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October 30, 2008

Recycling Your Electronics

Despite economic woes nationwide, more workers than ever appear primed to spend their holiday dollars on many of the latest consumer electronics, in large part as a tool to do their jobs better. That means loads of folks (I see you nodding) will be upgrading their old phones, computers, MP3s, game consoles and more.

If you or your organization are concerned about the potential for a season full of polluting e-waste, visit the Consumer Electronics Association’s handy site at www.myGreenElectronics.org for locations and news about the latest corporate take-back and recycling programs (Samsung announced its newest program this month). Consumer recycling of electronics is up by almost 30% since 2005, and manufacturers expect that number to grow quickly, especially as new corporate greening and recycling programs continue evolving to strive to meet consumer demands for greater eco-friendliness in the industry.

And before you buy your next beloved gizmo, you might want to turn to the online calculator on the site, which lets you determine how much energy your electronics equipment uses and how you can reduce it.

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October 29, 2008

Creating Cheap Member Benefits

With the downturn in the economy, we have encouraged our volunteers to trim budgets and decrease spending. Our staff researched several free, high-quality tools for their use - this way, the members do not see a decrease in benefits. This being said, frequent use of free services may decrease the association's credibility, so we encourage volunteers to use better options in better financial times.

Some examples we shared include:

www.weebly.com - create customizable, attractive Web sites for free
Yahoo Groups - create bug-free listservs for members
freeconferencecall.com - hold conference calls at no expense to the organizer

If you have additional recommendations, please share.

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October 27, 2008

The integrity we should have

fat%20man.jpgAt the recommendation of a friend I'm reading Fat Man in a Middle Seat: Forty Years of Covering Politics, the autobiography of Jack W. Germond, best know for his seat on the McLaughlin Group.

Early in his reporting career, he relates this story of one of his small daily newspaper editors:

JS Gray...was totally professional and so was his newspaper, not in the sense that it was a polished and sophisticated product but in the sense that it understood its place in the community. It was there to print the news, no more no less. ...JS backed his reporters to the hilt. When a city commissioner who owned a department store threatened to withhold his advertising because of a story I was writing, JS told him the advertising would not be accepted until he had apologized for the threat. ...The sky, it turned out, did not fall. It never does."

It's not surprising that this passage appeals to my editorial nature, but I think it reaches much further than that. As a manager, that's what you want your employees to think about you. As a leader, that's the type of integrity you need to inspire those around you.

Obviously it applies to the business partner communities that are interested in being in front of your membership—don't compromise your organization. Your organization will be stronger and the companies you do partner with will be better served as a result.

But could it also apply to members? Or certain members? You know the ones I'm talking about. For many it's a mantra to not speak ill of a member, any member, and I respect that. But I think truth be told, there are some people that are just pains in the, um, backside. It's time not to jump when those wheels squeak. Rather, tell them that kind of input is not helpful and that you'll be glad to listen to future input from them only after they've apologized.

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Getting Your Materials Into Schools

For a nice example of a nonprofit’s Web site for educators, visit Heifer International's latest rollout. Increasingly, nonprofits are setting up entire multimedia Web sites for the nation’s cash-strapped teachers in search of new resources, tools, lesson plans and classroom projects.

While some of the sites seem pretty shallow in terms of what they offer, others are creative, fun and useful. Trends I’m seeing include the following:

- More short, downloadable videos (thanks mostly to YouTube)

- More hands-on projects rather just straight reading

- More diversity in which grades or ages are targeted

- More diversity in languages—(Spanish is the most obvious, but also Vietnamese, Chinese, French and Arabic.)

- More effort to integrate multimedia elements into the tool or resource, such as downloadable podcasts and mini-dramas

- More effort to obtain feedback from educators about the quality of the materials and whether they will use them (I’m starting see ratings systems on educational materials, for instance.)

- More effort to depict a multicultural society—through photos, slang, and careful word choice

To learn more about how to get your nonprofit’s materials into America’s locally run schools, read “Becoming Teacher’s Pet”.

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October 24, 2008

Twitter as a Fundraising Tool

Although I recently posted about the increased popularity of personal giving through text messaging, I’d like to add a short update about Twitter, the hot microblogging social media tool that has captured the imaginations and texting fingers of primarily young professionals.

The New York Times has an article today about the Salvation Army’s efforts to expand its trademark “red kettle campaign” online, a move it started making three years ago with early texting donation drives and easy, click-on-the-bucket online giving at its Web site.

This year, the nonprofit is making an even greater virtual push, increasing its Facebook exposure, offering personal Web fundraising pages, and other interactive self-fundraising features, the article explains. Of particular interest, though, is the Salvation Army’s piloting of a Twitter-based campaign that provides brief, real-time updates on the progress of the red kettle campaign, again inviting folks to give on the spot via their cell phones.

