An Executive Director's point of view


February 13, 2018: Webinar promo takes more work

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Many webinars routinely issue morning reminders, knowing that registrants often forget they've signed up.

One even sent me an email after it had begun. "The webinar has started," the message read. "Where are you?"

I had been busy with a task that had taken longer than I had expected, and I had forgotten about it.

So, expect to work a little harder to get people to your webinar.

January 16, 2018: Reduced list value

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Your membership and customer lists will be worth less when you comply with GDPR requirements that are being implemented by the European Union (EU) to protect people's personal data.

You won't be able to rent your list - even your membership list - without the express approval of those whose names are included. Approval is also required before you give your list to sponsors or exhibitors. And you'll have to delete old names you may have been carrying on your list for some time.

Here's a summary of the new regulation and some EU information.

December 26, 2017: Conference call tips

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Conference calling is a necessary evil.

In-person meetings are usually preferable but not always possible - especially for state, national, and international associations.

So, people have to chime in wherever they happen to be at the selected time.

Here are some tips to make the calls work well:

1. Provide as much notice of the call as you would for an in-person meeting.

2. Remember to take time zones into account when scheduling.

3. Distribute documents ahead of time, just as you would for an in-person meeting.

4. Send suggestions to participants with tips about how to conduct the meeting (see items below).

5. Start on time. Don't wait for people to "show up." If you start late, people will always arrive late, and you'll end up always starting late.

6. Do not multitask during the meeting. Don't do work, chat with fellow employees, answer the phone, respond to emails, or do anything that takes you away from the meeting. If driving during the call, pull over and park somewhere. Your mind should be on the meeting, not on the road.

7. Recognize that a telephone call does not allow for visual cues. Some people may start speaking at the same time or not realize that another hasn't finished. There may be silent gaps, when participants are trying to be polite by letting a colleague speak first. These things are OK.

8. Don't feel that you can only speak to an issue once. You should be able to carry on a conversation just as you would in person. That does not make you a "phone hog."

9. If you want to change from teleconferencing to videoconferencing, be aware that participants are likely to possess different skills and comfort levels, so take the time to prepare them and accept that the first couple of meetings may not be conducted in perfect fashion.

10. Teach people how to share documents in a video conference. That will be a new experience for many of them.

Note: Here's the article that prompted this post.

November 20, 2017: Webinar competition

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
If your association is planning to roll out new webinars, consider offering them for free, no matter how valuable you think they are.

A slew of quality webinar education is available for free, from companies soliciting clients and from not-for-profits hawking products.

Your members can get a lot of knowledge and information from other places without paying anything.

So, don't lose them to competitors. Give them free stuff. You can charge non-members a free - that may induce them to join.

But don't make your members pay. They're already forking over dough for dues. They'll really appreciate free webinars and they'll be glad they aren't being nickeled and dimed for extra services.

November 07, 2017: Stealing lists

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Political campaigns and advocacy organizations routinely try to acquire useful lists without permission. And they usually succeed.

Some small groups distribute their lists to members to enable them to communicate with each other. Recipients may then share them with outsiders.

Many groups publish hefty membership directories, on paper or online. Most prohibit unauthorized use of the list, with an eye toward preventing their members from being contacted by vendors or consultants. But they don't always think of political uses.

It is difficult to determine with certainty that a list has been misused. Members may also exist on other lists - professional, recreational, political - so they don't really know why they have been contacted. And not everybody on the list will have received the suspect communication.

Security "leaks" are usually not found in the office, where they can easily be discovered. Rank and file members, not staff, Officers, or Board members, are the likely culprits, and their identities are much easier to conceal.

So, make your list more difficult to pilfer. Update it frequently, so a stolen version will quickly become obsolete. Don't post a database online. But you can still include a lot of information, as it is less likely to be copied if all the data needs to be entered manually.

And stress to members the ethic of keeping the list in-house. You'll be surprised by how many people will honor that directive - even some who might have wanted to pass it on to compatriots outside the association.

June 13, 2017: Always return calls

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt

More than a week ago, I emailed a dozen places requesting information I thought they'd have. Only two emailed back. (A couple more didn't have email so I had to call. They said somebody would call back but nobody did).

My initial thought was that the ones that blew me off were a bunch of jerks. But I realized, no, they're probably just clueless.

They may not have possessed the info I wanted and didn't know what to say to me. So they said nothing.

They were wrong. Here's the proper way to handle things:

1. If you don't have the information someone requests, say you don't have it and refer the caller to another place, if you can. Don't ignore people.

2. If you don't have the information but can get it, tell that to the caller, get the info, and call back with it. Don't leave people wondering if they'll ever hear back from you.

3. If the request falls outside your area of activity, say so. And apologize for not being able to help, even if there is no reason for you to help. Don't ignore people.

4. If you think you get too many calls, improve your ability to handle the volume. Don't ignore people.

5. If you don't think people should be calling you for this information, figure out why they are and then find a way to change that.

You don't have to return unsolicited sales calls. But you do have to return everybody else's calls.

Don't ignore people.

March 13, 2017: Retroactive funding

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Don't work for free.

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

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
So, another ASAE keynote speaker called upon association executives to take chances.

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

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
When planning Board and committee meetings, it's best to establish a firm schedule at the beginning of the year.

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

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
A woman approached the registration desk at a running event, said she wasn't able to run that day, and requested a refund.

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.
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