An Executive Director's point of view
March 13, 2017: Retroactive funding
If your organization is promised a government grant or contract, don't begin work until a document is signed.
You can't be certain you'll be paid retroactively for work performed prior to the contracted start date.
If you are worried about potential clients or customers not being served or the organization missing a valuable opportunity, check with your attorney before you commit resources to a project.
Guarantees - verbal or written - may not be honored.
March 06, 2017: Don't play it safe
Unfortunately, most won't follow that advice.
Taking chances doesn't mean being reckless or jumping off cliffs.
It simply means being willing to do something in a way you may not have done it before - and preparing properly for it.
It means it's OK to disregard benchmarks, to challenge established "customs," to break rules, and to disagree with everybody else.
It means not doing things the way everybody else does just because everybody else does things that way.
So, don't hide from controversy, strive for unanimity, or follow "conventional wisdom."
Do things the way you think is best. Don't merely ape what others are doing.
February 20, 2017: The elusive meeting time
Stress the need for everybody to attend and stagger meeting times, if necessary, to try to accommodate everybody's schedule.
Some people may want to meet during work hours, others outside of work hours. Some may not be available on particular days. Others may not be able to interrupt work activities to join the meeting.
So, set a schedule at the start of the year or term to provide participants with ample time to make arrangements to be present.
Note: For national associations meeting by phone, Skype, or other venues, take time zones into account and don't schedule meetings too early or too late for people on the coasts.
Unfortunately, international association meetings will have to break into people's personal time or even sleep time. Still, establish a schedule at the outset, so the same people won't always be excluded.
December 01, 2016: Field decisions
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.
October 26, 2016: Pre-payment should be the norm
If a customer wants to be invoiced, you can email a bill and ask for immediate payment. This practice is far more common than it may have been in the past.
If you accept purchase orders for membership, you may want to let the payer know that the membership will not be activated until payment is received.
Whatever you do, try to not be forced into triggering a collection process to recover payment from delinquent customers or members.
August 12, 2016: Parents
Here's how one company profits by realizing that.
August 08, 2016: Doing business differently
They may be prompted by the evolution of their industries or professions, the changing work habits of volunteers and staff, advances in technology, or shifting member expectations.
But whatever the reason, it is generally considered wise to always consider alternative ways of doing business.
Leaders in other endeavors, however, may not share that belief.
Here's a take on the need for a new business model for the Olympics.
August 03, 2016: Not-for-profit trickery
When for-profit businesses employ these same tactics, they are often demonized as deliberately misleading (and they should be).
But not-for-profits often think it's OK when done for a good cause.
Here's one instance of an alleged misleading message and how the organization responded to it.
August 01, 2016: No vendor shakedowns
Vendors, in particular, should rarely be on your list. You've paid them for a product or service and they've delivered it. They should not be expected to pay you extra for that opportunity.
That's called a payoff, kickback, shakedown, or pay-to-play. It is always unethical and often illegal.
Think from the customers' point of view, not yours, and determine whether your organization should even be included in their marketing plans. If you think it should, then offer it something that will help implement that plan.
Every company will be different. Try to sell each what it wants, not what you think it should want, and especially not what you simply want it to want.
Don't expect each of them to want the same thing and don't try to sell each of them the exact same thing.
If a company says it doesn't get customers from print ads, for example, don't try to sell it print ads.
And, if you think that buying a booth, ad, or sponsorship will yield results, provide data that supports your assertion.
Remember - this is a business decision, not an emotional one or a political one. Companies should buy to help themselves, not to help your organization.
July 25, 2016: Destroy automated receptionists
They make it difficult (sometimes, impossible) for callers to obtain the information they called about.
They make callers not want to call again (which is what many associations and businesses want).
They often direct callers to web sites that post information that is incorrect, incomplete, or does not answer the question.
Automated receptionists may save associations and businesses money by not requiring them to pay real people to answer calls.
But they don't help callers.