Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Feng Shui Tip

Our conference director gave me a Feng Shui calendar when I first started working here. Here's one from February 24 I thought I could give a try: Enhance your money luck by planting in the SE (wealth) area of your garden or yard, any vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants that you hope to sell or submit to a competition.

That area in my yard is really shady, but maybe I can specialize in hostas and grow some award-winners.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Membership Marketing Director

Here's a job description I came across when I was doing some research trying to figure out how I can best do my job. I think it came from ASAE, but if you know where it came from, feel free to let me know.

Position Description

Basic functions: Develops and maintains membership in the association, directs service programs for members and interprets profession- and/or industry-wide marketing information.

Job requirements: Experience in the development of direct mail pieces and statistical analysis. Good writing skills, ability to speak in front of groups, ability to develop and maintain budget effectively. Ability to manage people and write departmental policies. Should have strong organizational skills such as planning and forecasting. Knowledge of computer systems management and knowledge of telemarketing techniques useful.

Specific Responsibilities:

1. Develops and administers a process for identifying, recruiting and registering potential members.

2. Ensures maintenance of membership records in sufficient detail to support communications and research.

3. Ensures that the membership directory is complied in cooperations with publications department.

4. Publishes periodic reports on membership status and membership development.

5. Analyzes the membership and recommends steps for retention and expansion.

6. Serves as a point of contact for individual members seeking information or assistance on membership.

7. Supplies information for member billings and subscriptions and other services to members.

8. Develops, monitors and controls department budget.

9. Identifies trends in the profession/trade and prepares forecasts.

10. Responsible for formal and information evaluations and assessments.

11. Determines potential membership population through research.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

How long do I keep this stuff?

I developed this over the course of some other work I'm doing. I found that I needed to distill the very (overly?) comprehensive documents out there. Of course this is not comprehensive, however, if you use a boilerplate policy, you’ll find yourself bogged in in how long to keep your supply chain FIFO documents. Most small organizations don’t get into this level of complexity.

Financial records, 7 years. Pretty much everything related to routine money maintenance is kept for this period. This extends to any kind of contract or lease. If space is scarce, look into scanning your old papers. This will help focus you on what’s important and what’s not. And computer memory is cheaper than real estate! If you have developed charts of accounts or depreciation schedules, you should keep those forever. Ditto for depreciation schedules, bills of sale and end-of-year financial statements.

Keep any insurance information or legal information for 7 years.

Keep employment applications and post-termination employee records for a period of three years.

Keep your routine correspondence for 1 year. That means you get to have a purge fest once a year. Try lighting a fire and burning an effigy.

Keep anything foundational forever. By this I mean Articles of Incorporation, Charters, Bylaws (each version should be kept), IRS determination letters that prove nonprofit status, etc. If you don’t have these you should do a little research and recreate them. For example, the Articles of Incorporation can be found on file with your state’s Secretary of State.


Monday, February 20, 2006

Why do people join associations?

As Ben mentioned, I've been involved in the ASAE supertrend convo happening in the little online spheriod called Icohere. That's a scary name, isn't it? Be that as it may, the convo, along with what I've got going in the job they actually pay me to work on have got me thinking about how to supercharge the whole membership scenario, and I've been going to school on how to make something happen.

So these bits of information come from what I've liberally summarized from an ASAE publication based on a survey done in 1986, called The Decision to Join. Although that's now 20 (!) years ago, I can't imagine the reasons have changed all that much. Most of this stuff seems pretty darn fresh. You know, one thing that I see in reviewing ASAE's print products is that you see a lot of ahistoricity. Like, the problems we face are always the same, like the sky is falling. Yet everyone's still here. I'd like to see some kind of longitudinal study that addresses whether associations as an industry have made progress or not. Or does it just follow along with the trades and/or professions that we represent? Anyway, now on to business:

Four reasons people join associations:

1. Specific association services. These would be things like newsletters, magazines and also things like lobbying or representation. People also seem to dig trade shows and ranked that up there among things they value.

