An Executive Director's point of view
May 17, 2013: Colors
May 16, 2013: Attention inflation
Read more here.
May 15, 2013: Don't cheat when negotiating
If an individual or organization agrees to a deal under those circumstances, they may not deliver whatever they were supposed to deliver.
And unless you are willing to spend the time and money to force them to deliver, they never will.
So, make deals that work for both parties.
May 14, 2013: Always budget a profit
Well, there is no prohibition against not-for-profits earning a profit. In fact, they always should and it should be budgeted at the beginning of the year, and not merely consist of whatever might be left over at the end of the year.
The only legal requirement is that the profit (or "surplus," as it is usually called) not be distributed to the Board, employees, or members. The profit stays in the organization (but bonuses can still be paid).
A profit provides a cushion in the event of a drop in dues, program registrations, or anything else, and it provides start-up funds for new projects. It's an association's way of saving money - building a reserve - which is not only prudent but may be necessary to maintain the organization over a long period of time.
Many Board leaders, though, work in government, where they are given an appropriation (which they don't have to raise) and must spend it during that fiscal year. Others work in charitable organizations that are accustomed to grant directives mandating expenditures during a particular time frame.
So, they naturally assume that not-for-profits must operate under those same conditions.
You may have to be forceful when educating Board members about the need to earn a profit and build a reserve. When unexpected income is received, they may want to spend it.
Remind them that it's a bad idea to go out and blow a bonus check.
May 13, 2013: Little things matter
I didn't believe that could be possible, since this was the first day of registration. It was more likely the ribbons had been lost, somebody had forgotten to bring them, or nobody realized they needed to be reordered in time for the meeting.
Well, I never thought I would care about something so minor. But I did. Although "CAE" was printed on my badge, I wanted the ribbon to display the status I had achieved as a Certified Association Executive (and all the money I had spent to continually recertify).
When preparing badges, ribbons, and other meeting materials, be sure that attendee credentials are complete, accurate, and properly displayed. It may not seem that important to you, but it really matters to the people who are entitled to recognition.
May 12, 2013: Organizational magic
As reported in Associations Now, 50% of fundraisers are unhappy with their jobs and 53% of executive directors are unhappy with their fundraisers. So, what gives? Here's what I think:
1. Unrealistic expectations. Many organizations, especially small ones, expect Development Directors to be magicians. They expect them to raise lots of money and secure large gifts. Well, many small groups will NEVER be able to secure large gifts, and their audiences are not always large enough or well-heeled enough to generate a lot of dough. It's not a failure of fund-raisers, it's just reality.
2. Low salaries. Fund-raisers in small organizations are often poorly paid, so they only stay long enough to notch a couple of successes before moving on to slightly better paying jobs. After a short time there, they move on again. For many, the pay stinks - so why should they stay and be committed?
3. No fund-raising skills. Many organizations, especially small ones, hire people who have a passion for the cause, thinking that will motivate them. But many of those folks have no fund-raising skills. They may have difficulty raising money and eventually lose enthusiasm for the task.
4. Fund-raising in a vacuum. Organizations that do more than just raise funds - provide services, conduct advocacy and educational campaigns, for example - often think of fund-raising as a task that goes on somewhere else. The development staff works in isolation on "fund-raising" and may not benefit from interaction with program activities.
5. Self-righteousness. Many organizations that engage in fund-raising think the universe revolves around their groups and their causes and that anybody who doesn't give isn't listening to their appeals or just doesn't care.
But most people care about a lot of things, and one organization usually occupies only a very small space in their lives. Groups need to know when to make the hard sell and when to soft-pedal. They need to learn how to fit their causes into people's lives, not the other way around.
May 10, 2013: Paying for feedback
Well, I always respond to surveys from ASAE, Association Forum of Chicagoland, and other organizations that I care about. And I don't need an incentive to do that.
In fact, I usually respond to corporate surveys, too, as long as they don't appear designed simply to confirm what the company has already decided to do.
What's in it for me? Giving them my opinion.
May 09, 2013: Stash it under the seat
They're anxious about being able to fill the limited number of overhead storage spaces with their huge "carry-on" luggage that barely falls within airline specifications.
But all that stuff doesn't need to be stored overhead. There's room for a lot of it under the seat in front of them.
I shove my briefcase and laptop under the seat in front of me and I check my other bag(s). An extra $25 isn't going to break me or my association. The wait at baggage check is usually brief and I've never lost any luggage.
My fellow passengers can scramble madly for space in overhead bins at the back of the plane while I calmly board.
If airlines charged for use of overhead storage space, maybe more passengers would realize how sensible it was to stash some of their stuff under the seats in front of them.
May 08, 2013: Hiding the fee increase
So, maybe they'll save money by offering fewer meals at conferences, but charge the same price as before. Or they'll opt for lower cost food and fewer courses for plated meals (and charge the same price).
Publications will have fewer pages, some will be delivered less frequently, and many will be e-mailed instead of printed and mailed. Membership cards, which usually aren't necessary anyway, will be eliminated.
Paper used for member communications will be thinner. Bags will be absent from expos, allegedly for environmental reasons, but often to save money.
Associations will boast about their cost-cutting strategies and assume that most members will react favorably to the changes.
But don't simply reduce quantity to keep prices from rising. That's no different than raising prices.
Sara Lee recently reduced its deli meat packages from 10 ounces to 8 ounces, but kept the price the same. That's a 20% price increase. Sun-Maid reduced the number of raisin boxes in its packages from 14 to 12, but kept the price the same. That's a 14% price increase.
Sometimes, it's better to raise the price than to reduce the quantity. And it's certainly more honest.
May 07, 2013: Font wars
Check it out.