I don’t know of any other associations using Twitter specifically for a fundraising campaign, but I’d like to hear from any who are experimenting with this vehicle. Please post here or email me at kclarke@asaecenter.org.

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Quick clicks: Performance reviews, flex schedules, and more

I've been collecting a bunch of links to share with you:

- Did you see the very interesting article in the Wall Street Journal on why you should get rid of performance reviews? I don't know if I agree (although Scott might), but it's definitely a thought-provoking read.

- Elizabeth Weaver Engel started a good discussion about flexible schedules.

- Kristin Clarke's post on associations and the financial crisis sparked some good posts by other bloggers: Bruce Hammond lists some questions we should be asking right now, Caron Mason suggests ways associations can help members impacted by the economy, and Tony Rossell points out that association membership can be a form of unemployment insurance. In addition, Kerry Stackpole writes on leadership in uncertain times

- Kevin Holland and David Patt respond to Scott Oser's post on whether or not attendees at association meetings are really ready for new meeting formats. Both of them raise important points about the negatives of some more interactive education sessions.

- David Patt also points to an interesting blog post, where the blogger in question and her commenters discuss the pros and cons of joining a professional association. It's an interesting glimpse at a potential member's thought process.

- Wes Trochlil is gathering information on associations that use their AMS successfully.

- Lindy Dreyer suggests that both age and generation are less important than we often think.

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New Tool for Youth Voter Registration Campaigners

Is your organization involved in a voter registration campaign focused on 18- to 24-year-olds? Another tool has just emerged to help. Justice Through Music Project, a DC-based nonprofit working toward greater youth registration and political involvement, is offering thousands of copies of an ultra-cool "Rock Your Rights" DVD to associations and nonprofits to help inspire youth to get-out-and-vote in November. The DVD features more than 25 famous bands and musicians who urge young people to register, vote, talk about issues, and get involved.

For three years, JTMP has been interviewing bands and musicians—from The Indigo Girls to O.A.R. to Dar Williams--to get their opinion on issues such as voting, war, civil rights, equal rights, and free speech. “The responses are unscripted and many times surprising and provocative,” says a spokesperson. “Young people listen to bands and musicians more than authority figures, and musicians inspire youth to take part in the election process.”

The DVD also combines those celebrity interviews with Q&As with college students on their home campuses.

JTMP especially wants voter outreach organizations, especially in "swing states" and "battleground states," to contact them for free DVDs, so they will have another resource to accelerate efforts to get young people into the voting booth.

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October 23, 2008

Am I overdoing it? Or is the association community?

Over the last two weeks I have attended the following presentations:

1. Lindy Dreyer of SocialFish on Social Media at an ANEX brown bag lunch in Columbia

2. Ben Martin on Marketing of a Conference vs. an Unconference at DMAW Association Day (I could have chosen to hear Andy Steggles talk about Social Media during his session, but the times conflicted and I have heard Andy speak a number of times already).

3. An ASAE Marketing Idea Swap on Viral Marketing and Social Networking facilitated by Shelly Good-Cook of CTAM.

Today I went to a lunch at The Center for Association Leadership put on by Avectra. Maddie Grant spoke and the topic is … you guessed it, social media. The good news is that if I haven’t got my fill of social media by the end of the lunch on Thursday in November I can sign up to attend the following events:

1. ASAE Technology Idea Swap on Integrating Web 2.0 Tools to Your Association’s Web Site
2. ASAE Membership Idea Swap on Building Your Membership Community Using Web 2.0

And these are just the social media focused events that I remember. Am I the only one who is kind of frightened that social media is one of the only things that association marketers want to learn about right now in a time when direct recruitment and retention could be critical because of the downturn in the economy? I am not trying to say that social media is bad in any way, just that it is just a piece of a marketing puzzle. It is one that is growing more and more important, but in times like today we have to also really understand the more traditional methods as well. I would love to hear opinions.

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Kicking Butt: The New Organizational Model?

I’ve been reading a lot about how social movements start, stall, or succeed. Apparently, it’s an inexact art, making success a challenge to duplicate. An effort that caught my eye recently, though, made television history last month.

Many of you may have seen or even participated in the September 5 Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C; www.standup2cancer.org) telethon on all three television networks, XM radio, and elsewhere. While the cause is certainly laudable, and the amount raised ($100 MILLION) in the mere three months since the organization’s launch in June 2008 and its telethon is breathtaking, I was especially interested in how this young organization planned to tackle a massive social problem on which hundreds of nonprofits already focus. And how would it convince people that what its leaders had in mind differentiated them dramatically from all other cancer-focused nonprofits?

