April 18, 2012

Earth Day Offers Visibility, Fun, Engagement

It's Earth Day this Sunday and National Volunteer Month for a few weeks more, so loads of associations and their member companies and professionals are organizing, educating, celebrating, volunteering, and just plain participating in this worldwide effort to bolster environmental conservation.

Here's a snapshot of what some are doing or already have done--and it's not too late to join in yourself!

Start by downloading the free Earth Day 2012 Toolkit , where you can also learn about and be inspired by "A Billion Acts of Green," the world's largest environmental service campaign. And if you're in DC, you may want to check out the massive party scene happening at the National Mall rally and concerts either in person or online (live-streaming at

Sounds like some more partying will go on over at the 2012 Mighty Kindness Earth Day Hootenanny on April 22 organized by the Kentucky Chiropractic Association. The fun is combined with a more serious purpose: promoting a new state license "Go Green with Chiropractic" plate that aims "to elevate the chiropractic industry and its environmentally friendly nature in Kentucky" and raise some money as well.

The Eco-Dentistry Association will host its first tweetchat for dental industry professionals and consumers worldwide "to discuss the essentials of a high-tech, wellness based, and successful green dental practice."

The American Bar Association's Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER) in sponsoring the One Million Trees Project-Right Tree for the Right Place at the Right Time nationwide public service project. Started in March 2009, the project "calls on ABA members to contribute to the goal of planting one million trees across the United States by 2014 - both by planting trees themselves and by contributing to the partnering tree organizations." It also is promoting nominations for the 2012 ABA Award for Excellence in Environmental, Energy, and Resources Stewardship.

Entertainment Cruises is partnering with the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) has partnered with Entertainment Cruises to offer an Earth Day brunch cruise to enjoy Washington, DC, views while learning from the NAAEE about green energy, environmental initiatives and its upcoming conference.

More than 1,000 volunteers of the Student Conservation Association (SCA) are engaging in 10 signature Earth Day projects from prairie re-vegetation to exotic plant species removal on public lands across the U.S. on April 14 and 21. These events have some powerful sponsors, including American Eagle Outfitters, ARAMARK, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Exelon Foundation, Johnson Controls, Sony, and Southwest Airlines.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has released the First Annual Report of the eCycling Leadership Initiative, which details how the consumer electronics industry has dramatically increased its recycling in 2011 and advanced the goals set by the eCycling Leadership Initiative (also called the Billion Pound Challenge). For instance, participants of the initiative arranged for the responsible recycling of 460 million pounds of consumer electronics, a 53% increase over the 300 million pounds recycled in 2010. The number of recycling drop-off locations for consumers also was bolstered from to nearly 7,500 from just over 5,000 a year ago. And CEA launched to educate consumers about eCycling and energy consumption. By entering a ZIP code, anyone can locate the closest responsible recycling opportunity sponsored by the CE industry and/or third-party certified recycler. The initiative aims to increase electronics recycling to one billion pounds annually by 2016 and providing transparent metrics on eCycling efforts. A billion pounds of unrecycled waste electronics would fill a 71,000-seat NFL stadium.

The American Medical Student Association and Medical Alumni Association at Temple University are planting seeds and preparing a "Medicinal and Edible Learning Garden" and education event to discuss natural medicinal remedies.

The National Parks and Recreation Association is urging people to take advantage of waived entrance fees at U.S. national parks from April 21 to April 29 during National Park Week. Download your free Owner's Guide to America's National Parks. I know a few associations that are planning staff picnics and hikes at local parks and Great Falls National Park in sync with this promotional event.

The New York City Association of Hotel Concierges (NYCAHC) and its affiliate members will celebrate MillionTreesNYC at a "Dig In for Earth Day" tree-planting event May 5 in partnership with Mayor Bloomberg and NYC Parks and New York Restoration Project. Since the program's inception in 2007, thousands of New Yorkers have helped plant over 400,000 trees, with NYCAHC planting more than 2,000 of them.

American Forests' easy online calculator and offsetting options make it easy to offset your home or car pollution (I offset my minivan's emissions for about $17 last year through AF). Earth Day Network also offers an eco-calculator.

Whatever you do, just consider doing something green this weekend and join your colleagues in making the planet a bit healthier for us all!

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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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March 25, 2011

Associations Pledging to Participate in Tomorrow's Earth Hour

If your organization and staff are interested in an easy, fun, and free way to show support for protecting the planet and urging action on the problem of climate change, consider participating in World Wildlie Fund's global Earth Hour 2011 tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m. for one hour.

