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July 31, 2009

Quick clicks: Almost August

All kinds of good stuff in the association blogworld this week!

Jeff De Cagna is in the process of creating a map of the development of the association blogging community. If you're a blogger, you can fill out his short survey (it only took me about a minute).

Management guru Tom Peters spoke to the American Hospital Association about the importance of effective leadership, and he shares the questions he asked them on his blog.

Deirdre Reid at Reid All About It (have I mentioned that I love the name of her blog?) captures some legal trends associations need to keep an eye on.

The Association Management Group's blog has some thoughts on updating your bylaws. And while you're at it, Rebecca Leaman has some ideas for how you can also create a more powerful mission statement.

Stuart Meyer at the Association 2020 blog thinks the "distracted generation" will become very engaged with associations (read this post for his list of "the three strangest places I've seen kids texting," if nothing else).

Jeffrey Cufaude makes a powerful point by switching the order of two little words.

Jake McKee at the Community Guy blog has nine tips for communicating with your community members in a text-based format--as many of us in associations do.

Lynn Morton at the Social Networking for Association Professionals blog loves her job.

Lauren Fernandez wonders how and when PR professionals should express their opinions in a public way. Her comments may be aimed at PR folks, but the questions she raises certainly apply to any of us who might be considered "representatives" of our associations.

Ann Oliveri at the Zen of Associations blog shares some interesting information on the psychology of change management.

Bruce Hammond made it back alive from his annual conference, and he has some thoughts on the importance of face to face learning experiences.


Annual meeting video weblogs

One of the new things we're trying at this year's annual meeting in Toronto is capturing some of the attendee experience via personal video. We recruited five people for the program, which is made possible with the financial support of ASAE CareerHQ.org (which will again have coaching and resume services available on site), giving each of them personal video cameras in exchange for agreeing to document their experiences.

The first posts are up, see one example below, but check back often, especially as the meeting unfolds, to see their updates.


July 30, 2009

Transitioning from Young to Young Professional: An Uphill Battle

Do you remember your first grade teacher? What about your childhood friends? Now consider what was important to you at age six. I hate to break it to you, but those days are long gone. We’re “young professionals” now. Where did the time go? It seems like only yesterday I was riding bikes with my younger sister and the neighbor kids.

Fast forward to 2009 and I'm juggling countless meetings, conference calls and deadlines. In addition to my daily responsibilities, I must also manage a career, develop a professional network and engage in professional development. If that weren’t enough, it seems that my young professional status sometimes makes others skeptical of my background, knowledge and skills.

No one said it would be easy. The transition from young to young professional has certainly been an uphill battle; however, following are five recommendations to make this life-changing transition more manageable:

1. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Determine what’s important to you. Establish a home/work balance and stick to your guns. Identify people around you who can keep you in check and who can serve as a sounding board when you just need to vent.

2. Actively participate in a professional association. Do not underestimate what this relationship can do for you. The resources are bountiful and can save you a lot of time and energy in fulfilling your responsibilities in the office. Serve on a committee, write an article or recruit new members. The opportunities to volunteer are endless.

3. Identify a mentor. This is someone who has your best interests at heart, can introduce you to the movers and shakers in your field, can serve as a reference when the time is right and can open up possibilities you never knew existed.

4. Develop a network. Find others with whom you can exchange problems and ideas. These individuals should include young professionals both locally and nationally, as well as others doing similar work at other associations.

5. Manage your professional development. Seek out opportunities to enhance your knowledge and skills. Work toward achieving a professional certification or designation in your field. Stay informed of the latest trends and best practices.

Above all, don’t take “no” for an answer. As young professionals, doors sometimes close more than they open. We don’t have the years of experience to back our education and training. Our “gut feeling” doesn’t always inspire confidence in those around us.

But, be persistent. The key to overcoming challenges is drive and determination. Allow me to remind you of the childhood adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Live these words each and every day, and I guarantee you (to the extent I can) a bright and promising future.

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Communicating No Salary Increases to Staff

It’s one of the more difficult and unpleasant conversations you have with staff. When and how do you communicate the news?

The “when” is easy: Don’t wait until December 1st to tell staff. Keep staff informed earlier, perhaps as early as mid-summer (assuming you are on a calendar year and typically award increases at the end of each year). Nobody likes bad news dropped on them at the last minute, especially when it has to do with their paycheck. And, if there are other benefit cutbacks likely, tell them sooner rather than later.

Now, the “how” part:

1. Tell everyone at a staff meeting so everyone hears the exact same message at the same time. Be compassionate in your delivery. Acknowledge that you are sharing in the pain. No one is exempt.

2. Give yourself some “wiggle” room. You may decide to phrase the news in terms of “it is very likely that…” or “although circumstances may change, my sense is that…” It is always better to under-promise and over-deliver. Especially when it comes to salary.

3. If possible, mention other perks that will be explored as compensation. Things such as extra vacation time, free lunches, or other perks can go a long way in sustaining morale.

4. Invite staff to meet with you one-on-one after the meeting should they have further questions or want to voice individual concerns. An open door policy is critical to maintaining your role as leader.

5. End on a supportive note. Acknowledge the hard work everyone is doing. And remind folks that the economy will improve.

If there is any way to squeeze merit bonuses out of your budget in lieu of salary adjustments, make this happen. Rewarding folks based on their accomplishments, and not waiting to the end of the year to do it, helps soften the bad news, and further reinforces staff’s commitment to excellence.

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July 29, 2009

Decline in Charitable Donations Continues

The latest survey of 2,279 nonprofits by GuideStar shows that charitable contributions between March and May 2009 continue to drop for 52% of respondents, with 8% noting that they may close because of financial problems. The results are similar to those of the same periods in 2008 and in October 2008 through February 2009.

Twenty-nine percent of nonprofits report that donations stayed level, while 18% say they received more donations during March to May 2009.

Bob Ottenhoff, GuideStar's president and CEO, calls the latest trends “both a ‘glass is half full’ and ‘glass is half empty’ scenario.” He is especially concerned that “participants' comments indicate that their organizations are stretched to the limit … and 58% report that demand for their services has increased."

You can download the free report here.


Why are we so afraid to change?

I have been talking to more and more membership organizations every day and I continue to be surprised at how many organizations have not reinvigorated their membership marketing. We currently live in a world where membership is no longer a given and where more and more is competing for our piece of our current and prospective members. Since almost all of us know this is true, why are so many organizations following the same membership marketing strategy that they used ten years ago?