First, SU2C is a radical bid to suppress barriers among multiple health, science, and technology sectors and build an entirely new space in which leading professionals collaborate and take risks. This aims to blow up the “let’s all get along and just work better together” niceties in favor of “Dream Teams” rallied around a kick-butt attitude of “We’re not leaving this war room until we solve this sucker!”

Second, it has a heavy-hitting leadership team. SU2C's leadership team ranges from a cancer surviver who also is a seasoned TV executive producer; the ever-popular Katie Couric; and reps from numerous powerful foundations, nonprofits, and research institutions. Cancer has touched each of them personally in some manner, making them incredibly determined, knowledgeable, and impatient for progress (hence, the sparks for innovation).

Third, they’re smart enough to know they’re still not smart enough to get to their goal: a cure for cancer as fast as possible. As a result, they allied themselves with the American Association for Cancer Research, which will rely on advice from a scientific advisory committee to vet proposed research projects and allocate the $100 mil to accelerate almost-there breakthroughs and speed new therapies to patients.

Fourth, the leadership team leveraged their considerable social networks in a big way, bringing in the kind of major donors that cause envy among us all--AARP, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Alliance for Global Good, and the Milken Family Foundation, for instance—and then convinced an unprecedented number of media partners—from online powerhouses like WebMD, Facebook, and AOL to ye ole traditional Hearst Corporation and The New York Times Company—to help jumpstart “a new movement.” It didn’t hurt that more than 100 celebrities also leapt on board.

We’ll have to see how and whether this “movement” does thrive to the grand-scale level of other well-recognized movements and whether it does indeed mark a tidal shift in cancer research and treatment, but the dramatic early days show great promise that may inspire others working to build a movement of our own. Maybe a wildly new bring-it-on attitude and fearlessness truly are the secret ingredients.

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October 22, 2008

PR campaigning in reverse

The content might make some readers a little squeamish/angry/indignant, but the methods described in this article are, I think, worthy of note.

The article by Kevin Sullivan in today's Washington Post describes a plan hatched by writer Ariane Sherine, and later endorsed by the British Humanist Society, to respond to Christian-themed advertisements on London buses that talked about the fiery fate of nonChristians with an ad campaign featuring slogans such as "There is probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

prbus.jpg

Before the angry emails and comments start flying, I'm not writing this post about the merits or demerits of Christianity, humanism, atheism, or any other set of beliefs. I admit, the audacity of the slogan caught my eye and made me read the story, but if it was just the work of an organization, I wouldn't consider it particularly noteworthy.

What is interesting is that it is a campaign that was planned and then grass roots funded. They came up with the idea, the slogan, the look, and the placement plan, and said: "Here it is, if this is something you would want to support, send us a donation and we'll make it happen."

I think the traditional model is (1) conceive of the need or write the case, (2) solicit donations, (3) create campaign based on donations received. By creating the campaign first, it's a more powerful ask.

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Presidential Candidates Speak on Work-Life Issues

Sick leave. Child care. Eldercare. Health care. You can now tap into notes from several conference calls about work-life issues with policy leaders from the presidential campaigns of Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain. Hosted in September by the nonprofit Families and Work Institute (FWI), the calls incorporated questions posed by business leaders in the work-life field and enabled business and community leaders nationwide to listen in.

"We consider it very significant that both campaigns have taken work-life issues seriously," says Ellen Galinsky. "This is the first ever Presidential campaign in which both nominees have formally articulated their positions in this arena.”

Among the questions addressed were the following:

- What are the work and family life issues the candidate feels are most important to address?

- What is the candidate's position on workplace flexibility? What are the roles of the government, employers and employees in providing workplace flexibility?

- Should the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) be changed and, if so, in what ways? Should it be paid? By whom? Should sick leave be established and paid? By whom and for whom?

- How would the candidate address issues of the time famine that so many employees experience?

- How does each candidate plan to address the impact of the gas crisis on commuting employees?

- How can work life issues help address the spiraling cost of health care?

- What if anything, does either party plan to do to support the 45% of employees taking care of our growing elderly population?


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October 20, 2008

Associations Step in to Help with U.S. Financial Crisis

While just about every association or nonprofit in America is concerned about the expected impact of the U.S. economic meltdown and federal bailout efforts, some organizations are doing much more than worry. As they have historically whenever a national crisis has arisen, associations are creatively drawing on their expertise and resources to help others weather the financial storm. Here are a few examples:

Staffing company executives from across the U.S. will provide résumé and interviewing advice to help strengthen the job-searching skills of residents in San Diego, California, October 22 during Staffing World 2008, the American Staffing Association annual convention and expo. The day of giving back to the conference's host city marks the first large-scale corporate social responsibility project in the organization’s history. Attendees expect to serve hundreds of local professionals seeking help in finding new jobs and careers.

