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August 31, 2009

Death of a Salesman?

Over the next two weeks, you will see 3 posts from me journaling a road trip I undertook this summer, meeting with some of the key exhibitor/sponsors of our association, and a few prospects whom we’ve identified as potential strategic partners. My goal is to share some real stories about the challenges and opportunities that I have encountered when trying to build strong, lasting partnerships with key supporters. I hope also to get feedback from many of you.

It is my firm belief that many associations do not focus on the sales process enough. I also believe that no matter what type or kind of association you work in, and really no matter what your position is, a focus on the principles that guide the sales process can help you in your work. These principles include:

- Friendly, open communication, always looking for added value
- Qualification--is it a good fit for you, and you for them?
- Identifying a need
- Proposing a solution
- Follow up and consensus-building
- Closing the "sale"
- Deliver what you promised, maintain and grow the relationship

I have to admit, it’s a little frustrating when I post blog entries and get no feedback; let's try and break the record of the last 3 months, I'd like to see if we can reach 15 replies, answering any of these questions:

- Why do I hear association professionals talk a lot about marketing, but less about sales?
- Who is the best salesperson you know, and why?
- How are fundraising and sales similar? How are they different?
- Why do some people hate being asked to 'sell' something to someone else? What first comes into your mind when you are asked to sell something?
- Why do we always focus on new ideas for non-dues revenue, and less on upselling or increasing the investment from current players?
- Can the sales process apply to volunteer recruitment?

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Annual Meeting: The discussion continues

Discussion about the 2009 Annual Meeting in Toronto continues, both on association blogs and elsewhere. Here's what I've come across in the past week--thanks to all of you who took the time to write up your feedback and comments! And as always, if you see something I've missed, feel free to post a link in comments or email it to me to add in.

- Christy Jones posted her reactions to the conference. A few commenters responded as well.

- Linda Owens was inspired to start blogging again during Annual; she also posted a roundup of helpful sessions for AMC staff from the conference.

- Erik Schonher, another relatively new association blogger, posts some takeaways from his session on how membership teams and CFOs can better communicate with one another.

- The weekly "assnchat" (short for "association chat") on Twitter took some time last week to focus on the Annual Meeting, what people liked and didn't like, and what people would like to see in 2010. A transcript of the chat is available through Wthashtag.com; scroll down to 2 p.m. in the transcript to see the actual chat as it happened live.

- Maddie Grant rounded up some thoughts from YAP members who weren't able to attend the conference on why they didn't attend. Maddie also posted some suggestions for the volunteer leadership brunch at Annual Meeting 2010.

- Sue Pelletier posted about an eye-opening experience during the conference.

- The PCMA Membership Blog shares some nuggets of wisdom on social media gleaned in Toronto.

- Speaking of social media, Peggy Hoffman posted some thoughts based on her session with KiKi L'Italien on how chapters can leverage social media.

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August 25, 2009

Volunteer Technology Help for Nonprofits

Need help with a tech problem or strategy? Join the thousands of nonprofits that have already posted “wish lists” for pro bono help with IT, web design, programming, blogging, and other technology needs in hope of attracting interest among the thousands of technology volunteers worldwide who are being matched up with organizations during the first “Mozilla Service Week” September 14-21.

The massive community service project is the result of a partnership with Idealist.org and Mozilla (the organization behind the Firefox browser). Go to http://mozillaservice.org if you want to be a tech volunteer yourself or want to post a tech need for your association or nonprofit.

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August 24, 2009

Early career leadership lessons

Past ASAE Board Chair and President of the Ohio Society of CPAs J. Clarke Price shares a painful, early leadership lesson in this video. Drop a comment, I'd love to hear from you about an early work experience that helped shape the person and worker that you have become.

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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Insights into the World Economic Forum

Insights into the World Economic Forum
The always-excellent newsletter of Wharton School of Business has an insightful interview—"Connecting the Dots at the World Economic Forum: 'We Can No Longer Face Global Issues Alone'"—with WEF leaders, who talk about the effects of the global economy on its agenda, provide overviews of some major initiatives underway, and provide good industry examples of some collaborations taken by attendees (including non-governmental organizations).

I’d be interested in anyone’s stories of attending the WEF—their impressions, any inspirations they took away, the types of contacts they made, etc. Please post here for everyone to read.

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Facebook fundraising: Feeding America shows good taste

Using social media for fundraising—it was a topic that sparked a lot of conversation among associations and nonprofits during last week’s Annual Meeting in Toronto, with everyone wanting to know which organizations have had luck, which have not and why, and which campaigns are underway as pilots.

A few first-adopter organizations always spring to mind when I hear someone ask the how-do-I-do-this question, including the nonprofit Feeding America (formerly Second Harvest), which has such a creative array of supporters that it is always on the forefront of innovative fundraising techniques and events.

Its latest endeavor is on Facebook and involves the unusual duo of Hellmann’s and Best Foods Mayonnaise with musician Billy Ray Cyrus in a “virtual Sandwich Swap ‘n Share” program to celebrate the upcoming new school year and “childhood rituals” like trading lunchbox munchies.

The fundraiser is fun and trendy. For each sandwich created on the company’s Facebook page, Hellmann's and Best Foods donates seven lunches to Feeding America and enters the participant in a sweepstakes for a $250 grocery gift certificate. And here’s the viral part: For every friend on Facebook that the participant shares a sandwich with, Hellmann's donates seven more lunches—up to 700,000 lunches total. Someone even wins a trip backstage at a Cyrus concert to officially swap sandwiches with the famous father-of-Miley.

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Feeding America and Hellmann’s are quick to explain that seven lunches equals a dollar donation to the charity. But by using Facebook to engage customers and charitable supporters in a feel-good fundraiser that virtually uses its product (a fundraiser that doesn’t cost the customer a dime, by the way), the company and its brand gain much more buzz and recognition than they would by simply writing a $100,000 check to Feeding America, as does the charity.

Fundraising with social media tools takes a lot of thought and planning, but the results can further cement relationships with major donors, engrain your brand in new places, excite your supporters, and generate media interest. And if you raise some money in the process, well, hooray!

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August 21, 2009

Annual Meeting Roundup: Post-postgame

The discussion inspired by Annual Meeting continues with several great blog posts:

- Elizabeth Weaver Engel recommends faking your own death if necessary to see Clay Shirky speak (plus four other "top 5" lessons learned at Annual).

- KiKi L'Italien has 10 highlights and five "needs improvements" from the conference.

- Jeff De Cagna looks ahead to conversations we need to start preparing for at Annual Meeting 2010. (Don't miss the comments on his post.)

- Lindy Dreyer posted on her experience with the volunteer brunch and council meetings on Saturday, and asked for feedback on what kind of volunteer leaders association professionals want and need (be sure to read the comments on her post as well). During Annual Meeting, Peggy Hoffman wrote about similar topics from her perspective as a past council chair.

- Cynthia D'Amour analyzes how well the closing party did at engaging all attendees.

- For you visual thinkers out there: Another cool set of Flickr photos from Annual has been posted. The Splash blog also has an "Annual Meeting in photos" roundup, and Steffanie Feuer shared some photos from the Food & Wine Classic. (And of course there's the more general Annual Meeting Flickr pool, as well.)

- Brian John Riggs posted about themes he saw at both ASAE & The Center's Annual Meeting and AMCi.

- Maddie Grant shares three great examples of word-of-mouth in action at Annual. She also archived her "golden nuggets" from Clay Shirky's presentation all in one post.

- Matt Baehr has some notes from Annual.

- Jamie Notter shares some tips from his Learning Lab on managing conflict.

- Kevin Holland has the "Connect With Me" song stuck in his head.

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Why association marketing stinks

"You need to share with people what they want to hear, not what you want to shout at them."

That was said by Charlene Li in her general session at the annual meeting. If you have just a moment, skip down to the bottom of this post and watch the 2 minute, 41-second video from the last Marketing & Membership Conference.

I used to hold the opinion that just about everyone in an organization was part marketer. I'm ready to abandon that now. Oh, I still believe in the sentiment, but there doesn't appear to be any real change on the horizon. Associations are still supremely guilty of shouting out what they want their public to hear, rather than entering into dialog and informing. The term marketing has a bad connotation—it is the shouting, the blah, blah blah, the interruption, and it all wreaks of desperation. So now I'm ready to jettison the term. Just lose it from the vocabulary. While we're at it, if there is any product or service that needs marketing, then get rid of that, too.

It's time to stop thinking about marketing, replacing it with informing and engaging in dialog. It's what our members want from us. They didn't join to be marketed to; they didn't join to be sold to. They joined to be part of community. If you need more marketing than that, it's time to rethink what you're doing.

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Associations/nonprofits turn to iPhone apps as latest viral tool

I’m seeing more and more associations and nonprofits developing their own iPhone apps to create a mobile forum to educate and engage members and stakeholders. Some apps are for the organization overall and appear most often distributed free through the iTunes App store, such as that of the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross, and, most recently, the American Humane Association.

Their primary purposes differ. The app for the American Red Cross encourages emergency preparedness, provides on-the-spot CPR guidance, gives emergency updates, and provides easy donation opportunities.

The American Humane Association’s “Be Humane!” app also provides breaking news and donation options through PayPal, but it adds has a brief organizational video, legislative updates, and a wide range of images and program tie-ins. Its Houston, Texas, components/chapter also has its own app on iTunes.

The American Heart Association app fosters self-tracking of heart-friendly activities such as healthy eating and exercise, health news, and event calendars, among other topics.
Whether members will take to these apps, increase their loyalty to the organization as a result of greater engagement, donate more, volunteer, or act in other positive ways that strengthen the association or nonprofit is still a bit early to tell in most cases. But I’m interested in hearing from other organizations that have gone this route. What types of numbers have you been tracking in this regard? What’s been your feedback? What would you advise others who are considering this tool? How focused has your purpose for the app been?

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Crowdsourcing a new book on corporate social responsibility

There was lots of buzz about crowdsourcing at this week’s Annual Meeting & Expo. I like this latest example underway--a new project by Seventh Generation, a “green products” company, and partner Justmeans to crowdsource a virtual book on “innovative CSR/sustainability work you all are doing” in your companies and organizations.

The book aims to “help companies choose opportunities to create products and services that deliver a Return on Purpose as well as a Return on Investment” and applies to associations as well. Consider contributing your own organizational story on sustainability, and then watch Seventh Generation CEO Jeffrey Hollender’s provocative call urging business leaders to move beyond what he calls “first-phase” efforts at corporate social responsibility toward a CSR “reinvention” in his four-minute video, Is CSR Dead?

