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February 26, 2010

New embed codes for videos

Attention: Any bloggers or web folks who used an embed code from the This Week in Associations video series: Those links are going to break this weekend, so please remove them.

Right now, we don't have a way to get a replacement embed code; as we find a solution, we'll let you know.

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The wisdom of the spam

Many off you saw earlier this week, either via Scott's FYI post or via the comments feed itself, that Acronym has been experiencing a heavy onslaught of spam comments lately (a "spambush," if you will), enough to force us to turn on comment moderation for the time being.

If you paid close attention to the spam comments that snuck through the filter before we turned on moderation, you may have also noticed that, despite being rather cryptic and not quite coherent (as spam usually is), each one began with an odd quote or maxim. So, in an effort to make light of an annoying situation, I've compiled some of the best pearls of wisdom offered up during the spamstorm.

As Lisa Junker noted, most of these, if not all of them, appear to be quotes from actual people. Some of them may just be nonsense. And none of them are related to association management, but we all need a distraction every now and then. Enjoy.

  • The older I grow, the less important the comma becomes. Let the reader catch his own breath.
  • Nothing is said that has not been said before.
  • Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.
  • All programmers are playwrights, and all computers are lousy actors.
  • What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.
  • Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.
  • The only difference between a rut and a grave is in their dimensions.
  • Facts are the enemy of truth.
  • Feet: why do I need them if I have wings to fly?
  • Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.
  • You can't deny laughter. When it comes, it plops down in your favorite chair and stays as long as it wants.
  • There are two types of people: those who come into a room and say, "Well, here I am!" and those who come in and say, "Ah, there you are."
  • Editor: a person employed by a newspaper whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff and to see that the chaff is printed.

In this case, the chaff has been blogged.

Thanks again for your patience, everyone. We hope to have the spam issue resolved soon.

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February 25, 2010

Quick Clicks: Home runs

Welcome to another edition of Quick Clicks. Thanks to all the association bloggers who give us so much great stuff to link to!

- On the SmartBlog Insights blog, Rebecca Leaman wonders whether it still makes sense for nonprofits to attempt to drive traffic back to a single website "home base." Her question started a great discussion in comments.

- Andy Sernovitz has some thought-provoking comments on how you can take advantage of changing customer expectations (even if they might seem threatening at first glace).

- Jeffrey Cufaude has started a new series of blog posts he's calling "Wednesday What Ifs?". So far, he's tackled paying for dues and other programs and services in multi-year increments, giving implicit rather than explicit permission, and focusing on consistent quality rather than on the big breakthrough.

- Cindy Butts responds to some recent Acronym posts with her thoughts on the pursuit of perfection.

- Kevin Whorton has a great post at the College of Association Marketing blog on the surprising disconnect between the words and actions of one focus group.

- Jeff Hurt has great advice for pumping up the networking potential of your face-to-face events.

- If you're an "emerging leader" and you've ever thought, "When do I just emerge already?" Rosetta Thurman has a post for you.

- Shelly Alcorn at the Association Subculture blog has launched an interesting series of posts applying the rubric from Jim Collins' new book "How the Mighty Fall" to associations.

- Six is apparently a big number this week: A guest post by Mack Collier on Lauren Fernandez's LAF blog shares six truths of building successful online communities, and Aimee Stern shares six great ideas she got at a recent Super Swap.

- The Nonprofit University blog has some thoughts on the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and its implications for nonprofit organizations.

- David Patt has some interesting observations about behavorial differences he's seen with older and younger colleagues. What do you think?

- Jeff Cobb at the Hedgehog & Fox blog has four questions whose answers might predict your future success. (And at his other blog, Mission to Learn, he has a post I loved on learning lessons he's gleaned from watching his toddler.)

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February 23, 2010

Transparency personified

Way back in October 2009 (centuries ago in internet years), Wes Trochlil blogged about an AMS vendor that installed an ombudsman on its staff to represent client concerns at the company. I want to revisit this ombudsman idea, because I've been intrigued by it for a while now. (In fact, it actually came up here once a few years ago, but only as a brief mention.)