The Financial Planning Association hosted two special conference calls for members last week to “address the financial crisis and how to best serve clients during this turbulent time.” It also developed an online resource center for them, archived the conference calls for 24/7 online access, urged members to reach out to each other in the association’s discussion areas, pulled together online education sessions about “managing client emotions” and holding difficult conversations, and analyzed details of the bailout legislation. It also released results of a new consumer survey that shows “how critical the pairing of a professional financial planner and the creation of a comprehensive financial plan can be to an individual’s long-term financial success” and urged members to use it to help frightened investors find guidance.

The American Bankers Association and thousands of volunteer bankers joined with students nationwide to celebrate its sixth “Get Smart About Credit Day” October 16 to provide “a credit reality check” and explain how to use credit responsibly. According to Laura Fisher, ABA Education Foundation director, “We are in the midst of a national teachable moment on credit use, and bankers are seizing this opportunity to educate future generations…. This is a tough time for everyone, but it’s not the time to let up on financial education.” Volunteers also encouraged parents to use the opportunity to talk to their children about smart use of credit and money management, and to download a free A.C.T. Credit Pledge (A=Assess your debt. C=Check your credit report for errors.T=Take the information and create a plan.)

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October 17, 2008

The Fourth Evolution


Employees of the non-profit industry like to joke that there is a non-profit for everything. And indeed, there is: from the cremators trade association to a local community theatre organization to a college Alumni association to the well-known Make-a-Wish foundation, a non-profit exists for everything. The public, and oftentimes we professionals, find few commonalities between the overwhelming varieties of associations. The answer is simple. Trade associations, charities, colleges and other non-profits are bound by one common purpose – to serve our constituents.

How non-profits meet the needs of our constituents has evolved to provide networking, advocacy and education. Non-profits initially form to connect individuals. For instance the Americas’ SAP User Group formed so that SAP users could discuss challenges and best practices and the Edgewater Community Council began so that residents could form relationships and build community. Eventually the members form a grassroots network and require another form of service: advocacy. Who associations influence is based on their market; some examples include the local alderman, a vendor company or a board of directors. Advocacy success (and sometimes lack thereof) creates additional constituent responsibilities; associations must provide training to prepare members to meet the new standards. Throughout every evolution, association employees’ role is to facilitate programs to meet these three forms of service.

We now sit on the brink of the fourth evolution. The public demands that organizations implement corporate sustainability programs in order to positively influence their environment, online communities form quickly around shared interests and compete with associations for members, and multiple generations in the workplace require programming tailored to suite their unique needs. We must meet member needs and ensure we act in the interest of member values.

Our opportunity is to determine how the values evolution will impact how our association serves. To do this, we must first verify that our companies’ mission and value remain pertinent to constituents and then ensure the mission and values drive programming.

As employees of the industry, we must develop a means for the non-profit sector to lead the values evolution. Associations are the most well versed organizations in offering our stakeholders value-driven benefits. By leading society, we will build respect for our profession, fine-tune our networking, advocacy and education services and pave the way for the eventual fifth evolution.

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Design and choice

As you may have seen in the October issue of Associations Now, I recently had the wonderful opportunity to speak with futurist Rohit Talwar about the trends and issues he sees that are (or soon will be) affecting the association sector.

Unfortunately, space constraints kept me from including everything he had to say in the print edition of Associations Now. In particular, I had to cut one of Rohit's answers that I found to be striking, especially now that we're all facing such unsettled economic times. I thought I'd share that answer with Acronym readers.

Here's what Rohit had to say when I asked him about the title of the new book he and his company collaborated with ASAE & The Center on, Designing Your Future:

Q: What do you think it means for an association to design its future?

Rohit Talwar: We deliberately chose the word “design,” because design is all about making a series of choices, about form, about functionality, and about how you assemble the components. That was very much what we wanted to get the associations thinking about--a design-led approach rather than a formula-led approach.

The nature of design is, you ask yourself a lot of questions on the journey, and you make a lot of choices. So, we wanted [association executives] to think about that and to recognize that this was all about making choices, asking yourselves tough questions about every aspect of what you do and then making choices about how you’re going to respond. That’s why we chose this notion of designing your future rather than implying there was simply a future to be chosen. You could create it, and you have the power to create it.

What choices can associations be making right now that will help put them in a great position to succeed over the next few years? For that matter, what choices can we be making as individual professionals to design the futures we want to have?