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August 20, 2009

Annual Meeting Roundup: Postgame

I may have said this before, but just in case I haven't: Thank you to all of the bloggers who have been kind enough to share their thoughts, feedback, notes and reactions to the Annual Meeting. As an ASAE & The Center staffer, I'm honored that you'd take the time to provide us with such generous and valuable information. (Not to mention the fact that I personally miss a lot of sessions that I would normally love to see because of other responsibilities while I'm at the meeting; I'm grateful to see notes from some of those sessions online through blogs and Twitter.)

Here are the latest posts on the Annual Meeting I've found from association bloggers and others. If you know of ones I've missed, let me know!

- Wes Trochlil posted his Annual Meeting highlights and lowlights.

- 18 tips Cindy Butts picked up while attending the meeting virtually.

- Cindy also posted 15 thoughts on her experience as a virtual attendee.

- Maddie Grant posted her takeaways and a couple of videos from the speakers she found most valuable.

- Speaking of videos, an archive of short videos collected during Annual is here, including a number of great speakers sharing key points from their sessions.

- Kevin Holland posted about some conversational themes he saw during the conference, and what he agreed and disagreed with; Judith Lindenau posted a response to what Kevin had to say and how it applies to Realtor assoctiation.

- Sue Pelletier posted her final mileage count for Annual (and can I say, wow?).

- Jamie Notter's recap of the meeting focuses on the themes of innovation, failure, platforms, and love.

- Frank Fortin posted 14 takeaways he, well, took away.

- Peggy Hoffman shared some of the greatest ideas she heard during the conference.

- Bruce Hammond has some ideas for what could have been done better in the closing general session.

- Michael McCurry posted his reactions to the conference as a virtual attendee.

- Eric Casey shares the things he liked and didn't like during the conference, and what he'll apply in his own meetings.

- Cynthia D'Amour posted on the "ultimate community builder" at Annual.

- Kevin Patrick posted a Flickr set of what he saw at Annual.

- Jeff Cobb posted a number of audio interviews he conducted at Annual, including interviews on games and learning, the growth of distance learning, AMS-learning management system integration, the resurgence of e-learning in associations, certification and continuing education in the current economy, and mobile learning.

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August 19, 2009

Can we put all these good ideas into action?

Now comes the work of sorting through the massive amounts of information that we received this week. We all sat down together at the last general session and we each had so many new ideas. We probably covered 24 sessions among us all and have already thought about putting many of the things we learned into practice back home in Texas! We will get together on Monday with each of us bringing information from the presentations that we think deserve sharing and possible implementation. We also enjoyed the exhibitor booths and spent time, especially in the technology area, taking care of some association management issues. Got some great ideas to increase our processing speed - always needed.

I still have to say that my favorite session was the FBOS Breakfast. All sessions were good and I met many new networking friends. We gained a lot of new information on managing emails, managing social networks, legal issues and on and on.

The party last night was great and Toronot really knows how to have a fantastic ending to a great event.

I will update you next week on our final debriefing, but I can already say that this conference was very beneficial to TASBO.

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August 18, 2009

Ideas for 2010

For the Tuesday Daily Now, I tweeted out a question to the folks attending or following the Annual Meeting: What's one thing you'd like to see at next year's Annual Meeting? A flood of good advice and feedback followed, which I've collected here.

Did I miss any tweets that should be included below? Or do you have more suggestions to add? Feel free to do so in comments!

What's one thing you'd like to see at next year's Annual Meeting?

markbledsoe Me! Not being there this year is driving me crazy.

robertmbarnes Next year the Aussies should be invited to bring session on standards of corporate governance as case studies through @AICD.

jobsearchcoach I really think #ASAE puts on a great show. Wouldn't change anything. OK wait, O.J. at the coffee stations in the AM : )

chrisuschan wifi everywhere

MissLynn13 Live-streaming the general session for those that can't be there.

ewengelmore places to charge laptops/mobile devices, esp. in session rooms

peggyhoffman sm 10, sm 201, sm 301—in other words, let's begin targeting content to experience. Today's tech can facilitate that.

aaronwolowiec A full-fledged reception for young professionals.

robertmbarnes how about someone presenting virtually or live feed via skype or something like this. Some naysayers may see it in action.

PBBsRealm more consultant specific sessions and programming.

chicagogirl27 How to Twitter kiosks in the hallway to get more attendees on twtter. I feel like I am virtually attending 5 other sessions.

PBBsRealm ability for content leaders to take questions LIVE by Twitter during sessions.

peggyhoffman exercise break! would love a walking tour of the city so we can meet, see, learn about city, new mtg concepts

DeirdreReid Time for two educ sessions in am. Keep general session as keynote only. Find time for recognition elsewhere - end of day.

annparker Less expo time, in exchange for more education sessions.

Urban_Chick engage all attendees to volunteer a local cause as a replacement to a big event. A visual event to show how assc. advance America.

peggyhoffman belatedly - we need lots of outlets in all rooms - think smart tables ... #asae09

youfoundbob Agree with @aaronwolowiec official YP reception and would like more time for educational sessions

rcgranger a featured session with presentation zen guy - lots could benefit from his ideas on interesting presentations

MichaelMcCurry I wld lk 2 C the Hashtags 4 the Ed Sessions posted ahead of time in the prgrm book.. also a live webcast of gen sessions

anernay idea for #asae10 get volunteers 2 help take qstns from Twitter/Hub for speakers streaming live, #asae09

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Annual Meeting in Photos: Tuesday

(Once again, this is being posted early because I'm travelling tomorrow. Another photo roundup will come once I'm back in DC!)

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The view from the convention center (or centre).

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Learning Lab presenter Jon Goldman, throwing frogs. (Photo courtesy of Hammock Inc.)

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Clay Shirky at his Thought Leader session.

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Shirky also hosted a more intimate Q&A session in the Online Engagement Lounge.

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The new chair of the ASAE board, Velma Hart.

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The new chair of the Center board, Robin Lokerman.

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Closing general session speaker Fareed Zakaria.

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Annual Meeting Roundup: Tuesday

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I'm posting this early, since I'm flying home tomorrow. But I promise another roundup or two as folks continue to post their thoughts and reactions to Annual!

First, your Tweet of the Day, from the Annual Meeting Hub:

christytj Mobile phones are the pc's/laptop of the third world. If u can socially network with phone, all of sudden 2 billion ppl listening. #asae09

In other news:

- Some comments on the opening general session music video from someone outside the association community.

- Sue Pelletier sums up her Monday at Annual.

- Kevin Holland is back on the grid and sharing his first impressions of this year's Annual experience.

- Steffanie Feuer has some notes on Clay Shirky's Thought Leader session and his Q&A in the Online Engagement Lounge.

- Michael McCurry shares the Annual Meeting tweets he found to be most powerful.

- Renato Sogueco took notes during Fareed Zakaria's closing general session speech.

- Summer Huggins reports from the Learning Lab "10 Direct Marketing Strategies You Can Implement Tomorrow."

- Cynthia D'Amour comments on the effects of unexpected celebrity.

- Jeff Cobb posted some resources related to his and Lindy Dreyer's Learning Lab "The Power of Technology on Association Education and Learning."

- Jeff De Cagna posted a podcast commentary on Gary Hamel's opening general session speech.

- Tradeshow Week's Off the Showfloor blog reports on celebrities and tradeshows.

- David Patt has some comments on attending conferences as a staff (in response to Becky Bunte's Acronym post from Sunday).

- The Splash blog has a photo from the expo floor.

- There are a bunch of new videos on the Engage Your Career videoblog, including an interview with a small staff exec, an interview with an exhibitor, and a CAE study group reminscing about their experience.

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Living through short-term pain

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I could write 10 blog posts based on Fareed Zakaria's closing general session speech, but I think to start with I'll focus on one of his last exhortations to the audience: "We have got to learn to impose short-term pain for long-term gain."

If an association were to really orient itself around that statement right there, and commit to endure short-term pain for long-term gain, think how powerful it would be for that organization. But I think short-term pain is a challenge for associations: We don't like members to be unhappy (in my career, I've seen several initiatives of long-term importance derailed by member complaints). In addition, we're governed by boards made up of people who aren't there for the long term; many a volunteer president has wanted to keep things calm and pleasant for his or her presidential term. This isn't to say that boards can't think long term, but in many cases, it's hard to sell a board on "you should suffer the slings and arrows now so that the board members who are around in five years can reap the benefits."

So what does it take to strengthen an association's willingness to suffer now for future benefit? I have a few ideas:

Have a strong vision. It's a lot easier to suffer for a vision you really believe in than for "our margins will be two percent better" (at least in my opinion). It's also easier to convince members and stakeholders when you can paint them a picture of a future where this vision is reality than it is to sell them with disconnected facts.

Educate everyone. This ties back to a great post by Peggy Hoffman on the SmartBlog Insights blog, about turning members into informed and engaged association owners. If members really understand your environment and your vision, they're much more likely to be convinced of the importance of bearing the short-term pain than if they only know that "something I was comfortable with is changing and I don't understand why."

And it's just as important to educate staff. Make information available to them--don't keep it secret or within the executive ranks. A staff person who understands and is educated in your vision can be an ambassador for it.

Ask your members. Spread the conversation as far and wide as possible. Have them help you build the vision and make the choices. Pain is easier to bear when we bear it by choice.

What else would you add to this list? What can associations do to help overcome their aversion to short-term pain?

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Silencing dissent weakens your brand

A theme I’ve heard over and over from keynotes to thought leaders to hallway conversations is the idea of control. It’s a recurring fear I hear almost every time I speak to association execs about social media—they are scared of the possibility that online engagement will go places the organization doesn’t want it to go.

I’d guess most people reading this blog have pretty much the same answer: They’re going to do it anyway, so you might as well be a part of it. That’s true, if anybody has anything to say, they’ll say it in a way that can be noticed. If somebody notices and they agree, it can magnify. You want to know about it, and you want to be sure that your message is out there as you deem appropriate.

But that’s the old answer. Now, thanks to Mr. Clay Shirky and his Q&A in the Social Engagement Lounge, here’s the new answer: Trying to cut off or silence dissent weakens your brand. Make it known what you stand for (you have to back that up, of course), and that’s all you need do. Those who share that value will stand with you, and if there is energetic and earnest debate, everyone will be better because of it.

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The Rise of the Restless

I was stoked to see Fareed Zakaria. He delivered a strong, humble, articulate presentation. I was pretty amazed at how he synthesized 30+ years of complex global history into a compelling message that transcended politics or idealogy. I also enjoyed the fact that he didn’t patronize me with his ego, and he didn’t brag about what he’s accomplished...his scholarly approach was refreshing, he didn’t pound his chest once!