A phenomenal success, in part because of its simplicity, visibility, and measured impacts, Earth Hour has inspired pledges to participate from government and business leaders in a record 131 countries, along with hundreds of major companies such as Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Coca-Cola, and IKEA, and even more NGOs and individuals. Association participants include Building Owners and Managers Association International chapters, sports associations, astronomy organizations, and hospitality groups. For a partial list of participants this year, go here.

I've also been seeing hotels, restaurants and local shops use Earth Hour this year to plan and promote festive events to engage guests and customers, including dining-by-candlelight dinners, s-more making in hotel lobby fireplaces for kids, glow necklace distributions at clubs, lantern walks in art galleries and shops, and glow-in-the-dark crafts and family-night gaming. You'll also find that hundreds of major international sites such as the Empire State Building, Sydney Harbour Bridge, and San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge are participating, too.

I remember when this all started in 2007. I had heard that several associations were going to participate, and one was planning some tie-in events at its local conference since the events would overlap. Organizers were having a great time finding ways to integrate both fun and information into the single dark hour, and they apparently got rave reviews from attendees, especially about the candlelit pathway up to an outdoor stargazing event that had been put together with the local planetarium and a nonprofit chapter of astronomers.

That first year, Earth Hour drew 2.2 million individual participants and more than 2,000 businesses, according to World Wildlife Fund. Tomorrow, only four years later, those numbers have grown into the hundreds of millions of registered participants, and organizers have expanded the event by calling on each of them to go "beyond the hour" by committing to convert a single hour of darkness into a single commitment to do one regular thing that helps the environment address climate change. Suggestions include easy actions such as commuting to work or the subway station by bike one day a week, switching to CFL or LED lights, or holding "meatless Monday" dinners.

You can learn more about what people and organizations are pledging to do at


March 14, 2011

Creating Your Own Competition

In Sunday's Idea Lab "Embracing the Unofficial Leaders in your Membership," led by Peggy Hoffman, CAE, and Peter Houstle, attendees explored the association conundrum of how to relate, ignore, or handle the "unofficial" association organizations.

Often some of the brightest and most dedicated members of an association form these groups in order to meet a need they identify and "split" from the association because they feel the association:

  1. Is not in a position to respond quickly enough to meet the need;
  2. Would not see the activity to key to the association's mission;
  3. Would not support the activity to the extent they desire it be supported;
  4. Or some combination of the above three.

Most likely you all have experienced both sides of this scenario: being the association and leading or participating in the unofficial group. For instance, have you attended a YAP party or a small regional meet-up?

Many associations' knee-jerk reaction is to be threatened by such an activity. But, don't! Or at least, don't be threatened immediately. Attendees mulled over the idea that these groups may in fact be vital or, at the very least, helpful, to their associations for the networking opportunities they provide, the awareness they create of the organizations, the missions they help support, and so on. Therefore, it behooves association leaders to pause, consider the dynamic, and determine how to approach the unofficial group, if at all. View draft questions to consider in the "Embracing the Unofficial Leaders in Your Membership" page in Associapedia. Peggy and Peter strongly encouraged all of us to contribute to the wiki entry as we move forward, so please contribute likewise.

In summary, I found this session especially enlightening since we left with a framework on how to identify the potential unofficial groups (as opposed to reacting once they are discovered) and create strategies for future involvement. Associations can't spend every day preparing for the what-ifs; however, given the frequency of unofficial group creation, preparation for such what-ifs seems a valuable use of an association's time.


August 17, 2010

Association chapter permaculture: Small and slow solutions

Slow food, slow money, … slow chapters? If you've never heard of slow food, it's a movement begun in Italy in the 1980s to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions, and people's dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes, and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. Slow essentially means local, authentic, and connected. If you eat a slow meal, the food on the table came from the place where you are, maybe even was grown and produced by people you know. By and large, slow food is better for you.

Likewise, slow money is better for the place you live. By circulating within a township, for instance, slow money supports producers that generate value for sustaining the life of a place. If I use a global currency, say my major bank checkcard, to buy a drink at a local café, that transaction is drawn from money lent and deposited on the books of financial institutions anywhere on the planet. Such money has no connection or care for what's happening on the ground in my town. If, on the other hand, I use a local currency to buy my drink, that currency is designed to support only local value exchanges.