Here are some of the key things I have noticed:

1. We continue to focus more time and money on recruitment than we do on retention, even though almost all of us have been told at some point that keeping a member is always cheaper than bringing in a new one.

2. We continue to lack a member communications strategy where we use multiple methods and resources to talk one on one with our members on a regular basis for reasons other than asking them to purchase something, register for something, or renew their membership.

3. We continue to send everyone a generic message and a generic list of benefits that requires any given segment of our audience to sort through the list to find what is applicable to them.

4. We continue to complain about our AMS and our databases and/or know that our systems do not allow us to market optimally, yet we do nothing to change that.

Why do we continue to do these 4 things, and more, when there are relatively easy ways to do things differently and potentially get a lot better response without a lot more effort? Is it lack of knowledge (notice I didn’t say stupidity, because I know that is not it), lack of training, lack of proactivity, lack of money, lack of time? Let me know, because once I find the common denominator, I will work on figuring out a way to blast it out of associations forever so we all have the membership recruitment and retention results we deserve.

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July 28, 2009

One rotten apple ...

You know the saying, “One rotten apple spoils the whole barrel.” I am especially interested in the veteran managers’ opinions on this list. Is this just a quaint saying or is there any wisdom in it?

If so, if and when you do find one “bad member” (if there is such a thing) or one “bad” employee….what do you do about it?

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July 27, 2009

Emergency preparedness: How prepared are you?

On June 11, 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) signaled that a global pandemic of novel influenza A (H1N1) was underway by raising the worldwide pandemic alert level to Phase 6. This action was a reflection of the spread of the new H1N1 virus, not the severity of illness caused by the virus. At the time, more than 70 countries had reported cases of novel influenza A (H1N1) infection and there were ongoing community level outbreaks of novel H1N1 in multiple parts of the world.

Since the WHO declaration of a pandemic, the new H1N1 virus has continued to spread, with the number of countries reporting cases of novel H1N1 nearly doubling. The Southern Hemisphere’s regular influenza season has begun and countries there are reporting that the new H1N1 virus is spreading and causing illness along with regular seasonal influenza viruses. In the United States, significant novel H1N1 illness has continued into the summer, with localized and in some cases intense outbreaks occurring. The United States continues to report the largest number of novel H1N1 cases of any country worldwide; however, most people who have become ill have recovered without requiring medical treatment.

Given ongoing novel H1N1 activity to date, CDC anticipates that there will be more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths associated with this pandemic in the United States over the summer and into the fall and winter. The novel H1N1 virus, in conjunction with regular seasonal influenza viruses, poses the potential to cause significant illness with associated hospitalizations and deaths during the U.S. influenza season.

As many of us prepare to host annual conventions and expos this fall, now’s the time to consider issues of emergency preparedness. At its core, emergency preparedness is an issue of social responsibility. As meeting professionals and association executives, we are obligated to make decisions and take actions that will enhance the welfare and interests of not only our members, but of the general public, as well. As we consider the number of people who will travel to our next major event, can we honestly say that we’re adequately prepared for an outbreak of H1N1? What about any number of other crisis scenarios that could affect our next meeting or expo?

Take a moment to reflect on your association’s emergency preparedness. How prepared are you? What crisis scenarios have you experienced first-hand? Was your crisis response plan successful? What did it look like? What would you do differently given the chance? What resources would you recommend to others who are just now considering issues of emergency preparedness?

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Encapsulating Economic News for Members

Like many associations, the International Association of Fire Fighters has developed a “Surviving the Economic Crisis” Toolkit for members, and this one includes a nice, easy-to-use page summarizing news articles and links related to “cuts in state and local budgets, fire fighter staffing, health care benefits, compensation, pension plans, and other areas as a result of the downturn.” A brief archive organized by month at the bottom provides a simple way to access and identify trends.

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Reinventing management

"Management is a social technology that we use to get human beings to work together toward productive ends. And that technology is evolving at a snail's pace."

Author and management thinker Gary Hamel (who will be a general session speaker at the Annual Meeting in Toronto) has some really interesting things to say about management, what's wrong with it, and why it needs to evolve now (and not at a snail's pace) in the video below, a clip from a presentation he gave at the World Innovation Forum. Are there any associations out there implementing the new ideas Hamel speaks of?


July 24, 2009

Are you making it easy for your members to volunteer?

It’s safe to say that many (if not most) associations are struggling with two realities these days: attracting younger members and engaging members as volunteers. The old understandings about joining an association and serving in a committee or leadership structure aren’t foregone conclusions the way they once were. This is particularly true for younger workers who want flexibility, recognition, and interesting work from the get go, and may not instantly “get” the value proposition that a professional association brings.

We know that volunteers are more likely to renew, attend annual meetings, and engage more deeply with our organizations, so we have a vested interest in structuring successful volunteer programs. But what are we doing to respond to these new realities? Though many associations have made concerted efforts to attract younger, more diverse volunteers through outreach and marketing campaigns, the single thing that could make the biggest impact may be thinking differently about the volunteer opportunities we offer.

ASAE’s Decision to Volunteer describes typical barriers to volunteering, among them: inconvenient location, not offering short-term assignments, the volunteer opportunity costing the volunteer money (due to travel or other unreimbursed expenses), and not offering virtual opportunities.

Think about your own association’s typical volunteer roles, and answer the following questions:

• Are most of our volunteer opportunities within multiyear committee or officer structures?
• Do we require face-to-face travel or engagement for the majority of our roles?
• How many project-based or short-term assignments are available?
• Do we offer virtual, asynchronous ways to volunteer?

A solution that addresses many of these barriers may lie in your association’s social media strategy. There are numerous ways that short-term, virtual, convenient assignments can be crafted within the tools you’re already using to build community or communicate. Here are a few options that have worked well for us:

• Leading month-long book club discussions on our wiki or Ning
• Serving as organizational “docents” in Second Life
• Greeting new members of our Ning every few days for a month
• Short-term guest blogging
• Offering an informal “UStream” live event about a particular topic

All of these options allowed us to tap into our members’ expertise and provided opportunities that were exciting and rewarding. In some cases, these short-term assignments have been the gateway for a particular volunteer to serve in longer term volunteer assignments (such as a Special Interest Group officer or board committee member). In all cases, it brought the member closer to our organization, fulfilled an identified need, and diversified our volunteer pool.

What are some ways that you are creating opportunities that make it easy for your members to volunteer?

