An Executive Director's point of view
March 06, 2014: It's not about the content
The lobbyist for my adversary failed to tell the sponsor that a number of groups were opposed to his bill. Several of us surprised that legislator in the hallway one day and asked him why he was sponsoring such an awful bill.
He was embarrassed - and angry that he had been put in the position of being a bad guy.
Legislators don't like to be on the wrong side of an issue. If two organizations they respect (or seek support from) take different positions on a matter, they often suggest the combatants work out a deal, and the legislator then sponsors the agreed upon proposal.
Legislators look for win-win situations. They want to make two friends, not one friend and one enemy.
So, when the bill passed one chamber and was called for a vote in the other, several committee members who would normally have voted for it, didn't - and it fell short of the votes needed to pass.
The content of the bill was irrelevant. Those legislators simply wanted to punish the lobbyist for blindsiding their colleague.
When crafting your legislative strategy, remember that the content of a bill often - very often - is irrelevant. What's more important is who supports or opposes the bill, how it impacts each party or faction's tactical efforts, and how the proponents and opponents are viewed by legislators.
March 04, 2014: No texting...
What does this have to do with association management?
My drives to and from meetings are often slowed by motorists who insist on texting while driving, as if some horrible consequence would befall them if they didn't do that.
There's the driver who doesn't see the light change to green (because she's looking at her smartphone, not at the light), the person weaving slowly in and out of his lane because he's texting, the driver who stops too close to my car so I can't back into a parking space, but doesn't see my back-up lights nor hear the honks of anybody else because her consciousness is riveted to the texts.
If you have an emergency that requires reading or sending a text, pull over and take care of it. But grabbing ten or twenty or thirty seconds to engage in texting (allegedly while your car is not moving) is unnecessary, often dangerous, and incredibly stupid.
Most people have absolutely no reason to read or send a text while they are driving. Whatever is in that text can wait. The world won't stop and your life won't end if you just turn off the phone and check for messages later.
March 03, 2014: Start meetings on time
If you start late, people will always arrive late. And if you don't recap for them, they'll know they'll miss important information.
Don't excuse them for being busy, being held up by weather, or not being able to find their way. It's their responsibility to show up or call-in on time.
If you are strict about time, everybody else will be, too. (And if they aren't, too bad for them).
February 27, 2014: Multiple year sponsorships
1. It guarantees income for future years, reducing the number of sponsors you'll need to sign annually.
2. It guarantees a better deal for the sponsor, too, who hopes to avoid annual fee increases.
3. It gives you and the sponsor a chance to learn how to work together.
4. It gives you and the sponsor an opportunity to develop new programs without the threat of renegotiation on the horizon.
5. It builds mutual loyalty. One or both of you might be prompted to do something extra to benefit the other, even if it's not in the contract.
February 26, 2014: Do more marketing
But if you don't tell anybody about your organization, nobody will know anything about it. They won't join, or donate, or volunteer.
Marketing should be an ongoing activity -all of the time. Not just before events or before fund-raising or membership recruitment campaigns.
And it should take place in as many venues as possible - not just the "one" that may be considered better than the others.
If you don't continually market your organization, there may soon be no organization at all and nothing to tell anybody about.
February 25, 2014: Can you print paper and still be green?
February 24, 2014: Are super bowl ads effective?
When planning your association's marketing activities, don't just run to where you think everybody will be. Identify your audiences, determine the venue(s) in which you are likely to be able to interact with them, and cost out the venture.
Make your decision based on the cost and effectiveness of the effort and don't succumb to emotion and excitement.
February 20, 2014: Boards that micromanage
So, they make quick decisions, often without reflection or research (and often without discussion of financial implications) and plunge into the details - who will make a phone call, when an application will be filed, how many people will staff a registration table.
Many of them have no experience with governance bodies. Those who run their own businesses don't deal with governance at all - they're the bosses, they make all the decisions, and they do all the work, or delegate it to closely supervised underlings.
So, everybody is focused on performing tasks. And their activities aren't always well-coordinated, in compliance with time constraints, or conducted within budget (some associations don't even have budgets).
What can you do about that?
1. Use political skills and force of personality to deftly wrest control of operations from them (but that may not work).
2. Perform operational duties effectively so they'll begin to trust you more.
3. Think of yourself as a consultant, not just a manager, and advise them about how to do things. Sometimes they'll follow your advice and sometimes they won't.
4. Set timelines for them to follow and persuade them of the benefits of doing so.
5. If you don't have personnel resources to conduct operations yourself, suggest they identify volunteers who will do the work, but have those people report to you, not to the Board, so you can coordinate the work, ensure it is completed in a timely fashion, and prevent it from costing more than it should.
6. Be flexible. Find ways to adapt to their culture, even if you think their culture is wrong.
7. OR, quit.
If you continually tell them they should not be involved in operations (and they should not be involved in operations), they may just fire you and hire someone who thinks the way they do.