So what do slow chapters look like? A robust network of "slow" chapters is inherently diverse in size, activity, focus, and so on. For example, if the U.S. Green Building Association has chapters in every major metropolitan area, the chapters in the southwest will provide training in green adobe construction, while the chapters in the northeast will focus more on commercial, high-rise construction. Some chapters will be oriented more toward technical knowledge and some to social connections and networking. Slow chapters feature more specific locally available knowledge, practice, and cultural preferences. This diversity optimizes effectiveness at the local level and enriches the field as a whole, making the national association a more vital force for evolving the field, particularly as it values and supports diversity.


August 10, 2010

Association chapter permaculture: Value edges

In ecology, edges are where two different environments come together. Think about the bank of a river, where the interior ecology meets the water ecology. There on the bank is the traffic of life going from one to the other, including deer and raccoons coming to drink and bear and osprey coming to fish, for example. Going the other way, beaver go onto land to fell trees for making their dams in the water. A riverbank is a high traffic area that facilitates the rich exchange of information and materials between the environments. It is here at such an edge that there is an increased variety and diversity of life; these community junctions tend to foster biodiversity.

In the association world, we are familiar with the maxim that innovation comes from the edges. As the eyes and ears on the ground and as the places where an association's industry and its practitioners interact with society and community, chapters are fertile ground where new ideas emerge. I've seen chapters spin out innovative marketing campaigns, fresh new membership programs, and unique products.

Unfortunately, too often these innovations are ignored by the national organization or, worse, actually discouraged. A permaculture approach pays attention to these edges. The energy which gives rise to diverse ideas at an association's edges can be stewarded and protected by recognizing and celebrating the innovations through something as simple as the association's newsletter and supporting that energy with administrative services that enable chapter leaders to focus on programming.

Besides being passively recognized, an association's edges can be actively cultivated. I once toured an urban homestead, a single-family home on the corner of a block within a mid-sized city. The home had a strip of yard on the two street sides, and all this space was being gradually converted to food production. The site featured lots of edges. A myriad of heritage fruit and nut-tree saplings had been planted along the curbs, and in between the trees and the perimeter foot path the farmer created irregularly shaped beds for leafy greens, onions, herbs, and many types of vegetables. At the back of the house, a short slope rising up to a flat area adjacent to the alley had been terraced for expansive vines such as beans and melons. Every square inch was designated for something, depending on the particular micro-conditions it offered. Chickens foraged around the property, yielding eggs, and honeybees enjoyed various flowering plants. All these cultivated edges gave rise to an abundance of diverse edibles, much more productive than a bland, grassed yard.

Similarly, edges in an association can be cultivated and developed to optimize productivity. Chapters can be encouraged to share or sell their innovations across the network, and the national organization can actively encourage new ideas from the chapters with contests or revenue-sharing models. The important thing to keep in mind is that the productivity at the edges will vary, according to local conditions (local culture, local market, etc.), and this is as it should be.

If you know of any examples of valuing edges in the association world, please share them.

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August 3, 2010

Applying permaculture to association chapters

The relationship between a national association and its local chapters tends to exhibit pendulum swings, from reinvigoration and pulling together at times to discord and disengagement at other times. When an association responds to changes in the economy or industry with new marketing, advocacy, standards, products and services, etc., these strategies ripple out to chapters, and differences in opinion between chapters and the national office often color the relationship. The whole business of managing these relationships takes enormous amounts of energy, attention, perseverance, and creativity, yet no one model or method seems to last, and the pendulum swings continue. Isn't there a way to have a more sustainably productive relationship?

Given the interest in greening our economy and "green" in general, I'd like to suggest that a permaculture approach offers tips for achieving a more evolved harmony for chapter relations.

Permaculture is a way of designing agricultural systems that mimics the relationships found in natural ecology in order to sustain productivity indefinitely. Its principles for maximizing beneficial relationships are based on ethics for living in long-term balance. It seeks to meet the needs of people, to care for the health of the land, and to accept limits (i.e. to know what is enough). While industrial agriculture maximizes production at a cost of reduced well-being, permaculture, by contrast, maximizes well-being, even if that means reduced concentrations of productivity over the short term—because permaculture generates stable, productive systems over the long term. Elements in the system are viewed in relationship to other elements, where the outputs of one element become the inputs of another, producing complex synergies and high densities of food and materials with minimal input.

