Wednesday, October 2, 2013

It’s their organization not yours ...


.... but, it is your career, not theirs!

Charles Rumbarger, CAE, shared this bit of wisdom with me when my CEO and I were struggling through contentious issues with a major national association more than 20 years ago.

I thought of this when I read Joe Rominiecki’s Associations Now post onThey’re not your members.” 
  • “It’s true that, once a member has paid her dues for the year, that dues money belongs to you. But that’s it. The member’s time, attention, energy, and loyalty don’t belong to you. They never do. They must constantly be earned. Godin’s reminder is an important one.
  • For associations, his point can be drawn a step further. Not only are members not ‘yours,’ but one could argue that you, the association professional, are in fact ‘theirs.’ The association that employs you is an organization formed and governed by members. Their dues pay your salary.”
Joe picked up on a Seth Godin blog Actually They’re Not Yours post on the topic. 
  • “Belong” is a word we use a lot in associations, and it takes on several important meanings. Members join and belong to an association, and yet the association also belongs to the members.
The same day, Pace Smith posted Why It’s Not About You (Except When It Is) on Copyblogger.com. 
... three exceptions to the “Never Talk About Yourself” rule …
  • Exception #1: Connection: It’s okay to talk about yourself if you’re building rapport with your readers.
  • Exception #2: Authority: It’s okay to talk about yourself if you’re helping your readers feel safe enough to lean into you.
  • Exception #3: Personal stories: It’s okay to talk about yourself if you’re sharing a personal story.
I agree with these three posts. But, I want to take the conversation a slightly different direction and back to Rumbarger’s advice to me years ago and focus on what this means to association management professionals ... from CEOs to Membership Directors to Marketing Directors to Finance Directors. 

“It is their organization and not ours” 

... but, perhaps more importantly to those working within the association community,

“it is your career, not theirs.”


The personalities of most association professionals mean we devote all our energies toward our association work. Many of us are super loyal to our association employers. We feel guilty if our eyes wonder to new career opportunities.

Yet, when trouble surfaces, the association executive (and often his/her team) become the scapegoats. 

Your friends come and go but your enemies accumulate.

If we recognize our tenure may be limited to seven years, why are many association CEOs shocked when the board “invites” them to leave? And, why aren’t association CEOs career planning around year 5? 

As Rumbarger proclaims, it is their organization but it is your career.

What are you waiting for? 

Tell me what you think?

Feel free to add your comments by going to www.scdgroup.net.

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