2. Professional or business gain. If you're a member of a trade association (an association whose members are companies or institutions), then you'll join because of the marketplace-like environment. If you're in a professional association (an association whose members are individuals, and practitioners of a certain profession) then you'll join because of the individual cachet you get, the networking opportunities, and the opportunities for career advancement.

3. The association's image. The association is big and visible and projects quality.

4. Benefit to the industry or profession. People want to be in a position of influencing the direction of the organization and/or industry.

What do people like their associations to do?

1. Professional members dig educational programs [ed. this is probably less true now than when the survey was published].

2. Government relations matters most to trade types.

3. Everyone likes a friend. Peer contacts are a crowd-pleaser to everyone.

Why do people continue their memberships?

1. Peer pressure (just say no, right?) and the need to know. Some groups are lucky in this because state laws or other structures require continuing maintenance of one's professional knowledge.

2. Association performance and professional loyalty. People feel obligated to the association because they benefit from its work.

3. Trade folks are more outcome-oriented (surprise, surprise). Not that this is a bad thing. Outcomes can cover a multitude of sins. Or something like that.

Why don't people join associations?

1. No perceived personal benefit. "I'm not a joiner." And, "I hate meetings." I take your point.

2. Disillusionment with past memberships. People disagree with association priorities or the way associations spend dues money.

What can we do to get more people to join?

1. Clearly define benefits. We discussed this specifically during the Supertrend conversation. The upshot was that we need to tell people how much $$ they can make by being active in the association world. To me, this makes good sense, given the general societal trends (I'm thinking of The New Job Security here) and given what it takes to have a successful career these days.

2. Greater responsiveness and upgraded services. One thing the survey cites is less of a focus on social stuff. The guy they quote says: "If I want to eat a good dinner, I can choose my own time and place." Again, point taken.

3. New approaches to industry problems. "A few respondents said they will not join the association until it takes a more informed and realistic approach to industry and member problems." Hard to argue with that one.

UPDATE: Ben was good enough to send me two resources that build on this. This one is from the NY Society of CPAs, and the writer comments on this study. Another, more lengthy, entitled Will Demographic Trends Transform Association Membership?, is very comprehensive. It comes from the Center for Association Leadership.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Affluent Society

This book is a classic econ treatise by John Kenneth Galbraith, who was a presidential advisor to many in the middle of the last century. Although Galbraith is considered a liberal thinker, the book is such an historical artifact that that doesn't show much given the current state of world affairs. Apparently this book gave rise to the term "conventional wisdom."

Anyway, I pushed "publish" instead of save, so this got out before I wanted it to. And now, I've lost interest with it. I started to read some meta-commentary, and that only made it worse. I'm not having patience today, so go have a look at it on Amazon and see what you think.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Organizing Your Life

I'm writing an article about organization for ASAE's magazine. One of the resources I looked at that I thought would be of general interest was Georgene Lockwood's Compleat Idiot's Guide to Organizing Your Life. The book goes into lots of detail, from organizing your stuff to balancing your checkbook. It's very general, and I didn't use it much aside from my initial research. However, I want to recap here her "Ten Laws of Stuff":
1. Stuff breeds. The more you have the more you need.
2. The useless stuff crowds out the good stuff.
3. Dust, bugs, rodents and moisture all love stuff.
4. Stuff tends to stay where it lands.
5. Stuff expands to fit the space available.
6. Over time stuff becomes invisible.
7. Stuff costs you money more than once.
8. Stuff has a powerful effect on your state of mind.
9. Stuff takes value only when it is used.
10. Stuff doesn’t make you happy, you do!

These I've found to be true, and thus of general interest!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Creating community...

