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June 29, 2011

Losing: An attitude adjustment

For many years, we've told ourselves that it's ok to fail, that we have to fail sometimes or we're not really trying anything worth trying. (While most people give the notion lipservice, whether or not we actually believe that as a part of the Western business canon is another matter--I'm not particularly convinced.)

I want to spark another idea: it has to be ok to lose. Losing is not a personal insult; it doesn't make you less of a person. I think we as a society have lost our grip on this.

Reaching back to early athletics--when they start keeping score, at least--we're taught what sportsmanship is. But if you look around you wouldn't know it. In politics if you win, you have a mandate to bully, and if you lose you have to find a scapegoat to blame. In our organizations, when our boss decides to go a direction we argued against, we may not practice sabotage, but we start plotting the "I told you so" speech. A group of members or volunteers that feels jilted has a kneejerk reaction to start a new organization.

It's time to remember what sportsmanship is. I always thought of it like this: Winning is important. Try like hell to win. If you do that, then you can be at peace with the outcome, because you've taken pride in yourself and you've worked to your ability. The stakes of life are different. As much as it may seem otherwise, politics isn't a game, and neither are our organizations. But we'll be much better off if we inject sportsmanship into how we conduct ourselves in those arenas.

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June 28, 2011

Challenges for a first-time CEO

Next up in our series of questions on lessons to be shared at the 2011 ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo is one for Rosa Aronson, Ph.D., CAE, executive director of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. Aronson will lead an Annual Meeting Learning Lab titled "Navigate a Successful Transition from Staff to CEO."

Of all the new responsibilities you had to learn and take on as a first-time association CEO, what was the most challenging, and why?

Aronson: Perhaps the most challenging responsibility for me as a first time CEO was the responsibility of making sound business decisions that I knew would affect personnel, such as determining salary increases, terminating certain benefits, or redeploying staff. It is fairly easy to balance a budget if you just look at numbers. But doing so while providing a positive work environment and preserving the well being of your staff (your most precious resource, after all) can keep you awake at night.

Thanks, Rosa. Readers, please share your thoughts: If you're an association CEO, what was most difficult for you when you first started at that level? Or, if you're an aspiring executive, what seems most intimidating?

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June 27, 2011

Report highlights growing pains of association e-learning

ASAE's past economic surveys have shown that the difficulties for in-person meetings and educational programs in the past few years have led to high hopes for online education to fill the gap. A new report from association learning consultancy Tagoras shows that a high percentage of associations are indeed investing in technology-enabled learning, but they report mixed results in two key categories: overall usage and revenue production.

Among respondents to the Association Learning + Technology 2011: State of the Sector survey, slightly more said they were somewhat or very dissatisfied with course enrollment and revenue generation than those who said they were somewhat or very satisfied.

Usage and Revenue Satisfaction Chart
Source: Association Learning + Technology 2011: State of the Sector. Click to enlarge.
Images republished with permission.

The good news is that 63.5 percent of the survey respondents said they rate their associations' overall use of e-learning as "somewhat successful," and 15 percent call it "very successful." Authors Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele offer some insight into the practices that are common among that 15 percent:

"We found that organizations that consider themselves to be very successful were significantly more likely than average to do the following:

  • View revenue generation as a key benefit.
  • Make use of professional instructional design.
  • Have a formal, documented e-learning strategy.
  • Have a formal, documented product development process.
  • Embrace more interactive forms of e-learning (e.g., facilitated and blended offerings, use of discussion boards, games, and simulations)."

As Cobb and Steele put it, "E-learning has arrived in the association sector but remains far from mature." Surely complicating that maturation process is that the growth in options for learning technology has coincided with difficult financial times for the associations that are hopeful about their potential.

The practices of the ones that are making it work, though, aren't revolutionary, but surprisingly few are deploying those practices: "[R]elatively few organizations with active e-learning programs have developed a formal [e-learning] strategy (22.0 percent) [or] created a product development process (22.9 percent)," according to the report.

I'm curious if this lack of thorough development for e-learning strategy and process is the standard byproduct of the overworked and underresourced association or if the relative youth of e-learning as a discipline makes plotting out a strategy more difficult.

