An Executive Director's point of view


August 23, 2016: It's a different world

Category: Employment
Posted by: David M Patt
If you work for a public interest group and think you may want to be employed by a trade or professional association, try to make that shift early in your career, before you are labeled a "do-gooder" (not always a positive identifier in the association world).

You'll need to ensure folks that you will be loyal to the industry or profession that employs you, not to the general public.

Your job is to promote the interests of your members. For example, in a nurses association, your goal is not to improve health care or nursing care, but to improve the ability of nurses to do whatever it is they decide to do.

(NOTE: "Trade" associations consist of companies in particular industries, such as drug stores, container manufacturers, storage facilities, etc. "Professional" associations consist of individuals, such as attorneys, physicians, software developers, dental hygienists, etc. There are also "recreational" organizations, comprised of individuals who run, garden, knit, hunt, or participate in other activities not related to their work).

Some of your skills from public interest work will be transferable:

1. Board relations skills. All of these organizations are governed by Boards of Directors, so your ability to work with and for Board members will be a huge asset.

2. Fund-raising skills. Many associations conduct campaigns to raise money for foundations, educational programs, scholarships, and other activities that require the specialized expertise that you possess.

3. Staff management. If you obtain a supervisory position, you'll need to know how to manage and direct employees, just as you would in any organization.

4. Planning strategically. Every group needs a plan to ensure it focuses on its desired goals and does not drift in other directions.

5. Budgeting. And it needs to know how to allocate and utilize its resources to be able to achieve its goals.

Other things may be different, so be prepared for them.:

1. Always do what's best for your members, not what you think is best for "the public good." When necessary, spin your efforts so they are not thwarted by "the public good."

2. Focus on results. Winning, not merely fighting for the cause, should be your aim.

3. Business skills are more important than is often the case in public interest organizations. You've been hired to be a manager, marketer, writer, or whatever. Passion for the cause or organization is not enough.

4. Be gentle when criticizing anything (if you have to criticize at all). Association professionals are obsessively agreeable and frequently try to avoid conflict. They often seek unanimity.

5. Keep your politics to yourself. Your members may not agree with your personal opinions, and may think less of your because of your beliefs, so don't share them. Don't wear campaign buttons at election time and don't comment on public policy positions that have nothing to do with your association. Stay neutral. Act like a professional, not like a partisan.

August 18, 2016: They don't have to care

Category: Stuff, other
Posted by: David M Patt
When prompting other entities to support your efforts - individuals, businesses, government, academia, media, grant-makers, etc. - look at your program from their point of view, not yours.

Don't proselytize or lecture them about the need you seek to address.

Determine where their interests intersect with yours, and build your appeal around that point.

Show them how supporting your program will help them.

And understand that they may not share your passion for the cause or organization (and they are not going to, no matter what you do or say), so craft a less emotional pitch to win their support.

August 16, 2016: Our unique role

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 10, 2016: Lowest bidder

Requiring acceptance of the lowest bid is a bad policy.

It limits your choice to only one consideration - cost.

But what if the lowest bidder does not offer the best quality?

What if the lowest bidder is a poor communicator? Or has a history of missing timelines?

What if you doubt the ability of the lowest bidder to meet logistical requirements?

Selection of the lowest bid is often driven by a desire to prevent personal considerations from superseding those that may be best for the organization.

But the CEO, or whoever makes the contractual decision, should be able to take all facts into consideration, not just cost.

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 06, 2016: Sexual harassment

Category: Ethics
Posted by: David M Patt
It's more prevalent in associations than people think - or may want to admit.

Here's a statement from one association leader whose organization has experienced this problem on multiple occasions.

Thanks to Sherry Marts for pointing to it.

August 05, 2016: More job titles

Associations and businesses often modify job titles to make positions seem more significant than they really are, or sometimes just to alter the perception of a position.

One organization is currently seeking a "Front Desk Associate."

I suppose that is meant to sound better than a "Receptionist."

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.
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