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Quick clicks: To the Moon!

Good afternoon! Some reading material for your Friday:

Several association bloggers were inspired by the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. (Was I the only one who got choked up watching the footage from the first moonwalk on all of those 40th anniversary documentaries?) Jeff De Cagna asks if we've lost our ability to imagine impossible goals like putting a man on the moon. Kevin Holland responds with some thoughts on why the competitive spirit is so important to the creation (and accomplishment) of such goals. Mark Bledsoe at the Association Okie blog also has some thoughts on the moon mission and BHAGs.

In case you've missed it, Tony Rossell at the Membership Marketing blog has been doing a series of posts based on a benchmarking study he conducted on association membership marketing practices. You can access all of the posts so far here.

Peggy Hoffman at the Idea Center blog wants to know why we default toward creating formal structures for groups of volunteers, when they might be perfectly happy as a more informal group.

Cecilia Sepp reminds us that volunteering is a commitment to be taken seriously.

At the Mizz Information blog, Maggie McGary wonders if associations are prepared for the way advertising is changing and will continue to change.

Bruce Turkel at the Turkel Talks blog reminds us that learning is only useful if you actually use it.

At the Association Voices blog, Steve Drake has posted part three of his "Reinventing Associations" series.

Michele Martin at the Bamboo Project blog has some important questions your organization should be asking (and you should be asking yourself, too).

Eric Casey at the Association Unbound blog has a few pet peeves he wants to air out. (If you're enjoying the "classic association blunders" conversation here, I bet you'll enjoy Eric's post.)

Stephanie Vance shares some advocacy advice with an acronym. (Say that three times fast!)

Cynthia D'Amour advises team leaders (and chapter leaders) that you can't expect blind faith from others.

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July 23, 2009

Welcome Jennifer Ragan-Fore!

I'm pleased to welcome a new blogger to Acronym today: Jennifer Ragan-Fore, the director of new media and member communities for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).

Jennifer leads and manages ISTE's member networks, including ISTE's very successful Second Life Project, Special Interest Group Program, and other social and professional communities. (In two years, ISTE's Second Life community has grown to more than 5,000 members and included more than 6,000 contributed volunteer hours--it really is a great success story.)

Before holding her current position at ISTE, Jennifer was ISTE's director of general membership and Special Interest Group program director.

Please make Jennifer feel welcome here on Acronym. We're glad to have her on board!

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Challenges in Forecasting Budgets for 2010 and Beyond

Recently our Executive Committee asked that we draft pro forma budgets not only for 2010 but also 2011 (our fiscal year is the calendar year). They requested that we devise two different scenarios for the two-year time period: one being an optimistic case where we envisioned membership would recover almost to where we were in 2008 by 2011 (our membership took over a 15% hit this year) and meeting attendance would climb back to near “normal” levels by then; and the second being a pessimistic scenario in which membership and meeting attendance remains rather dismal.

(Note: Our association has returned positive returns for each of the past 7 years with a forecasted loss for 2009 forecasted to be at about 5% of operating budget.)

This exercise forced us to think through the ramifications across all our programs and services and showed us what the net impact to Cash Flow and subsequent Reserve Balances would be under the two scenarios (not surprisingly, under the Pessimistic Scenario we projected operating losses for both years, whereas under the Optimistic Scenario a nominal loss next year and then a profit in 2011).

While it is very challenging to project membership and meeting attendance particularly in “unusual” times such as these, the exercise was beneficial in several ways:

a. It gets the news out in front of the board well in advance and gets them thinking about the “what if” scenarios and plausible implications to our budget

b. It forces them think through what level of operating losses they can live with and whether additional cuts might be warranted (we provided additional cuts which might be considered, some of which would affect some of our programs & services)

c. It also opens up dialogue with the board to think strategically about which legacy programs can in fact be disbanded, and offers an opportunity to engage in a frank discussion about new sources of non-dues revenue as well as ways to re-invigorate membership recruitment.

Has anyone been through similar exercises with their boards?

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Takin’ It to the Streets

Anyone glued to the Tour de France cycling race during the past two weeks may have seen one of the coolest, newest message delivery systems developed in a long time: Chalkbotting. The Nike Livestrong Chalkbot looks like a streetsweeping machine but instead of cleaning up, it neatly sprays down yellow chalk messages—100,000 in all--onto the thousands of miles of streets that comprise the Tour de France route.

The technique, praised by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association and highlighted in Adverblog and other forums, has created tremendous buzz among the millions of fans watching the race on TV and the Internet. Superstar Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation has been showcased in particular, since Nike is a major sponsor of Lance and his mission.

The fun is that anyone worldwide can participate: The process collects 40-character “messages of inspiration and support” cancer regarding living from anyone via text or a web site, and then you spend the rest of the time trying to read the road during cycling coverage to see if you catch your message live. When submitting your short message, you’re cleverly shown what your message will look like on the road, and the site is rigged to send you an email when your message is indeed sprayed, so you know exactly on which days to search.

In addition to messages by individuals, countless nonprofits—particularly, cancer-oriented charities, since the campaign aims to raise awareness of cancer-related issues--have made sure their members are engaging with this unprecedented tool, so viewers are seeing an array of nonprofit names, slogans, URLs, etc. You can also follow the fun at Chalkbot’s Twitter stream.

Naturally, Livestrong remains the most popular, though, and you also can join the 1.5 million followers of the Twitter stream by the Man himself, Lance Armstrong, at http://twitter.com/Lancearmstrong, as he tweets about the Chalkbot, his foundation (he speaks daily with the foundation’s executive director), the tour, the media, and more. You’ll also find an article in a future Associations Now about what kind of boost in donations and awareness was generated by Armstrong’s participation in the tour.


July 22, 2009

The classic association blunders

One of my favorite scenes in The Princess Bride is the battle of wits between The Man in Black and Vizzini. And some of my favorite lines from that scenes are Vizzini saying, "You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is 'never get involved in a land war in Asia,' but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!"

My question for today is: What are the classic association blunders? In other words, what are some bad ideas or common mistakes associations are particularly prone to that we should all look out for and try to avoid? I have a few thoughts, but I'd love to get yours as well:

- Over-relying on a few key volunteers

- Focusing communications on what's important to the association rather than on what's important to the member

- Letting fear (particularly fear of legal action) prevent the association from moving forward with new or creative ideas

- Over-relying on a particular revenue stream (membership dues, a single yearly event, a particular golden-handcuff product or service)

- Over-relying on the opinions of volunteer leaders about what "the membership is thinking," without necessarily testing that opinion with research of the membership at large

What classic blunders would you add to the list?