I know Guy Kawasaki is like this instant internet celebrity and like a million people are probably linking him, but I wanted to reference this "Art of Creating Community" post because it's so applicable to what we do in associations. It *is* what we do in associations. In particular this is my job!
Assign one person the task of building a community. Sure, many employees would like to build a community, but who wakes up every day with this task at the top of her list of priorities? Another way to look at this is, “Who’s going to get fired if she doesn’t build a community?” A community needs a champion—an identifiable hero and inspiration—from within the company to carry the flag for the community. Therefore, hire one less MBA and allocate this headcount to a community champion. This is a twofer: one less MBA and one great community.
Does this mean I'm accountable now? ;')

Leadership and the Problem of Bogus Empowerment

Blogging has been fairly light. I'm quite bogged down in administrivia, so I'm hoping to surface from that one of these days. However, we all know how that goes long term...

Anyway, I wanted to sit down and write my notes about a lecture I listened to in my car which is called Leadership and the Problem of Bogus Empowerment. The lecture was from the Chatauqua series, and was by a Richmond University biz professor called Joanne B. Ciulla. She had many good points, and the link above is pretty much the same text as the one I listened to. She was engaging and a good speaker.

Regarding the substance of the talk, like I said, there was much I found to agree with. The problem of bogus empowerment pretty much sums it up: you can't claim to empower people and then not do it. A lot of the examples of employer-as-body-snatcher were funny.

I think, however, that this is not very forward-looking, and maybe that's just because the material is going on ten years old. But, as a comp lit professor of mine said, things should stand the "tooth of time." (Who knows who he was quoting.) Not very forward-looking, like I said, because she's very focused on the big, bad company. Not a lot of room for personal responsibility there, not a lot of faith in humanity. Which I think is bad.

Also, she comes off schizophrenic in her views on the utility of labor unions (background). In my opinion, unions have been very necessary in the past to get our society where it is. In the future, they may be very necessary again, and we definitely are in need of protective labor legislation. But there's no denying that older companies tied to the union model are not supple and are not competetive. They are also failing in huge numbers. She was kind of pollyanna-ish on this issue, trying to sidestep those failure rates, etc. During the question and answer period this came out quite a lot as questioners attempted so suck up to her.

Not to bash her talk, I thought in the ensemble it was quite interesting, and I learned the acronym BOHICA.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Nonprofit growth

This article is from the San Jose Mercury News. It talks about the growth of nonprofits over the last decade. While the content is somewhat local in nature, it does bear reading as it's almost certainly representative of the sector in general. This reminds me of the lecture I listened to where Diana Aviv also references new entrepreneurial nonprofit types. Although, as I mentioned before, Carnegie I think was the first to do that, and that's been quite a while.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Association Mag Review: CIO Executive Council

The second in my series on association publications, this time I'm doing the CIO Executive Council's magazine which is called, appropriately enough, CIO. The article I focused on was a pretty good one that focused on strategic partnerships. Here's a graphic that illustrates the issue. I thought the magazine was very well done and pretty slick. The production quality was seriously like Newsweek.

Anyway, the piece featured Campbell Soup's CIO, a woman called Doreen Wright. Here's a case study of the issue from IBM themselves. Anyhow, the article was pretty good--but it made partnering sound pretty scary--at least that was my takeaway. Apparently "strategic partnerships" fail like 50% of the time. Above is a graphic that covers some of the issues one needs to look out for.

Not being a member of the Executive Council, I thought the magazine did a good job of covering current issues in the field and talking about big-picture stuff. I'm not sure how I would feel if I were in a smaller organization, it was fairly focused on Fortune 500 types of issues--maybe that's their overwhelmingly predominant demo. The other thing I noticed is that there weren't many plugs for membership, and the sense of community was not there, it was pretty advertiser driven. I wonder if they sell a lot of subscriptions to nonmembers. Would be interesting to find out.

Fortune cookie...

About me

I haven't known quite how to do this for awhile, but here goes. My name is Nick Senzee. I live in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC, where I've lived for four years. I like it here. I am originally from Kansas City, Missouri.

