Saturday, September 1, 2012

3 Association Questions found at a Yard Sale

Prior to selling our house this week, we had a yard sale.  There are three questions we were asked by yard sale attendees that I believe are really relevant to association management too:

1.  Are the prices firm or flexible?  Clearly regular yard sale attendees like to know if there is flexibility in pricing.  I thought it was actually really easy for them to find out, just by asking.  Anytime you get a quote for anything, ask if it's "firm or flexible."  You might get a lower price just by asking.

2.  Do you have (fill in the blank)?  Several asked for very specific things they collect - such as glassware, vinyl records, and buttons.  It makes sense to always ask if someone has (fill in the blank) if you don't see it.  The best example is in meeting planning - if there is a special dessert, a type of sandwich, a buffet item, or even certain centerpieces you don't see anywhere in the meeting planner kit or banquet menus - ask if the facility has it or can do it.

3.  Would you sell (fill in the blank) for (fill in the blank)?  Someone asked to buy the lawnmower in our garage for a specific price.  We had not considered selling our lawnmower, but might have at a particular price.  If there is something you want to buy, make an offer to whoever has it - they might just say yes.  Or at least you'll know what price it would take for them to say yes.  For example, if you're at an event and would like to use or own something that organization has, offer to buy it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sample Invocation Policy for Associations

An association exec recently posted a sample ecumenical Invocation Policy on a listserve, that could be useful for others. Here it is:

"It is the policy of (insert association name) that if a prayer is used to open a (insert association name) meeting or event that it be a broad, inclusive invocation of faith that unifies rather than divides on the basis of religion and does not express a preference for one religion over another."

Monday, July 30, 2012

Ice Breaker: AE (Association Executives) Bingo

At an event today, there was a fun ice breaker event:  AE (Association Executives) Bingo.  There are 5 squares across, 5 squares down, and each indicates something that could apply to those attending - plus a free space in the middle (for your name.)  Attendees could only include a person's name ONCE on the grid - and the first to get a bingo was the winner.  Could also be done with black-out of entire grid to extend the game.

A great way to get to know something about others in the room.

Here is what the squares for this particular bingo game included: (applicable to REALTOR associations, but could easily be modified for others):

* Has increased their affiliate membership this year
* Has attended at least 10 AE workshops
* Is a REALTOR and an AE
* Has been an AE less than 2 years
* Has less than 200 members
* Had increased their non-dues revenue
* Has a president under 30 years old
* Is attending the NAR leadership summit
* Has their RCE
* Lived in more than 3 states
* Knows the name of The Landing mascot (I think this is an association website?)
* Has an indoor pet
* Free space - your name
* Has grandchildren
* Is attending the NAR Convention in Orlando
* Owns a boat or RV
* Has their EPro designation
* Sends thank you notes weekly
* Has uploaded their picture to The Landing
* Has more than 600 members
* Has an association that crosses a state border
* Is an RPAC Major Donor
* Office is located in the same town as the state association building
* Has taken an online course
* Has used a My REALTOR Party Resource

(Thanks to Missouri REALTOR Association Execs!)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Association thoughts on returning to the gym

I haven't gone to a gym regularly in years, maybe decades. But now I am going regularly.  A few thoughts on associations reflected through my gym ...

1. You have to improve. If you want results, whether it's with exercise or with association management, you really have to make the decision to improve.  Even if you only turn up the notch a little, turn it up.

2.  Success is painful.  The biggest accomplishments can take a lot of sweat and a lot of work.  Decide to own that at the outset, so when you start to sweat and you see it's a lot of work, you're really just confirming what you thought it would be like all along.

3. If there's something members need, put that right out front.  Often associations over-analyze why their members joined or they put the things the members aren't looking for in more prominent locations than what they are looking for.  My gym has a giant case of bottled water right out front - and it only costs $1.  Every time I walk in or leave I see exactly what appeals to me - the water.  Why spend valuable web or newsletter space overly promoting programs no one wants to attend when you could instead focus on or promote the things they all want?  And everything does not have to have a profit.  Sometimes if they're paying dues let them have something for a low price. 

4.  When you're interacting, look like you enjoy it.  Everyone at the front desk is cheerful all the time.  Enthusiastic greetings, waving goodbye.  Do you ever listen to staff complain while a member might be able to hear them - or bring gloomy attitudes into an interaction with a paid member?  That has to stop.  As the customer, I frown my way all the way to treadmill - but I do smile on the way in and on the way out.  Because gym staff still tried to make it cheerful.

