Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Move the dog dish - traditions, change and 18 gifts

Traditions (including in associations) approached different ways - something to embrace, something don't like but can't change, or non-existent so options open. An example, Thanksgiving. Grew up in Miami and typically went to race track on Thanksgiving; my husband has exact same relative's home, same dinner annually. Even when no one knows origin of no salad and always peppermint ice cream, can be difficult to suggest change when traditions exist. Sometimes traditions only make sense to those who lived them year after year, and not others.

There's occasional blog comment around concept WHADITW (we have always done it that way). Many associations may face declining memberships - and declining budgets - for first time in more than decade. How much expenditures in time and money exist because WHADITW?

Two examples of traditions - association holiday cards and board of directors gifts. In poll of state associations, found 50% send holiday cards and 50% don't. Is it meaningful to receive cards with pre-printed names inside and labels outside? Do you feel differently about organizations/vendors that send you holiday card versus those who don't? Does anyone notice. If you don't care if you receive cards, does it matter if you send them. With budget focus, could ornate card be considered frivolous versus necessary - if not eliminated, could holiday thoughts be on postcard instead? Would a hand-written note or email mean more?

Board of Directors gifts also interesting tradition or non-tradition. Two-thirds of organizations I manage don't give any (and never have), other third do give (and maybe always have). One thought is money can be used other ways; other is it's necessary token of appreciation.

Here's list of 18 gifts given to Boards of Directors (range $1-$75/pp):
1. Raffle ticket ($1)
2. Certificate for ham/turkey
3. Lapel pin
4. Paperweight
5. Scarf - fleece, knit, wool, cashmere
6. Ornament
7. Pen
8. Business card holder
9. Canvas briefcase/tote
10. Wreath (delivered)
11. Centerpiece (delivered)
12. Gift card ($10 - Dunkin Donuts, $25 - Staples, $50 - gasoline)
13. Pedometer
14. Fleece vest/jacket
15. Flashlight/first aid kit
16. License plate frame
17. Picture frame
18. Mug (or other item) with picture/logo

Once gifts start, they may be tradition. What happens when one president hands out gifts, next one thinks no? Is eliminating sign of not appreciating volunteerism or recognition other ways to use limited funds? Maybe less expensive options.

About a month ago my 4 year old terrier, Baxter (pic) decided he didn't want to eat in the kitchen anymore, instead preferring his dish be on the carpet in the dining room. He stands on carpet at dinner time, even if bowl already down in kitchen; and when gets treats, marches them onto the carpet and eats them there. So now gets his bowl on the dining room carpet. I could have made him do what traditionally dogs do -- but sometimes it's good to move the dog dish. Traditional approaches may need to move. Budgets may need to move, and first place to start may be things that only continue because of tradition versus actual preference.

Reason to be thankful: that whatever members, budgets, ideas there are, opportunities exist in associations. With change or no change, destiny is being shaped. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

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