His approach, maybe even more than his message, was what influenced me personally. As I measured my own strategic vision skills, against his, it made me restless and maybe even feeling a little inadequate. Why do I often feel like I am just on the verge of a more comprehensive understanding of the organism that is the association I work in? How many of you, like me, feel like we have brief moments of insight, which often get buried in the 'urgent'?

Most interesting questions: What would I say if I had to give a similar speech for my members, about the state of their industry? How do I take my limited understanding of the system our association exists in, and gain a more compelling narrative of where we have been and where we should go, and how do I communicate that simply and effectively?

Comments welcome, I challenge all of the big picture thinkers to share their thoughts and vision!

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How to overcome e-mail overload

Stressed by e-mail? Is it controlling your life? Tim Burress, author of The Hamster Revolution, recommends the following top two strategies for overcoming e-mail overload:

• Cut e-mail time by 20 percent.

According to Burress, the average professional sends and receives 80 e-mails a day or 19,200 e-mails annually. And e-mail use is compounding at the astounding rate of 16 percent a year. Assuming it takes about two minutes to process the average e-mail message, each of us is spending nearly 80 days each year on e-mail. If we cut e-mail time by 20 percent, we can save ourselves 16 days a year.

So how does Burress recommend we do this? Send less and you’ll get less. First, ask yourself whether or not the end-user needs it. Is it timely, relevant and complete? Second, ask yourself if the message is appropriate before you send it. Is it compliant, professional and inoffensive? Third, ask yourself if the message is targeted. Use “reply all,” distribution lists and carbon copies sparingly.

• Boost e-mail quality by 35 percent.

E-mail quality challenges include vague subject lines, e-mail that requires clarification and e-mail where the action is buried in the message.

Good e-mails are both professional and recipient-focused. To boost your e-mail quality, first strengthen the subject line. Make it clear and descriptive. Second, sculpt the body. Start with a brief, warm greeting, followed by the action/summary (specific action, purpose and response time), the background (clear, concise and relevant with bullet points, numbers and bold paragraph titles) and the close (signature).

My question to you is this: Do you control e-mail or does e-mail control you? What is your chief complaint about managing e-mail? What strategies have helped you overcome e-mail overload?

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What is not related to "social media"?

Here we are at the final day of ASAE 2009 in Toronto and one is overwhelmed with the amount of interest, and confusion, about social media and its impact on associations. The exhibit floor in the technology section is evidence not only of the intense interest in all things social media, but also the emergence of new solutions and companies in this sector.

A lot of the information on social media is aimed to help people understand the basics of what social media is and initial approaches. Other sessions have been able to go more into detail and share actionable information and resources.

However, one over-riding theme through all of the presentations and the discussions was just how important it is for organizations to develop a strategy for social media if they hope to really leverage the new tools and applications.

Another "elephant in the room" is about measurement and ROI. Sure, you might have thousands of "fans" on Facebook or hordes of "followers" on Twitter, but how are you managing your organizations brand message and reputation; how are you monetizing or measuring these platforms?

It is obvious that we are all at the front end of the social media revolution and that the initial strategies; i.e. using public social networks alone as the primary social media approach, are not going to deliver the kinds of sustainable results we need.

A solid strategy, use of multiple channels and the ability to manage your brand and quality of experience on a private social network while raising awareness in the public space seems to be where associations need to go to be more successful with social media.

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Member on Member

A recurring theme through this year's annual seems to be a greater emphasis on members helping members. Through ASAE's Twitter feed and sitting through both formal and informal discussions, the chatter is working on how can associations both simultaneously leverage their members existing connections (membership recruitment, retention), continue to create meaningful new ones (training, forums, networking) while sharing or even acquiescing the control of making all of this happen. Historically Associations were developed to serve their constituencies and became the authority for their members; with SocMed technology and philosophy, are we seeing a transition to an even greater facilitation role? How does that become integrated with "traditional" products of training, position papers, events?

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Annual Meeting in Photos: Monday

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Monday's general session opened with song.

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Then social media expert (and coauthor of Groundswell) Charlene Li took the stage.

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Following the general session, Li spent some time answering questions in our Online Engagement Lounge. (Can you spot the Acronym blogger in this picture?)

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Attendees visted Connection Central ...

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... and the expo floor.

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And, of course, Monday evening was the celebrated Food & Wine Classic, in the historic Distillery District.

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Annual Meeting Roundup: Monday

- MemberClicks just launched a new blog, Splash; welcome to the association blogging community! One of their first posts, by Shannon Otto, shares some recommended sessions for Annual Meeting (my apologies that I didn't see the post until last night).

- Peggy Hoffman collected the ideas that especially piqued her interest from her first few days in Toronto.

- Bruce Hammond shared what he saw and learned during his first and second days at Annual.

- Renato Sogueco took notes during Charlene Li's general session presentation.

- The Engage Your Career videobloggers have been active; check out new video posts by Amanda Batson (with Charlene Li), James Hieb, and Lauren Wolfe.

- Brian O'Leary at the Magellan Media Consulting Partners blog posted his thoughts on Gary Hamel's opening general session speech.

- Michael McCurry also blogged on Gary Hamel's presentation, based entirely on the information broadcast through social media.

- Cindy Butts liked the video from the opening general session.

- Stuart Meyer posted some video from the opening night party.

- Pat and Catherine from the Texas Librarian Association posted a neat visual postcard from day one of the conference.

- The Hammock@ASAE2009 blog has posted a bunch of stuff since yesterday's roundup post: the opening party, Sunday's opening general session and sketchnotes of Gary Hamel's talk, a report on the Learning Lab "Make the World a Better Place," a report from Jim Kane's Thought Leader session on building and maintaining loyal relationships, Monday's general session and Charlene Li's speech, photos from the expo floor, and a report from the Learning Lab "Using Social Networking Tools for Your Advocacy Efforts."

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UN Secretary-General Cheers Global SR Principles, Invites Climate Change Involvement

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent warm greetings to attendees at the Annual Meeting in Toronto this week, lauding in particular "your decision to create guiding principles for socially and environmentally responsible associations--principles that are aligned with those of the United Nations Global Compact."

Ki-moon also issued a special invitation that he hopes will further engage associations and nonprofits in the UN’s Millennial Development Goals and, specifically, a new UN global warming initiative.

"This [set of Global Principles] is an important step forward, but I urge you to go even further," Ki-moon wrote, noting that the association community’s "vast network" and resources are "well placed to help us address climate change. This is the defining challenge of our time. As we approach the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this December, the moment for action is now."

He urged associations to "join the UN’s ‘Seal the Deal’ campaign for a balanced and effective global climate agreement. With the support of all partners, we can usher in a cleaner, greener world." For more information about the initiative, visit http://sealthedeal2009.org.

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August 17, 2009

“Social is a way of being”

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I attended Jeff De Cagna’s session, Associations Next: Serious Questions for 2010 and Beyond this afternoon. Whenever I have the opportunity, I make it a point of attending Jeff’s presentations, which are always insightful and thought-provoking. I find that the questions he raises linger with me long after the conference is over and typically prompt rich discussions with my colleagues. This afternoon’s session was no exception.

After stepping us through a series of 6 questions that get at the heart of what it means to associate, govern, and innovate in the web-enabled 21st century, he asked us to spend 10 minutes brainstorming radically different approaches to our association work. What would make the biggest potential impact, even if it meant making our CEOs, boards, and even ourselves very uncomfortable?

Several of the suggestions that came back were so intriguing, I thought I’d share a few of them here:

- One table suggested making membership completely free (we don’t control the network any longer, so why try to make it into a commodity?). Charge a fair-market price for the professional content that is currently packaged with membership and remove the barriers to the conversation. Then the members of our networks who are truly engaged and truly do contribute to the conversation will be able to join without barriers, making the conversation richer for all. (Any association that has opted for open, publicly accessible social media groups understands the value of this free association and not trying so hard to control the message or limit the participants.)

- Another table suggested crowdsourcing our next annual meetings. Empower the community to make the best decisions on its own behalf and deliver a meeting that is exactly what our attendees want. (NTEN, an association I’ve long admired, successfully structures its annual meeting this way, and their conference is consistently an audience favorite.)

- Another group suggested making board service based not on fixed terms, but on best ideas. Decide who remains on the board based upon record of service, innovation, and follow through. Those who aren’t contributing to the conversation could be voted off the island, a la Survivor. (I happened to be sitting in this session with the president of our board, and this suggestion was major fodder for conversation back at the hotel tonight!)

My brain is still buzzing with these ideas and Jeff’s many good questions, and I can’t wait to get back to my own association to continue this conversation with the rest of my team. How could a radically different ISTE better support and shape the conversation for our members and other educators?

What radical idea will you bring back to your organization at the end of this week? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Being human

I spent some time on the expo floor today, and during my travels I had the pleasure of being introduced to Patrick Essaye of Streampoint Solutions. He gave me his card, as you do, and my attention was immediately caught--not by the front of the card, but by the back.

Streampoint's business cards all include the usual business card stuff on the front--name, title, email, etc. But the back shares a short personal story from the staff member in question. Patrick's card tells a story about working on a jigsaw puzzle with his three-year-old.

Does the story tell me anything about Streampoint's mission or services? No. But it does tell me that Streampoint's employees are human beings--and in Patrick's case, a human being I have something in common with (being a parent, and specifically the parent of a three-year-old girl who loves puzzles). I love how his card shows me a human face alongside the usual business card information.

Are there places where your association could show more of a human side? So many of us have staff directories on our websites (and I agree with Kevin Holland that they should be on the public part of your site, by the way)--could the staff directory include short, personal stories? Could your organizational blog? How about your magazine? There are dozens of places your organization could show a more human face--with a little creativity and the willingness to do so.

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Why You Should Never Leave a Session Before it’s Over...

Sherry Budziak and her session on website management started off pretty basic. She illustrated a few key points, and then several questions were asked. The questions were specific to a certain size of organization. At that point, numerous folks simply got up and walked out, and I’ll admit my urge to do the same. It had nothing to do with the content or Sherry, she was great, it had to do with the promise awaiting me in the 19 other sessions taking place.

I bet that up to 10 people left the session, but I stayed because I committed to Sherry by entering the room that she would have my attention for that 1 hour...the Gods of association management were smiling today my friends!

Sherry seemed to intuitively realize that the group was going to be interactive. She pushed through a portion of her slide show and got to the good stuff, and something wonderful happened—toward the end, Sherry willingly gave up some control and allowed the session to turn into a dialog. Here is what I learned:

- There are associations out there that view websites not as informational warehouses to store text, but as new tools for delivering quality education leveraging many forms of media, including video, audio, text, and web 2.0.

- There are literally tons of CMSs (content management systems) available for association professionals; some are free, but require in-house maintenance and a place to live; others are outsourced.