5.  You really might not know how to do everything - take the time to ask.   All the things you do that you never actually ever had instruction to do - it's not too late.  Find out how to do something you do all the time the correct way.  Maybe there's a way to do it better, or save time, or get better results.  Your teacher might be another association executive who can help if you just take the time to ask, a personal trainer, or someone teaching a class.

6.  Hydrate.  Over a year ago I learned a big lesson about coffee and dehydration (note: if you don't already know this, coffee will dehydrate you.)  Drink more water and less coffee and see if you feel better.  You just might find you skin, your hair and your sleep patterns change too.  When you work, or you work out, be sure you hydrate.  I know someone who sets their phone alarm to remember to take a hydration break during the day.

7.  Don't take for granted that membership is really optional and it's an expense.  Whether it's a gym or an association, a member pays for membership.  You have to keep them interested or they can just walk away.  The long economic downturn keeps many people really predisposed to considering all their costs.  Don't take any membership for granted.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Add your press release to a blog ...

If you email or fax your association press release to the media, consider what else you should do with it:

1.  Post it to your association blog ... and include your blog address in the press release.  Add pictures of whoever you quote on your blog to make it easy for the media to grab a picture if they need one ... tell them pictures are there. By using pictures and names on a blog it makes those who are quoting findable in Google searches too.  Link to the business site of those you are quoting so the media (and others) can see their expertise.

2.  Post your blog link on Facebook ... and tag the ones you quote in the status.  Take every opportunity to give your volunteers additional recognition.  The tag will likely show up on their own Facebook page, which means their friends, family, business acquaintances, others will enjoy seeing their name/picture (and read your press release too.)

3. Post a super short summary on Twitter ... and include the link to the blog.  Add at least one hashtag to further promote your press release to the intended audience ... such as a #location.

And special thanks to a blog reader who sent me this to add ...

4. Send to other Associations.  If press release information extends to other industries or vendors who support your association, share the news. Many of your peers will pass the word to their memberships and help broaden your audience.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

3 Reasons to Trash Your Office

I've started the process of ridding my office of 24 years worth of "stuff" that has accumulated. I never should have waited this long ... Here are three reasons to trash your office ....

1. Space: Do you really need papers and files everywhere? How much of what is in your office is never going to be looked at again by anyone, for any reason? Take the time to go through every file and trash what needs to be trashed; put in master files what needs to be retained; or scan what can really be kept electronically. I even threw away 23 years of old calendars - no one is ever going to ask me what I did in April 1992.

2. Liability: Your attorney and CPA can confirm that it creates liability for your association to keep too many years of information you are not required to keep or "notes" from meetings that already have final minutes. If you've ever been subpoenaed, or know an association executive who has, it's the notes on the minutes that are as big a problem (if not a bigger problem) than the minutes themselves. Our fiduciary to our employer should ensure we aren't creating future liability by not just taking the time to destroy unnecessary old documents. 

3. Catharsis: It may breathe new life into your office, file cabinets and building to have the clutter go away. And saying a final goodbye to books, magazines, random conference swag, and notes you will never reference ever again has a cathartic quality too.

Helpful tips:

1. Identify a "Trash Your Office Day" where the entire staff is involved with going through bookshelves, filing cabinets, desk space, and even under their desks for what can be removed.

2. Trash your Storage Unit too! If you are not routinely shredding documents that are past the years you need to retain them, then go to your storage unit and do it now. One day of effort could save serious headaches and problems later.

3. Call the on-site shredders! You should never put old files out in your outside garbage bin. On-site shredders are far less expensive than you might think. They will drive right to your office (and storage facility!) and shred everything on site - so you don't need to worry who might dig through them. And remember, there is no hard drive that can be completely wiped of all history - so trash your old servers and hard drives too. They can do that on-site as well.
4.  Think electronically next - Every association needs a policy (and process) for deleting old email.  You should NOT be saving thousands or hundreds of thousands of emails that are unnecessary.  Check how to have email automatically delete if it is not otherwise intentionally filed.  And check those old electronic email files too - and delete unless it's really important to retain.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Association Meetings: Another breakfast option

At a recent association membership meeting (in a bank conference room), breakfast was a row of various breakfast pizzas (i.e., eggs instead of tomato sauce) and various whole fruit (oranges, grapes, bananas) - versus a continental with muffins or an expensive full breakfast. I thought it was an inexpensive option to catering - and very popular with the attendees.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Reusable Big Check

I was at a meeting yesterday where they used the SAME big check for presentations to two different organizations with two different amounts ... They just ERASED the check between uses. Was plenty professional for the photo opps too.

