow the exact same script that everyone has seen in the past. Why not encourage presenters to think differently, and allow them the freedom to do something that isn't the status quo?

Your audience will appreciate something different, and your message may stick with them a little longer!

June 10, 2009

Positioning Yourself as the Next...

Reading my favorite blogger Seth Godin usually provides me with a lot of satisfaction. If you don't read his blog, do yourself a favor and start.

When I read his post here, I think he hit the nail on the head. Being "the next" isn't nearly as important as being "the other", "the changer" or "the new". How can you differentiate yourself from the top dog and offer something that the others don't or that they can't easily replicate? Differentiation is the key and innovation is what helps make that differentiation happen.

I don't know what's going to happen with the Bing vs. Google battle, but my guess is that is Bing sticks with their current efforts to try to be the next Google, they will fail miserably and waste all of that marketing money that they're throwing at it. If they'd put that $100 million to use to innovate and offer something different than Google, they may have more success...

June 8, 2009

What's all the Buzz About?

It's about Buzz2009, a one-day social media conference for associations that is taking place July 9 in DC. It's being put on by my blogger buds from SocialFish, and promises to be a really great event.

When I checked out their awesome lineup of speakers, which includes Andy Sernovitz and Guy Kawasaki, I was blown away. Just having these two at the same conference should be worth the cost to attend - $495. The rest of the program is also worth the price of admission, and will be a great opportunity for association professionals to learn more about the social web and how it can be utilized more effectively and efficiently.

The other cool thing in my opinion is that it's going to be a small, closely knit group of people attending - there are only 70 spots available for it - which should make the learning and interaction that much better.

Unfortunately for me, with my July travel schedule and professional development budget being used for other conferences this year, I won't be able to be there for it. I am TOTALLY bummed...

But if you're so inclined, which I'm sure you will be after you check out the program and the speaker lineup, you can register by clicking here. Have fun, and be sure to report back about how awesome of an experience it was!

Buzz2009, July 9 in Washington, DC
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Something Cool Coming Down the Pike...

So I inadvertantly came across the demo from the Google I/O Conference that took place recently. Although it is very long, check it out up to the 40 min. mark to see some really neat things that will be available later this year.

There are SO MANY possible applications for associations. From editing and collaborating on documents in a live environment to utilizing the wave for sharing real-time comments on a blog or on photos, the capabilities that will be made available are endless.

So often we hear that associations are behind the for-profit world in embracing technological advances and social media tools. We now know this new awesome platform is going to be coming later this year. Let's figure out how we can make the most of it and share it with our fellow association professionals!!

May 22, 2009

Awesome Use of Twitter

I am a HUGE fan of Southwest Airlines, as if you couldn't tell by this post. Not only is their company culture a beacon for people who love to be in a fun and exciting workplace that fosters innovation (see the rapping SWA flight attendant on YouTube), but the company also really gets social media.

They have an awesome blog called Nuts About Southwest, and I just noticed that they have created an "Emerging Media" department with the company. Awesomesauce.

They also regularly use Twitter with the name @southwestair, and recently in conjunction with National Travel & Tourism Week, did a photo hunt in which they used Twitter's photo site Twitpic to solicit photos of travelers with very specific things. One day they requested a photo of someone with a SWA flight attendant in uniform. Another day, it was someone next to the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign.

They awarded two free airline tickets to the first person who sent a photo to Twitpic using the #SWAPhoto hashtag with the very specific thing. It was SUCH a great way to involve their followers in something fun, and provide them with rewards for doing so. I know I was always watching for the request to see if I could win. They always tweeted the winner's name to give them the recognition, and are always interacting with their followers and non-followers who post about the company in Twitter.

I guess the moral to this story is that when you can create an experience using Twitter or other social media tools where your followers are engaged, excited, and know that you're authentic, you have created something with stickiness that you may not be able to get in the offline world. Social media tools make interacting with your public so much easier, and companies like Southwest have really taken that to heart by creating engaging and exciting ways for people to connect with them.

How is your association going to follow this lead?

May 19, 2009

Clearly Communicating the Message

When thinking about messages that you're trying to convey, make sure they're crystal clear... There are numerous examples out there about how people have gotten it wrong, and sometimes, it's something so simple that would make it better and clearer.

I was in a hotel recently on one of my trips, and I saw this sign as I was getting off the elevator:

Ok... So I guess they are assuming that everyone will look at the sign and think that the Ice and Beverages are the same way as 402-430 (which was correct). When I saw this, I thought, "why didn't they just add one more arrow to make it clearer instead of having Ice and Beverages floating without any direction?" It would have been so simple, but for some reason, they thought that having people assume would be the better option.

I guess my point is that when thinking about how you're communicating something, think about ways to make it as clear as possible. The people on the receiving end (or who are getting out of the elevator looking for a cold beverage) will thank you!

May 12, 2009

Personalizing Membership

It's not everyday when you have something crystalize as clearly as what I am thinking about today - personalizing membership. I've seen it at work in my own organization, as well as a professional development organization of which I am a part, during just the first four hours of my day.