If you have no idea what an ombudsman is, check out Wikipedia for a lengthy explanation, or see the bio page of Washington Post ombudsman Andy Alexander (a fellow Ohio University alum, I must note). Ombudsmen are a growing practice among newspapers, and Andy has written some remarkably frank, honest assessments of the Post's performance, such as this one about its plan for sponsored, off-the-record "salons" in 2009. Andy's columns are published in the newspaper every Sunday. The second paragraph of Andy's bio explains his role:

As The Washington Post ombudsman, he serves as its internal critic and represents readers who have concerns or complaints on a wide range of topics including accuracy, fairness, ethics and the newsgathering process. In his role, he also promotes public understanding of the newspaper, its Web site and journalism more generally. He operates under a contract with The Washington Post that guarantees him independence.[emphasis added]

Going back to Wes's post about the AMS vendor ombudsman, called the "Director of Customer Care," there's another important note about how the position is structured at the company in question, Aptify:

This position reports directly to [the CEO], and is not part of any other Aptify department.[again, emphasis added]

While an association is neither a newspaper nor a tech vendor, the concept of an ombudsman is one worth exploring for associations, whether in practice or at least in philosophy. If an association created an ombudsman position, perhaps the job description would read like this:

As Association XYZ ombudsman, he/she serves as its internal critic and represents members who have concerns or complaints on a wide range of topics including service quality, price, fairness, ethics, and the governance process. In this role, he/she also promotes public understanding of the association, its products and services, and membership more generally. He/she operates under a contract with Associations XYZ that guarantees him/her independence.

You could argue that this role could or should be filled by the association CEO or the board chair. Or perhaps the COO, the director of membership, or even the communications director. But mission and philosophy often fall by the wayside when an executive has a multitude of responsibilities or a vested interest in protecting his or her own job or department.

The ombudsman as a dedicated position, however, rises above a value statement simply by its very existence. An ombudsman embodies transparency because, essentially, transparency is his or her job. As long as the ombudsman position includes the factors I emphasized above—independence and separation from all departments—the act of creating such a position is a strong commitment to truth, honesty, transparency, and member service.

Knowing how afraid of transparency most associations seem to be, I don't see this idea getting a lot of traction, but in a more ideal world associations would be willing to make this kind of commitment to their members.

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February 19, 2010

Spam comments hitting Acronym

First of all, let me apologize to anyone following Acronym comments via an RSS feed of some kind--we've had a bunch of spam comments getting through our filters.

The bad news is, until we get it figured out, we're having to turn on comment moderation, so there will be a delay before your comments are live on the blog. We'll be checking regularly during business hours, so the delay shouldn't be too long. It will be more sporadic, but we'll also check overnight and on weekends. We're sorry for this inconvenience. We hope to have the problem fixed soon and to be able to turn real-time comments back on.

For those of you who do follow a comments feed, it's possible a few more spam comments will get through as we experiment to try to solve the problem. Thank you for bearing with us.

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February 17, 2010

An association (sort of) is born

Here's a little fuel for the fire in the debate around the future of associations and membership organizations.

Some of you might be aware of a very young outfit called Inside the Third Tribe. If you're not, you might be familiar with some of its founders, who are all experts in internet marketing and/or social media.

You should take a few minutes to read the background on Inside the Third Tribe, but here it is in a nutshell: a bunch of bloggers decide they want to share professional expertise, network, and learn from each other, so they start a membership organization that offers educational sessions and webinars, Q&A sessions, and discussion forums. It costs $47/month to join.

Sound familiar? They're not calling it an association, but it's close.

