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Sector and AuSAE News

  • 16 Sep 2020 1:24 PM | Abby Fields (Administrator)

    Member surveys can help you make good business decisions, but poorly worded questions can create misleading or biased results. Here are a few mistakes associations should avoid when crafting member surveys.

    Associations surveys can produce a wellspring of data that can be used to better understand member needs and take decision-making beyond the gut. But poorly considered questions and careless phrasing can lead to member surveys that are exclusionary, biased, leading, or repetitive—undermining the usefulness of the results.

    How can you avoid these traps when asking your members relevant questions?

    Cynthia Simpson, CAE, manager of member services at the National Society for Histotechnology, has focused on the role that survey questions play in member engagement over her roughly three decades in the association space. Read on for her insights on what to watch out for in the way you structure your questions.

    DON’T MAKE RESPONDENTS THINK TOO HARD

    Survey questions need to be easy to respond to. Concise, clear wording is key, but so is structure. For example, offering too many answer options for a multiple-choice question reduces respondents’ ability to focus on what you’re asking. A long list of choices can naturally bias respondents toward the ones that appear last on the list, Simpson says, especially if the survey is conducted over the phone.

    She also warns about questions that lead the respondent down a certain line of thinking. She cites the example of a question stating that a website “isn’t easy to use unless I use the search function.”

    “Having that word ‘isn’t’ in there implies that the website isn’t easy to use to begin with. Well, for some users, it may be easy to use,” Simpson says. “So you’re already misleading them and using that double negative to frame their response.”

    To weed out potential biases, she recommends asking the same question in multiple ways. If one version of the question confuses or misleads respondents for a reason you haven’t considered, another version may capture the respondent’s true answer, preventing skewed results.

    BE WARY OF GENDER BIAS

    Sometimes, phrasing may unintentionally reflect gender bias. Simpson, who wrote about this topic for Association Success in 2018, says it’s important to consider which descriptive attributes are used in a question.For example, using ability-focused terms such as “brilliant,” “capable,” and “analytical” may subconsciously skew male for respondents; “grindstone” terms such as “hardworking” and “meticulous” may carry a female connotation. Using attributes traditionally associated with men or women can skew the response, she says.

    “You need to be careful to not include those types of gendered questions because the picture that the person gets in [their] mind reflects back on the question,” she explains. “The best type of questions are free of that type of language.”

    AVOID UNNECESSARY IMPLICATIONS

    Sometimes wording can reflect other forms of bias and result in leading questions.For example, in a survey about COVID-19 attitudes, asking whether “concerned citizens” should wear a mask creates an implication about what the researcher believes.

    “That implies that if you aren’t wearing a mask, you’re not a concerned citizen,” she says. “And so using that word, ‘concerned,’ already implies that only concerned citizens wear masks and that other citizens don’t wear masks, are not concerned, and that may not be true.”

    This can go the other way as well: Survey results may be skewed by social desirability bias, in which the answer to a question—say, about a controversial political candidate—is affected by the respondent’s desire to be liked. For example, a participant might respond to the question “Who do you plan on voting for?” with the answer they believe the pollster wants to hear. “You want to be liked, whether [your answer is] true or not,” Simpson says.

    When phrasing a question, remove words that imply value judgments, and ask yourself in what ways a respondent could potentially be misled by the question. If asking questions over the phone, take care to monitor your responses—for example, avoid offering encouragement when a respondent expresses an opinion you agree with.

    DON’T RAISE EXPECTATIONS YOU CAN’T MEET

    Survey questions can sometimes set subtle (or overt) expectations in respondents. For example, if the phrasing of a question hints at a new member offering, it could put you on the spot for something you weren’t actually planning to do. Even general questions about improving the member experience can lead to unfulfilled expectations.

    “Be very careful what you ask,” Simpson says. “If you’re unwilling or unable to make change [implied in the question], then it doesn’t do any good, and in fact it leaves a negative thought in the respondent’s mind.”

    Ultimately, Simpson says, “if you aren’t able to implement the answer, then really think hard about asking the question.”

    This article was sourced directly from Associations Now here, and is written by Ernie Smith.

