An Executive Director's point of view


May 31, 2016: Bridging the culture gap

Category: Employment
Posted by: David M Patt
Industry and professional organizations often conduct business in the manner to which they are accustomed, even when hiring association professionals.

They may favor professional or industry degrees and certifications, even if those are not relevant to the association positions they seek to fill.

They may request written letters of recommendation, not just a list of references with contact information.

They may wish to publicize a list of finalists for the job. The search is not confidential.

They may feel it premature to leave a position after only ten years. They may have held their jobs or owned their companies for decades.

They may not be knowledgeable about governance, membership recruitment and retention, association financial and legal issues, or any of a number of activities routinely carried out by association professionals.

They may not understand the difference between for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.

And they may think that anybody can manage an association.

When faced with this kind of culture shock, try to approach matters from the industry or professional point of view. Explain how associations operate differently, how they require possession of different skills sets, and how association professionals can help groups succeed.

Demonstrate that association management expertise is a very valuable asset.

May 27, 2016: Videogames

Category: Stuff, other
Posted by: David M Patt
You can learn a lot about yourself when playing videogames.

Are you aggressive or cautious? Do you swiftly move forward or first marshal your resources? Are you stronger on offense or defense?

You probably know these things about yourself already, but your videogame habits will force you to better recognize your inclinations, in case you haven't already.

There is usually no good way or bad way to play or to plan. Every situation is different and every player is different.

But being aware of your strengths and weaknesses - and admitting them to yourself - will go a long way toward helping you to develop and implement successful strategies in your professional life.

May 25, 2016: Friendly competition

Category: Marketing
Posted by: David M Patt
Your members are very likely to be members of other groups in your industry or profession.

They may belong to a national association and a local one, a specialty group, an educational or research organization that deals with a topic specific to their interests, and perhaps a related group from outside your circle.

Those groups may be your allies, they may complement your programs, and you may even launch joint activities with them.

But members often can't join them all.

Sometimes, it's too costly. Other times, they just don't feel they can devote adequate attention to all of them, read all the journals and magazines, or attend all the programs - regardless of their quality.

So, they limit their memberships to only those they think are the absolutely most important.

You need to do what is possible to be considered one of the absolutely most important. Make a point of offering an educational program, certification process, informational resource, or something else of value that is not available anywhere else.

Find a way to make your organization an indispensable part of their professional toolbox.
Category: Governance
Posted by: David M Patt

May 20, 2016: What are they thinking?

When planning an action that puts you at odds with another organization or a group of individuals, think from their point of view and try to anticipate how they will advance their cause.

Don't assume your position is morally superior to theirs or that you are right and they are wrong.

Many people are likely to think differently than you, may adopt policy positions you find abhorrent, and will support causes you believe are absolutely evil.

You are more likely to achieve success if you understand the opposition, develop arguments to counter their claims, and can devise a strategy that will weaken their position in the eyes of whatever audiences matter in that situation.

May 18, 2016: Oops!

Category: Fund-raising
Posted by: David M Patt
Here's a really big fund-raising snafu.

May 16, 2016: Unique

Category: Membership
Posted by: David M Patt
What makes your association unique?

What does it do that other groups don't?

What will a member receive from you that it can't get anywhere else?

That's what you should stress when devising membership benefits and planning recruitment strategies.
Posted by: David M Patt
Like any demographic segment to which you are trying to appeal, ask people (not just one person) what they want, decide if you want to deliver what they want, and then decide how to do it.

In the case of younger people, recognize that their lifestyles are often very different from those who preceded them. Appeal to their way of doing things. Don't try to get them to adopt your way.


1. Give activities new names. Titles such as Annual Meeting, Legislative Breakfast, Golf Outing, Dinner Dance, and Association Benefit evoke images of parents and grandparents. If you are going to continue those events, call them something else.

2. Do something different. Find out the likes and dislikes of your younger members and create events based on their interests. For example, add tennis, volleyball, or running to an event. Structure interactive meetings, rather than reports from VIPs. Serve healthier food.

3. Meet in other places. A tavern or health club may be better than a hotel or country club. An entertainment venue may be preferable to a restaurant.

4. Start later. Many young people don't even leave the house for a social night until 8:30 or 9:00 pm. Add a late night event to your schedule to draw people who expect to be out way past midnight.

5. Ditch the dress code. Younger people may not want to don tuxedos or formal gowns for a social event. Go casual.

6. Be single-friendly. Don't treat married couples as the norm. Create events where single people (of all ages) will feel comfortable and won't feel the necessity to bring a spouse or a date.

7. Get the names right. Couples - even when married - often have different last names. Get rid of the Mr. and Mrs. way of identifying people.

May 13, 2016: What matters

Category: Marketing
Posted by: David M Patt
If other industries or professions are encroaching on your members' turf and claiming to be able to deliver less expensive services, don't whine to legislators, media, or the public about how your members will be put out of business.

Nobody cares.

Talk, instead, about how the proposed alternatives will reduce the quality of the services delivered to customers, clients, and patients.

Focus on their needs, not yours.

May 11, 2016: Customer (member) needs

Category: Marketing
Posted by: David M Patt
When disseminating your association's message - promoting membership, conference registration, continuing education, or anything else - appeal to the recipients' needs and desires, not those of the association.

Don't try to convince people to buy what you are selling. Don't try to persuade them of the value of these items.

Instead, put yourself in their shoes and view offerings from their perspective.

Ask yourself, "How will I benefit from these things?"

Offer programs that recipients value, not those that you want them to value or think they should value.

Start with their needs, not yours.
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