- Making staff or volunteers responsible for keeping content up-to-date can serve as accountability.

Personally, I took from the session two main things (this is how I translated the experience in my mind):

1) I’m not crazy, there are other people out there that see social/web 2.0 as a function of management, not a new frontier that changes too fast to keep up—what we are really talking about with web 2.0 is a change in our business and educational models. My goal should not be to recreate Facebook but make it specific to members; it should be to support and achieve the goals in our strategic plan using a consolidated platform that can incorporate/adjust to many trending technologies.

2) Many people are getting lost in our associations by what we call ‘Marketing’...the web can put us back on equal footing with our members, by humanizing us and making us a resource and not another email blast.

3) The fear of being burned online is real; however we don’t talk much about the opportunity presented to us when we are faced with criticism. If we make mistakes, and those mistakes are communicated, it’s a great opportunity to show that we are human. For every 1 dissenter, there are 100 or 1000 watchers, and our response to our own mistakes can have a greater impact than not making them.

This is why you should never walk out of a session before it’s over...

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Chef Anna Olson Plays the "Favorite Game"

Okay, all of you foodies in Toronto! Super-chef Anna Olson kindly did a quick Q&A with me, which you’ll see in Tuesday’s Daily Now, but meanwhile, here’s a taste of some of her other advice for meeting planners hungry for memorable events. And check our meeting’s Twitter stream—we’re tweeting one of Olson’s ice-wine-based desserts (yup, in 140 characters!). (Her book, Fresh with Anna Olson: Seasonally Inspired Recipes to Share with Family and Friends, releases September 15.)

Favorite dish for large crowds?

Olson: What I’m known for mainly is my home-spun cooking, and I like to do something as simple as a roasted rack of pork with maple beer glaze in the fall and serve that with an apple-onion chutney on the side. From a caterer’s perspective, it’s easy to execute and deliver hot and consistently in a timely way. If you’ve got to plate for thousands, it’s got to come out the same every time and very fast.

Favorite question that meeting planners should ask potential caterers?

I like to be asked—and this is a question that, as chefs, my husband and I put to our suppliers—‘What are you eating for dinner?’ … That will give you an idea of their focus, what they like to do, how they’re thinking eating-wise. It’s a good way to get a sense of the chef.

Favorite ways to use your cooking knowledge to help others?

I am a co-chair on a capital campaign for Niagara College, a culinary and wine school. We’re renovating a major campus in a city that’s been really hard hit by the economy, so this has immediate and long-term effects. I also am spokesperson for Eat for the Beat, an event for breast cancer [research], and for the Ontario Association of Food Banks, because it’s responsible that when we indulge, we always give back to those who don’t.

Favorite quick tips on incorporating hot culinary trends into large-scale meal events?

[Focus] on ‘home flavors.’ I use fresh herbs wherever I can, and we do cater our menus to the seasons. If you see me in Niagara in September, it’s all about the apples. If you see me from June to August, it’s going to be about berries and peaches. In spring it’s going to be rhubarb and strawberries. And even when it comes to desserts, … while the basic dessert remains the same, I tailor the accents to suit the season.

[Also, use lots of chutneys and sides], because “it’s great fun. I’m a chef and pastry chef, and living in such a wonderful fruit zone, you might as well put it in wherever you can. We’re actually doing a large event this weekend, and one of the salads is a corn, blueberry, and pepper salad. It’s colorful, and it sparkles on the plate…. I do a lot of relishes and preserves, and I think chefs are jumping on to that, too. We’re making our own pickles, pickled tomatoes, and chutneys now.

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Early Start with Finance and Business Operations Section

I started my day early this morning by attending the Finance and Business Operations Section Networking Breakfast. This was my second year to attend both the conference and the breakfast. I remember last year not being really sure what to expect, but this year I looked forward to it with anticipation. As a matter of fact, two weeks ago I had not seen any information on it and contacted ASAE asking if it was being held again. It was at this breakfast last year that I learned of the Finance and Business Operations Symposium (FBOS) held in May each year in the Washington, D.C. area. As a new association CFO last year, this was probably the most critical information that I received and the most important “session” that I attended. I found my networking group that I had been searching for here. After hearing about FBOS at the breakfast in San Diego, I registered in the spring for the conference.

My only disappointment this morning was that there were not more business and operation attendees at the breakfast. There were several empty tables and this is such a great opportunity. I know this breakfast was listed in the program but maybe attendees weren’t sure who could attend. I hope next year that this event will draw a larger crowd. It is really a great “session” for those in the finance and operations areas.

Our table discussion this morning covered ROI, UBIT, lots of talk on the new 990, differences between 501(C) 3 and 501 (C) 6 associations, revenue generation opportunities and more. Good CFO language! I felt so at home. We also spent quite a bit of time discussing last year’s FBOS and what’s on the table for this May. FBOS will be in Washington, D.C. again. In addition to FBOS in May, we also received information on the Dollar and Cents publication. The group has developed Core Competencies for the financial areas and they will be highlighted in Dollar and Cents over the next issues. Also reviewed were training opportunities in the finance area. After the breakfast ended, no one immediately left. Intense table discussions started up again. You could tell that there were many there like me that just want to soak up any information that we can find on association financial issues. I am already looking forward to FBOS in May and next year’s breakfast at ASAE!

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The Engagement Pyramid

Charlene Li, coauthor of Groundswell, presented today’s opening general session about engaging community. During this presentation she introduced a theory she calls The Engagement Pyramid, which describes the roles of individuals within their respective communities. Foundational to the pyramid are watchers. These individuals are involved in a community only in so much as they watch the messaging and networking that exist within a particular space but are otherwise limited in their involvement. Working up the pyramid Li describes sharers, commenters, producers and, finally, curators. The higher their place in the pyramid, the more engaged the individuals. Curators, for example, are the most engaged. These are the individuals who run and manage communities. Ultimately, Li believes that while we each want deep engagement, we must all start at the bottom of the pyramid and work our way up. My question to you is this: Do you agree? Where do you currently fit within The Engagement Pyramid? Are you equally engaged in both your personal and professional lives? Where would you like to be and how will you get there? Also, how engaged are your members? How will you move them up the Pyramid?

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Charlene Li on creating a groundswell

Charlene Li, author of Groundswell, an influential book about how technology has enabled people to connect in ways never previously possible, keynoted the second general session at ASAE & The Center’s Annual Meeting and Exposition. Her key points:

Focus on relationships, not technology.

Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed – these all just sound like buzzwords. Rather than think about how first, think about what—think about the relationships you want to build. Doing this requires a strategy, and Li listed her four points to establishing a social media strategy: learn, dialog, help, innovate. Learning is more than just listening, it is internalizing what it is you are listening to. A dialog is not the message you want to shout at people, rather, it’s figuring out what they want from you. Helping is helping those you engage with meet their needs and goals. And innovating is not being afraid to try new things.

Start small, but start now.

Li was pretty good at listing the barriers associations talk about: no money, no time, no staff, legal issues, IT issues. Her point, and the point of most people who believe that the future of organizations will include social media, is that it’s happening anyway, with or without you. You can accept that or not, if you don’t, the message is really, “good luck.”

But if you do accept it, Li had some straightforward advice for starting: find the people who will be the foundation for you, that key audience that is either already familiar with tool or who share the passion of creating relationships and can act as a change agent. Nurture them, and allow them to move you forward.

Prepare to let go of control.

Li asked these questions: why do you need control? What is it you think you are in control of? The answer is pretty clear, you don’t really have control anymore anyway. Part of letting go of control she says, is figuring out what to do with failure. She gave Walmart as the classic example. After several years of high-profile social media failures, the company kept at it, and eventually found a strong presence to have. You have to be ok with failure and have the tenacity to keep trying new things.

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Hot Topics: Social Media and International

In yesterday's session on "Using Social Media to expand internationally", we had a great audience of over 100 really engaged people. Thanks go to my great co-presenter, Meggan Maughan-Brown, CAE, CMP who is the Director, International Relations and Strategic Planning
at the American Society of Civil Engineers. Meggan and I both sit on the ASAE International Section Council and have a real passion for the challenges and the joys of taking organizations internationally.

The interest in Social Media is also incredible with so many organizations grappling with how to make use of the new tools in a way that can be managed and measured.

Putting this session together was a real pleasure as we were able to look at two of the most important and popular topics facing associations, international and social media, and how the two compliment one another.

For example, Meggan shared how in her sector there are 783 Facebook groups alone on the topic of Civil Engineering! this represents a tremendous opportunity for ASCE for example to become known to new groups of civil engineers from around the world in a very efficient and cost effective manner.

Some of the key takeaways from the session can be found on the copy of the slides:
http://budurl.com/Presentations

Looking forward to more great information, here at ASAE in Toronto....

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Making connections

You'll probably think I'm a sick person, but I really love working annual conferences. I loved them at my last association, and I love them now that I'm with ASAE & The Center. I'm not saying I could work at that pace forever, but three days of nonstop action and pulling together as a team of staff and volunteers really is fun for me.

That said, I think my favorite memory of yesterday is just a small moment in time: An attendee asked me for more information about crowdsourcing and how it could be used for learning programs (following a Learning Lab presentation). I suggested that he look at what NTEN is doing with their community-driven agenda for their Nonprofit Technology Conference. The more I described it to him, the more obvious it was that this was exactly the information he needed, and it was a great feeling.

What I really loved was knowing that I was able to provide the right information at the right time for this attendee. You get some of that via social media (Twitter in particular is helpful for those kind of quick, do-you-know-how-to-do-X questions and answers). But it's even more fun to have the opportunity to share such information face to face.

I can't be the only person who loves to make those kind of connections, and have the opportunity to share my knowledge in a direct and helpful way. What can be done to maximize those opportunities to put people with information together with people seeking it (especially at a conference the size of Annual Meeting? Designated discussion tables during breaks? Have you seen other conferences do this kind of thing well?

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Annual Meeting in Photos: Sunday

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Sunday's opening general session brought attendees together.

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Members of the community shared their talent with the crowd.

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Management expert Gary Hamel urged the audience to keep up with the pace of change.

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And then on to the Expo!

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(Photo courtesy of Hammock Inc.)

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(Photo courtesy of Hammock Inc.)

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The afternoon was dedicated to Thought Leader sessions and Learning Labs ...

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and informal gatherings, like this tweetup.

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After the day's learning, attendees fanned out to a variety of receptions and parties.

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Annual Meeting Roundup: Sunday

Happy Monday, everyone! Here's your Tweet of the Day from Sunday:

@david_ricciardi #asae09 diversity session best quote: "talent goes where it is welcome". Good business tip for all of us.