Interested to hear your thoughts. And keep an eye on the Tagoras blog, where Cobb says he plans to explore the report in more detail in coming weeks.

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June 24, 2011

Quick clicks: New voices edition

Happy Friday, everyone. Another collection of must-read association links from the past week. The first three include an association-executive guest blogger, an association professional who just jumped into blogging, and a blog on volunteerism that is making (I believe) its first appearance in quick clicks. Enjoy.

Telecommuting. Marcia Bartol is a work-at-home association executive for the Greater Bangor Association of Realtors. In a guest post for Cindy Butts, CAE, on the AE on the Verge blog, Bartol shares the pros and cons of the work-from-home arrangement for both the employee and the association.

Putting data to use. Thomas Oravsky offers three ways practices used by Netflix could be adopted and adapted for use in associations. All three relate to having a healthy command of member data.

Volunteer expenses. A U.S. Tax Court ruled last week that a volunteer for a nonprofit animal shelter could deduct expenses related to fostering stray cats in her home. The Energize Inc. blog says the ruling "has far-reaching implications for every sort of American volunteer."

Social media hiring. How the heck to you staff a function that didn't even exist just five years ago? Maddie Grant, CAE, at SocialFish shares a thorough primer on how to structure a social-media manager position, including at what level to place it and skills to look for.

Retention. Jeffrey Cufaude relates using a Groupon at a local restaurant to being a first-time member or customer at an association, and he explores ways an organization can turn a one-time customer into a long-time member. "Getting people to try you out is great; getting them to come back is better," he says.

Past leaders. David Patt, CAE, reminds associations to remember their past presidents and other former leaders and recognize them at events. "It keeps them connected to the association, helps maintain the loyalty of long-time members … , and promotes the strength, longevity, and potency of the group," he says.

The member perspective. Eric Lanke, CAE, shares an example of a "customer journey map" and wonders why associations don't seek out and explore member perspectives more often.

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June 23, 2011

How do you make sure a failure only happens once?

Today we continue with our sporadic series of posts looking toward the 2011 ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo. As I mentioned in my post two weeks ago, we'll ask a single question in each one.

Below, I've posed a question for Kerry Stackpole, IOM, FASAE, CAE, president of Printing & Graphics Association MidAtlantic, who will lead an Annual Meeting Learning Lab titled "Failing Better."

What's one method association executives can use to manage failure so that one-time failures don't become repeat problems?

Stackpole: Socrates observed "the unexamined life is not worth living." The same could be said of failure. When something doesn't work, there's enormous temptation to brush aside or hide the failure. That's a mistake. Association executives and their staff benefit enormously by making time for reflection. This isn't finger pointing or blaming, but rather it's time for thoughtful analysis. Asking simple reflective questions on the heels of any failure will strengthen the barrier against repeat problems. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What did you do that you liked?
  • What would you do differently were there a next time?
  • What would you change?
  • What can I do to help next time?

Thanks, Kerry. Readers, please share your thoughts on this question in the comments below.

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June 21, 2011

Doom, gloom, and a dash of hope

Jeff Rubin is a man with a message. For 20 years he was chief economist and managing director for CIBC World Markets. He quit that job, though, to put full-time effort into spreading his message. And his message is somber, downright gloomy even. His message is that triple-digit oil prices are here to stay, and that for at least a generation we will have no viable alternative power options.

And Rubin delivers this message with a very cheery disposition. It's okay, his comments and mannerisms seem to radiate out while he talks, because we'll adapt. Yes, he says, gasoline will be $8 a gallon, but we'll adapt: we'll drive less in less powerful cars. We'll do so, he says cheerily, because we'll have no choice. Get ready to see more bicycles on our streets.

Another important part of his message: all that stuff we used to make but no longer make because it's cheaper to have it made in Asia and shipped back... it will no longer be cheaper to make the stuff there because it will cost too much to ship it back. Get ready manufacturing, there's going to be a new North American industrial boon. Human capital in manufacturing may not be as pricey as it had gotten before we started shifting manufacturing overseas, but it will be a lot more expensive here than there, meaning all those manufactured things we love will have significantly higher price tags. That's ok, Rubin says, we'll make do with less stuff, and like our parents (or grandparents for a lot of readers), we'll fix the things that break rather than throw them out and buy new.

