Sunday, June 29, 2014

25 Reasons Association Boards Fail


I'm joining four other association management professionals (see below) in an ASAE annual meeting session titled Why Boards Fail and How to Fix Them.  (In Nashville from 10:30 - 11:30 on Tuesday, August 12.)

In preparation for the session, we have developed the top 25 reasons association boards fail

We'd like your help!

  1. Do you have other reasons to add to the Top 25?
  2. What do you see as the Top 10 of this list?
  3. Which of these topics do you want to be sure that we cover?
Please give us your answers via this survey monkey ... we need your response before Thursday, July 10.  Thanks!


Top 25 Reasons Association Boards Fail


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Changes mean changing decision thinking for Boomers


An old Wall Street Journal article about the decline of traditional shopping malls got me to thinking about the changes we’ve been witnessing over the last decade or more. 

Most older Boomers grew up with:


  • movies at the drive-in
  • cruisin’ at the Big Boy or local drive-in restaurant
  • TV shows like I Love Lucy, Gun Smoke, 77 Sunset Strip, Ed Sullivan
  • Singing groups from the Four Seasons, Beatles and Rolling Stones to singers such as Elvis, Bobby Vinton and Paul Anka
  • Issues including the Cold War, bomb shelters, Sputnik, Armstrong on the Moon, Watergate and race riots
  • Startling events from the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary and the 6-Day war between Israel and Egypt/Syria.
  • downtowns dying as malls and suburbs exploded
(Ok, I realize these experiences show I grew up in the midwest in the 60s.)


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tips for Strategic Use of Association-generated Op-Eds


The email from a fellow association executive was a pretty simple request:

  • “Steve, have a need and considering doing my first Op-Eds (opinion piece next to editorial page). Purpose is to influence the Governor to sign one of ‘our’ bills. Any pointers you can share?”

Here’s how I responded


  1. Know your audience (or intended audience).
  2. For yourself, write down what you want your audience to do, not do or let you do when they’ve read your op-ed.
  3. Write in “their language” not yours. Make it compelling. Keep it short, sweet and easy to repeat.
  4. Proof it … if in doubt, cut it out. In reviewing, go back to what you wanted them to do, not do or let you do. 
  5. Test it ... if you have time, ask someone from your target audience to read and react to your piece.
  6. Select the newspaper or media outlet of choice of your intended audience and place the Op-Ed there.

But, Don’t Stop There


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Futbol Fever Sparks Association Growth

Photo by Sarah Coward/news-press.com
American Outlaws ... founded in Lincoln, Nebraska, around the 2006 World Cup ... is rapidly expanding during the ongoing 2014 World Cup Soccer tournament.

Membership is only $29. Benefits include supporting U.S. soccer and receiving a free t-shirt and bandana. $5 of each membership goes to support the local chapters which now number 140.

Television and social media are propelling growth and excitement. A feature story in the News-Press illustrates how this is all coming together.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Throwback Thursday opportunities for associations & nonprofits



A growing number of organizations (companies, churches, associations) have begun using Throwback Thursdays (TBT) as a social media strategy to promote elements of their organization.

What is Throwback Thursday?  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Trivial items can challenge boards


While on a board conference call, I tracked the time the board spent discussing what “logo shirts” they would wear at an upcoming convention.

17 minutes! Of a 60 minute call. That’s 28% of the board time spent talking about shirt color!

I am NOT kidding you?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Are your association members using the web?


Perhaps this post seems to be a discussion a decade late but I spotted this AP news story in the local paper: Skip the Website? Some Small Businesses Still Do.

  • “It's cheap. It's easy to do. And it can take less than 20 minutes to set up. Yet more than half of all small businesses still don't have a website. ... Fifty-five percent of small businesses don't have a website, according to a 2013 survey of more than 3,800 small businesses conducted by Internet search company Google and research company Ipsos. That's a slight improvement from the year before, when 58 percent said they didn't have a website.”

Are your association members among this 53 percent?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Humor can benefit association board culture

Left: note the passenger ignoring the briefing?
Right: screen capture from Delta's safety video.
As anyone who has ever flown knows, the typical airline safety briefing (including how to buckle your seat belt) is pretty boring. Most passengers ignore it. And the flight attendants go through the motions with a look of “why bother, no one is paying attention.”

Several years ago, Southwest empowered its flight attendants to modify the announcements and many injected humor during the briefings. Passengers giggled. But, they paid attention.

I was flying on Delta the other day. This is the third or fourth time I’ve been on Delta since they introduced humorous video safety briefings.

While I watched the briefing (to see what new humor was added), I noticed passengers were watching and laughing at the funny parts of the video briefing. And, nearly all of us were paying attention.