Elsewhere, bloggers had good things to say as well:

- Renato Sogueco posted notes from Gary Hamel's opening general session speech and from the Learning Lab on Associations Now's crowdsourced issue (thanks for being there, Renato).

- Stephen Nold at the Event Tech blog posted his pre-Annual Meeting checklist.

- Sue Pelletier commented on Gary Hamel's opening session presentation, as well as the song that premiered during the general session. She also collected her favorite quotes from the day, and kept track of her steps through the conference so far.

- Bob Wolfe asked for input for his presentation today on managing and leading the next generation of workers.

- Dave Sabol has some feedback based on his experience as a virtual attendee this week, as does Maggie McGary.

- Amanda Batson and Bana Yahnke posted new video interviews on the Engage Your Career videoblog.

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Networking in a meaningful way

One of the great opportunities to take advantage of during the Annual is networking with peers, whoop it up with old friends and bread bread with new ones. Sunday evening was run of one reception to the next, ending with dinner with a few friends at midnight. In the process it can be easy to forget that you are not just *networking*, but touching bases with people. Sometimes running from one handshake to the next just isn't enough. As much as I want to meet everyone that I can, I simply can't. It may not work out for the networking side of the equation. But spending a couple minutes more to ask about jobs, spouses, kids, lives, loves.....that's the balance that makes meetings like this special.

Hope to meet you sometime in the next couple of days!

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What does a career coach do?

You've probably seen them at other ASAE & The Center conferences and perhaps not been too sure what it's all about. Well, the coaching sessions available each year at annual and at other times need not be mysterious or filled with intrigue. One of our guest video bloggers, Carol Watkins asked June Klein, one of the coaches here in Toronto, to talk about what coaches do. And be sure to catch all of our guest video bloggers in the Engage Your Career Video Blog.

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August 16, 2009

First Day, Finance and Phones!

We have our entire executive team here at ASAE - Executive Director, Associate Executive Director, CFO, Director of Research and Technology, and the Director of Communication. We made no plans to meet this morning for the General Session, although we usually try to sit together. All five of us actually found each other without using our cell phones - well except for one text! We are so spoiled with iPhones, Blackberries and phones when traveling, that it was kind of amazing that we could find each other without them. I decided that I could do without talking on the phone - no problem. Texts were less expensive and I would just text if it was really necessary. But I do have to admit I only made it until lunch time before I made a couple of calls. Guess I am not quite ready to give up talking on the phone! Of course, we immediately started trying to connect to the Wi-Fi so that we could check our emails. Thank you ASAE and the Center for Association Leadership for having Wi-Fi available to us at the conference. And it is so easy to connect! A special thanks to ASAE for warning us, prior to our travel from Texas to Toronto, to check with our cell phone providers. When I walked into the general session, the first conversations I heard revolved around cell phone use – or non-use as some mentioned. There were many conversations about how to retrieve voicemails! I guess we will all figure it out before Tuesday.

The General Session was wonderful. Gary Hamel made some statements that really made me think. Looking back on my past work experiences, change usually is crisis driven. Don’t we all wish that we could be ahead of the curve so that change was “opportunistic” rather than reacting to some crisis!

Our group got together at the end of the day to share all we had heard today and talk about tomorrow. The five of us were able to cover nine sessions today! We attended sessions on legal issues, social networking, technology, and my personal favorite – “Finding Common Ground in a Shifting Economy: When Membership and CFO’s Unite!” Coming from the school business background, it reminded me of a training program that we do called “Bridging the Gap between Payroll and Human Resources”. I remember going to this session at one of our conferences and our presenters were dressed up as a bride and a groom. They had fun while presenting a difficult topic. I heard some great information and made some contacts to gather additional samples of dashboards and formulas for calculating the value and cost of members. Our association is focused on making data driven decisions and we have developed many dashboards over the last year. We are always looking for additional dashboards to share both internally and with our board and membership. Our team was also interested in the copyright information they heard in the legal sessions, especially when transferring an article from print to website. This is something we will be following up on in the future.

I think we have tomorrow planned. Again we will try to cover as many sessions as possible, talk to exhibitors, and then regroup tomorrow evening and share our sessions. It’s been a long day, but very productive. I just keep thinking it is Monday!

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Talent goes where it is welcome

One of the best quotes currently making its way around the #asae09 twitterverse is “Talent goes where it is welcome,” as heard in today’s diversity session. I wasn't able to sit in on this particular session due to a conflicting presentation of my own, but was able to hit the high points thanks to Twitter (isn’t social media great?). The quote resonated with me because it indirectly references so many of the themes we’ve been discussing at the conference—how to encourage innovation, how to make our associations truly collaborative, and how to make it easy for volunteers and staff to do their very best work every day. So much of it starts with a commitment to nurture and support talent in our organizations (and the belief that talent can and should be everywhere, and is not a designation reserved for just a select few “rock stars”).

In this morning’s opening keynote, Gary Hamel talked a lot about innovation and the structures that will support it (and in some cases, the lack of structures). I’m lucky to work for an organization that does support talent and innovation, and is willing to recognize those things with enough room to pursue the next great idea. Even still, we grapple with creating the right systems and structures to both attract and retain talent, and also encourage the innovative thinking required to be a world-class organization.

Today at lunch, several of us from my organization were discussing the nuts and bolts of setting up an innovation fund. Who would make the decisions about how to use the money? How would we be accountable to the bigger picture? What would prompt us to stop doing certain things (sometimes even good things) to make room for the great things? Ultimately, the right answer may emerge as a combination of best thinking, and trial and error. But the important thing is the commitment to talent development, at all levels of the association.

How do you welcome and support talent in your organization? And what have you done to make it feel at home? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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The wonderful, amazing capacity to change

Eric Saperston can tell an amazing story. That's no surprise, really. After all, he's an award-winning documentary director. In his packed Thought Leader session at ASAE & The Center's Annual Meeting, he told the story of traveling across country talking to as many great leaders as would talk to him about why some people are extraordinary and why others are, well, ordinary.

His story is his revelation, and you can catch the extreme cliffs notes version in the video I captured of him below.

But what struck me about the session was the way, right in the middle, he made a fundamental u-turn. He went from no focus whatsoever on himself and those traveling with him, to a focus that is entirely on the four-person (and then three-person) crew. For this to mean much, watch the clip available on this web page. Now imagine what the results of his trip would have been if he had stuck to his original purpose--I'm quite sure there would be no clip to show, and I suspect that there would be no website, and I wouldn't have heard him speak today.

And yet it was such a profound, fundamental difference in the plan he had mapped out. If I learned anything on this first day, it is to be more open to--in fact to actively search for--a direction that is completely different than what a plan lays out. Would I have been free enough from the plan to make the fundamental shift that Saperston made? I really don't think so, but I want to try.

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Creating clear and compelling messages

This afternoon I had the pleasure of attending a jam-packed learning lab about clear and compelling messaging sponsored by the communication section council. During this session, Brad Monterio briefly discussed the importance of targeting audiences. He recommended that association professionals define their audiences as finely and minutely as possible. He believes it’s important to establish a connection with members and intimately understand their needs, interests and wants. To the extent we’re successful at capturing this information it can then be utilized to package and deliver specific messages to specific membership segments.

While I absolutely agree that segmentation is an important and vital tool to positive communication outcomes, I’m not sure we’re all doing this successfully. I know I’m not the only one who is bombarded each and every day by messages – they come at us from every direction from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to bed. At some point, I fail to see the value and I just tune them out. The problem is that, at least in my association, we’re pushing our members to make this very same decision. Rather than harnessing technology, drilling down into our membership and messaging based on key segments, we’re sending one very general message to a population of people who may or may not be interested. Eventually, they fail to see the value and they tune us out.

So, my question to you is this: Do you agree that granular segmentation positively impacts your communication strategy? How successful is your association at segmenting its membership? Are you effectively delivering different messages to different constituents? What roadblocks stand in your way to mass customization?

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This is my bird dammit

Here’s the story that encapsulates Gary Hamel’s keynote at the first general session of ASAE & The Center’s 2009 Annual Meeting and Exposition:

You know the cliché: a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Hamel disputes the saying, noting that, when it comes to the archaic ways leaders run their businesses, the bird in hand is actually all scrawny and you’ve been squeezing so hard for so long, it only has a few feathers left—it couldn’t fly away if you threw it. The two in the bush are much more worthwhile.

Why the reinterpreted cliché?

Hamel’s message is that organizations without a fine sense of adaptability are doomed, and almost every organization is based on a structure designed for efficiency. It’s an interesting take, just about every organization with a hierarchy is based on the industrial management model—one that had at its heart the purpose of turning human resources into robots. Unfortunately, the same structure isn’t much of a friend to adaptability, and leaders just don’t recognize it—they hold on to the bird they have wring it until there’s nothing left.

When it comes to human resources, Hamel has his own hierarchy of needs, and it goes like this: obedience, diligence, intellect, initiative, creativity, and finally passion. Once again, management and leadership in today’s organization focus on the first three things (obedience, diligence, and intellect), all of which can now be outsourced to anywhere on the globe. The last three things are what leaders need to focus on. It’s no longer the job of a leader to get people to serve an organization’s mission, it’s the job of a leader is to try to create a place with a mission that people feel good about serving.

So let’s just say you’re willing to let go of that bird—and beat the bush to try to find the new business model that will enable your organization to be adaptable, how do you do that?

Hamel had a lot of thoughts, but nothing is quite so simple that you can follow a recipe—add this ingredient, a dash of that, stir, and voila—so here are things to think about:

-Clearly Hamel is anti-hierarchy. He says nothing kills an idea faster than having to send it up the chain, so that it faces each person’s set of assumptions and biases. It’s bound to be shot down at some point, especially ideas from the front line people.

-Being effective adaptors means having both freedom and discipline, things that may sound like the opposite but shouldn’t be thought of that way. He used the example that a university staff is pretty high in the degree of freedom in the workforce, while a Fortune 100 company is high in discipline. He poses it as a question, how can you get discipline other than in the organizational forms you currently have?

-We have a tendency to want to focus on an idea, build a plan, and work it. Hamel’s alternative is to spend much more time on looking at different ideas. He says it takes a 1,000 wacky ideas to get 100 work examining further; from that 10 are worth running some experiments around, and then there’s 1 or 2 that will be worthwhile.

Hamel talked fast, and I missed much. Drop me a comment and let me know what needs to be added.

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Greg Fine, proud association geek

In this video, Greg Fine talks about why it is so important for him to come to the ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership Annual Meeting and Exposition. Catch all the videos we're shooting in Toronto on the annual meeting home page, and be sure to check out the installments from our guest video bloggers in the Engage Your Career Video Blog.

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Annual Meeting in Photos: Saturday

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Arrivals continued at the Annual Meeting Saturday.

