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January 29, 2010

First, assume no one cares

A couple seemingly unrelated thoughts that I've read recently have me thinking about the importance of this question: What if no one cares?

  • On Scott's "Welcome to governance month" post, Maddie Grant commented with a general feeling of angst toward boards, and she said "A friend said to me that people should print my comment and show it to their boards and say, ‘this is what some people think of boards - how would you refute it?'"
  • Then I saw "Three Quick Steps to Clear Writing" on Copyblogger (which, if your job entails writing in any way, you really should be reading). One of his steps: "Care: Clarity comes from deeply caring if people truly understand."

The latter reminded me of the old writer's adage "write for the reader," which really means "consider the reader's perspective, not your own." But with Maddie's comment in mind, I realize that this mindset should permeate pretty much everything you do.

  • For your next membership campaign, don't just assume that prospective members might be interested in networking or improving their careers. Assume that your prospects are content, lazy slouches with no ambition, little desire to expand their horizons, and zero familiarity with membership organizations. Then figure out how to make membership in your association relevant to those people.
  • Next time you call a staff or volunteer meeting, don't just assume that your colleagues want to collaborate with you. Assume they're already overworked and have little to no knowledge of the need for or the fundamentals of the work you'd like to do together. Then figure out how to make them excited about working or volunteering with you.
  • When you give your next presentation at a meeting or conference, don't just assume that the audience wants to learn. Assume that they came to your session because it looked like the least boring session during your time slot and that they don't think your topic is in any way relevant to their field of work. Then figure out how to get that audience engaged.

Of course, in most of these cases, people do care. But don't assume that. Don't assume anything in your favor. Rather, before you take on any task, ask yourself, "What if no one cares about this?" Then, with that perspective in mind, direct your efforts to making sure that you reach the people who don't care. It will make everything you do much more effective.

[On a related note, my colleague Lisa Junker wrote a great article back in 2007 on "red teaming," which is an exercise in assuming the mind of your competition to better understand your own weaknesses. It takes the "What if no one cares?" idea a step further by asking, "What if people want to defeat us?" and addresses it on an organizational level. It's a good read.]

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January 28, 2010

The new work of governing

Most regular Acronym readers are going to recognize the author of our second guest post during governance month. He's the dean of association blogging, having started the first blog I know about whose purpose was to make associations stronger. He's on The Center for Association Leadership Board of Directors, is a frequent (and I mean frequent) presenter at ASAE & The Center events, and you can find his blog--still going strong--at P.I. Blog. Jeff De Cagna:

In his post introducing this month’s conversation on Acronym, Scott Briscoe pointed out that despite the importance of governing to the association community, it “doesn’t ignite the passions and creativity of big ideas.” Similarly, in some of my recent talks, I’ve posed the following question to association leaders:

How can associations govern in ways that nurture and unleash energy, passion and imagination?

Sadly, most attendees don't make a connection between what they see in the current practice of governing inside their organizations and the opportunity to "nurture and unleash energy, passion and imagination." In fact, their real world experiences with how governing operates lead most of them to reach the opposite conclusion.

As we begin the second decade of the 21st century, the time has come to change our view of governing from a wanting yet necessary evil with which associations must cope, to a driver of value creation and a source of genuine strategic advantage. We can accomplish this critical shift by challenging “governing groups” (an umbrella term that includes all stakeholders who contribute to the governing process, not just boards of directors) to commit to undertake “the new work of governing,” which I describe below:

• Designing purpose-driven business models through innovation--In today’s hyper-competitive operating environment, the stale “for-profit vs. non-profit” debate is an irrelevant distraction from the broader strategic challenge of creating “thrivable” associations, i.e., organizations with the capacity to flourish by leveraging the forces of paradigm shift. Associations need vibrant business model innovation, and governing groups must provide support to imaginative experimentation efforts with the goal of developing new business models that fully integrate the inextricably linked pursuits of purpose and profit.

• Building capacity for "thick value" creation--The viability of new business models will depend on whether associations can innovate to produce novel forms of authentic value for customers, members and other stakeholders seeking deep support and meaningful solutions to complex problems. Governing groups must build a clear and context-specific understanding of what this kind of “thick value” looks like for its communities, and ensure that the right mix of organizational capabilities is available to create it.