My first example is in my own organization. We having our biennial convention this summer, and are in the recruitment mode for additional attendees. We have a great deal of folks already registered (which is really great with this economy), but now it's time to really hit the phones and reach out to the people we know are regular attendees who have yet to register. So how have we decided to do it? You guessed it - by finding that one person who really has the pull with the people we are targeting in order to ensure that they are going to attend.

We talked about with whom our Board members should connect, thus mobilizing our volunteers. We discussed who we know are regular attendees that we on the staff have personal relationships with, and have begun making our calls. Our undergraduate chapters are receiving continued outreach from their specific staff contact to encourage them to attend. It's all in an effort to really put a personal touch on our recruitment efforts.

I believe it really makes the member feel as though they're wanted there as opposed to receiving the bulk marketing materials that we usually do that aren't necessarily so effective. We have communicated through mass outreach efforts for a long time, but with today's culture and member, we know that we need to adapt to take advantage of the fact that making the experience as personal as possible is really needed.

The other example that I ran into this morning was with one of professional development organizations. They were doing their annual renewal drive, and while I did get three letters reminding me that my membership was expiring, what really got me off my butt was the personal phone call from the staff member with whom I work regularly. I immediately renewed after his call.

If it would have been a call from some random staff member, I don't know that I would have been so eager to renew, especially since I hadn't gotten the go ahead to use my professional development money for it through my office. With the economy, we have really been trying to save, and professional development is an area where we're trying to do so.

I guess I just think it was a nice touch to know that the staff member with whom I work regularly wanted me to renew. Even for someone who knows that it was something that they had done just like we had (i.e. divided up the list by who they had personal relationships with), I thought it was good to get that personal call. The innocuous letters letting me know of the impending expiration hadn't done it, but the personal call did the trick.

I guess the lesson here is not that new - people like to be treated as though they're the only member of your association. By making the experience personal, they will be more engaged, appreicate the association's efforts more, and be the raving fan that you need in your corner when something happens and you need them to be there!

April 25, 2009

"I Never Knew... All You Do"

One of the people in the American Cancer Society commercials running on tv says this, and I can't help but think that ASAE & The Center is trying to make sure people aren't saying this about associations with their "The Power of A" campaign.

My question - couldn't the organization have actually shown what associations are doing in this commercial that will be run tomorrow (Sunday) in the DC area, as opposed to essentially closed captioning what the person is saying in it?

I like the message that it gives - that associations and their millions of members will be invaluable assets to solve this nation's problems. But, an opportunity was missed to actually show it. The great thing about the American Cancer Society ads that I mentioned earlier is that they have what are supposed to be real people who have been helped by the Society telling the story. It's compelling, and gets the message across.

My hope is that there are more pointed commercials that are developed and run that actually tell the stories of associations making a difference. That would show their power. Granted, if people actually decide to make it to the web site, there are a few stories there, but even the site is pretty sparse in showing how associations are making a difference. (I see six stories there right now.)

Again, I LOVE the message that ASAE is trying to get across AND that they have taken this effort on... I also know that it's easy to criticize from out here in the cheap seats. I hope this is seen as constructive criticism! I just think that the implementation missed the mark a bit, and perhaps it would have been valuable to reach out and ask what some of the members (communications professionals specifically) thought about the campaign's commercial before launching it.

If this did happen and I missed it, I go back to my original subject "I Never Knew... All You Do!"

April 22, 2009

Going Above and Beyond: Overcoming "That's Not My Job" Thinking

As you probably know if you regularly read this blog, I am an avid television watcher and fan. I was recently watching a rerun of the West Wing, and I saw the president's body man Charlie Young go above and beyond in finding a man who had written a letter to the president when he was a young child. The man had originally written the letter to FDR, but it was never delivered until his building was torn down and the letter was found. He requested a picture with the president, and because of Young's work, he got that picture, albeit with a different president and some 50 years later.

What that one scene really brought home to me is the need for people to have a desire to go above and beyond in their work. All too often, it seems as though people are only out to get a paycheck these days. I regularly ask myself 'why' when I encounter it. Why is the "that's not my job" mindset so prevalent?

As association professionals and executives, I think overcoming that mindset with our fellow employees is essential to having a top notch association. How can our members feel as though they are getting exceptional service when staff won't do something that isn't necessarily their job? Members can see it. They know who is willing to go above and beyond, and who is not.

I guess I had a couple thoughts on how to help this situation, and I hope you'll add your ideas in the comments:

1. The organizational culture must support going above and beyond, and leadership must lead the way. Why would someone decide to go above and beyond if everyone else isn't? We in leadership roles need to model the way in going above and beyond in our daily interactions and work. Coming in at 8 on the dot and leaving at 5:01 isn't going to change the culture. It's exhibiting the exact behavior we don't want.

2. Recognize staff who go above and beyond. People like to be recognized by their superiors, and if the recognition is something that they value, they're likely to change their behavior to model what the recognition warrants.

3. There has to be skin in the game. If staff don't understand the mission or direction the association is trying to take, they aren't likely to go above and beyond for the members. Helping staff see that the association's success is everyone's job, even if something isn't necessarily within their narrow job description, is another important way to overcome the "not my job" mindset.