One more thought to really pile on the gloom, because why not? Rubin is happy to share it--and here's a bone for all those who consider China the boogey man. There's a reason China has chosen to purchase so much U.S. debt. As Rubin says, "it's not out of benevolence." They are betting that in any foreseeable future the U.S. economy will still be the dominant economy. The financing of our debt acts as an oil insurance policy. You see, China knows that triple-digit oil is the single greatest threat to its continued economic rise. What Rubin predicts is that at some point in the future, China will allow its currency to float instead of being artificially pegged to the dollar. At nearly the same time, they will begin selling the U.S. Treasuries they own. The result will be a Chinese yuan that increases in value rapidly against the dollar, which will itself decrease in value. And this matters because... the price of oil on international markets is in U.S. dollars. The effect will be even bigger spikes in oil prices, and China will get a steep discount with the increased buying power of its yuan.

At the risk of being a commercial for an ASAE product, I'm going to say this is why I love the Invitational Forum on Leadership & Management, where Rubin spoke. What does any of this have to do with association management? Other than a few affected industries, not much directly. Indirectly? Everything.

Again, to quote Rubin: "There's not an airline operating today that's profitable with $100 oil." You know how you feel when you find a good airfare, say New York to Chicago for $150? What's it going to mean for your conferences, events, and even board or other volunteer group meetings that require travel when you're positively giddy at finding New York to Chicago for $650?

Another example: produce markets and supermarkets are byproducts of the industrial revolution. Still it was only 20 or 30 years ago that you started seeing fruit from halfway around the world showing up in February. Would you pay $10 for a single Chilean orange? Me neither, so we'll likely revert to the way it used to be just a generation ago: your fresh produce is going to mirror your local seasons. Not only did the price tag for getting there get ugly, the cost to feed meeting goers spikes, too. And as a special kick in the teeth, you'll have fewer options for the additional money.

Beyond meetings and capital T travel, it will affect how associations are staffed. Will the trend be more remote work or locating in high population density areas? (Probably both.)

And of course, there is how such changes will affect your members in their industries and professions.

According to Rubin we're facing a new economic reality. It's easy to see the logic. Supply is finite, and production is either topping off, or has already topped off. Demand is also increasing rapidly, and alternatives are expensive or need years of development. What can you do with this information? Admittedly, probably not much right now or in the planning for next year even. What can you do is be wary, keep an eye out, and spend some of whatever thinking time you have thinking about what triple-digit oil will mean for your association.

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June 20, 2011

Quick Clicks: The tardy edition

I had my selections for last week's Quick Clicks made, and then I just ran out of week. I hope you'll still consider taking a look at these posts - each of them mademe think in some way.

Speaking of thinking, I'm going to start with Jamie Notter's interesting post about adult brain development. If part of your mission is to provide knowledge or information to your members, then the research Notter is talking about matters. Oh, and he's right, it's good to think about it in terms of your staff, too.

Innovation has become a hot-button word at ASAE, and with many associations, with an emphasis on creating an innovation culture. SmartBlog Insights gives a starting point.

Love the concept that Jeff Hurt pointed to: the HIPPO problem (highest individually paid person's opinion). I may disagree a bit with an implication in the post (or maybe just my inference?), but it's worth read, as is David Patt's response.

Jumping into the tips side of posts from last week, a lot of what Stephanie Vance wrote in "Tips from Congressional Staff" may be old hat to old public affairs pros, but I really like her third tip: "Don't be scared to talk about what the opposition is doing."

I love it when someone reaches back to Marcus Buckingham (Want to build great managers? Have them read and/or develop a training program around First Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths.) like Allan Liff does in his post on strengthening the chapter/headquarter relationship.

Jumping out of the association-specific sector, here's a post on how the iPad has become a tool for top-level executives.

