June 22, 2012

Executive Volunteering: A Conversation That Matters

I like the new Fast Company interview with Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited CEO Barry Salzberg, who was recently named chair of the board for United Way Worldwide. I wish that more association CEOs would talk about their volunteering and what it brings to their professional and personal development so publicly and passionately.

While Fast Company briefly mentions the interesting business model "flip" at UWW in terms of moving the powerful nonprofit's "international agency" from affiliate status to the organization's primary structure, it focuses instead on Salzberg's journey from simple philanthropist to active nonprofit volunteer and recruiter.

"Before volunteering, I thought that all I could do was give and raise money," he says in the piece. "That's important, and I'm happy to do that. But then that morphs into intellectual capacity and idea generation, and then pro bono service, and that becomes very meaningful. It's become a way of life."

He credits his journey with his greater understanding of how executive volunteering and social responsibility strategies can drive charities and associations toward greater success.

"Business strategy and social impact are a powerful combination, especially when companies fully align and integrate the two," says Salzberg in the interview.

Drawing from the volunteering skills and tremendous satisfaction he developed at a series of other nonprofits, Salzberg now is helping United Way Worldwide strengthen its brand internationally to scale up CSR programs. Already, almost 120 companies are engaged in UWW's Global Corporate Leadership program, and leaders are eying ways to further grow its 600 international community-based organizations, as well as the 1,200 in America. Yesterday, they all were activated for UWW's Day of Action which sent more than 50,000 volunteers out to serve their communities.

While Salzberg urges young professionals to get involved in volunteering because it is such a learning experience, he emphasizes that seasoned executives will find they are taking ideas and practices from their pro bono work back to their "day jobs."

When I speak with CEOs at ASAE events, they sometimes tell me about their volunteer work, but it always comes up accidently. Please take a moment today to proactively discuss with someone, anyone, what volunteering has meant to you. That action alone might be all it takes to bring one more smart person into the larger efforts to address world problems.


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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September 7, 2011

An Anniversary No One Will Forget: Associations Vary in 9/11 Treatment

So many associations are gearing up to share tributes, assess their industry's progress, and conduct community service projects in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that it's impractical to list them all. That said, I do want to share some of the tools, communication efforts, and creative projects in case some organizations are still pondering what their staff or members might want to do:

Created a microsite of resources. The American Psychological Association (APA) has set up a microsite with resources to "help people cope and build resistance" during the emotional days around 9/11.

Partnered for a TV special/podcast/on-demand show. APA also partnered with "Nick News With Linda Ellerbee" to co-develop a TV report called "What Happened? The Story of September 11, 2001," which ran September 1 and is available on iTunes as a free podcast and in Nickelodeon's video-on-demand offerings throughout the month. A related discussion guide helps parents and teachers talk to kids about the tragedy and tough emotions.

Developed a so-called "impact kit" for reporters--a compilation of stats, resources, and trained commentators who can discuss an event from the perspective of its impact on an industry, profession, or locality. The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) has organized materials around terrorism and insurance to aid reporters covering the 10th anniversary, including prepping its board president for media interviews and promoting I.I.I.'s white paper on "terrorism risk and insurance." A strong quote in its press release will likely get good response from media: "The 9/11 attack was the largest payout in the history of insurance until Hurricane Katrina in 2005," says President Robert Hartwig said. "Insurers became the nation's economic 'first responders,' and as construction progresses on the site of the former World Trade Center, insurance claims dollars continue to play an essential and highly visible role in rebuilding lower Manhattan while also mitigating the overall economic impact of the 9/11 attack."

Conducted a 9/11-related study. A good example was released this week by CoreNet Global, an association of corporate real estate and workplace professionals. The study concludes that 9/11 "had a permanent effect on the workplace," in part by accelerating the trend toward "distributed work" conducted by workers in multiple locations. "The focus on risk management as an intrinsic strategic planning and management function also grew stronger," according to the association. "Business disruption planning became a common element for many corporate workplace and asset managers as a result of 9/11," says spokesperson Richard Kadzis. "Elements of this planning include mobile work plans for employees, facility collocation policies, redundant facilities, energy back up, business continuity plans, and off-site data storage."

Combined old-time traditional communication tools with social media tools to promote public service. The Michigan Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) has launched a billboard and Internet campaign called "Remember Through Service" to mark the day by highlighting the service of Michigan Muslims to the nation and to "provide an accurate depiction of how Muslims contribute to the broader society." Individuals highlighted include a doctor who was a first responder to Ground Zero, a Detroit police officer, an assistant prosecuting attorney, an assistant principal in an Ohio public school, a Vietnam veteran, and a volunteer doctor at a free medical clinic. You can see the billboards here[LINK TO] and related YouTube videos[LINK TO].

Volunteered like crazy. The goal is more than 50 million--that's the magic number for how many volunteers the government, community partners, and others hope to engage in community service projects such as park cleanups, mentoring, and food drives. Any organization still interested in community service projects can go to for a list of opportunities.


April 22, 2011

Earth Day: A Chance at Relevancy

Earth Day can be a fraud, a feast, or a fizzle.

It can be a great rallying date around which to publicly re-enunciate your organization's commitment to sustainability and showcase actions you've taken that back it up, or it either can be dissed as a greenwashing exercise or simply ignore it.

But are the latter two options very smart business choices with all of the studies showing the growing influence of eco-conscious consumers, the heightened watchfulness of media and citizen journalists, and the myriad hard data that have emerged about the positive ROI of a well-planned social responsibility strategy that syncs with organizational mission and core competencies?

If that kind of strategy sounds time-intensive to chart, it can be. However, it takes effort to plan any strategy, so I don't think that concern should be seen as much more than an excuse, especially when this approach jives so well with most our community's common goals of operating efficiently, attracting and retaining talent, holding tight to our budgets, bolstering innovation, engaging members, and building brand value.

It's heartening to see the many press releases from nonprofits and associations today as they urge members and consumers to switch to paper-free bill paying, plant a tree, volunteer, recycle, insulate, and more.

Less heartening is that so many associations are silent today. I promise you that no matter what industry or profession your group represents, your members--maybe not all of them, but certainly a growing percentage--are indeed moving toward greater sustainability. This is a chance for your association to be relevant. This is a chance to show value in a new way. There are serious opportunities here for any organization of any size in any location (you'll find some examples at to help members strengthen their businesses and professions.

So celebrate Earth Day today. Acknowledge it with authenticity. Tell staff, members, and others what you already are doing to help lighten your environmental footprint (that kind of self-audit is the first step anyway), and ask them what else you could be doing.

You may find the sustainability journey to be an enlightening road to greater relevancy.


March 28, 2011

Geraldine Ferraro's Diversity Message Still Rings True

I was sorry to read about the death of former vice presidential candidate and longtime political activist Geraldine Ferraro this weekend. I recalled when she co-authored an article for GWSAE's Executive Update magazine back in July 2000, and oddly enough, I had just had it posted as a resource onto the ASAE Diversity & Inclusion Conference attendee site because its content remains relevant to today's discussions of the subject.

Titled "Reaping the Bottom Line Benefits of Diversity", the article is a warning by Ferraro (Democrat) and President George Bush's Secretary of Labor Lynn Martin (Republican), who jointly write that associations that ignore diversity risk extinction in the coming years. They urge ways that organizations can use training and leadership to leverage the business benefits of diversity and inclusiveness.

The article remains especially timely in light of last week's release of the 2010 U.S. Census results. Among its important findings are data showing that the numbers of Hispanics have grown by more than 43% since the year 2000, or 16% of the U.S. population. That increase means Hispanics have overtaking African-Americans or blacks (at 13% of the U.S. population) as the largest minority group in America. Will organizations or the business community be able to adapt to this level of change in their membership/consumer/worker bases?

Ferraro defined diversity broadly, although she often wrote about women leadership simply because that seemed to be what folks asked her about most. She had many friends within our sector, especially among women's organizations and political groups, and I often saw her on the speakers' lists of a range of nonprofit and association events, despite her battle against blood cancer.

Hopefully, the message she shared in Executive Update 11 years ago and throughout her 75 years of public service, along with new data confirming some of the trends she foresaw, will inspire association leaders to revisit her words and take action accordingly.


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 13, 2011

Responding to the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami is one of a growing number of companies that are partnering with nonprofits and associations to help raise funds via their websites for disaster relief agencies such as Save the Children, Architecture for Humanity, Doctors Without Borders, and the American Red Cross in response to the record 8.9-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit March 11. The Japanese Red Cross has been assessing damage, activating volunteers, and communicating with emergency response organizations overseas that have hundreds of volunteer professionals on standby.

Charity Navigator has issued a tipsheet to help donors avoid charity scams related to the disaster, as well as a list of organizations already involved in relief efforts.

You'll also find a serendipitous article in the February issue of Associations Now titled "How Your Organization Can Help with Disaster Relief" that talks about the process four associations went through to be ready with member volunteers, a crisis communications plan, and other resources that may be urgently needed anytime worldwide.


March 8, 2011

International Women's Day: Celebrating Progress and Potential

In acknowledgement of International Women's Day today, quite a few associations are reporting about the progress or lack thereof of women in the industry or profession the organization represents. The news has been mixed, frankly.

The Society of Professional Journalists, for instance, bemoans the low number of women in leadership roles in the newsroom. The rapidly growing field of organic farming and product development, however, is celebrating the fact that women now top four leading associations in that arena--a first.

There also has been growth in "best places for women to work"-type articles and rankings among business publications, women- or workforce-oriented websites, and even some associations. These include , which focuses on companies with "progressive and diverse work practices and environments), National Association of Female Executives and partner Working Mother magazine, and Fortune's Top 100: Women.

It's unfortunate that these lists are as popular as they are. It tells me that the business world still can be sliced and diced into "gets it" versus "doesn't get it." Are there really still such prevalent ambivalence about the ability of women to lead well?

But that's not all of the story. It can be too easy to point fingers at "the man," e.g., the established organization. In truth, too many women still harm their own chances at success, in part by refusing to accept some harsh workplace realities such as believing that hard work alone, rather than connections, will lead to success.

A new Harvard Business Review Research Report talks about the "Sponsor Effect," the fact that many high-performing women "don't have political allies to propel, inspire, and protect them through the perilous straits of upper management." This includes issues such as adjusting their work and personal styles, clothing, and "executive presence."

Sometimes the sponsorship problem is blamed on an age difference. Sixty-four percent of senior men acknowledge that they avoid sponsoring junior women because they fear gossip of a possible affair. That's just plain sad--and frustrating.

How can a young woman address that directly? Or is it the responsibility of the organization to establish formal mentoring systems that ensure senior-junior mixed-gender mentoring is just part of the professional development program overall, and indeed, male leaders would be held accountable in their reviews if they did not mentor younger professionals of either gender?

The latter seems to be a manageable approach, but that assumes the association actually has a formal mentoring system in place, which is a pretty big assumption!

And finally, in the totally-not-surprising part of the study, the report also found that men "cultivate more sponsors than women because they're less constrained by family and domestic responsibilities." The vast majority of working women studied are responsible for up to 75% of the housecleaning/maintenance and almost 60% of the childcare.

That said, women have come a long way, baby, and they can go further if they--and the associations they work in--desire. But it will take work on both sides. Meanwhile, celebrate the progress and the potential by skimming through the more than 1,000 events scheduled worldwide to celebrate the economic, political, and social achievements of women at

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February 23, 2011

Managing Court-ordered Volunteers

There's a fascinating article in this month's about how and whether nonprofits should agree to use "volunteers" that are court-ordered to do a certain number of community service hours as their punishment. These folks are often first-time offenders for things like driving under the influence or petty theft.

I've never read an article about this before, so leave it to the always-terrific Susan Ellis, president of the volunteer management consulting and training firm Energize, to take on this thorny issue.

Especially helpful is the way she frames the conversation needed by any nonprofit considering a court-ordered volunteer policy. Ellis lists questions such as whether "mandatory volunteers" should be assigned the same type of service as traditional volunteers, how volunteer management systems may need adapting for this particular population (for instance, nonprofits generally must complete a weekly report about the volunteer), and the attitudes of staff about working with court-ordered volunteers.

She also is clear about potential biases and benefits, such as data showing that many of these volunteers end up serving their organizations far longer than legally required because they enjoy the work and/or believe in the mission. And who doesn't need passionate volunteers?

For leaders unfamiliar with the 11 types of alternative sentences, Ellis suggests skimming a free online resource that defines them and identifies which ones might apply to nonprofits.

I'd be interested to hear whether and how associations as well as charities are addressing this in our community. Please post your comments here.


January 14, 2011

Haiti: Where And What Are Associations Still Doing?

The first Haiti earthquake anniversary this week has prompted myriad progress reports from the many associations and nonprofits who responded with volunteers, professional guidance, money, and resources. With almost 500 projects and 80 major NGOs doing on-the-ground work in the devastated region, it's easy to get confused about who's doing what as our community continues to respond to the crisis.

Luckily, this week also marks the release of a helpful free tool that aims to foster partnerships among nonprofits and associations, "strengthen corporate and NGO relationships, and increase transparency and accountability." It's called the Haiti Aid Map, and it's a who's-doing-what-where map with snapshots of projects and their coordinating groups. Created by InterAction in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Business Civic Leadership Center, it was funded by FedEx, a master of organization and mapping.

I encourage you to refer to it, whether you have ongoing projects there or not, because so many of your peers are making a difference in that challenging zone, and you may find something that would inspire your organization to get involved as well.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of things that associations are doing right here in the U.S. that are improving life in Haiti. If you're mostly interested in philanthropic giving, perhaps some of their projects will prompt you to write a supportive check.

The American Library Association (ALA), for instance, has distributed $25,000 to clear and prepare land and complete designs for one of three libraries it plans to rebuild and equip through its Haiti Library Relief Fund . Its needs a lot more money, though--just one library will cost an estimated $325,000-$350,000 to rebuild and equip.

The Haiti-inspired partnership between the American Dental Association's Division of Global Affairs and Health Volunteers Overseas has focused on raising $300,000 through an innovative Adopt-a-Practice program to rebuild 30 dental practices, almost one-third of all dental health facilities in the region. ADA also has developed an International Disaster Assistance Volunteer Inventory based on a survey for members interested in volunteering in the aftermath of an international natural disaster.

The American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, in collaboration with the ABA Family Law Section and Section of Litigation, and the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, hosted a free webinar on "How Attorneys and State Court Judges Can Aid in Finalizing Adoptions for Haitian Children Now in the U.S" and is offering its materials for free downloads to anyone interested.

Also, for the record, as a result of such outreach work, many organizations also have found that they've galvanized members, boosted innovation, and added meaningful value to their brand and membership offerings. Please accept my personal congratulations for your efforts and commitment. I've heard astonishing stories of what your members and staffers are doing even a year after the earthquake.


January 7, 2011

What Leading a Girl Scout Troop Taught Me About Blind Spots

Following is a guest post from Carolyn C. Lanham, CAE, senior director of executive operations at the American Institute of Architects in Washington, DC, and a member of ASAE's 2010-2011 Executive Management Section Council.

Have you ever had a moment when you realize that you had an incorrect impression or opinion? Did you ignore that thought in support of your current thinking, or did you seriously recheck your thoughts? How often do you consciously evaluate your inclusiveness when exploring possibilities or seeking solutions? Do you personally seek other opinions from diverse populations?

Joe Gerstandt's article, "Check Your Diversity Blind Spots," in the January 2011 Associations Now Volunteer Leadership Issue, reminded me of one of my blind spots. Gerstandt states that diversity is a catalyst. "It drives change because it always brings tension, and when you introduce tension into a social group … you change some of the patterns of behavior within that social group," he writes.

Four years ago I took on the responsibility to lead a new Girl Scout troop. These twelve girls were from three different schools. They collectively represented two age groups, four religions, and seven nationalities. It took several meetings before I realized that, while there were differences in demographics, there was little difference among their opinions, thoughts, and preferences.

The Girl Scout mission is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. If these girls are going to make the world a better place, then they need the courage and confidence to voice unique perspectives and ideas. Was peer pressure and groupthink holding them back, or was it something else? My assessment uncovered a likely reason. We had stumbled into a culture of conformity. As the leader, I was contributing to this culture by not proactively soliciting and incorporating different ideas. I praised the girls for the quick decisions and for getting along so well. But without challenging them in any way, I was inhibiting the girls' ability to engage in healthy disagreement and to value differences.

I now challenge the girls to identify or express other possibilities. I ask each girl to help the group understand why she offers a particular thought or suggestion. I look for opportunities to stretch their imaginations and to think outside the box. I proactively connect the value of the diverse thought with improved decision making. As a result, the girls are more confident to share unconventional ideas. They understand that those with different opinions or approaches are not "against them" but simply looking at the situation through a different lens.

As it turns out, the troop does possess the power of diversity. I was the one with the blind spot. However, once recognized this, I was able to tap into a wealth of creative thoughts and ideas that are often quite different one from the other—now that is sweet!

As association leaders, we know that innovation comes from disruption, change, and new ways of thinking, sometimes purposeful and sometimes by happenstance. Innovation is more likely to happen when like-minded individuals purposely seek others with differing views or ideas and integrate those ideas to create new or improved products and services. Therefore, an organization that intentionally creates and maintains a culture of diversity and inclusion will reap greater benefits than those who do not. And just like I learned in leading the Girl Scout troop, the leader's role is to make sure that culture happens.

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September 9, 2010

Does 9/11 Still Resonate as a Community Service Draw for Members?

Yes, based on the number of press releases and website announcements popping up this week. The 9/11 National Day of Service appears to still rally members at a wide range of associations and nonprofits that have been strengthening their volunteer programs in general, not just during observance of the anniversary of those terrible attacks.

Among the most visible are AARP, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civil Leadership Council, United Way and, the largest teen volunteer organization--all partners with MyGoodDeed Inc. The latter is the official organizer of 9/11 memorial activities along with the Corporation for National and Community Service.

AARP, for instance, announced today that its Create The Good arm is launching a new campaign "aimed at raising awareness about social responsibility and community service." The campaign focuses on sharing stories about members' volunteer experiences in hope of inspiring others to offer their own talents and time to the less fortunate. Members can share these stories via an easy online form at AARP's Create the Good website and tap into tools to help them find other places and ways they might volunteer.

I think that finding ways to publicly share and promote the positive experiences of member volunteers is a great idea. It's a shame that so many volunteer match-up programs or association-sponsored give-back events don't allow people to talk afterwards about what the experience meant to them or the impact they saw their efforts have on others.

And using such a painful day in our history to create positive change does more than just generate warm fuzzies about your association as coordinator of such efforts. It also boosts engagement with your organization, connects people to others with similar values, and helps meet the changing expectations of members (especially young members) about the need for business to be doing something bigger than just focusing on their own industry or profession.

I hope you'll consider joining the 9/11 tribute efforts, many of which have already started and continue through early next week. Please consider posting in the comment area on this blog, if you'd like to share your own experience. We'd love to hear about it!


August 31, 2010

Three Cool Takeaways from the LA Community Legacy Projects

Wow, we just finished tallying up the total Annual Meeting attendee participation and results from our Community Connections projects, and the numbers blasted previous "legacy project" metrics to smithereens!

The projects--ranging from a 5K fun run to local tours to bike-building and toiletry-kit/school supply stuffing--brought together 487 volunteers and resulted in 125 bikes, several massive boxes of stuffed school backpacks, and more than $17,000--all for the nonprofit Midnight Mission! In previous years, ASAE averaged about 15 volunteers, who would all arrive to donate time on the Saturday before the conference started. Obviously, we've finally found the right formula that will make giving back to the host community fun, accessible, and high-impact.

Here are three cool takeaways that seem to be making the difference:

1. We added far more options. Indeed, the 5K run early on the second day of the meeting hit its limit of 100 sign-ups weeks before folks started landing at LAX airport. Eager tradeshow participants turned a wrench, steadied some screws, and did whatever else was needed to help build the first 100 bikes in the Milwaukee, Travel Portland, and Pittsburgh booths at the Expo. The remaining 25 bikes and all of the backpacks and toiletry kits were completed on Tuesday, the final day of the event. Offering multiple opportunities, pricing, and time commitments ensured that almost all attendees could do at least something to give back....