The bottom line: humor helps increase audience attention.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Poll/Survey Results: Advocacy or Knowledge for Associations?


One of my high school math teachers told us “Figures lie and liars figure.”


Over the last 20 or so years, the U.S. has become a nation fascinated with polls and surveys. Several are released daily (I’m excluding political polls which are too many to count.) Many become stories in the news media.

Conducting and releasing polls or surveys is a great tool to advance your association’s profession/industry and/or the issues it is advocating.

I know. From Christmas trees and soybeans to flood relief and health care issues, I’ve used polling data for more than 25 years to generate publicity along the lines of issues we were advocating. 


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Role of CEOs in Knowing What’s Happening in the Association


Is it me? Doesn’t it seem that more and more CEOs (chairmen, presidents, etc.) are claiming they did not know about the “bad” stuff happening inside their organizations?


Four Examples of CEO's In the Dark

In announcing results of an internal investigation, General Motors CEO Mary Barra said top executives were not aware of the faulty switch until much later and then fired 15 employees for misconduct. “Essentially, the report says that there wasn't a conspiracy, that it was just a culture of incompetence and misconduct, where people who were supposed to report sort of didn't - and also that there were some structural problems within the company that kept recalls and the decisions from going to the highest levels.”

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned over hospital scandals of which he said he was not aware. The Huffington Post wrote Eric Shinseki, The Man Who Trusted Too Much

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Governance is governance; management is management


Over the last 36 years, I’ve experienced and witnessed board or association management staff actions that make my head spin:

  • a volunteer board treasurer coming to our office for orientation with the strongly held impression that his job meant writing association checks and managing association finances. (He had been on the board about seven years so I was flabbergasted at his thinking.)
  • a consulting client association board that required its checks to be co-signed by both the treasurer and the president. As the president was a highly traveling consultant, the checks “chased” her around the world and often created serious delays in paying office rent and staff salaries.
  • the committee of a major national association voted to recommend eliminating funding for other staff departments that were not under its “control.”
A few weeks ago, association management thought leader and AMC owner Michael LoBue shared an article titled Governance is Governance, a speech Kenneth Dayton delivered to the Independent Sector meeting in 1987.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Augmented Reality in Your Association’s Future?


Perhaps nothing talks about change as much as what’s happened to the school yearbook. (Confession: Early in my career, I served as the faculty adviser to a college yearbook.)

Now, you want to talk about change! Many college yearbooks stopped publication in the 1980s. Some have been revived. And, some new ones have made radical updates.

Because of my yearbook experience, I was drawn to this story about today’s high school yearbook.

Traditional yearbooks get a high-tech makeover by Jennifer Reed in the News-Press.

Here are Excerpts:

  • Traditionalists, fear not: Teens value the permanence of the printed yearbook as much as they do the tassels they'll hang on rearview mirrors. "But you need to link the computer in their hands to a book," says South Fort Myers High adviser Gina Sabiston, who sees declining student interest in all things print.
  • "If you could have this technology in a textbook, it'd be fantastic," Sabiston says.
  • Yearbook sales have declined modestly in recent years, according to Alex Blackwell, Walsworth vice president of marketing and communication. New innovations are stabilizing those sales, he says. In addition to the 3D app, Walsworth has introduced a Yearbook Shout feature using similar technology that allows students to record videos of themselves bidding fond farewells and Yearbook Snap, soon-to-be released photo-sharing app.
  • Walsworth's innovation may simply be a response to a changing market and the ubiquity of handheld technology. But it's worth asking: If a yearbook company can revive student interest in print, will other publishers follow suit?
  • That technology may be on its way.
  • Annie Weinberger, the general manager of Aurasma at HP Autonomy, can't reveal anything that's not been made public, but she says there's a lot of interest in that category. Teachers are asking for augmented reality texts, and until those are available, they're finding lots of other ways to use it — anything from bulletin boards to teach students how to tell time to vocabulary building to art instruction.

Augmented Reality

Sunday, June 1, 2014

More on Generational Changes on Association Membership


The other day I was talking with an association executive about my keynote presentation at her national meeting. The title I’ve been given is: The Future of Your Leagues: How to Attract the Next Generation of Players.


Consumers participating in leagues hosted by her association’s members commit to two to three hours each week for 16 weeks. Gen Xers starting the decline in participation and it has continued as Gen Ys come of age.

Listening to her, I thought about the similarities with bowling leagues and asked if her members had read “Bowling Alone.”

“No,” she said, “they don’t see themselves as anything like bowling.”

That surprised me!


  • Both are played in leagues
  • Both require a commitment of 2-3 hours week during the season
  • Both are played at a specific venue away from home
Yet, her members don't see those similarities.