And two about Facebook: First, I think it's an interesting idea and probably a trend worth following to gauge success or failure or popularity by what happens on Facebook. This post describes how Mitt Romney did in the Republican Presidential Debate.

And finally, I just find it fascinating that Iceland is rewriting its constitution and is soliciting ideas and feedback via Facebook and other social venues.

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June 15, 2011

What good is governance without influencers?

I've been mulling over the topic of "influence" for a couple weeks now, ever since I read Maggie McGary's blog post, "Influence in the Context of Associations," on May 31.

She raises a point that traditional influencers in associations—board members and other volunteer leaders—are being supplanted by thought leaders whose influence is sown in the digital realm:

"[A]s time goes by and more of your members begin interacting in the online community, a new group of influencers will grow out of those interactions. Meanwhile, traditional influencers—board and committee members—will become less visible and, therefore, less influential and important, at least to members. Will you know when this change occurs, or will you be stuck in thinking the wrong people matter the most?"

I agree with her on this point. The rise of online influencers started years ago, and they're here to stay. Maggie and I traded some thoughts in the comments, but I want to take her "are you missing the revolution" question and discuss it further, because I think it challenges the association governance model itself.

From a basic perspective, association governance is a structure through which a large community organizes its members' beliefs and goals and channels them into action. In the past, this structure created influence and bestowed it upon those within it (volunteer leaders) just by virtue of the association's position as the sole arbiter of networking, advocacy, and knowledge exchange within the industry. There was simply no other game in town.

But, increasingly, members can now share their beliefs and goals—and can influence and be influenced—without the formal structure. So where does that leave governance?

I see three options, but each one raises more questions:

  • Keep the traditional system, but bring new outside influencers into the system (i.e., nominate your online influencers to be real-life board members). Sounds good, but do these people want to participate in that role? Or, if they do, will they lose what influence they had?
  • Ditch the governance system. Can an association without a governance system still even be called an association? Relying on leaders and influencers to arise "organically" seems to me like a Wild-West scenario. I just don't see how collective action on a large scale can occur without some sort of organizational system emerging.
  • Develop a hybrid. Hybrid is a nice word, but I have no idea what this would look like. In some way, it would mean creating better connections between traditional leaders and outside influencers.

In any case, the dilemma Maggie highlights is a significant challenge for effective governance. If governance is supposed to be the method for gathering an industry's collective goals and channeling them into action, it's going to have to evolve the capacity for capturing influence that's now arising in a greater variety of places.

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June 13, 2011

Are free offerings worth anything?

It was pretty clear from his session at ASAE's Invitational Forum on Leadership & Management, that Rafi Mohammed is not a fan of the price of "free." I'd say hostile even. His point: why do something that you think has such little value that you wouldn't charge anything for it?

I disagree with him on this one. I think there is value in things other than money. When someone is willing to pay attention to your organization when faced with so many other things that are screaming for their attention it means something. When someone interacts with your organization, that has real value, whether they've paid you for that privilege or not. In many cases, adding an extra barrier--such as requiring a monetary exchange--between you and who you want to attract, will limit the success you're able to achieve.

Here was the issue debated at the forum, and I'd love any readers' takes. One association executive talked about sending a couple of his staff to a conference for professional development. The staff came back raving about the experience, and the executive said he was excited by the feedback. And then the conference organizer followed up with a couple of free webinars that extended the learning and sharing from the conference. It probably wasn't necessary, but that was the deal cincher -- the association would be patronizing that conference in the future.

Mohammed thinks the conference organizer was leaving money on the table. They could have either offered a premium for the conference plus webinars or charged for the webinars themselves. He says the webinars did not actually add value to the conference because in all likelihood, they had already made the sale for the next conference -- that is, they're not getting anything additional by providing the webinars. Participants who commented, in general disagreed, saying the free webinars solidified the future sale, and could have been the deciding, impactful idea that spurred other, less raving, attendees to come back.

Would love others thoughts on the value of offering free products/services in general, and especially where you come down on the postconference webinar example.

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June 10, 2011

Decisions: The cheapo or luxury bus line?