2. Which led to a happy meet-up between volunteers and the actual recipients of our efforts--the families served by Midnight Mission! Boy, if you could have seen those kids' smiles, and the energy with which they zoomed around the room on their sparkling bikes--well, that will be a strong and positive memory for everyone there. Think those folks will volunteer again? Oh, yeah. They know first-hand that they made a difference in a child's life--and plenty of parents were there to add their warm thanks as well. The same was true on the Saturday when more than 400 people were fed by our attendees at Midnight Mission. Lesson: Try to ensure face-to-face exchanges with the constituency your legacy projects are serving. And lose the polish--focus the exchange on the homeless, the hungry, or the other vulnerable people being helped by your attendees.

3. We learned that our business partners could be real leaders when it comes to good citizenship, and they can teach us a few things in this regard. The Industry Partners group of ASAE was a driving force behind several of the legacy events, such as the bike-building, and others on the tradeshow floor--such as Virginia Beach CVB with its book collection for Midnight Mission, and Rosen Hotels with its continuing donation drive for Haiti earthquake relief--came up with their own ways to help others. Thank you all!

One final point: Chris Wood, director of social responsibility and coordinator of so many of these legacy projects, and the director of Midnight Mission were so inspired by the impact of our attendees that they are working on a case study guide that will 1) help standardize the process of ASAE-charity legacy projects, 2) develop a sample case study that Midnight Mission can use to guide other associations meeting in Los Angeles, and 3) capture the lessons learned by our 2010 experience.

Again, thank you to each of the 487 people who ran, walked, gave time and money, got their hands dirty with bike grease, brought shampoo and soap, and more!

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August 19, 2010

What motivates employees?

A number of people now leaving for ASAE & The Center's Annual Conference & Expo in Los Angeles Aug 20-24 may be hoping to learn about ways to recruit, retain, and motivate staff. A new article in Knowledge@Whartoncontains the results of a fascinating series of studies about whether ranking workers (and, in particular, sharing that rank with the employee) would inspire good performers to greater heights and poor performers to buckle down.

Short answer: no. The worker rock star began slacking off, while the loser workers became discouraged but--although companies apparently hoped otherwise--generally didn't quit their jobs to move on.

After reading the article, I wondered how old the workers were. Would age affect this result?

I had recently listened to the September issue of Success magazine's CD, which shares interviews with 3-4 leaders of interest to entrepreneurs and small business owners. Featured was a terrific conversation with three inspiring and insightful Millennial leaders of the nonprofit Invisible Children.

Invisible Children aims to prevent child soldiering, the kidnapping of youngsters by rebel tribes in Northern Uganda for use as horrific "soldiers" in their battle against the government. The nonprofit, born out of a documentary filmed by student 20-somethings, has been remarkably successful at raising political attention to the problem and engaging supporters of all ages to their cause. (See here for a short video of its Schools to Schools program.).

One quote really stuck with me. The interviewer asked the trio what companies and organizations can do to attract, retain, and motivate Millennial workers. "Millennials value the impossible," one answered. They'll "work like crazy" and are "extremely passionate," but they want to have fun doing it, and they are attracted to projects, causes, and programs that are trying "to do things never done before." They also want their organizations to think beyond themselves and to take their role as a global citizen seriously, the leaders said.

I'm hoping that conference attendees will keep an open mind and the reality check provided by these three brave nonprofit founders as discussions begin again on worker "reward" systems in associations.

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August 12, 2010

Giving Away Success

I love Success magazine for entrepreneurs and small-business owners, especially the accompanying audio CD that features three to four interviews with leaders from various industries. I always glean great information relevant to our sector as well, and the September issue is no exception, because it carries a series about giving--why and how businesses should give, why folks in the top positions should adopt a public giving culture, and why some of the highest impact giving has nothing to do with money.

This is refreshing in light of the major publicity given this week to the laudable efforts of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates to convince billionaires to pledge at least half of their wealth to charitable causes in life or upon their death. If the wealth of the 40+ billionaires who have signed on holds true, that means a staggering flow of more than $200 billion into the nonprofit community--and the dynamic duo are far from done.

The pieces in Success had nothing to do with giving of such mind-boggling personal wealth. Indeed, Success publisher and CD moderator Darren Hardy lists 10 "non-monetary tithes" that business leaders could give, ranging from "knowledge tithing" and "mentoring tithing," to "ear tithing" (listening) and "space tithing" (donating the use of an office or meeting room to a nonprofit for events or a satellite office).

The list reminded me of the latest book from Loews Hotels CEO & Chairman Jonathan Tisch, Citizen You: Doing Your Part to Change the World, in which Tisch urges everyone in every field at every level to become "citizen professionals." He defines that term as a professional in, say, architecture who also applies his or her work skills and knowledge to projects and organizations that better their community and beyond.

In my April interview, Tisch echoes Hardy in urging businesses and the organizations representing these trades and professions to talk more specifically about giving. "My hope is that the leaders of many, many associations are willing to have this conversation with their members, ... because the needs are out there, and the reality is that we have so many challenges as a society, if we could use the strength and vision that associations in our country possess--just the sheer horsepower of the men and women who belong to these associations--we could do a lot for this country."

Tisch went on to say that, like Buffett, people seem hungry to do something positive, and they're looking to their workplaces to meet that desire. "Over the years when I've been involved in so many associations," Tisch says, "I have seen people at conventions want to do more. I have seen them ask for more information [about what to do]. When you look back over the past 18 months--one of the most difficult financial periods our nation has ever been through--we've come out of it with a sense of the fragility of our economic system ..., but now that we're coming to a better place, we also have a greater understanding of what we need to do to preserve the pillars of our economy and to try to do more. People are expressing the need to have a roadmap to help them do more."

I'm hoping, like Hardy, Tisch, and likely Buffett, that association leaders are willing to "ask for directions" that let them create that giving roadmap with their boards, members, and customers. At the very least, consider GPSing your own giving route drawing on a full range of "tithing" options.

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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.


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 ( 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

However, a summary of 12 of their major initiatives ( provides association meeting planners and

Continue reading "Winter Olympics Organizers Offer Free Toolkit on Creating Sustainable Events " »

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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!


January 13, 2010

More association and nonprofit earthquake response news

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

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

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

Continue reading "More association and nonprofit earthquake response news" »

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Associations, Nonprofits Begin Haitian Earthquake Response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


December 7, 2009

Is technology the answer?

As I write this I am sitting on my couch at home on a Saturday afternoon. It is snowing outside so I have my heat on, two lamps on, my tv on as sort of background noise and my laptop in my lap. I am sucking down electricity directly from at least 4 things. The good news is that while I am working I am printing as little as possible and I am therefore not putting much into paper folders for later reference. So am I environmentally friendly or not? I am saving trees but I am using more and more electricity.

Here is another situation I have been thinking about lately. As a consultant I spend more and more time in places that have free wi-fi or access to multiple electrical outlets. I need electricity to do my job and I have learned during my time as a consultant that more and more people are just like me. Most of these people do not carry around portable printers and just like in my situation above they print as little as possible. Is the proliferation of electricity junkies who do not use a lot of paper a good thing or a bad thing? Are we just substituting one problem for another?

I think the virtual office is a great thing. I also think it is great that technology has advanced so much that we are all now more portable and more productive. That said all of the technology does run on electricity and at the end of the day I am curious to know if the environment is going to pay for our reliance on technology and electricity.

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November 3, 2009

Gearing Up for the Season of (Mobile) Giving

The Halloween candy hasn’t even been eaten yet, and I’m already seeing what I think will be a tidal wave of holiday-season community service outreach and philanthropic activities by a wide range of associations and nonprofits. In the spirit of the upcoming season and because everyone likes to know what their colleagues are up to, I’m going to make an effort to post occasional short lists with links to more details of some of the most creative or highest impact projects and partnerships.

For now, I’ll just share what one nonprofit is doing to address a fundraising issue that becomes especially crucial during the end-of-year giving cycle—enabling trusted, simple, and convenient donations directly from mobile phones. The Mobile Giving Foundation (MGF) has just announced a partnership with major mobile providers such as Verizon Wireless and AT&T to assist 350-plus charities with mobile giving campaigns. The program has generated more than $1 million in 18 months and is expected to grow rapidly, according to the foundation. A Canadian version of the initiative also has launched.

The foundation also has gone the next step: developing a broader partnership strategy to create a "mobile giving channel, whereby consumers can text a keyword that corresponds to a specific nonprofit or charitable cause to a designated short code. Afterward, a micro-donation of $5 or $10 is made and processed.” The wireless service companies tally donations via their regular monthly billing process and forward the funds to MGF, which passes 100% of them to the designated charities.

MGF has worked with almost every U.S. and Canadian wireless service provider to design “clear standards” that “provide a quality user experience and a trusted source of donor engagement for nonprofits." That experience includes offering donors various “information opt-in-based text alert packages … to help the donor maintain visibility to the causes they support.”

Thanks to a process redesign and technology innovations that dramatically accelerated campaign launch processes, the foundation now launches 20 campaigns per week and is currently supporting more than 400 campaigns with price points of either $5 or $10.

Response rates vary wildly from 1.5% to 63%, depending on “the cause, celebrity endorsement, co-branding affiliations, and related marketing efforts,” says the foundation.

Here’s a list of current charity partners and the Standards for Participation in case your organization would like to participate.


October 23, 2009

Re-envisioning volunteer management programs

Loads of associations and nonprofits are participating in Make a Difference Day this Sunday, showcasing just how responsive organizations and their members have been to President Obama’s National Call for Service and passage of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.
A look at the numbers shows that neighborhood engagement levels have risen sharply since 2007, with a 31 percent increase in the number of people who worked with neighbors to fix a community problem, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. And Points of Light Foundation CEO Michelle Nunn isn’t alone in her viewpoint that the past year indicates a “change in the course of civic responsibility in our nation.”

As a result, though, high-quality volunteer management has never been more important. That means associations and nonprofits should be rethinking their longtime volunteer management processes, training, and communications to best leverage this influx of new talent and enthusiasm.

I’m thinking of my own volunteer and philanthropic experiences with certain nonprofits. They weren’t always pleasant, and I’d estimate that I only did one-off projects for about half of them because they just weren’t particularly memorable, fun, or fulfilling enough to warrant my loyalty, even if the overall mission of the organization was laudable. With so many great causes, why would I want to stick with a group that couldn’t get its act together to articulate why my efforts or knowledge would make a particular difference?

I like that I’m seeing more organizations turn to social media to build real-time communities of volunteers so they can share their experiences and ideas with others. Facebook “parties” celebrating a successful service day, for instance, are great fun to relish afterward. Tweeting to other volunteers at a similar event elsewhere can be a hoot when it gets competitive about who is picking up the most trash, stuffing the most food boxes, or collecting the most used clothing. And Flickr is a fun way to tell a feel-good story through images and brief captions.

I urge you, as more people than ever agree to come help you out with everything from service days to fundraising, to spend some time looking at your volunteer management programs with fresh eyes. Share what changes you’re making, please. Are you surveying volunteers more often? Offering more flexible service opportunities? Developing richer profiles of volunteers so you can better tap into free talent? Gathering evaluation data to track satisfaction and engagement levels? Boosting your training? Clarifying the value proposition both to the volunteer and to the recipient/beneficiary?

Make a Difference Day seems like a good time to ask yourself if you really are making as much of a difference as you and your volunteers could be.


September 23, 2009

Associations, nonprofits converge at Clinton Global Initiative

There are some crazy-good speeches and announcements of new partnerships, new commitments, new ideas, and more over at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting going on live. If you’re feeling a tad down about the sluggish economy, world poverty, eco-destruction, blah, blah, sigh, then you’re a good candidate for a big old dose of optimism, creativity, resourcefulness, and, yes, hope!

You’ll find a pile of your peers potentially making history as well as connections at the global gathering, so don’t hesitate to be a fly on the wall.


September 3, 2009

Nonprofits Unite for Census Accuracy

I’m reading a lot of anxious press releases and articles within the association/nonprofit communities about boosting participation in the U.S. 2010 census process, as fiscally stressed organizations unite to battle perception hurdles that could depress census tallies and lead to fewer federal funds for states and their social programs. Currently, the federal government distributes almost $400 billion annually to states and localities.

In Illinois, for instance, an alliance of 60 nonprofits and 10 state foundations has formed the nation’s largest response to date--a $1.2-million “Count Me In” campaign to improve participation in the tallies of often-missed populations, such as immigrants, minorities, and low-income residents. The coalition has determined that for each person not counted in Illinois, the state loses $12,000 during the next decade.

Organizers are using a wide variety of new and traditional engagement and education tools to convince people to complete their census document. Among them are celebrity text messages for Latino youth, door-knocking brigades to immigrant communities, social media strategies, special events, and outreach materials for churches, barber shops, and beauty salons in heavily African-American neighborhoods.

If you’re interested in learning more about or joining the efforts, go to the U.S. Census Bureau site for National Partners; you can also find a massive list of associations and nonprofits already signed up (PDF).


September 1, 2009

Using Social Media Volunteers Creatively

While I was reading about the National Business Travel Association’s recent updates to the NBTA Corporate Social Responsibility Toolkit and its offsetting of carbon emissions of its August 2009 conference, I saw that—a popular nonprofit that arranges and advocates offsets for organizations—was advertising for “social media volunteers.” Rather than the usual request that members who use social media serve as viral marketers, volunteers were being invited to “help set the record straight about offsets,” because “there’s a lot of misinformation on offsets in social media.”

I like that whole concept of virtual volunteers with multiple purposes, and though it seems obvious to add this concept to an association’s array of volunteer opportunities, I haven’t seen many other organizations that do so. Okay, maybe they have easily downloadable widgets and logos, but an actual specific purpose like serving as a rapid-response team member for misinformation? Not really.

What other ways could social media volunteers be actively engaged? I'm talking about a real strategy, one integrating into your overall volunteer management strategy and practices. Are you offering enough options for volunteers to leverage these tools in ways that appeal to them, not just to address our needs? Have you thought about holding a tweetfest, for instance, on getting your message out? Do you have ideas on whether or how Facebook users could, as a group, be galvanized into a new type of volunteer corps? Who else is using social media volunteers who may have "lessons learned" and advice?


August 21, 2009

Crowdsourcing a new book on corporate social responsibility

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

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


August 18, 2009

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

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

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

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

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


August 13, 2009

Free Guide Available on "Making Work Work"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 23, 2009

Takin’ It to the Streets

Anyone glued to the Tour de France cycling race during the past two weeks may have seen one of the coolest, newest message delivery systems developed in a long time: Chalkbotting. The Nike Livestrong Chalkbot looks like a streetsweeping machine but instead of cleaning up, it neatly sprays down yellow chalk messages—100,000 in all--onto the thousands of miles of streets that comprise the Tour de France route.

The technique, praised by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association and highlighted in Adverblog and other forums, has created tremendous buzz among the millions of fans watching the race on TV and the Internet. Superstar Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation has been showcased in particular, since Nike is a major sponsor of Lance and his mission.

The fun is that anyone worldwide can participate: The process collects 40-character “messages of inspiration and support” cancer regarding living from anyone via text or a web site, and then you spend the rest of the time trying to read the road during cycling coverage to see if you catch your message live. When submitting your short message, you’re cleverly shown what your message will look like on the road, and the site is rigged to send you an email when your message is indeed sprayed, so you know exactly on which days to search.

In addition to messages by individuals, countless nonprofits—particularly, cancer-oriented charities, since the campaign aims to raise awareness of cancer-related issues--have made sure their members are engaging with this unprecedented tool, so viewers are seeing an array of nonprofit names, slogans, URLs, etc. You can also follow the fun at Chalkbot’s Twitter stream.

Naturally, Livestrong remains the most popular, though, and you also can join the 1.5 million followers of the Twitter stream by the Man himself, Lance Armstrong, at, as he tweets about the Chalkbot, his foundation (he speaks daily with the foundation’s executive director), the tour, the media, and more. You’ll also find an article in a future Associations Now about what kind of boost in donations and awareness was generated by Armstrong’s participation in the tour.


July 21, 2009

Ethics: Worthy Debate or Spectator Sport?

Consultant and longtime association insider Joan Eisenstodt writes a compelling article in the June 22 issue of that is sure to make many meeting planners and exhibitors squirm. Essentially, she’s calling on everyone to re-commit to a higher sense of ethics, one worthy of a profession critical to our entire sector. Then she lists some cringe-worthy examples of shoddy behavior witnessed by others within our community.

Clearly, ethics is a hot topic, what with the 150-year jail sentence given to Bernard Madoff for swindling, sometimes destroying, dozens of charities and far more individuals out of staggering millions. And yet it always seems to be “the other guy” or organization who is engaging in distasteful (although likely not Madoff-level) behavior.

It’s kind of like that dumb question, “Are you a good communicator?” Yes, answers everyone. I mean, who doesn’t think they’re great at communicating? And who doesn’t think they’re ethical—at least 99% of the time? So why have ethics discussions at all if people don’t feel the conversation really applies to them?

And yet, of course we have to talk about it. Drill it in, frankly. But does the back and forth result in positive impact? Maybe. Maybe not.

You can engage more in this discussion here or via another of Joan’s commentaries, this one a short blog post about MPI’s Principles of Professionalism on the Meeting Professionals International site. Even better, catch what’s sure to be a provocative conversation during her August 17 education session, “Industry Ethics: Right, Wrong or Gray,” at 3:15 p.m. during the ASAE & The Center’s Annual Meeting & Expo in Toronto.


July 16, 2009

Free Good Governance Workbook Available

A free downloadable workbook, “The Principles Workbook: Steering Your Board toward Good Governance and Ethical Practice,” is now available from coauthors BoardSource and Independent Sector. The publication aims to “help the nonprofit community meet its commitment to upholding the highest standards of accountability -- and do so in a cost-effective way.”

The workbook enables nonprofit boards and staff to “evaluate themselves on key principles of legal compliance and public disclosure, effective governance, and strong financial oversight and then develop action plans based on those evaluations.”

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July 15, 2009

Designers Respond to Obama Request for Community Service

In a terrific example of using strategic social responsibility to create positive change and strengthen organizations, AIGA—a professional design association—has activated its membership to respond to a special invitation from the White House and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to help promote and document public service opportunities in their communities during the “United We Serve” initiative. The latter is a summer of community involvement culminating in a National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11, 2009.

Specifically, the Obama administration hopes that designers will “visually promote local opportunities for community service and then create a visual record of the results.”

The association is thrilled with the invitation, viewing this project as an excellent alignment of member skills, organizational mission, and public interest. It is urging members to search the community service project section of for local charitable opportunities and then to collaborate with project organizers on posters, brochures, Web vehicles, and more to visually promote it.

Participating members are urged to upload photos of their efforts to Flickr using the tag “designserves,” and AIGA is gathering these examples for a fall slideshow for association members and the public.

“Designers should be involved as citizens and as designers. Each designer has the ability to move others by making stories visible and capturing the community experience,” says AIGA Executive Director Richard Grefé.

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July 2, 2009

When Codes of Conduct Clash with Legal Fears

I had an interesting conversation about marketing new professional codes of conduct or professional principles Wednesday with Carol Smolenski, executive director of ECPAT-USA, a New York-based nonprofit that protects children from sex tourism. It was one more time in which I felt that America’s propensity to sue everyone in sight – or live in fear of that—was holding back good-minded organizations from doing the right and obvious thing.

In this case, I’m talking about ECPAT’s Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism. This is a concisely written code with six anti-“sexploitation” criteria and more than 1,000 signatories from 30 countries to date.

How many of those 1,000 signatory organizations—ranging from hotel chains to hospitality and travel associations--are U.S.-based? Four.

Why so shockingly low? Lawyers, grimaces Carol. Apparently, although this view “is not generally shared” outside of the States, many lawyers here believe that displaying support for the code would put a company/association at greater risk should a sexually exploited child decide to hire a lawyer and target, not so much the individual committing the heinous crime, but the facility in which it occurred because “it is likely more profitable.”