I'm not sure whether the founders are making money from this endeavor (making it a for-profit enterprise) or if they're devoting all the revenue back to generating programs and services (making it more like a nonprofit), but I think this might be a compelling study to follow in the future, for a few reasons:

  • The people. As the story of Inside the Third Tribe explains, this is a network of bloggers who have decided that money is important to them and that information isn't necessarily free. They have actively separated themselves from the widespread philosophy among bloggers who talk about "relationships, community, and value . . . and yet seem to have taken a vow of poverty along the way."
  • The money. This is not a free organization. The fact that the founders, particularly given who they are, have chosen a paid-membership model is evidence that that model still holds weight. It points to the notion that, while the free exchange of ideas is cute for a while, eventually it becomes apparent that staging high-quality education and networking programs costs money and that those who seek them might have to pay for them in one way or another.
  • The timing. The organization is barely a month old. It was born in 2010, not 1910. Not only can we watch it from the start, but we can watch it as it starts among modern societal, technological, and economic conditions. If you've ever wondered whether Association XYZ would survive without its century-old advantage of a wide, firmly established membership base, here's an example to watch. 

Inside the Third Tribe could flame out quickly, or it could last and grow for years. I'm not going to try to make any predictions. And to be fair, it's not the first time social media people have formed an association of sorts (look here, here, and here), and it likely won't be the last. But it is one more example—and a paid-membership example, at that—to keep an eye on.

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February 13, 2010

Winter Olympics Organizers Offer Free Toolkit on Creating Sustainable Events

In anticipation of the next weeks’ of avid TV watching of the Winter Olympics in Canada, I visited the official website in search of potential tools, ideas, and takeaways for association event and meeting planners.

I’m pleased to find that groups involved in sporting events and fundraisers (think golf tournaments, walk- and bike-a-thons, team-building field days, etc.) can download a free Sustainable Sport and Event Toolkit (http://www.aists.org/sset) created by the Vancouver Organising Committee for the 2010 Olympics and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) in partnership with the Switzerland-based International Academy of Sports Science and Technology. Topics covered include community and supply chain involvement, transportation, and venue management.

The nine-piece how-to toolkit—aimed at organizers/sponsors of both large and small events--is one of the many social legacy projects completed or underway by organizers and attendees of this month’s Olympics, which kicked off in grand style February 12.

Organizers have spent seven years developing and executing actions and policies aimed at lightening the event’s wide environmental footprint, ensuring an ethical and inclusive competition, and leaving behind a positive social legacy. You’ll find highlights at http://www.vancouver2010.com/olympic-news/n/news/francophone-performers_272022Kq.html.

However, a summary of 12 of their major initiatives (http://www.vancouver2010.com/more-2010-information/sustainability/discover-sustainability) provides association meeting planners and

others with an interesting checklist of sorts for integrating sustainability into event operations. You’ll also see that many actions are pilot projects that may be repeated in future Olympic Games, if their impact is deemed successful.

For instance, it’s the first time a total carbon footprint has been estimated and a plan created to diminish and offset the anticipated massive emissions load. It’s also apparently the first time a comprehensive Sustainability Management and Reporting System (SMRS) has been put in place that identifies specific goals and actions, and reports which are being tracked and measured. LEED standards have been integrated into the design of facilities and venues, and transparency about sustainability goals is boosted via a detailed web site with videos, fact sheets, personal online calculators, and other tools open to the public.

Another pilot is a revised “ethical sourcing” program called Buy Smart and publication of an annual sustainability report (http://www.vancouver2010.com/more-2010-information/sustainability/reports-and-resources/sustainability-report) since the Vancouver was chosen as Olympics host. Organizers also launched a new program called “Vancouver 2010 Sustainability Stars” to share news of sustainability initiatives by Olympics sponsors associations such as the Canadian Business Council (if you’re in Washington, DC, viewing area, you’ve likely been seeing the council’s targeted ads that celebrate business partnerships between the U.S. and Canada).

The organizers’ efforts have faced some skepticism (http://www.newsweek.com/id/233490), but it’s still early in the Games, so I’m reserving judgment. Meanwhile, you can learn more how-to stuff at www.sustainable-sport.org.

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February 12, 2010

Engagement tied to executive compensation

I generally loathe reality television, so I didn't watch "Undercover Boss" on CBS this past Sunday, but this week Steve Tobak at BNET's "The Corner Office" blog interviewed Larry O'Donnell, COO of Waste Management, who was the show's first subject.

