August 26, 2010

The Most Regular Question I Got at the ASAE Annual Meeting...

I got back earlier this week from a fantastic 2010 ASAE Annual Meeting in LA - my third consecutive Annual Meeting. It was memorable for a number of reasons, some of which I will talk about in a future post. Today, I wanted to talk about the most regular question I received from fellow attendees who didn't know me at the event:

Why is a Fraternity attending ASAE?

My snarky response in my head has always been the Fraternity isn't here... I, a staff member who feels professional development is important, am... However, I have never had the nerve to say it to anyone!!

My real response has been - fraternities and associations are not very different. In fact, if my organization had the word "Association" instead of "Fraternity" at the end of it, people likely wouldn't even think of asking me about it. However, it doesn't, and I have answered the question for the last three years, often asked by someone who followed the initial question up with Do you manage the keg parties? I often give a chuckle, knowing the person likely just doesn't understand how similar our organizations really are...

So, I thought I'd use this blog to educate some folks who either have, or will in the future, ask me these questions...

The fact is that fraternities are complex membership organizations, just like associations.
  • We have engaged members ranging in age from 18 to 80 or 90, who work in various professional areas.
  • Our organizations hold events, many times with many hundreds of people attending.
  • We have member education programs like most associations do - many groups are beginning to host online education in a wide variety of topics for members from many different backgrounds, like any of the major associations.
  • We have print publications, use the web to communicate through social media tools, and have robust communications strategies oftentimes led by a single staffer.
  • We provide opportunities for our members to connect and network, again much like associations do...
Oh, and I forgot to mention that both my boss and I have volunteered for ASAE & The Center for the last three years - him serving as the Executive Management Section Chairman for 2010-11, and me serving for the third consecutive year on the Communication Section Council.

While I understand why I receive the question, I hope I can educate enough people, both through this blog and in my experience at the events moving forward, about why it makes complete sense for myself and my fellow Greek-letter organization professionals are attending the ASAE Annual Meeting.

6 comments:

Sandra said...

I'd be willing to bet that every single person who asked you that question was not a member of a greek letter society in college. Before the ASAE meeting, I was on a fam trip with another association executive whose association is centered in the greek world and opined to him that being in a fraternity/sorority is great preparation for being an association staffer. Greek alums understand how to run meetings, use bylaws, organize and support volunteers, event plan and collaborate for common good (philanthropy or the stereotypical beer bashes...you choose!). I'm proud to have been a member and am grateful for the early training that has been so helpful to me in my career as an association executive.

Bruce Hammond said...

Thanks for the comment, Sandra. And you're right in everything you wrote... It's likely that most people didn't even realize Greek letter organizations have national offices... Being in a Greek letter organization is certainly a great training ground for a life as an association executive, and working for the staff of one has really prepared me even more for moving forward in my career.

Pam Donahoo said...

Amen! Mensa is not a "normal" association either but I have been an active member and participant in ASAE for years.

FWIW greek experience on a resume is always a plus for me. Understanding why people join organziations like ours is a key to being a great staffer in a member centric organization and those with fraternity/sorority experience get "it."

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Bruce:

Now if you could only get more of your colleagues to attend. I was always amazed during my fraternity exec days that more people didn't avail themselves of ASAE offerings.

Bruce Hammond said...

@Pam: Thanks a lot for your comment. Glad to hear that people understand the positive things a Greek staffer can bring.

@Jeffrey: There was actually a pretty good Greek showing this year. We took 5 staffers, DU took a few, TKE had one, and ZBT had one as well. Hoping to continue to push colleagues at other organizations to ASAE's offerings. Thanks for reading!

Bruce Hammond said...

@Pam: Thanks a lot for your comment. Glad to hear that people understand the positive things a Greek staffer can bring.

@Jeffrey: There was actually a pretty good Greek showing this year. We took 5 staffers, DU took a few, TKE had one, and ZBT had one as well. Hoping to continue to push colleagues at other organizations to ASAE's offerings. Thanks for reading!