Anyway, again, I hope to hear some of your ideas in the comments. Thanks for reading.

April 20, 2009

Celebrities on Twitter - What they Have/Have Not Realized about it...

Like many other people, I have been inundated with stories about celebrities and their use of Twitter. Some people say it's going to ruin the tool. Others say that it's going to get more people to use it, thus potentially increasing the visibility of early adopters (including some associations) to more people.

In thinking about this, I tried to compile a few things that celebrities have and haven't yet realized about this tool they're flocking to, which will hopefully help some associations who have yet to try it out or get on the bandwagon.

The things most celebrities have yet to realize include:
  • Twitter is not a toy like Ryan Seacrest mentioned a number of times in a recent Larry King Live interview. It can and should be a powerful engagement tool to more closely align what you're doing with what people want you to do.
  • Twitter is not a popularity contest, a self-promotion avenue (i.e. if you get more followers than someone else, you're better). The fact is, Twitter is more of an interaction tool as opposed to a "let's see how many people I can get to listen to me" tool...
  • That leads me to this fact - the REAL value of Twitter is listening... Most celebrities have not grasped this concept, nor will they likely in the near future. If they did, I would potentially think about following some of them.
The thing that some celebrities HAVE gotten include:
  • Twitter is a great tool at creating a bond with someone or something. By creating a way for people to see a more real side of you (or your organization), you are developing a more loyal fan base.
  • Twitter can serve as a real-time feedback mechanism. If you need to know what people think right now about something, turn to your Twitter followers to see their immediate reactions. They've chosen to follow you, and are likely to give you good feedback.

I guess in closing, my thought about the hubbub about celebrities flocking to Twitter is - who cares?!? It doesn't matter. If you don't want to read their tweets, don't follow them. You have the control here, not them.

April 12, 2009

The Leadership Meme - Three Tools to Become a Leader

I am following up on Jamie Notter's post, which was followed up by Jeff De Cagna's, Maddie Grant's, and Dierdre Reed's. There's a good little meme going here!!

I've had a pretty unique opportunity to be around and interact with a lot of leaders in my current position. It has been great, and I have gleaned a few pieces of advice from them that are the three things I believe make up a good leader:

1. Be transparent - As a leader, you are responsible for steering the ship. If you want to have people trust that you're able to do so effectively, be open with the data you're using to make your decisions. As one of my contacts, a university president once told me, he makes every decision they come up with in their meetings public, so people don't feel as though they're being left out of important decisions. It shows that you are confident in the way you're conducting business, which should provide needed trust from your members.

2. Get a Mentor - Having someone from whom you can learn the ropes is an important aspect of becoming a leader. Someone who can help you through the questions you have, let you know where you can improve your skills in a trusting environment, and be there as you struggle in your efforts, should be welcomed by up and coming leaders.

3. Learn that It's NOT All About You - As a leader, it shouldn't be all about you. A leader needs to be able to surround him/herself with capable people who can do their jobs effectively, and then allow others to take the spotlight when they do something great. The goal is to have a successful association, not to feed the leader's own ego.

These are my thoughts. The others did a good job in explaining some other great ideas. I'm planning on taking them all into account, and taking their ideas to heart as I hope to move up the ladder in my career. Thanks to everyone for sharing!!

April 8, 2009

Why, Social Media? Why Do You Tease Me So?

I have gotten on the bandwagon, drank the Kool-Aid, (insert whatever similar phrase you want to here...) I love using social media tools, can completely see their relevance and positive traits, and think they are great ways to engage members and align them with an association's goals and objectives. I am on a high!

Then, earlier today I came crashing down when I took a look at a story called "Economic Strategy for Associations: A Benchmarking Report on Priorities, Challenges and Strategies" in the April issue of the Association Forum of Chicagoland's Forum magazine. The crash happened specifically when I looked at Table 2 on Page 20, and Key Finding #5.

Table 2 asks the question "How effective are each of the following methods in helping your association achieve its goals?" and has a number of goals like "Improving Member Retention" and "Engaging Younger Members" that were rated with a number of different methods like "Database Marketing" and "Member Get a Member Program". Whew - taking a breath after that long sentence!

As you'll see if you take a look at the table, the method called "Online Media" (which are really social media tools) ranks the lowest in all but two of the categories, in many cases being closer to the "Not at All Effective" end of the range than the "Very Effective" end.

I was shocked that even with the goal of "Increasing Participation Among Younger Members", online media was tied as the lowest rated method to accomplish that goal. That just doesn't jive with what I have found in my organizational use of social media tools, nor does it jive with what others have talked about over and over again at association conferences.

A couple personal examples are that of our organization's 3,800 Facebook Page Fans, probably 3/4 of them are our younger members. Of our Twitter followers, 3/4 of them are our younger members. Do these stats mean that we are necessarily engaging them in achieving the organization's goals? If we're using the social media tools correctly we are. Have we actually measured that? No we have not.

In closing, my questions to you are these - are the people who took this survey just people who haven't tried these tools yet? Are they just not using them in ways that could be beneficial to them? Or, are they actually seeing that online media tools are not effective in helping them meet their association's goals? What have you been seeing, and does what you are seeing and understanding jive with what the survey answers say?