• Nurturing cultures of shared responsibility for stewardship--In the reset economy, the intelligent, long-term stewardship of associations is a critical element of thrivability. Every association is a commons, and the success of the commons requires cooperation and collaboration. Governing groups can cultivate commons thinking by building shared commitment to interdependent action and nurturing cultures of shared responsibility as part of a strategic framework for meaningful stakeholder contribution and engagement.

• Coordinating new social systems for contribution and engagement--To maximize the substantive impact and value of stakeholder contribution and engagement, while minimizing its disruptive impact on stakeholders themselves, associations need to design and implement systems that eliminate bureaucratic legacy structures while making participation as convenient, simple and social as possible. Governing groups also need to establish new “terms of service” covenants with contributors that are reciprocal, ensure mutual benefit and build social capital across the organization.

The new work of governing is not the same as the old work of governing, and that is precisely the point. As long as there are governments interested in monitoring and scrutinizing association activities, governing groups will continue to have compliance and oversight responsibilities that exist specifically to reduce unnecessary and harmful risks. The new work of governing is about establishing an organizational mindset and architecture to support essential and generative risk-taking, a strategic intention for 21st century association success that only governing groups can choose.

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January 27, 2010

The value of "getting to know you" to good governance

Meet Mike Grubb, president and CEO of the Southern Gas Association in Dallas. In the video below, Grubb tells the story of the early interactions he had with his 2009 board chair, which helped to build a solid working relationship and made it easier to have tough conversations about budget shortfalls later in the year.

Grubb says that what might be viewed as mere "getting to know you" conversations should be considered just as crucial as the more substantive conversations that also happen between an association CEO and a board chair.


January 25, 2010

Please make board governance sexy

All right, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I struggle to find anything fun about board governance. Even the name, uggh, it just sounds so boring, like this book I read in a college anthropology class called 'Life in a Pre-Bureaucratic Portuguese Fishing Village' that I still have nightmares about. If there is an association composed of Portuguese fisher folk out there, I apologize in advance and mean no disrespect toward their matriarchal culture.

Over the years I have found in myself a passion for things that I'm sure when I was 10 years old I would have made a face at, including:

- Stuffing envelopes (allows me to think clearly without a computer in my face)
- Strategic planning
- Marketing (I was going to be a marine biologist, where did I go wrong?)
- Sales
- Travel to trade shows (don't ask me why)

Yet a passion for governance eludes me. I understand all the blah blah about how important it is to the association etc., but I am asking all of you governance gurus out there: What is the source of your personal passion related to board governance? What motivates you and what rewards do you get out of it that make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Please don't leave me hanging!

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January 21, 2010

Is micropricing the answer to your revenue woes?

In the last few days, some association bloggers have made comparisons between associations and the newspaper industry:

The discussion focuses on whether the association business model is doomed to the same fate as newspapers, and it arose from a broader discussion about the association model on ASAE & The Center's Executive Management listserver.

However, another theme that arose in the discussion is "micropricing," which I'll loosely define as "small fees for single-resource access." Think 99 cents per song on iTunes or $9.99 for a book on an Amazon Kindle. Some newspapers are poised to try this method with their online content. The discussion on micropricing in the comments to the SocialFish post has been good (you should go read it), and I want to pull that topic to the forefront here. I think micropricing could work for associations, and here's why:

For a long time, membership strategy for many associations has been to put access to resources behind the member wall, with just a small sample available for free to nonmembers in the hopes that it will entice them to pay to become members. The inherent challenge in this model is that the gap between free and a membership fee is often quite large. It's a big leap to ask people to make.

Associations need to provide some stepping stones in between. This is where I think micropricing comes in. In between the free resources and the all-access, big-fee membership, micropriced content and resources could generate additional revenue among nonmember customers.

But here's the important part: micropricing will only work for associations as one method along a continuum. If you threw away membership and free, it's doubtful that micropriced products would generate sustainable revenue. But, if you offer some resources for free, a lot of resources for small fees, and full access to all of your resources (and the community) via membership, you have a nice three-tiered system that's built to entice people to spend some money.

Think about the three groups of prospects you have:

Group 1: People who are only interested in the products you offer for free.
Group 2: People who pay for some of your products but not for a full membership.
Group 3: People who pay for membership.