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Thanking Supporters in a Memorable Way

I just got an amazing e-mail from DonorsChoose.org that contains a smart sample we all could mimic—a thank-you to supporters and the link to an incredibly moving short YouTube video about how a new $500,00 grant will be spent.

The video spokesperson is the person who actually nominated the charity—not a professional staffer or media spokesperson. DonorsChoose.org came in second out of 1,190 nominees (an amazing 20,650 people voted for it) in the much-publicized American Express Members Project competition. Can you imagine having a supporter or member who speaks from the heart like this? How powerful.

And wouldn’t you know, the Alzheimer’s Association, which won FIRST place in the competition, did a similar thing.

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October 16, 2008

How is your organization changing?

Check out the article in The Washington Post on potential violations of prospective college athletes because students and boosters reach out to prospects on social networking sites.

The point is this — social media and networking is and will continue to change your organizations in ways that are wholly unexpected by you. Do you have a plan for trying to find out how and what you can do about it?

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Quick clicks: Blog Action Day

I'd like to welcome two more new association blogs to the blogging community: The "best new blog name" award goes to the Guilt by Association blog, with blogger Frank Fortin (who has been a commenter on Acronym for some time). And over at the YAP group blog, there are some great new blogging voices.

Some other interesting activity going on this week:

- Yesterday was a Blog Action Day with a focus on poverty. (What's a Blog Action Day? Check out Kristin's post from earlier today.) A number of association bloggers were inspired to post, including Jeff De Cagna, Elizabeth Weaver Engel, the Wild Apricot blog, Maddie Grant, Cynthia D'Amour, and Cindy Butts.

- If your association serves a profession or industry where there are many bloggers already, a challenge like a blog action day might be a great way to get everyone focused on a topic of importance to your members. Another idea, a blog learning challenge, was described in depth by Michele Martin at The Bamboo Project blog earlier this week.

- If you like the Acronym comments feed, you may also be interested in a new master comments feed for association blogs, created by Ben Martin. I personally really appreciate it--so much easier than trying to follow so many separate comment threads!

- Wes Trochlil put up a great post about trust and association databases; the comments on his post are also well worth a read.

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Blog Action Days—Can They Really Change the Conversation?

For a good example of the power an organizational leader can have through his or her blog, visit the latest timely post by CEO Bill Shore of Share Our Strength, who details how the financial bailout may impact the nonprofit sector as a whole and warns that with 760,000 jobs lost even before the credit market freeze, the need for programs and services by nonprofits and associations will become ever greater.

His post, like those of many other nonprofit executive directors writing yesterday, coincided with an October 15 “Blog Action Day” in which more than 12,500 bloggers worldwide united to discuss poverty and its solutions. Tracked one-day readership of those blog posts? 13.4 million as of midnight that night!

Can one day’s worth of blog posts fundamentally shift public discourse on a major social issue? All I can say is that issues definitely won’t be addressed if no one is talking about them.

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October 15, 2008

Is Idea Sharing Truly Innovative?

Many organizations hold idea swaps to encourage interdepartmental collboration. At these meetings, each team announces the projects they work on and any great ideas they have for their area. The ideas typically are well-thought and processes formed before presented at the meeting, in order to present the 'best picture.' At the end of the meeting, teams leave feeling better about their respective projects and most likely forget opportunities for collaboration.

There can be a better way of doing this. Here's one idea - to encourage innovation and idea sharing, association's should encourage employees to keep an idea file. Here, the employee keeps their initial ideas whether the idea is related to their department or not. At the idea swap, these rough draft ideas are shared, potentially anonymously, in order to encourage discussion between the departments about how these ideas could, or should, be implemented.
This could become a gripe session, so a team member would need to pre-screen these rough draft ideas to ensure they are productive.

Like the idea file, this idea for idea swaps is a very rough idea. Has your organization instituted a successful program?

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October 14, 2008

Leadership competencies for sustainable organizations

What are some of the new competencies needed by association CEOs and nonprofit executive directors who want to use social responsibility as a business driver within their organizations?

I thought I’d ask an expert, in this case Professor Chris Laszlo, author of the how-to book Sustainable Value (2008, Stanford University Press, 2008) and a speaker this morning during the online “Associations and Social Responsibility” summit—the virtual next-steps event to continue momentum and learning started at the Global Summit for Social Responsibility last May.

I had interviewed Chris in March in preparation for the original summit, so I revisited my transcript to recall what was said about leadership competencies.

“I would say framing social responsibility as ‘value creation’ rather than as a moral agenda is critical to making [any effort] successful, and, quite frankly, a lot of organizations don’t get that yet,” Laszlo had said. “Even if they say they get it, my experience is that they don’t. At some deeper level they think there’s got to be a moral agenda to this some place.”