(Of course, this reference is not aimed at a certain one of my colleagues who has never seen The Princess Bride. He is sadly culturally deprived.)

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A Sample Blog for Media

I like the pressroom blog created by the American Chemical Society’s Office of Public Affairs to help journalists identify the most important research published in ACS’ 34 journals. It has beautiful images, a straightforward and often a tad humorous writing, and a helpful column sharing recent tweets from the organization’s Twitter streams. Take a peak if you’re considering what a press blog might do for your communications strategy.


July 21, 2009

Your lips are moving but I don’t hear anything ….

Communications audits of association members regularly show that members are not aware of much of what their association does—to the endless frustration of the association staff responsible for communication who usually can document how many of various types of communications these members should have received on the subject…. Is it that these communications are not well-written or professionally presented?—no, usually this is not the case. So, what is or what might be the problem?

Have you ever been in a crowded reception where everyone was talking and even as you are engaged in a conversation yourself you all of a sudden hear your name mentioned across the room? That one mention of you by name got your attention, right? Or, again in this crowded room scenario, how about hearing someone whisper the word “fire!”—that has a way of catching your attention too doesn’t it?

In this world of information overload I submit that we have subconsciously trained ourselves to filter out all but those things that are essential to our interests, our vanity, or our well-being.

So the key to effective communications in the “crowded room” of your association is not so much the well-turned phrase or the pleasing graphics as it is knowing and responding to the various vital interests that each person in your audience holds to heart. Do you agree?

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Ethics: Worthy Debate or Spectator Sport?

Consultant and longtime association insider Joan Eisenstodt writes a compelling article in the June 22 issue of SuccessfulMeetings.com that is sure to make many meeting planners and exhibitors squirm. Essentially, she’s calling on everyone to re-commit to a higher sense of ethics, one worthy of a profession critical to our entire sector. Then she lists some cringe-worthy examples of shoddy behavior witnessed by others within our community.

Clearly, ethics is a hot topic, what with the 150-year jail sentence given to Bernard Madoff for swindling, sometimes destroying, dozens of charities and far more individuals out of staggering millions. And yet it always seems to be “the other guy” or organization who is engaging in distasteful (although likely not Madoff-level) behavior.

It’s kind of like that dumb question, “Are you a good communicator?” Yes, answers everyone. I mean, who doesn’t think they’re great at communicating? And who doesn’t think they’re ethical—at least 99% of the time? So why have ethics discussions at all if people don’t feel the conversation really applies to them?

And yet, of course we have to talk about it. Drill it in, frankly. But does the back and forth result in positive impact? Maybe. Maybe not.

You can engage more in this discussion here or via another of Joan’s commentaries, this one a short blog post about MPI’s Principles of Professionalism on the Meeting Professionals International site. Even better, catch what’s sure to be a provocative conversation during her August 17 education session, “Industry Ethics: Right, Wrong or Gray,” at 3:15 p.m. during the ASAE & The Center’s Annual Meeting & Expo in Toronto.


July 20, 2009

Communication Revisited

‘Well Mack the Finger said to Louie the King,
I got forty red white and blue shoe strings,
And a thousand telephones that don't ring,
Do you know where I can get rid of these things?
And Louie the King said let me think for a minute son,
And he said yes I think it can be easily done’
--Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited

We in the association and business world throw the word ‘communication’ around, a lot. ‘Why, Mr. Birch, was your annual symposium such a great success? ‘Well’, he says in self-satisfied importance, ‘we really focus on communication blah blah...’ Let’s face it, we could get by with grunts and hand gestures if we needed to; but how often do we really dig in, and analyze how and why we communicate? How do we simplify our one thousand telephones, Bob?

As I ramble, I remember: Communication is often compared to a river...and the flow of the material in the channel is always named as the defining characteristic. Too little, and my river dries up, and offers nothing for the life within it. Too much, and my river overflows its channel and loses its way. We all know that, but we forget that really it’s the quality of the material that is the sustaining factor.

Randomly organized thoughts:

- Email is perhaps the best way to overflow the communication river, or to let just a trickle through (equally annoying). Sending the right message, to the correct people, is generally a good idea. Also, the shortest email message is not always the best one; think of the array of words, ideas, and concepts that are available to your mind at any given time...Why would you eliminate humor, sarcasm, wit, mystery, and my favorite, charm, and generally all of the things that keep us from being robots, simply because you don’t want to type more than three word sentences? The key is not less words, it’s the right words.

- Sometimes a story is the best way to communicate; it takes more time, but draws people in---if it’s a good story, it doesn’t matter if it’s less than 500 words or fits in a brochure or is a 2 minute elevator speech ;)

- Your filter is the biggest obstacle in your own communication; you will pay attention to some things, and ignore others. Learn your filters, and why they exist.

- Language and tone are tools in the communication paradigm. Good communication in action should include Heart (feeling), Body (language/tone), Mind (thought). It’s the combination that is most powerful!

- We live in a world of over-communication. How efficient can you become at sharing? The key is to share enough to get the result you need.

- Silence is a form of communication, but should be used appropriately and not abused.

Argue below!

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July 17, 2009

A $12-Billion Partnership Opportunity?

I’ve been monitoring what appears to be a steady increase in the number, scope, and creativity of partnerships between associations/nonprofits and academia in the past five years. In some cases, the alliances aim to provide more meat and accessibility to association certifications; others want to co-brand their education programs with the prestige of universities or research institutions. Still more are trying to pilot new relationships and share both risk and resources with academics of similar mindset and goals.

While aligning with the likes of Penn State University and the University of Michigan is wonderful for some associations, I’ve seen far fewer partnerships with community colleges, despite their massive jump in popularity in recent years. After the announcement this week of President Obama’s new American Graduation Initiative, however, it may be just the right time for that to change.

The underlying goal of this $12-billion, 10-year investment is to educate, retrain, and graduate five million adults and young adults with “the skills and knowledge necessary to compete for the jobs of the future,” say Obama. Federal research has already estimated that “one-third of the fastest-growing occupations will require an associate's degree or a postsecondary vocational certificate.”

Obama’s announcement names community colleges as a primary vehicle toward accomplishing such a goal, noting the colleges “could build partnerships with businesses and the workforce investment system to create career pathways where workers can earn new credentials and promotions step-by-step, worksite education programs [that] build basic skills,” and internships and job placements that are “curriculum-coordinated.”