Fortunately, not everyone in America agrees. The American Society of Travel Agents is to be commended for adding its considerable clout to the effort to stem sex trade of minors, as is longtime hospitality industry leader Marilyn Carlson Nelson, who immediately signed up her powerful Carlson Companies in 2004 despite internal advice to the contrary. Today, she remains an ardent champion for the code and cause.

Carol, too, remains committed, although she now focuses on marketing the code primarily beyond American borders, where interest and support are much higher. In Mexico and Belize, for instance, the code has firm backing from a variety of travel associations, which also help get EPCAT supporters and staff into the door of local hotels. There, Carol finds that facility managers are often eager to sign the code, despite hesitations from corporate headquarters.

To help bolster these potential grassroots supporters, her organization is trying something new: on-the-street surveys asking whether people would prefer to stay in a place supportive of responsible tourism-related policies. Although early yet, to date around 60% of several hundred surveyed in New York City say yes.

But it’s a bit of a shame both that this is the question EPCAT has chosen to ask first, and that its initial query is to the general public. To me, it’s asking the wrong people. I’d rather target travel and hospitality professionals, owners, managers, promoters and maybe even their lawyers with the question, “How would you feel about staying in a place that does not support responsible tourism practices and policies?”

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July 1, 2009

Kiwanis Brainstorm with Members, Others on Next Big Challenge

With so much bad economic news around, it’s especially wonderful when you see an organization staying laser-focused on its mission and, in fact, searching for greater opportunities to impact both their members and the world.

Such is the case with news that Kiwanis International is seeking a major new challenge and wants input on what it should be. In addition to tapping its 8,000 clubs in 70 nations, Kiwanis is inviting any organization and individual to propose a project “to become the global service organization’s second worldwide service initiative” to “make a positive difference in the world by helping children in need.” The request comes because Kiwanis has nearly succeeded in accomplishing its first global challenge: protecting children from iodine deficiency disorders. Working with partner UNICEF since 1994, the organization estimates “the number of households consuming iodized salt has jumped from 20% in 1990 to more than 70% today.”

Proposals for the new worldwide service challenge are due by Oct. 1, 2009. For a list of project criteria and more information, visit Kiwanis will announce its final choice in June 2010 during 95th annual convention.


June 17, 2009

More Resources Help Associations with Pandemic Flu Contingency Planning

With the World Health Organization’s June 11 decision to upgrade the global pandemic ranking for H1N1 influenza (swine flu) to its peak phase 6, some associations, nonprofits, and business partners are developing new contingency and crisis communication materials for their corporate members, as well as the public.

Please note that in announcing the status change, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, Ph.D., spoke calming words: "The world is now at the start of the 2009 influenza pandemic. We are in the earliest days of the pandemic. The virus is spreading under a close and careful watch. No previous pandemic has been detected so early or watched so closely, in real-time, right at the very beginning. The world can now reap the benefits of investments, over the last five years, in pandemic preparedness."

Here are some of the ways associations and business partners are responding with practical advice and information:

- The Conference Board has released a downloadable report, "Key Questions in Pandemic Planning", and is regularly updating its Web site with news, resources, and case studies about how organizations responding to a pandemic threat.

- The American Veterinary Medical Association pandemic site has developed a comprehensive FAQs list to address public inquiries and share breaking news about swine flu.

- Marketing and technology firm Varolii has released a list of eight practices that should be part of any pandemic-related crisis communications plan: Be proactive, rather than reactive. Update employee contact information immediately. Use multiple communication channels to ensure everyone gets the word. Leverage two-way communication, so employees can keep you informed of their status. Don’t assume a single message will do. Communicate the way your employees want you to, which means you need to ask them how they prefer to be kept informed. Communicate with customers, too, so they know what’s going on. Consider outsourcing the creation of a pandemic communication plan if your organization is "too busy" or inexperienced to develop one—don’t wait until it’s too late.


May 5, 2009

"Green Desks"--An Option for Meeting Attendees?

While many association meeting planners are adding special educational programs and tracks on adopting more environmentally friendly work habits and goals, the Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Supplies has crafted an additional approach for its upcoming conference: a "Green Desk."

The Green Desk, which debues at the July 2009 AWFS Fair, provides “a place where anyone in attendance can stop by to ask questions related to green practices and issues that are impacting virtually all businesses.” This one-on-one approach is in addition to the association’s education track, “Going Green,” to help corporate members move to more sustainable products and processes, and to meet new “green building” standards.

I like the idea of associations offering such "green coaching," even if it isn't more complicated than serving as a one-stop resource desk at an event to pick up relevant tips lists, discuss the latest industry eco-trends and benefits, or connect members interested in the same green steps.


April 28, 2009

Hand Hygiene for Grown-ups

With the contining spread of the swine flu, we’re all hearing one directive drilled into us like never before—wash your hands! Often! In the right way! Sounds pretty straightforward, but even before the swine flu hit, the Soap and Detergent Association and the American Society for Microbiology were responding to data showing poor hand hygiene in many adults (a rather disturbing 25% of adults, for instance, don’t wash their hands in public restrooms).

Now, with 149 swine flu deaths on record and almost 1,700 people sickened, what seemed a small project last fall--creation of an online and print-version brochure ( about proper hand washing--takes on new and greater importance. Available in English and Spanish, “'Don’t Get Caught Dirty Handed' reminds adults that many cases of colds, flu, and food-borne illness are spread by unclean hands, and these diseases are responsible for billions of dollars each year in health care expenditures and productivity losses in the United States,” says the association.

No soap around? Reach for a hand sanitizer (keep one in your desk, purse, laptop pocket and car glove compartment) or hand wipes.

With a slight blush of embarassment, I suggest sharing this information with staff as a gentle but direct reminder that we’re all in this together when it comes to germ sharing and avoidance. For more info, visit


April 25, 2009

Associations celebrate Earth Day

The celebration of Earth Day featured a wildly diverse group of associations offering a range of pickins as colorful and creative as your great-aunt’s garden. Here’s a partial list from a wheelbarrow load of press releases, RSS feeds, podcasts, Facebook updates, and more.

• Built around the theme “Air—The Sky’s the Limit,” the American Chemical Society has a “Chemists Celebrate Earth Day” portal with a spiffy logo, contests for high school/college kids, an event locator, and contests.

• BOMA International has released "100 Days, 100 Ways," a list of tips and strategies about recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation, indoor air quality, and tenant awareness to help property professionals make going green a priority. The document appears on its sustainability site called The GREEN (Green Resource Energy and Environment Network), which is chock full of eco-resources for members and the public.

• The Special Libraries Association has announced 12 recipients of the 2008 SLA Presidential Citation honoring its "Knowledge to Go Green" Champions. The unique citation recognizes individuals and SLA units that have implemented strategies to reduce their impact on the earth.

• The African American Environmentalist Association blogs about the Earth Month video message of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, who urges citizens to help create the green economy and to take steps to protect water, air, and land.

• The Newspaper Association of America has launched an Environmental Hub to showcase some of the socially responsible initiatives of NAA members who are “championing practices that help papers thrive economically while preserving and protecting the environment for future generations.” You’ll find an environmental toolkit for members, general background on environmental issues, Web resources, and info on a “Green Ideas” CD that compiles eco-initiatives and ideas underway at newspaper media companies.

And perhaps not strictly an Earth Day product but cool all the same, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment have launched an online climate action planning wiki called “Climate Planning for Campuses: How-to Guide.”


Associations in Action regarding Swine Flu and Potential Pandemic

With reports breaking all Friday regarding hundreds of both Mexican and American citizens sickened or even killed by a new form of swine flu, associations in the health care and agricultural communities have been busy confirming information, alerting and surveying members about any potential swine flu-related patients, and calming an anxious public even while acknowledging that much—including the original source of the illness--remains unknown.

"At this point, it appears to be human-to-human transmission only," said Dr. Ron DeHaven, CEO, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), in a press statement Friday. "We've been in contact with the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV), and there have been no reports of outbreaks among animals, although their members are certainly aware of what's happening and are stepping up surveillance for the virus with federal and state animal health officials."

According to officials, “there is little or no risk of catching swine flu from eating pork or pork products, but as always, proper food handling and hand washing should be practiced.”

The AASV is regularly updating its Web site at with news for its veterinarian members and the general public.

The American Lung Association in California quickly blogged about the six documented cases of this new strain of swine flu in the San Diego area and Imperial County, as well as two cases in San Antonio. It noted that rapid flu tests cannot tell this type of flu from seasonal flu, “and the current vaccine may not be protective. Tamiflu works, as does Relenza.” The post, found at, also notes that “while there are likely more cases in the U.S., there are no large-scale outbreaks.”

As of this Friday night post, however, CNN is reporting that 75 high school students in New York City are being tested for suspected swine flu.

The National Pork Board also has issued a helpful 4-page information sheet about swine flu at

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control has information on the human swine flu investigation at


April 22, 2009

Using social responsibility to build meeting attendance

The Springtime expo last week showcased a number of companies, products, and education sessions related to greening of meetings and the strong business case for social responsibility, especially in this difficult economy.

Kicking off was Trailblazer session speaker Gary Hirshberg, “CE-Yo” and cofounder of Stonyfield Farm, whose $340-million company is the largest organic yogurt producer in the world. Hirshberg, fresh from a similar presentation to an association of convention center managers, shared his compelling story of how he built Stonyfield Farm as a socially responsible business to prove that you can make both an outstanding profit and a positive impact on the planet. Sustainability also helps businesses “get to the Holy Grail: customer loyalty.”

Asked what specific socially responsible actions could be taken by meeting planners to attract more people to their events, Hirshberg suggested two in particular:

1) Hold a service day as part of any conference or major event. “People want to connect and interact,” he said, noting that working side by side on a community project creates a feel-good experience off the bat. “The networking is incredible…. And right away the meeting is a success because people think, ‘I gave instead of just received.’”

2) Consider offsetting greenhouse gas emissions. Hirshberg noted that figuring out total airline or other transportation mileage of attendees is fairly easy, and the carbon emission totals can then be easily calculated online and offset through tree planting, energy credits, and other options.

“It’s not expensive [to offset],” he emphasized, and it helps “create symbols that show this [commitment to social responsibility] is a conscious effort.” To generate more SR-related ideas, he urged meeting planners to talk directly and frequently about sustainability, noting that “you’re only limited by your imagination.”

You can learn much more about integrating SR into your organization by reading his excellent book, Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World (Hyperion, 2008). A longer interview with Hirshberg will appear shortly on the ASAE & The Center’s Social Responsibility page.

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April 15, 2009

Clean tech association creates innovative membership category

You would think that a nonprofit named the Clean Technology and Sustainable Industries Organization would have it made, considering all of the federal attention on these types of businesses in the new stimulus legislation. However, CTSI is hardly sitting around helping members complete bank deposit slips.

Instead, it appears to have recognized a tremendous opportunity for itself that will help members in the short term and the entire industry in the future. Its just-launched program, cleanConnect, aims specifically at helping the thousands of new clean-technology entrepreneurs create small businesses properly and then execute the really hard stuff—e.g., survive for the long-term despite the weak economy. The program has been carefully crafted around the basics: “partnership building, policy advocacy, resources & information, and financial support.”

The nonprofit also has partnered with the Nano Science and Technology Institute to cosponsor 2,700 presentations, industrial workshops, and issue-specific “short courses” at the upcoming TechConnect World conference in May.

In addition, the nonprofit has established a unique style of “in-kind” (free) membership, with benefits focused primarily on CEO professional development/engagement and concerns. In return for the free benefits, cleanConnect membership participants must “contribute to the building of the CTSI clean technology community,” which might run from serving on industry action committees to passing resources to other members to writing articles—anything that “will benefit the community.”

“Whether it takes one year or three, the public markets will come back, credit will become available, and companies will begin thriving again,” the organization writes on its Web site. “By joining forces and working together as a community, clean technology companies will be well positioned to take advantage of the comeback. By building a strong resource network, sharing our collective knowledge, and unifying our political voices, we will continue to drive innovation in energy and environmental technologies forward.”

I love that CTSI is building in value to itself and the wider community as it simultaneously targets valuable resources at what some might consider a niche element of the industry. I'm also curious whether many other associations permit members to "work off" their dues payments. Anyone?


March 28, 2009

Associations Participate in "Earth Hour" to Call for Action on Global Warming

ASAE & The Center’s headquarters will join thousands of other organizations, businesses, cities, towns, major historic landmarks, and other sites in 84 nations in shutting off all non-essential lights during the second annual Earth Hour Saturday at 8:30 p.m. EST.

Sponsored by World Wildlife Fund with support from the United Nations and myriad global leaders, the one-hour event aims to be a call for action to address harmful global climate change. The event has attracted massive support, with everyone from the World Organization of Scouts to Hollywood celebrities signing on as a participant, sharing commentary and self-shot videos on social network sites, and detailing to others what they plan to do during their hour of darkness.

Earth Hour 2009 has special meaning since the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, and leaders will meet later this year to discuss the issue.

Kudos to World Wildlife Fund for coming up with so many social network tools and outlets for its promotional efforts. For instance, you can download an Earth Hour iPhone application, upload a YouTube video, blog, and more. Go to for details.


March 12, 2009

Can We Talk?

Bestselling author and thought leader Meg Wheatley has created a provocative blog post on the BK Communique Web site—“The Five Conversations We Need to Have Right Now”—to move society toward positive change. What conversations might we in the association sector need to have, in Wheatley’s words, “for the sake of our future?”


March 3, 2009

Figuring Carbon Offsets for Business Travel has a 3-minute “top tips” video about how to figure carbon offsets of business travel. It also describes briefly what is happening internationally to help standardize the metrics used by common online carbon offset calculators that are in popular use by businesses today.

According to the American Society of Travel Agents, many of its member agencies now offer a range of carbon offset calculators as part of their booking processes, so you can offset travel when you purchase a ticket. It’s worth asking next time, because people continue to be surprised at how inexpensive the offsets usually are.


February 27, 2009

Carpooling to Your Meetings?

The Green Convene, a coalition of 60 businesses and organizations in the Louisville, Kentucky, area, set up a tool on its Web site that allowed meeting attendees to find others interested in carpooling to the event. (The tool was taken down following the event.) The Green Convene also provided attendees with a link to another site that maps the most efficient routes for drivers to get to the meeting.

Event planners are finding that member interest in carpooling to events may be on the rise, as associations seek ways to cut costs while still conducting core business. Carpooling also can boost camaraderie.


February 12, 2009

New Study Shows Sustainable Organizations Faring Better in Poor Economy

I’m hearing an avalanche of “greening” stories from association and nonprofit professionals who are either eager to leverage the frequent cost savings, increased efficiency, and positive brand-building of such efforts, or are already seeing tremendous return on investment for such actions.

It seems that anecdotes and solid data about associations and other businesses saving serious amounts of money through their efforts to become more eco-friendly in their IT operations, publishing, direct mailing/fundraising, and other functional areas are starting to spread more rapidly now that the economy has been sinking.

Still, some leaders who may not have much experience in creating sustainable value may be tempted to push the pause button on their organization’s social responsibility initiatives. They may want to think twice. A new study by the consulting firm A.T. Kearney finds that “companies committed to corporate sustainability practices during this [economic] slowdown are achieving above-average performance in the financial markets. … So before tossing out those sustainability practices and initiatives, it might be wise to first determine the real value of the efforts—especially the possible rewards for staying the course.”


February 6, 2009

Nonprofit Appointees to New Presidential Partnership Program Announced

Nonprofit leaders from a diversity of organizations continue to be tapped as President Barack Obama begins selecting members for his new President’s Advisory Council at the freshly created White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The office “will work on behalf of Americans committed to improving their communities, no matter their religious or political beliefs.”

The group, composed of religious and secular leaders and scholars from different backgrounds, also will be “a resource for nonprofits and community organizations, both secular and faith-based, looking for ways to make a bigger impact in their communities, learn their obligations under the law, cut through red tape, and make the most of what the federal government has to offer.”

Obama signed the executive order establishing the 25-member office Thursday, February 5; only 15 had been publicly announced by today.

“There is a force for good greater than government,” Obama said in a White House press release. ”It is an expression of faith, this yearning to give back, this hungering for a purpose larger than our own, that reveals itself not simply in places of worship, but in senior centers and shelters, schools and hospitals, and any place an American decides."

Appointed to lead the office is Joshua DuBois, a former associate pastor and Obama advisor during the president’s Senate days; DuBois also served as Obama’s campaign director of religious affairs. All appointees will serve a one-year term.

Working in tandem with the president’s Cabinet secretaries and 11 government agencies, the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will focus on four priorities: “making community groups an integral part of America’s economic recovery;” serving as “one voice among several in the administration that will look at how we support women and children, address teenage pregnancy, and reduce the need for abortion;” supporting “fathers who stand by their families….,” and working “with the National Security Council to foster interfaith dialogue with leaders and scholars around the world.”

In addition to forming the new office, the Executive Order also sought to add “a new mechanism for the Executive Director of the Office to work through the White House Counsel to seek the advice of the Attorney General on difficult legal and constitutional issues.”

Among the council members are Judith Vredenburgh, president and CEO, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America; Richard Stearns, President, World Vision; Fred Davie, President, Public/Private Ventures; Rabbi David Saperstein, director & counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Father Larry Snyder, President, Catholic Charities USA; and Eboo Patel, founder/executive director, Interfaith Youth Corps.


January 28, 2009

SNIA Releases More Green Computing Resources and Draft Standards

As I continue to research green computing in response to requests at the ASAE & The Center’s Technology Conference that ends today, I’ve been alerted that the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) Green Storage Initiative (GSI) released its draft "Green Storage Power Measurement Specification" for public review just last week.

According to the association’s GSI Technical Working Group, "this initial release contains a comprehensive Storage Taxonomy for classifying storage products, as well as a baseline standard for idle power measurement. Future releases will include an Active Measurement standard [and] procedures for auditing and reporting of results." You can download a copy here.

You might also be interested in the association’s downloadable white paper, released in October 2008, called "Best Practices for Energy Efficient Storage Operations," which gives guidelines for "leveraging currently available storage system features for reducing energy and power consumption." Among the topics covered—many of which have been explored at this week’s conference—are data and file de-duplication, virtualization, data compression, tiered storage, and solid state disks.

And finally, SNIA wrote an excellent article you can access free online at InfoStor Magazine called "How Green Is Your Storage?"


"Green" Ratings for IT Systems

Someone asked during the Green Computing session Monday afternoon at the ASAE & The Center’s Technology Conference whether any environmental standards exist for IT in terms of judging whether a technology system and its processes are truly “green.”

This morning I saw in the free e-newsletter that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is indeed in the process of creating an Energy Star rating for data center infrastructure. Goals for this new rating system, according to the article, include offering the recognized and respected Energy Star label “to data centers with a rating of 75 or higher (performance in the top quartile)” on a scale of 1-100.

You’ll find a PowerPoint presentation on this and EPA’s project to boost Energy Star Buildings by clicking here.

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January 23, 2009

Keeping to the Mission Despite the Economy: An Inspiring Example

Wow. At a time when most nonprofits are hoarding every dime, it’s amazing to read that Rotary International, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the leaders of economically hard-struck nations Germany and England are keeping their “eyes on the prize”—eliminating the last bastions of polio—by announcing a $635 million donation to the eradication effort.

Rotary has committed to raise $100 million during the next five years to boost vaccination campaigns in the polio hotspot regions of India and Nigeria, an effort that has inspired the Gates foundation to give $255 million to the nonprofit’s initiative over that same period. Already, Rotary’s 33,000 clubs worldwide have raised $61 million of a $100 million pledge to match a 2007 donation by the Gates foundation. Great Britain continues it highly visible position as one of the top governmental leaders in the eradication effort by pledging another $150 million; Germany, also a longtime committed partner, will donate $130 million.

Polio—an “epidemic prone disease,” as described by one expert--has not been as easy to eradicate as health professionals had hoped, and the effort has suffered setbacks. In 2008, 1,625 polio cases were reported globally, an increase of 500 from 2007 numbers. However, since Rotary and its partners began their efforts in 1988, the caseload has been reduced by 99%, so NGO leaders are not giving up.