Rafi Mohammed wrote the book on pricing--literally, The Art of Pricing. His two main points are to price in terms of value to the customer and to give options for different value levels. As he spoke yesterday, he used the example of the city-to-city bus lines that run along the East Coast. For a little less than a thousand bucks, you get luxury seats, a full bar, and all the bells and whistles. For $25 or so, you can go from DC to New York City in a crowded, no frills ride that ranks in the bottom five percent of mass transportation safety.

Mohammed's point was that the bus line pricing options are not good or bad, they're priced for the value they provide. Here's where my mind wanders to one of my favorite topics: focus. I've talked about it plenty on Acronym, here's an example, and another. A lot of associations try to be all over the spectrum. In effect, they try to be the cheapo line and the luxury line. An organization trying to be both is just asking for disaster. This might fly in the face of Mohammed's options idea, but I don't think that's exactly what he had in mind. Think more like a premium than an option; a luxury service may differentiate itself (and Mohammed would add charge me) to pick you up at our door rather than a centralized location. To me there's an important nexus of pricing and focus: know your niche, and price and serve accordingly, no apologies for what you're not.

Another quick thought, most organizations aren't on the luxury side or the cheapo side. We're stuck in the messy middle. I think a good thought exercise for groups would be to explore the bus line question: if we aspired to be the cheapo line, that's where we can do the most good and grow the largest business, what would the organization look like? Now contrast that with the opposite: What would be different about your organization if your only focus was luxury and being the primo offering in the market.

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June 9, 2011

Why?

One of the most infuriating and enlightening one-word question that comes up at your organization's meetings: Why?

Jennifer Riel is the Associate Director at the University of Toronto's Desautels Centre and was a key researcher developing the ideas that lead to the book, Opposable Mind by Roger Martin. Her presentation this morning at ASAE's Invitational Forum on Leadership & Management in Toronto is the inspiration for this post. The comment that popped the idea was this: "If you have a fundamental assumption, question it."

Jennifer RIel Leads Discussion.jpg

It's a nice sound bite, one of many. And when I look at some of the others I thought were meaningful, they, too circle back to this simple little question: "Why?" Such as these:

"Surrounding ourselves with people not like us will help us make better decisions."

"The best decision makers add complexity early on in process."

"Someone who disagrees with you is a gift."

The question "Why?" is infuriating because we have a set course of action in mind. It's infuriating because it challenges us, our ideas, our authority, etc. It gets in the way and stalls things.

It's enlightening because it forces us to think about the reasons we have the assumptions we have. It opens doors to new thoughts and ideas. It gets in the way and helps us make things better.

So when somebody asks the question, you do have a choice of how to react, and likely as not, it's ingrained in your organization's culture. And if no one questions why, that too is likely part of your culture.

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Quick clicks: June 9, 2011

Defining roles. Confused about who's in charge of what at your association? Define activities as either "mission driven" or "business operations" and divide duties between volunteers and staff accordingly, writes Virgil Carter at the Plexus Consulting Group blog.

Relevance. Innovate all you want, but it won't matter if you're not relevant, says Ellen Behrens at the aLearning Blog.

Passion versus skill. Is passion for your association's cause a relevant qualification for a job applicant? David Patt, CAE, thinks not: "A skilled professional should be able to fulfill … duties for any organization," he writes. Do you agree?

QR codes are neat, and they're even neater when an association uses them to help conference attendees download handouts, read speaker bios, and more, like Association Media & Publishing did at its annual meeting last week. (via Maddie Grant, CAE, at SocialFish)

In-person meetings. Ever met a person in a hotel-lobby poker game and then later asked that person to speak at a conference? Robert Rosenthal at the Engaging Volunteers blog has, and that's the power of "off book" interactions (aka "hallway conversations") that can only take place at face-to-face events.

Employee satisfaction correlates to customer satisfaction, which correlates to profitability. Perhaps not surprising, but a good reminder about the value of employee morale. (via Jason Hensel at the PlusPoint blog)

Blogging. Do your association have a blog? Do you have members who are experts in their profession? Here's four ways to put the two together, from the experts at Copyblogger.