The interview is generally interesting, but one comment caught my eye. O'Donnell says he was interested in participating in the show as a way to increase employee engagement at the company, which has 45,000 employees. He's a firm believer in employee engagement at all levels, and the company measures it regularly. In fact, he says:

"Not only is it a metric, it's actually in management's bonuses. Engagement is critical, and this is a whole new way to go about it." [emphasis added]

How do you like that? Tying employee engagement to compensation. Associations talk a lot about engagement, but are any of them tying it to staff compensation? If not, I think they could:

  • Member engagement. If you've figured out a reasonable way to measure member engagement over time (volunteer applications, online discussion activity, knowledge contributions, net promoter score, however you want to track it), you can pin these numbers to bonuses for volunteer or membership directors and staff.
  • Employee engagement. This might be even more abstract an intangible, but if you can gauge the mood of your staff in regard to engagment or loyalty over time, you can tie it to bonuses or compensation for the CEO, COO, or other senior staff. Waste Management does a yearly employee survey to measure employee engagement.

I've only been thinking about this as long as it's taken me to type up this post, so this is a fairly rough idea, but I wanted to make sure I passed it along, because I think it's worth considering. Engagement is a sign of a lot of other good practices, so it would be interesting to see it incentivized for staff and management at associations. And incentivizing anything with money works in two ways: it motivates people more directly (say what you will, but money talks), and it also shows your staff and membership that you're serious about engagement if you're willing put money at stake for it.

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February 11, 2010

The Perception of Perfection, and Why It Sucks

I’ve been thinking a lot about marketing lately, and how it seems to be changing, some say due to the emergence of social media. And I constantly see and hear comments about how things are more "real" in social media--and I wonder why we all strayed so far from being real in the first place!

I think over the last few decades, corporations, followed by associations, seem to have decided that they must appear perfect in the eyes of their customers or potential clients. This makes sense in a competitive world. But man it’s a pain, takes a ton of time, and might be counter-productive in many ways, including:

1) Customer expectations: If we pretend that we’re perfect, then we are giving our customers permission to expect more of us than is possible with the time, resources, and people available to us.

2) Handling mistakes: When we drive our employees to be perfect, we focus more on their mistakes, and how embarrassing they are to us as managers or as an association, instead of seeing what a huge opportunity for growth and real connection they can be.

3) Time: It takes a ton of time to be perfect! I realize that having mistakes in printed materials, for example, is not good; but I’ve witnessed many times companies throwing complete hissy fits when there is one spelling error; sure you printed 5000 brochures and the word ‘product’ is spelled wrong, but if your value proposition is weak enough to be completely destroyed by a spelling error, you need to go back to the drawing board!

4) Sales: God, if I go to one more trade show, and talk to someone in a booth who acts like they are trying to sell me a car, I will pull my hair out. Selling is about relating to people, not acting like someone you aren’t. People can sniff a fake from 100 miles away, and they know a fake smile from a real one.

I’m not advocating that we just shoot from the hip all the time, or that high expectations aren’t a necessity ... but let’s face it, many audiences now expect perfection, and we are hamsters on the wheel trying to attain it. I’m just saying, take it in stride, and use all of the resources available to you, including mistakes, bad decisions, fears, and flaws, to illustrate what you really represent in your work each day.

So to me, this is a real chance to get real. I love it when I make mistakes. I have many flaws. I point them out to members and prospects, and make fun of myself ... which is much more human than being perfect!

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February 8, 2010

Quick clicks: Snowy day edition

This is a bit of a catch-up edition of Quick Clicks, so it's a little longer than usual. But if you're in the DC area (or elsewhere) and snowed in, what better time to catch up on your reading?

First, I'd like to welcome to several new association blogs:

- Aaron Wolowiec, a former Acronym blogger, has launched his own blog at AaronWolowiec.com. An early standout post: Exposing the silo effect.

- Karen Tucker Thomas recently began the CEO Solutions blog. Early standout: Board orientation or board development.

