Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The one billion dollar promise

Today's "Oprah" guests included Nancy Brinker, the woman who founded the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation; in memory of her sister Suzy who died at age 33 of breast cancer. Nancy explained that in 1978 few would even say the word "breast" publicly, there weren't support groups, 800 numbers, the Internet - but worse many knew so little about it there were fears it was an "automatic death sentence" or might be contagious.

Nancy promised her sister she would fight so other families would not have to go through it too. When asked by Oprah how she came up with the idea of the race and pink - she said, "I was in marketing." At the first race she had a mammogram machine and breast cancer survivors so that it could change the image of what the test is and remind everyone there are many survivors. Isn't that genius? The first race had 800, then spread nationwide and internationally.

Since that first race over $1 billion has been raised through the foundation for breast cancer research.

One woman who made a promise, and then used her talents to grow something as significant as the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. Many talents we use in our professions all the time can be used with organizations that work towards change, hope and cures.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Do regular self-exams and have mammograms. It can save your life. And don't make excuses not to do it - some huge percentage of women routinely reschedule and cancel them. I hate them too (had to stretch out on a stretcher after my last one with all my anxiety) - but do it anyway. You're worth a billion dollars to someone too.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Association Decisions and the Dilemma of Change

Who can forget the big moment in the movie "Dirty Dancing" when Neal suggests they experiment with the Pachanga as the final dance of the season at Kellerman's, when Johnny wants to try his moves instead? Don't we have those type dilemmas in associations all the time?

Should we play the type music we always play at conventions (even as the demographics still strongly support it)? Are the installations and oath the same as always? Is the order of events endearing due to their predictability or out-dated? What happens if Johnny wants to try new moves? Do we do this, or that?

And, special analogy for those who watch the movie: Can we let Baby out of the corner, or does change mean just trying the Pachanga?

Whatever decision, chances are likely someone's going to be unhappy (not like the movies). The problem with change in associations - especially if it breaks tradition - is that many may like the tradition as that is what draws them to return, where others want change as that could draw them to return. Any decision is right, and wrong.

It's like the expression, "listen to the members." That only works if they're all saying the same thing. If the organization doesn't do what one group wants you're "not listening," but for the other group you "are listening" because the organization went in the direction they desired.

Can you have this dance? Sure. Which one?

Friday, September 26, 2008

I Screwed Up (Sorry ASAE)

About an hour ago I did a post that said I got an email from ASAE - but it was instead a company that I THOUGHT was them. I revised my post to remove their name and apologize to all with RSS who got the misinformation before I got corrected. The comments in my post remain, but originally directed at wrong organization.

Thank goodness there's a blog audience to correct screw-ups.

How depressing is this report?

[CORRECTION: I had the wrong sender of the Report organization noted in the original version of this post, so the organization name is now removed. Apologies for that error the first time.]

While looking at what to cut or freeze in my budget, I got an email from a company saying they're reporting on the "Top Places to Work in Associations and Nonprofits." Here's a sample of "top picks" benefits noted ...

"90 days of paid time-off for new mothers and fathers
A four-week sabbatical
Employer-paid health care coverage the whole family
A 17 percent retirement contribution
Five weeks of vacation in the first year of employment"

The email states: "Some of the benefits and perks are simply incredible." Um, I agree.

Even if it's an annual report, is this the right message to send out to the association community in a down economy? I hope I'm wrong, but why do I have certainty we're going to see a big list of national associations in big cities with large staffs that get these kind of benefits? It's the type of message that is routinely discouraging to those of us who run medium or small associations in state and local associations or chapters. Even recognizing that in big cities those level of benefits may be necessary to compete for and retain skilled employees - even against other associations and nonprofits.

There are many association executives in very small organizations (1-2 person staff) who struggle to even get a partial subsidy of their own health insurance, any vacation time, or any type of contribution to a pension plan.

Additionally, I'm not sure there's any association that should be eager to spotlight how generous they may be at this point in time. Although there are state laws that may mandate family leave policies (paid vs. unpaid, length of time, based on number of employees) so on that one it's tough to differentiate what is following a legal requirement for corporations in a particular state vs. voluntary benefit.