Couldn’t you envision how associations might help with these three areas? Professional and trade organizations know first-hand what skills and knowledge are needed to build the most successful careers within their sectors; why not offer to help shape the new curricula that must emerge? Why not offer as part of students’ coursework, or even as a graduation requirement, the new-economy-oriented professional certifications already developed (or underway) by an association? That’s what the National Association of Home Builders and Perdue University have done with NAHB’s Green Builder certification, for instance.

And couldn’t you see how associations and a community college could jointly target the largest companies in their fields to host onsite training of employees, as continuing education credit or for certification points?

And what of internships and job placements? Might associations find a new role as a clearinghouse for internships in their fields, a one-stop-shop for community college students and others seeking a foothold in the sector? A possible author of internship best practices designed to create positive learning experiences that build genuine enthusiasm in students and retrained adults for a career in that field or trade?

Finally, the new initiative also enables development of an “online skills laboratory” that relies on educational software to help “students learn more in less time than they would with traditional classroom instruction alone” and to extend “learning opportunities to rural areas or working adults who need to fit their coursework around families and jobs.” Obama envisions “open online courses … developed by teams of experts in content knowledge, pedagogy, and technology and made available for modification, adaptation, and sharing.” Government agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Education, and Labor, would work with each other and others to develop such courses and “rigorously analyze” the quality of their results as well.

Certainly associations—so many of which are concerned about workforce shortages, weakening skills, and global economic competition—could benefit from piloting some trial partnerships around this goal. Haven’t we spent the last decade refining our own online coursework? Don’t we already have the expertise and knowledge—or the ability to develop it--that this nation’s workforce needs via such education?

The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) and its education allies are understandably ecstatic about the initiative. But I think that a closer examination and some creative thought about how this effort could help address serious concerns by a much wider range of associations could lead to some A-plus opportunities.

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Quick clicks: Feeling lucky?

There's lots of great stuff to link to around the association blogging world this week!

Peggy Hoffman at the Idea Center blog says that being an active member of an association can be your lucky charm.

There's been a lot of idea sharing and well, buzz, around last week's Buzz 2009 conference: Maddie Grant has a good roundup here.

A guest post on the Nonprofit University blog has 10 things to love, and 10 things to hate, about nonprofit boards.

The DigitalNow blog suggests trying to see your association through "member tinted glasses."

Matt Baehr at the BlogClump blog writes about the hierarchy of change in associations, and how trying to make start change at the wrong level of the hierarchy can be an exercise in frustration.

Cecilia Sepp at the Association Puzzle blog wants to create a vacation policy for the 21st century. What would you want to see in there?

Web strategy analyst Jeremiah Owyang has an interesting post listing the five organizations allow their employees to participate in the social web, and what they say about the organization in question.

Word-of-mouth guru Andy Sernovitz links to a presentation from PepsiCo on how they're moving into social media, which might be of particular interest to associations that, like PepsiCo, are in the early stages of engagement with the social web.

The Wild Apricot blog explores what to do if your Twitter hashtag and another group's hashtag happen to be the same.

Chris Bonney at the Vanguard Technology blog argues that you can't build a great website by committee.

Ann Oliveri at the Zen of Associations blog muses about how associations can better tap into the brainpower of their past volunteer leaders.

Rebecca Rolfes at the LeaderConnect blog argues that the future of association publishing lies in focusing on the member.


July 16, 2009

IRS Form 990 – Conflict of Interest Policy

With the new changes to the IRS Form 990 comes a series of questions which associations should answer affirmatively to minimize the chance of the dreaded IRS Audit. Three of the recommended policies all associations should have in place are: (1) Document Destruction, (2) Whistleblower Policy and (3) Board Director Conflict of Interest.

Concerning the Conflict of Interest Policy, there are several procedures which should be put into place:

1. All board members should sign a written Conflict of Interest Policy Statement every year. The Statement gives the individual the option of either acknowledging no conflicts of interest, or noting any areas of concern.

2. At each and every board meeting, the board chair should ask if there are any conflicts the association should be aware of. The outcome should be included in the board minutes.

3. The board should vote upon this procedure PRIOR to it taking effect.

Associations should consult with their Auditors to ensure compliance as the rules do change and are subject to slightly different interpretation depending on the auditing firm!

Does anyone have a different interpretation on this particular policy?


Free Good Governance Workbook Available

A free downloadable workbook, “The Principles Workbook: Steering Your Board toward Good Governance and Ethical Practice,” is now available from coauthors BoardSource and Independent Sector. The publication aims to “help the nonprofit community meet its commitment to upholding the highest standards of accountability -- and do so in a cost-effective way.”

The workbook enables nonprofit boards and staff to “evaluate themselves on key principles of legal compliance and public disclosure, effective governance, and strong financial oversight and then develop action plans based on those evaluations.”

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July 15, 2009

Interesting stuff from Charlene Li and Clay Shirky

As I was researching other things today, I came across some interesting comments from two speakers who'll be part of the Annual Meeting in Toronto. I thought I'd share them with ya'll as well:

Shel Israel at the Global Neighborhoods blog interviewed general session speaker Charlene Li twice for his ongoing study of social media around the world, once in August 2007 and again in August 2008. It's interesting to get a snapshot of her views on social media at two points in time--especially since we'll be seeing her in August 2009.

Jake McKee at the Community Guy blog posted a June 2009 TED talk by thought leader session speaker Clay Shirky on Iran, Twitter, and the ways our world is changing. I've reposted the video below.


Designers Respond to Obama Request for Community Service

In a terrific example of using strategic social responsibility to create positive change and strengthen organizations, AIGA—a professional design association—has activated its membership to respond to a special invitation from the White House and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to help promote and document public service opportunities in their communities during the “United We Serve” initiative. The latter is a summer of community involvement culminating in a National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11, 2009.

Specifically, the Obama administration hopes that designers will “visually promote local opportunities for community service and then create a visual record of the results.”

The association is thrilled with the invitation, viewing this project as an excellent alignment of member skills, organizational mission, and public interest. It is urging members to search the community service project section of www.serve.org for local charitable opportunities and then to collaborate with project organizers on posters, brochures, Web vehicles, and more to visually promote it.

Participating members are urged to upload photos of their efforts to Flickr using the tag “designserves,” and AIGA is gathering these examples for a fall slideshow for association members and the public.