  • 16 Sep 2020 1:20 PM | Abby Fields (Administrator)

    There’s a lot going on in the political realm, but zeroing in on your raison d’être—your members—can help your association’s advocacy messaging stand out. Learn how the National Restaurant Association put this strategy into action by tapping into its grassroots core after the COVID-19 crisis hit.

    It’s a strange time in a strange world, and that means there’s a lot of competition in the advocacy space at the moment. One way to stand out and score some key advocacy wins: Maintain a narrow focus on the people you serve—your members and others in your industry.

    Mike Whatley, vice president of state and local affairs for the National Restaurant Association, says his group has leaned into that strategy in recent months in its effort to support restaurants deeply affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

    “To a certain extent, every single industry has been impacted negatively, for the most part, and so everyone’s out there talking about it—everyone’s out there with an ask of government,” Whatley says. “So the big challenge becomes: How do you break through that noise? How do you make an impact?”

    The answer for the restaurant association came down to grassroots advocacy: By engaging its network of restaurant workers around the country who could speak to their experiences on the ground, Whatley and his team were able to build an effective case to government leaders.

    Last fall, the association began work on the Restaurants Act, which emerged as a focal point for collective action during the early weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, drawing responses from more than 100,000 people in the restaurant industry. As major stimulus bills began to move through Congress, the association took a prominent place on the White House’s COVID-19 recovery task force.

    Whatley notes that restaurateurs are usually busy, leaving them with little time to devote to advocacy. But the pandemic created a rare opportunity to engage the grassroots—even if the situation that led to it was unfortunate.

    “They’re in the type of business where you might not necessarily be in front of your computer for long periods of time. You’re in the restaurant, you’re working, you’re out there on the go,” he says. “Battling COVID, especially in March, a lot of them happened to be in front of their computer because restaurants were closed, and so there was a little more time for advocacy.”

    The mixture of timing, messaging, and response allowed the industry to gain advocacy momentum at just the right time.

    KEEPING THE LIGHT ON YOUR MEMBERS

    Given the constant demands on lawmakers’ attention amid COVID-19, narrowing your approach can help your industry stand out and can keep the grassroots motivated, Whatley says. He offers these tactics for staying focused:

    Share real stories from real people. This is all about quality over quantity. “I don’t think just a record volume of emails is going to get you there,” Whatley says. “I think it’s having emails that are stories of individuals happening, and then explaining the impact of COVID to them, combining that with really useful statistics.”

    Keep your advocates up to date. It’s one thing to draw your members’ interest to grassroots participation, but it’s another to keep them involved—a challenge the National Restaurant Association is facing now that restaurants are reopening. Whatley says it’s important to offer periodic updates and to avoid bombarding your members with requests to take action, which he warns can dull the effectiveness of your communications over time. Working with the association’s executive vice president, Sean Kennedy, Whatley has been helping to produce a series of 90-second video clips discussing what’s happening in Washington, with a focus on the restaurant industry. “I think having that, the advocates understand what’s happening in the process and aren’t just constantly being asked, ‘Take action, take action, take action,’” he says.

    Tell your grassroots something they aren’t hearing elsewhere. Another benefit of the 90-second clips, Whatley says, is that they offer information that members may not be hearing from mainstream media outlets. While TV networks are likely to cover issues relevant to your industry, the coverage often lacks industry-specific information that may be essential to understanding the issue. “None of those sites are going to explain to you as a restaurant operator, or a different industry such as a gym operator, ‘What does it mean for me?’” Whatley says. “So having that content is what makes it valuable to your advocates.”

    This article was sourced directly from Associations Now here, and is written by Ernie Smith.

  • 16 Sep 2020 1:09 PM | Abby Fields (Administrator)

    With a recession, a pandemic, and a tough job market, some associations are looking to target Generation Z with new member offerings. It can work if you prioritize their engagement, one expert says.

    We’re starting to get past the point where millennials are at the center of the discussion around younger members. The focus is shifting to Gen Z—but how can you convince people born after 1996 to join your organization? Is a new membership tier worth discussing?

