An Executive Director's point of view


May 24, 2017: Brand your error page

Category: Web sites
Posted by: David M Patt
Here's a great way to hold onto wandering web visitors.

May 22, 2017: Act THIS way

Category: Decision-making
Posted by: David M Patt
Board members tend to perform their duties in the same ways they perform their jobs.

Corporate CEOs are very comfortable making major decisions and then letting others implement them. They keep their eyes on the big picture and let subordinates handle the details. They also feel free to shift direction whenever they feel that is called for.

Small business owners make those same kinds of decisions with ease, but then also carry them out. They don't like to delegate anything. They are accustomed to doing things themselves and not consulting with anybody about their actions.

People who generally follow others' orders are not always familiar with executive decision-making.

They are the detail people in their organizations and when they have to make major decisions, they often do it collectively, so they can share responsibility and gain strength from the support of colleagues. And they are loathe to stray from the original directive.

Folks who are not currently working may adopt the styles of past employers or simply adhere to the social etiquette of the current group.

Those who have served on Boards of large organizations, may be accustomed to large expenditures and staff leadership.

When their experience is in small, all-volunteer groups, they may assume financial resources will be scarce, Board members and other volunteers will do all the work (there is no staff), and everybody will be involved in even the tiniest decisions.

Sometimes, Boards will consist of members with a mix of working habits, and might grapple with the differences while debating or discussing organizational matters.

Whatever is the case in your association, it is very likely you will have to adapt to styles that are in conflict with yours and, perhaps, which you don't think are really appropriate for the group.

To succeed, you'll need to learn how your Board members think, and create painless ways for them to shift a little bit and do some things differently than they might have done without your nudging.

But reconciling the gap between how they act and how you think they should act is going to pose a significant challenge and one that will never be completely met.

So, be patient, and figure out how to make the best of a less-than-perfect situation.

May 15, 2017: Dealing with problems

Category: Stuff, other
Posted by: David M Patt
A colleague recently requested advice about how to handle a problem with her Board that she felt had become toxic.

Unfortunately, these types of queries are not unusual.

I generally suggest the person simply leave, since it may be difficult to find a way to continue working in a dysfunctional organization.

But most folks are not in a financial position to quit without first acquiring another job.

So, they need to find a way to deal with the situation right now.

Sometimes, Boards make bad decisions without staff input, such as refusing to follow plans or budgets (or even to craft those in the first place). That may simply be how they are accustomed to conducting their own businesses.

Other times, one or more Board members have conflicts of interest and either don't realize it, don't think it matters, or don't care. Or, a strong-willed Board member - often the Chair - wins approval from colleagues who are loathe to challenge a proposal.

Board members may even perform tasks that are included in staff job descriptions, leaving employees to wonder who is actually responsible for what.

What can you do?

Meet with Board leaders (ideally, two or more people) to raise concerns in as non-confrontational a manner as possible. Ask them to clarify your duties and responsibilities. Do your best to do what they want you to do.

Then update your resume and discreetly look for another job.

May 10, 2017: Direct mail works

Category: Marketing
Posted by: David M Patt
Read about it here.
Category: Membership
Posted by: David M Patt
Here's one way for businesses to gauge their success.

Just change the word "customer" to "member" and you can apply this model to associations.

May 02, 2017: When to Talk in Meetings

Category: Meetings
Posted by: David M Patt

But not always.

Here are some guidelines.

April 25, 2017: Flash or content?

Category: Publications
Posted by: David M Patt
Know your audience preferences when designing publications, and be sure to strike the proper balance between flash and content.

Don't be seduced by flash. Your publication may end up like a cocktail table book or magazine that looks pretty but is agonizingly difficult to read.

Here are some problems to avoid:

1. Copy that is a hodgepodge of short blurbs and images, as if it had all been dropped on the page and printed without first being organized.

2. Long titles and intros printed in all capital letters, which makes it more difficult to read.

3. Little or no distinction between editorial and advertising, so one may be mistaken for the other.

4. Paragraphs on the same page - and in the same article - in different colors and fonts. It looks like a mess.

5. Columns that are too wide.

6. Or, columns that are much too narrow.

7. Photos and images standing out more than articles.

8. And printing them over text, so the text cannot be read.

9. Little boxes of text scattered across photos and pictures - seemingly unconnected to anything.

Visuals should enhance the appearance, not dominate it.

If you actually want people to read the content, don't go overboard on the flash.

April 20, 2017: Board pre-orientation

Category: Governance
Posted by: David M Patt
Let members know what Board service entails before they declare their candidacies.

You can conduct a Board of Directors pre-orientation for all members as part of the "Call for Nominations," so they can become familiar with the duties and responsibilities of Board service before deciding whether or not to vie for a Board position.

Waiting until they've been elected may be too late.

April 19, 2017: Marketing forever

Category: Marketing
Posted by: David M Patt
Marketing is not something you do once, or every so often, or only when you have a big event coming up.

It's something you do all the time. And you budget for it.

Your market changes daily. Lots of potential members and customers didn't receive the direct mail piece, the eblast, or the Tweet that you sent about the annual conference, open house, or legislative fly-in.

They missed the "big announcement" about your plans.

So, market all the time. And always stay in touch with your audiences.

April 17, 2017: Respect introverts

Category: Stuff, other
Posted by: David M Patt
You can do that by leaving them alone.

Don't call attention to them.

Don't ask them to talk in meetings, or to comment, or to share their opinions. They'll decide for themselves if they want to do any of those things.

Don't call on them in class.

Don't ask for volunteers and then pick people (like them) who didn't volunteer.

Don't demand they speak in front of groups - unless that is really, really necessary.

And if you believe it is, find ways they can do that without forcing them into situations that will trigger their anxieties and fears.

Sometimes, written correspondence, email, and social media will be satisfactory alternatives.

But if that is not enough, and your organization needs them to be more personally outgoing, help them to develop that ability, but in ways that are comfortable for them.

Don't force them to do things the way you do. That just won't work.
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