So what does an agricultural philosophy have to do with managing association chapters? Permaculture design principles can be applied to any system of relationships. It's refreshing to translate this approach to the relationship between an association and its chapters. Twelve key permaculture principles include:

  • Creatively respond to change
  • Value edges
  • Value diversity
  • Slow and small solutions
  • Integrate rather than segregate
  • Design from patterns to details
  • No waste
  • Use renewables
  • Apply self-regulation
  • Obtain a yield
  • Catch and store energy
  • Observe and interact

I'll be selecting a couple of these principles to apply to the association context in subsequent posts ("value edges" will be first). I welcome your thoughts on cultivating a sustainable chapter "permaculture" that provides for diverse needs while increasing the relationship capital for future generations. Let me know which of the above principles you might like me to discuss in more detail and if you have experience or further ideas on applying systems-based design principles to chapter relations.

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July 14, 2010

Nonprofits/Associations Helping Gulf Oil Spill Victims

While associations and nonprofits were regularly featured in the news for their efforts to help industries, professionals, and other victims after the Haiti earthquake in January, the same cannot be said for their efforts to assist those harmed by the BP (formerly British Petroleum) oil spill in the Gulf region. That doesn't mean groups aren't busy, though.

Here are a few examples of what your colleagues are doing:

Creating partnerships: The Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations hopes to "foster strategic collaboration," boost accountability, help volunteers, and "provide a unified voice for the nonprofit sector" by maintaining an online list of spill-related resources. Customers of Ratner Companies, which owns The Hair Cuttery chain, donated more than 6,000 pounds of shorn hair by Federal Express to its new partner, Matter of Trust, a nonprofit that prepares hair booms and mats to soak up oil in the Gulf region.

Providing expertise: The New Orleans Bar Association created a web page for disaster legal resources related to the Gulf Oil Spill (e.g., insurance claims, loans, health hazards, and emergency services). The American Lung Association, concerned about the respiratory impact of oil fumes and toxins on clean-up workers, sent a letter to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis urging close monitoring of air pollution levels to assure that "workers near and at the spill site are properly trained, equipped with appropriate respirators and protected from dangerous air pollutants and toxics they may inhale." The American Association of Poison Control Centers developed a tipsheet for people exposed to oil, chemical dispersants, or other spill-related toxins to help protect their health. The American Veterinary Medical Association held a disaster preparedness webinar related to the Gulf for members in July.

Raising money through cause marketing: One of the most visible fundraising campaigns has been executed by Dawn dishwashing liquid, which is donating $1 up to $500,000 to the International Bird Rescue Research Center and the Marine Mammal Center from the sale of each marked bottle for wildlife cleanup. Sustainable flower company Organic Bouquet has developed a cause marketing campaign with The Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation and Ocean Conservancy whereby $10 of each online purchase of flowers and gifts from a new Gulf Relief Collection goes to the charities for oil cleanup.

Offering emotional support: The American Psychological Association has released advice about how to "Manage Distress Caused by the Oil Disaster in the Gulf." Myriad groups have issued supportive press releases directed at their Gulf-area chapters and components, as well as the affected industries and professions within the region.


May 6, 2010

Quick clicks: Thursdays with zombies

Good morning, and welcome to this week's Quick Clicks!

- Quite possibly the best thing I've ever seen: David Gammel unveils a wonderful cartoon on the Orgpreneur blog. Go see it. Don't worry, we'll wait.

- Laura Otten at the Nonprofit University Blog has a beautiful post on the many people who looked to her father as a mentor.

- A challenging post from Joe Gerstandt on what inclusion really looks like ("Inclusion is not giving everyone a trophy.")

- Shelly Alcorn has strong feelings about the importance of net neutrality for associations and nonprofits.

- Chris Bonney argues that the power of free is in the mind of the giver, not the recipient.

- Carol-Anne Moutinho at the Association Resource Centre blog considers what reverse innovation might look like in nonprofits.

- Jamie Notter is thinking through some very interesting ideas about cultivating strategy without traditional strategic planning.

- Eric Lanke at the Hourglass Blog ponders some potential implications of corporate social responsibility for the association sector.

- I continue to love Jeffrey Cufaude's "Wednesday What If" posts. This week, he encourages us to consider what our members would miss the most if it were eliminated.

- Peggy Hoffman considers ways to make chapters and components more effective.

- Jeff Hurt has a few suggestions for ways to encourage active attendee participation in learning sessions--even from folks who might not initially love the idea.

