An Executive Director's point of view

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Read 'em here.
Association meetings are scheduled for all kinds of reasons. Committees, ad hoc task forces, discussion groups, and others may convene to discuss business, recommend decisions, or just to satisfy some higher organizational authority that required them to meet.

And when volunteers handle scheduling themselves, they often do it at the last minute (perhaps on a days notice). Or, they set a meeting date at the conclusion of the prior meeting and don't remind anybody later on. They may not send agendas until one hour before the meeting, if at all.

If volunteers are responsible for scheduling meetings in your association, here's how you can help them:

1. Ensure that participants receive ample time to plan for meetings - usually at least one week.

2. If participants need to be surveyed to determine a meeting time, see that is done even earlier, so they can fit the event into their work schedules.

3. Send a reminder a few days before the meeting. Don't assume that everybody will remember the scheduled date, even if it is expected they should. An additional reminder the day before wouldn't hurt.

4. Send everybody an agenda 5-7 days before the meeting. That may prompt them to think about and prepare for discussion items.

5. Send minutes as soon after the meeting as possible, especially if work assignments were parceled out to participants. Send the minutes again with the agenda for the next meeting.

6. Offer to conduct these tasks yourself. A meeting organizer may feel relieved that these things are being taken care of by somebody else.

Volunteers who don't follow these steps are usually not trying to short cut the notification process or do anything evil. They just don't know the most appropriate way to conduct meeting affairs. So help them as much as you can.

August 25, 2015: Fax it

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Many industries and professions utilize faxes for transmission of important information.

Banks, hospitals, insurance companies, and mortgage lenders are among those that often require faxes and do not want documents emailed to them, even though they may maintain robust online services for other activities. Many attorneys, too, prefer paper to electronic communication.

So, before you dump your fax machine, determine how frequently you expect to send and receive faxes, explore alternative fax venues, and calculate the cost of each.

Then decide how best to connect by fax with people with whom you need to be connected by fax.

August 20, 2015: Write it like a recipe

Category: Technology
Posted by: David M Patt
When providing instructions for online activities, be very specific and assume the user has never done what you are describing.

Write instructions as you would a recipe. Use lay language, DON'T SKIP ANY STEPS, and don't assume the person following your instructions knows anything about what you are instructing.

Start by telling viewers what information they will need. Many don't know what version of particular programs they are using and will be stumped when asked that while trying to follow your instructions.

Don't say, "open your browser." Many people don't know what a browser is. Instead, say "go online."

Don't say, "go to (whatever page or site you are directing them to)." Tell exactly how to do it, step by step, explaining which boxes to check along the way.

Don't say, "select one of the options." Tell them how to do that. Say, "click the box next to your choice," or whatever is required to select one of those options.

Tell whether to click "Run," "Save," or something else.

And direct people to the correct location of boxes, drop-down menus, and other buttons. Those may not be obvious to everybody.

Don't worry about appearing too basic or too simple. The people who need help the most are usually at a basic, simple level.
Category: Employment
Posted by: David M Patt
When I've hired association employees, I always advertised the responsibilities of the position, the skills and background required, and provided a description of the culture of the organization.

I did not advertise the salary but I did share that information when asked. There was no reason for compensation to be a secret.

And I never asked anybody how much they had earned in previous jobs or how much they were seeking now - because it did not matter. They knew the salary and if they felt it was too low, they just didn't apply.

No applicant has ever turned down a job I offered because the salary was too low. And nobody I hired ever skipped out for a better paying position.

I hired people because they were qualified, not because they mysteriously fell within a salary range that I refused to disclose.


1. Tell potential applicants as much as possible about the position - including the salary.

2. Don't advertise a huge salary range (or any range) - every applicant will expect to be paid at the high end.

3. Interview the people whose skills and background you believe are the best match for the position.

4. Hire the person you think is most qualified.

5. Leave salary discussion for the end. Be flexible on the amount but, depending on the position, don't be too flexible.

August 15, 2015: Do this for everybody

Category: Planning
Posted by: David M Patt
An article suggesting ways of marketing to millennials, suggested the following:

1. Consistently deliver value;
2. Build trust via quality products and excellent service.

Shouldn't you do that for everybody?

August 12, 2015: Do it yourself

Beware of suggestions that you try to become an expert at everything.

Pitches are often made to association professionals (especially those working in small associations) to purchase software that will enable them to become designers, accountants, technicians, and just about anything else involved in organizational work.

Why hire others, we are asked, when we can save money by doing everything ourselves?

I wonder how often association Board members ask themselves that same question when deciding if they really, really need a CEO, or if they can save money and simply manage things themselves.

August 10, 2015: Think for yourself

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
There's a lot of talk, now, about eliminating annual performance appraisals, offering unlimited vacation days, embracing workforce diversity, developing more interactive educational sessions, creating wall-less offices, and changing the way associations and business have engaged in a variety of activities.

But ideas like these are not new. Many people, organizations, and business have been designing innovative workplaces for a long time.

What's new is that some large, successful entities have now adopted these practices, so others think it's safe for them to do the same.

But you should conduct activities in certain ways because you think those ways are best, not because they are fashionable, popular, or have become the norm in your industry or profession.

Think for yourself, and do what you think is best. Don't just follow everybody else.

August 05, 2015: Board member freebies

Category: Governance
Posted by: David M Patt
A prospective Board member wanted to know if his membership fee would be waived if he was elected. He wanted to know if he would be granted free registration to the annual conference and if his travel and lodging expenses would be paid by the association.

The answer to all of those questions was "no."

Board membership, he was told, was a service, not an honor, and there weren't any perks.

He accepted the nomination anyway. Hopefully, he'll serve the organization well and won't ask again about perks.

August 03, 2015: Remote communication

Posted by: David M Patt
When working remotely, try to schedule times to meet face-to-face with your boss and with co-workers to discuss matters that can be handled more efficiently in person, or things that should not appear in print.

Email and texting may be appropriate for many communications, but they leave a published trail (which you may not want), they don't allow for voice inflectons or visual clues, and they minimize the positive impact of your personality.

Telephone, Skype, and other communication venues may be useful when talking with people in other states or countries.

But nothing beats face-to-face conversations. Find a way to conduct them as frequently as possible.
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