Details they provided: "I got the check for about $95 at It comes in different sizes and thicknesses; and you can add your own logo. We’ve used it several times, and it’s a lot more cost effective than $50 for a cardboard check from a printer although, obviously, the payee can’t take it home!"

Here's a photo:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How to Prepare for a Skype Interview

I am moving to Connecticut in a few months and for the first time in decades actually have to think about details related to a new job search, including preparing for an interview. I've been quizzing colleagues who have been interviewed on Skype to get their input about how to prepare for a Skype interview (should I ever have to do one), along with my own thoughts as a Skype user ...

1. Be a Skype user long before you actually have to use it for business so you know what you’re doing; get accustomed to seeing others and yourself on a screen in a conversation;

2. Be sure you know how to work the audio and microphone on your computer, and test them the day before and the day of the interview. Have step-by-step how-to instructions on index cards on how to reset audio and the microphone if necessary. Have a back up computer ready to go in the event you have a computer crash or disaster immediately prior to your interview time;

3. Practice with someone and record mock interviews on Skype. This will prepare you for how you want to position yourself for the interview. You won’t want your face to look distorted or take up the entire screen. If you’re a headset user, weigh sound quality against looking like you’re at a radio control center;

4. Consider use of other materials. Some who interview by Skype put sticky notes on their computer, index cards with key points on the table near the computer screen, or have notes on flip chart paper taped on the wall behind the computer. Be sure it’s not really obvious that you are referencing something;

5. Consider the background. What is on the wall and in the room behind you will be seen. Not a good time to show a liquor collection, unkempt counters/desks, or busy street outside a window;

6. Put your pets far away from the camera. I watched a Skype interview once where a cat jumped on the person’s shoulder in the middle of it. It’s also possible to hear dogs, babies and other sounds in the background; and for god’s sake unplug your telephone and turn off your blackberry or iPhone (which are bound to ring);

7. Have water available if you need it, but not too close to the computer keyboard;

8. Dress as if you are at a live interview, because you are. Certain jewelry that flashes may be more obvious and flashy on camera than in person. The search committee on the other end of your interview probably has you broadcast on a large screen - remember they will see every dark circle or flaw, so think about yourself magnified. Eye contact is important even with technology - so look as if you are making eye contact.

9. Like all interviews, listen to the question and answer it. People screw that up all the time, whether on Skype or not. If they give you a limited time for the interview, be mindful of it and plan accordingly when you answer questions – especially very open-ended ones;

10. And finally, technology can go wrong at the search committee site too. You can always offer to continue on a conference call, but those who were able to Skype are likely to have an advantage. It's okay to ask for another Skype interview.

Any tips you have that aren't included?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Office Technology: More to worry about

Are your meetings being watched via your videoconferencing equipment without your knowledge? An article in the New York Times gives that a big maybe. Apparently hackers can often easily get into those video conference systems - thus into the board rooms that host the equipment - and can then watch and listen to everything that happens in those rooms. The article also mentions that the US Chamber found that an IP address in China may have accessed them via an apartment thermostat and office printer. Seriously, did we need more office equipment to worry about?

Here are a few more things to think about:

1.) If someone who leaves in a board room during executive session, but an open laptop or activated device remains, could he/she (or someone remotely) be taping or listening to the discussion?

2.) If you don't collect devices before a hearing, could the parties listen in to the deliberation if an open phone line that remains in a room? (Note to REALTOR Association Execs - the Professional Standards manual has a section devoted to collecting devices at hearings)

3.) Could your presentations or meetings be taped via a phone or laptop without you expecting it? I was once asked after doing a presentation if it could be uploaded onto YouTube. I didn't even know I was being taped - it wasn't remotely obvious.

4.) Is your laptop set to prohibit remote access?

Remember the good old days when the only concern was whether office equipment worked or not ... Now we have to be suspicious of any equipment obvious or concealed in any meeting room too.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Creating Additional Value at a Committee Meeting (in 3 minutes or less)

If a committee meeting is adjourning early, do you (or should you) take 3 minutes for professional development?