Thanks for reading.

April 6, 2009

Lesson from Southwest Airlines

So by now, you have probably seen the "Rapping Southwest Flight Attendant" either on your local news station or on YouTube.

You may have even read Bob Wolfe's great post on the Young Association Professional blog that asks the question "Are You Taking the Mundane and Turning it on its Head?" It essentially an embed of the aforementioned video.

For me, this video and its viral success leads to a few points that I want to delve into here - culture and differentiation.

As I look at the video, I can't help but think about the culture that Southwest has created that allowed this to happen in the first place. They have a culture that rewards innovation, which in turn provides value to their customers. Their employees are able to be themselves, using their skills to more effectively get their message across and make it fun and exciting for the traveler. They try new things without the fear that if they make a mistake they'll be in trouble. This in turn has led to a resounding success in getting the company a GREAT DEAL of free media, thus helping to extend their brand to people who might not fly regularly.

Just think... Which airline is the average non-flier likely to choose for their next flight - the boring, stuffy one, or the one that shows it has people with personality running it (and oh by the way, has cheap fares).

I often hear people talking about the need for associations to innovate if we are to be successful as we move into the next decade - that if we think we're going to be using the same business model and doing things like we do today, we will be way behind. So my question is - why can't we be more like Southwest?

Why can't we create a culture within our organizations where not only the ingenuity of our employees is celebrated, but also that of our members? We can differentiate ourselves by being THE association that is truly open to innovative ideas, no matter where they come from. We can develop rewards for the the most innovative employee/member/non-member whose ideas we can implement to redevelop ourselves as we move forward. We can essentially use innovation to drive our business models, thus providing more value to our members.

I guess I feel as though this ONE LITTLE YOUTUBE VIDEO really crystalizes the fact that a culture of innovation is something that not only benefits the employees of an association/company, but also the association/company as a whole through the amazing outcomes it can create.

Why aren't we embracing the innovative ideas that come from our employees and members by creating a culture that supports it? It seems easy, but as we all know, changing the status quo rarely is.

Perhaps we need to have an association executive rap about developing a culture of innovation at the next ASAE Annual meeting. Maybe that will get people thinking more about it...

April 4, 2009

A Lesson from Fundraisers

I had lunch today with a friend who is a fundraiser. In this economy, what job could be more difficult than someone who relies on raising money from people who are hurting financially?

I think something that he said can be really instructive for all of us in the association community, even those of us who are not responsible for raising money from our members. He said that right now, while he and his fellow major gift officers are having some trouble raising funds, they are using this difficult economy for relationship-building.

They are meeting people. They are enhancing their already established relationships. And most importantly, they are galvanizing their support while times are down, which will put them in prime position to take advantage of the economy when it recovers.

I think that now more than ever, we should be following my fundraiser friend's lead and try to develop as many meaningful relationships with our members as possible. This will benefit the association in the long run, giving it an amazing core of evangelists that will be even more engaged in its success than before the economy turned sour.

Do you make time in your schedule to reach out and develop relationships with the members of your association? If not, why wait? Now is the perfect time to step up and devote some time to an important aspect that oftentimes gets taken for granted.

March 10, 2009

My Recent Twitter Thoughts...

Has anyone else found that recently they have been trimming the people they are following on Twitter? I have to be honest - I have...

I joined Twitter and have been using it for two main purposes:
  1. to connect with people and organizations to whom I feel a close connection
  2. to try to build connections with people that I feel I WANT to connect with for selfish reasons like professional development and networking
I have found that in many instances, instead of connecting with people through my Twitter presence, I have chosen to follow people, companies and organizations who are ONLY pushing information out about themselves - not building meaningful opportunities for me to connect with them. Notice I said "I have chosen..." I chose to follow them, and now I am choosing not to...

Who I am following has turned more into an RSS feed of the latest news and blog posts that people are doing, as opposed to a place where I can connect with real people who want to build connections with their followers. Some of the people/organizations/companies that I follow only want to promote their cause or product.

My solution - trim the fat. No more news feeds like AP's @Breaking_Newz or CNN's @politicalticker... No more random organizations I followed because I thought I'd be interested in what they had to say... No more celebrities like @The_Real_SHAQ and @lancearmstrong... No more people I followed only because they followed me first... I am done with them.

I posted a while back about Defriending and whether it was generational... I guess in this instance, I am falling into the Gen X category as opposed to the Gen Y category since I am starting to want more value from my connections as opposed to MORE connections.

As I open my desktop Twitter app, Twhirl, tomorrow to take a look at the early morning Tweets, I hope that this trimming will do me some good and get me excited about using this tool to connect with people once again.

A Disclaimer: I don't want you to think that I am berating the aforementioned organizations or news feeds for having presences on Twitter. A lot of people probably like it because they can have a running news feed or can connect with what's going on in the lives of their favorite celebrities. It's just not the way I want to use it any longer...

March 7, 2009

Planning for Emergency

I was reading marketing guru Seth Godin's blog recently, and found this post that I think really illustrates what we in associations need to be doing to ensure that we're looking to the future as opposed to just the crisis at hand. He talks about the fact that oftentimes, we are dealing with the emergency of today that we should have really been preparing for long ago.