Congratulations to Rotary International and the Gates foundation for showing real optimism, focus, and determination to keep to their core missions in the face of a global economic crisis!


January 13, 2009

Breaking Through

Jason's observation of a small slice of the association leadership landscape--Old White Dudes--is more than a little terrifying. Stale and pale, I expected, but cloned?

His back-of-the-envelope stats, though, sound like the U-curve of association demographics for race, gender, and age. Changing that mix requires more than board policy or an enlightened nominating committee. It requires a much larger scale response.

Associations are reflections of those we serve. The most successful tend to join associations and those they are willing follow, rise to the top. As Malcolm Gladwell points out in his new book, Outliers, those who succeed benefit from a 'web of advantages and inheritances,' not available to all, but possible for associations to replicate.

That's what is being attempted in commercial real estate, and a dozen associations serving that industry are trying to build a new leadership pipeline. Their story is in the new Volunteer Leadership Issue of Associations Now, that I wrote entitled "Breaking Through."

I point it out here because other bastions of old white dudes are being forced out into the open. Last Friday, the New York Times reported on the NAACP's focus on Madison Avenue and the lack of diversity in the advertising business. The agencies' associations mobilized a response to this opening salvo of media attention, but high visibility lawsuits and pressure on advertisers are sure to follow. Stay tuned.

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January 12, 2009

Another Association Experiments with Mobile Phone Learning

The Century Council, a social responsibility nonprofit funded by the U.S. distilled spirits industry that works to reduce drunk driving in the United States, is one of the latest organizations developing and piloting tools for cell phones as a way to explore the impact of so-called “mobile learning.” In mid-December 2008, it launched, an innovative, “at-your-fingertips” program for mobile phones that helps people better estimate their blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

The interactive program “takes the guessing game out of the equation and gives the user factual information about how alcohol consumption affects an individual's BAC,” explains the organization in its press release. “Accessible from any mobile device, the user quickly enters their gender and weight and the type and quantity of drink(s) they plan to consume. A few short clicks later they are given their approximate BAC.”

According to Susan Molinari, who chairs The Century Council, the organization developed the tool because “readily available access to such important information will lead to more responsible decisions that can now be made anytime, at any place.”

The site “is an enhancement of an earlier version of the program but is faster and designed to be easily used on any mobile device.”

If your association or nonprofit has been creating mobile learning or other types of campaigns that rely on cell phones, please feel free to post brief summaries on this blog, so others can view your samples.


January 9, 2009

Associations, Nonprofits Organizing Around Inauguration and “National Call to Service”

Associations and nonprofits galore are an important part of preparations for the upcoming presidential inauguration and surrounding activities and excitement January 20. In particular, a diversity of organizations, ranging from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities to the Student Conservation Association, are offering volunteer opportunities for the expected “record number” of people inspired to begin responding to President-elect Barack Obama’s “call to service.”

Many of those service projects will be held specifically on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday just one day before Obama’s swearing-in ceremony, and Obama and his family, as well as that of Vice President-elect Joe Biden, are already scheduled to volunteer in the Washington, DC, area that day as well.

To ease any confusion about how and where to volunteer, thousands of association and nonprofit service projects are being added to a new web site,, under joint construction by the Inauguration Committee and a federal agency known for some odd reason as the Corporation for National and Community Service.

"Service is a solution to some of our toughest challenges, and service is needed now more than ever," says Nicola Goren, Acting CEO of the Corporation. "…. As Americans make their New Year's resolutions, we hope volunteering will be at the top of the list, starting on the King holiday and lasting throughout the year."

Thanks to the National Association of Broadcasters, you’ll be able to hear public service ads emphasizing the importance of community service via the voices of Dr. King and Isaac Newton Farris, Jr., CEO and president of the King Center, on more than 4,000 radio stations. The association is sponsoring a unique "radio roadblock" when stations are encouraged to air the spot on January 15, Dr. King's birthday. You may also hear from any of the hundreds of “Ambassadors of Service,” which include well-known nonprofit leaders, sports and entertainment celebrities, and others.

Want yet more info? Visit Facebook, where the company and its charity arm, Facebook Causes, are encouraging users to volunteer or organize their own service projects in tribute to the holiday and inauguration celebrations. Another good resource is the King Day of Service Web site, which has how-to promotional materials for nonprofits and a new "do it yourself" action guide.

Special kudos go to the seven national organizations that are leading mobilization efforts for “the King Day of Service.” According to a press release, the groups--the Points of Light Institute, The Corps Network, North Carolina Campus Compact, Youth Service America, Service for Peace, Campus Kitchens, and the National Alliance of Faith and Justice--have brought on more than 130 subgrantees to carry out projects.


December 19, 2008

Green Your Holidays, Urges American Chemical Society

The American Chemical Society (ACS) and ACS Green Chemistry Institute are encouraging consumers to “make your holidays more environmentally friendly” and “nudge society a little further toward sustainability” by reducing “your own personal carbon footprint.”

The world’s largest scientific society shares tips around the following:

(1) Recycling (forget new--recycle old paper and ribbons; use local Christmas tree-to-mulch programs after the holidays)

(2) Reusing (find creative wrapping materials such as newspapers and children’s artwork instead of new paper; consider purchasing a live Christmas tree that can be planted later)

(3) Repurposing (old shopping bags = new gift bags; think “regifting”)

(4) Rethinking (buy organic, local foods and gifts to avoid energy consumption associated with shipping; embrace e-cards; don’t leave holiday lights on all night)

I can add a few others:

- Consider upgrading your holiday lights to the new LED lights, which save up to 80%-90% energy and last many years longer than those old strings. Take advantage of after-Christmas sales if your budget can’t handle the purchase right now.

- Talk to your friends about skipping the usual $10-15 gift exchanges and instead give to a charity in the person’s name or as a larger “in honor of our friends” donation. I know one friendship circle that made a trip to Toys R Us together to shop for children in need instead of for each other. It was fun and led to stories about the toys and games that meant the most to each of the friends when they were young.

- Rethink teachers’ gifts. This region, like many others, is out of control when it comes to teachers’ gifts. My mother was a teacher for years, and she used to lament the money wasted on ornaments and useless do-hickies that she received each year when all she really wanted was a nice note of thanks. So this year, after taking a deep breath, my husband and I decided that instead of giving $10 gifts to each of our children’s nine teachers, we would donate in all of their honor to the Central Asia Institute to send several poor Afghan girls to school for a year (Isn’t that why teachers go into the field anyway? Because they want to help children become successful and prosper? Isn’t that better than a cup or two of coffee at Starbucks?). We did the same with our work colleagues, supplementing with a few baked items as well.

There are so many other ideas. Anyone else want to share?

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October 30, 2008

Recycling Your Electronics

Despite economic woes nationwide, more workers than ever appear primed to spend their holiday dollars on many of the latest consumer electronics, in large part as a tool to do their jobs better. That means loads of folks (I see you nodding) will be upgrading their old phones, computers, MP3s, game consoles and more.

If you or your organization are concerned about the potential for a season full of polluting e-waste, visit the Consumer Electronics Association’s handy site at for locations and news about the latest corporate take-back and recycling programs (Samsung announced its newest program this month). Consumer recycling of electronics is up by almost 30% since 2005, and manufacturers expect that number to grow quickly, especially as new corporate greening and recycling programs continue evolving to strive to meet consumer demands for greater eco-friendliness in the industry.

And before you buy your next beloved gizmo, you might want to turn to the online calculator on the site, which lets you determine how much energy your electronics equipment uses and how you can reduce it.

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October 24, 2008

Twitter as a Fundraising Tool

Although I recently posted about the increased popularity of personal giving through text messaging, I’d like to add a short update about Twitter, the hot microblogging social media tool that has captured the imaginations and texting fingers of primarily young professionals.

The New York Times has an article today about the Salvation Army’s efforts to expand its trademark “red kettle campaign” online, a move it started making three years ago with early texting donation drives and easy, click-on-the-bucket online giving at its Web site.

This year, the nonprofit is making an even greater virtual push, increasing its Facebook exposure, offering personal Web fundraising pages, and other interactive self-fundraising features, the article explains. Of particular interest, though, is the Salvation Army’s piloting of a Twitter-based campaign that provides brief, real-time updates on the progress of the red kettle campaign, again inviting folks to give on the spot via their cell phones.

I don’t know of any other associations using Twitter specifically for a fundraising campaign, but I’d like to hear from any who are experimenting with this vehicle. Please post here or email me at

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New Tool for Youth Voter Registration Campaigners

Is your organization involved in a voter registration campaign focused on 18- to 24-year-olds? Another tool has just emerged to help. Justice Through Music Project, a DC-based nonprofit working toward greater youth registration and political involvement, is offering thousands of copies of an ultra-cool "Rock Your Rights" DVD to associations and nonprofits to help inspire youth to get-out-and-vote in November. The DVD features more than 25 famous bands and musicians who urge young people to register, vote, talk about issues, and get involved.

For three years, JTMP has been interviewing bands and musicians—from The Indigo Girls to O.A.R. to Dar Williams--to get their opinion on issues such as voting, war, civil rights, equal rights, and free speech. “The responses are unscripted and many times surprising and provocative,” says a spokesperson. “Young people listen to bands and musicians more than authority figures, and musicians inspire youth to take part in the election process.”

The DVD also combines those celebrity interviews with Q&As with college students on their home campuses.

JTMP especially wants voter outreach organizations, especially in "swing states" and "battleground states," to contact them for free DVDs, so they will have another resource to accelerate efforts to get young people into the voting booth.


October 23, 2008

Kicking Butt: The New Organizational Model?

I’ve been reading a lot about how social movements start, stall, or succeed. Apparently, it’s an inexact art, making success a challenge to duplicate. An effort that caught my eye recently, though, made television history last month.

Many of you may have seen or even participated in the September 5 Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C; telethon on all three television networks, XM radio, and elsewhere. While the cause is certainly laudable, and the amount raised ($100 MILLION) in the mere three months since the organization’s launch in June 2008 and its telethon is breathtaking, I was especially interested in how this young organization planned to tackle a massive social problem on which hundreds of nonprofits already focus. And how would it convince people that what its leaders had in mind differentiated them dramatically from all other cancer-focused nonprofits?

First, SU2C is a radical bid to suppress barriers among multiple health, science, and technology sectors and build an entirely new space in which leading professionals collaborate and take risks. This aims to blow up the “let’s all get along and just work better together” niceties in favor of “Dream Teams” rallied around a kick-butt attitude of “We’re not leaving this war room until we solve this sucker!”

Second, it has a heavy-hitting leadership team. SU2C's leadership team ranges from a cancer surviver who also is a seasoned TV executive producer; the ever-popular Katie Couric; and reps from numerous powerful foundations, nonprofits, and research institutions. Cancer has touched each of them personally in some manner, making them incredibly determined, knowledgeable, and impatient for progress (hence, the sparks for innovation).

Third, they’re smart enough to know they’re still not smart enough to get to their goal: a cure for cancer as fast as possible. As a result, they allied themselves with the American Association for Cancer Research, which will rely on advice from a scientific advisory committee to vet proposed research projects and allocate the $100 mil to accelerate almost-there breakthroughs and speed new therapies to patients.

Fourth, the leadership team leveraged their considerable social networks in a big way, bringing in the kind of major donors that cause envy among us all--AARP, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Alliance for Global Good, and the Milken Family Foundation, for instance—and then convinced an unprecedented number of media partners—from online powerhouses like WebMD, Facebook, and AOL to ye ole traditional Hearst Corporation and The New York Times Company—to help jumpstart “a new movement.” It didn’t hurt that more than 100 celebrities also leapt on board.

We’ll have to see how and whether this “movement” does thrive to the grand-scale level of other well-recognized movements and whether it does indeed mark a tidal shift in cancer research and treatment, but the dramatic early days show great promise that may inspire others working to build a movement of our own. Maybe a wildly new bring-it-on attitude and fearlessness truly are the secret ingredients.


October 22, 2008

Presidential Candidates Speak on Work-Life Issues

Sick leave. Child care. Eldercare. Health care. You can now tap into notes from several conference calls about work-life issues with policy leaders from the presidential campaigns of Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain. Hosted in September by the nonprofit Families and Work Institute (FWI), the calls incorporated questions posed by business leaders in the work-life field and enabled business and community leaders nationwide to listen in.

"We consider it very significant that both campaigns have taken work-life issues seriously," says Ellen Galinsky. "This is the first ever Presidential campaign in which both nominees have formally articulated their positions in this arena.”

Among the questions addressed were the following:

- What are the work and family life issues the candidate feels are most important to address?

- What is the candidate's position on workplace flexibility? What are the roles of the government, employers and employees in providing workplace flexibility?

- Should the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) be changed and, if so, in what ways? Should it be paid? By whom? Should sick leave be established and paid? By whom and for whom?

- How would the candidate address issues of the time famine that so many employees experience?

- How does each candidate plan to address the impact of the gas crisis on commuting employees?

- How can work life issues help address the spiraling cost of health care?

- What if anything, does either party plan to do to support the 45% of employees taking care of our growing elderly population?


October 14, 2008

Leadership competencies for sustainable organizations

What are some of the new competencies needed by association CEOs and nonprofit executive directors who want to use social responsibility as a business driver within their organizations?

I thought I’d ask an expert, in this case Professor Chris Laszlo, author of the how-to book Sustainable Value (2008, Stanford University Press, 2008) and a speaker this morning during the online “Associations and Social Responsibility” summit—the virtual next-steps event to continue momentum and learning started at the Global Summit for Social Responsibility last May.

I had interviewed Chris in March in preparation for the original summit, so I revisited my transcript to recall what was said about leadership competencies.

“I would say framing social responsibility as ‘value creation’ rather than as a moral agenda is critical to making [any effort] successful, and, quite frankly, a lot of organizations don’t get that yet,” Laszlo had said. “Even if they say they get it, my experience is that they don’t. At some deeper level they think there’s got to be a moral agenda to this some place.”

CEOs also will need to develop a higher comfort level about taking advice and suggestions from even the lowest of the ranks, Laszlo noted.

They also will, strangely enough, need to “discourage creating environmental and social targets for their own sake. Once people in the mid-level of the organization understand that environment and social thinking is something that is now part of what the top management wants, you tend to have some people who run around an organization looking for the good environmental and social actions, but they’re doing it for the sake of those environmental/social actions.

“I think the CEO has to make it clear from the start that we’re talking about looking for environmental and social actions that are going to enable the organization to pursue its economic objectives better, not environmental/social actions for their own sake.…,” he continued. “This is about satisfying your customer. This is about creating new financial value. This is about enabling you to meet your traditional economic metrics. That is a unique CEO kind of role.”

David Cooperrider, Ph.D., a colleague of Laszlo’s at Case Western Reserve University, agrees. He added some of his own thoughts in this regard during a Q&A session this afternoon. You can listen to his entire presentation when you click on his PowerPoint presentation in the Resources section and the audio (up shortly) in the “Share and Reflect” section of the summit site.

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September 18, 2008

Exploring the principles of social responsibility

Last year the Sierra Club began a yearly ranking of the top 10 “greenest” universities and higher education facilities, which it published in Sierra magazine. The 2008 list has just been released, and it’s interesting to see the creative retrofitting, pilot programs, green building or remodeling, innovation, and eco-operational changes that have occurred in only a year or two at these and other educational institutions, many of which house the top business schools in the world.

Just as important has been the staggering amount of money saved and waste eliminated by those that have broadened beyond addressing just climate change or “greening” and instead embraced greater sustainability overall.

I field plenty of “show-me-the-money” questions from association leaders examining their own social responsibility options and opportunities, and I don’t have to look far to provide an onslaught of examples, both inside nonprofits and externally at corporations, state and federal government agencies, and small businesses.

Some of these “cool school” initiatives, for instance, are well known, having gained publicity through continuing coverage of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. The document (more commonly known as “the presidents’ pledge”) has been signed by more than 550 campus leaders worldwide, all willing to commit to auditing their schools' greenhouse-gas emissions, creating plans for a carbon-neutral operation, and publicizing their progress. I encourage you to skim this commitment, in part because it is one of the models on which the draft Principles for Associations on Social Responsibility is based. (And, of course, we’d love to hear your comments on this draft.)


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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August 25, 2008

Annual Meeting Hotels--Green and Sustainable

The hospitality sector has long been community-minded, and now many of them are including the planet in their “community,” with special programs, services, and operational practices and goals to lighten the environmental footprints of hotels and other accommodations. I heard about some of these actions from annual meeting attendees staying at the 15 official hotels in San Diego at the recent Annual Meeting & Expo.

Among the variety of sustainable amenities and practices—not all of which were available at each hotel--were the following:

· Reusable towel and linen options
· Biking and walking maps that help you avoid driving
· Water conservation measures such as low-flow faucets and showerheads
· Solar film on certain guestroom windows to reduce heat and UV rays
· Energy efficiency fixtures and light bulbs
· Recycling (sometimes in-room is available now)
· Wellness kits for travelers
· Organic or locally produced food and beverages
· Eco-messaging on hotel television channels
· Organic or sustainability-certified flowers and plants
· Donations to associations and nonprofits operating sustainability-oriented programs such as diversity initiatives, natural resource conservation projects, supply chain management assistance, and more

Other hotels by these leading brands are experimenting with additional options, such as retrofitting facilities for increased energy efficiencies and reduced carbon emissions, preferred parking for low-emitting vehicles and carpools, nonprofit partnerships to offset emissions or help obtain green or sustainability-oriented certifications, organic cotton linens and toiletries, grants for “volunteer vacations,” and employee/guest community engagement programs.

Attendees at the annual meeting were already been asking our staff about such practices in Toronto and Los Angeles, sites of the next two ASAE & The Center annual meetings. Please consider asking those questions at the front desks or concierge stands at hotels during your future business travels as well. Vocal customers, such as meeting planners, will help accelerate the move of hotels toward even greater social responsibility.

Meanwhile, congrats go to our partnering hotels at the meeting for communicating greener and more socially responsible options to recent attendees!


August 18, 2008

Conversations in the Social Responsibility Lounge

Informal programs and chats in the Social Responsibility lounges have produced some wonderful stories of what associations and business partners are doing to move their organizations forward toward greater social responsibility (SR). Here are some snippets:
“How do we move from being successful to being significant?” That’s what a woman from the Project Management Institute said her organization began asking recently, eventually developing a program that moves from caring just about test passing metrics to caring about the whole child.

Richard Moore of the Texas Community College Teachers Association shared that his organization is focusing on four social responsibility (SR) endeavors—community involvement, democracy building, incorporation of SR in educational content, and greening of educational facilities and operations. In addition, since first embracing ASAE & The Center’s SR Initiative a year ago, the association has launched the theme “Community Colleges—Building a Better Texas.”

“This Social Responsibility Initiative fits in completely with what we’re trying to do,” he said.
The Society of Neuroscience had to review its supply chain management after leaders were questioned about whether the copywriters to whom some of its many journals were outsourced in India were being treated and paid appropriately. They then had to give a presentation that showed such outsourcing “validated enhancing of social values,” according to the society’s Marty Saggese. The huge organization also adopted an element in its strategic plan that requires all three SR elements—environmental, social, and economic—to be considered in operational decisions.

Look for Marty’s cool handout at today’s session on greening your organization’s culture: a flash drive made of bamboo.

Other items prompting discussion are two tools being distributed in both SR lounges: a how-to piece on creating a multicultural board, and a checklist/guide for developing a more socially responsibility family lifestyle.


August 17, 2008

Honest Words about Diversity--for a Change

I've lost count of how many diversity programs I've attended in my career, but I thought this morning's General Session on "Looking Through the Lens of Others" was especially terrific. Here are some samples I valued:

--Nadira Hira, the impressive 20-something journalist for Fortune, is an articulate mouthpiece for young and younger workers. Her advice: "Be authentic. Don't try to pretend you're diverse when you're not." In other words, forget the BS.