- Management Solutions Plus brings us The Common Thread blog, featuring a number of staff, including well-known association blogger Jamie Notter. Early standout: Enquiring minds want to know how and why, by Angela Pike.

- If you follow any of the ASAE & The Center listservers, you're surely familiar with Vinay Kumar; he now has a blog of his own, too. Early standout: The Ferrari, the race, the pit-stop.

- If you have an interest in legal issues related to associations, check out Mark Alcon's new Association Law Blog. An early standout post: top 10 signs of a dysfunctional board.

Several existing blogs and bloggers are putting together interesting new series:

- The Vanguard Technology blog has begun a new "5 Questions" series, where they'll be asking five questions of an association professional doing innovative things with technology. This first interview (presented primarily in podcast form) focuses on why email marketing matters more than ever.

- DelCor has begun a weekly "Social Media Sweet Spot" show on Ustream, hosted by KiKi L'Italien.

- The SocialFish blog is hosting a series of interviews with association social media managers.

Many other association bloggers have had interesting things to say in recent weeks:

- Maddie Grant shared a thought-provoking post from Bruce Butterfield on lessons associations can learn from the struggles of the newspaper industry. Kevin Holland responded with his thoughts on what is missing from that comparison. Both posts inspired very interesting comment discussions.

- Elsewhere, Kevin Holland had a great discussion with Matt Baehr about aggregation as a value proposition for associations.

- Shelly Alcorn shares her take on the Supreme Court's ruling in the Citizens United case.

- Joe Gerstandt has a thoughtful post on opportunities he sees for local SHRM chapters to advance the cause of diversity and inclusion. I think his ideas could be applicable to a lot of other associations, too.

- Jeff Hurt shares a meeting planner's perspective on conference housing and attrition.

- Jeff De Cagna shares his five key words for 2010.

- Ellen Behrens argues that many of our current work practices are unhealthy for both ourselves and our organizations.

- Judith Lindenau shares her "A list" advice for association membership recruitment and retention.

- Maggie McGary is starting a list of association and nonprofit community managers.

- Eric Lanke at the Hourglass Blog shares a first draft of principles of innovation for the association community.

- Sue Pelletier responds to one possible model for the future of work and speculates on how associations might fit in.

- Tony Rossell has a simple method you can use to calculate where your membership numbers are headed.

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February 5, 2010

Calling all association bloggers: Tech Conference coverage

Just like at the annual meeting in Toronto, you can find all the action happening at ASAE & The Center's 2010 Technology Conference (next week! Feb. 10-12) on the conference Hub (that's http://tech10.org or http://tech10.org/m for your mobile device). It will pull through photo, video, Acronym posts, and, yes, lots of Twitter posts -- and it will be easy to tag Tweets to specific education sessions.

Any people in the association blogging community who will be there and blogging about the conference, we'd love to pull your posts through to the Hub as well. We'll need you to set up an RSS feed that is specific to your posts about the Technology Conference. Send the feed to webteamATasaecenter.org and we'll pull it through. (If you need help setting up a feed specific to the conference, contact me at sbriscoeATasaecenter.org.) Oh and all you bloggers and Twitterers: be sure to sign up on our conference Blog Roll and Twitter Roll so others know to follow you.

Also, I wanted to let you know that our PR Manager Jakub Konysz will be available to you before each general session if you have questions about this year's attendance, want access to someone on ASAE & The Center's staff, or would just like to chat about the organization. You can email him at jkonyszATasaecenter.org or reach out to him on Twitter: jkonysz.

As far as what we'll be doing here on Acronym at the conference, Joe, Lisa, and I will be sharing our thoughts on the conference activities we attend. We'll also do a photo roundup and take a look at some of the interesting Tweets and blog posts from around the association community.

If you're going to the conference, maybe we can meet at the Tweetups on Thursday or Friday. If you can't make it this year -- check into the Hub and back here on Acronym to get a flavor of the happenings.