I earned my Bachelor's and Master's degrees in French and Francophone literatures from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Although Utah is in the mountains, I never learned to ski while I was there. I think it was a combination of limited cash flow as well as fear of skiing with my black-diamond friends. Provo was great, but after awhile my wife and I decided it was time for adventure. Since we got our degrees in French, we decided to do something very French and move to the capital to make our fortunes (like so many Balzac heros and heroines before us).

I studied French because, well, I speak it pretty good. After my degree was over with, I figured out I wasn't very good at doing postmodern readings of texts I didn't care about. Also I had to hide the fact that it was all kind of stupid. (No offense, former profs, I love you all). So I decided to get a job, which DC was willing to help me out with. Thus begins my affair with association management.

I started working for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy as their "Division Affairs Manager," which other people would call "Chapter Relations." I learned a lot in the position, and the best part was working with all these wonderful therapists. I would come home from a conference and feel really good about myself. When it was time to move on from AAMFT, I went to the Alpha-1 Association, a patient-advocacy organization for individuals with a rare disease.

After a brief stint as membership director for the Color Marketing Group (a professional association for designers who, among other things, forecast color trends), I came to work at a larger healthcare professional association in Alexandria, Virginia. I am active in the American Society for Association Executives (ASAE). I have written a piece for their trade magazine and for the chapter relations newsletter, played a small part in their environmental scanning conversations and educational development. And I enjoy making connections with other professionals in Association Management. It's generally good fun.

For me, association management is a good fit for a career because I get the opportunity to do lots of different things each day. It's people-intensive, so it doesn't get boring very often. And I've had the opportunity to learn more about the workings of the federal and state governments, as well as to do lots of work with Canadians (always fun, since I speak French with a PQ brogue) and other cultures as well through my fairly short career.

For fun, I like to putter. This means keeping in touch with friends, gardening and working around the house, etc. I like to read, mostly nonfiction. I also like to work out and go running when I'm motivated. (Don't ask me to explain that.) I also sometimes enjoy writing and I have several book and article ideas that I work on whenever I'm feeling manic.

Elements of Graphic Design, Chapter 1

My library trip has been postponed due to the snow in our nation's capital. So I've got this book and am raring to go.

Chapter 1 is entitled "Space is emptiness."
Emptiness is an essential aspect of life. It is the unavoidable opposite of fullness, of busyness, of activity. It is the natural and universally present background to everything we see.
How can this principle (or element) apply to the nonprofit, or association environment? Or, to the business environment for that matter? Usually we don't think about our organizations in the context of absense, but rather, of presence.

But background is important, whether to design or to organizations. The book goes on to talk about how few people actually "see." We look at things, but we don't see them. I came across this link yesterday that talks about asking questions. I think they'd agree that asking these questions, eliciting unobvious answers, is all about "seeing" clearly.

RESOURCE: Introduction to Questionnaire Design. This might seem random to my readers, but I want to be able to refer to it later! Also, a usability study from the government provides a good model. These types of activities can help us see, I think.

So, let's look at the principle of white space. In graphic design, the white space is obviously the part of the page that is black or unused. But it's important. If I want to apply this principle to an organization, I'd say that the "white space" is the areas where the organization IS NOT. For example, staying within mission is an example of using white space and defining the message by what you're not doing. Any other ideas?

A couple of other interesting points from chapter 1. "Space is context." So the context in which an organization works is meaningful. I'm thinking an analog to my work would be audience, potential audience, profession or trade, generational differences, etc.

"Space adds quality." The book talks about retailers. If you think about a place like Banana Republic, Armani, or Zegna, there aren't racks upon racks upon racks of clothes to display. (Even Armani's website is amazingly sparse.) There is room to spread out and to think. I think lots of associations could use this model more. I haven't read the book, (I have put a hold on it so it'll be along soon) but The Paradox of Choice, Why More is Less, by Barry Schwartz, seems like it must address this facet of organizational design.

