An Executive Director's point of view

 
Here are additional tips for effectively communicating with members of Congress.

December 05, 2016: Look who likes print

Category: Culture
Posted by: David M Patt

December 01, 2016: Field decisions

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
A woman approached the registration desk at a running event, said she wasn't able to run that day, and requested a refund.

Refunds are NEVER offered at running events. Sign-up forms clearly state, "No Refunds," and it is routine for large numbers of paid participants to not even show up.

I politely apologized and told her we could not refund her entry fee.

She began to cry. She had miscarried a few days earlier and wasn't able to run.

I did not ask her to submit a doctor's letter or any other proof of her condition. I did not direct her to complete a form. I did not refer her request to a committee for resolution.

I immediately handed her a cash refund.

More than 11,000 people had registered for the race and I felt I could issue one refund. I was the CEO and I made the decision.

Don't impose a bureaucratic process on every association activity. Instead, designate one person to resolve issues onsite and grant that person authority to handle matters in whatever manner is thought best.

November 29, 2016: Too much "interactive"

Category: Learning
Posted by: David M Patt
There is far too much reliance on the word "interactive," as if it was considered a requirement for any learning session. And many "interactive" exercises carried out in these sessions are nothing more than manipulative gimmicks.

Some presenters even go so far as to insert an "interactive" segment into their presentations, despite it often being out of place and totally unnecessary. Perhaps they believe it will make them more attractive to meeting goers.

But if the program content is not engaging and relevant, the style of presentation isn't going to make much of a difference.

So, when planning an educational session, understand what your audience wants and how it wants to be treated. Then clearly communicate those details.

Just slapping an "interactive" label on it doesn't add value.

November 23, 2016: No judgment

Category: Membership
Posted by: David M Patt
If we know that "engaged" members are more likely to renew, we should strive to identify more activities they'll want to engage in.

Our efforts should be based on determining what members want, not what we think they should want.

And issuing "engagement scores," or grading them in some other way, is NOT the way to do that.

We should not judge the value nor the extent of their participation in the organization.

November 21, 2016: Self-nominations

Category: Governance
Posted by: David M Patt
Many organizations look down on self-nominated Board candidates. They are often viewed as unqualified applicants who offer themselves because nobody else will recommend them. They are frequently the last choice, if a choice at all, of nominating committees.

However, quite a few trade and professional organizations rate self-nominated candidates as their top choices. They often feel those folks possess the drive and ambition to serve the organization well.

So, in many groups, a "Call for Nominations" may generate a full complement of Board candidates, mostly self-nominated, and the job of the nominating committee will be vetting the prospects, not searching for them.

November 18, 2016: What friends are for

Category: Stuff, other
Posted by: David M Patt
At a workshop stressing the impact of a satisfying personal life on career development, attendees were told to test the depth of their personal network by asking themselves to think of two people, to whom they were not related, who would loan them $500 without asking why they needed it.

Think about that.

November 11, 2016: Taking care of business

Posted by: David M Patt
The new Executive Director of a well-regarded organization shared her worries with a few colleagues during a break at an educational conference.

"I don't know if we'll still be here a year from now," she confided, much to the surprise of those who heard her concerns.

I was shocked.

I had worked with her predecessor and found him to be a knowledgeable and effective leader. I had no idea the organization was in trouble.

Apparently, he had totally ignored his management responsibilities, instead devoting all of his time to advocacy and fund-raising. He had cultivated a positive profile for himself and for the organization, but the group was ready to implode.

His successor recounted a host of problems. One of them, not the worst, was that he had opened a new bank account for each corporate and foundation grant the group had received.

Seemingly unaware of the practice of fund accounting and the designation of restricted funds, the organization possessed seventeen bank accounts, and some employees received multiple checks each payday

The new Exec was able to pull things together, but she had to spend a great deal of time on activities her predecessor should have already handled.

Administration is an essential function of any organization. If administrative tasks are not performed in a timely and quality fashion, the entire association can crumble, and with it all of the programs that the group's audiences count on.

So, be sure to take care of business.

November 10, 2016: Mergers

Not-for-profit leaders have been chatting about that of late.

Here are some things to consider if you are musing about a merger with another group.

#1 - Do it to more effectively serve your audience, not to "save" your organization.

November 09, 2016: Election lesson

The 2016 presidential election is likely to be dissected every which way by pundits for a very long time.

How did both political parties fail to recognize the latent power of protest? Why were comments that appeared crude to some, seem honest to others? What role did gender play? Were voters repudiating the Obama Administration, challenging the "establishment," or simply choosing a candidate? Did the electoral map reflect only a minor shift from the norm?

Lessons for associations:

Do not stubbornly cling to organizational tradition and accepted etiquette. Don't dismiss critics as "outsiders" or "renegades." Incorporate dissent in your decision-making process. Accept change.

Strive for good decisions, not for unanimity. And don't always try to preserve the established way of conducting association business.
 
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