February 4, 2010

Free for a day

Some of you may have seen that access to the Wall Street Journal online—which normally requires a paid subscription—was free yesterday. At right, see a screenshot I grabbed yesterday.

The free day was subsidized by a sponsorship from Acura, which of course got a nice big banner ad on the front page and more ads elsewhere throughout the site.

I thought this was worth pointing to on the heels of the recent discussion that's been going on here and elsewhere about micropricing and, more broadly, pricing models in general for associations.

This "free for a day" sponsorship is an idea that I could see associations emulating in their products and services, whether it be online content, meetings, books, education, or anything else they normally charge for or keep behind the members-only wall.

Two important thoughts to add about it:

  • "Free for a day" (or "week" or "month" or whatever) has a certain buzz-creating ability that "sponsored by" or "brought to you by" just doesn't have. It's worth noting I found out about the WSJ promo yesterday via friends/colleagues on Twitter.
  • You can't offer something free for a day if you don't ever charge for it at all.

Curious if any associations have tried this specific type of promo and, if so, how it went. Let us know in the comments.

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February 3, 2010

Score Some Success with Super Bowl Creativity

Mind if I change the subject a sec? I want to talk sports a minute—Super Bowl football, specifically. Some members do, too. In fact, the Super Bowl can be a fun way to huddle with members, score some free press, and tackle a few tough social problems simultaneously.

Here’s what I’ve seen some of your colleagues doing pre-kick-off this weekend to creatively highlight their organizations. Maybe there’s still time to throw together a special play of your own…. Feel free to post at the bottom.

Whoa, despite a $3.2-million price tag for 30 seconds of ad time and tons of buzz about the hilarious eTrade babies, the American Heart Association and King Pharmaceuticals are getting early kudos for running their always-great ad about fighting heart disease. This year’s goal: Drive people to AHA’s virtual tool for assessing high blood pressure risk. Watch it at http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=c164abc595. It’s funny, too.

Instead of a fancy ad spot, the American Urological Association (AUA) Foundation and the NFL have partnered to use the Super Bowl as a chance to encourage men over age 40 to "Know Your Stats about Prostate Cancer," the second leading cause of cancer death for men in America. The AUA wants guys to visit its www.knowyourstats.org site to read new guidelines

about prostate cancer screening and find free or inexpensive screening sites. NFL superstar Mike Haynes serves as leading spokesperson, since he was diagnosed early with the disease during an AUA Foundation screening. The organization also is giving free screenings today at a local hotel for media and players, and will debut a public service announcement on a message board in the Super Bowl stadium. The partnership launched in 2007 when the NFL Player Care Foundation started offering screenings to players and their families.

Lots of chatter is happening around whether and how Super Bowl advertisers will be integrating TV ads with mobile, Internet, and traditional print/air advertising. The National Football Players Association is getting laurels from media watchers for soon distributing up-close-and-personal videos of NFL players to fans' mobile phones. The outreach is being supported via materials supplied to specific sports web sites and social media outlets, as well as outdoor ads at Miami International Airport. If you want to see how it works, text “NFLPA” to 21534 for an exclusive video featuring Brandon Jacobs, Matt Hasselbeck, A.J. Hawk, and Darren Sharper. Anyone who gives their mailing address also gets a free gift from the association! The association isn’t ignoring face time, either; it sent a cadre of NFL players to visit Miami-area classrooms of selected students this week to encourage youngsters to stay in school and do well.

And here’s my personal fan favorite: the 8th annual Super Bowl Smack Down by the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Marketing Association. A panel of marketing experts argue the plays as they critique those popular ads and debate the top 10 ads named by Pavone Advertising. Wouldn’t you love to see that webcast live?

Meanwhile, in the must-have munchies department, the National Pasta Association has posted its Super Bowl Manicotti Enchiladas and Super Low-Fat Tomato Sauce recipes at http://www.ilovepasta.org/recipes/Manicotti_Enchiladas.html and http://www.ilovepasta.org/recipes/Low-Fat_Tomato_Sauce.html. And the National Restaurant Association is using the game as a chance to remind members that Sunday is one way to drive in business; watch the real-time poll as its members check in on whether they hold Super Bowl promotions: http://www.smartbrief.com/news/NRA/poll_result.jsp?pollName=31822B4B-A57C-49CB-808D-048ACB002147&issueid=6540BF97-D3A9-4CF9-952C-DBD9BF12B4FB. Looked like a lot of high-fives from what I saw.