By Alex White
ISBN# 1581152507

Mission Statements for Associations

Whether the words “mission statement” make you shudder or not, the matter comes down to a simple question. Why should you exist? You as a leader should be able to answer that question and it should provoke more than a grunt in your listener!

Here are some sample mission statements, some reasons to exist:

  • We provide support, education and advocacy for people with a rare medical condition.

  • We provide Internet solutions at a low-cost in an effort to help non-profit animal rescue and placement organizations end the plight of homeless animals.

  • We advance the professional interests of Marriage and Family Therapists.
  • A mission statement is something that you can point to at every board meeting and ask yourself, is this what we’re doing? Is this decision going to bring us closer to our mission or further away from it?

    As a board member, you should evaluate your activities using your mission as a guide. If you have staff, your staff should evaluate each of the organization’s many activities using the mission as a guide—and the board should hold them accountable using the mission as a guide. You get the picture!

    In a nonprofit environment, it can be difficult to focusing the organization’s efforts. This is because many different things are “worthwhile,” and the people factor is huge. We’re all volunteers, we’re all in this together, and we don’t want to spoil the feelings of collegiality and community that are at the core of the nonprofit sector’s staying power.

    Even so, you can still end up wasting time and being ineffective if you don’t pay close attention. A mission statement can help with this. Is this car wash that only has a 7% return on investment really that important or are we just doing it because an influential board member is really stubborn about it? Should we take a stand against a sponsor’s product that’s potentially harmful to our community? Or should we keep quiet because they keep the bills paid? Our Executive Director sure hasn’t convinced us that anything is actually happening to realize our goals. Should we let her go even though it will be very emotional?

    A strong organizational mission can help with these and many other issues. Now, a mission can be adjusted or adapted over time, but from day to day it remains an anchor for the organization’s activities.

    Saturday, February 11, 2006

    Blogging in associations...

    Here's a post by a firm called Gulo, who're writing about some more technical "blogs may be the silver bullet but how do I actually generate content" type of stuff. I generally think the comments are worthwhile, although, I kind of take exception to the "it's unfair to ask staff to blog," line of thought. Seems to me that it's a matter of creating an open culture where staff would have to see a model, and then be encouraged to try it out. Although I can see that not every staffer would be cut out for blogging, I bet one or two would love it--and it probably wouldn't be the communications person, who is probably sick of having to generate content.

    Also I agree wholeheartedly with the fact that some members would love to get their views out there, and I don't think you'd have to pay them anything. After all, members volunteer for lots of other jobs without the promise of remuneration.

    Worth the read. See what you think.

    Friday, February 10, 2006

    The Elements of Graphic Design

    So, as a follow up to yesterday's designy post, I wanted to blog this book. I am not a designer, but I have always been a self-aware consumer of good design. As an organization person now, I have tried to leverage design as best I can in an environment that doesn't always care about it. Currently, I have the luxury of working for an organization where design is bread and butter, so now I can indulge myself a little design wonkery. As I've discovered design has a great deal in common with organizational process, etc., so I've made up my mind to expore this more comprehensively.

    So, reading this book in function of association management is a good start. First chapter talks about the job of a communicator. I think we can see that that's a useful thing to look at.
    To design means to plan. The process of design is used to bring order from chaos and randomness. Order is good for readers [ed. members or other stakeholders of your organization], who can more easily make sense of an ordered message [the image your association or organization puts forward]. An ordered message is therefore considered good design (1).
    Alex White (the author of the book), does a tremendous job of writing clearly about the discipline of design, and of course, gets in to some (fairly but not overly) technical details about graphic design specifically. I will use this book as an outline for more writing about how to use design more as a metaphor for abstraction in organization, but for now, I have to give the book back to the library because I've had it too long. Guess I'll go out and purchase.

    By Alex W. White
    ISBN # 1581152507

    UPDATE: While I'm on about design subjects, just read Emily Chang's thoughts on Design 2.0. Reminds me of a Google "quote of the day" a few weeks ago from Antoine de St-Exupery: "You know you’ve achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away."