“Designers should be involved as citizens and as designers. Each designer has the ability to move others by making stories visible and capturing the community experience,” says AIGA Executive Director Richard Grefé.

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July 14, 2009

Consulting and consultants

Remember this old joke? “We’re from the government and we’re here to help!” This assertion is usually followed by incredulous guffaws. Similarly, certain circles of association executives are amused by any assertion about the helpfulness of consultants.

The reality is that the fastest growing, most innovative, and most influential associations in the world are the most prolific users of consulting services.

Why? Consultants provide expertise at critical junctures; resources to meet needs and opportunities when internal resources are insufficient; institutional knowledge from a variety of organizations that have faced similar challenges; an outsider’s perspective, uninfluenced by the internal politics of your organization; and the stamp of third-party credibility, when needed.

Of course, not every association derives the full benefit of every consulting assignment. There are some tricks of the trade: Good managers plan for consultants, researching potential costs and including them in their annual budgets. They develop RFPs that are clear, accurate, and complete (in terms of what is trying to be achieved, the real timeframe, and the resources available). And they are prepared to give a consultant the time and information he or she needs to do the job effectively.

I’ve written at greater length about this same issue for Association Trends, but I would welcome discussion from either consultants or association executives as to whether this recession has caused them to rethink or alternatively to confirm their feelings about associations' use of consultants and consulting services?

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July 13, 2009

Who Are We as Association Professionals?

Please read on, I will challenge you to respond by the end of this post.

As I entered my first real meeting built for association executives, at the age of 27, I was filled with promise and high hopes. I was so ready to be met and immediately loved by passionate, energized association warriors fighting for their cause with everything they had. What I ran into was a somewhat boring set of folks who were very professional, and very focused on their careers; I didn’t hear much passion when they spoke, I didn’t hear the gut-checking, do-or-die decisions and battle stories that I’d been dreaming about...why were my expectations so off from the reality?

Don’t get me wrong, the folks I met that day were all very nice and very competent people, more competent and composed than I. And to be clear, I have attended many association-pro events and I have seen some very unique conference ideas and concepts and met many great people. But at the same time, I’m still waiting to see those passionate folks, the army of non-profit generals leading the fight on social causes and trades that I am passionate about but know little of. Maybe I just suck at networking, but it’s the people I want to get to know; not just the sort of fake personalities we all put on to some degree when we sit at a lunch table together; I want to know the worst and best of all of you, and draw a parallel to my own history or condition at any given time.

My question that requires response is as follows: Who are we really, as association professionals?

If I’m asking you all to share, I must share first. Here is who I am as an association professional in less than 150 words:

A passionate individual interested in more than a business that makes X. A man who took on too much, too fast at work, and went through the most painful, stressful, and beautiful period of personal growth in his life. A manager who didn’t know what to do in any number of situations, and shot from the hip more than once! A person who loves sponsorship sales but doesn’t make one dime extra in commission, and doesn’t care. A friend of many members of the association he works for, and who loves the annual show because so many people know him. One who is endlessly trying to explain to friends and family what it is he actually does for a living. An employee who makes mistakes every day, and admits most of them. A professional who loves strategic planning and big picture goals. An advocate, gatekeeper, negotiator, peacemaker, and coordinator.

Here is my challenge—I know you are out there: let’s smash the record and see how many responses we can get, be anonymous if you are shy, to answer the question: Who are you as an association professional?

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July 10, 2009

Quick clicks: Looking ahead

Good afternoon! Here's your weekly roundup of great reads:

- I've come across a couple of new association blogs in recent days. Mark Bledsoe is writing the AssociationOkie blog, and Eric Casey has launched the Association Unbound blog. Be sure to check out a cool feature of Association Unbound: "Bring Out Your Dead," intended to be a place to share and learn from failure. Mark and Eric, welcome to the association blogging world!

- Steve Drake at the Association Voices blog has two posts on his thoughts about reinventing associations.

- If you've found yourself saying recently, "I love that idea, but we just don't have the resources right now," Holly Ross at NTEN has four reasons why innovation matters now more than ever.

- Michele Martin has some very interesting thoughts on knowledge work, based on the new book Shop Class as Soulcraft. She raises some questions with definite implications for associations, such as "When we talk about 'knowledge workers' who do we really mean? Is this as large a group as we think or are many of the people we think of as knowledge workers actually working as glorified clerks?"

- How can recent recommendations from Forrester Research on how organizations should be structured in the age of social media work in the association world? Maggie McGary at the Mizz Information blog has some tough questions.

- A lot of bloggers are thinking about membership lately; Cecilia Sepp at the Association Puzzle blog reports about her experience with reducing the grace period for lapsed members. Cynthia D'Amour wants you to think about what motivates your members to take action. And the Vanguard Technology blog wants you to blow up your website's members-only area immediately.

- Sue Pelletier at face2face points to a really interesting article offering 10 alternative business models for events.


Difficulties in Managing Web-based Seminars

With the weakened economy, and its dampening effect on member travel, we are all looking for alternative sources of non-dues revenue. Web-based seminars (webinars) have become a ubiquitous presence on the educational front. However, the challenges of hosting value-added programming that actually make money are real.

First, you need to research compelling topics.So you survey the membership and find a few ideas. Then you need to find the speaker. You approach one of the better-known experts in your field and, happily, she agrees.

With your webinar provider already in place, you spend time training the speaker on how to administer her presentation during the actual webinar. You set a price point (deciding on per-site pricing instead of per-person, to encourage broader participation and add value). And as with live events, you spend time managing registrations (even with online credit card purchases, there are always questions) and even more time promoting, promoting, and promoting.

Two days out, you only have two people registered to attend. What went wrong? What could be done to help ensure a win-win webinar experience for associations and their members and customers?

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Welcome Larry Sloan!

Good morning! I'd like to welcome our newest Acronym blogger, Larry Sloan. Larry will be joining us for the month of July to share his perspectives on some of the challenges facing association CEOs today.

Larry is president of the Adhesives and Sealants Council Inc., in Bethesda, Maryland, and a CAE. He originally joined the Council in 2001 as director of member services, and was promoted to senior director in 2004 before becoming president in January 2005. He started his career as a chemical engineer, entering the nonprofit sector in 2000 as director of membership for the Consumer Specialty Products Association.

Please welcome Larry to Acronym. I'm looking forward to reading his posts!