- Some helpful case study posts: Scott Billey at Associations Live on lessons learned from their first webinar, and Maggie McGary on what she learned on the way to 20,000 Facebook fans. (I guess technically now they're "likers," but as an editor I oppose that word.)


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 Thanks again for all you are doing!


July 24, 2009

Quick clicks: To the Moon!

Good afternoon! Some reading material for your Friday:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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March 30, 2009

Chapter websites and donors: Food for thought

When I started reading today's Alertbox column from Jakob Nielsen, I definitely wasn't expecting it to touch on component relations. (Nielsen, for those of you not familiar with his work, is a web usability expert and researcher; if you have any involvement with your organization's website or online presence, I highly recommend his columns.)

Today's Alertbox focuses on a study Nielsen's group did to discover how to design nonprofit websites to encourage donations ... pretty important for any organization that is partially or largely donor-supported. It didn't surprise me that Nielsen's research showed that many of the nonprofits studied had poor usability for donors--so many websites (not just nonprofits) have terrible usability issues. But I was fascinated by the study's implications for nonprofits and associations with chapters or components.

According to Nielsen, the subjects of this study indicated that, when making a decision to donate, the number 2 most important factor in their decision was the organization's presence in their own community. (Number 1 was the organization's mission, goals, objectives, and work, not surprisingly.)

However, the column says, "the worst user experience erosion in this study was caused by heinous integration of local chapters with the higher-level organization. As mentioned above, users wanted information about a non-profit's activities in their communities, but the experience of actually visiting local chapter websites was stunning. Typically, such sites looked completely different than the master sites ..."

In other words, the fact that the chapter websites looked nothing like the national website was causing visitors not to donate--because they weren't clear on whether the organization was really involved in their local community or not.

If you work for a chapter or component, does your website look like your national's website, or do they look different? Nationals, do your chapters have a continuity of look and feel among their websites and yours? How do you think such consistency or lack thereof impacts your donor or stakeholder community?

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January 19, 2009

The Year of the Chapter

In a Listserv posting dated Jan. 13, 2009, Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management & Marketing LLC, predicted that 2009 will be the “Year of the Chapter.”

I absolutely concur with her assessment. In addition to education, convention and expo responsibilities for a statewide trade association, I manage meetings and events for five different regions [chapters]. In 2007, 22 regional meetings and events were planned, engaging a total of 521 individuals. In 2008, 28 regional meetings and events were planned, engaging a total of 965 individuals. This represents an 85 percent increase in participation from 2007 to 2008. And I fully expect participation to increase even more in 2009. The underlying assumption here is that active involvement in regional programming is vital for a strong, effective association. Most notably, regional programming promotes engagement and engagement promotes retention. In fact, my association believes so firmly in regional programming that registration fees for these meetings are often waived for members. Additionally, these events are sometimes used to court non-members. So, my question to you is this: What are your chapters doing to engage your members? What clever and unique ideas are you willing to share with your colleagues?

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October 29, 2008

Creating Cheap Member Benefits

With the downturn in the economy, we have encouraged our volunteers to trim budgets and decrease spending. Our staff researched several free, high-quality tools for their use - this way, the members do not see a decrease in benefits. This being said, frequent use of free services may decrease the association's credibility, so we encourage volunteers to use better options in better financial times.

Some examples we shared include: - create customizable, attractive Web sites for free
Yahoo Groups - create bug-free listservs for members - hold conference calls at no expense to the organizer

If you have additional recommendations, please share.

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September 17, 2008

Quick clicks: Chapters of the future

I feel very behind on my "Quick Click" posts! Here's a roundup of some of the interesting conversations going on around the association blogging world:

- Peggy Hoffman at the Idea Center blog has some interesting thoughts on the "chapter of the future."

- David Patt shared some interesting things he heard at an Association Forum of Chicagoland event for small-staff CEOs focused on creating employee engagement. Jamie Notter was inspired by David's post to ask some questions of his own.

- Kevin Holland at the Association Inc. blog has some really interesting quick-hit thoughts on several topics, all in one post: time shifting, leadership legacies, "we bees," staff ownership in associations, and more.

- Stuart Meyer at the Association 2020 blog talks about how associations can help innovative ideas to succeed (despite the forces that might push against them).