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Then the Volunteer Kick-Off Brunch, well, kicked things off.

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Attendees connected and reconnected with colleagues ...

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and shared success stories from the year past.

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This moose is just here because I like him.

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Then the volunteer councils and committees met to discuss their plans for the year ahead.

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And from there, attendees headed to the opening celebration.

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(Photo above courtesy of Hammock Inc.)

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Annual Meeting Roundup: Saturday

There were so many great things going on on Twitter yesterday that I was unable to pick just one Tweet of the Day. So here are your top five Tweets of the Day instead.

First, two piece of advice for new attendees:

stevenjs my advice would be to go in with a plan, so you can reach all of your goals education wise, vendor wise, there is SO much to do!

jenxjones YP meetups are an op to meet young or young at <3 1st time attendees. look for the red foam finger at #asae09 and come say hi!

And the remaining top three:

sterlingraphael Lots do to still at @nfistudios booth. Meeting "a guy" in the back of an alley w/ canadian cash to replace damaged booth. hm...

rustystahl Yup, there's an association for association people! I'm lkng fwd to associating w/ them at their annual meeting.

Heleeene Lurkers are learners too - Tobin's words of wisdom

In other news:

- Bob Wolfe of the Young Association Professional blog is back! (We missed you, Bob.) He posted on five things he's excited about at Annual Meeting and some highlights for young professionals at the meeting.

- Jeff De Cagna has posted podcast interviews of John Graham, CEO of ASAE & The Center, and Clarke Price and Paul Pomerantz, chairs of ASAE and The Center.

- Rex Hammock captured some video from the opening reception. So did Steffanie Feuer.

- Sue Pelletier shares some of the things she's seen and heard so far in her trip to Toronto.

- New videoblog posts are being posted regularly from the Annual Meeting at the Engage Your Career videoblog on the Annual Meeting website.

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August 15, 2009

You are who you are now

I had some great opportunities today to listen in on conversations about how associations are handling the economy. Here's one thing that particularly struck me: One member, who has lived through three layoff cycles in her nearly 20 years in associations, noted that layoffs can have a ripple effect, beyond the basic morale implications of seeing a coworker lose his or her job. Sometimes, she said, when certain people in a staff leave, the culture of the organization changes because they're gone. And then you may find that your star performers, the people that you least wanted to lose, will bolt as soon as the economy improves, because your culture is no longer one they want to be a part of.

Of course, we've all heard before that it's easy to lose star performers after an economic crisis, when you haven't been able to reward your best people as much as you'd like (whether monetarily, with benefits, or with professional development). But what that member had to say about the way culture changes after a layoff really hit home with me.

In recent months, I've heard people saying things along the lines of "this is a really tough time, and we have to do X for right now, but of course as soon as things get better we'll get back to normal." But the fact is, if you're doing X, whatever X might be--treating your employees poorly because you're stressed, skirting ethical lines a little more than you'd like, or what have you--you're now someone who will do that thing. If it continues, your organizational culture becomes one that will allow that thing. It's not something that will go away once the economy improves--it's who you are.

Organizational culture grows and changes and shifts. I think we all need to keep an eye on what our organizations are becoming in response to the recession. Is your organization what you want it to be? Are you still living by the core values you espouse, despite today's pressures? If not, start fixing it now. Don't wait for the economy to get better. Or it's entirely possible you will lose your key people, because you've allowed your culture to change into something they no longer want to support.

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The decision to volunteer

As the vice chair of the young professionals committee, my day started with the volunteer leadership kick-off brunch. During this event, a representative from many of ASAE & The Center’s committees and councils shared with the group key accomplishments from the last year. The work product presented by these volunteer leaders was both impressive and inspiring.

This brunch was then followed by committee and council meetings. Now in its third year, the young professionals committee met for the first time at an Annual meeting to discuss goals for the year ahead. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm of our committee members to set an agenda for the next year that will positively impact young professionals and the greater association community.

Together, these experiences remind me why I volunteer. I find value in developing my professional network, leading open and honest discussions about the important issues impacting our profession and effecting change. Additionally, the benefits I’ve reaped from my volunteer opportunities are many. Not only have I learned a lot along the way, but I’ve also met an extraordinary group of people who challenge me to think about our work in new ways.

The decision to volunteer is not an easy one. We all lead very full and busy lives; however, today’s programming reminded me that volunteer leaders play an important role in their respective communities. If you don’t currently volunteer, I challenge you to find some small way to give back. Whether on a local, state or national level, there are countless ways to get involved.

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Areas to focus on in the year ahead

I asked three incoming chairs to share with me the top three things facing associations (and ASAE & The Center as one of them) as they look to the year ahead.

From Dina Lewis, president of Distilled Logic and incoming chair of the Technology Section Council:

- Mobile delivery of content and information to our members and stakeholders.

- Usability of websites, constantly getting feedback from members on web usability and using that to enhance the online experience of our members.

- Getting better about using member data to determine how our members want to engage with us, and to meet them where they are.

Tony Ellis, director of education and incoming chair of the Professional Development Section Council:

- Learning to repurpose content in ways that are meaningful to members. Technology is enabling many new ways for associations to capture content and add value to the programs we produce.

- Restructuring around economic realities. People have fewer resources and less time; we need to learn what our members value and find ways to deliver it.

- Keeping up with the pace of change. How we interact with our members and how they expect us to interact is changing so much faster than it used to. Just keeping up with what member needs are is incredibly important for associations.


Don Dea, cofounder of Fusion Productions and incoming chair of the Membership Section Council:

Don had one major point with two key points underlying it.

The major point: uncertainty. We have moved from a time of relative certainty to a time when technology, the economy, and even political stability have produced a unique point in history that is defined by uncertainty.

For associations this means two things:

- Reinventing member value. Memberships are down, as is attendance. It's a fact that associations need to reassess what they do to reflect new value.

- New membership models will emerge. How people are interacting with each other -- associating-- is changing. The economy is only serving as an accelerating factor, but it was happening anyway. We need to quickly jump in front of that curve, and be prepared to adopt the models that make sense in this new world.

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Excitement building.....next Stop, YYZ!

I've decided that life is now officially "hectic". I find myself initiating the packing ritual for back to back conferences - ASAE and another association's annual symposium - 3 hours before heading to the airport. I'm still checking emails, setting up "away" messages on voicemail and email, leaving last minute notes for staff, and jotting a few notes here to begin my stint as a blogger for the week.

This is my second trip to the Annual, and I'm really looking forward to it. Unlike last year, things seem a bit less overwhelming. Like others, I am looking forward to seeing people, and attending what sounds like a great slate of speakers and topics. I took home quite a few nuggets of knowledge last year, and hope to add a few more. If you are a newbie to the conference, and/or to ASAE, this is the trip to really get your game on!

I'm also looking forward to hooking up with my fellow cohorts in the 2008-09 Diversity in Executive Leadership program. This is a great group of folks to be associated with, and I'm happy to have been part of this program overall. I foresee a few evenings of extracurricular activities in our future...

Finally, I'm looking forward to where embedded social media takes us this year. I'm already following the #asae09 hashtag on Twitter, and it's just plain interesting to watch the organic growth as the kickoff approaches. I'm wondering if the session tweets will really capture the flavor of the Annual this year. I'm looking forward to the possibility. Will you be tweeting your thoughts this year?

...whew. Just found my passport. Now I'm REALLY going.

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Annual Roundup: Getting there

For those of you who are already in Toronto, welcome! For those of you travelling today, I hope your luggage meets a kinder fate than mine ... And for those who aren't able to be here, you'll be missed.

Before we get to our roundup of blog posts for the day, here's your Tweet of the Day, from the Annual Hub:

sebriscoe: amazing to see niagara falls on clear day from a few miles above it on way to #asae09


- Elizabeth Weaver Engel shares the top five things she's looking forward to in Toronto.

- On the SmartBlog Insights blog, Peggy Hoffman writes that she hopes to learn new ways to help members and volunteers become engaged and informed association owners; on the Idea Center blog, she posted about a presentation on rock star chapters that she's particularly looking forward to.

- Lindy Dreyer is preparing for a presentation on technology and learning, and the process made her think about the power of peer-to-peer learning through social media.

- Jamie Notter is filling in as a replacement speaker. He posted some thoughts on how he'll approach the topic of his presentation.

- Michael McCurry has some thoughts on how ASAE & The Center's Annual Meeting and several others stack up in terms of options for virtual attendees.

- Maddie Grant and Elizabeth Baranik both posted Twitterfountains for the conference.

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Annual Meeting in Photos: Friday

As attendees are starting to arrive in Toronto, the Flickr pool covering conference is starting to take shape (photos in the pool will also appear in the Annual Hub):

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Customs at the Toronto airport.

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The expo hall is starting to take shape.

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And so is the bookstore.

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Staff are ready and waiting at registration.

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Welcome to Toronto!

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August 14, 2009

The quiet before the storm

As I sit in the lower level of the convention center (which looks great, by the way) considering the flurry of activity that is sure to commence in this very building in just a few short hours, I feel a tremendous sense of peace and calm. As many of you can attest, preparing to attend this event is, in some cases, a full-time job unto itself. Trust me, I know.

This is my first time attending ASAE & The Center’s annual meeting and exposition, and I have responsibilities. As the incoming vice chair of the young professionals committee and a 2009-2011 diversity executive leadership program scholar, much of the next several days will be booked with various meetings and networking opportunities. I know you can relate.

My recommendation, as I sit here in what is surely the quiet before the storm, is to not forget your purpose for attending this year’s event. Whether it be to meet a certain number of new people, get more information about a particular product or service, pick up a new book or find a solution to challenges currently impacting your association, just do it (wait, I think I’ve heard this somewhere before).

Following are my specific recommendations for maximizing your conference experience:

• Jot down a list of personal and professional goals you’d like to accomplish before leaving Toronto (you have no excuse, there’s note paper in your conference bag);
• Review it before leaving your hotel room each day (and don’t forget to check in on it during breaks and meals);
• Select at least one goal to zero in on each day (and think big, this is the place to get things done);
• Seek support from your association colleagues (they’re friendly and all around you) should you encounter roadblocks to achieving a particularly challenging goal;
• Cross off your accomplishments as they’re completed; and
• Don’t forget to pace yourself (Rome wasn’t built in a day).

If you’ve previously attended Annual, what other advice and suggestions do you have for us newbies? What do you know now that you wished you would have known then? Are there any other tips or tricks that could enhance our conference experience?

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August 13, 2009

Free Guide Available on "Making Work Work"

Despite two phone calls from newly laid off association professionals this morning, I’m encouraged to read that the nonprofit Families and Work Institute’s free, downloadable 2009 Guide to Bold New Ideas for Making Work Work concludes that 81% of U.S. employers are maintaining and 13% are increasing the work flexibility they offer employees. Only 6% acknowledge reduced flexibility.

