Sunday, October 30, 2016

6 Things that Go Boo in the Night for Association Execs

Okay, it’s Halloween and time to think about scary topics.

Here are six things that can spook association executives.
  1. A key employs embezzles association funds.  Always my biggest fear ... both as an association exec and as an AMC owner. And, despite warnings, we’re seeing far too much embezzlement in associations and nonprofits. We saw another case “pop up” here in Southwest Florida. What are boards thinking? Too many boards don’t seem to care about policies or procedures. Trust but verify! When I owned an AMC, I contracted with a certified fraud examiner to establish financial systems (yes, checks and balances) to reassure myself and our clients that their funds were safe and well managed?
  2. A volunteer president dies in office.   It happens. At one association I managed, one of our executive committee members died unexpectedly. Another’s president died soon after being elected. Do you think ahead and build contingency plans? Do you include this in a crisis communications plan? How do you inform your boards? Your staff? Plan ahead now and hope you never need it!
  3. A competing association starts in your space.   It has happened in several professions/industries. It could be organized as a for-profit company! It often begins when a company starts a conference or trade show that leads to an organization. It could start from a website or blog. An example is the Veterinary Information Network which calls itself “the oldest and largest online medical information service devoted to veterinary medicine.” Well, what happened to the American Veterinary Medicine Association and its role? It could happen to you so be prepared, scan your environment so you are not surprised.
  4. You get hacked or a natural disaster hits.    In the “good old days,” we only needed to worry about a power surge knocking out the phone system and computer network. Now, hacking data is prevalent. Are you prepared with backup systems if you get hacked? What if the hacker gets personal data of your members? Or, instead of hacking, perhaps a tornado, hurricane, earthquake or zika virus (or other epidemic) hits an area where you are scheduled to hold your big annual conference? Are you prepared? Do you have proper insurance conference? Does your crisis communications plan include contacting your attendees and/or members?
  5. A key employ leaves with minimal notice or death.  My chief financial officer gave us two weeks notice. Shock waves. Losing a key position. An AMC owner once shared that a key executive died in an accident on the way to an association meeting. Tragic. Do you have contingency plans? I used to keep a resume file for staff prospects. I networked a lot to develop a talent pool to draw on. In the case of the CFO, I reached out to our outside CPAs and attorneys to seek candidates and to help “vet” prospects. What are you doing?
  6. Your biggest member resigns.   This applies mostly to trade associations where companies – not individuals – belong to the association. Almost all trade associations are composed of a diverse membership. I’ve seen somewhere the “big guys” say the association is run by the “little guys” and vice versa! Sometimes, one of the larger members doesn’t like the policy direction the organization has taken and threatens to cancel its membership (which might be 20% to 25% of the total revenue). My AMC managed a trade association where two of its members convinced the board to dissolve the association and become a “council” of a much larger (and more expensive association. Since that move, several of the members have resigned from the new council and are talking about re-forming the former association. Association execs need to be prepared. You need to recognize that “all members are equal but some are likely to be more equal than others!”
Hopefully, you will never face any of these spooky situations. But, hope doesn’t always work. Prior thought does. Contingency planning does. Being prepared does. If you’ve done all that, you should sleep better and not have to worry about things that go boo in the night!

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