An Executive Director's point of view


August 12, 2016: Parents

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Many American employers (businesses and associations) claim to possess "family values," but don't seem to realize that family responsibilities accompany those values.

Here's how one company profits by realizing that.

August 08, 2016: Doing business differently

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Associations continually change the way they operate, often challenging long-standing customs and traditions.

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

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Many not-for-profit organizations utilize trickery to gain members,subscribers, attendees, or donors.

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

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
When targeting businesses for ad sales, exhibit booths, sponsorship, or anything else (including contributions), identify potential buyers because they will benefit from the purchase, not because you think they should feel obligated to support you.

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.
Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
They don't help callers.

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.

Destroy them!

July 15, 2016: Just answer the question

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
When members or others ask you a question, answer what they asked, not what you think they should have asked.

Don't assume they asked the wrong question because they are stupid, uninformed, or too lazy to read what you've printed or posted.

Don't act like you don't understand what they asked, either. If you really don't, then ask them questions that will help you answer their question.

And don't tell them to go back and read the copy. If it had told them what they needed to know, they probably wouldn't have called you in the first place.

Write your materials - web site, e-blasts, handouts, brochures, voicemail messages, etc. - from the point of view of those who will read or listen to them. Make them easy to read or hear. Anticipate items you think they may find unclear and make them clearer.

For example, is "one year" a calendar year or a twelve-month period? Is a spousal event open to partners who are not spouses?

Above all, don't be arrogant or belittling when talking to callers.

Don't assume they "should have known" something or that they "should have been able to figure it out" or that you "already told them" somewhere in some venue you assume they would have seen. Give complete information and don't direct them to one place that just sends them to another.

Your goal should be to help them in the way they will feel will be helpful.

If you don't do that, they are very likely to not join, not renew their membership, not attend your conference, and not support you in any way at all.

June 27, 2016: Intern or volunteer?

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Student interns are frequently treated as free labor, even though an internship - whether paid or not - is supposed to be an instructional experience.

The organization should be helping the student, not the other way around.

Unfortunately, interns are all too often assigned grunt work that won't teach them anything at all - stuffing envelopes, answering telephones, cleaning pantries, running errands.

Or, they may be assigned tasks that should be performed by paid staff, but no such staff exists. So, inexperienced students fill professional positions and work for free.

An internship should benefit the student, not the association. And it should not relieve the organization of the responsibility to pay for services - even if it can't afford to and even if the group pursues a "worthy" mission.

What is really happening in these situations is that students are receiving academic credit for volunteering (not for learning), and the organizations are lying by calling these arrangements internships.

June 16, 2016: Don't lie

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Don't tell people your association has 21,000 members when it only has 4,000.

Don't say your expo attracted 12,000 attendees when the truth is around 4,500.

Don't brag that your annual special event drew 2,000 participants when the real number was 700.

Don't report a magazine circulation of 50,000 when it is really a lot less - and can't be verified.

People often inflate figures - slightly.

But blatant lies will be uncovered quickly, and people will soon learn not to believe anything you say.

Don't lie.

June 04, 2016: Pro bono attorneys

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
If you utilize pro bono attorneys in your organization, be sure they treat you as a real client, and not just handle your legal needs as if they were doing you a favor.

They should not cancel meetings with you because they have to meet with paying clients, and they should not ask for continuances in court cases because they are too busy to help you.

Also, put procedures in place for an orderly transfer, in case you have to replace them. Often, attorneys who work as in-house counsel (as opposed to working for a law firm) are not allowed to do pro bono work.

You need to be sure another attorney can pick up where the previous one left off, so your needs won't simply be dropped.

May 09, 2016: Freebies for VIPs

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Before granting free or discounted membership, registration, or other services to people you consider VIPs, carefully examine the financial impact that will have on your association.

If the group is small and unlikely to grow quickly, such as past Presidents, founders, or a particular political leader, that may not pose a major problem.

But if you want to offer such a benefit to members over a certain age, long-standing members, judges, elected officials, or all former Board members, you make be taking a big financial hit.

It may be better to find other ways to honor these people.
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