Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fraternal organizations continue losing members

The local paper featured a story on its business page that the Araba Temple Shriners plan to sell their building.  The subhead read “Fort Myers fraternal charitable group deals with shrinking membership by downsizing.”

The story said “Shriners here are dealing with a nationwide issue for fraternal organizations, experts say: The groups that blossomed in the 1950s and ’60s are slowly losing ground to the Internet among later generations.”

It reported that the Shriner’s members has fallen from 1,250 when the temple was built in 1967 to 800 today. 

All this reminded me of Jim Nagel’s guest blog on SCD Daily back in February 2012.  In a post he headlined What's Happening at Service Clubs,  Jim outlined his thoughts on when membership in service clubs is declining.  

It’s worth your read.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Inspiring Example for Association Aspirations

I found this story a powerful example of innovation and inspiration.  Something that we association executives might aspire to for our associations and association members.

The story comes from USA Today:  Change Agents: Walter De Brouwer's magical tricorder.

De Brouwer and his wife, Sam, 42, co-founded Scanadu a year ago after a private nightmare. Eight years ago, their son Nelson, now 13, jumped out of a window at home thinking he could fly. He landed on his head. The couple, who also have another son, Lamara, 20, spent months in hospitals struggling to understand reams of technical information.

"You think you're smart, and then you realize you're not a doctor, and you understand nothing," says Sam, an elegant Frenchwoman who reports that despite the debilitating brain injury, today, Nelson is thriving in a special-ed program within nearby Cupertino High School. "It was a traumatic experience that left us thinking it would be great to create a tool that allows patients and doctors to communicate better."

"Medicine could benefit from the same disruption that Google provided for information," says De Brouwer, gazing beyond the shell of a former military blimp hanger and toward his Star Trek-inspired horizon. "Data wants to be free, and if our medical data is out there, maybe it can help us all."

These types of “X prizes” seem to motivate lots of innovations.

This might be an opportunity for some associations to advance innovation in their profession or industry.

Even if not, it is an inspiring story.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Dealing with Conflicts on Your Board

Whether poker or association board meetings,
you need to have ground rules to play!
Last week, I came across Solange Charas’ Harvard Business Review piece titled Good Conflict Makes a Good Board.  

Since I have some scar tissue from board conflicts over the years, I was interested in her comments:
  • Anyone who has served on a board of directors can appreciate that each board has its own characteristic rhythm, social rules and level of effectiveness. What I found was that there is something powerful about the way directors speak to one another, especially when they disagree. My interviews revealed two kinds of boardroom conflict — cognitive and affective — with very different implications for board performance. Boards that recognized affective conflict and addressed it quickly were associated with high governance quality, whereas boards that were less willing to address affective conflict or ignoring it altogether were associated with low governance quality. High governance ratings were also more common for boards that had engaged directors generating high levels of cognitive conflict.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Listening to Elephants: 6 great reads for association executives

The Power of Listening By Doug Dickerson via Leadere’s Beacon
For leaders, there is nothing quite as important as listening. In fact, according to a report in Business News Daily it ranks as one of the top reasons why employees hate their bosses – they do not listen. You have three forms of listening:
  • To be informed, listen with your ears.
  • To connect, listen with your heart.
  • To demonstrate (listening), let your actions show it.
Ride the Elephant - Customers Need it But They’re Scared of It  
By Kathryn Booth via BigBusiness Zoo blog

When you’re “selling” anything – imagine a pyramid of your “niche” market – 3% are buying now, additional 7% thinking about it, 30% not thinking about it, 30% not interested now, 30% definitely not interested ever. It would be lovely if you could instantly get their attention and show them that your solution is the answer and will increase sales and conversion rates! But hard hitting is last century and really that was the only time it really worked long term.

Great Leaders Learn Out Loud 
By: Chip R. Bell via AMA blog

The world’s most innovative companies are led by leaders with one characteristic in common—they are as zealous about learning as they are about their breakthroughs and discoveries. In a massive research study that produced the book The Innovator’s DNA (HBR Press), authors Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton Christensen found that innovation leaders observe the world like anthropologists: they ask provocative, disruptive questions, and perpetually experiment. In a word—they learn—and they learn in an obvious manner!
“Leaders are more powerful role models when they learn than when they teach,” wrote Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kantor.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Culture Choices for Associations: People vs Process; Game Plan vs Blueprint