With just "free" and "membership," you miss out on Group 2. With micropricing, you can do three things:

  • Generate revenue from Group 2.
  • Push some people in Group 1 toward Group 2.
  • Push some of the people in Group 2 toward Group 3.

These last two are important, because they're a lot easier to do than trying to get people to move all the way from Group 1 to Group 3.

So why aren't many associations trying this? My guess is this: while "free" equals zero dollars and "membership" equals $100 or $500 or $1,000, micropricing is messy. It means you have to do actual trial and error, actual research on your members' and customers' buying habits, and maybe even some actual math. And you have to do it with every individual product or service you offer. The concept of micropricing gets derailed fast when people start asking, "What price is right?" The leader in that situation has to make other people comfortable with, "We won't know for sure until we try."

So to answer the question in the title of the post: no and yes. While micropricing can't be the only method of generating revenue at associations, it could be one method, and it could be one that bridges the gap between the others. If you're familiar of any associations that are trying some form of micropricing, let us know in the comments.

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January 20, 2010

The price of sharing that war story with a colleague

Here's a post contributed for our Governance Month from Jeffrey Cufaude. Not sure how you've missed him if you have, but read through most thoughtful posts here on Acronym, and Jeffrey is usually adding an interesting comment or two -- and keep up with his own writings on his Idea Architects blog.

“You think your board’s bad, you wouldn’t believe what mine did at our last meeting.”

It’s a common bonding moment at gatherings of association staff members as individuals take turns sharing the latest tale of woe about some misstep involving volunteer leaders. We commiserate, we laugh, and we engage in the time-tested ritual of all professions: telling war stories.

But is it an “exemplary standard of professional conduct?” Because that is the first item listed in ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership’s Standards of Conduct, the code all ASAE members agree to uphold upon becoming a member.

Give me a break, Cufaude. This is harmless. Everybody does it at some time or another. It’s just a way of letting off a little steam with colleagues who can understand.

Yep, it is. But again, is it an exemplary standard of professional conduct? It may be normal or common, but is it exemplary? One of the common tests in ethical dilemmas is to consider whether or not you would want your conduct detailed in a prominent publication. I’m fairly sure some of the stories I’ve heard association professionals tell over the years are ones they would prefer not to see splashed across any page in the Washington Post or any other newspaper.

Get off your moral high horse Cufaude. Geez. Everyone needs to cut loose once in awhile.

Yep, we do, but at what potential cost? At the expense of our board members or other volunteers who donate their time and talents to our organizations? Do they really deserve us speaking of them in somewhat derogatory tones to people they don’t even know in forums where they can’t respond?

The tone of these remarks rarely suggests we are trying to solve the problem, one of the many we as association professionals are hired to address: strengthening the governing capacity of our association. It’s not, “hey my board is really getting into the weeds and I could use some advice on how to help them focus on the big picture.”

The tone is gossipy and sometimes mocking of the people we describe. It’s conversational one-upmanship. It engenders a good laugh and then people go about their business … which is … working with the leaders they just criticized … aka, their bosses.

Beating up on the boss is too easy. And more importantly? It doesn’t change anything.

So let’s commit more of our capability to the really hard work: having respectful and honest conversations with the volunteers involved in governance about the shortcomings we see and the opportunities to strengthen their contributions and more effectively lead our organizations. Let’s dial down the war stories and make peace with the fact that we have work to do. And let’s exemplify the highest standards of professional conduct as we go about doing it.

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Being pressured to disregard your ethical boundaries

Meet John Saunders, executive director of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators. In the video below, John tells an early-career story where a board member pressured him to hire a particular consultant who was the board member's friend.

There's not much dilemma in this ethical dilemma, at least not until you consider he was a new hire and had just moved his family to a new location and was just beginning to get settled—all of a sudden, he's wondering if he made a big mistake.


January 19, 2010

Earthquake Response Efforts Continue

To everyone who has been sending press releases and e-mails about what their organization is doing to respond to the Haiti earthquake disaster, I send you a big thank-you! To avoid weighing down Acronym with the latest updates, all responses are being posted in the commentary section of my earlier blog posts down below. I encourage you to continue emailing me news at kclarke@asaecenter.org. Thanks again for all you are doing!


The new truth: Attention trumps knowledge

The New York Times' Idea of the Day blog recently turned me on to The Edge's 2010 question (fair warning, thinking people can get sucked in and lost in this site too easily): How has the Internet changed the way you think?