--Doug Klein, executive director of the Association for Conflict Resolution, noted that the reason race or ethnic-based professional and trade organizations still exist is "because there's a need not being met" by the broader association in that profession or trade.

I immediately recalled a conversation I had with--of all people--actor Louis Gossett Jr. backstage at the last Nation’s Capital Distinguished Speakers Series. He had told me about the evolution of racism from a black professional's perspective, and I had asked him if the time had finally come for the association community to make a commitment to facilitate mergers of broad-based associations with similar niche groups grounded in race or gender as well as the profession or trade, such as the Society of Professional Journalists with the National Association of Black Journalists.

The actor, who founded and actively guides a New Orleans-based foundation to help at-risk youths, said no. He urged associations to instead focus on youth--the next generation of workers--rather than try to overcome the prejudices of the current workforce, which he said was essentially fruitless. Klein's comment today seemed to reiterate those conclusions on an organizational level.

--The always-blunt, always-superb Patti Digh laments that "people aren't focused on retention at all. They just want to 'get 'em in the door.' This lack of "diversity succession planning" was raised at ASAE & The Center's last diversity forum. Basically, no one knows how to do it or even what such a plan looks like. Perhaps that's a project or research idea for our Diversity Committee or for a select task force.

--Co-moderator Cokie Roberts noted, "At some point we have to be the token," but then that representative should "bring others in." That implies a responsibility, not a choice, on the part of the, say, female executive about actively attracting other smart, accomplished women into the organization.

I have mixed feelings on that. I think we should do what we can to attract all smart, accomplished people to our association IF that organization is best set up to leverage their talents and knowledge for the benefit of the members. I'm uncomfortable screening candidates primarily because they look like me or share a cultural commonality. That said, I'm likely to be a more successful recruiter within those desired demographics because of that reality. Comments? I need to think about this more.

A "Say what?" moment: Patti was called by a company that said its white employees were putting nooses on the lockers of black employees. Patti said she could design an intervention, etc. The response? "We're thinking of a two-hour training session."

Quotables from the General Session:

"We talk about diversity as an end in itself, not what that brings us.... Diversity is not a problem to be fixed.... We've damned ourselves in this country by being too PC [politically correct]. You can't know if you're talking to yourself only." --Patti Digh

"We're afraid of [diversity], even though we know it's good for us."--consultant Steve Hanamura

"Powerful" and "moving"--just some of the high praise I heard about the "Peer Perspectives" video clips of diverse association executives.

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Green computing in associations

Social Responsibility Initiative Director Chris Wood and I were just putting finishing touches on the Social Responsibility Lounge in Connection Central when we got a drop-by from Norm Hawn, VP of IT for Prison Fellowship Ministry (PFM). Norm raved about the Global Summit for Social Responsibility, saying that it "opened new communication channels" between him and a colleague he had taken.

Norm told us that he is overseeing the "greening" effort of the 300-staff organization (budget, an impressive $50 million-plus), particularly streamlining and greening its computing operations. The work will make a great case study for sharing with others sometime soon, but in the meantime, anyone interested in "green computing," as it has become known, can visit such sites as the blog

Generally, the focus is on cutting or eliminating hazardous materials used in computer equipment (during manufacturing, use, and post-use), developing and marketing computer product recyclability and/or reuse, innovating for greater biodegradability of e-waste, and examining a product's lifetime to maximize energy efficiency.

Adoption and development of green computing practices has grown rapidly in the past 5-8 years in the corporate world, but it's less common in associations. This is a problem, especially since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says "servers and data centers today consume almost twice the amount of electricity they did in 2000."

I'm interested in finding other associations that have started green computing practices and set related goals in this regard. Please share your progress with others here or email me at We'll almost certainly be uploading some green computing tools or articles to ASAE & The Center's Social Responsibility Web site in the coming months.


July 30, 2008

Associations Call for Peace During Olympics

Associations and nonprofits are once again involved both behind the scenes and overtly in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in China, starting August 8.

In particular, a number of organizations are concerned about the safety of athletes, organizers and spectators. Tomorrow, for instance, the International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT) is calling on “the world travel and tourism industry to join in solidarity with both the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United Nations in a call for a cessation of conflict and all acts of violence in an observance of the Olympic Truce.” IIPT has held several media panels at past conferences to explore “The Role of the Media in Building a Culture of Peace through Tourism” and related elements of that theme.

“We now have an opportunity … to demonstrate the global impact possible through the travel media acting together towards one worthy goal,” urges Louis D’Amore, IIPT founder and president.

Dozens of Chinese American associations have also taken to the streets of New York and elsewhere in rallies and media events aimed at preventing “the hijacking of the Olympic Games” by special interests for “their own political gains.” The Beijing Association of New York even hired two planes to fly over New York City with banners that read "Go to 2008 Beijing Olympics" and "CNN, Cafferty, Shut up!" (a reference to the “goons and thugs” commentary about the Chinese chaperones sent to accompany the Olympic torch relay in San Francisco). Expect to see more associations in the Olympic coverage of the coming weeks.


July 16, 2008

Giving Back Through a Community Day of Service

For the kazillionth time in the past two months, I’ve run into questions or requests from associations and nonprofits interested in exploring or organizing a “Community Day of Service.” Here’s the short version of my answers:

Yes, loads of associations are now doing this—and many have been doing them for years.

Yes, some do not spend a whole day on the event. You can always start with a half-day of service or even, as one association does, an “hour of power” (members sign up to donate at least one hour per month of free phone counseling).

Yes, many days of service are scheduled next to annual meetings, conferences, or events. Attendees and local host cities do a wide range of volunteering on such days, everything from mentoring local students to improving public facilities to bagging food for the hungry. New Orleans, in particular, appears to be the focus of the most service days and legacy gifts from organizations meeting there.

Yes, examples abound. Here are a few:

- NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network, an organization of nonprofit technology professionals, organized a Day of Service in March 2008 that included free strategy consulting services for 27 nonprofits, as well as installing a wireless network at a community center. See how they set it up here.

- Volunteers of America’s Day of Service in June 2008 involved restoring a local high school and church with its 350 volunteers “to help rebuild parts of St. Bernard Parish that remain devastated by Hurricane Katrina.”

- Myriad state legal associations host community service days targeting everyone from immigrants to needy senior citizens to nonprofit organizations.

- Many athletic, health, and fitness associations have long histories of a Day of Service. For instance, this year, more than 2,500 people in the National Basketball Association united in June to build houses and playgrounds, and to clean up schools and neighborhoods in New Orleans. You’ll find more info and some cool videos here.

For advice on organizing and partnering for a Day of Service, visit and read past the Martin Luther King Day of Service sections to the bulleted lists of tips.

Yes, information is out there about ways to identify and reduce possible legal liabilities associated with “doing good.” Tyra Hilliard, CMP, an assistant professor in the Event and Meeting Management Program at The George Washington University, spoke at ASAE & The Center’s 2008 Springtime about this topic, as she has at several other association meetings. This good article summarizes her recent MPI presentation, including her plea not to back away from community service projects and her description of laws and measures that reduce potential legal risks associated with such activities.

Yes, an ever-growing list of corporations, from Wal-Mart to Marriott International, have conducted a Day of Service that involves thousands, even tens of thousands, of employees with great success and results. In the latest issue of the Journal of Association Leadership (summer 2008), which just mailed, I describe how three corporations—United Parcel Service (UPS), Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and Motorola—use social responsibility as major drivers within their businesses. One element of that strategy? An international Day of Service for employees. Check it out, especially the one by UPS. Sorry, it’s not online yet, but it will be shortly, and I’ll include the link then for non-subscribers.


June 18, 2008

Soft Economy Affecting Fundraising Auctions

I’m seeing lots of nonprofit and association fundraising auctions going on right now, especially in kinship with annual meetings. Therefore, I was concerned to read the results of a new survey of 255 online charity auction managers, 22% of whom reported a drop in funds raised between January and April compared to last year, and nearly all of whom “are bracing themselves for an even tougher nonprofit fundraising environment” in the coming months.

The survey, conducted by the firm cMarket, found that auction managers are having a harder time obtaining items (68%), convincing auction participants to raise bids (32%) and attend auction galas (21%), and demonstrating “tangible marketing benefits” to corporate sponsors and commercial item donors (39%).

Analysts say that even nonprofits that did well with their auctions were reporting “some softness, particularly on the supply side in terms of item donations and acquisition.”

"In this environment auction committees are well advised to revisit their assumption around their goals and what is attainable," says Jon Carson, CEO of cMarket. "If you plan on matching last year’s goal or even beating it, you may need to think about what you'll do differently [since] the headwinds appear to be much stronger this year."

In response, online auction managers reported that they would try some different approaches next year:

- 62% will “start the process of getting items earlier.
- 35% will use the Internet more.
- 31% will gather items with higher price tags.
- 16% will recruit additional lower priced items “to appeal to more people.”

Some nonprofits also plan to use more social networking sites to grow their contact lists, as well as to do more personal asking instead of mass mailings or e-mail blasts. Others said they would work harder to develop more creative packages such as unique experiences, rather than slower-selling items such as art and collectibles.


May 19, 2008

New Outreach Strategies Strive to Relieve Hunger

America's Second Harvest, the largest U.S. hunger relief nonprofit, has developed an unusual public and policy maker awareness tool—a week-long photo essay—to “spotlight the many faces of hunger in America.” The daily images depict one of the 25 million Americans who depend on a local food bank to survive. The vehicle sought to push Congress and the White House to pass the revised Farm Bill; legislators did so May 14, but a presidential veto was expected at press time.

The virtual photo essay appeared right after Stamp Out Hunger!, the nation’s largest single-day food drive, which was organized May 10 by the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC). The group partners with the Campbell Soup Company, healthcare organizations, local food groups, and many other community-based organizations and businesses to pull off the massive effort.

Like America’s Second Harvest, NALC tried some new public awareness and engagement tools this year in the 10,000-plus cities and towns holding food drives. While the 16-year-old campaign has generated more than 836 million pounds of food, campaign leaders were especially focused on increasing donations in 2008 because of the jump in demand for food bank assistance and a drop in food donations, especially at this time of year.

To break last year’s distribution record of 70.7 million pounds of food, NALC is trying to leverage some surprising findings it discovered after last year’s drive and to introduce new engagement experiments:

(1) Giving doubled or even tripled when people were given a simple plastic bag with the postcard. In Florida, for instance, the Publix food chain donated more than 8 million plastic bags, and the pounds of food donated are “big numbers,” says an NALC spokesperson. “We found tremendous success in areas that put out plastic bags…. People seemed to react more to a bag than a postcard. You can’t miss it. You save it, look at it, get a guilt trip, and then fill it.”

(2) NALC took more advantage of the massive public relations power of lead partner Campbell Soup, which increased the number of announcement postcards to 124 million, developed a TV public service announcement that features the Harlem Globetrotters, ran special coupons and dozens of full-page advertisements in newspapers and magazines, and placed notices on Web sites. It also helped produce inflatable soup cans and yard signs for NALC sites.

(3) While NALC always produces a video of some kind, the latest 10-minute DVD, “The NALC Food Drive: Making America a Better Place,” includes an original song about the drive, “Feed the Nation,” written by a local letter carrier. A major rollout of the new logo incorporates the organization’s name and the highly recognized Stamp Out Hunger slogan. The logo has been put on everything from t-shirts to posters.

Continue reading "New Outreach Strategies Strive to Relieve Hunger" »


May 15, 2008

Anyone Need Closed Captioning on Their Videos?

VITAC, a provider of closed captioning and other accessible media services, is launching a “CaptionsON” awareness campaign that includes providing up to 150 hours of pro-bono captioning service to nonprofit organizations who respond between now and June 8, 2008. Given that the lengths of videos vary, the company projects that 600 to 1,300 videos could be captioned.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for nonprofit organizations nationwide to ensure that their audiovisual material, intended for general audiences or their clients, students, or employees, is accessible through captions," noted Bobbie Beth Scoggins, President of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), which also administers the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) and co-founded the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT). "CaptionsON will have a positive and profound impact on the deaf and hard of hearing and hearing communities alike."

Visit the CaptionsON site for details.


May 13, 2008

Greening Your Direct Mail in Canada

Canada Post, which delivers more than 11 billion pieces of mail a year, has launched a national initiative to “help educate marketers and consumers on responsible usage of direct mail and its impact on the environment.” Marketers who visit will find “greener” options and ideas about direct mail strategies that better target their messages.

I especially like the handy tip sheet for businesses, which includes a suggestion that marketers visit the Canadian Marketing Association’s “Do Not Contact” service prior to acquisition mailings. On a consumer level, the “What You Can Do” section of the site urges people to recycle more, since many municipalities now take glossy flyer paper, catalogues, magazines, and even windowed envelopes, according to the Paper Recycling Association of Canada.

The effort arose after Canada Post studied results from its latest public poll and whitepaper, "The New Environmentalism," which finds that three-quarters of Canadians consider “environmental conservation and preservation as a matter of personal importance.” The organization also released its first Corporate Responsibility Report today.

Laurene Cihosky, senior vice president, Canada Post’s Direct Marketing Division, speaks today at the Canadian Marketing Association's (CMA) annual convention on "The ROI of Green." She is emphasizing “the risks of environmental inertia, how to make direct mail programs more environmentally friendly and how going 'green' can increase campaign ROI.”


May 12, 2008

Cross-sector Coalition Takes on Greenhouse Gas Standards-setting

A coalition of 240 environmental and other nonprofits, associations, corporations, and state and local governments have joined The Climate Registry, a nonprofit created to establish unified standards for greenhouse gas (GHG) measurement, verification, and public reporting that “are accurate and consistent across North America.” Already, 39 U.S. states, nine Canadian provinces, six Mexican states, three Native American tribes, and the District of Columbia have adopted these standards, which are a mixture of mandatory and voluntary provisions at the local, regional, and federal levels.

According to Gina McCarthy, board chair and commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Quality, "The depth and variety of the Founding Reporters from all across North America and in so many different sectors -- cities, auto manufacturers, wine makers, and the post office -- is a testament to the breadth of ongoing climate activities and the Registry's ability to assist in these efforts."

Coalition members include the American Public Transportation Association, World Resources Institute, Natural Resource Defense Council, Cornell University, NativeEnergy, and The Climate Trust. Others are welcome to join.


May 9, 2008

Responding to Cyclone Nargis

I’ve gotten some inquiries about which nonprofits and associations have been able to overcome the many political and operational barriers and actually provide aid to communities devastated by Cyclone Nargis in Burma/Myanmar this week.

I have already heard about associations that are making donations to these and other aid groups, offering technical expertise, holding fundraising events, and keeping members informed. Association business partners also have been working to help aid groups respond. Hilton HHonors members, for instance, can donate their Hhonors points for cash to the IFRC.

While I can’t recommend one group over another, and the list varies by the day for political and operational reasons, I can say that the ones with staff already in the country pre-cyclone appear to be furthest along in their relief efforts and in their appeals for specific types of assistance. Already, online videos of their work and the difficult conditions facing staff, volunteers, and community leaders are on many of the Web sites listed below.

In related news, three of the largest charities in the United Kingdom—World Vision, Save the Children, and the Red Cross--set aside historical attitudes toward competitiveness and addressed the sheer scale of the relief response and political maneuvering needed to deliver workers and supplies on site. The powerful trio launched an unprecedented national fundraising appeal this week and pledged to work together on relief efforts, under the oversight of the Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella group of the largest 13 UK charities.

Nonprofits on the ground in Burma include the following:

- World Vision: Its 500 in-country staff have reported that the situation is “worse than in the [Asian] tsunami” of 2004 as they try to track down and help feed and shelter sponsored children and families who survived the 15-foot sea surge in the delta region.

- Save the Children: They report that they have supplied “food, plastic sheeting, water purification tablets, kitchen equipment, rehydration salts,” and more to 63,000 displaced children and families.

- International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC): A special section of its Web site is devoted to daily updates, videos, and photos of the response effort.

- Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF): With 43 international staff and 1,200 national staff throughout the country, “teams are treating wounded, distributing food, and providing water and relief items,” according to its Web site. Planes with 160 tons of supplies were scheduled to depart today.

All have been rushing more staff and supplies into areas already suffering from deep poverty and local health challenges. Access to safe, clean water is a major concern, along with poor sanitation, exposure and the risk of outbreaks of diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Nonprofits and their allies have been urging the government to accelerate visa paperwork for aid workers.


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Voter protection coalition kept busy

Many people at the Global Summit for Social Responsibility last week asked me about coalitions and industry-wide efforts that are underway and how they can learn more about them. I’ll be blogging more about such efforts in response, and anyone can access an ever-growing list of association and nonprofit coalitions working on a wide range of social, environmental and economic issues on ASAE & The Center’s Social Responsibility website.

One joint effort I’m hearing about relates to voting—not the usual voter recruitment campaigns but the access to and ability to cast your vote. In this week’s North Carolina and Indiana primaries, for instance, a Voter Protection Hotline created by the Election Protection Coalition—the largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition in the U.S.—took almost 800 calls about voting problems from residents in both states.

The coalition also uses hundreds of volunteers to monitor polling places during primaries, answer questions from confused residents, and most recently paid close attention to problems related to Indiana’s controversial new requirement that a voter produce a government-issued photo identification. The group is especially concerned about voters who were turned away by undertrained poll workers giving incorrect information, voting machine problems, and outdated or wrong voter registration rolls—the most common problems found in numerous state primaries, according to the coalition.

Participants in the coalition vary state-to-state, but national partners include the nonpartisan National Campaign for Fair Elections of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Right's Voting Rights Project, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

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May 5, 2008

IDEO on Innovation

Creativity and innovation came up repeatedly during last week's Global Summit on Social Responsibility, and those of us at the event watched a six-minute video about the innovation process as executed on an updated shopping cart by the world-famous IDEO design firm. Anyone interested in learning more about how associations might incorporate its process can check back to a feature by IDEO leader Tom Kelley called "Innovation Personified," which appeared in the February 2006 Associations Now.


May 2, 2008

Report from Singapore

During the opening session on the third day, they reported this feedback from the Singapore site:

Asian culture is such that Asians are relatively modest and do not share accomplishments so innovations that happen at the individual or small-group level are not shared. The group at that site thought there was a real opportunity to increase awareness and the spread of these innovations through storytelling and other ways.


Social responsibility projects

Wrapping up Day Two of the Global Summit on Social Responsibility, many different projects were proposed as things associations could begin to work together to undertake right now. These ideas were boiled down to about a couple dozen. At the opening of Day Three, live participants were asked to gather around the proposals they wanted to be a part of discussing. These are the five ideas that garnered the most participation:

- Designing the organizational alliance to carry the movement created at the summit forward.

- Personal and individual local action.

- Branding initiative -- spreading the word to bring more people on board.

- Using technology of collaboration for knowledge sharing and to create an innovation bank.

- Guiding principles for social responsibility and the global compact.


Day 2 in pictures

As we did yesterday, we wanted to share a few photos with you to give you an idea of what we're seeing here at the DC site of the Global Summit. These photos are all from the "speed-dreaming" phase of yesterday's events.

Reporting out


Reporting out

Attendee laughing

Reporting out

Reporting out


Morning roundup: Day 2

Acronym isn't the only place blogging about the Global Summit this week:

- Ann Oliveri connects what she's hearing to associations' codes of ethics;

- Cynthia D'Amour asks chapter leaders what social responsibility efforts they support;

- Sue Pelletier is interested in how the format of the Global Summit is working in connection with the Summit's goals;

- David M. Patt has some thoughts about the term "giving back";

- Joan Eisenstodt shares her reflections and questions from the day;

- Jeff De Cagna has several observations about the Summit so far.


May 1, 2008

Ego versus Idea

One suggestion in the "dream and design" phase of the Global Summit's Thursday session is for associations to look around them and see if it might be worth....disappearing. Seriously. Andy Clarke, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists (and--full disclosure--my husband), suggested that association leaders examine where overlapping associations exist and needlessly compete when they could simply merge and "create half the number of associations with twice the memberships and eight times the influence."

It's an interesting thought. Certainly I've been part of organizational coalitions in which external stakeholders such as corporations or government agencies have complained that they could hardly keep track of which organizations may be the best partners in, say, the environmental sector because so many have similar agendas, duplicate programs with different names, and murky leadership within their field.