My favorite line:

Why not shine a light on the holes we're digging today as opposed to the canyons we'll have to deal with years from now?

I think this ties directly to a session I was watching online recently that was taking place at the ASAE International Conference. It was being led by Jeff De Cagna, and I heard him say the following about an exercise you can do to help in your forward thinking:

What if your association could not collect dues any longer? How would you survive?

I think this is an interesting exercise to just get started in thinking in an innovative way. While this exact situation may never come to fruition, the exercise of thinking about how you would respond to that situation is a good thing.

The moral of the story that both Seth's post and Jeff's comment capture is that we need to be thinking about what we can be doing to prepare for the future NOW. Let's not wait until we're in the position of having to deal with something that you can foresee, when you can be planning for it today.

I know it's difficult to find the time with all of the fires that need to be put out now, but by planning and looking ahead NOW, you will be changing the culture of your organizational thinking and you'll be prepared when the so called emergencies happen.

March 5, 2009

Communicating About/Streaming Events Live

In the past week, I have seen two fellow Association bloggers - Jeff De Cagna over at Principled Innovation, and Ben Martin from the Certified Association Executive blog - utilize a fun little web product called to live stream a session that was occuring in lands far, far away from where I was sitting. (Don't worry boss, I was researching...)

The larger events that included these sessions, one of which was for Realtors and one of which was at the ASAE International Conference, really weren't things I even considered attending in person, but I actually enjoyed watching them on the web. I also think I found an awesome opportunity to enhance the visibility of sessions at our summer Convention for those who are unable to make it by using this cool tool.

So you're probably asking 'why did I watch if I wasn't really in the demographic of attendees?' I think there are a few reasons:

1. WOM - I had seen the WOM engine working with Ben on Twitter and others also talking about the fact that Todd Carpenter from the National Association of Realtors was talking about social media at this Realtor Conference. Had I not heard about it through WOM, I wouldn't likely have tuned in.

2. Curiosity - I decided to listen to see what the NAR was doing social media-wise, since they are one of the biggest national associations in the country. I was curious to hear what they were doing, and how they were talking about social media to their members to get them to understand its role in their business.

3. To Get the user's perspective - The main reason I tuned in was to check out from the users perspective. I often think that people roll these new shiny things out thinking they are going to be amazing, but don't really look at them from the user's perspective. I was able to do that by watching these two sessions, and really liked what I saw.

So, as I continue to think about how we're going to integrate social media and technology at our summer Convention, I am seriously considering this cool new tool that I researched this week.

Perhaps Ben or Jeff can talk about Ustream's ease of use from the conference planner's end. Was it difficult to manage? What equipment is necessary? What if any issues did you run into with using it? I'm sure we'd all love to hear it!

March 2, 2009

ASAE & The Center's Gold Circle Awards

As a member of ASAE's Communication Section Council, I wanted to be sure to get the following information out to my fellow association leaders.

The application deadline is coming up for ASAE & The Center's Gold Circle Awards - March 31, 2009 - so make sure to get your entries in today!

There are 11 categories and the competition is open to associations of all sizes and budgets. In fact, there are two divisions within each category – one for associations with overall budgets below $2 million, and one for those with budgets over $2 million.


  • Gain recognition for your association’s communication excellence
  • Have your entry showcased in ASAE & The Center’s Online Knowledge Center
  • Demonstrate your communications effective practices
  • Receive a stunning crystal GCA trophy
  • Use the 2009 GCA logo in your award-winning communications
  • Compete for a chance to win the **NEW** Council’s Choice Award – one 2009 GCA winner will be selected as the most outstanding for this new award.
Online Entry Form (All entries must be submitted online this year)


Cost: $100 per entry (members) ~ $125 per entry (non-members)

Requirements: Communications submitted to the 2009 GCA Competition must have been created and/or distributed between January 1 – December 31, 2008.

Questions: Send an email to or call (202) 626-2885.

February 19, 2009

Word of Mouth and Communications

So I was recently tagged by Lindy Dreyer over at SocialFish to participate in the WOM meme that has been going around. I was excited that I was asked to participate, and hope I can provide some nuggets of wisdom below...

My example relating to word of mouth comes from something I am working on right now. We are integrating word of mouth into our communications efforts to help push and promote our upcoming Convention this summer.

We have developed a blog for our Convention where we are pushing people for the most up to date information, interesting thoughts about past Conventions, and even little tidbits about the events that we are planning this year. We have also asked a number of regular attendees to share "Why I attend the Convention" guest posts that we'll be using throughout the run up to the event. This is not only an opportunity for us to get some faces and well-known names out to potential attendees, but also an opportunity for them to hear firsthand accounts of things that these folks LOVE about the event - hopefully building the word of mouth buzz about it. We are then going to ask the people who are guest posters to pass along the post that they did to people they know in order to push that message out to additional potential attendees.