CEOs also will need to develop a higher comfort level about taking advice and suggestions from even the lowest of the ranks, Laszlo noted.

They also will, strangely enough, need to “discourage creating environmental and social targets for their own sake. Once people in the mid-level of the organization understand that environment and social thinking is something that is now part of what the top management wants, you tend to have some people who run around an organization looking for the good environmental and social actions, but they’re doing it for the sake of those environmental/social actions.

“I think the CEO has to make it clear from the start that we’re talking about looking for environmental and social actions that are going to enable the organization to pursue its economic objectives better, not environmental/social actions for their own sake.…,” he continued. “This is about satisfying your customer. This is about creating new financial value. This is about enabling you to meet your traditional economic metrics. That is a unique CEO kind of role.”

David Cooperrider, Ph.D., a colleague of Laszlo’s at Case Western Reserve University, agrees. He added some of his own thoughts in this regard during a Q&A session this afternoon. You can listen to his entire presentation when you click on his PowerPoint presentation in the Resources section and the audio (up shortly) in the “Share and Reflect” section of the summit site.

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The power of the mirror

I recently attended a program titled “Unleashing the Power of Coaching.” I’ve experienced professional coaching on several different occasions and fully believe in it. Several weeks later, I participated in another program, “Motivating the Unmotivated,” led by Francie Dalton. I registered for the session with an expectation that I’d walk away with ideas on how to better motivate others. Something else happened, though.

As I sat through the session identifying colleagues based on the 7 different workplace behaviors, which include commanders, drifters, attackers, pleasers, performers, avoiders, and analyticals, I realized that I too was one of “them.” It was sobering to accept my identified behavior, because it wasn’t the one I wanted it to be, but it was one that I had to embrace. That realization took me back to the power of coaching.

The ultimate goal of coaching is to get from where you are to where you want to be. Lots of people are comfortable with where they are; I guess there’s nothing wrong with that, depending on how you look at it. Workplace dynamics and cultures vary from one organization to the next, and we contribute to those dynamics and cultures based on our behaviors. I think if we all took time to invest in ourselves and utilized a professional coach we’d be more aware of how we positively and negatively influence those that we try to motivate.

How many times have you thought “If only I didn’t have to work with so and so” or “If only my organization did more of X, It would be a better place to work”? I bet it’s a lot more often than you’ve thought “If only I did X, my organization would be a better place to work.” And in the end, you can change your own behavior much faster than you can motivate others to change. (Even better, your changed behavior can create that motivation for others.) Coaching isn’t a solution to problems, but it sure can help you look in the mirror!

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Redefining Strengths When You're Feeling at Your Weakest

It’s been a very hard few weeks for many people financially, and I’m sorry to say that I’ve gotten emails and phone calls from at least a half-dozen association people now looking for work unexpectedly. A transition period can be a time of panic, but it also can be a good time to pause and look around.

Are you really using the skills you like to use—the ones that really jazz you--or just the ones you’re paid to perform? Are the strengths and weaknesses you stuck on your resume during the last job hunt still the same?

In career coach Marcus Buckingham’s new book, The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success (Thomas Nelson, September 2008), he uses an interactive notebook, DVD, and less than 100 pages of text to help professionals abandon all previous notions of their strengths and weaknesses. He instead redefines “strengths” as activities or traits that energize and fulfill you, that make you stronger in terms of your level of satisfaction and joy in executing them. These may not be the same capabilities at which you excel in your current workplace.

Indeed, you may be the world’s best association finance director, but if your duties are making you feel dread or drained, a la “weak,” then perhaps money management is not a “strength” after all. The perspective is worth pondering while you’re breathing in and out of that brown paper bag.

Note that Buckingham says that this book was written with the younger worker in mind, folks perhaps in their first or second job. However, it didn’t read as too Gen Y to me, except that it is much shorter than the other books and uses a multi-media approach. You’ll find other insights in two of his earlier excellent books, Now, Discover Your Strengths (2001) and First, Break All the Rules (1999).

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October 9, 2008

How do you render authenticity?

In the latest segment of This Week in Associations, the second with Jim Gilmore, author of Authenticity, Gilmore makes the claim that everything an organization does is contrived and making anything seem authentic takes action on the part of the organization. I'm not sure I agree with that - how about you?

Update: Due to a vendor's player change, the video cannot be embedded directly. To access the video in this post, please choose it from the playlist in the video player below.

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Quick clicks: Member service and unspoken truths

Here are some links for your Thursday morning (assuming it's already not Thursday afternoon where you are):

- Please join me in welcoming Kerry Stackpole and the Wired 4 Leadership blog to the association blogging community! Kerry's sessions at the last two Annual Meetings were some of my favorites, and I'm really looking forward to seeing his upcoming blog posts.

