Tag Archives: association management
A friend of mine has a dog that needs to lose weight. The vet recommended a simple strategy that guarantees weight loss. Just feed your pet the same meal day in, day out, he said. It doesn’t matter how good the meal is, over time it will become so boring that the dog will get no pleasure from it and he will reduce his consumption.
Membership organizations often put their members on the same diet. The result is reduced member engagement and ultimately a drop in membership.
If we keep feeding our members the same meal, no matter how excellent, they will look for variety elsewhere – and we will lose them.
So how do we keep our professional education programs fresh and interesting for our members?
We know from working with our clients, that most association leaders do not see professional development programs as events. An event is something that is engaging and entertaining. A professional development seminar is something we do because it’s good for us.
Most associations see an invisible line between an event and an educational seminar.
This is a mistake. If we focus on making learning more of an event there is a subtle but important shift in focus. Treat your learning program as a series of events.
The only thing that must be predictable is that you are providing value. The way you do it, should be a creative process that is constantly evolving.
So here are three tips to keep your professional education programs fresh:
1. Make it fun.
- Choose speakers and trainers who are adept at engaging their audience.
2. Make it interactive.
- Make sure that the learners have an opportunity to interact with the speaker and the other learners.
3. Try something new.
- Add a new networking game to get your members outside of their cliques
- Bring in a speaker with a controversial view
- Change the order of the agenda
- Change the time of day
- Change the venue
Frank Sinatra was one of the most important popular music figures of the 20th century, but he didn’t move his own piano. “The Chairman” knew the importance of delegating the more mundane aspects of his work to professionals who knew how to do it more efficiently. He spent his time doing what he did best, not what “had to be done”.
If you are a board member of a not for profit organization, you probably don’t get paid and you have another fulltime position for which you DO get paid. Now every month you are expected to produce something for your volunteer position. Sure it’s rewarding to be serving the community. What better way is there to connect with your community and give a little back? As a volunteer, you certainly return to society some of the benefits that society gives you. My question to you is “did you really get involved to pay the suppliers; print the flyers; send out the renewal notices; to prepare the financial reports?” I don’t think so. You got involved to help the community, to give back, to be a leader.
How can you lead if you are so involved in doing? Being a board member offers the opportunity to create a vision of the impact of your organization. Governance issues; strategic plans; results measurement; performance indicators; these are the areas where a board should be spending its time.
Whether your organization has a board of directors, or a board of governors, governance is what it does. Governance relates to decisions that define expectations, grant power, or verify performance. Operations is how the organization does what it does. Far too many oganizations spend time working on their expectations but never assign those tasks or do not verify that the assigned task was actually accomplished. That is the area you as directors need to focus. That is leadership.
So take a cue from “The Chairman” and stop moving your own piano – delegate.
On those days when the “meniscus of whelm” is about to break and the more than filled glass of your life is about to breach the carefully structured tension that holds you together, stop, step back and look at what you do from the viewpoint of an outsider. “What am I doing to move forward?” “Wait a minute, where am I going?” “Where am I anyway?” (The tagline on my mobile phone, it always gets a smile.)
Chances are, if you are on a board of a membership organization you are not even getting paid to deal with this stress, so at times it can be even more stressful than your job. So when the song you cannot get out of your head begins to sound like “Once in a Lifetime” (Talking Heads)…
“You may ask yourself, what is that beautiful house?
You may ask yourself, where does that highway lead to?
You may ask yourself, am I right, am I wrong?
You may say to yourself, my god, what have I done?”
…take some time to talk with your peers. Take in a seminar or a workshop on a topic of interest. There are other points of view out there.