In addition, as an all men's organization, throughout the year we are mostly promoting our events and services to men. However, for the Convention, we also want our alumni to bring their spouses and guests. So, this year we have also asked one of our regular spouses who attends to provide a guest post to talk about why she LOVES attending hoping to hit the potential spouses of attendees. By having the potential attendees share that perspective with their spouse who might be hesitant to attend, it will hopefully be another way that we are enhancing the expectations and attendance numbers for the big event using word of mouth from someone like them who has attended in the past.

Anyway, we're compiling the guest posts now and will begin posting soon. Hopefully the word of mouth that this tactic creates helps as we push our registration for this exciting event!

February 18, 2009

Volunteerism Meme

I as tagged by Maddie Grant for the Volunteerism Meme to answer the following question that was originally posed by Peggy Hoffman:

" can we create volunteer jobs that don’t require being on a committee, a long-term commitment or gobs of time? So, share five short-term, ad-hoc volunteer jobs you’d love to have and then tag five more bloggers".

Here goes nuthin':

1. Create content for an association's blog for a month
2. Facilitate a discussion at an event
3. Provide feedback on an organization's web site and publications
4. Collect tangible donations for a local non-profit
5. Coach a youth basketball team (a little longer term than the rest, but I think it'd be fun!)

I am someone who likes serving on committees with lots of structure, so this was a little hard for me! However, I think the five things above are all ways to volunteer that I would enjoy, and are things that could be useful to organizations/associations who need the help!

I am tagging the following:

Jeff De Cagna
Patti Digh
Mickie Rops
Julie Hewitt
Jeffrey Cufaude

February 17, 2009

New Look and Features

Maddie over at the Socialfishing blog inspired me to change the look of my blog, and to add a few new features like the Feeds, etc. While my new look isn't as dramatic as hers, I think my old look was a little stale and needed something different.

Hope you like it, and that you are finding value in the content I am creating here at Insights from a Future Association Executive!


February 2, 2009

A Lot of Learning This Week

This week, I am off work, a place where I usually learn a lot on a daily basis. However, that doesn't mean I am not learning.

I am actually working all week on my new house that my wife and I purchased late in 2008. My Dad is in town to help me paint every room in the house. Actually, it's the opposite - I am helping him!!

So what have I learned so far?

1. I am not now, nor will I ever be a very good painter. However, what I learned is that you need to know what you are good at. I am good at communicating with members, writing and editing our organization's publications, etc. I likely will never be a full-time painter because I know it is not something at which I will be happy or as proficient as is necessary... I hope the office doesn't ask me to paint our offices the next time it needs it!

2. At first, I was a HORRIBLE painter... I am still not very good, but I am learning and improving. The lesson that I have learned (once again in my life) is that even if you aren't good at something, practice makes perfect. Sitting there without taking action on something at which you need to learn doesn't help in the long run.

It's been three days, and I have already learned a lot. Perhaps I'll post again later in the week about what else I have learned... Perhaps it will help you learn something too!

Good to Great?

So I was having a conversation with blogging buddy Ben Martin and ASAE Volunteer Relations Manager "DJ" Johnson on a recent trip to DC for an ASAE meeting, and we began discussing Circuit City and its demise. (Ben works out of Richmond where Circuit City is/was based.) He pointed out that they were actually a Good to Great company in Jim Collins' book, which took me a little off guard.

Really? A company that has begun liquidating was listed in this 2001 book as being one of the best companies in the country? It's amazing that it happened so quickly, but as Ben pointed out in our conversation, it wasn't that surprising.

Circuit City was slow to innovate and even slower to see that its competitors were beating its brains out by doing things more simply - having the merchandise on the shelves instead of in the back... You could walk up, pick up a DVD player, walk to the register and check out at Best Buy, while at Circuit City you would have to take a ticket, have an employee go to the back to find it, bring it back to you, and THEN you could check out. It was the convergence of convenience and simplicity, something that Circuit City FINALLY got, but it was too late.

So, I was thinking about that conversation, and about how we in associations should look at Circuit City's demise... Below are a couple thoughts I had:

Be Vigilant - If our associations are vigilant and see what we're up against in terms of competitors to our markets, we have a good chance of not meeting the same fate as Circuit City. However, being vigilant is not only about watching what our competitors are doing. It's also about knowing what our members are looking for, and figuring out how we can provide it simply and effectively.

Be Agile - Our associations need to be agile, which means that we need to be willing and able to change course if in our vigilance, we determine it's necessary. Agility is something that is not easy to master, especially with clunky strategic plans that are often five years or longer in length, but it is really a necessity.

Innovate Regularly - A failure to innovate is a failure to be great. The Circuit City situation is a bit of a cautionary tale of a once-great company failing to innovate and in the end failing to provide the value to its customers. It can also be a learning experience in that if we aren't innovating, we're essentially losing ground to our competitors.

Be Great - If your association is providing value, innovating in the right ways, developing new revenue streams while bringing in new members, all while being willing to change if you're not doing these things effectively, you're on the right track to being great.

I'm now off to the nearest Circuit City to buy up some of that inventory that they're selling at bottom basement prices... I hope your members will never do the same with your association's stuff.

January 30, 2009

Love Working in the Non-Profit/Association Community?

Then read this article that appeared in the February 2009 issue of Fast Company by Nancy Lublin, CEO of the non-profit, Do Something.