"In fact, many report they are using flexibility as a tool to manage through the recession," according to FWI.

How? You’ll find an easy-to-search summary of 260 of the creative programs and policies of 260 employers organized by geography, industry, and innovative practice—each of whom a 2008 Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility.

Aside from a steady expansion of telecommuting-telework programs to help employees reduce commuting costs, other recession-friendly practices are

- Giving employees four Fridays off in the summer in lieu of raises the organization cannot afford
- Creating funds to support their own employees or others in the community who are suffering during the recession
- Giving employees the option to take unlimited, unpaid personal time off during the downturn, while keeping full medical benefits and the right to return to their jobs
- Allowing employees greater scheduling flexibility if their spouse has lost a job or seen their hours reduced and the family needs to make changes
- Creating flex year and flex career programs
- Creating workflow coordinators to monitor overwork and developing wellness scorecards to promote wellness

"The employers in Bold New Ideas present a roadmap to creating successful workplaces in a down economy," says Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of FWI and lead editor of the guide. "We hope these examples will provide ideas to employers around the country for their own programs, and help employees identify progressive organizations in their region -- or become internal advocates for change."

The new guide also shares insights from the latest annual National Study of the Changing Workforce, which includes shifting attitudes toward work and lifestyle choices. Basically, we workers continue to feel "deprived," especially of time to spend with important people in our lives. Three-fourths of responding employees say they don’t have enough time for their children--a 9% increase since 1992. Spouses don’t fare much better; 61% of workers (up 11% in 15 years) complain about the lack of time for significant others.

Thus, few would be surprised to read that 39% of employees report that flexibility is extremely or very important in their decision to accept a job or not. However, even to those currently employed, 86% rank flexibility as extremely or very important.

That is overwhelming. So why then, do only half of U.S. employees "strongly agree" that they currently have the flexibility needed to manage work and personal life successfully? Read the guide for clues and to learn more about how and whether organizations are including workers in questions around flexible workplaces.

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Annual Meeting Roundup: On your mark

As in years past, we're planning to round up posts from other blogs about the Annual Meeting here on Acronym. And just for fun, we're also going to be posting a "Tweet of the Day" from the Annual Hub, which will be capturing all of the Annual Meeting action in real time.

Without further ado , here's your Tweet of the Day:

Jill McCrory: Here's a question we'll be asking: Are you letting the monkey and lizard rule your emotions and actions? See you in Toronto!

- Deirdre Reid has shared her list of what she's doing to prepare for Annual. She also shared a list of sites she has bookmarked for easy reference during the meeting (including lots of good weather, currency, and local restaurant sites). (ETA: My apologies to Deirdre for my original typo in her name! It's been fixed.)

- Summer Huggins at Hammock's blog posted about planning her schedule for the conference, as well as things to do and places to eat in Toronto.

- Peggy Hoffman runs down her plans for the conference.

- Jeff De Cagna has a whole bunch of content creation plans for the meeting; he also reposted podcast interviews he did with general session speaker Charlene Li and Thought Leader session speaker Clay Shirky.

- This is the last time you'll see Kevin Holland mentioned in one of these roundups, because he's planning to go off the grid for Annual. Here's why.

- Elizabeth Weaver Engel shares her recommendations for events you can't miss while you're in Toronto.

- Rebecca Leaman at Wild Apricot shares some thoughts and resources for the meeting, as well as a link to an Association Jam page focused on the Annual Meeting.

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August 12, 2009

Countdown to Toronto!

Wow – has time ever flown by this year. Was San Diego really a year ago? Seems like it was just last month! As a newcomer to the association world (after 30+ years in the public education in Texas), I was blown away by the experience last year. There was so much going on and everything seemed to be moving so fast. I was still learning association terminology – I knew “education ease” from being in public school finance – so it was a little overwhelming at times.

I am so very thankful that I work for an association that feels that professional development is a top priority. There will actually be five from our association (Texas Association of School Business Officials) attending the conference. We always try to attend different sessions and then share information with each other and our staff when we get home.

Have you seen the video blogs yet? You can see our Executive Director, Gwen Santiago, at the following link: http://www.asaecenter.org/ResultsBatson.cfm?ItemNumber=43704. Amanda D. Batson, Ph.D., another fellow Texan, is one of the video bloggers and did a short video of Gwen. This will be a fun area to watch – you just might end up on one of the video blogs!

I have glanced at the sessions and they look great. I hope to have time before I get to Toronto to really study the program and find the sessions that will take me to the next level of association management, especially in the financial area. But the one thing that I look forward to the most is networking! I have found that ASAE members are a great source of information and are always willing to help.

Hope to see you all in Toronto!

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August 11, 2009

NCSEA Shares Bankruptcy Story

For a moving account of the bankruptcy filing and revitalization plan of the National Child Support Enforcement Association (NCSEA), visit Meetingsnet.com’s article, “Tales from the Downturn: Meeting Cancellation Leads to Bankruptcy.” Kudos to Executive Director Colleen Eubanks for sharing tough lessons with her peers.

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What does Social Media have to do with "International"?

As we prepare to go to Toronoto for ASAE's annual meeting, you might want to ponder what Social Media has to do with "International"? In talking with associations these days, most are focused on learning how to leverage social media or at least to get started in using social media tools for their association.

At the same time, a good number of associations have recognized that international markets represent one of the best real opportunities for their association to develop and grow.

However, very few have recognized the connection between these two very different but highly complimentary topics.

By its nature, social media as an Internet based platform for open communication and networking, is ideally suited to be used for international outreach and connecting. It has several very distinct advantages:

1. It is extremely cost effective and relatively easy to put in place.

2. The benefit to the user is in the ability to connect and network therefore the social media network delivers the benefit from the user community to its members directly.

3. It allows you to aggregate a critical mass of members and prospects even if you are only able to attract a relatively small number per country but from many different countries.

4. More people are becoming familiar with and using social media tools every day so there is less of a learning curve to get people to join.

5. It is a great first step to offering online education and training, leading to in-person live events, leading to membership or other more meaningful engagement with your international audience.

Want to learn more? There will be a session at Toronto on "Using Social Networks for International Expansion" held in room 803AB held on Sunday, 16 August from 1:30 - 2:45. This will include information and examples of using social media for international growth that has relevance for anyone wanting to grow their association, home and abroad. Hope to see you there!

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Information and knowledge

If information leads to knowledge and knowledge is power, then it follows that to keep and to grow power you need to control and/or ration the amount of information you give out, right? As a scholar and practitioner of corporate and public communications I have never seen this theory written down anywhere nor is it taught in any school I know of; yet it is disheartening to see how many people believe it, or at least act like they did. What is worse, in my opinion, is how many of these people find themselves in management positions—so maybe there is some truth to it? Maybe …

In my experience as a consultant, information sharing on a “need to know” basis is the source of much organizational inefficiency, suspicion, general disaffection and even on occasion a cover for malfeasance. I much prefer the transparency of information sharing on a “want to know” basis.

Well, I have shown my bias on this subject. What do you think, how do good and great managers treat information?

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August 10, 2009

How do you repay a mentor?

I remember it vividly. It was my first full week in the driver’s seat, serving as an interim director for an association. Cash flow was down, forecasted in the red. One problem employee needed to be fired due to lack of performance, bad attitude, and other issues. We had an educational event planned for the next month that was break even at 50, and we had 13 registered (mostly board members).

A key volunteer engaged in the association called me at the end of the week, we knew each other formally but had never had much time to really talk. He could hear the stress in my voice, he knew the signs of someone who was buckling under pressure. He said these words to me: "Brian, I've been running my own business for over 30 years, and it’s no @#&$!@# easier now than it was then".

I can't explain why, but at that moment, those words were more comforting and reaffirming than any other business advice or help others tried to give me. He broke it down so simply, as is his nature, giving me the gift of perspective that I so desperately needed. He called me every day for weeks after that, just to say hello and let me know he was there.

Recently, this person has come down with a significant illness. While I’m confident that he can fight it, it allowed me the opportunity to call him, and say this: "I remember the day you called me and offered support that I needed, and I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. If you need anything, I am here". As two grown men choked up on the phone and said a rushed goodbye, I can only hope that my words had even a fraction of the impact that his did, what a gift that would be to him.

I had another mentor who taught me the difference between independence and interdependence. A third, an association executive himself, challenged me to use my strengths to take control. Another friend showed me how to manage through kindness and positive example.

Not surprisingly, with support like this, our challenged staff took control and made some extensive changes that served as a foundation for growth for the association in future years.

How do you repay a mentor for what they did for you? Please share your stories about those mentors who helped you grow into the people you are today, maybe some of their wisdom and insight will be valuable to others here!

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August 7, 2009

Quick clicks, part II: Electric boogaloo

Since there were so many good posts to choose from this week, I split "Quick Clicks" into two parts. Here's a roundup of some great non-Annual-Meeting-related posts:

- David Patt of the Association Executive Management blog argues provocatively against contested board elections: "Members should care about the quality and quantity of services. If they get what they've paid for, it should make no difference who holds office."

- In other governance-related discussions, the Nonprofit University blog has seven reasons why term limits are a must for nonprofit boards. And at the Off Stage blog, Judith Lindenau discusses some reasons why nonprofit boards should have no more than three committees.

- Kevin Holland at Association Inc. says the sky is not falling--and associations have a bright future ahead.

- At the Zen of Associations, Ann Oliveri wants to know why associations use so much "generic, homogenized association speak."

- Jamie Notter asks if the staff at your association are learning as they go about their work. Are you capitalizing on informal learning opportunities?

- Have you ever considered holding a meeting or conference in partnership with a related organization? At the Drake & Company blog (which has added several new bloggers lately), Steve Drake has some tips for managing a joint conference.

- Cindy Butts at AE on the Verge shares some interesting ideas for team building activities in a tough economy.

- Elizabeth Weaver Engel has some great dos and dont's for RFPs (a re-post of something she wrote a while back, but I hadn't seen it before and maybe you haven't either ...).

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Quick clicks, part I: Ready for Toronto?

Since the association blogging community has chosen to make my life difficult by posting so much good stuff in the past week, I'm splitting your weekly "Quick Clicks" into two parts. First, we'll talk about the Annual Meeting, which is only (panic attack!) one week away; in a second post I'll round up some of the other great posts that I've seen this week.

- Tony Rossell and Sheri Jacobs will be presenting an unsession based on the results of Marketing General's membership marketing benchmarking survey in Toronto. (What other unsessions should people know about?)