As with the Times, so far I've found MIT's David Dalrymple's answer most interesting. He says:

"Before the Internet, most professional occupations required a large body of knowledge, accumulated over years or even decades of experience. But now, anyone with good critical thinking skills and the ability to focus on the important information can retrieve it on demand from the Internet, rather than her own memory."

Dalrymple sums up his most important lesson as the ability of an employee to focus will be more important than her knowledge. It's a fair and important point, one meaningful for associations as they staff their organizations and look for capable volunteers.

But I'm intrigued by what this means for associations on a different level. Associations have been creating these bodies of knowledge for some time and have long considered it a critical value proposition. As I and others have said many times before, this particular value proposition is becoming obsolete (if it isn't already). Replacing it, is being the conduit for how people connect with knowledge and other people. Getting credit for that is how associations will be valued.

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January 15, 2010

My half-baked bubble thought

I'm not even sure I agree with this post, but I'll throw it out there and see if it sticks.

When talking economics or markets, everyone thinks bubbles are bad. It's hard to argue that here on this side of the summer of 2008. But go back to early 2008 or 2007 when personal and organizational wealth was expanding, and the bubble doesn't look so bad (setting aside for a moment that we all foolishly didn't think we were in a bubble). I don't know the numbers, but let's say that 50% of those in subprime mortgages have not and are not in danger of defaulting—the bubble worked pretty good for them, enabling them to obtain a mortgage that they may not have been able to get without a bubble.

But I guess the general consensus is that a striaght line, rising slowly but steadily, would be much preferred to the up and down rough and tumble that actually exists.

So here's my half-baked theory: One overly simplistic definition of a bubble is an increase in mass consumption of risk that reaches a point where risk becomes too great, an event happens, and then there is widespread retreat from risk.

I think in general, associations try to run like that straight line--willing only to take the risks necessary for slow, steady growth. As a result, I think our organizations never realize the full benefits of a bubble. But when it pops, we feel just as much pain as the rest of the world.

If the rest of the world suddenly acted like that straight line, then maybe our measured approach to risk would be ok. But let's face it, when times are good, we always think we've found our straight line, but going back at least several hundred years, that hasn't been the case. As a result, I think, we need to take on more of a bubble mentality. We need to push risky endeavors. Some will fail, and it will hurt. Some will succeed, probably better than they should. And the rest will be somewhere in the middle. I understand it's a yo-yo that might be distasteful, and would require associations to be more flexible in organization and more efficient in decision making than they are. But if the bubble are going to come, then we've got to find a way to get more benefit out of them before they pop.

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January 13, 2010

More association and nonprofit earthquake response news

***UPDATE - The latest updates on how associations and nonprofits are responding to the Haiti earthquake and aftermath are in the comments section of this post below.***

I’m posting more updates on the responses of associations and nonprofits to yesterday’s catastrophic earthquake. Please continue to post or to e-mail me news of what your own staffs, members, and organization are doing.

A call for hundreds of nurse volunteers has gone out to members of the National Nurses United, the largest and newest U.S. organization of 150,000 registered nurses since it was formed just last month through a merger of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, United American Nurses, and Massachusetts Nurses Association. Its national Nurse Response Network, however, is not new and includes a cadre of nurses trained to help disaster victims. Many have prior experience with such medical emergencies after Hurricane Katrina, the South Asia tsunami, and the Southern California wildfires. Nurse volunteers are asked to sign up online and to watch the NNU Twitter stream for details and plans. "We are calling on nurses throughout the U.S. to join us in this critical effort," said NNU Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro. "Nurses will be fundamental to the disaster relief process, to provide immediate healing and therapeutic support to the patients and families facing the devastation from this tragic earthquake."

Blogs by association CEOs and volunteer presidents are starting to fill with sympathetic commentary regarding the earthquake victims and praise for quick responders and unified public reactions. You’ll find an example by Dr. J. James Rohack of the American Medical Association.

The Caribbean Tourism Organization and a number of other tourism, travel, and hospitality associations have begun releasing statements of support for the Haitian people and promises of financial donations, prayers, and a willingness to share local knowledge of the area to relief agencies.