Heide Thorne (@heidithorne) responded to last week’s blog Can Associations Incorporate The Neighborly Wave? with a simple: It’s all about culture.Heide’s comment came shortly after I read Anna Caraveli’s piece titled From Formal Strategic Planning to Strategic, Improvisatory Thinking.  Highlights (for me) included: 

  • Why is it that when people act on the logic by which bureaucracies operate, they seem to have allowed simple common sense to escape out the window? 
    • It could be the DMV clerk behind the counter making you stand in the line again, after you patiently waiting your turn for 45 minutes, because a form had not been filled correctly. 
    • Or it could be your organization missing an obvious opportunity because they needed to wait until their annual strategic planning meeting to consider it. 
  • If your organization is like most others, it was built on the basis of what is called the scientific management theory, first developed fully by Frederick Taylor, a mechanical engineer, in the 1900’s. Modern bureaucracy is based on the assumption that a perfect system of management can anticipate every possible risk and opportunity, increase efficiency and result in the perfect organization. 
  • The flaws of this system and its mechanistic view of the world became especially pronounced in our knowledge age, when unpredictability is the norm. 
  • While there is still an enormous gap between process-and-product-driven bureaucracies and knowledge-and-consumer-driven markets, there an increasing emphasis on the human elements of organizations and a need for strategic thinking capabilities rather than strategic planning processes. 
The ability to think outside categories is the most essential element in an organization’s ability to constantly adapt and succeed in this environment.

I really like Anna’s thinking.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Edison’s Advice to Association Executives: Try One More Time

Growing up in Ohio, my grandparents used to regale me with stories about Ohioan Thomas Edison and his unwillingness to give up. (I think they related to Edison because they were in the same generation and like him, grew up in small Ohio towns.) Edison was used almost as often as “the Little Engine that Could” as teachable moments of my childhood.
Three of their favorites were:
  • “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” 
  • “We often miss opportunity because it's dressed in overalls and looks like work” 
  • “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” 
So, I was fascinated with Mazda’s new Conviction, Creativity and Courage campaign  featuring Thomas Edison, Dick Fosbury and Laird Hamilton.
I really like Mazda’s campaign and strategy. It works for me.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Membership, board conflict, name badges & millennial connections: 4 reads for association executives

Does One-Size Membership Work in a Custom-Tailored World? By Deirdre Reid via Avectra Blog
We complain about cable companies, but they have more subscription options than associations have membership options. When you join an association, you usually have one option for membership that’s defined by your place within an industry or profession – industry professional, vendor or student. However, when you sign up for cable, you can stick to the basic package or add HD, premium, sports, international or other packages to it. Like associations, you get a lot of channels (benefits) you never use, but with the emergence of new disruptive TV technology, that may change one day. If you belong to an association, think about your membership. Does it completely fit you? Are you taking advantage of all the benefits offered? Don’t you wish you could choose a membership plan that better reflected your behavior and needs? I started thinking about these questions after attending a digitalNOW session by Sheri Jacobs, CAE, President and CEO of Avenue M Group. Sheri introduced me to a membership structure I had never seen before – one based on the member’s desired experience: Whitney Museum’s Curate Your Own Membership (CYOM).
Good Conflict Makes a Good Board  
By Solange Charas via HBR blog

Anyone who has served on a board of directors can appreciate that each board has its own characteristic rhythm, social rules and level of effectiveness. What I found was that there is something powerful about the way directors speak to one another, especially when they disagree. My interviews revealed two kinds of boardroom conflict — cognitive and affective — with very different implications for board performance. Boards that recognized affective conflict and addressed it quickly were associated with high governance quality, whereas boards that were less willing to address affective conflict or ignoring it altogether were associated with low governance quality. High governance ratings were also more common for boards that had engaged directors generating high levels of cognitive conflict.
What's In a Name Badge? Tag Snobs Glad You Asked 
By Leslie Kwoh via the Wall Street Journal

Mr. Davidson isn't alone in his obsession. In the booming world of corporate conferences, name badges are a topic of great fascination and passionate debate. Disagreements have raged online over the ideal type font, text size and spacing. Event organizers can spend a lot of time agonizing over templates and colors. Great to see so many association friends (Adrian Segar, Scott McKain, Joan Eisenstodt, Nick Topitzes) quoted in this article. Me? I’m a big font kind of guy. Big enough that my old eyes can see from a distance. And, lanyards that don’t have your name badge at your belly button! ASAE is the worst at this. I have to shorten the lanyard to get my name tag at eye level.
Baby-Boomer Marketers Are Misreading Millennials' Media Behavior 
By Bonnie Fuller via Advertising Age

Baby-boomer marketers should be salivating over the 105 million-strong millennial market. Born between 1982 and 2004, millennials make up the first generation that actually outsizes the influential-but-aging boomers. So why are so many senior marketers missing the opportunity -- and their piece of $200 billion in spending power? Why are they convinced the methods and media that have worked over the past 30 years of their careers will continue to produce results with tech-savvy millennials, even though they have vastly different media habits?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Do Whatever Rings the Cash Register: Associations & NonDues

Back in March, Laura Petrecca of the USA TODAY wrote a story headlined Ad agencies go from jingles to entrepreneurship.  