As an association community we HAVE to figure out how to change the lack or minimal benefits in MANY associations and nonprofits - but a focus on the extreme hurts everyone in my opinion. And supposedly there are more "extraordinary perks" noted in the upcoming report. There sure better not be any gold-plated bathroom faucets in there.

Separately, I'd put my own association in the "Top Places to Work" department, but that's because of the right focus, expertise and innovation of the officers and directors, and the types of things we accomplish on behalf of the industry. I hope there's a category for that. Isn't that why we really work for associations when we COULD work anywhere else? Yes, association employees absolutely need benefits too - but focus on how to provide or expand for all, not just cheering the top.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Word of the Day: Daylighting

Check out CNN.com's article about "daylighting" - a practice of having two careers at once. In the same shift, with the employer either knowing about it OR not knowing about it.

I'd guess increasingly offices have many variations on this theme ... eBay "career people" ... those who spend vast amounts of time during a workday "building their [other] business" using social media ... or just a full-fledged second job, simultaneously. The reason (obvious): Income.

Word of the day: Daylighting

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Random thoughts from the road

Maybe women have always worn the "Sarah Palin" hairstyle, but I'm only now noticing it at various airports. And I know we apparently aren't "allowed" to talk candidate/elected official hair, or it's some sign of disengagement in real issues, but ....

Stayed at a "modern" hotel ... the Intercontinental at O'Hare ... and it had lots and lots of things to appear to be modern ... like little fake sculpture birds on a rod on the wall (pictured - something different to look at) ... and cool lamps ... but the shower didn't have a complete door (we all compared notes at the meeting on if the floor ended up wet or not) and the sink/counter more difficult to manage than regular bathrooms. And wireless for $12.95 a night is not modern. Above all, a really comfortable hotel with good food in the meeting room ... and at least the sleeping room HAD wireless AND it worked in the meeting room. A big pet peeve of mine is when I pay for wireless in a sleeping room and then it doesn't count/work in the meeting room (i.e., wants separate fee.)

Have you found anything unique during business travel lately?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Creating Balance: Bobby, do ya love me?

Among the songs I heard on XM radio driving 12 hours on Saturday was Bobby Sherman's "Julie, Do Ya Love Me". When I was 11 years old I didn't think it was possible to love someone more than I loved Bobby Sherman -- sleepover parties had one topic (Bobby versus David) with their pictures under our pillows, I'd wait for each issue of "Tiger Beat" to find out details like what his favorite color is, carried a lunch box with his picture, and instead of Julie sang "Bobby, Do Ya Love Me."

Before our lives become complicated there's such freedom to spend time doing mainly what we love or focused on what we love. As we grow in overload and responsibilities, it's really easy to never have time, or be able to read ridiculous magazines instead of something that's supposed to be relevant, or be able to spend a whole day doing only one thing.

There was sooooooo much work I could have done yesterday - things that need to be done, and literally a hundred emails to answer .... or I could drive several states away to watch my daughter play college field hockey.

The answer: the only way to really have balance is to decide to have more balance. It certainly doesn't just happen. Find time.

And if you need to be reminded, you can get a "Julie, Do Ya Love Me" ringtone.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Quote of the Day

Asked a colleague for advice today. His response: "The juice isn't worth the squeeze".

Quote of the day.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How to be remembered during business travel

I saw this on the news tonight, then read about it. Oh. My. God. Think other business travelers will wonder who is in the portable "mini motel" tent? But for $49, it also includes an air mattress, pillow and reading light, fits in a laptop case - and might be a gift for the person you think has everything. And what's the deal with orange? So other travelers won't trip over you?

Picture: Jonathan Cohen, New York Times

Monday, September 15, 2008

Social media and online technology: This is nothing (and something) to spit at

Before I get to the spitting, here's the quote of the day: "Would the conversation have been as lively — or occurred at all — if everyone knew their bosses, customers and colleagues were watching?"

