An Executive Director's point of view


February 20, 2018: Lifers

Category: Employment
Posted by: David M Patt
You hire them and they never leave.

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.

February 07, 2018: At home with a sick child

Posted by: David M Patt
It happens...a lot.

January 30, 2018: Free speech vs hateful speech

Category: Governance
Posted by: David M Patt
The Ontario Roads Association was concerned about "intolerant" social media statements posted by one of its Board members.

Although those statements fell short of Canada's prohibition against hateful speech, the organization's leaders felt that a person who promoted those beliefs should not sit on its Board.

Well, suppose all but one of the members of a Board voiced strongly held positions about issues that might be categorized as racist, sexist, ageist, or disparaging to people of particular religions, nationalities, ethnic groups, or sexual persuasions.

And what if that lone Board member posted comments on a personal social media page (not the association's page) that were in conflict with the beliefs of the rest of the Board?

Would it be permissible to ban the dissenting member from serving on the Board?

When judging a member's suitability to sit on a Board of Directors, be very careful how you make that decision. Establish a formal policy, don't just respond to "mob action," and don't just pay attention to the hot issues of the day.

Be sure you are setting legitimate criteria and not guidelines that will simply attract people who are likely to go along with what everybody else thinks.

January 23, 2018: Recognition

Category: Stuff, other
Posted by: David M Patt
It happened again.

A previous leader attended an important event and was ignored.

She should have been introduced, but instead was forced to loiter anonymously in a corner of the room.

Recognizing past leaders is not just a way to respect the doers of yesterday.

It also tells people that the work they do for the association today will not be forgotten tomorrow.

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.

January 09, 2018: Continuity

Category: Planning
Posted by: David M Patt
Focus on continuity planning, not succession planning.

Be prepared for an unexpected catastrophe. The CEO is hit by a truck. The Board Chair dies. A key staffer is charged with a crime (wrongfully, of course) in another state and is not allowed to leave.

There needs to be a plan to ensure the organization will continue operating without interruption.

But be wary of locking in leadership over a long period of time.

If, for example, the Board Chair is elected to a three year term and so is the Chair-elect, you will be stuck with those folks for the next six years.

What if you want to change direction? What if you no longer want that person to be the successor? What if your industry or profession experiences major changes and a different type of leader would be preferable?

And don't promise the CEO position to a current staffer. What if you don't want that person when the time comes? What if a better choice can be hired from the outside?

Always keep your options open.

December 29, 2017: Management advice - 2017

Always know what members want from your organization. Understand how they think and be aware of their differences so you can plan effectively.

Respect employees' personalities, monitor their results, not their time, and never, never, never treat women inappropriately.

Leave a message when you can't reach somebody and always return phone calls and emails and respond to written letters.

Be savvy about advocacy and policy-making.

Keep pace with technology advancements but don't rush into a web site redesign.

Make the most of the time and skills of young Board members.

And don't strive to "play it safe."

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.

December 23, 2017: Meeting rentals

Category: Meetings
Posted by: David M Patt
Associations are being encouraged to increase their non-dues revenue by renting meeting space in their offices and facilities to outsiders.

It's not just a way to make more money. It's also an opportunity to become the premier provider of this service by offering quality space, paying attention to detail, and not surprising renters with sudden changes.

Hospitals, universities, government offices, social service agencies, and many other entities have rented out space for a long time, but they aren't in the business of doing that. They are just trying to make some extra money.

And they usually reserve the right to relocate renters if they need the space for themselves.

Here are some typical problems:

1. I drove nearly five hours to check out a small meeting room at a YMCA. The space was fine, so I took it. One week later, the Y called to tell me it needed the room for a meeting of its own and moved mine into a racquetball court.

I couldn't visit the facility a second time to see the new room. But my audience was composed of running event directors who were not accustomed to posh settings. I thought they'd be OK with the change.

When I arrived the day of the meeting, I discovered there were two steps in the corridor, so I couldn't wheel anything into the room. And the temperature setting was very low.

But I had registered more than three times as many people as I had anticipated and they wouldn't have fit in the originally selected room. The relocation seemed to work.

2. At another association, I booked a meeting in a hospital auditorium and was told that our continental breakfast would have to be served outside of the room. Food and beverage was not allowed inside.

On the day of the event, I found hospital personnel setting up the breakfast inside the auditorium. They said a fire marshal had visited a week earlier and had prohibited setup outside of the room. Nobody had bothered to tell me.

I had sold that inside space to an exhibitor. Fortunately, the company rep called at the last minute and said he couldn't attend. He promised to pay the association anyway, provided we distributed his product to attendees. We agreed, we were paid, and everything worked out.

3. Another time, I contracted for use of a high school auditorium and called the morning of the evening event to be sure everything was set. I was assured it was.

When I arrived, the room was being used by another group and nobody with authority was onsite. My meeting was shifted to a classroom.

4. That same organization rented space another time at a park district facility and arrived to find the room locked. The floor had been waxed for a district event the following day. A receptionist, the only employee present, directed us to another room, which was too small for our meeting.

So, we persuaded the janitorial staff to unlock the doors and we used both rooms - the larger one for the meeting, the smaller one for registration and packet distribution.

A parks official called us the next day to scold us for commandeering his staff. He threatened to never rent to us again. That was just fine with us. We had no intention of renting the place again.

If you decide to rent out your association space, be sure to treat the renters the same way you would want your association to be treated.
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