And finally, unless you want yourself teamed with a fighter jet, the National Business Aviation Association and the Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association are warning member pilots about tightened flight restrictions around the Super Bowl air space.

Game on!

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February 2, 2010

Insiders vs. outsiders

An age-old question: is it better to hire a new CEO from inside an organization or from outside?

Today's Harvard Business Review Daily Stat points to a study that suggests that a CEO hired from within an organization is a less risky choice than one hired from the outside. The study, by Yan Zhang of Rice University and Nandini Rajagopalan of the University of Southern California, says "relative to outside CEOs, inside CEOs will tend to have a more 'even' performance across various levels of strategic change."

The exact details of the study are more nuanced, of course, and they suggest that an outside CEO's affect on an organization can be positive at low levels of change. It also suggests that the advantage of hiring an inside CEO becomes more apparent over the long term, after the first two to three years. Before then, the performance of both inside and outside CEOs is comparable.

Associations face this CEO question with an extra wrinkle: is it better to hire an experienced association executive or someone from the industry that the association represents (e.g. a banker as CEO of a bankers association)?

Nonprofit or for-profit, the most basic question is this: does good management trump experience in an industry or organization, or vice versa?

I don't have the management experience to answer that question, though I'd lean a bit in favor of inside experience. The answer may also depend on exactly how much change you're looking for in a new leader, too.

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February 1, 2010

Governance in 2030

January may be over, but Governance Month continues for another week on Acronym. (We are not bound by your standard calendar here!)

Our next guest post comes from David Kushner, CAE, of the Kushner Companies. David has extensive experience as an association executive, consultant, and board member, and he agreed to share his thoughts on what association governance might look like in 20 years, in the spirit of the January Associations Now cover story, "Visions for the Future of Associations."

Here's what David had to say:

The governing boards of associations in 2030 will not look like the boards of today. As we sort through all the changes we are facing in associations and philanthropic organizations today, including social media, enhanced access to information and knowledge through the Internet, reduced willingness to travel for meetings, time pressures from work and family commitments, and changing perceptions of governance, there will continue to be a series of shifts in our not-for-profit organizations.

Today, when we conduct new board member orientation sessions, we advise participants to exercise great care when using electronic media for governance communications. We all know of regrettable instances when accidental distribution of sensitive information result in hurt feelings, political crises, or worse, legal problems.

Now shift your thinking forward, factoring in the incredible level of acceptance of these means of communications, and ask yourself: How will your association deal with the even more rapid and constant levels of interaction that are coming? How will governing boards ensure the participation of all board members when using new forms of communications? How will they maintain confidentiality of electronic discussions? How can they build processes for deliberation on issues and policies that will avoid legal challenges to decisions made in a world of universal access to information?

I propose that the business of governance will no longer be episodic. Rather, there will be a constant stream of both text and visual interaction among leaders that could challenge the abilities of association staff to manage the organization’s messages and to deal with unexpected problems as they surface. The pace of business that we find so challenging today will seem as slow as the fax machines we used just a few short years ago.

We will not be required to physically travel to a site for most board meeting to take place. Our organizations will be required to modify policies, procedures, and expectations for how to handle governance meetings. The important interactions that result from the present model of face-to-face meetings are rapidly changing, and few groups have considered how they will resolve the varied challenges that are sure to result. As board members spend less time together physically, will they actually have more net interaction electronically?

I expect service on governing boards will be easier to perform, be less costly for members, and allow for more nimble action on issues. This will, however, require us to plan now for a process of smooth transition to new governance models that embrace change.

What do you see as the critical governance issues associations and foundations will face over the next several years and how should they begin the process of considering fundamental governance changes?

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