Call me cynical, but I think ego would be the biggest barrier to even a discussion of what widescale association mergers might mean to society and the earth. In the fascinating book Egonomics: What Makes Ego Our Greatest Asset (or Most Expensive Liability), authors David Marcum and Steven Smith look at business success and performance from the standpoint of ego. Their extensive research concludes that unbalanced ego "becomes the ultimate blind spot," with more than one-third of all decisions in failed organizations driven by ego. they note that unbalanced ego slows change and innovation, and "there is a clear difference in the power of knowing versus the discipline of becoming."

However, nearly two-thirds of executives "never explore alternatives once they make up their mind," and "81% of managers push their decisions through by persuasion or edict, not by the value of their idea." A surprising 63% of surveyed businesspeople report that ego harms "work performance on an hourly or daily basis, while an additional 31% say it happens weekly." That's a lot of poor productivity and decision making, as well as lost opportunity.

Might the research differ among association employees? What would you think if your boss walked into a staff meeting and said, "For the sake of the planet, let's do a competitive analysis in our industry with an eye toward potential mergers?" Would you think, "Oh, my gosh, my job's in trouble." "Has he lost his mind?" "Finally!" "Whoopie!"

I remember one small trade association whose CEO actually requested that the board let him shut down the organization because the programmatic and mission overlap with industry competitors had led to unsustainable financial hardship. The board was appalled at the idea. He suggested merging with another group instead. Still they balked, citing the organization's long history and criticizing all possible merger candidates.

I don't recall what happened to the association in the end, but I do know that the CEO eventually left, and at some point, I stopped receiving press releases from the organization. Perhaps if leaders--whether volunteer or paid--move their egos more to the side of humility, they will find that exploring potential mergers would indeed lead ultimately to accomplishment of their broader mission.

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Speed-dreaming a Better World

Wow--what an amazing afternoon of what I'll call "speed sharing," which reminded me a bit of speed-dating but with people exchanging ideas instead of personal phone numbers. Some of the ideas are natural extensions of the exciting momentum we've been building during this Global Summit on Social Responsibility (SR): an SR listserv, an association SR blog and monthly Idea Swap, create a "Social Responsibility in a Box" how-to toolkit, and a new requirement that SR strategies are integrated into CAE knowledge domains.

But here are some of the larger-vision ideas that got me personally jazzed during today's "dream and design" exercise:

Use ASAE & The Center as "innovation incubators."

Create a "Retired Association Exec Corps" to help coordinate and contribute to SR efforts by associations.

Develop an offshoot version of the United Nations Global Compact that allows associations to sign on in agreement to meet specific SR metrics and standards.

Create a "Bright Light Network"--a coalition of associations that want to work together on social, economic and environmental challenges.

Create a "Seven Wonders of a Socially Responsible World" committee structure in ASAE & The Center to focus on global problem solving in the areas of education, environment, health, prosperity, innovation and technology, peace and security.

Friday we'll be breaking into groups to begin creating something tangible from the best ideas in the various categories generated by our "dreaming." Keep checking back for news of our progress!


An Association Pledge on Social Responsibility?

We’re on break at the Global Summit and have been enjoying the report-outs from the “Dream and Design” phase of the Appreciative Inquiry process. Today we’re imagining what the world would be like in 2020 if associations had become active in social responsibility efforts this year.

The formats in which these dreams have been presented have caused a lot of laughs—“Global Idol” for Associations, “Association Olympics 2020,” “CNN Reports” from space and the Amazon. My group of nine picked up on the comments of this morning’s speaker, former Girl Scouts of America CEO Frances Hesselbein, who explained that a wearying debate about change—in this case, the mere redesign of the Girl Scout pin--was quelled only when Frances promised to continue manufacturing the pin if any member wanted still wanted to order it.
Gripping the ancient Girl Scout Promise and Law as models, my group “dreamed” of a universal pledge that every association in the world would make to become more socially responsible.

Here is our quick draft:


I, [stakeholder such as CEO, board chair, member, and business partner] pledge to integrate social responsibility into the core values and mission of my association, and to that end, I pledge to…..
• Lead by example;
• Be responsible stewards of our resources and operate 100% greenly,
• To educate and train our staff, board, and members on SR principles;
• To increase the strength and speed of global connectivity and collaboration across all industries and sectors and with partners, competitors, critics, and regulators;
• To evaluate our social and environmental footprint on an annual basis as stringently as we do our finances;
• And to recognize and honor those who make a positive difference.

Let me know what you think about the idea of a sector-wide pledge that might build on elements of the United Nations Global Compact, for instance. Maybe I’ll even reward the best responses with a box of ThinMints!

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Socially responsible lobbying

One of the ideas that sprung out of my table discussion was the idea of socially responsible lobbying. The idea is that a stigma be attached to any person or group lobbying for something that may be good for their interest but bad for society as a whole. The direct quote was that it be considered "bad form."

How to create such a culture for the lobbying sector?

That kind of fed into another idea--that as part of the outlook or mission of the association, the globe, or society, should be first, the interest being served by the association is second.


On Connectedness

Yesterday's participation was an exercise in zen mindfulness. Fabulous technology connected us to the "other" Washington from where I sat in Seattle, but there was alas a buffering delay that made the video feed stop every few minutes.

Sometimes the pauses would catch the speaker mid-utterance, faces frozen with mouths open, hands wide in mid-gesture. Surprisingly, rather than irritate me as it might have done, it gave me time to pause, reflect (especially during Jeffrey Sachs' presentation) and really commit again and again to being in that moment.

As Sachs spoke, I wanted to raise my hand and ask him "Knowing so much about the depth of the world's woes, how can you keep from despair?" But he answered my question: he is hopeful because he knows the solutions exist. It's just a matter of putting them in the right place.

As to Lisa's question of how organizations can and should define social responsibility, I'd repeat what Sachs said: everyone can add in his own way. So one definition will not work, but I believe common principles should frame it. It's not by accident that some of the biggest multinational corporations, which by some measures are the 'worst' actors on many indexes of social responsibility are also the organizations doing the most profound work in CSR. They have the most power. Should they do less "bad" and more good? Sure. But let's let them do good too, and just keep holding their feet to the fire.

For example, I blanched at the idea that Monsanto is donating seed and so on to Africa - great, I thought - bring pollution from fertilizers and pesticides to the places with even less ability to manage it. That's only a solution that creates more problems. But is it a step? Can we hope to hasten them through our developmental pains, perhaps skipping some steps? Or is planting GMO seed in places that can least afford crop failure even less responsible? I don't know - but what I admire about Sachs is that he advocates finding a solution. Asks the powerful to "take a look". We need more looking.


Innovation vs. fear of change

Frances Hesselbein spoke at the Global Summit this morning based on her reflections from Day 1 of the event. (If you're not familiar with her work, she is the chairman of the Board of Governors of the Leader to Leader Institute, and served as founding president of the organization back when it was called the Peter F. Drucker Foundation. She also served as CEO of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. from 1976-1990.)

Just to share one anecdote from her speech, she told the audience that, when managing major changes like those being contemplated during the Summit, she always kept in mind Peter Drucker's definition of innovation: "Change that creates a new dimension of performance." Who's going to be afraid of new dimensions of performance? she asked.

"Can you imagine when we changed the Girl Scout pin?" she said. "Women clutched it and said, 'My grandmother wore this pin.' So call it innovation!"

(She also noted that the old pin continued to be manufactured for anyone who wanted one even after the change to the new pin, so in their case major change was combined with allowances for those who weren't ready to make the leap.)

The next time you're managing a major change for your organization, maybe that definition could come in handy for you.


Definitions of social responsibility

To kick off Day 2 of the Global Summit, Soren Kaplan of iCohere shared some reports on what other (non-DC) sites discussed yesterday. Interestingly, both the Shanghai and Brussels sites had discussions about the definition of social responsibility. According to Soren, the Shanghai attendees wondered if China did or should have its own definition of social responsibility, while the Brussels attendees discussed the definition of social responsibility in the European Union vs. that in other parts of the world, wondering if social responsibility was more culturally encoded in the EU than in other places.

There's an interesting discussion beginning in the comments on a recent Acronym post about what the definition of social responsibility really is. Clearly it's a big-tent kind of word--and I'd guess that some definitions of the term would be really unpalatable to certain associations, while a different definition might be something they could more readily embrace.

How do you (or your association) define social responsibility? Should the term be strictly defined, to avoid watering the concept down, or should it be broad, to bring in more people?

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JFK at the social responsibility summit

One last thing from me on Sach's general session yesterday. He quoted John F. Kennedy:

"So, let us not be blind to our differences - but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved."

He used it to illustrate that at the most basic level, humans have much more in common than we have different. We all inhabit the same planet, we breathe the same air, we're mortal, etc.

It was interesting that earlier in the day when David Cooperrider had us answering questions in the appreciative inquiry process, I also turned to JFK -- probably to his most famous quote: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." I changed a word--from country to world.

To me, that's what it's about. Linking back to a post of mine from yesterday, I do think it's about changing the culture of the way we live and work. The point I was making was that in general we need to stop thinking about what we can get out of life and start thinking about what we can give back to society. And, we need to do this while keeping our individuality.

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Notes from emerging leaders

During the afternoon yesterday at the Global Summit in DC, attendees were organized into homogenous groups (trade association executives, consultants, philanthropic groups, etc.) for discussion. Notes from those conversations were posted on the Summit's virtual site. Reading through them, one particular entry intrigued me.

Summit leader David Cooperrider asked a table of emerging leaders to talk about the qualities of the ideal association to work for. They said that their dream association would be:

What kind of association do you want to work for? The ideal association is...

- Bottom-up
- Multinational
- Technologically savvy
- Fluid and flexible
- Less bureaucratic
- Run like a business; fiscal responsibility, efficient and lean operations
- Collaborative; willing to work with other associations
- Mission focused; doesn't want to do all things for all people ("you have to say no" being something that has to go away)
- Aware of its membership and what they think (market driven)
- Providing real responsibilities and challenges for staff
- Does not reward people for doing there jobs; only awards staff for going beyond

What do you think? Would you add or subtract qualities from this list? Does your association come close to this ideal?

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Serving or leading members - social responsibility angle

Should an association serve or lead its members? It's an old debate here on Acronym. I'm on the record saying that I believe there is a difference and, while you need to do some serving, an association is at its best when it is trying to lead.

I was speaking with Petra Mollet yesterday, new to the American Public Transportation Association fresh from the International Association of Public Transportation.

"When the idea of social responsibility came up, our members were telling us, 'oh no, we already do that. We're part of the solution,'" Mollet said.

However, a handful of advanced members said that, yes, mass transit is part of the solution, but it can be done smarter and with more social conscience. The association used these members to launch a social responsibility program that challenged its members to do more and think in new ways. The focal point of their work was their charter that they asked members to sign, and they were asked to identify one or a few things that made sense for them to work on in their own systems.

To me, this is exactly the example of leading vs. serving. The international society could easily have rested on what most of its members were saying--that they would be a part of the conversation only in so much as they were getting patted on the back for being part of the solution. But by using a few forward-thinking members to push the rest, they led the organization to a better place.


Mind Mapping

At the DC location of the Global Summit, Michelle Boos-Stone is creating an amazing drawing wall or mind map as the discussions progress. Since (to steal a line) writing about her drawings is like dancing about architecture, I thought I'd share a few photos from the Summit's virtual site:

Mind map begins.jpg

Mind map halfway done.jpg

Mind map completed.jpg

Mind map completed.jpg


Day 1 in photos

The virtual site for the Global Summit is hosting a bunch of photos from Day 1 of the Summit, both from the DC site and from participants at other sites. I thought I'd share a view to give you a visual look at what you've been reading about (captions are below each picture):

David Cooperrider.jpg

Summit Leader David Cooperrider

Speaker Jeffrey Sachs

Jeffrey Sachs

Attendees in Los Angeles

Attendees in Los Angeles

Attendees in Charlotte, NC

Attendees in Charlotte, NC

Attendees in Shanghai

Attendees in Shanghai

Attendees laughing

Attendees in DC laughing...

Attendees listening

listening ...

Attendees reflecting

and reflecting.


Morning roundup: Other bloggers on the Global Summit

Acronym isn't the only blog covering the Global Summit this week:

- Ann Oliveri talks about her experience at social responsibility conferences, including the Global Summit, and becoming a social responsibility officer.

- Jeff De Cagna feels that the first day of the Summit raised more questions than it answered, and talks about the questions in his mind. (Patti Digh of the 37 Days blog posted an interesting comment in response.) Jeff also posts a quote cited by Jeffrey Sachs in his talk yesterday, and asks others to share quotes that inspire them.

- Joan Eisenstodt is energized and exhausted.

If there are other bloggers out there that I missed, please share your links in comments!


American Chemical Society and its ROI on Social Responsibility

In his opening remarks at the Global Summit on Social Responsibility Wednesday, Center for Association Leadership President Mark Golden highlighted elements of the impressive return on investment achieved by the American Chemical Society's carefully aligned social responsibility strategies. You can now read the full case study, including more information on how and what the organization did that led to higher member engagement, greater influence with policy makers, increased credibility with the public, expanded knowledge for the industry, and better trained emerging leaders, among other payoffs.


April 30, 2008

Stories as Influencers for Socially Responsible Behavior

Compelling stories have emerged as potent tools in forwarding discussions about what values members gain when their associations are involved in socially responsible practices, programs, and goals. At both my morning and afternoon tables at the Global Summit on Social Responsibility, association professionals barely took a breath between sharing and commenting on each other’s stories, whether they had to do with an organization’s actions or an individual’s choices. Frankly, it’s a challenge to capture every anecdote for later thought or follow up, but one colleague told me that he had taken almost 25 pages of notes in less than six hours!

I’m feeling especially attuned to the power of storytelling today because I’m halfway through the excellent book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything, which I thought would be good prep for the summit. Also, co-author Joseph Grenny—whose last best-seller, Crucial Conversations, was referenced several times at my table today-- is speaking August 19 at ASAE & The Center’s Annual Meeting and Expo.

According to Influencer, “people will attempt to change their behavior if (1) they believe it will be worth it, and (2) they can do what is required.” Stories that guide people to those conclusions must contain both “a clear link between the current behaviors and existing (or possibly future) negative results” and “positive replacement behaviors that yield new and better results.”

Those of us at the summit today heard such “high-point stories” recounted on the stage, in the coffee line, and from attendees at some of the 14 connected sites across America. I liked the examples given by CEO Scott Steen of the American Ceramic Society. First, Scott described the rapid membership growth achieved by the National Association of Counties after it cleverly arranged a deal with a corporation that allowed the association to provide prescription discount cards to members for free distribution in every county in America.

Second, he cited the National Academy of Engineers’ inspiring work with members to identify 14 “grand challenges” such as making solar energy affordable and reverse-engineering the brain. The organization then spotlights research and grant money focused on those topics. “They’re saying to their members, ‘Here is where to go to make a difference as an engineer,” explained Scott, adding that the organization is using the initiative to “define their mission in the world and show how engineers and their industry are making huge differences.” I can’t wait to hear what comes out of Thursday’s “dream” process….


Decisions, decisions, decisions, decisions, and more decisions

"It took us billions of decisions to get into this situation; it's going to take billions of decisions to get us out of it."

This is a quote from Bill Millar from the American Public Transportation Association, who was at my table during the afternoon session.

The point he was making is that we can't just make the decision to eradicate poverty, for example. We have to establish and sustain a culture that ingrains social responsibility initiatives and ideas into the fabric of all the decisions we make.

For example, one of the ways associations inspire their members is through general sessions speakers at their annual conferences. What if it became standard to book at least one speaker and had at least some breakout sessions with socially responsible themes? In this way, the idea that we can and should make a difference on this globe can become part of what we talk about and part of the culture of our organizations.

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UN Millennium Development Goals

Economists Jeffrey Sachs in his presentation made note of the UN Millennium Development Goals. His challenge: discuss what your constituency could possibly do to help with the identified goals:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2. Achieve universal primary education
3. Promote gender equality and empower women
4. Reduce child mortality
5. Improve maternal health
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
8. Develop a global partnership for development


Recapturing our youth

During a table discussion earlier today, one of my table-mates told a great story: When he was 18, he decided that his town needed a teen center. So he went out and set one up, by himself. With donated space and materials, within a few months he had the teen center open--and within a few weeks it was filled with local teenagers.

At our table, we all wondered at what point during a typical life we lose that ability to say "I want to do this!" Without joining the committee or running for the board, without waiting until you finish grad school or until the you get that promotion, just stepping up and getting it done.

Of course, there are people who never lose that ability--those are people that change the world. But for those of us who may have lost some of it, can we each individually give ourselves permission, the next time we see a problem in our work, just to go out and solve it? It doesn't have to be a huge problem, or even related to the topics we're discussing at the Global Summit--it could be the problem presented to you the next time a member calls. But if we could all recapture that fearlessness, how much better could we serve our members and our organizations?


Twitter coverage of the Global Summit

For those of you interested in Twitter, or up-to-the-minute coverage of the Global Summit, you may want to check out the Global Summit page on Twemes, a site that collects Twitter posts that are tagged with the same descriptive tag, all in one place. Jeff De Cagna used Twemes to set up a place for anyone interested in Twittering about the Summit to conglomerate their posts.

Just as some examples, Jeff posted a "tweet" earlier today: "Collaboration quickly emerging as a critical theme of the question is how to make it sustainable." Dave Witzel asked, "How important are new social assets, like Wikipedia and Linux, to global development?"

To see more of what Jeff and others post about the Summit, go to


Call to action from Jeffrey Sachs

Author and economist Jeffrey Sachs is speaking to the Global Summit on Social Responsibility this afternoon, and he just made some comments which (as an association communicator) I found particularly striking:

According to Sachs, scientists and other specialists are often aware of problems affecting our planet long before others are; he said there is often a 10- to 20-year lag between when specialists know of problems and rest of America knows about them. Since many associations represent those very specialists--what are implications of that gap for associations?

Sachs asked how we can reduce that gap between what is known by specialists about potential risks we face, what is known generally, what is known within the government, and what is acted upon. If our members have that knowledge, how can we as associations help reduce the gap and transfer our members' knowledge more effectively, to the benefit of the community as a whole?

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Asking your members the question

Live at the first day of the Global Summit on Social Responsibility, David Cooperrider is on the stage describing the appreciative inquiry process we will use at the summit, but I felt compelled to write something about his opening remarks.

He said, “We are living in a time to connect these things together and scale them up, and that’s what associations do in professions, in industries, in sectors.”

The statement planted this seed in me: When was the last time you actively sought to ask your members what they do in their companies and in their communities to make life better? Finding out these stories and figuring out how to “scale them up” is one way to answer the question, what does social responsibility have to do with my mission?


April 29, 2008

Getting Started on Social Responsibility: A Look at the UN Millennium Development Goals

Eradicating hunger and poverty. Achieving universal primary education. Reducing child mortality. Ensuring environmental sustainability. These are just four of the eight United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) established in 2000 to resolve the world’s greatest social, economic and social problems.

Economist Jeffrey Sachs, special advisor to the UN on the MDG and a speaker at ASAE & The Center’s Global Summit on Social Responsibility April 30, recommends that association leaders consider starting with these goals as they contemplate the business opportunities presented by such global challenges.

“I believe every association has as its responsibility, as well as its self-interest, awareness of those global goals, readiness to advocate for them, and readiness to step up for them and say, ‘We will support them through our own specific actions that are appropriate,’” Sachs said during a phone interview last week. “My guess is that many, many of these organizations have never even considered these Millennium Development Goals,” in large part because “we’ve hardly been told anything about them….”

He also suggests we learn from the positive and negative lessons gained by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to date. Two lessons in particular are the “extremely important” need for organizations to take a proactive stance or risk severe reputational harm, and the need to understand that associations are “going to have to operate in a kind of public-private partnership to play an effective role.”