For-profit practitioners beware, you that you may not have what it takes to work in our world!!

January 23, 2009

Gold Circle Awards

Take a few minutes to check out Cecilia Sepp's post on the 2009 ASAE Gold Circle Awards! Hope you'll apply this year!

January 22, 2009

The Art of Defriending - Is it Generational?

Earlier today, I read a post by Cecilia Sepp called "Defriending: Hot Social Media Trend or A Dose of Reality?" It got me thinking about this trend of quality or quantity in our social interactions on the web, and that I feel it's more generational than anything else.

Cecilia points out the following:

It seems to me that technology is making it easier to stay in touch, but also easier to hurt feelings or cause people to feel perplexed. Clicks seem to be leading to online cliques as people create their personal "in" and "out" lists -- or, just clean out all the names they shouldn't have added in the first place... We should know from our experiences with mailing lists, fax lists, and email lists that it's quality, not quantity, that counts.

Cecilia mentions that quality in interactions over quantity of friends is what she is looking for in her social media interactions. In working regularly with members who are Gen Y who add anyone and everyone who wants to be their friend, I have seen that isn't the case with a lot of Gen Yers... In many cases, they really are not so worried about quality of interaction like many Xers and Boomers. They crave interaction with as many people as possible, and are fostering and renewing relationships in cyberspace as opposed to face-to-face - the preferred way to interact of the earlier generations.

I am on the fence personally, both in the generational aspect being right on the edge of X and Y, and the way I feel about my social interactions. I have not defriended many people on Facebook or LinkedIn, mostly because I use those tools as my ways to get back in touch with folks who I am not in close proximity to. Since I am not actively talking to all 295 Facebook friends at once, it's less daunting for me and doesn't cause me to feel the need to defriend them regularly. I have and will defriend someone, but it would take a lot for me to do so since it's not hurting me to have them as friends.

Twitter on the other hand has been different. With it being such a moment by moment update and ongoing conversation, I find myself having a very short leash with who I follow. If I am not finding value or entertainment in what the people I am following are providing, I unfollow/defriend them. They don't even know it's happened, and I am finding more value and entertainment in my minute by minute interactions in that space.

So, is defriending going to be the hot trend of 2009 in social media? Personally, I think it depends on who you're talking to - a college student, an Xer or Boomer...

January 20, 2009

The New Obama Administration's First Impressions on Me

Today was a historic day in DC. Nothing like stating the obvious right? I am somewhat glad I WASN’T there and that I was able to watch it on the television in the comfort of my home office. It was fantastic theater, and was really outstanding to watch.

One of the most interesting things that I found with the whole transition was the timeliness and forward-thinking of the Obama administration’s transition team as it relates to the White House web site. Just a few minutes after Noon, the site was already transitioned, and the first blog post announcing the change was up.

Another great thing that has happened is the Obama administration's embrace of social media with their blogging, use of video for his weekly addresses, RSS for easily being able to keep updated, etc. The fact that they have realized that social media is an important component of communicating with the people of the country is refreshing.

Lastly, Obama has made it a point to have a completely transparent government by posting his agenda loud and proud on the site, and by his announcement that they "will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment." Very cool stuff about being transparent, allowing the people to have a say, and showing that they were not all talk that there will be change in the way the country is governed.

Here's to hoping that these first impressions as the administration will be the positive change that we need to move forward as a country!

January 11, 2009

A Lesson from Personal Injury Lawyers - Understand the WHEN of Communications

Let me first start out by stating that I don't condone many of the tactics of ambulance chasing personal injury lawyers... However, I do believe there is a lesson to be learned from them - getting your message in front of the right people at the right time is imperative...

I really hadn't thought much about this before my wife was recently in her second car accident within a month. She was recently rear-ended in her car, the police were called, and a report was made. (Don't worry, she's fine.)

What happened next was interesting... About three days later, she received two packages in the mail from personal injury lawyers saying essentially "we noticed that you were recently in a car accident in which you may or may not have been injured... Now is the time if you have been injured to get a personal injury lawyer."

I think the lesson here is that while chasing ambulances is not the way I would want to make my living, the fact is that had my wife been injured, having that message there at the time that it arrived would have been beneficial. They know their audience (injured people), know the right way to reach out to them (in the mail), and know the timing when it would be beneficial for their audience to have received the message (immediately after the accident.)

Our organizations should have similar planning and understanding of the "when" our messages are most relevant to our audiences. We do it with membership reminders, but do we do it well enough with our other communication pieces?

Take a lesson from the ambulance chasers out there - getting your message in front of the right audience at the right time is important. Who knows what might happen - you get a new member, a new volunteer or a new advocate because you were on the ball.

January 10, 2009

LinkedIn Groups - What to do once you have one

So yesterday, we talked about the steps to take in managing the rogues within your membership who have started their own LinkedIn Groups using your trademarks without your consent. While those were some good beginning steps, I would love to have your thoughts on what I missed.

Today, I wanted to discuss an important topic also relating to LinkedIn Groups – important steps to take once your organization has one to make it work well.