Advertisers are creative, right? So what's to stop them from thinking outside the box enough to create their own product lines?

When I started my association management company, a company approached me about producing some product literature. I called Charles Rumbarger, CAE, who was my mentor in starting the AMC and asked him if I should do the project. “Steve,” he said, “Do whatever rings the cash register.”

I followed his advice then and for the next 19 years that I owned my AMC.  Which is one reason I'm a consultant, speaker and blogger.

As we grew, I sometimes wondered whether – given the talent on my staff – we should be doing a lot more than managing associations. But, I ran out of time.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

When bad news comes knocking, get in front of it fast with honesty and transparency.

Where's my crisis communications plan when I need it?
One of the really great family-owned grocery chains got hacked this winter. It was really serious. It impacted 2.4 million credit and debit cards.

Based on reading a number of accounts from the company, media and lawsuits, here’s the problem’s apparent timeline:

  • The credit card problem started in December 2012 and extended until March 28, 2013.
  • A credit card processing firm informed Schnucks on March 15 it had tracked credit card breaches back to Schnucks stores.
  • Schnucks immediately hired a computer security firm to examine the problems.
  • The firm and company “resolved” the breach about March 28.
  • Schnucks notified customers and the media of its credit card issues on March 30 ... two weeks after it first learned of the problem.
  • Last week (on May 10), the Schnucks chairman issued a video apology
That two week gap represents a major reputation issue for Schnucks.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What I Learned From Dunder Mifflin and The Office

Guest Post By Kathy Deters

I’ve worked from home for nearly a decade. I enjoy it immensely; it saves me valuable time and money by eliminating a costly and lengthy commute into the city, it allows me to be home more with my children and it helps me tap into my creativity. But there have been times when, I admit, I have missed working in a traditional office. I miss gossiping next to a water cooler, celebrating co-workers’ birthdays and, of course, making a fool of myself at the office Christmas party.

Perhaps this is why I became so attached to NBC’s “The Office.” For me it was more than just another 30-minute sitcom, a way to fill the coveted must-see TV Thursday night 8 p.m. time slot; it was my pseudo-work family. Pam, Jim, Meredith, Michael, Andy, Stanley, Oscar, Creed, Angela, Erin, Phyllis, Kevin, Toby, Darryl and Dwight—most especially Dwight—were my co-workers. Through marriage and divorce, for better and worse, in times of economic success and financial distress, even that shaky season after Michael left and ratings started to drop—I got my office fix from the folks at Dunder Mifflin.

So now, as I prepare to visit Scranton one last time, I’m reflecting back on what “The Office” has taught me about organizational management, careers and life in general. 

Four Lessons We Can All Learn from Dunder Mifflin

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Can Associations Incorporate The Neighborly Wave?

Growing up in rural Ohio, I grew accustomed to the “friendly wave” when passing folks on their front porch, a farmer plowing his fields or the driver of an oncoming car on a rural road. If a wave wasn’t possible, people would give a friendly “toot” of their horn as they passed.

And, the waves came in all styles – from a full hand to a lifted finger – almost like fingerprints.

After 40+ years of living in metropolitan areas, I was thinking “I miss that neighborliness.” Oh, we “sorta wave” to our neighbors but rarely do I sense the kind of neighborliness I felt back when I was growing up.

Until now.

In moving to this “55 and better” community near Fort Myers, I’ve discovered that they have instituted the wave of my childhood. Whether walking, driving, biking or golf carting, there is strong evidence of “The Pelican Preserve wave.”

It’s nice. One of the things I like about being here. A part of its culture.

Makes me wonder if our associations have something similar to the rural wave?

Do our association cultures incorporate that sense of family/community/neighborliness. It’s what Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter included in their book Humanize, isn’t it?
Is it in the “voice” our staffs share with members, prospects and others?

Is it incorporated in our board and committee meetings?

Is it part of our conferences and conventions?

If not, why not?

