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June 30, 2011: What's the idea?

Category: Planning
Posted by: David M Patt
"Build your organization around an idea instead of around a specific product or around a specific job or industry," says membership marketing guru Tony Rossell.

He cites IBM as a good example of that philosophy, quoting The Economist magazine's description of the company on its 100th anniversary: "Its strategy is to package technology for use by businesses."

The technology will always change, but the idea won't.

That strategy is a good idea for associations, too.

June 28, 2011: The extra space

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
Deirdre Reid has some great posts about how to write on the web.

I disagree with one formatting point, though. It has become the style to leave only one space after a period. I always leave two (although this blog doesn't seem to allow me to do that).

I'm told I'm not supposed to let on that I learned to do that in high school typing class. I'm supposed to fear being viewed as older.

But I think leaving that extra space offers readers' brains and eyes a quick breather. Otherwise, all that copy appears shoved together.

So, I'll stick with the extra space. Offering a visual respite is more important to me than hiding my age.

June 27, 2011: Paying Board members

Category: Governance
Posted by: David M Patt
That's a hot, hot topic on the Board Source group at LinkedIn. 128 comments have been posted thus far, and the number increases daily.

Most not-for-profit organizations expect Board members to serve in a volunteer capacity. They view Board service as a contribution to the group, industry, or profession. Many will reimburse those folks for travel, hotels, and other Board-related expenses. Quite a few, however, expect people to pay their own way.

The LinkedIn discussion displayed overwhelming belief in unpaid Board members. But the practice is not unanimous. Some associations pay "stipends" to Board members. These "stipends" may even be six-figure payments, more than most association employees earn in a year.

There are four types of not-for-profits that sometimes pay Board members:

1. Associations with Boards composed of well-paid professionals who want to be compensated for having given up work time in favor of organizational activities;

2. Start-ups in which the Founder is doing all of the work and hopes to earn a living from the position;

3. Small, all-volunteer organizations in which one or more Board members are doing all of the work and believe they should be paid for it;

4. Small businesses that incorporate as not-for-profits to avoid paying taxes - and to possibly secure donations that wouldn't otherwise be available. (The Board members are usually the "owners" and are also employees).

In any event, paying Board members is generally not a good practice. It makes the "stipend" an attractive perk (even for high-income earners). It also creates a conflict of interest between Board members' responsibility to do what's best for the association and their desire to secure personal benefits.

June 26, 2011: Knowledge that counts

Category: Employment
Posted by: David M Patt
Here's how some employers are retaining older workers who possess the knowledge, skills, and work experiences that can contribute to business and organizational success.

June 25, 2011: Legalese

Category: Communications
Posted by: David M Patt
Communicate with people in a way they will understand.

If a disclaimer or other notice is written by lawyers, it is usually meant to protect the association against lawsuits, not to convey information to members or customers.

Don't let lawyers tell you that understandable language undermines your legal position. Make it easy for recipients of your information to understand what you are saying to them.

June 24, 2011: iPad etiquette

Category: Technology
Posted by: David M Patt
"While there is no doubt that technology can make us more productive, it can also make us less courteous.

"When you're in a meeting with your iPad, it's a good idea to mention that you're using it to take notes (versus surfing on YouTube). Avoid hammering away on the tablet answering emails or chatting with people beyond the boardroom; keep your focus on the meeting in front of you."


Thanks to Association Forum of Chicagoland for sharing this and other iPad tips.

June 22, 2011: Putting it in perspective

Category: Stuff, other
Posted by: David M Patt
Power was just restored to my office and home after a 23 hour, storm-induced shutdown. No lights, no computers, no internet, no email, no air conditioning, no cooking.

Eating carry-out food by candlelight, not opening refrigerator and freezer doors, stashing frozen meat and fish in other people's homes. Enduring the endless beeping of the alarm on a back-up sump pump. Not fun.