1. Promote, Promote, Promote – Once your group is set up, be sure to have a promotion strategy in place to get the word out about it. This will not only give the group some visibility and legitimacy, but make the community larger and of more value to your members more quickly.

2. Pre-approve key members – Once you have set up your group, pre-approve a list of people who are likely joiners to take the step away from them having to request entry. That will let them know that you were thinking about them specially when the group was set up.

3. When a member joins, reach out to them – While this can become cumbersome when a lot of requests are made to join on a daily basis, it is a nice touch to show the members that you appreciate them joining and that you hope they will find value in the association’s group.

I have a pretty standard message that I send when someone joins: “Good afternoon (Name) – I have added you to (organization)’s Group on LinkedIn. I hope you can make some great connections! Please let me know if there is anything that I can do for you as we move forward. Best Wishes, Bruce Hammond.” Short, sweet and to the point, and there are times that I will add other personal messages to the notes if I notice something in their profile that I think is interesting. That leads me directly to my next point:

4. Mine the Data in their Profile – Taking the minute or two to take a look at their profile to glean any necessary information is another very important element of having a LinkedIn Group. These members are sharing information with you that can be of a lot of use to you as you try to segment and personalize your communication efforts with your members. If you see from their profile that they received an advanced degree that you didn’t know about, that might be helpful. The profiles show their previous employers, which also may be beneficial in some cases. It also provides a great deal of additional information like personal web sites, widgets with upcoming trips and travel, a photo, etc. Mining this data that they are freely providing when joining your group is important.

5. Encourage Connections by starting and participating in the discussions area of the Group. – The group’s members joined for a reason, and in most instances it’s to connect with other members. Helping to make those connections happen is something that you on the staff can help with. Post discussion topics, comment on topics that already have been started, share other resources that you know about to aid in those conversations. If you show that you are a part of the community and the conversations happening within it, the members can see the tangible value of the association in its interactions within the group.

These are five tips that we are using in our LinkedIn Group. The group started in January 2008 and we have engaged nearly 1,500 members since. The connections are happening. The excitement continues to grow. And, the organization is benefiting from increased engagement, knowledge, and conversation with our members.

January 9, 2009

LinkedIn Groups - Managing the Rogues

There has been a lot of conversation this week on the ASAE Communications and Membership List servs about LinkedIn Groups, and how to handle certain situations that arise with them. Instead of responding to the messages on the list serv, I thought I would do a post because I have a decent amount to say on this topic.

The Issue

The main issue in the discussions on the list servs was about how to "police LinkedIn Groups that are using your logo and representing the organization without the org's permission." Many people responded that the association should talk to their General Counsel about this.

There are a number of steps to take before you need to include your General Counsel:

1. Prepare your response and plan of action. - Do you want to take over the group and manage it in house? Would you like the person who has started the group to serve as a volunteer moderator for the organization who can serve as an extension of your office in this capacity? Do you already have a branded social networking site that you are pushing to members, and not want to have a presence on LinkedIn at all?

It really depends upon your association's workload and philosophy on how you handle social media efforts on how you want to handle this. If you are restricting membership in the group to only members, you may want to have a staff person managing the group so they can check the credentials before someone can join. If you are having it as an open group, having the member who took the initiative handle the group as a volunteer might be a great way to engage them in the organization. It's really up to your association's philosophy.

2. Reach out to the member who started the group. - There's a good chance that if you reach out to the person who started the group and engage them in conversation about how you'd like to handle the situation, they will follow your advice. It's my guess that in most instances someone has started a group in LinkedIn because a) there wasn't a presence for the organization on the site in the first place, b) they didn't know you already had a group set up, c) they just wanted to help get the name of the organization out and network with fellow members.

By reaching out to the member and explaining your reasoning for wanting to take the action you want to take, you are creating another opportunity to engage a member and explain how the association will benefit by taking your course of action. By going in guns a blazin' talking about the legal ramifications and that you have spoken with your General Counsel, you may lose that opportunity to educate your member, and may end up losing them completely.

3. If engaging the member doesn't work, contact LinkedIn. - LinkedIn has policies (see the bottom Note) about how to handle situations where someone is misrepresenting a group within LinkedIn. It is easy to handle, without having to bring in the organization's General Counsel.

One great idea that I read actually in the discussion on this topic in the YAP discussion came from Andy Steggles, who said about handling groups who don't want to fold in with the main group's presence:

"I would create a slightly different version of your logo with something like "Proud Supporter of" in front of it. That's what we've done at RIMS and then we ask all our "partners" to use it with a link to our site. This way it indicates they are not "RIMS" but are a supporter of RIMS which more accurately reflects what they are trying to do."

You can read the whole discussion here, which was actually about groups using your logo on Facebook. You may need to join the YAP Group to be able to access it, but we hope you'll join us anyway!

These are three easy steps to take to help when there is a situation that happens like someone using your logo or starting a group on LinkedIn before you can do it yourself.

I would echo many people who in the past have said that LinkedIn is an invaluable tool for not only the association, but for your members. They can connect with people for employment, for business purposes, and for networking.

Just think about it... They made those connections because YOUR ASSOCIATION made it possible by creating a group. What better PR can you get than that?