An Executive Director's point of view


July 29, 2014: Gut instinct

Category: Planning
Posted by: David M Patt
Following "gut instinct" is not uncalculating decision-making. It's guided by the experience of the decision-maker and may result in wise choices.
Category: Planning
Posted by: David M Patt
"I believe a mission statement should be something short that clearly states the purpose of an organization - why you exist," stated Jim Kendzel, MPH, CAE, Executive Director of the American Society of Plumbing Engineers, on a recent ASAE Collaborate post.

He explained: "You can then follow up with a 'this is how we accomplish our mission' statement with a list of activities."

"The reason I favor this approach," he continued, "is a short and to the point statement about why the organization exists can be a compelling and meaningful 'guiding light' for the organization and get members excited. In addition, an activity list is easily adjusted to meeting the strategic shifts of the organization while the mission statement remains a solid foundation for the organization."

Makes sense to me.

Category: Planning
Posted by: David M Patt
You might find a better solution.

April 22, 2014: Soliciting feedback

Category: Planning
Posted by: David M Patt
Try doing this.

January 27, 2014: The "gig" economy

Category: Planning
Posted by: David M Patt
Many of our colleagues engage in professional "piece work" instead of holding regular jobs. They secure "gigs" for short-term or part-time work, sometimes out of choice but often out of necessity.

Instead of working at full-time positions, they grab outsourced tasks, interim management positions, or part-time jobs. That trend is expected to continue.

Associations will need to learn how to adapt to the "gig" economy, and change the way they serve, communicate with, represent, and collect money from members, customers, and other supporters.

It will be interesting to see how that works.

December 25, 2013: Plan far ahead

Category: Planning
Posted by: David M Patt
"Non profit leaders seem to underestimate the degree to which calendars are set in advance for most business professionals," observed Carol Brumell on a recent LinkedIn post about Board retreats in the BoardSource group.

She advised scheduling these events 4-6 months in advance.

September 17, 2013: Drama queens

Category: Planning
Posted by: David M Patt
It may sometimes be necessary to exaggerate to get people to pay attention.

"Innovate or Die," and "The End of Membership As We Know It," are two phrases that have been used in association dialog to try to force people to recognize the need to change some of the ways they've been doing things.

While the dire prospects advanced by advocates of these slogans may not always be on the horizon, ringing the alarm bells may get some of our colleagues to realize they need to think about things differently than they've thought about them before.

September 09, 2013: Know your adversary

Category: Planning
Posted by: David M Patt
A speaker at a recent association event advised attendees to be prepared for surprises. He used the example of the Presidential election, stating that President Obama's re-election was a surprise.

Well that was definitely not a surprise. Pre-election polls consistently reported that Obama was in the lead. And polls in so-called close states accurately predicted the results. There was no surprise.

The advice given to associations should have been to know your adversary.

Whether contesting an election, negotiating a contract, recruiting a member, applying for a grant, or engaging in any activity in which somebody else's decision will affect your association, you should know how the other side thinks, even if you don't think that way.

Many opponents of President Obama simply could not understand how a majority of Americans could vote for him. Those people failed to know their adversary.

July 26, 2013: Think first

Category: Planning
Posted by: David M Patt
My high school history teacher told us to think for 30 minutes and write for 10 when taking a written, essay exam in a 40-minute class.

We all thought he was nuts. We were sure we needed the entire 40 minutes to write our test answers.

Well, he told us that people who wrote for the entire 40 minutes wrote junk. And most of it he said, was not worth reading.

He advised us to spend more time thinking and less time writing. The results, he said, would be much, much better.

He was right (but I didn't realize that until many years later).

So, before you write a report, a memo, a funding proposal, or anything else, spend more time thinking about it than writing about it.

Stare out the window while you think, pace in the hallways, toss a smurf ball into a basket - do whatever will get your brain humming and be better able to produce a quality product.

Think first. Then write.

April 07, 2013: Ask the right people

Category: Planning
Posted by: David M Patt
When making decisions about how to work with, supervise, or understand different groups, be sure you are asking the right people.

Just because somebody is a particular age, gender, or race, hails from a specific geographic area, or practices a particular discipline within an industry or profession, doesn't mean they speak for all people of that segment.

- A sponsor wanted to know how to improve an athletic event, so it sought the advice of the winner, who suggested offering more prize money. Well, 99% of the participants had no chance of winning prize money. The winner spoke for winners, not for all participants.

- An organization's Education Committee, comprised of knowledgeable, committed leaders, crammed a large number of conference sessions into one day, so the group could provide more information and more continuing education units. The majority of members, however, preferred more time to use bathrooms without being rushed, to organize their notes, or just to enjoy a breather between sessions.

- A student leader told high school officials that students did not need a lunch period, that they'd rather sign up for more classes. That may have been true for the overachievers, but the vast majority of students would rather have eaten lunch than sit through extra classes.

- A young association member lauded an organization for establishing a "Young Leadership Group," but many of his colleagues disdained that decision, preferring interaction with colleagues of all ages - including professionals who might hire them in the future.

So, don't settle for anecdotal information. And don't always consult the most involved or the most committed members. Solicit a wide variety of feedback and ensure the leaders are not just speaking for themselves.
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