3 fascinating articles in the New York Times:

1. WSJ.com decides to launch "community" comments on all its online articles for its million online paid subscribers. So you actually know the credentials of those who are posting because it requires real identity. How's that for a novel idea - no more pretend experts and a real idea about who it is who is providing advice and insight. Notable details: a) notes that Fast Company magazine found its readers actually didn't want conversation; b) WSJ working with Facebook and LinkedIn to develop "portable profiles"; c) concern that it will be so "proper" that won't get participation; and d) it's the "bosses, customers and colleagues" who "might be watching" that likely keep the masses from posting comments on sites.

2. (Free) Online textbooks. With a daughter in college, this topic always gets my attention. Especially since she only paid $179 for mainly online books this semester (compared with the $700/year I paid at her high school for books.) Notable details: a) professors can make $100k advance for authoring a text that then sells for $200/book; b) you can be successful both ways - allowing free downloads and cutting a deal with print on demand vendors (for $11 -$59/copy); c) expanded use of Creative Commons license that allows students and teachers to "mash up" material as long as they give original author credit; and d) reality that most books will still have an authorship model.

3. "Spit Party" - DNA results with added social media connections. You'd have to read it to believe it. A party where people spit into test tubes and then share their DNA results and connect in social media with others predisposed to certain things (... "You are invited to join the group Slow Caffeine Metabolizers.") Sheesh. And I thought pictures of partying association executives posted on the web were going to get people into trouble with their members and potential future employers. How about sharing your DNA results with the world or your social media BFFs? And there's a concept of "confidential sharing" of results. Right. And reminiscent of high school genetics class, you'll learn Barry Diller can't roll his tongue, but Anderson Cooper can twirl his "into a complicated four-leaf clover". That is now my forever image of Anderson. I'm mad I read this article.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Being prepared at home too

Are you prepared for anything? Including at home? Tonight the power went out in our neighborhood. My son and I were the only ones home and couldn't find anything. The matches from my wedding 21 years ago wouldn't work (we still have a box of them - isn't it amazing that used to be a wedding favor?), the fireplace/candle lighter wouldn't ignite, the flashlights couldn't be found. We used our cell phones and laptops for light. And I finally remembered we keep flashlights in the cars and suitcases. For auto and travel emergencies.

Of course my son was barraged with text messages from his friends about the power (I got none). Our power company has a way to check to see the status of outages on any street in a town - which I can check from my Blackberry.

The local newspaper had an article today on filling a storage bin full of things for a short-term emergency supply kit at home (including radio, water and boxed food items). I scanned the list but didn't really think enough about it. Tomorrow I'm doing it.

Are you sure you can find your flashlights? Are you prepared for an emergency at home too?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Golf tournament (and other) sponsor appreciation

Saw a great example of how to thank golf tournament sponsors today. A volunteer went from hole to hole and took digital pictures of each team, each individual, and each sign on a hole indicating the sponsor. Following the event, the pictures were put on card stock - and each sponsor got a picture of the team sponsored or hole sponsored; and each player got a picture too. On the reverse was a thank you note, info about total raised, and how it was being used. This was put in an envelope, but might be easy to produce as a postcard too.

Really inexpensive but personalized way to say thank you to sponsors.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

An Association's Facebook Connection

I arrived for a meeting just as another meeting was ending today. The local president introduced me to one of the committee members: "We first met on Facebook, she said she wanted to get involved, so I appointed her to this committee."

This is how social media can be used to identify association members willing to participate. But it may take people with power being present to make those connections. And are they present?

Maybe we should ask Presidents to appoint at least 3 members to committees during the year that they only know from a social media site?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Word of Mouth: 3 Articles to Think About

A few WOM (Word of Mouth) articles to think about ....

1. Fundraising: A college kid has raised $6,000 from 2,000 people to help pay his NYU tuition. He's hoping 10,000 friends and "friends of friends" will donate $2.50 each via PayPal or sending a check in the mail. Figuring out how to get our friends to sell our ideas or fundraising effort to their friends (word of mouth) should be a big component of future advocacy and philanthropic efforts.