    Thursday, February 09, 2006

    Transformation design

    You know, since I work for a design-related association--and I've had these thoughts even before I started working here--that really, organizational design has tons in common with traditional design, i.e. "let's create something cool." Anyway, apparently this idea is becoming more mainstream, which I'm all for. Where do I sign up for the PhD program? j/k I need another degree like I need a hole in the head.

    For-profit envy...

    Funny line from an article I found. Read the whole thing.

    Monday, February 06, 2006

    Association Mag Review: IHRSA

    This is going to be a new series here at Nick's Book Blog. I'm going to do a review of association/trade magazines. How am I going to choose which ones to review, you might ask? Very simple. Whatever trade publication is sitting in the magazine rack at the Golds Gym in Baileys Crossroads is fair game for the blog. There are usually two or three there at any time.

    Now that we've got that out of the way, today's featured magazine is published by the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, entitled Club Business for Entrepreneurs which is a supplement to Club Business International, February 2006 issue.

    In general, the magazine is pretty attractive. Lots of ads, clearly there are quite a few advertisers who are wanting to speak to this market. The ads are mainly for exercise machines, industry-specific software, etc. The lead article is about a woman who overcame some hardships of her own and now owns a health club. It's nice, feel-good stuff, and I think it's very appropriate to use the magazine space to highlight community-building types of stuff.

    They have articles and departments. I took note of one particularly useful department called "IHRSA asks 7 questions." The magazine basically interviews a member, finds out what makes that person tick. Importantly, they ask the member what member benefits she finds most useful:
    "I love sampling programs. We distributed free Kashi bars and coupons and they were a big hit. I've told my members about the Passport program, which is also a great benefit."
    I passed that one on to my boss because I thought it was so useful.

    They also plugged their 4th annual legislative summit. Typical set up. Come to Washington, get trained, meet with your member of congress. Here's what they're working on on Capitol Hill:
    "A primary goal of this educational event is to ensure passage of the Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act, which is currently being considered by Congress. This bill would boost your corporate membership sales by allowing employers to deduct the cost of health club memberships for their employees and ensuring that this benefit would not be classified as additional income to employees."
    Good, solid publication from IHRSA.

    Sunday, February 05, 2006

    Core Governance Issues

    I missed the memo on this one, but I'm making a note of this report for my own reference. It's a report from Moody's Investors Service--the people who do credit ratings and risk analysis--treating issues of governance in the not-for-profit healthcare sector. Now, this clearly centers around hospitals and the like--obviously a different issue than that which us association people face. Nonetheless, the lessons from this report could be useful to many. In particular, the "core dimensions of governance" are ones which should always be on the front burner, regardless of size of what have you. They are, according to the report:
    1. Development of Organization's Mission
    2. Selection and Evaluation of Senior Management
    3. Board Composition and Performance
    4. Understanding and Interpretation of Financial Reporting
    5. Use of Performance Metrics Based On External Benchmarks to Regularly Review Institution's Performance
    6. Maintaining and Building the Organization's Financial Resources
    7. Avoidance of Conflicts of Interest

    Bono in WaPo

    Via Ben Martin, here's a write-up of Bono's speech to ASAE and the Centre. Blogging has been light lately, not that too many people would notice :) I have been trying to get caught up on some things at home and work. These will be useful for me. Also, I just joined the board as secretary of a group called RescueGroups.org. I went to my first meeting yesterday, and it was a great group of folks doing some cool stuff. I'm very much looking forward to it, and it's just fun meeting new people.

    Wednesday, February 01, 2006


    So it's now February but I need to start implementing my ideas better. I have decided that it's an implementation problem. In order to make a change happen, you have to advocate for it. In order to advocate effectively, you need to keep good records and keep track of your ideas. Not big ideas, mind you, the small little innovations that make a tight ship. I need to be better at documenting problems and recommending a coherent solution. All this takes discipline, so I'm going to work on that.