Then I thought about Japan, Haiti, New Orleans, Alabama, Joplin MO, and countless other places where people have suffered through horrific disasters - or didn't live to share their experiences.

I felt lucky. And I went back to work.

June 21, 2011: Yesterday and today

At a recent association event, I made a point of talking with someone who had been a big deal in the organization many years earlier. He thanked me for remembering him.

I'm not the one who should have remembered.

The emcee should have introduced him along with other celebrities. Past Presidents, Board members, Executive Directors, staff, and other former leaders should be recognized at organizational events.

It keeps them connected to the association, helps maintain the loyalty of long-time members (who may also feel forgotten), and promotes the strength, longevity, and potency of the group.

It's fine to focus on today and tomorrow, but don't ignore the people who helped yesterday.

June 20, 2011: When out of the office

Many people leave detailed messages when they are out of the office. They tell where they are going and when they'll be back. They may want people to know they are still working (attending meetings or conferences) or that they'll be gone for a long time (on vacation?).

Sometimes, folks simply let callers know when they'll return and whether or not they are checking email and voicemail while they are gone (often, they aren't checking either).

Some people will leave a message saying they are away from their desks or taking another call, so they can't respond. That's obvious. If they could have answered the phone, they would have. Apparently, they want it to be known they are in the office (or wherever they are working), so the caller can expect a response shortly.

Others leave humorous messages, but callers don't always think those are humorous. Many don't want anyone to know they are out of town - away from home - for safety reasons. So, what's best?

Tammy Conard-Alvo, of the Purdue University Writing Lab , advises telling people you're away, when you'll be back, and whether you'll be checking messages.

In a Chicago Tribune article she adds that you should not refer people to a co-worker unless you know for sure the co-worker will respond to the person promptly and handle the matter at hand, not simply tell people they have to wait until you return.

Makes sense.

June 19, 2011: Mixed emotions

A committee chair in a troubled association recently resigned her position at a Board meeting. She expressed frustration with the group's lack of focus, the Board's inability to make sound decisions, and the absence of an effective strategy to stem the organization's declining membership.

However, she expressed surprise that in the days following the meeting, nobody asked her to reconsider.

Well, they may have been happy she resigned. Even if her comments were accurate and appropriately conveyed, she clearly did not share their attitudes about the organization's direction.

Logical questions: Should she have resigned at the Board meeting or in a more private setting? Was her criticism perceived as personal? Why would she think the Board would ask her to reconsider? Are her opinions correct? Did the Board disregard dissenting opinions?

Whatever the story, she still liked the association. She just wished its leaders would do things the right way.

June 18, 2011: Too cautious

Category: Stuff, other
Posted by: David M Patt
Evanston IL recently placed stop for pedestrian signs at crosswalks, in accordance with a new Illinois law.

Many motorists, though, stop at those signs even when no pedestrians are in sight.

The city also erected signs like this one, ordering motorists to drive 25 mph unless other limits are posted. On streets with posted 30 mph limits, many drivers still travel at 25.

People in Evanston IL are very cautious.

June 17, 2011: Alternative reading

Category: Stuff, other
Posted by: David M Patt
I don't read association management books for fun. I read them for work.

For fun, I read history and politics. If I could read every minute of every day for the rest of my life, I could not make a dent in all the knowledge that exists in the world. So, I read whatever interests me, outside of work, whenever I have the time.

Here are my favorites:

City of Thieves, by David Benioff (2008). I usually don't read fiction, but this tale of events during the World War II siege of Leningrad is one of the best-written works I've ever read.

Almanac of American Politics (2010) and every bi-annual edition prior to that one. I especially like the synopses of the politics and demographics of every state and congressional district in the nation.

Trading with the Enemy, by Charles Higham (1983). Reveals how American companies conducted business with Nazi Germany during World War II.

Profiles in Folly, by Alan Axelrod (2008). Examines some of the worst decisions in history.

Cry Havoc by Nelson Lankford (2007). Analyzes actions of state and national leaders in the weeks leading up to the American Civil War.