    Sarah Sladek, CEO of XYZ University and a generational engagement researcher, says yes—in part because of the current environment, driven by a recession and a pandemic. And Gen Z is feeling it more than most.

    MORE ON GEN Z

    On Tuesday, September 15, Sarah Sladek is hosting a webinar called “Membership According to Gen Z,” from 2-4 p.m. EDT, as part of the Save the Associations event series. The program will cover how to engage youth members, increase student membership, and emphasize advocacy among younger members.

    That might be why discussion of member tiers is picking up again. Sladek compares this period to the 2008 recession, when associations created low-cost tiers for younger members.

    “In many ways, we’re seeing a repeat of that market environment now, as associations are scrambling to figure out ways to appeal to young people,” Sladek says, adding that retirements and career changes among older members might also be a factor.

    NEW GENERATIONS, NEW HABITS

    However, 2020’s younger members aren’t like those of 2008.

    For one thing, everything is virtual at the moment—which could be a virtue for omnivorous content consumption that drives many in Gen Z, but that requires a more open-minded approach to content creation that emphasizes visuals and user-generated content.

    “Gen Z actively consumes and creates content in a variety of forms on a variety of platforms. Associations need to do the same,” Sladek says.

    Another, more fundamental problem? In a world where people spend heavily on monthly subscription-based services, annual memberships may be going out of style.

    “This points to a bigger issue for associations, which likely need to reconsider their dues structures,” she says. “In addition to price being a common barrier, young people are also more accustomed to having the option to pay bills monthly rather than annually, yet few associations offer this option.”

    Younger generations may also want more purchase options. For example, think of how streaming services offer an à la carte alternative to cable bundles. Likewise, younger members may want flexibility to pick and choose their services. For associations, the forthcoming generation offers a reset opportunity.

    “The time is now to be rethinking dues as well as value,” Sladek says.

    GEN Z’S SHIFTING VALUES

    Sladek says that Gen Z has a unique perspective compared with other generations. She notes that Gen Z-ers tend to be highly informed visual learners with a strong focus on creativity and an eye toward broader horizons.

    And there’s a distinct focus on advocacy that hasn’t been as pronounced in older generations. That means younger members want to speak up—and if they aren’t being heard, they might not renew.

    “Gen Z has been raised in a world where everyone is treated equally and everyone has a voice,” Sladek says. “When the reality is different, they disengage. They will expect a seat at decision-making tables, and for your association to be intentional about outreach and giving a voice to the marginalized voices.”

    THE RISK OF THE “SUMMER CAMP” TIER

    These changing habits might lead some associations to build membership tiers with a distinctly younger focus. But Sladek warns against separating the tiers too much, as it may create a declining value proposition over time. It’s a situation she likens to a summer camp.

    “The student and young professional chapters tend to be more focused on fun, led by peers, and there is a feeling of inclusion as well as responsibility,” she explains. However, when young members move into regular membership, this inclusive environment can be lost. “As a result, the young members ‘graduate’ into an organization where their participation is overlooked or minimized.”

    Instead, Sladek suggests that member tiers be in tandem with the organization’s goals while also taking Gen Z insights into account.

    “If an association wants to engage young people, it has to be a real commitment throughout the entire organization,” Sladek says. “The associations which struggle to engage young people tend to be those which don’t prioritize engaging them.”

    This article was sourced directly from Associations Now here, and is written by Ernie Smith.

  • 16 Sep 2020 1:06 PM | Abby Fields (Administrator)

    A new study shows an empathy disconnect between workers and executives. A stronger focus on skills development might close the gap.

    How are you doing? Also: Remember when that was a rhetorical question?

    There’s no need to rattle off the many stressors that 2020 has brought upon leaders and their employees. But it might be worth noting that, even before COVID-19 became a part of our public consciousness, there has been a substantial disconnect between how leaders think their people are doing, and how they actually are.

    The fifth and most recent edition of Businessolver’s State of Workplace Empathy report was conducted in February, and it demonstrates, as usual, that there’s a lot of enthusiasm in the C-suite for the concept of empathy, defined as “the ability to understand and experience the feelings of another.” Every year since the study launched in 2017, more than 90 percent of CEOs and HR heads have said empathy is important. But that doesn’t mean employees think leaders are putting their hearts into that sentiment. While 86 percent of CEO say they think their organization “is openly discussing mental health,” according to the new survey, only 58 percent of employees agree.

