An Executive Director's point of view

Category: Planning
Posted by: David M Patt
"I believe a mission statement should be something short that clearly states the purpose of an organization - why you exist," stated Jim Kendzel, MPH, CAE, Executive Director of the American Society of Plumbing Engineers, on a recent ASAE Collaborate post.

He explained: "You can then follow up with a 'this is how we accomplish our mission' statement with a list of activities."

"The reason I favor this approach," he continued, "is a short and to the point statement about why the organization exists can be a compelling and meaningful 'guiding light' for the organization and get members excited. In addition, an activity list is easily adjusted to meeting the strategic shifts of the organization while the mission statement remains a solid foundation for the organization."

Makes sense to me.

July 25, 2014: Canada law applies to USA

Category: Marketing
Posted by: David M Patt
The new Canadian anti-spam law will affect the activity of many American not-for-profits.

It sets specific requirements for contacting Canadians about meetings, products, and membership. It even applies to communication that is solely informative and not revenue-generating.

Check out this explanation of the law and be sure your organization will be able to comply.

July 23, 2014: The sky is not the limit

Posted by: David M Patt
Growth for most associations and business is limited. The pool of potential members and customers may become exhausted. New audiences may need to be found or new products created for existing audiences.

But growth is not unlimited.

At some point, income or participation may plateau. And that is not always a sign of poor performance. It may merely be a sign of market saturation.

Posted by: David M Patt
Make sure you are prepared to work with a new Board or Committee Chair.

Before the end of the incumbent's term, meet with the next Chair (or with the person you think is likely to become the next Chair) to find out what that person wants to achieve in office and to figure out how the two of you can best work together.

You may have already developed a good working relationship, but that was in a different situation. As Chair, that person may think and act differently - and that may require you to think and act differently, as well.

So, get ahead of the curve and be ready. Determine how you can ensure that the Board or Committee - and the organization - can benefit from the service of the new leader.

Category: Travel
Posted by: David M Patt
Associations almost always reimburse staff for travel expenses to meetings. While some large associations handle travel arrangements and most set aside hotel rooms, not all do. And small associations generally don't.

So, employees often have to make their own reservations and wait for reimbursement after the fact.

But many employees cannot afford to "loan" a thousand dollars or more to the association prior to a meeting. They may not be able to carry the credit card debt and some aren't able to add to huge balances they've already amassed.

So, reimburse employees (and independent contractors) as quickly as possible. But also find a way to pay for their air fares and hotel rooms so they won't have to incur liability for those items. You can cut checks for payments, use an association credit card, or even identify a Board member who is willing to charge those expenses.

Just don't force employees to front the money.

July 20, 2014: Online irony

Category: Technology
Posted by: David M Patt
A community college required registrants for an online course to register in person. The institution said it needed to verify their identity and residency status.

Couldn't that have been done online?

July 17, 2014: Do fonts matter?

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
Yes, they do.

Read about it here - and don't miss the part about the "gutter test."
Category: Membership
Posted by: David M Patt
An association Chair wanted to send a letter to fellow professionals inviting them to join the organization. It was to be a well-crafted letter (written by the Chair), printed on association letterhead, mailed in an association envelope, and stamped by the association postage meter.

The Chair's assumption (and the Board's, too), was that a letter from the Chair would be so well-written and convey such importance that people would read it and want to join.

But that assumption was faulty:

1. The mailing will be seen by most recipients as a mass mailed (spam) sales piece.
2. Many people will discard it without even opening it.
3. Many who do open it will toss it once they realize it's a sales pitch.
4. The signature of the Chair will not cause people to join - unless they think they are the only ones who received the letter.

If you think a direct mail membership drive can attract members, here's a better way to do it:

1. Send multiple personal letters, on personal letterhead, not on the association letterhead. A third-person endorsement is usually more valued than a direct mail piece. Don't just send the same piece to everybody.

2. The letter should be signed by someone known by the recipient or at a similar level in the profession as the recipient, not by the Chair or another association official.

3. An unusual, commemorative postage stamp should be used, not a postage meter imprint and not a commonly used stamp, like a flag or the liberty bell. The mailing needs to look more personal, more individual, and less like a mass mailing.

If you were asked to buy a product, purchase a subscription, or join an organization, which would be more likely to secure your support: a pitch from a company, publication, or group; or a suggestion from a colleague?
Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
A newspaper reported that somebody had developed a "staff" infection. The correct term is "staph" infection. ("Staph" is short for "staphylococcus").

That is not a minor error. It shows that the writer didn't know the proper term and that nobody checked what had been written.

Before you publish anything - a blog comment, email message, newsletter article, etc. - proofread it and make sure the words are used correctly and that spelling and grammar are correct.

July 14, 2014: Be specific

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
Really specific.

Many problems occur in associations because people think they've understood what others have said. But many people define words, actions, and situations differently. They may not interpret information in the same way nor be able to read others' signs.

So, be sure you and those with whom you interact understand each other. Clarify terms, restate goals and work directives, repeat discussion summaries, and confirm final decisions - even in writing, if necessary.

Don't be afraid of appearing slow or dumb or unable to remember things. Misunderstandings today can lead to monumental conflicts tomorrow.
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