An Executive Director's point of view


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.

September 02, 2016: Beware for-profit strategies

When scanning the for-profit world for management or planning ideas, keep this in mind:

For-profits exist to earn money. Their primary loyalty is to those who invested in the company (stockholders and investors) and expect a return on their investment.

Not-for-profits exist to deliver services. Their primary loyalty is to the people who purchased a service (members, conference attendees, customers) and want to benefit from the ability to utilize that service.

They are different types of organizations with different measures of success.

Don't allow yourself to be seduced by whatever makes the other one seem successful.

August 16, 2016: Our unique role

December 16, 2015: We'll keep in touch

There are lots of reasons to keep past volunteer leaders involved in the association. Here are a few.

And here's something that's easy to do.

December 11, 2015: A name change

Organizations sometimes announce they've "rebranded" when, in fact, they've simply changed their names.

They often end up with the same people, doing the same things, the same way as before. Nothing is really new.

But if you think a name change will actually alter the way your organization conducts business and is viewed by others, implement the change strategically.

Take the time to research and test the new name. Don't make a rash decision because somebody thought the new name sounded better than the old. Or that they felt the change must take place immediately and just can't wait.

Consider how the new name will be used internally and viewed externally, how programs will be aligned with it, how people will react to and refer to the new name, and the impact the change will have with each of the group's audiences.

See how the new name fits on web sites, newsletters, stationary, business cards, apparel, and anything else in which it is displayed or digitally generated. Calculate the costs of the change - printing, legal, etc. - and budget them.

Examine these issues first, before the name is changed. Don't rush it.

December 01, 2015: Help your SIGs

If your association is large enough to house Shared Interest Groups (SIGs) that require staff support, provide them with those resources. Don't force them to hire their own people.

You may think you are granting them a degree of autonomy by letting them hire their own Executive Directors. But if the SIGs must follow association policies and procedures, that may create conflict, as SIG staff may advocate for activities the association does not want or even allow.

Don't force SIGs to hire their own webmasters or tech support if you maintain a robust IT department. The same applies to marketing, design, and anything else they need. The association has greater resources than do SIGs to hire capable professionals.

If necessary, establish a department to provide services to SIGs, much as large organizations support their specialty organizations.

If you want SIGs to succeed, help them. Don't leave them on their own.

July 06, 2015: Waiting on the IRS

One of the many problems facing newly formed not-for-profit organizations is waiting for IRS approval of their tax-exempt applications. Often, the OK is not forthcoming because of errors in the groups' submissions.

Check out this list and be sure to avoid these mistakes.
Entrepreneurs often like to identify themselves as a "Founder." They want to showcase their accomplishments and let others know they have a serious stake in the organization. They want it understood that they aren't just employees who may work somewhere else tomorrow.

In not-for-profits, however, calling yourself the "Founder" is often a big, big negative.

It gives the impression that you are the sole decision-maker, that the Board of Directors merely rubber-stamps whatever you want, and that you are absolutely determined to ensure that your vision - perhaps the same one you conjured up years ago - will guide the organization.

The title "Founder" in a not-for-profit does not convey prestige and open-mindedness. Instead, it suggests dictatorship and inflexibility.

June 12, 2014: Succeeding a founder

Organization founders are often (very often) hesitant to let go, for fear their successors will change the way things were done.

Here are some comments from a survey of successors - those who succeeded founders or long-term CEOs and are dealing with the dynamics of that situation.
Most local associations, and many state organizations, conduct the majority of their work in person.

Board and committee members sit in the same room as their colleagues, read visual signs, and interact more effectively than might have been possible had they been forced to communicate over long distances.

To recruit members or supporters, a visit to their offices is usually convenient and may yield immense benefits.

When necessary to deal with a troubled member or decision-maker, a personal meeting with the person can be scheduled quickly and at little or no expense. A potential problem can be squelched before it escalates.

In local associations, face-to-face skills are essential.

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