July 9, 2009

Steve Anderson on effectively managing change

Steve Anderson, a long-time association veteran currently leading the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, says the current economic environment is as tough as any he has seen. Associations across the spectrum are having to lead change in a crush of financial hardship and uncertainty.

As we launch into the first of several posts this month on change management, watch this short video and listen for his simple (but incredibly hard -- especially for associations) solution: at any time -- and especially tough economic times -- associations need to simplify and focus.


July 8, 2009

Give em what they want or give em what they need?

Over the 4th of July weekend I went to a local casual dining restaurant that I hadn’t been to in a while. It tended to be a bit pricey for what they served but since they sent me a coupon and I was near on of their locations I decided to give it a shot. I was really surprised when I walked in and noticed that almost all of the items on the old menu had been replaced by mostly healthy items. I was very excited because I like to be able to go out and still eat healthy. I also immediately wondered how much longer they would be in business because from what I have seen the restaurants that promote themselves as healthy and then serve more or less only healthy food go out of business fast even though we all know that human beings should be eating at places like this instead of eating hamburgers and french fries at some of the other restaurants in the area.

While I was eating my white meat chicken, brown rice and mashed sweet potatoes and drinking my unsweetened ice tea I started thinking about our role as association professionals and how we best serve our members. Do we give our members what they need, those things that research and past results show will serve their needs best in the long term? Or do we give them what they want because it will provide short term satisfaction and probably a higher amount of immediate revenue? In my example the restaurant I went to decided that they are going to provide what customers need (healthy food) not what they may want (fried or salty or sugary food) and at least for now is willing to risk their business to do so.

What should an association do when they face this type of situation? Do we take the money and give members what they are yelling for yet may not truly need? Or do we go against their wishes and force them to take what we believe they need to have? Or is there a middle ground where we can accomplish both? I think this is a conundrum that most organizations and most association professionals will face, or have already faced. I would love to hear how you decide what you do to best serve your members, how you did it and then whether it worked or not. To me this would be valuable info for all association professionals to have access to especially in our current economic situation.

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July 7, 2009

The Economy: Yes, A Laughing Matter

I know everyone is dragging around right now, even though it’s only Tuesday, but with so many folks on vacation already, and the sun shining brightly (at least here in Virginia), I thought it a good time to pass along 5 minutes of humor for your day. Yes, it has an association hook, and it’s even about the economy, so you can tell your boss you’re “doing an environmental scan.”

However, I guarantee you haven’t heard economics explained in these kinds of concepts, even though this hilarious YouTube video is by Yoram Bauman, a self-named “stand-up economist” at the American Economic Association conference in January.

Major kudos to the AEC for having the guts and grace during a dismal financial year to insert its first “humor session” at a conference, which actually garnered it a nice blog post in The New York Times and apparently standing-room-only attendance that day.

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“Lumpers” and “Dividers”

The famous paleontologist Louis Leakey once noted that the world of paleontology was divided into two camps: “lumpers” and “dividers.” The “lumpers,” he said, were paleontologists who saw more quickly the similarity between things and who were inclined to lump their findings together. Because of this outlook, lumpers identify fewer different species rather than more. The “dividers” on the other hand were those people who more readily saw the differences in what they found and—as a consequence—catalogued more different species rather than fewer.

For the past 10-15 years the association world was dominated by “dividers”—those who saw more readily the differences between the members of an organization. This tendency, abetted and propelled by the growing ease of sharing information through the Internet, led to an increasing fragmentation of traditional association memberships into special interest groups and even wholly separate spin-off associations of people and organizations who find more in common among themselves than they did with their former place of membership. It is safe to say that we now have more associations in existence than ever before; but this trend was somewhat at the expense of larger, older associations, among which there has been a great deal of hand-wringing and soul-searching.

Now the economic tide has shifted. With the tremendous financial pressures that are being put on everyone, the newer, smaller associations may be having a particularly difficult time of it. Does this represent the coming of a new era for fewer, larger associations? Will associations start to be dominated by “lumpers”—those who see the points in common rather than the differences among groups? These are different questions. I don’t believe the clock will ever be turned back to fewer, larger associations, but I do think we are going to see—and perhaps are seeing now--a lot more intense and perhaps innovative combinations and partnerships among associations—small and large. Am I wrong?

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July 6, 2009

The art of triangulation

Triangulation (from Dictionary.com): The location of an unknown point, as in navigation, by the formation of a triangle having the unknown point and two known points as the vertices.

This is my job. I take any number of known points, and I work on finding the unknown...not because I enjoy it, and not because I think about it very critically; but because I have to! And chances are, so do you.

If you are in association management, then triangulation can (or should) be your best friend. It can help you find innovative solutions to problems—even some problems you weren’t aware you had. So let’s take this powerful concept and try to break it down into a process.

Tips to help you find the unknown points:

- Have a system in place that tracks all major good ideas that come from committees—treat them like your reserve accounts, an investment in the future. Formalize this tracking system into your planning in the form of a Queue of ideas that committees/staff review annually. Kill the bad ideas (yes they do exist), don’t let them get in your queue, they will muck it up.

- Prioritize projects/ideas using board outcomes and strategic plans. Some things are more important and relevant than others. The hardest part of implementing a strategic plan is filling the gaps (the things it doesn’t tell you to do). Use your good ideas as glue for the gaps.

- Look for similarities, and don’t be afraid to partner with other committees/associations. Be ready to convince people that a hybrid of their idea with someone else’s idea is really the best way to go.

Real-life example that is (hopefully) working:

Conditions Before Triangulation
- SIMA is developing a Certified Snow Technician program, an idea from the Certification committee...committee is stuck, having a hard time figuring out how and what to deliver as a hands-on test for CST’s

- SIMA Education committee decides it wants to do training for safe operation of equipment

- Numerous SIMA exhibitors have recommended an outdoor demo area during the annual show

After Triangulation
At its next annual show, SIMA will conduct a Demo Day with 10 equipment providers, who will partner with volunteers to deliver a safety and efficiency training curriculum. That curriculum will be used for the basis of the CST program.

Maybe triangulation is the wrong word; maybe E pluribus unum is a better descriptor?


July 3, 2009

Quick clicks: Virtual fireworks only

For those of you in the United States, have a great holiday weekend! Here's some reading material to take with you:

Jamie Notter challenges associations to try for truth.

Bruce Hammond shares his experience on "the other side"--as a volunteer--and the lessons he sees for associations.