The Fall of Japan, by William Craig (1967). Chronicles last-minute intrigues of Japanese military and government leaders in the closing days of World War II.

1421, by Gavin Menzies (2002). Makes the case for pre-Columbian Chinese exploration of the world.

Next on my list: Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond (1999), which ascribes environmental and geographic considerations to differing development patterns of world civilizations.

June 16, 2011: Confusing brands

Category: Marketing
Posted by: David M Patt
I still can't tell the difference between OfficeMax and OfficeDepot. Variances seem to be based more on individual stores than on corporate brands.

So, I patronize the one that sends me the most valuable coupons, and that's been OfficeMax. It allows coupons to be used for technology-related products, like printer cartridges.

OfficeDepot coupons are not valid for technology (although there are occasional offerings for HP products, which I no longer have a need for).

If you want your members and customers to be loyal to your brand, make sure the brand is distinguishable (in a positive way) from its competitors.

June 15, 2011: Value, not gimmicks

Category: Membership
Posted by: David M Patt
AAA Motor Club just sent me a thank you letter for being a member for ten years. That's nice, but it isn't going to affect whether or not I renew. I'll renew if I benefit from membership (which I do), and I won't if I don't.

My college alumni association - which I've never joined - has mailed me three items in the last two weeks (Maybe it has a new, energetic membership director).

I have no intention of joining the organization. Although I like receiving the annual magazine, I can easily live without it. I have no loyalty to, nor warm fuzzies for, my alma mater. It's just the place where I earned a degree (I was more involved in other things at the time). That's all I wanted, and that's what I got.

I do wonder why, after so many years, the association is still trying to recruit me. If I haven't found value in membership by this time, what would cause me to change?

Don't waste time creating marketing gimmicks to attract or retain members or trying to stay in touch with folks who never joined or supported the association.

People will join if they value the benefits, so give them benefits they'll value.

June 14, 2011: Do it anyway

Category: Planning
Posted by: David M Patt
"You are not your audience," declared Jeff Hurt, reminding professionals to plan for their audiences, not for themselves. I've said that, too.

I've even done a few things I didn't like because my audience liked them:

1. I don't like written copy displayed over images (or is it the other way around?). It's hard to read. But I printed that in some instances because my audience liked it - they thought it looked cool.

2. I don't like motivational speakers. I am not inspired by them. I think many of them create an elaborate fiction around a tiny nugget of fact. But, when working for runners, many of my members felt they had already reached their physical limits and that motivational speakers could help them improve mentally. So I booked the speakers.

3. I don't like automatic renewal for memberships or subscriptions. I don't want to give somebody permission to go into my bank account and take whatever they need. It's a convenience for them, not for me. When I sign up for a one-year subscription, I expect it to be for one year, not forever (or until I cancel it). But lots of members like automatic renewal - and it benefits the association - so I'll offer it as an option.

4. I don't like editorial and advertising copy to be visually similar. I try not to read ads, and if the two look the same, I'll skip both of them. I don't want to be tricked into reading advertorials, either. But...some people like the two to mesh, so I'll keep an open mind on that.

Remember, though, planning for your audience does not necessarily mean dumping "traditional" methods for newer ones. Sometimes it requires the reverse.

June 13, 2011: Chapter secession

The high school PTA that I served as President has decided to cut its ties with the PTA and re-establish itself as an independent Parent-Teacher Advisory Council (PTAC).

It is following the path of many, many parent groups nationwide that no longer feel there is any value in being part of the National PTA.

Lesson for associations? Take good care of your chapters. Otherwise, they may leave you and start their own organizations.
Category: Decision-making
Posted by: David M Patt
So said Jennifer Riel, Associate Director at the University of Toronto's Desautels Centre, when she spoke at ASAE's Invitational Forum on Leadership & Management.

And she's right.

The first two people I spoke with upon assuming the CEO position at Chicago Area Runners Association were a magazine publisher and a popular coach who were vocal in their criticism of the organization.