2. Marketing: JetBlue has put 300 flights to 20 destinations, including 4 "mystery" vacation packages (find out where when auction ends), on eBay. The reason - "valuable word of mouth advertising". I completely love the idea of mystery trips so immediately went and checked it out (bidding already over $2K and $3K on those). Each item sells JetBlue in the process (describes the seats, legroom, coffee, multiple channels to watch, etc.) - along with the "fun" of travel. They expect to get 85% of flight value on the trips so it's low cost to do. Can associations use more sites to "get noticed" too?

3. Gaming and Social Media: There's thought that with so many gamers more associations are going to get into gaming. And with so many socializing on social media that surely that will deeply expand into the association space too. So I howled at this article entitled, "How to Get your Girlfriend into Gaming" - with advice like "don't be a jerk" and "don't make her play Halo". Is this potentially the problem with social media and association members too - do they try it and decide there are too many jerks and/or they really just don't want to play? Sometimes it doesn't take word of mouth to know what you like and don't like.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

When a terrier lands on a keyboard (seriously)

A modern day alternative to "my dog ate my homework": My dog took the letters R, F and G.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Hey, here comes the bride

I was working on a report and realized I was really watching a show about women selecting wedding gowns called "Say Yes to the Dress." It's really incredible how dramatically different something along the exact same theme (white wedding dress) can be to each individual bride.

And I was completely relating to the wedding dress consultants:

1. Listen to the bride. Listen to the members. Guess what? They don't want the same thing. Sure, they want a long white dress. It's always the details.
2. What's your budget? At the end of the day, they will pay for what they really want. Any budget number can magically "work" when there's something that genuinely excites a bride - or an association.
3. What they say they want is often entirely different from what they end up loving (or they know exactly what they want). The wedding dress consultant will say, "please, just try this" or "I think I have what is perfect for you". Don't we do that too? Sometimes it takes showing the members, and asking them to try it on. Not just describing. BUT ... s
ometimes when they say exactly what they want, they mean it.
And if the dress seems bad to the consultant, but the bride really loves it - hey, here comes the bride. The bride's the one who has to wear it. I get that too.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Notable Headline: Authentic Endorsements

I really, really like a post that Ann Oliveri wrote on "authentic endorsements." Focuses on a WSJ story about how women let Chico's know they identified with Debbie Phelps (mother of Michael Phelps), who was wearing their clothes at the Olympics. Debbie wears Chico's clothes because she loves their clothes. It's authentic.

And Ann gives these questions for organizations:

1. What do we do to build loyalty?
2. "Are you overlooking authentic endorsements? Real members with their own 15 minutes of fame in public settings?
3. Do you use media 'clipping' services to justify your work or do you celebrate members' recognition as expert sources even when your association isn't mentioned by name?
4. How many celebrities have a family connection to your association, your issue?"

I believe we need to do a better job with these concepts, because there are remarkable connections and authentic endorsements. And we can do more to highlight them. As example, my association asked 2 members who are participating in the national political conventions to blog about the experience, from the perspective of being in our industry. A chance to be authentic.

Separately, a bonus to writing a blog is readers will send random comments and even pictures related to any given post I may write. Since I wrote about Debbie Phelps earlier, got a Michael Phelps "celebrity connection" - a kid in the picture (blond hair, brown shoes) is consultant Jerry Matthews' 9-year old grandson Alex, a Florida swimmer selected to march with Michael Phelps in last week's DisneyWorld Homecoming Parade. If you see Alex in the Olympics 8 years from now, remember, you saw him here first ...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Association Exec: An "Encore Career"?

Philanthropy News Digest reports a study that 75% of boomers are likely to work well beyond what was once considered a traditional retirement age, with many trading in their corporate jobs for nonprofit work. Is senior level association management an "encore career" for the corporate executive who wants a meaningful next step? (I'd guess yes.)

A notable quote: "But making the move to the nonprofit world isn't always easy; the pay can be less and the hours longer than what many were used to in the corporate world. According to Center for Nonprofit Management president Cynthia Nunn, nonprofits need to step up their recruitment efforts and offer perks, such as four-day workweeks and telecommuting, for workers who want second careers that give them the flexibility to pursue other interests."

To me the obvious question is how did we manage to have lower pay AND longer hours than the corporate world? And could a greater influx from the corporate boomers into senior association positions change that?

What do association execs do for an encore?