Technology. You might have heard some buzz about iCloud, iOS 5, and other announcements from Apple this week. Joshua Paul at the Socious Member Engagement Blog shares his thoughts on what the new developments mean for associations and what they can learn from Apple's corporate style.

Business models. Taking a cue from my fellow blogger Scott, I must point out Seth Godin's latest post about how the gap between free and paid is growing ever wider (and the pursuant business model growing ever more challenging). It's one of the longest blog posts I've ever seen Godin write (which is still short, by some measures), but it's worth a read.

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June 7, 2011

Does anything trump the economy?

For those of you not already counting down, the 2011 ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo in St. Louis is 60 days away. That means it's the time of year when we start to look ahead to the topics, ideas, and discussions that will be shared at the meeting and examine them here on Acronym.

What better place to start off than the opening general session? This year, the Sunday morning keynote will feature Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough of MSNBCs Morning Joe, who will "dissect the events that are transforming our world."

I'm looking forward to their perspectives, as I enjoyed the global trends expertise shared by Fareed Zakaria at the 2009 Annual Meeting. It's good for association leaders to get some insight on how major political, societal, and economic trends are affecting their work.

This brings me to a big question, though:

Even with a long list of major national and global trends shaping our present and future, does anything but the current state of the economy come close to the top of the list of concerns for an association executive?

Of course, it would be foolish to simply ignore macro trends and events—the rise of the BRIC nations, conflicts in the Middle East, and changing demographics in the United States being just a few examples—but I'd think an association struggling to get attendees for a conference because its members are cutting expenses, for instance, would be more concerned about, well, finding ways to drive attendance at its conference.

So I'll be curious to hear what association execs at Annual say are the most pressing trends facing their organizations and how many of those are related to the economy. For now, I'm curious for your thoughts on the question above. Does anything trump the economy on your list of challenges? Either way, what other macro trends are the most pressing for your association when its leaders discuss strategy?

As August approaches, we'll continue with this format here on Acronym, focusing on important questions related to topics to be discussed at Annual. Sometimes we'll reach out to speakers and presenters to offer their answers, and other times we'll just keep questions open-ended. In any case, your thoughts are welcomed.

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June 6, 2011

There are no ribbons in cyberspace

Conventions are so easy. Everyone is wearing a badge. You get their name and where they're from. And there are usually ribbons that tell you whether they are a member or non-member, a practitioner within the profession or an industry partner who supplies them, and what credentials they've earned.

But there is no one to assign ribbons in cyberspace. Each individual user decides for him or herself which communities they feel a part of, and how much information about themselves they share with others. They have much greater latitude to create the persona they present to the world.

I am not talking about people adopting an intentionally misleading online persona or masquerading as something they are not.

But when @jag interjects a comment into the stream of tweets about the constitutional analysis presented by the keynote speaker at the American Bar Association convention, I can't assume @jag is an attorney. I don't know whether @jag has any relevant experience or education that qualifies him to render an opinion on this topic. I often don't even know whether @jag is a he or a she. The only thing I can judge is the quality of his (or her) message.

In some ways, that's a good thing. It forces the ideas expressed to stand or fall on their own merit, without bias or prejudgments about who is stating them.

But even when the words are clear, without any context, I can't always be sure I am properly understanding exactly what a tweeter means by them. My members, who are officers of the court, mean something entirely different when they talk about the record of what happened in the courtroom than a journalist who is covering the trial. One isn't right and the other wrong. But whether the record you are referring to is accurate, fair, adequate or reliable depends a lot on who you are and where your interests lie.

If I am willing to invest some effort, I might be able to work some of this out if there is enough information in their public profiles. But not always. And even if I am willing to devote the effort to find out enough about where a comment is coming from to form a context that will allow me to form a judgment on it, other more passive consumers of online info don't.

It is almost enough to make me nostalgic for name badges and all those ridiculous ribbons.

But now that I mention it, those ribbons weren't all that reliable as indicators of validity either.