- Mickie Rops and some great guest bloggers captured a lot of good information during the NOCA Credentialing Leadership Forum. If you have an interest in credentialing and certification trends, definitely check it out; the first post is here and the last is here.

- Bruce Hammond has a great post about how policies can be perceived by members who run afoul of them.

- Jeffrey Cufaude has a thoughtful post on evaluating past experience, asking "What experience most matters?"

- If this election season is inspiring you to advocate, you should definitely read Stephanie Vance's series on "Forming an Advocacy Habit."

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August 31, 2008

Associations Responding to Hurricane Gustav Threat

As always, I am proud to report that many associations have already sprung into action in response to the serious threat of Hurricane Gustav, now a Category 4 hurricane heading toward New Orleans, and the potential threat of Tropical Storm Hannah coming toward the Florida coast. Here are some of the actions associations are already taking:

· The Air Transit Association of America (ATA) has released a statement explaining evacuation processes for residents in the New Orleans area. You can read it here.

· The Humane Association, American Red Cross, Salvation Army, local and national food banks, and numerous faith-based community organizations have partnered in Nashville, Tennessee, to open shelters, distribute meals, and support evacuees from the hurricane.

· The American Red Cross is urging people in the potentially affected areas to register themselves its new Safe and Well Web site at, or call a loved one and ask them to register you. This online tool helps families and individuals notify loved ones that they are safe during an emergency. You also can read and link to the organization’s advice to evacuating families by going here.

· The Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants is urging people in the affected areas to “financially prepare” for the hurricane, using its tip list, which includes the need for having plentiful cash on hand, documenting household goods and valuables, and gathering important documents.

· The National Association for Amateur Radio (ham radio folks) has developed guidelines for potential volunteers interested in responding to the hurricane emergency, warning them not to “self-deploy” and noting that the International Radio Emergency Support Coalition has been relaying reports online since Friday.

· The Texas Hotel & Lodging Association sent an alert to members last Thursday, repeating a local government estimate that 45,000 evacuees could arrive if Gustav hits Louisiana. Local restaurant associations and members have been stocking up as well.

· Social media also is coming into significant play in terms of sharing storm information, relaying community/government emergency operations, organizing nonprofit relief and assistance responses, checking on association members, monitoring local chapters/components, and rallying volunteers on standby.

· Bossier City Firefighters Association is working with the International Association of Fire Fighters to find housing for IAFF members evacuating the area. Like the response to Hurricane Katrina three years ago, many local associations have turned to their national associations and leaders for help—and emergency housing is just one such request. Others I’ve seen relate to transportation advice, pet care in the region, and reinforcing communication strategies.

· The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) is actively tracking the storms on the Hurricane Preparedness section of its web site and has the latest NOAA and other weather updates, the status of various airports, an emergency preparedness checklist, and many more resources available to help members and the public stay abreast of rapidly changing weather conditions.

· Various electrical power associations are urging the public and businesses in the potential hurricane zones to review their virtual brochures on preparing for power outages and surges as a result of poor weather. Here’s one example from Coast Electric Power Association.

· A number of associations also are encouraging members to access the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s (FEMA) Hurricane Preparedness page, which contains emergency plans for businesses and families, emergency supply lists, and background on hurricanes in general.

Thanks, y’all, for once again stepping up to make a real difference in the lives of both your members and the larger public. Please know that ASAE & The Center stand ready to assist you in your efforts!

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October 24, 2007

Associations Pitch in to Help Southern California Fire Victims

We have learned of many associations that have stepped up to offer expertise, volunteers, donations and even temporary housing to the hundreds of thousands of displaced wildlife victims in Southern California. As in past catastrophes, associations are finding creative ways to apply their skills, imagination and members to addressing this crisis. You’ll find a growing list of examples on the ASAE & The Center site, and we encourage you to let us know of others. Thank you all!

Let me mention two partnering associations in particular: the San Diego Education Association (SDEA) and California Teachers Association (CTA). Despite limited operations, SDEA staff and members has "overwhelmed" the group with offers of help when it called for volunteer tutors, donations, childcare and coordination help for families sheltering at Qualcomm Stadium and a local high school. The association also is housing numerous displaced educators at its offices, auditorium and meeting spaces.

CTA, meanwhile, is helping coordinate and is urging displaced members to tap into its “CTA Disaster Fund." Established years ago, the fund offers emergency grants of up to $1,500, with an additional $1,500 grant possible. Monies come from voluntary contributions by CTA members and periodic fundraising drives. The FACT Foundation provides administrative services.