- Peggy Hoffman and KiKi L'Italien are searching for a chapter that wants a social media makeover, to take place live during their Learning Lab.

- Dave Sabol (the winner of the coveted Toonie offered to the first association blogger to set up an RSS feed devoted to the Annual Meeting) is getting ready for Toronto.

- Wes Trochlil is preparing to speak at two sessions.

- Sue Pelletier is looking for recommendations on can't miss education sessions.

- Maddie Grant shares some of what she's looking forward to (and some kind words about the Annual Hub).

- Jeff De Cagna has developed virtual ribbons for virtual conference attendees (as well as virtual ribbons for folks who will be there blogging and tweeting).

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Shiny, Happy People

A week from Monday, I’m presenting a session at the Annual Meeting with my friend Jodie Slaughter on “Improving Staff and Volunteer Happiness to Enhance Organizational Performance.” I’ve always felt that treating people with respect, caring about their needs, and nurturing their personal and professional development are critical aspects of management and leadership. Quite simply, I believe that happy and engaged people do better work, are more productive, and are more likely to fix problems than complain about them. This doesn’t mean that I also make my staff happy, but it is something I consciously think about and cultivate in the way I lead. While this seems like a no-brainer to me, I have known many association managers and leaders who, while caring about productivity, don’t seem to care much about the happiness of their people.

Now, many people believe that “You can’t make other people happy,” and in a sense, this is true. Nothing you can do is going to take a fundamentally unhappy person and give them a sunny disposition. But while you can’t make everyone happy, you sure as hell can make folks unhappy. One of the exercises we are going to do in our session is to brainstorm this: “What can we do to absolutely guarantee that our staff is as unhappy as possible?”

I can think of a bunch of things that fit the bill: have managers treat staff like children, withhold the information people need to do their jobs effectively, don’t tell people the truth, discourage communication among staff, feed inter-staff rivalries, stifle creativity, punish people for trying new things, act like only the CEO has the answers, make seemingly arbitrary decisions without explanation, don’t give people control over how they do their own jobs, allow negative people to continuously spread venom, ignore people’s personal and professional development…and the list goes on. What always surprises me when I do this exercise is, while not deliberate, how common many of these practices are. To be perfectly honest, I see things that I do that could support these negative behaviors, but you can’t really address them until you identify them. So what’s on your list?

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August 6, 2009

Fundraising in a “Flatter World”

Joanne Fritz, who writes for the nonprofit section of About.com, expresses enthusiasm for a new book of interest to associations and nonprofits that are re-examining fundraising techniques in the new economy.

Building on Thomas Friedman’s best-selling book, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, author Jon Duschinsky explores the effect of such increased global connectedness on philanthropy in his new book, Philanthropy in a Flat World: Inspiration Through Globalization (Wiley, 2009). His four-step process for how nonprofits should adjust to a flatter world economy is succinctly summarized in the Fritz review.

“Nonprofits have been slow to catch on to the survival techniques of a flat world,” she writes. “Philanthropy in a Flat World is a quick read that might just help your organization transition from a 20th-century organization to one that can flourish in the 21st century.“

Friedman, by the way, is essentially crowdsourcing “Chapter 18” of his next version of The World Is Flat. You can watch the experiment in action—and even participate—on his site.

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Annual meeting guest bloggers

I am very excited to tell you about the group of bloggers who are going to be sharing their thoughts while at ASAE & The Center's Annual Meeting & Expo in Toronto, August 15-18.

There's a lot of familiar voices in this group, beginning with current Acronym guest bloggers Brian Birch, assistant executive director, Snow & Ice Management Association; Aaron Wolowiec, director of member services, Healthcare Association of Michigan; and Art Hsieh, CEO, San Francisco Paramedic Association.

Joining us in Toronto will also be Scott Steen, CEO of the American Ceramic Society. Scott is actually my cofounder of Acronym, serving with me as one of the first bloggers in 2006. He also helped out as part of a team from his organization last year in San Diego. And, we welcome Scott as he'll continue to post on Acronym as a guest blogger for several months after the meeting.

Terrance Barkan is chief strategist & business architect of Globalstrat. Before forming this company he led Association Global Services. He's well known in the sector for his international experience and savvy, and has recently made quite a splash in the association social media sector. Terrance also will be staying on board to blog after the annual meeting.

Becky Bunte, the CFO of the Texas Association of School Business Officials, was the first person to volunteer to guest blog at annual this year. I love getting the CFO perspective; she also is a relatively new association executive, coming from the public sector where she led the finances of a school district.

Of course Lisa will be here, too, as will I. Thank you to all of our guest bloggers who will be bringing readers their insights and experiences at the annual meeting. We look forward to giving you the scoop!

(Oh - and I may have a name or two to add to this list, so stay tuned!)

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Calling all association bloggers!

If you intend to blog from or about ASAE & The Center’s Annual Conference & Expo, we’d love to pull your posts through to the Annual Meeting Hub news feed. To do this, we need you to set up an RSS feed specifically for your posts about the conference – a category- or topic-specific RSS feed. Send the feed to webteamATasaecenter.org, and we’ll pull it through.

If you need help setting up the feed, shoot me an email and I’ll see if I can help. My email: sbriscoeATasaecenter.org.

One note -- we're not at a point where we can customize the feeds coming through to the hub with their own identifier (icon), so any posts pulled through will get the same RSS icon identification.

We really want to give this a try, so as an incentive the first person to give us their feed info earns a Toonie onsite -- that's right, two whole Canadian dollars. (Watch out web team, here comes a barrage of email!)

UPDATE: Dave Sabol and his Associated Knowledge blog is the lucky winner of the coveted Toonie, taking all of 90 minutes to set up his feed and give us the URL. I'll try to find a bright, shiny one for you Dave!

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August 5, 2009

RFP: Request for Problems!

We need problems to solve! Challenging ones. Problems that require new ways of thinking and innovative approaches to solve.

I’m running a Learning Lab at Annual with Maddie Grant, titled “Counterintuitive Paths to Success: Upending the Status Quo”. The session itself will be pretty dynamic and non-traditional. The last part of the session we’ll be doing group problem solving, inspired by the learning from the earlier parts of the session.

Anyway, we figured it would be more fun if we tackled a handful of real-world association problems/challenges. An example could be the need to immediately increase membership without a marketing budget, or launching a quarterly peer-reviewed journal without increasing dues. Fun stuff like that!

So, if you’ve got a challenge that’s got you stumped, and you believe some counterintuitive thinking would help, please write it up and post it here in the comments. We’ll pick a couple of the more juicy ones and hopefully harness some wisdom during our Learning Lab. And, we'll post results back to the ASEA's wiki.

BTW, this session is inspired by my article in the August issue of Associations Now, “The Right Way to Do It All Wrong”. So ya, wouldn’t hurt to read that first.

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Are marketers killing themselves?

I was driving last week when I heard a commercial for State Farm insurance. What got me to take notice is that the commercial focused on the value of having State Farm insurance and not just on price. As a marketer lots of advertising goes right in one ear and out the other so when I heard this ad focusing on value it got my attention.

There’s a ton of direct marketing testing that shows that focusing on a low price or discounts tends to get people to purchase. I myself have led with price numerous times during my career with varied levels of success. But I have wondered for some time now whether focusing on price and discounts is helping or hurting our long term efforts.

I will use the magazine industry as an example. Magazines used to be a valuable part of people’s lives, and they were willing to pay a fair price. It was not unusual to see some subscription prices in the $100+ range. But over time, smart marketers realized that you could bring in more subscribers by lowering your price, so prices went down and down and down.

In the short term that allowed subscriber numbers to go up, and publishers were able to garner additional advertising revenues based on increased circulation. That was all fine and good when the economy was rolling along, but over time, with the economic challenges and introduction of other advertising avenues, advertisers stopped spending as freely. Meanwhile, we recruited subscribers at such low prices that it will be almost impossible to maintain circulation levels if we try to recoup those ad-revenue losses by raising prices.

An even more important side effect of those low prices is that the perceived value of magazines has been reduced dramatically. When all you hear is that something is only $4.99 a year for a subscription, how can it have any actual value?

If you are a marketer you are under two incredibly large pressures. The first is making sure you market effectively in the short term and meet current goals. The second is to make sure that you don’t undercut your efforts in the long term (as magazines appear to have done). From what I heard the other day, State Farm appears to be taking steps to make sure that consumers know they offer great value, not just low prices. In some ways, this is a risk, because it may only attract a certain segment of the audience and may not attract the many individuals who right now are very focused on price. In other ways, this is incredibly smart, because it should have a much greater impact in the long run.

Are associations facing this conundrum? I am positive they are but would love to know how we are dealing with it.

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August 4, 2009

Money …

The desire to focus on “doing good” is a motivating factor that draws many people into association work—and that is clearly a strength; but association executives would do well also to realize that there is nothing crass in using money as a way to measure effectiveness—namely:

- Know that flat or declining revenues may be a sign that something is fundamentally wrong with your program, product or service. This is a warning bell--an indication that a thorough audit is needed of your marketplace, including: a customer satisfaction survey; benchmarking against the competition (if you do not know who your competition is, then that is another problem!); and a trend analysis of the needs of your target market(s).

- Understand that profitability is a measure of efficacy. If your revenues are rising but so are your losses, then either your programs are being mismanaged or your pricing is wrong. In such a situation market success in the form of increased sales can actually destroy your organization if it is not efficiently structured.

- Know that customers expect to get what they pay for. People the world over are prepared to pay for quality and inherently question the value of anything they are offered for free or at low cost. This is particularly true the more things are critical to us. What person needing heart surgery will feel entirely comfortable going into an operating room knowing their surgeon was the least expensive that could be found? Focus on quality and price your product or service accordingly—this is what your customers expect.

An association’s role may not be “just to make money,” but money does serve as a good tool by which to measure quality, effectiveness and efficacy. Such thinking has always been part of for-profit management; and if nonprofits are to hold their own in this increasingly competitive environment they will do well to adopt it! Do you agree?

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August 3, 2009

August Associations Now Case Study: Is It Really Antitrust?

This month's Associations Now case study, "Boiling Point" (published online as "Is It Really Antitrust?") explores a scenario from the perspective of Megan, a relatively new and inexperienced staff person. She's seeing something that she perceives as shady, and a potential antitrust concern. But is she drawing conclusions that are unsupported by the facts?

Jerry Jacobs, author of the Association Law Handbook and the forthcoming Association Law Update, and Christine Giordano, CAE, executive director of the Society for Biomolecular Sciences, took a close look at the case study and offered their takes on the evidence and the main character's actions. My thanks to both of them for serving as commentators!

What's your take on the scenario? Is Megan on to something, or is she overreacting? (The full text of the case study and commentary are available online.)

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