At the end of a meeting, a chairman asked an attendee (before we adjourned) if she could tell the group in two minutes about the top two business apps she uses on her iPad. Two others gave their top app too. It all took a total of about 3 minutes. Everyone was writing the info down (including me); and when we reconvened the next day the pre-meeting chat was all about those apps.

Sometimes we miss easy opportunities to learn from each other - even if only a 3 minute burst of opportunity. If the meeting was ending on time, or heaven forbid running over, it's not appropriate to extend for any reason. And had it been more than 3 minutes I'm not sure that would have been fair to the group either - as so totally off-topic. But it was short, and great.

I thought that was 3 minutes well spent; and definitely of interest to those who attended. The chairman knew she taught a class on that topic, and we all benefited from her knowledge and presence unexpectedly.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Your Association Staff: The Beneficiary Check

Do you have any idea who you designated as the beneficiary on the life insurance policy provided by your association? Do your employees still remember who they designated?

Many years ago, an association employee passed away and one of her children called because the family was really surprised about the beneficiary to her life insurance policy - it was totally inconsistent with everything else noted in the will. But it didn't matter - the beneficiary is the beneficiary; and the determination was between the insurance company and the employee.

Especially with longtime employees who may have had significant life changes during their many years of employment, one thought may never have been to check or change the beneficiary on the life insurance policy provided by the association. Wouldn't it be a big surprise to an ex-husband or a nephew to later find they are the beneficiary of an insurance policy because the employee never changed that information?

Contact your association's life insurance provider and ask to provide beneficiary change forms to provide to your staff - or ask if there is a number employees can call to verify who they may have designated.

Employees really don't think to make that change when their life has changed.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Reminder Note ...

If you really need to remember to do something after work or when you leave the office - write it on a post-in note and staple it around a purse, bag or briefcase handle. It's harder to miss than other ways you may leave a note.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

6 Reasons your Association should Sponsor a Sports Program

The association that is our Connecticut counterpart is a sponsor of a Division I University's basketball games. There are 6 reasons they do it ... that are each good reasons for you to consider sponsoring a team/program in your area/state too:

1. Popular tickets for fundraising events and/or prizes: Their sponsorship includes season tickets to the men's and women's home basketball games. Those have been used as prizes at meeting/events and for fundraising efforts (like their scholarship fund and Foundation.)

2. Way to support local association events: Their season tickets are shared with their local boards for them to use as prizes or for fundraising efforts on the local level. (They say this alone has been "an awesome benefit.")

3. Member Appreciation Days - and Member Savings: They are also able to offer "Member Appreciation Days" at select football and basketball games - with tickets available to members for as low as $10. Members have saved several thousands of dollars from regular ticket prices. Plus, members have fun.

4. Public Announcements with Key Messages: They have two public announcements during basketball games at the large home game arena that are tied to their public relations campaign theme; along with a video board display during the announcements. They have the same thing at the campus arena, but also two signs over the tunnels with their public relations campaign logo.

5. Supporting a State University: Members feel good about providing support to a state university program.

6. Target Demographic/Audience for PR Campaign Message: They found it's a great opportunity to reach an important target audience with their target message ... specifically, the young people who attend these games, the school alumni and fans; as well as the visiting team's students, alumni and fans.

Special thanks to Beth Mecteau at the CT Association of REALTORS for providing all this great info ...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Take 15 minutes: What's going on with those links?

Our association (like many others) offered membership web pages so they'd have a "presence on the Internet" - back when we were collectively first learning about email and the Internet. We'd take photos at membership meetings to add to their page and provide guidance on how to update personal info on that page. The good: there was a lot of content put on those sites. The bad: some of it didn't get updated again ... so flash forward, we have all sorts of pictures of members that now look like high school photos; and information they put about themselves 10 or 15 years ago pretty much froze in time. The (maybe) ugly: the public can find how outdated it is too.

Recently I checked out the blogroll and links on our association blog and site. Yikes. Did the weeks turn into months turn into years - and all those sites and blogs are now gone? It took minutes for me to remove them - but how long were they wrong?!

Have you checked out the content on your association sites to see what really needs to be removed or updated; and how many links referenced in documents are long gone?

Set aside just 15 minutes today and look at all your association Internet sites. Find what you can delete now that needs to go, and just do it. Identify who is going to go through the rest of your links and site content to update, remove or educate about it.

Things have changed in the past 15 years - and some of your blogroll, links and content likely needs to change too. Although I sort of like my former professional picture (above) ... it's not exactly current.