Many professional and trade groups have reported an outpouring of volunteer offers from members, who have often been placed on stand-by in case deployment is approved or requested by relief agencies or government officials.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs has heard of at least a dozen of its 3,100 affiliates sending urban search-and-rescue teams from around the country to Haiti to help move heavy debris, bring search dogs, and share their specialized disaster training and coordination skills onsite. “They tend to want to self-deploy, but it’s important to follow appropriate processes for coordination and organization, so that’s one of the roles we have—communicating that out,” says a spokeswoman. She noted that many affiliates have specialty units for mass-casualty management and rescue, and the association also trains responders how to behave if they personally become trapped.

Humanitarian Alliance and Network Development Strategy (HANDS Across Haiti) and other aid charities have posted pleas to unaccounted-for staff on their social media sites, urging them to stop their assumed search-and-rescue efforts long enough to check in with headquarters in any way possible and posting Web photos of missing staff in case anyone has seen them.

UNICEF is estimating that half of the victims in Haiti’s earthquake are children and has appealed for donations but urges organizations and people not to send clothing or other in-kind donations at this time. CARE, which also focuses on children, alerted members that thousands of children may still be buried within their schools, since youngsters attend classes in the afternoon in Haiti.

Habitat for Humanity International is sending an assessment team into the affected area to determine the impact of the quake on public housing and to work on emergency shelter options. The nonprofit has worked in Haiti for 26 years and facilitated 2,000-plus homes in that period for families.

The Connecticut-based disaster relief nonprofit AmeriCares, which has worked in Haiti for 25 years, is already packing medical supplies and has scheduled staff to leave Monday for the site.

Several nonprofits have created digital albums of images coming out of Haiti or photos of staff in action.

Thank you to everyone who has been keeping us posted on your activities.

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Associations, Nonprofits Begin Haitian Earthquake Response

As they have so many times in the past, associations and nonprofits around the world are moving rapidly to help the hard-hit communities in and near the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, after a severe earthquake measuring 7.0 quake apparently flattened much of the area late January 12.

With communications impaired, electricity out, and roads blocked by fallen debris from collapsed buildings and homes, organizations were struggling both to track down local staff and members, and to assess how best to assist the densely populated, impoverished region that appears devastated.

Here’s a round-up of some association and nonprofit efforts and news underway:

Within hours of the quake, local Haitian teams of the nonprofit Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières were reporting that damage to their Port-au-Prince medical center and other facilities is “significant” as are injuries to staff, patients, and incoming residents. Additional staff are being deployed immediately.

World Vision International, a nonprofit that helps the poor, said on its Web site that staff in Haiti are trying to assess the damage and configure a response plan, but some workers are struggling just to leave their building because of aftershocks and damage that continue to send walls and building materials into the streets.

The American Red Cross, World Vision International, Oxfam, numerous faith-based relief services, and myriad other disaster relief charities have already set up emergency funds—many of them linked to mobile phone text giving--and e-mailed urgent donation appeals to millions of supporters.

Save the Children’s Ian Rodgers, who was in Haiti at the time of the earthquake, quickly became the eyes and ears for many media around the globe stymied by the lack of working communication technology and lack of access to the area.

Social media is again playing a riveting role in revealing the extent of the disaster, as well as the types of real-time decision-making occuring onsite and in offices far afield by nonprofit staff and government officials. Twitter updates from charities, federal and international agencies, and others have been running throughout the night as news and photos have slowly leaked out. While no association-uploaded videos related to humanitarian efforts is on YouTube yet, several groups expressed hope they would soon have footage or videotaped interviews to post shortly.

Many professional and trade associations have created global disaster relief funds in the past 10 years and are likely to tap them now, saying they want first to see what primary needs emerge.

Expressing fears about safety, shifting needs, and inadequate information from the hit region, none of the aid charities are accepting outside volunteers at the moment while the groups try to get their own trained staff onsite. Indeed, some are trying to get staff and members out of the Port-au-Prince area while aftershocks remain so strong.


January 12, 2010

Introducing a difficult concept to the board

As part of our emphasis on governance, we're asking a few CEOs to talk about having critical conversations with their volunteers. Here's an insightful two minutes from Tanya Howe Johnson, president and CEO of Partnership for Philanthropic Planning, on how to introduce a difficult concept to the board of directors: (1) position it as board issue, not a personal agenda, and (2) find a champion.