Shouldn’t we encourage our staff and members to go out of their way to ensure friendly neighborliness within our associations?

Monday, May 13, 2013

5 readings for Association Executives

From Formal Strategic Planning to Strategic, Improvisatory Thinking 
By Anna Caraveli via The Demand Perspective & shared by Mark Athitakis via Associations Now 

“‘Strategic programming’ describes the mode of ‘strategic thinking’ in most associations we visited. These organizations have a gap in capabilities for continuous innovation, recalibration and swift opportunity leveraging which does not bode well for their potential for success and growth in this environment. It also has a serious gap in common sense ... The greatest mistake organizations make in planning is to assume that analysis and detailed plans will automatically translate into action.” Thanks Mark for sharing this important thinking.

The Dark Side Of Reputation Management: How It Affects Your Business (Association) By Cheryl Conner via Forbes

This is a great piece regarding online reputation management and what to do or not do if your organization is “hammered” with online reputation attacks. Best advice: do NOT respond as helps the attacker.

What to Do When the Leaders Don’t “Get It”   
By Jamie Notter 

Here was a distinct theme among the questions at one of my recent sessions: “Our leaders don’t get it. They’re clueless. Leaders don’t think they can change the culture. People see the leaders as incompetent. In the context of all that, what are we to do?” Jamie offers four insightful tips

ASA (Automotive Service Association)Reports Employee Theft, Two Executives Resign  
Report in Fender Bender

I hate these kinds of stories: A member of the association’s administrative staff associated with accounting functions used an ASA credit card for personal purchases, such as clothing and travel. He said the purchases amount to “many tens of thousands of dollars.” It is not yet known when the embezzlement activities started. What processes do you have in place to reduce your risks. Here’s a post with suggestions: 

Upfronts Not Ready for Prime-time Reality 
By Michael Wolff via USA Today

The Upfronts are a media ritual that stretches back to the early days of television. It's when networks offer advertisers a locked-in deal if they buy space for the fall season in the spring instead of waiting until the new shows air, when the costs, especially for hit shows, might likely go up. Forget the fact that there really is no longer a fall season, that a hit now is hardly what a hit was then, that television networks are themselves pale imitations of what they were — once again the Upfronts are on. Theaters are rented in Manhattan, network heads and ad sales executives are rehearsed, assorted stars are unhappily drafted to participate and, in old-fashioned variety-show format, the new shows are launched and the old patted on the back. Hum, are we in the association profession holding on to “old ways” because we’re afraid of the new?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Staffing the Association: Part 2 Do employees really love their associations more than AMC staff?

When I posted Staffing the Association: Employ Staff or Contract with AMC? on Friday I assumed it would get some response. 

I was hoping for a discussion about a topic important to the association community: How do we provide the staff resources to fulfill our missions?

Well, I was a bit surprised with Ginny’s comment:
  • “My take is that an AMC simply can't muster the ‘love’ and caring for the membership the way association staff can. We have an ongoing relationship with our members and they count on us to know and care about them.
  • “This is a wild, sweeping generalization, of course, since I'm sure this doesn't apply to every AMC. But to me, using an AMC is akin to Dell Computers outsourcing their tech support to India. Yes, those folks may have great technical knowledge, but when I can't get them to understand my questions because of language barriers and/or their own lack of interest in me as a customer, I get frustrated and decide never to buy another Dell again.”
Association employees “love and care” for their clients more than AMC staff? Seriously?!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Before You Contact Your Association Volunteers

I’m inside my temporary home/office ... working on blogs and some client projects and proposals ... but also looking out the window at golfers on the #6 green.

It is really distracting! 

Mainly because I’d rather be out there in the sun with them!

Which got me to thinking about the difficulty association executives have connecting with their volunteer leaders.

While we association execs are thinking and breathing the association and its issues on a nearly 24-7 bases, our volunteer leaders have other things on their minds most of the time. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Staffing the Association: Employ Staff or Contract with AMC?

The other day, a business colleague asked me one of those difficult questions facing association leaders:
  • From your Association Management days and/or days as an Association ED, do you have a template that lists the types of expenses an association needs to consider/include in a budget when it's moving from being run by a management company to hiring its own ED? I had a friend of a friend ask me and I thought you may have something from your background. 
  • Not looking for budget dollars, simply the categories/expenses to consider when making a transition such as this. 
I don’t want to create a firestorm but I thought it might be useful for you to see my response. 

So, here’s what I sent him. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Defining Your Ideal Employee - Is This You?