- Kevin Holland is sharing a series of "unspoken truths of association management" that pack a lot into a single sentence. My favorite so far is this one, but I highly recommend checking them all out.

- Rosetta Thurman at the Perspectives From the Pipeline blog shares her thoughts on "We ARE Nonprofit Culture, or Diversity Is Everyone's Business."

- Lindy Dreyer has an interesting breakdown of the lifecycle of an online community member, to help associations with social networks support their members as they move from being "lonely explorers" to active participants in the community. (The Find and Convert blog has a related post from an online marketer's perspective.)

- Renato Sogueco shares his association's experience with using the book Wikinomics to change their approach to member engagement.

- David Patt has a challenging post on excuses your members should never hear. On a related note, Matt Baehr says that your member service should never be reminiscent of the DMV.

- Jeff Cobb has posted a three-part series on the keys to selling more e-learning on the Hedgehog & Fox blog.

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October 8, 2008

Raising Money in Weird Places

I’ve seen some pretty creative fundraising outlets being used effectively by nonprofits and associations lately. While in New York City for a day, I rode in three cabs that each had mini-TVs with programming that included short pieces about participating in the national RED campaign by the American Heart Association and in a local United Way fundraiser.

I saw AARP spots on community service and membership during the recent coverage of the Olympics and, oddly, the Tour de France, the latter of which also attracted regular spots from the Virginia Association of Realtors. Neither of these seems like obvious marketing tools, but they did catch my attention.

I even saw two associations advertising membership on the sides of the Verizon Center ice rink during a Capitols game in DC—one repeated its ad on the Jumbotron hanging over the rink. Those I did wonder about. Did they really garner enough money and/or members from hockey fans to make it worth the cost of advertising there? They weren’t even hockey related.

Read the article in today’s USA Today for other avenues that nonprofits/associations are turning to in their increasingly desperate effort to avoid a crash-and-burn end-of-year financial scenario.

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New meeting formats: Are we really ready for them?

I was recently reading the cover story of this month’s Association Now, Meetings Remix, by Jeff Waddle and it got me thinking. I truly see the value in having less structured and less podium driven meetings but in some way I am skeptical of whether most audiences are truly ready for it. I ask this because of what I see in various situations within ASAE itself.

At ASAE Annual in SD Karen Bresson of the Society of Actuaries, Barry Pilson of Americans for the Arts and I conducted a session on creating a sales culture within your organization. We wanted the session to be truly interactive and wanted most of the content to be audience generated. Not one of us had done this type of session before but we thought the expertise of the audience was much grander than just that of the 3 of us so we went for it. When we first arrived in the room it was set up primarily theatre style, with a few rounds. With the help of Mike Skiados we moved more chairs to the tables and asked people as they entered to please go to a table. It was a busy job since most people migrated right to the back of the room. Eventually we had most people seated around tables and then we described that this was going to be a highly interactive session where they would work with their table mates to come up with solutions to a challenge which they would then present to the room. At that point an amazing number of people walked out. Was it because they didn’t want to participate and only wanted to be spoken at? Or was it because the seminar was not marketed to be as interactive and participatory as it in fact was going to be? Or was it a combination of both?

I also attend a large number of ASAE Idea Swaps on various topics. The Idea Swaps are designed to be interactive forums where people share information, ideas and challenges around a particular topic. I am always amazed at how many people come and do not say a word. All they want to do is listen and take notes. There are always plenty of people to speak but one would think that if you know that it is designed to be interactive you would be prepared to participate when you get there.

I understand that not everyone is as vocal or cares to share their thoughts as openly as I do. However, if you take the shy people out of the equation I still see that a lot of meeting attendees do not want to work to get solutions. Instead they would rather have someone at the podium telling them the right way to do something. Am I hanging out at the wrong meetings? Or is this type of approach not quite right for a certain portion of the meeting population at this time? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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October 7, 2008

Getting Creative with Corporate Donors

In anticipation of expected decreased giving during the upcoming all-important end-of-year quarter, some nonprofit leaders are turning to their business partners and corporate donors for extra help—and surprisingly, many are getting it.

Some corporations are using the opportunity to come up with fresh ways to financially support community-based organizations while simultaneously generating new business value for themselves such as stronger branding and database building.

The latest example comes from three small community nonprofits--Big City Mountaineers, Continental Divide Trail Alliance, and the Outdoor Industries Women's Coalition. The trio are beneficiaries of a targeted new campaign called “Give a Warm Fuzzy, Get a Warm Fuzzy,” which includes a limited-run charity fundraising portal opened by the W.L. Gore & Associates corporation from October 1 to December 15, 2008.