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January 8, 2010

Having the social media talk with your board

If you thought a "governance" theme for this month meant we'd get away from social media topics, you were wrong. Seems like social media touches everything now, like it or not, and we've found at least one way to tie it to governance.

Are any of your board members or volunteer leaders on Twitter? Do any of them have their own blogs? Does the prospect of one of them blogging about your latest board meeting make you a little queasy?

Blogging or tweeting about a board meeting isn't automatically a bad thing. If that volunteer has a dedicated following among other members, it can help generate wider engagement around the direction of the association. But, even though every board meeting is ideally transparent, many of us would agree that board meeting discussions could be taken out of context or misconstrued rather easily. Just read the reaction to Kristin Clarke's post last month about video broadcasting board meetings.

I don't think the answer to this concern is too complicated, though. You can't ignore it and hope it will go away, but you also can't forbid your board members and volunteers from talking about their service via social media either (at least not without alienating them, and they might still do it anyway). So, take the middle road: encourage them to blog or tweet responsibly.

There's likely no need to elevate this to a written policy; rather, just have a little talk with your volunteer leaders about their use of social media and remind them of the often sensitive nature of board and committee discussions (and also outright confidential info, like legal matters, of course). Chances are, you cover this when talking to them about various aspects of their fiduciary duty as board members, so your best option may be to simply include social media communication in that discussion, as well.

Maybe this is a no-brainer, but as social media continues to permeate our various methods of communicating, it's worth a few minutes of thought. Keep it in mind for your next board orientation.

Any of you CEOs out there care to share how you address social media with your boards and volunteers?

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Welcome to Governance Month

As we’ve said a few times now—thank you for the fabulous theme month of December. With your participation, it became bigger and better than we could have imagined.

As I introduce a theme for January—I’m wondering if we can come anywhere close. Our theme:


It perhaps doesn’t ignite the passions and creativity of big ideas. But would anybody deny that association boards play a huge role—for good or ill (and, as always, probably both)—in our organizations?

Want to translate it into a big idea: Somebody write this post for me and I’ll promise to write a rebuttal taking an opposing view: “What if associations could do away with their board of directors—why should they (or shouldn’t they) and what would that look like?”

We’ll have some video of association CEOs and (cross my fingers) some insights from a couple of brilliant governance experts, as well as some thoughts from the usual crew of Acronym bloggers. To start things off, here are some stats, with my commentary. These are from ASAE & The Center’s relatively new Benchmarking in an Instant program. (Note: these numbers are continually updated as someone new completes the survey. “n” is the number of respondents at the time this was written.)

First, some board composition stats (n=62):

Number of voting board members: 15.2

Number of nonvoting board members: 2.8

Number of board members under age 50: 5.6

Number of female board members: 4.4

Number of board members that are members of ethnic or other minority groups: 1.2

My thoughts—Not sure what to make of the board size. There are many who preach that smaller is better, and while I don’t think you can govern effectively with 75 or 100, I think there are some advantages to a 40-person board and other advantages to a 10-person one. The culture of the board and the organization are much bigger factors in how effective the board is.

The age stat doesn’t really bother me the way it might other people. A fifty-year-old has another 15 or 20 if not more years of career left, and you figure he or she has 25 or so years of career service already. I would expect, and don’t think it a bad thing, that boards skew older. Maybe I’d be more comfortable if this number were 6 or 7. What would worry me is if I looked at my board and I saw it being pretty much all to one side of age 50.

The gender question – eh, it’s not good enough, but I would guess that this is an improved number over a few years ago, and I think it will continually improve. I hope we keep doing better, and quicken the pace some. Now ethnic and other minority groups: that’s a pathetic number; we’ll have to do better than that to survive.

Some policy questions: We asked association execs if their boards have formal, written processes, policies, procedures, or roles related to the following (n=69).

Monitoring the financial and risk management of the association.


Certainly the right piece of pie is larger, but if you don't have a process, policy, or procedure for this, what do you have one for? I don't understand the quarter of associations who don't.

Managing the investment portfolio.


Again, a third of associations don't have this policy? Fiduciary duty.

Requiring periodic rotation of auditing firms and/or their partners on the association's account.


Guess this is a best practice that hasn't caught on yet. If you don't have such a policy, Google "Enron audit firm."