For a model disaster assistance resource for members, visit CTA’s disaster resources page


July 27, 2007

We’ll pick you up

I’m reading Surrounded by Geniuses, by Alan S. Gregerman. Gregerman’s main argument is that everyone in your organization has the potential to come up with brilliant ideas—it’s just that most organizations, and the conversations within them, aren’t structured in the right way to let those ideas out.

He cites one example from the rental car company Enterprise that I found particularly inspiring: “[Enterprise’s] biggest innovation was probably an amazingly simple and compelling idea suggested by an everyday genius. In 1974, a branch manager in Orlando began to offer customers free rides to the rental office. This service became the ‘We’ll Pick You Up’ theme that is now an Enterprise tradition.”

I love that this idea originated in a branch office and was picked up by the national chain. It actually reminds me of an interview I conducted recently with some staff at the Illinois Park and Recreation Association, about an online tool they developed called Locate a Park that has been quite successful for IPRA members; the idea may be picked up at a national level by the National Recreation and Park Association. For those of you with chapters—are you doing all you can to magnify the power of innovative ideas being generated at the chapter level? For those of you working at a state or local association, do you have ideas that you could share with your sister associations in other states/localities or with a national affiliate?


October 6, 2006

Out and about at the Tri-State Conference

The opening night dinner reception at the Tri-State Conference

The mad scramble for food

The view from my hotel room balcony at Baytown Village

Tea at Sea on The Solaris

Shopping at the Tea Room at the Sandestin Resort


October 5, 2006

Hello from SanDestin

Hello, from the lovely Sandestin resort in Miramar Beach, Fla. I am here attending the Tri-state Conference of the Alabama Council of Association Executives, the Mississippi Society of Association Executives and the Louisiana Society of Association Executives. We're fun by ourselves, but when you get all three of us out!

I'll be filling y'all in on the great educational sessions. And if you are considering having a future meeting at SanDestin and you have any questions for me, just e-mail me at I'll try to get the information for you. (And if you want to say Hello to a friend in one of those associations, let me know and I will try and track them down for you.)

My first session this morning is Creating High Energy Websites and PR Materials: Applying the Science of Behavioral Kinesiology to The Art of Creating with Jerry Teplitz. I hope it's as interesting as it sounds considering its 8 a.m. and I haven't finished my first cup of coffe yet!


July 24, 2006

Beltway bias

Those of you who know me know that I started my career in the association mecca of the world: Alexandria, Virginia. I cut my teeth in a couple of international associations – one trade association, and one professional society. Like many association executives in the DC marketplace, I developed an inside the beltway bias about the face of the association industry. One of the ways this manifested itself was in my opinions about components. For me and many of my colleagues in the DC area, state affiliates, chapters or allied organizations were disrespectfully viewed as nuisances and distractions.

A little over three years ago, looking for a change of scenery and relief from the traffic, I left DC to work for a statewide association in Richmond, just 100 miles south of Alexandria. In the time that I’ve been here, this association has grown to be the biggest I’ve ever worked for both in terms of staff and budget. I’ve also gotten to know association executives at other state associations around the country and have been consistently impressed with their capabilities. Furthermore, I’ve come across some local associations with programs that absolutely knock my socks off.

My colleagues at national and international associations are always shocked when I tell them the size of our membership. Still, I’m continually asked by my peers when will I be moving back to DC, or when will I be getting back to a national or international association. No time in the immediate future, I tell them; I’m very happy where I am.

In the years since I left DC, I’ve noticed that the savviest association executives are the ones that treat their affiliates and chapters with the utmost respect. They acknowledge that they’re partners in some ways and competitors in others. But there’s a genuine modesty and conscientious decorum in their relationships with chapters and affiliates. Although we’re not connected in any official way, I’ve always been pleased by the way I’ve been treated by the national association with whom my employers is aligned. Because of this positive relationship, I’m happy to carry the national association’s message to our membership and prospects. The results of this respect are played out in other areas as well.

Truly respecting your components may require giving up some control over programs. Opening yourself up to competition from chapters in some program areas may be necessary, too. Completely turning some things over entirely to components might be a demonstration of good faith.

Do you respect your components? Or do you overtly block them in some areas? Would they be offended if they overheard your staff’s indiscriminate comments about them?

As someone who has worked on both sides of the fence, I have learned: The beltway bias is unfounded and counterproductive.

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