The company, known for its GORE-TEX fabric innovations, has been concerned about the survivability of some of its favorite outdoor charities and wanted to go beyond a simple philanthropic gift to build a stronger giving base for the groups to tap long-term. It also wanted to engage its community-minded customers in a fun way to donate even in hard times. And, of course, it wanted to educate consumers about a new product line.

The answer came in the form of a fundraising portal that could “raise awareness and support for three respected outdoor charities that could suffer during the existing tough economic times, when charitable giving is likely to decrease.” The portal works somewhat differently than many others run for nonprofits.

Once visitors register on the site (there’s that database building benefit!), Gore donates on their behalf to one of the three charities. Visitors also can earn "points" for their preferred charity by “playing an educational game, inviting friends to join, and/or by donating $10, $20, or $25 directly.” The charity attracting the highest points will receive the largest percentage donation from Gore in December, and donors also can win free warm and fuzzy products.

The nonprofits are thrilled not only with the expected revenues but with the opportunity to expand the reach of their own message. "We appreciate being part of this new Gore initiative," says Josh Shusko, executive director of the Continental Trail Divide Alliance. "We love having the opportunity to showcase the quality work that results from the support of outdoor enthusiasts. Having a community dedicated to their passion for the outdoors keeps our mission alive on a daily basis.”

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Introducing our comments feed

Just a quick bit of administrative business: Acronym now has a comments feed! If you use an RSS feed reader and want an easy way to follow the comments on Acronym (and if you're not following them already, you're missing out on the many smart things Acronym commenters have to say) subscribe to http://blogs.asaecenter.org/Acronym/comments.xml.

Thanks to Ben Martin and Scott Oser, whose requests for a comment feed led us to look into it, and special thanks to the wonderful Amy Hissrich, who actually created the feed.

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October 2, 2008

The Great Debate: Sounding-Off-While-Making-Sense Tool

With so much buzz about the vice presidential debate tonight between Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Sarah Palin, including by colleagues overseas, I took a quick trip to the International Debate Education Association site to browse for tips and resources from which they and organizational leaders may want to draw whenever preparing for such a vital forum.

There I found one of the coolest wikis of the year—Debatepedia, a wiki encyclopedia of “pro and con arguments and quotations in important public debates from around the world.” I warn you that it is addictive and just-a-sec current.

This so-called "Wikipedia of debate" aims to help “the world centralize arguments and quotations found in millions of different articles, essays, and books into a single encyclopedia, so that citizens can better understand important public debates and make informed choices.” The hosts--two related but independent associations—built the interactive site to “improve your own thinking and have a major impact on the way thousands of other citizens draw conclusions.” Even the U.S. National Forensic League has endorsed the wiki.

The site contains myriad debate subjects but two timely portals in particular might prove good starting points:

- The U.S. Federal Financial Bailout Debate

- The Global Climate Change Debate

Now I stand half a chance of changing some minds at the dinner table tonight!

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Financial Bailout--Translated

So many associations are voicing opinions, outrage, and ideas about the proposed mega-billion-dollar federal bailout that I can’t begin to share even a nugget of consensus here. However, amidst the exclamation points, I did find one helpful resource that simply lays out the problem in a coherent, calm fashion.

Kudos to The Century Foundation and economist and senior fellow Bernard Wasow for “Ten Questions and Answers About the Housing Crisis and the Financial Bailout—In Plain English.” With such public confusion about the crisis, a short, straightforward piece like this can have tremendous impact.

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October Associations Now Case Study: All Out of Tune

Have you ever felt the push-and-pull between the desires of contributors, advertisers, or sponsors and the strategic needs of your organization? The October case study in Associations Now takes a look at just that kind of situation. In the story, a COO is trying to balance between a sponsor who feels strongly that his products should be spotlighted during a conference to which his company has made a significant financial contribution--and a special guest who is critical to the success of the conference, but who has no interest in using the sponsor's products.

"All Out of Tune" is available online, with insightful commentary by Wendy Kavanagh, CAE, and Jack Hansen. What comments do you have about how the characters in this scenario could resolve the problems at hand?

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October 1, 2008

Welcome Shawn Boynes!

I'd like to welcome our newest Acronym guest blogger, Shawn Boynes. Shawn is the senior director of education at APIC--Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, where he has primary responsibility for all of APIC's education initiatives. Previously, he served as director of programs for the Minority Corporate Counsel Association.

In Shawn's 13 years of experience in the association sector, he's worked for trade, professional, and advocacy-based associations, so he can provide a broad-based look at the many issues facing all of us. We're really pleased to have Shawn join us and add his perspective and insights to Acronym!

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