As an example, Sachs cites the pharmaceutical industry’s proactive declaration that it had “created a tiered pricing system that would make their technologies available free to the poorest people while continuing to operate under the patent system in the high-income countries. That was a very creative and positive response that diffused what was a growing crisis.”

The full interview with Sachs about five potential roles for associations and nonprofits in global problem solving will appear in an upcoming issue of Associations Now.

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Doing our part for social responsibility: has environmentality

Rising gas prices have added insult to injury, coinciding with the flattening of the real estate market in Virginia and around the country. Realtors all over the world spend much of their working days driving from property to property to property, burning fuel and, as prices go up, money. Our association has recently implemented a new program that we feel achieves that elusive triple bottom line: Benefit to members, benefit to the environment, and benefit to the association.

It's called IdealRoute. It solves the age-old traveling salesman problem: What is the most efficient driving route between three or more locations and then get you back to where you started? Here's how it works...

Just add addresses one at a time to the text box below the map and when you've added them all, click "Calculate Fastest Roundtrip." Using a Google Maps mashup, IdealRoute determines the optimal route between all locations and even gives you turn-by-turn directions for all destinations that you can print out (double-sided, of course) and take with you. And it works for routes anywhere in the USA.

By now you've figured out that IdealRoute could be useful for your association work or personal life as well:
1. Determine the ideal route between hotels in your convention's host city.
2. Discover the best order in which to run your weekend errands.
3. Plan your sightseeing itinerary to cut down on travel time.

In the press, The Boston Globe, Inman News, and others have covered IdealRoute. We invite you to give it a test drive, too!


April 22, 2008

Stepping up the conversation on Millennials

As a champion of my generation’s leadership potential, I cringe at reports that perpetuate negative impressions of Millennials. With plentiful images of disinterested, superficial hipsters glued to their phones, computers, and video games, it sometimes feels like an uphill battle to prove to more experienced colleagues that many of us are committed to making a difference. I was heartened by an article on that shares anecdotes and statistics demonstrating how many young women of today aim to become a new kind of leader, driven not by money and power, but by a sense of social responsibility.

On the other side of the coin, a recent podcast from Knowledge at W.P. Carey addresses a troubling trend among young people: cheating on tests and lying on resumes to get ahead in school or career. The discussion depicts the youngest members of our workforce as supremely self-centered, willing to trample ethical boundaries in order to advance their individual goals. More articles come out every day with tips for working with and relating to members of Generation Y, often oversimplifying the issue by making it seem easy to predict behaviors. The underlying goal is one of understanding, but the opposite can easily occur: readers can be lured to believe they’ve discovered what motivates a widely diverse population when they’ve only gotten a peek at one segment.

That’s not to say that experts and researchers should stop writing articles. Having an array of ideas on the table makes for a great start, but we need more opportunities to actively discuss them. This is where associations can step in and become invaluable contributors to the conversation about the role of Millennials. Inviting young professionals to speak at conferences, holding forums where younger and older workers can compare viewpoints, and encouraging Generation Y participation on committees are all ways associations can investigate this issue on a level that is more than just skin deep. I think we can add to the growing list of associations’ social responsibilities the mission to ensure that all of our members develop an experience-based belief that the young people of today have what it takes to become the leaders we need for the future.

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April 21, 2008

The Power of Unlikely Partnerships

I thought someone had spiked my iced tea when I first spotted the most unlikely of duos teamed in the same advertisement--the Revs. Pat Robertson and Al Sharpton. That they were relaxing on a couch along a Virginia beach, chatting about their shared view of the need to take care of the planet, was even more bewildering. Welcome to the attention-getting prowess of the recently launched "We" campaign, a project of Al Gore’s nonprofit Alliance for Climate Protection.

The unusual ad, part of a call-to-action series titled "Unlikely Alliances," has been garnering attention since it began running April 10. Soon to come is the second ad, which stars House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) promoting united action on climate change.

Calling itself "unprecedented in scale for a public policy issue," the We campaign depicts the critical roles of both partnerships and leadership in combating a large-scale world problem. Foremost in its messaging is that those roles require impatiently pushing aside the sometimes radical differences, whether politics, religion, or whatever, that prevent people from focusing solely on a single cause: addressing global warming.

Clearly, the alliance has a broad definition of what and who is a leader today, with parameters set well beyond the political and academic arenas in its quest to sign up 10 million "climate activists" in the next three years. While it has reached out to predictable leaders in the conservation movement (National Audubon Society and myriad others), it also has targeted youth and emerging community leaders via partnerships with the Girl Scouts of America and an aggressive social media campaign that leverages the viral nature of mobile technology, Facebook, and MySpace in particular.

In addition, the We campaign has successfully wooed often-underrated leading labor organizers, such as the United Steelworkers union. The latter made headlines only weeks ago when it launched its own "unlikely alliance" with the Sierra Club to create the "Blue Green Alliance" and national Green Jobs for America campaign.

I’ve been writing and learning a lot about partnerships as I research case studies for ASAE & The Center’s Social Responsibility and Philanthropic/Nonprofit initiatives. The newswires and newspapers are crowded with the latest stories of corporations turning to nonprofits as strategic partners, rather than strictly charities. Less common, though, is breaking news of innovative corporate-association partnerships or unique professional-trade association alliances.
That will need to change if we as a sector are going to spearhead the types of social, economic, and environmental initiatives that we expect to emerge from ASAE & The Center’s Global Summit on Social Responsibility April 30-May 2. WE—as individual leaders, organizations, industries and professions--must be the ones waving aside perceived barriers, biases, assumptions, and fears that keep us from proffering a hand to potential partners and redefining leadership in ways that accelerate progress.

"If enough of us demand action from our leaders," states Gingrich in the We ad, "we can spark the innovation we need." And I find that, however unlikely, I agree with him.


March 21, 2008

TIME Devotes Lead Article to Jeffrey Sachs, Economist and Global Summit for Social Responsibility Participant

According to renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs, if we want to resolve the world’s toughest problems, we need to get over our extreme cynicism and get on with looking for global solutions together in new, inclusive ways. We also need to forget that “passe” notion of competing nations for markets, power and resources because the sheer scale and complexity of sustainable development required for our future existence affect us all.

Sachs, who will be guiding part of the discussions at ASAE & The Center’s Global Summit for Social Responsibility April 30-May 2, outlines a comprehensive sustainable development agenda that relies heavily on “the dynamism and creativity of the nongovernmental sector” in his new book, Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, and in the lead article of this week’s TIME magazine (“10 Ideas That Are Changing the World”). You might also have caught his appearance this week on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show.

Sachs urges us all not to underestimate “the power of one.” (Yup, he’s an FOB –Friend of Bono’s.) By studying the problems; engaging with people across cultures, relations and regions; activating our businesses, communities and groups toward sustainable development; and demanding delivery on political promises, “our generation’s greatest challenges [become] our most exciting opportunity,” he concludes. Many people believe Sachs will one day win a Nobel Prize, so we’re thrilled to have him onboard with us.

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March 20, 2008

6 Billion Paths to Peace Takes First Step

The Shinnyo-en Foundation is trying an unusual visibility event to launch its global Six Billion Paths to Peace initiative today: a full-day Path to Peace event in New York City’s Times Square that asks people to pledge to promote harmony and peace through meaningful acts of service. Those pledges are streaming live on the Reuters interactive screen above Times Square, where they can be viewed and added to later on Simply text PEACE to 334455 and reply to the message received with your “personal path commitment,” if you want to participate. A literal “path to peace” has been built in busy Times Square and will stay open until 6 p.m. EDT as a way to show that regardless of the world’s seemingly anonymous bustle, you can find simple ways to positively influence others around you.

Research by the foundation found that 69 percent of people already believe that individual acts of kindness promote a sense of peace in their communities. Six Billion Paths to Peace aims to raise awareness of how such daily actions by each of the six billion people on this planet can lead to peace. The organization hopes its effort will focus people on our interconnectedness and the tremendous impact of creating a positive ripple. The initiative aims to inspire one million people to pledge their Path to Peace in one year.


March 13, 2008

Optimize for less stress

Michele Martin’s comment on the “Interesting juxtaposition” post addresses the need for a shift in the way U.S. organizations think about their employees. The field of association management has a unique opportunity to compete for today’s most valuable human resources by taking the discussion about compensation to another level. Associations can build on their appeal to talented, socially-conscious workers by creating satisfying job environments where all factors affecting an employee’s well being are taken into consideration.

Fritjof Capra, a brilliant scientist and major voice in the discussion on sustainability, applies the principles of ecological systems to human communities. His emphasis on dynamic balance seems particularly significant for managing teams: a healthy system is flexible and has the ability to right itself after facing stress, but “trying to maximize any single variable instead of optimizing it will invariably lead to the destruction of the system as a whole.”

Creating the right mix of employee takeaways—both tangible and intangible—may be an answer for recruiting and retaining talented staffers. Beginning to understand our teams, organizations, and the broader industry as part of interconnected networks will provide a leg up in the increasingly complex work world.

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February 1, 2008

Millions Join Largest “Teach-in” in U.S. History Today

Today, associations and nonprofits ranging from Engineers Without Borders to the U.S. Green Building Council are joining more than two million students, academia, politicians and others participating in the nation’s largest “teach-in” in history. The topic? Global warming solutions.
Organized by Focus the Nation, an Oregon-based project of the nonprofit Green House Network, the initiative aims to “get everyone talking about global warming solutions on the same day,” according to participants at Rice University, one of more than 1,500 colleges, universities, civic organizations and faith groups who are “setting aside business as usual” and directing their attention fully to this complex and urgent problem.
Everyone from high school students to Nobel Prize winners, corporate CEOs to nonprofit professionals, are scheduled to speak, debate, brainstorm, pitch, compete and promote ideas and actions designed to reduce global warming and improve the environment. The project was launched by former Professor Eban Goodstein, who was inspired by the civil rights and anti-war teach-ins of the 1960s.


January 29, 2008

Have a Heart: Wear Red This Friday!

As if Fridays aren’t great enough, this Friday has the extra good element of being the American Heart Association’s popular National Wear Red Day. We’re talking red dresses, blouses, pins, lipstick, handbags, ties, socks, whatever. Thousands of organizations, cities and individuals nationwide are signing up to wear red and/or give $5 (with organizations often matching employee donations) to help raise awareness and boost prevention of the number-one killer of women: heart disease.

I especially like the tools that the association has developed to promote this major element of the Go Red for Women campaign, which is celebrating its five-year anniversary: a Brown Bag Goes Red Powerpoint for staff lunches, a downloadable guide and newsletter, a save-the-date e-mail reminder for staff and members, a free DVD toolkit, a tax receipt, memorial or tribute cards, and posters.

Consider participating in this fun, easy and important activity to help bring an end to a disease that affects so many. Doing something good can be mighty attractive.


Fast Company Co-founder: Launching a Social Responsibility Discussion—A Primer

Sometimes it’s hard to start an important conversation, one that might alter your organization forever. Handled awkwardly and with little forethought, a discussion meant to inspire ideas, motivate action, and re-envision outcomes can turn out pretty lame. That’s often how I feel about any rah-rah sessions and books related to “change” or, worse, “big change.”

Recently, Susan Sarfati, CEO & president of the Center for Association Leadership, and I spoke at different times with Alan Webber, better known as the high-energy co-founder of the very hip business magazine Fast Company. Almost every page of every issue of Fast Company is about change, but it’s cool change, if you know what I mean—like how to get your boss to let you use video games to train your co-workers.

Anyway, cool change—and how to talk about it--seemed a natural topic when I got an opportunity to chat with Alan myself, so I asked him how association leaders can begin effective discussions of one of the biggest and coolest business changes of the past 20 years: the use of strategic social responsibility to create business opportunities while benefiting society and the planet.

“People at all levels of an organization should ask themselves two questions,” Alan replied.

“(1) What keeps me awake at night? What is the gnawing problem or issue that I feel we are not addressing and that, deep in my heart of hearts, I am not happy that we are not speaking to the issue?

“(2) What gets me excited--pumped up--about getting up and going to work in the morning?

“If you can be honest about the answers to those two questions, you begin a conversation both about the deficiencies and strengths of the organization, and that’s where [this journey] has to start,” Alan stated. “What should we be doing that we are not doing that we all know is true? And what are we doing that we should amplify because it’s our greatest opportunity to make a difference?

“Those are open-ended questions; they are not multiple choice,” he continued. “And the more people who speak honestly about those questions, the more you begin to hone a sense of direction for the future, and it taps the energies and aspirations of people in the organization.

“If you can identify a very small set of opportunities—say, three to five answers to those questions--then you can get into more tactical questions: What do we know? What are we good at? How can we do things differently from how they are being done today? Who should we be talking to for more information? What are the simple steps we can take so that what we learn, what we commit to, can be turned into real action and … built into a feedback loop, so that we can see our actions impact the area we have chosen to work on? How do we structure conversations with the outside world to get and provide input? Do we start institutionalizing brown-bag lunches with people inside and out? Can we create the equivalent of a talk show inside our organization, and then how do we get that talk show broadcast over a Web site or put in print so that more people get into the conversation? How do we convert to action?"

Alan called this discussion process a way of “structuring yourself to be a thoughtful, creative, innovative and knowledge-hungry operation as you go into a new area. Tackle it like a wonderful opportunity for research and development.”

Stay tuned for the March 2008 Associations Now, which will contain part of Susan’s and my conversations with Alan on trends and corporate lessons from the social responsibility arena, as well as potential cool changes generated by our Global Summit on Social Responsibility, being convened April 30-May 2 by ASAE & The Center.

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January 25, 2008

Would Your Staff Rank Your Association as a Great Place to Work?

Job sharing and telecommuting options. Onsite fitness centers and loads of professional training. These are just a few of the benefits offered employees working at many of Fortune magazine’s “Top 100 Companies to Work For." While the much-anticipated annual survey results appear on newsstands February 4, I doubt many folks will be surprised to learn that Google ranks number one. Filling out the top five are Quicken Loans, Wegmans Food Market, Edward Jones and Genentech, respectively.

Congratulations go to several business partners of ASAE & The Center that also appear on the list: Marriott International (72) and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts (88)! Both invest in and empower employees to go beyond simple competence and use innovation and imagination to create a rewarding experience for guests that also reflects the corporations’ strong values and principles.

Like corporations, many associations and nonprofits are re-examining their workplace culture and employee benefits because they, too, want to be a great place to work—especially as the market for good talent tightens. Informal research done for ASAE & The Center’s new Social Responsibility Initiative finds that numerous professional associations, in particular, are surveying staff more regularly to determine their needs and wants, and are paying particular attention to the desires of young workers in the hope of retaining these emerging but impatient leaders.

Also mentioned more frequently are staff engagement tools such as volunteer opportunities, employee wellness team initiatives, one-on-one career coaching even for non-senior-staff, customized skills training and get-away get-togethers such as retreats in interesting places (not your typical hotel conference room!).

When ASAE & The Center first introduced the Social Responsibility Initiative in August 2007, one of the most frequent questions we got in the Social Responsibility Lounge at the Expo was “Does this help me get and keep employees?” Yes, according to many studies. But I haven’t yet found such a study that is specific to the association/nonprofit sector, so more work needs to be done.

I suspect we’ll hear much more about this important “return on investment” in our discussions about the business case for strategic social responsibility at the Global Summit for Social Responsibility April 30-May 2 (hey, come join us!). Meanwhile, I look forward to hearing all of your ideas about what makes a workplace great—and whether associations and nonprofits are doing enough of what’s needed to earn such an esteemed title.


January 15, 2008

The Woman Behind Bill Gates Gets Out Front

The world finally gets a glimpse of the most powerful woman in philanthropy today—Melinda Gates—in a first-time interview appearing in the January 7, 2008, issue of Fortune. At age 43, she’s been a wife for 14 years, a mother for 11, and a co-leader of one of the world’s most powerful philanthropic entities—the $47-billion Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation--for just seven. But don’t underestimate her. Her story reveals her as tough, energetic, nurturing, determined and, surprisingly, often successful in her quest for normalcy despite the billions. I strongly suggest you give it a skim at least.

Some of the most interesting tidbits from the piece are as follows:

--Melinda says the couple decides on major ($40 million or more) grant requests by asking two questions: Which problems affect the most people? And which have been neglected in the past?

--“Stay focused” was the only advice given them by Warren Buffett after he donated $3.4 billion and promised to pass along 9 million Berkshire Hathaway B shares (now worth $41 billion) as well.

--Although the Gates Foundation and its accomplishments are formidable, Melinda believes much more is possible through strategic partnerships with other major foundations and companies. Their most successful? The GAVI Alliance (formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization) and its distribution of vaccines to 138 million children in 70 poor nations. Their least successful? Education reform in their own community. Melinda says they have learned from their failures and have shifted tactics to try again.

--Bill once gave $50 million toward fixing New York City schools. The city commissioner in charge of directing that money successfully? Joel Klein, the guy who headed the federal antitrust case against Microsoft 10 years ago.

--Both Bill and Melinda are avid puzzle makers. Maybe that’s why they’re so willing to take a big-picture approach to complex world problems and then establish a strategy for resolving them one piece at a time!

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January 11, 2008

When a Charity Screws Up

I was having tea with three friends recently, and we started talking about the charities we most support and the types of relationships we’ve developed with them. We each had long-term ties to at least three charities, not counting our religious institutions, but we were not happy.

After we shared our initial passions for certain causes, we started exchanging stories of the times when these charities had let us down—calls that went unanswered for weeks or never, promises to send materials that don’t arrive, wrong contact information, direct mail appeals sent within days of each other, and clueless staff.

I recalled a time when I told one nonprofit that our family was willing to spend up to $2,500 to help one of our sponsor children who had “aged out” of the nonprofit’s program and gone to technical school. We wanted to pay the tuition. We never heard back from the charity—and I called three times! Staff who promised to “check into it” never responded.

Same with an idea that I pitched whereby all of us sponsors of poor children in the same small South American village would meet online to talk about the possibility of a larger group donation to the school, which had no athletic equipment or playground. I’d have been disappointed but would have lived with it with no hard feelings had the group simply said no. But the group didn’t say that. A staffer would hear me out and murmur politely and supportively that he/she would talk to a supervisor and then….nothing. Four times this happened.

My friends’ all had similar stories of frustration and brick walls, yet all of admitted that we continue to donate to these groups, even volunteer occasionally. We sighed that we truly want to help solve Problem A or assist Person B, so our desire overrides the “hassles” of dealing with some of these charities, many of which are well-respected, well-known “leaders” in their field.

So if that’s the kind of treatment that donors are getting from “leaders,” what’s happening in the smaller ranks? Is the “leadership”—great donor servicing, motivated and helpful staff, a culture of real follow-through, materials that actually share information on how the organization is measuring its impact—actually more likely found within small, lesser-known nonprofits? Have the big boys gotten so big that it has become okay to be rude, incompetent or egotistical? Maybe some of those folks are reveling in the recent studies that show individual giving is higher than ever, so they don’t think they have to work as hard to attract those dollars.

I have no idea, but I can tell nonprofit leaders this: Don’t assume we individual donors—the ones responsible for the vast majority of your revenues—will stick around forever. Competition among nonprofits has grown, and it’s rare that I can’t find another charity whose mission matches that of my current irritating recipient. Donors are becoming more educated than ever about charities, and they’re starting to hold them accountable in new ways. It doesn’t take much more than a few clicks anymore to find who is competing to serve the underprivileged, fight pollution or “lead” in any number of the efforts to better the world.

After tea, I got an e-mail from one of the attendees—our talk had made her decide to abandon a charity she had supported for more than 20 years. She had already found a replacement and was excited by her move. Meanwhile, I had mixed feelings—sadness that a charity with such a worthy cause had blown it, and joy that a friend had found fulfillment in another nonprofit’s effort.

When was the last time you or your nonprofit sister organization got serious about donor satisfaction? And I’m talking about something beyond those quickie e-surveys. I’m thinking focus groups, one-on-one donor “check-ups,” donor coaching and more. Think about it, because as a donor, I am.

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January 8, 2008

National Pro Bono Week: A Model?