Specifying its protection of whistleblowers.


So much to learn from Enron.

Specifying conflict of interest.


Now that's more like it. I mean you gotta figure there's gonna be three clueless percent out there on just about any question.

Assessing the board's overall performance.


Not surprised really, but seems like it would be a good practice.

Evaluating the performance of the executive director.


Just wow! Was thinking this one would look more like the conflict of interest graph. Why would any CEO not be pushing for this until he or she got it through? Would seem essential if you value your livelihood.

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January 5, 2010

"Y2K" seems so quaint now

So it's now 2010, and we wouldn't be doing our blogging duties without somehow marking the new year and decade.

I don't have any bold predictions to make, so I'll take a look in the opposite direction. I dug up the January 2000 issue of Association Management, ASAE's magazine prior to the ASAE/Center merger. Turns out the Jan. 2000 issue was the "Leadership Issue" for boards, so I jumped to the February issue to review instead. I was interested to see what was on the minds of associations 10 years ago, before social media, before lobbying reform, before the housing boom and crash, before iPods and iPhones, before 9/11, and before I finished high school.

Here's some what I found:

Outsourcing: The cover story of the February 2000 issue was an in-depth look at outsourcing trends in associations. By the looks of it, outsourcing various functions was already a fairly common practice in 2000, and the article offers a good foundation for any associations that started or expanded their outsourcing practices in the next 10 years. Outsourcing as we knew it in 2000 has taken on new, deeper capacities today, as we see associations beginning to adopt cloud computing and virtual staffing models.

Change: An otherwise excellent feature on industry benchmarking starts with an argument that irks me: "You aren't imagining it. Change really is moving at a faster pace." It then points out that internet adoption was faster than adoption of the television, which was faster than the electric light, which was faster than the telephone. I can't refute these facts, but can the pace of change increase forever? Will we one day measure change in minutes, seconds, or milliseconds?

Maybe it's just a pet peeve of mine, but the notion that "the world is changing faster than ever before" is hyperbole. Don't fool yourselves into thinking that the presence of change today is unique. Change is a fact of life, not a gathering storm. The world was changing 10 years ago, and 10 years before that, and 10 years before that. No surprise that it's changing now, too.

Collaboration: Bill Yontz, then VP of corporate real estate at Capital One, shares some rather prescient ideas in an interview (not available online):

"'I think that in the future—not tomorrow, but certainly in the next 10 years—the essence of work will be collaboration. The collaboration will not just be face-to-face or videoconferencing, but also technology enabled,' he speculates. 'People all located in different places, all working at different times, can input to the same visible product...'"

Mind you, Wikipedia wasn't launched until a year later. So Bill wins the prediction game.

Knowledge: Meanwhile, a short note about the December 1999 ASAE Management and Technology Conference quotes keynoter Larry Prusak, then executive director of the Institute for Knowledge Management: "'If associations can couple their vast stores of data and information with knowledge, they can change some of their economic equations and become true knowledge brokers.'" I think the last 10 years have validated Prusak's vision, though it seems like a lot of associations still struggle with capitalizing on knowledge management today.

There was a lot more in the February 2000 issue of Association Management, of course, but I'll stop here. If you enjoy predictions, though, you should check out "50 Predictions for 50 Years," from the October 1999 issue of Association Management. The first 22 were slated to have happened by now. A few of them are tongue-in-cheek, but the list will definitely get your mind rolling about the past and future of associations. You can also check out the cover story in this month's Associations Now, "Visions for the Future of Associations."

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It was a big month

Even if it was effectively a short one with the holidays at the end, Big Ideas Month generated a lot of discussion, both on the myriad ideas that were submitted as well as the topic of innovation itself.

We had four more voices join in during the holiday break, so be sure to check them out:

To everyone who read, commented, or wrote about any and all of the big ideas over the last month, THANK YOU! The energy that filled the discussions far surpassed anything Scott, Lisa, or I expected when we slated Big Ideas as the December theme.

In the spirit of the celebrating the new year, I have two suggestions for resolutions:

  • Take one of the ideas and do it at your association. And then let us know how it went (either on your own blog if you have one or at acronym@asaecenter.org).
  • Share the big ideas with your colleagues at both your own organizations and others. Spread the discussion beyond the "walls" of the association blogosphere.

Again, many thanks everyone!