They felt that nobody was listening to their concerns. I talked with them, agreed with a lot of what they said, and won them as allies. Their concerns were incorporated into the group's operations and a financially tottering organization was able to eventually grow into a thriving association.

So, listen to the people who disagree with you. They may see something that you are missing.

June 10, 2011: Scenarios

Category: Employment
Posted by: David M Patt
I've always posed scenarios to job applicants. I've asked them how they would handle particular situations. There usually was not a right or wrong answer. I simply wanted to learn how they thought and how they problem-solved.

What I've always done seems to now be included in what are called behavioral interviews.

I didn't adopt an interviewing "model." I just did what seemed practical.

June 09, 2011: The trouble with e-books

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
Don Dea pointed to an article that found current flaws with e-books. Although the author felt that e-books are "here to stay," he didn't think that time had yet arrived.

June 08, 2011: Use Prezi or PowerPoint?

Category: Meetings
Posted by: David M Patt
So, I've been playing around with Prezi for my next presentation and decided I prefer PowerPoint.

I liked the Prezi presentation I recently saw because the speaker was boring and all of the slides were text. So, Prezi livened it up.

Well, I'm not boring and my slides have very little text. They're mostly images. I don't need Prezi to wake up the audience.

The movement on the Prezi screen, too, is a bit dizzying (as Prezi admits). And using it makes Prezi the presenter, rather than merely the backdrop. The only advantage I can see is that if I use it, people will think I'm cool and technologically advanced.

I'd rather be judged by the substance of my presentation than by the toys I use.

So, I'm sticking with PowerPoint.

NOTE: Many associations require presenters to use the organization's PowerPoint template. It's an attempt to brand the association by displaying its name and logo on ALL presentations.

I've never required that when I've produced meetings. I think attendees know where they are. The association doesn't have to hang its sign on everybody's slides. I'd rather let presenters use whatever techniques they feel will be most effective.

Educating people, rather than reminding them whose conference it is, has always been more important to me.
Category: Employment
Posted by: David M Patt
It bugs me that so many colleagues on the Alliance for Non-Profit Management group at LinkedIn think job applicants should be asked about their passion for the cause or why they would want to work for that organization.

Neither of those matter.

A job applicant should have a passion for the work they will do - executive management, marketing, fund-raising, meeting planning, etc. A skilled professional should be able to fulfill those duties for any organization. The mission of the group should not matter.

Enthusiasts can be volunteers and Board members. Staff should be association professionals.

June 06, 2011: Multi-tasking

Posted by: David M Patt
Check this out.

June 03, 2011: Generational sharing

Posted by: David M Patt
There's too much talk about the differences between generations. People of different ages have a lot more in common than they think.

Music of previous decades has been tweaked a bit and dished up by new messengers. Yesterday's Madonna is today's Lady Gaga.

Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," a song that 60s and 70s rockers ridiculed as elevator music, has been rediscovered and converted into a hit for the masses, who shout selected lyrics and sounds in unison.

The Boot Cut pants of today are the flared slacks of the 70s. Hip-hugger jeans slid down to wearer's hips in the 60s and 70s, almost as far as low-rise jeans do now.

Everybody shares their likes with others and purloins usable ideas from previous generations. So, look for similarities, not differences. You'll find a lot of them.

June 02, 2011: Yes, I'm working

Posted by: David M Patt
"...a home office can afford the seclusion from distraction needed to achieve more than in a traditional office environment," says Kristine Collins of management firm SmithBucklin.

Here are her tips for successful telecommuting arrangements.

June 01, 2011: Take me to your leader

Category: Governance
Posted by: David M Patt
"...traditional influencers - board and committee members - will become less visible and, therefore, less influential and important, at least to members."

So says Maggie McGary, explaining the notion of who "influences" association members in today's world.

The elected leaders are not always perceived as the real leaders. (Are there still "real" leaders?).
 
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