This photo from Google Images and is
NOT the guy on the plane in this post!
I overheard a cellphone conversation on a plane last week. Ironically, as you'll see in a minute, I was flying to Charlotte to give a presentation and facilitate a discussion on generational differences. 

Based on what I could hear, he was the CEO; the other party was an HR person/recruiter. 

CEO: “Say, I don't want an Ivy League white guy. I've had enough charts & graphs. No more twitterers or whatever. I'm serious. You can’t text a handshake. Look, I want you to find me a scrapper. Someone who worked their way through school. Probably played sports. Hey, I don't mean to use the CEO card, but don't bring me any pretty white boys.” 

Later on the plane ride, he was fussing about the service (snack food) and said to me "I’m so tired of this. I'm 60, I should be put out to pasture." 

Other than the irony of my hearing him just before my talk on generational issues, what do you hear in this conversation? 

Could this person be you or your CEO? Could it have been one of your board members or perhaps one of your members or donors? 

Those of us who blog, text, tweet, Facebook or LinkedIn need to be mindful that not all of our members, leaders, colleagues or others get "social media" or what we do, let alone why we do it. 

Some -- age not withstanding -- don't get it and don't want to try. If they make up a large portion of our membership or leadership, we need to take them into account and not fail to reach them. 


For another bit of irony, during the plane ride, this CEO pulled out his laptop and started typing a bunch of emails. I so much wanted to ask, "So, can you email a handshake." Alas, I restrained myself!

Monday, May 6, 2013

7 Takeaways for Associations and Association Executives

A couple of stories in the last week seem to offer lessons for association executives and their not-for-profit organizations.

The Fall of CPI

Since I had some interest from CPI for a cause marketing project for one of my clients, their demise caught my attention.

Here are some excerpts of Kavita Kumar’s story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch  

  • Was this a sign of the decline of the portrait industry as a whole? After all, in the age of iPhones, many people carry cameras in their pockets all the time and also have lower-priced digital cameras at their disposal to take pretty decent photos.
  • Yet, other CPI rivals appear to be thriving despite the digital onslaught.
  • While there may be no single answer for CPI’s fall, observers point to examples that showed how an industry leader failed to invest in new processes and rethink how the digital revolution would impact its business.
  • For example, CPI still had most of its pictures processed at a centralized facility, meaning customers had to wait about a week to pick up photos.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

7 Quotes on Change for Association Executives

When I owned an association management company, my weekly staff blog ended with a quote of the week. My staff liked them. So, I thought quotes of the week might be something to share via SCDdaily. Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

The focus this week: change

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”
– composer John Cage

“If you risk nothing, then you risk everything.” 
– Actress Geena Davis

“Sacred cows make the best hamburger.”
– Mark Twain

“There are two types of change: the change we chose and the change that chooses us.”
– Linda Ellerbee, TV journalist and cancer survivor

“Optimists chose action over inertia.”
– Loretta LaRoche, Life is Short, Water your Panty Pants

“Extraordinary people visualize not what is possible or probable but rather what is impossible. By visualizing the impossible, they begin to see it as possible.”
– Ann Roulac in Power, Passion & Purpose

“To be built to last, you have to be built for change!”
– Jim Collins, Built to Last

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Are Doing and Thinking Switchable Tasks for Association Executives?

I arranged for a non-profit CEO and a marketing agency chairman to meet and share ideas about a common marketing project for the non-profit.

The non-profit is trying to decide whether to hire a marketing staffer or to contract with an agency.

Both agreed that the challenge of a single marketing staffer comes down to hiring someone strategic (a thinker) or hiring someone to implement (a doer).

And, they both feel that people are “wired” in one direction or the other but rarely both. 

When I returned to my office, my morning blog from was waiting and headlined Are you a Marketing Artist or a Scientist?  “It’s not a conscious decision or something you can change — you know in your gut which tribe you belong to. There’s no right or wrong answer here — both paths can lead to success.”

Doing versus thinking. Strategy versus tactics. Today vs tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

To Decide is To Divide: thoughts for association boards

In her tribute to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Britain Remembers a Great Briton, Wall Street Journal, April 20), columnist Peggy Noonan offered two observations that offer insight to association executives:
  1. Things change. Time changes them. Great nations, and institutions, rethink. But only if they're great.
  2. "To decide is to divide" according to Prime Minister Tony Blair. And the more decisive, the more divisive.
Assuming our associations are in fact great institutions, are they noticing the change in things and times and rethinking and modifying their organizations?