A reasonable degree of skepticism is warranted, whether the stranger spouting an opinion is in your face at the convention coffee break or appears anonymously on your iPhone. Social networking has increased the ease of commerce in ideas AND the importance of applying informed, critical judgments to them.

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June 3, 2011

Quick Clicks: Summertime tips and thoughts

Acronym's had a bit of a slow week - sorry about that, we'll do better next week, must be the heat or something. But association sector blogging has been anything but slow, buzzing with tips and thoughts worth reading. Here are a few the things I've read in the last week that caught my eye.

Jeffrey Cufaude--who usually makes Quick Clicks with his thought-provoking posts--comes forward with such a simple, no-tech organizing tip I had to share it.

Sticking with the practical, or at least toolsy, part of this recap, early this week Maddie Grant gave us a look at some tools to help us tell our stories. Her post reminds me of how much we think of stories as words, but how something is presented can be just as important as what is presented.

Sticking with the story idea, Jeff Cobb talks about simple stories grabbing attention. What simple story are you neglecting to tell about your association's products and services.

And now a few things to make you think, starting with Sue Pelletier in a little post about an article she had read. Follow her link and read the original post on how wrong it is to approach design as a way to make people act or do certain things. We do this all the time as associations, and we need to rethink it. Sue talks about it in the context of meetings (of course), and I think that's a great place to start.

Peggy Hoffman describes three lessons she has recently learned about volunteer opportunities, and she gives association execs three helpful insights in how to manage our volunteer opportunities.

We all know who the important people are in our associations, right? Maggie McGary talks about how you might not be as up-to-date in this area as you think you are.

Jeff Hurt points out a must-read study. I like Jeff's take, too (though, as always, I bristle a bit when age is described as a causal factor as the study and Jeff does). It's another one of those "the nature is changing" things, but guess what? The nature of things is changing.

And I'll leave you with two more posts I want to share. As always, my Quick Clicks is not complete with Seth Godin, but this one is tricky for me. Here's his concluding statement: "Dreaming of winning the lottery is fine, apparently, while experiencing pangs of regret over a decision is not." I've always thought it a good idea/tactic to give a taste of, for example, a major conference to those who didn't attend to entice them to decide differently next time. I think Godin is saying this is a bad idea. Is he? And is it?

And one more, because I think it's fascinating, though I don't know how to draw a straight line to association work: Tom Barnett notes an article that countries with higher per capita income are more likely to demand well functioning government.

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June 1, 2011

From small to mighty

It's Small Staff Week plus! Or there were a couple of stragglers that I just couldn't fit into last week's schedule -- my fault, certainly not the fault of Mary-Margaret Armstrong from the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association, who wrote the following post on planning for expansion.

The Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) began in 1977 with a mission to further the advancement and impact of women in healthcare worldwide. Until 2000, the organization's activities centered in one geographic location, at which point interest in the organization ascended rapidly, transforming the entire association.

People from all across the globe expressed the desire to launch new chapters, and we needed a way to tap into this passion and commitment, and, moreover, to capitalize on the momentum that had swung behind our mission.

Where to begin? At the time we had 3 staff and about 4,000 members - resources were tight, and time was precious.

We needed a process. One that was repeatable, straightforward, measurable, and sustainable.

We embarked on an 8-month journey beginning with a blank sheet of paper. In September 2008, our masterpiece was unveiled and has served as the framework for our organization's geographic expansion.

Our four phases of development outline specific activities, deliverables, and maturation milestones: Interested Party, Pre-affiliate, Affiliate, and Chapter (see the snapshot overview below). We crafted a detailed implementation plan with mapped responsibilities and oversight to individual corporate board and staff roles to ensure the process had pull through and sustainability. In only 10 years, the organization has expanded into 15 chapters, including overseas, with more than 6,000 members, holding nearly 300 programs around the world, and drawing more than 14,000 program participants.

HBA Chapter Dev.jpg

Our next challenge is to embrace new ideas for building communities beyond geographical boundaries including leveraging technology and social media. I invite you to join in this conversation to share ideas on how you are expanding your association's reach, the challenges you face, and solutions you have found to advance your mission.

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