Tony Rossell is hosting an interesting discussion on incentives and membership recruitment. Elsewhere, Ellen Behrens at the aLearning blog is also thinking about incentives and how to make them effective.

Ann Oliveri at the Zen of Associations blog has some ideas about how to better engage association employees.

Rebecca Rolfes at the LeaderConnect blog asks whether trade associations can be truly global.

NTEN's blog lists 10 disruptive technologies your organization should be thinking about.

Michele Martin has a helpful post on making social media and learning more accessible to people with disabilities.

Peggy Hoffman shares an interesting picture of how a for-profit company is interacting with and engaging its customer community.

Harvard Business's Conversation Starter blog has a recent post on three ways to make conferences better. It's interesting to see what someone outside the association field sees as radical suggestions to improve conferences and meetings.

Here's an idea you can easily apply in your work: the Signal vs. Noise blog suggests that changing your writing instrument might help you focus on the big picture.


July 2, 2009

Don't play defense

It's hard to take criticism--I'll be the first to admit it. Just recently, my predecessor (and fellow blogger) Scott Briscoe and I sat down to talk about a recent issue of Associations Now, so that he could give me some honest feedback about what he liked and didn't like (at my request). It was really generous of him to share his time and thoughts with me--but it was also really difficult to sit and listen about the many ways that issue fell short of my ideal.

I've been thinking about criticism lately, because I've been seeing organizations wrestle with how to handle it when they're criticized in a public space. Most recently I read with interest a blog post by Mark Athitakis, one of my colleagues on the magazine, about a well-known author's response to a negative review of her most recent book. Let's just say she didn't take the criticism well.

I don't know that I have a Grand Unification Theory of how to handle criticism, but I do think one thing is key: Don't get defensive. As painful as criticism may be, and as wrong-headed as you may feel it is, if you get defensive, it comes across--and it comes across poorly.

Defensiveness also effectively prevents you from gleaning whatever lessons the criticism may offer. Maybe the critic just doesn't understand your association's new service offering--but clearly you should take a look at your communications efforts if the purpose of your new service is unclear. Maybe the critic just wasn't the right person for that format of education--but clearly you should look at ways to make other options or learning formats available.

And in the end, if you find yourself about to fire off a defensive email, blog comment, or Twitter rant, remind yourself that your critic is actually giving you a gift--the gift of time and brainpower. Even if you just don't agree with the criticism, the opportunity to engage with someone who's willing to take the time to share thoughts about your association, event, product, or service is worthwhile.

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When Codes of Conduct Clash with Legal Fears

I had an interesting conversation about marketing new professional codes of conduct or professional principles Wednesday with Carol Smolenski, executive director of ECPAT-USA, a New York-based nonprofit that protects children from sex tourism. It was one more time in which I felt that America’s propensity to sue everyone in sight – or live in fear of that—was holding back good-minded organizations from doing the right and obvious thing.

In this case, I’m talking about ECPAT’s Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism. This is a concisely written code with six anti-“sexploitation” criteria and more than 1,000 signatories from 30 countries to date.

How many of those 1,000 signatory organizations—ranging from hotel chains to hospitality and travel associations--are U.S.-based? Four.

Why so shockingly low? Lawyers, grimaces Carol. Apparently, although this view “is not generally shared” outside of the States, many lawyers here believe that displaying support for the code would put a company/association at greater risk should a sexually exploited child decide to hire a lawyer and target, not so much the individual committing the heinous crime, but the facility in which it occurred because “it is likely more profitable.”

Fortunately, not everyone in America agrees. The American Society of Travel Agents is to be commended for adding its considerable clout to the effort to stem sex trade of minors, as is longtime hospitality industry leader Marilyn Carlson Nelson, who immediately signed up her powerful Carlson Companies in 2004 despite internal advice to the contrary. Today, she remains an ardent champion for the code and cause.

Carol, too, remains committed, although she now focuses on marketing the code primarily beyond American borders, where interest and support are much higher. In Mexico and Belize, for instance, the code has firm backing from a variety of travel associations, which also help get EPCAT supporters and staff into the door of local hotels. There, Carol finds that facility managers are often eager to sign the code, despite hesitations from corporate headquarters.

To help bolster these potential grassroots supporters, her organization is trying something new: on-the-street surveys asking whether people would prefer to stay in a place supportive of responsible tourism-related policies. Although early yet, to date around 60% of several hundred surveyed in New York City say yes.

But it’s a bit of a shame both that this is the question EPCAT has chosen to ask first, and that its initial query is to the general public. To me, it’s asking the wrong people. I’d rather target travel and hospitality professionals, owners, managers, promoters and maybe even their lawyers with the question, “How would you feel about staying in a place that does not support responsible tourism practices and policies?”

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July 1, 2009

Associations Now case study: When a sponsor cuts back

This month's Associations Now case study looks at a situation that seems to be more common this year, for obvious reasons: An association has a long-standing relationship with a major sponsor. Unexpectedly, the sponsor tells the association it has to cut its level of sponsorship significantly--a scenario with major budget implications for the association. What should a CEO in this position do?

Thanks are due in particular to David Patt, CAE, who co-authored this month's case study and consistently helped to ground the article by providing his perspective on what a real CEO would think and do when faced with similar circumstances. Thanks also to Scott Oser and Oliver Yandle, who provided no-holds-barred commentary.

What do you think of the situation presented in this month's case study (available online here)? Did you agree or disagree with the commentators? If you were suddenly faced with the loss of a significant part of your association's sponsorship revenue, how would you respond?

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Kiwanis Brainstorm with Members, Others on Next Big Challenge

With so much bad economic news around, it’s especially wonderful when you see an organization staying laser-focused on its mission and, in fact, searching for greater opportunities to impact both their members and the world.

Such is the case with news that Kiwanis International is seeking a major new challenge and wants input on what it should be. In addition to tapping its 8,000 clubs in 70 nations, Kiwanis is inviting any organization and individual to propose a project “to become the global service organization’s second worldwide service initiative” to “make a positive difference in the world by helping children in need.” The request comes because Kiwanis has nearly succeeded in accomplishing its first global challenge: protecting children from iodine deficiency disorders. Working with partner UNICEF since 1994, the organization estimates “the number of households consuming iodized salt has jumped from 20% in 1990 to more than 70% today.”

Proposals for the new worldwide service challenge are due by Oct. 1, 2009. For a list of project criteria and more information, visit www.kiwanis.org/wsp. Kiwanis will announce its final choice in June 2010 during 95th annual convention.