A Northern Ireland professional association, Business in the Community, has developed for the UK what could be a great model for professional organizations worldwide: National Pro Bono Week, which has been held each November for the past four years. As part of the initiative, the association has reached out to other professional groups and companies to invite them to give “free support to the community and voluntary sector” for a week or even a day.

Response has grown quickly, with more than 1,100 hours of professional and technical assistance donated in 2006. Included were financial, information technology, and architectural assistance, as well as mentoring, media consulting, and leadership coaching.

What’s different about this give-back effort is that it crosses into many professional fields, uniting the entire sector for a week of positive community involvement and support. It also allows each profession to decide for itself how and where it will focus its pro bono efforts for maximum impact.

While the U.S. already has designated volunteer and philanthropic days in which some organizations participate, we have not looked outside of our silos to see if it makes sense to join forces with other professionals eager to benefit their communities. Maybe that’s a resolution worth considering in 2008.


November 27, 2007

Taking It from the Streets: Learning from the Disenfranchised

The man was eyeing me patiently as he stood by the Metro escalator with his stack of newspapers in hand, waiting for me to get close enough for a word. “Paper?” he asked politely. I was about to shake my head. I’d seen the newspaper, Street Sense, being sold for $1 apiece on corners throughout Washington, DC, and had bought one only once before. I couldn’t remember any impression, so I thought I’d save the buck.

Then I glimpsed the tagline: “Where the Washington area’s poor and homeless earn and give their two cents.” The man didn’t push; he simply stood at a careful distance, showing me the cover page: “No Vet Left Behind: Many Homeless Vets Unaware of Aid.” “Dalai Lama Reaches Out to Women’s Shelter.” He smiled tentatively, and I traded him dollar for paper.

On the inside cover were the most interesting stories of all—how Street Sense came to be and the “code of conduct” (which I had just seen in partial action) under which its vendors and organization operate. Written and produced primarily by volunteers and the homeless themselves, the paper contains news, poetry, artwork and powerful stories of a side of society familiar to too many but recognized by too few.

Originally, several local volunteers asked the National Coalition for the Homeless to launch a street newspaper to raise awareness of community poverty and provide a worthwhile product that the homeless could sell with dignity for income and career training. In 2003, the organization finally did, spinning it off into its own nonprofit corporation in March 2005. Its vendor base grew, too, and it now offers 50 homeless men and women a chance to earn money and self-respect by selling the biweekly publication and even subscriptions.

Twenty-five other cities—among them Boston, Chicago, Montreal and Nashville--offer street newspapers, many of them high quality enough to be recognized by politicians, major corporations and celebrities. Often run seemingly on spare change and advocating “radical transparency,” these publications actually are “innovative social businesses and grassroot projects” whose Web sites use the latest in social media—gritty blogs, wikis, virtual literary workshops accessed through public library computers--to further spread their messages about the plight of the homeless and what people can do to help.

One example is a YouTube video (halting, unfortunately) created by documentary filmmaker Amy Sedgwick about the Seattle-based street paper, Real Change. It embodies what its executive director, Tim Harris, describes as “what's transformational about Real Change.”

According to the North American Street Newspaper Association and Scotland-based International Network of Street Papers, which jointly run the Street News Service, “Street papers … provide editorial voices missing from mainstream media by including consistent reporting on poverty, as well as the writing and visual arts of economically disenfranchised people.”

As the association community begins moving from conversation to action in determining its collective and individual roles in social responsibility, tapping into the non-traditional knowledge sources of the disenfranchised—indeed, opening our minds and re-examining our likely biases toward these information sources—is more relevant and necessary than ever.

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Hanging Up Your Brand

I was in Hallmark at Tysons Corner last night and on the wall covered with ornaments that sing, move, spin, blink, talk, crack jokes and wield festive light sabers was a brand I recognized immediately: UNICEF. How many people worldwide must recognize its colorful trademarked globe encircled by children holding hands?

It made me ponder the power of a brand that makes people feel so positive and happy that they want to hang it on their Christmas tree. Look at the booming business that Starbucks does with its annual line of “perk-y” ornaments. Hershey, too. And Coca-Cola, Disney and many more.

As I unpacked my own decorations that night, I saw ornaments issued by my church, my children’s schools and—I admit it—Starbucks. Not one ornament represented any of the myriad associations to which I have belonged for years, none for the organizations that have most influenced my professional and personal life.

Now, I don’t expect associations to leap into action and start mass-producing holiday décor, but it would be interesting to ask ourselves if we were 100% confident that if we did, our members would (1) recognize our brand right away, and (2) feel warm and fuzzy enough about it to consider showcasing us among the items they hold most dear.

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November 9, 2007

Appreciative Inquiry: A First Experience

For those of us most comforted by orderly task lists and “here’s-how” learning, an exposure to the messy work process involved with the business methodology known as appreciative inquiry can be, frankly, exhausting and a tad overwhelming. It also can be insightful, motivational, fun and—dare I write—even intimate, regardless of the number of folks in the room.

That’s a good thing since there were more than 60 together on October 29 and 30—all of them members of the Design Team for the Global Summit of Social Responsibility, being convened by ASAE & The Center on April 30-May 1, 2008. Although few of us had any experience with the four stages of appreciative inquiry, we believed this strengths-based approach could be the best tool for co-creating what we hope will be a pioneering and innovative event that will strengthen member organizations and measurably benefit the world. No small task for any business strategy!

Mercifully, we had the best help possible—David Cooperrider, Ph.D., of Case Western Reserve University, the actual developer of AI and a guy who has worked with everyone from IDEO to the American Red Cross to the United Nations. David explained how AI works and started us down a “discovery” path of personal Q&A interviewing that helped us identify our own strengths, perspectives and visions. As a group, we picked our way through AI’s process of adopting a “systems of the whole” philosophy to ensure that every possible type of stakeholder would be involved in the summit and its design. We broke into smaller teams that brainstormed and asked more questions on a particular topic (summit title and tasks, pre-summit research, etc.) to help everyone envision (or “dream” as the methodology describes) and later refine (“design” or plan and prioritize) just how we might jointly pull off such a powerful effort. Now we’re at the “destiny” or “deliver” stage, during which we start to implement the design.

Several volunteers from each team have stepped up to provide additional advice to staffers as we break down the takeaways from the design meeting into tangible work tasks. Huge thanks, y’all! And thanks, too, to David, the iCohere squad and the rest of the association professionals and business partners who devoted two days to the face-to-face process and many more hours communicating online. We’ve all been using a cool new Web site established by iCohere just for this team for now, and posting has been thoughtful and steady. Although we’re not always sure what we’re doing, people seem to really want to make AI work for this important initiative. Having participated in so many other types of business approaches, I’m excited to try something fresh to help unify our diverse sector, and I’ll keep you posted as we progress. Meanwhile, here’s the official press release, but I wanted to share a more personal viewpoint with you via the blog.

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Giving Back When You’re Going Crazy

“Don't overreach. Pick just a few causes that really mean something to you,” advises longtime Washington, DC newscaster Andrea Roane to busy professionals who want to give back to their communities but are extremely time-pressed. “I try to help with the arts, because I was an arts educator; breast cancer awareness, because I am a woman and that fact alone puts me at risk for breast cancer; [and] Buddy Check 9 [a breast cancer prevention program]. And it's OK to say no. You can't do it all. Don't try!”

As someone who just guiltily dropped three volunteer activities that I had done for years, I took comfort in those words from one of our four new winners of ASAE & The Center’s In Honor of Women Awards. Presented Wednesday, November 7, at the JW Marriott in DC, the awards recognize exceptional female professionals who are high-achieving leaders with substantial influence on their surrounding communities.

I wondered how Andrea had narrowed down her many charitable options to focus on breast cancer prevention and learned that it was because of something associations been told repeatedly in our constant quest for volunteers: She was asked. More specifically, she was asked by her former news director to initiate the Buddy Check 9 project 14 years ago. On the ninth of each month (hey, that’s today!), Andrea urges her viewers to team with a friend or family member to do the National Cancer Institute's 3-step breast examination early detection program.

Thousands of people have done so, which has led to some unexpected personal and professional benefits for Andrea. “Professionally, my work through Buddy Check 9 has earned me local and national recognition for reporting and community service,” Andrea says. “Personally, having a woman or man call and tell me that my reporting or a speech I made advocating women take charge of their health saved their life is so gratifying.”

She recommends that other organizations interested in social responsibility and community outreach look to the Buddy Check 9 model as a starting point. “We are modeled after a program at the Gannett-owned sister station in Jacksonville, Florida,” Andrea explains. “It was a much-needed initiative in the DC metro area, because of the high breast cancer mortality rates of minority women. We just started telling survivor stories, profiling physicians and researchers, and updating the latest technological advancements, so it's a never-ending story. Also, I am amazed at the people who still don't know their risk factors and the importance of prevention and early detection in the fight against all cancers. Until everyone hears and understands the message, there will be a need for Buddy Check.”

She urges organizations to “look at the community in which you work--what are the needs of the people [whom] you want to choose your product? Food drives? Toys for Tots? Kidney walks?--and go from there.”


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


October 11, 2007


I just finished reading a shattering novel for young adults called Sold (Hyperion, 2006) about a Nepalese girl who is sold into prostitution. While attending the recent National Book Festival in Washington, DC, I was compelled to buy the story after hearing its best-selling author--investigative journalist Patricia McCormick--share her emotional experiences from a month spent researching the child sex trade in Nepal and India. Bear with me while I explain the relevance to associations and their business partners.

During the Q&A, I asked McCormick both if she still communicated with the girls and women who described their horrific existences to her, and if she had been moved to activism by her findings. She affirmed both, noting that part of her earnings go to nonprofits that fight child trafficking.

More important than money, though, has been the simple fact that, despite post-trip trauma, she managed to write the book at all. Further, it just won the prestigious Quill Award for Best Teen/Young Adult Book, which will raise the visibility of this under-publicized social atrocity even more.

Association executives may not feel particularly connected to child trafficking as a business issue. But some of our sector’s largest industries—such as tourism organizations concerned that this crime is often conducted in hotels--are among the leaders working to stop the abuse. In addition, since associations hold events in many cities and nations that have become major centers for child trafficking—India, Korea, Thailand, San Diego, London, Sydney and New York, for instance—the problem has grown more relevant.

McCormick’s story of Lakshmi, the 13-year-old main character from an impoverished family, depicts a tale similar to that of millions of children ages 10-18 who are trafficked for sex annually in what has become a multi-billion-dollar business. Brazil alone is home to 500,000 child prostitutes ages 10-17, with some as young as six, according to UNICEF.

The author’s Web site links to some association efforts, including an international Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism” project by the World Tourism Organization and nonprofit End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT).

Created in 1998, the code outlines six conduct criteria based on the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of Children. It also helpfully includes model language that associations can add to contracts with global suppliers of everything from accommodations to tours.

Members of the Code Steering Committee include the International Hotel and Restaurant Association, Federation of International Youth Travel Organizations and Tour Operators’ Initiative for Sustainable Tourism Development, among others. In August 2007, the group helped gather support for 21 congressional leaders who sent letters to CEOs of the four largest U.S. hotel chains, urging them to sign the code. To date, two of them—Choice Hotels and Starwood—have responded with interest in the code, and Hilton Hotels noted that its soon-to-be-issued Global Code of Conduct “will specifically address issues of child exploitation.” Regent International Hotels and Radisson are among the 50 companies that have already signed.

Here’s hoping that other associations and industry partners “get” Sold.

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September 25, 2007

Public’s Lack of International Experience Limits U.S. Ability to Lead Positive World Change, Says Speaker Series Presenter

With the run-up to the recent launches of ASAE & The Center’s new International and Social Responsibility initiatives, I wondered how much we as a nation and an association sector can truly contribute to the elimination of major world problems when only about one in four Americans possesses a passport—hardly the “global perspective” likely needed to build consensus and identify practical resolution strategies.

I turned to a rather unlikely source with this question: actress-turned-activist Jane Seymour, one of the last participants in the long-running Nation’s Distinguished Speaker Series hosted by ASAE & The Center.

Seymour serves as a hands-on ambassador for numerous nonprofits, including ChildhelpUSA, and works on social problems ranging from child abuse to preventable disease control. Her philanthropic efforts routinely take her to different continents, giving her unique insight into topics such as whether U.S. professionals and their representative groups should be doing more to strengthen their “world perspective” and recognize the power of possible involvement in social responsibility.

“Absolutely,” said Seymour, who speaks several languages and often takes some of her six children on her philanthropic trips abroad. “I think that Americans are very Ameriocentric. They believe the whole world is what they see on television and what they know about their city usually, not even the whole country. When you travel and see the perception of other countries [toward] America or perceive how other countries [feel toward different] countries, you see that we are a global society now.… With the Internet, with air travel, with everything that’s going on in every country in every group of people in every race, we are all interrelated…, so I think it’s incredibly important to send as many Americans abroad as we can, so they can see how fortunate they are and how different life is elsewhere.”

I asked Seymour to be more specific about the types of international experiences she would recommend that trade and professional associations offer their members. She suggested that they could raise and earmark money to send their members overseas, to start with, and shared a story about her involvement in a post-9/11 experiment conducted by the American Red Cross, on whose Celebrity Cabinet she serves.

Seymour and her husband, film director James Keach, agreed to take eight, inner-city, racially diverse 12-year-old children from a Los Angeles school to Africa and film their reactions to what they saw while they helped Seymour and Red Cross volunteers vaccinate 7 million children in one week. The results became a documentary.

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August 13, 2007

Leadership: Considering a New Flight Plan

After sharing stunning Imax photos, dramatic video of flight lift-offs and passionate descriptions of what he believes leadership means today, former NASA space shuttle pilot and astronaut Charles Bolden got a standing ovation today at the Annual Meeting & Expo.

It was an unusual, sometimes emotional presentation with such compelling imagery in the background, and Bolden used that majesty to urge leaders to develop their skills so that they could take even small steps toward making the world a better place.

“Earth is unbelievable; it’s breathtaking,” he said. “It goes in 45-minute spurts--17,500 miles per hour—so it takes 90 minutes to go around one time. Every 45 minutes you see a sunset or a sunrise.”

His favorite photo of the thousands he has taken is a spaceship view of the Middle East because “it’s so peaceful looking and organized.” Can you imagine seeing such sights and not feeling protective of the planet we occupy?

Although Bolden’s presentation hadn’t been scheduled with any particular tie-in to ASAE & The Center’s new Social Responsibility Initiative, I thought that this recent Astronaut Hall of Famer may have made one of the most inspiring appeals of the day for association leaders to “do what is right,” to use their business and leadership savvy in much broader, more powerful ways toward positive world change.

Much of what Bolden said about leadership was not necessarily new to regular attendees of ASAE & The Center programs. But he did a good job reinforcing the most important elements and then concluded with the startling power behind the words of 12-year-old Nikosi Johnson, who at the time of his death in 2001 had been the longest-living AIDS patient: “Do all you can with what you have in the time you have in the place that you are. … If we just live by Nikosi’s philosophy, we can make a difference.”

Probably 50 people crowded around Bolden when he finished, just to shake his hand, compliment him and get a quick photo. Others headed straight to the BrightSight Group rep who handles Bolden’s speaking engagements. Me? I thought of exactly the right spot to put Nikosi’s quote on my office wall.

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August 11, 2007

The Business of Saving the World

In her widely praised book The Hummer and the Mini: Navigating the Contradictions of the New Trend Landscape, trendmaster Robyn Waters devotes an entire chapter to so-called social capitalism, the “doing-well-by-doing-good” business strategy that grounds the social responsibility (SR) movement. After reading it, I wondered if she would consider SR to be a trend or—as some business media terms it—“a tidal change” in how business does business.

“Social responsibility is not just a trend,” explains Waters. “It's a savvy business practice that has been around for many years in many different forms. In the past, businesses seldom advertised what they did to give back, and most of their efforts were within their local communities. Today's version of what I call social capitalism is a global practice and is considered 'business as usual' by many companies.

“Many companies now realize that the best way to make money just might have something to do with saving the world. I am constantly amazed at the creative ways that visionary leaders find to give back. The manner in which they choose to give back will continue to evolve as today's increasingly socially responsible consumers continue to vote with their pocketbooks.”

Waters thinks some of the heightened customer expectations regarding business and social responsibility are natural evolutions of consumer interest in living simpler, finding more value in their lives and redefining “the good life.”

“The claustrophobia of abundance that surrounds our busy lives contributes greatly to our growing frustration and our desire to simplify our lives,” she says. “Let's face it. There's really very little that any of us really need. We've been programmed to chase the holy grail of ‘the next big thing,’ but when we get there, there's always something else that's next. That's why I want to reframe the concept of trend. Trends are signposts and indicators pointing to what's going on in the hearts and minds of consumers. These days, if you want to be ‘on trend,’ it's more important to figure out what's important, not just what's next. When [we do that], we move in the direction of finding more meaning in our lives and in our transactions, not just acquiring more stuff….”

I asked whether international expansion by American organizations with international customers, employees and partners also has been driving momentum toward increased social responsibility.

Waters, now president of RW Trend, agrees: “The Europeans are definitely ahead of us in many regards when it comes to social responsibility. In the United Kingdom, they call it ethical consumption. As the world flattens, and more companies become international, they will have to find new creative ways to address their social responsibilities.

“What's really interesting to me is that in order to be a better global citizen, many companies will choose to do their give back on a local level. It's a paradox I call glocal…. In order to be successful in today's business environment, companies have to think global, but act local, in a socially responsible manner.”

Association leaders can hear more about trends and non-trends at Waters’ Thought Leader session Tuesday, August 14 at 12:30 p.m. during ASAE & The Center’s Annual Meeting & Expo.


August 8, 2007

Pitching Social Responsibility

David Cooperrider, Ph.D., of Case Western Reserve University is a straightforward, highly articulate guy who is used to moving in circles with world leaders whose names even your children know. This Monday, though, his focus will be elsewhere—namely, on you. Cooperrider has come onboard as a lead advisor to ASAE & The Center’s new Social Responsibility Initiative, which includes giving the General Session at the Annual Meeting & Expo and, later, galvanizing folks for a massive Global Summit on Social Responsibility April 30-May 2, 2008.

First, though, he wants to show association leaders like you just how much your organization stands to gain by embracing and embedding social responsibility practices and goals into your daily business conduct. We’re talking money (new and saved), members (engaged and growing), staff (motivated and creative), reputation (brightening) and mission (new outlets of opportunity), among other things. Even more impressive? Becoming something bigger than you were before—something with the kind of impact that, though tangible, creates value beyond that found on a ledger. Value that makes you proud to come to work every day and to talk to your children and mother about it that night.

If the latter sounds like something that would be darn hard to explain to your board, well, … get over it. “Social responsibility is not just a do-good perspective,” explains Cooperrider during an interview that will appear in the September issue of Associations Now magazine. “It’s literally a new marriage between doing good and doing well.”

I ask him why associations should make a case to their members that, as he once wrote, “a new vision of work, values and caring is an economic, not merely a social, imperative.”

“If they don’t, they are doing a disservice to their members,” he responds instantly. “… One point that comes out of [your book, Seven Measures for Success,] is that remarkable associations help position their members to succeed in the future, so [an] important thing that associations can do is to help their organizations be ahead of the curve. Social responsibility is an arena that the whole world is starting to agree on very rapidly….

“I was recently at a United Nations meeting with 500 CEOs from around the world looking at how we could unite the strengths of markets and entrepreneurs with universal values to create a better world. Goldman Sachs stood up and created a task force with about 20 of the world’s largest financial houses, a group that oversees $10 trillion in assets. They dedicated themselves to helping that whole industry put environmental, social and ethical governance issues at the heart of investment analysis. They also just came out with two reports: one called ‘Who Cares Wins’
and another that documents how companies that are putting environmental, social and governance issues at the forefront of their work are outperforming their stock market peers by at least 25 percent in terms of their overall valuation within a year….

“When we have these solutions emerging, and they create benefit for the world and for those organizations. That kind of mutual sweet spot is what associations can most powerfully help their members identify.”

Visit the new Social Responsibility Web Site in September for the extended, online-only version of this interview:

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