    Moreover, leaders seem to be missing the connection between empathy and retention. While 76 percent of employees said they believe empathy plays a role in turnover rates, only 40 percent of CEOs said so. Executives neglect this disparity at their peril, especially with Gen Z workers. According to the report, 83 percent of Gen Z respondents said they’d opt for an employer “with a strong culture of empathy” over one offering a slightly higher salary—more than the average of 75 percent among all employees.

    Again, all of these findings reflect how people were feeling in February. Since then, there’s ample evidence that the pandemic has boosted employee engagement, but that may be a function of people eager to demonstrate their value in a down economy on top of a crisis. Which is to say that, between Zoom fatigue and more caregiving responsibilities, the risk of burnout is substantial. All the more reason to take that empathy gap more seriously. As the Businessolver report puts it, “benefits based on values were important for employee well-being before the pandemic, but now they’re even more critical.”

    The report suggests that today’s CEO needs to behave more like a “chief empathy officer,” a leader who is more adept at communication and creates more opportunities for one-on-one engagement. But a listening tour alone isn’t going to cut it; the report also recommends that organizations put a stronger emphasis on wellness benefits and, more substantially, on career development for employees. Ninety percent of all employees surveyed said they equated workplace empathy with being allowed to “participate in career development courses on company time, rather than PTO.” But employees are four times as likely as CEOs to believe their organizations don’t provide enough skills development.

    The last recession suggested that employer support for that kind of skills development softens in a downturn—for instance, companies were less likely to cover the cost of employees’ association dues or conference travel. Investing in skills training during a crisis may seem like one of those things that just isn’t done. But in February 2020, few were convinced that remote work was practical either. Despite that, organizations have stubbornly, stumblingly, glitchily figured out how to make it work.

    Everybody wants an empathetic workplace environment. But a genuine investment in workers’ skills and abilities is more likely than lip service to keep those workers engaged, and sticking around.

    This article was sourced directly from Associations Now here, and is written by Mark Athitakis.

  • 10 Sep 2020 10:25 AM | Abby Fields (Administrator)

    “Our business is coming back faster than I had ever imagined. That’s really good news, so I should be thrilled. But why am I not feeling relieved?” a senior leader asked me recently.

    When governments relax restrictions and begin stimulating economic growth, the recovery phase of the Covid-19 crisis starts unfolding for businesses. On the surface, this phase is about returning to normal, restarting operations and getting back to offices, production lines, and shop floors. In Europe, where I live and where many countries are reopening, many leaders I speak with are surprised both by the speed of the recovery and how rapidly everyday life has come to resemble the way it was before.

    Below the surface, however, there is still turmoil. Intuitively, I would have expected leaders to be driven by the victory rush that naturally follows when the tension of the regression phase is released. But many report having mixed emotions. Their sense of optimism and clarity is laced with withdrawal, loss, and doubt. Even among leaders who have weathered the crisis well, the absence of relief is the rule rather than the exception.

    Recovery presents new challenges for leaders and teams. What can you expect and how can you navigate?

    Facing the New Reality

    Speaking with leaders and their teams in recent weeks about their experience with managing the recovery, three themes emerge:

    The unexpected high points brought on by the crisis are waning. Quick decision-making. Efficiency of meetings. Honest, concise, and frequent communications. Freedom to organize your day and work from home. Informal and authentic team interactions.

    Several teams mentioned that they actually miss the stimulating rush of the emergency and the profound feelings of significance and community that they experienced during the lockdown. They wanted to sustain these new ways of working and maintain the urgency and intimacy of the crisis. But any good intentions slipped through their fingers as 9-to-5 back-to-back meeting days have made a surprisingly quick comeback. The “new normal” is not so new after all — and that feels like a lost opportunity.

    Further, even though it is an overstretch to compare the emotions of the recovery phase to post-traumatic stress disorder, there are similarities. One of the most common reactions from soldiers returning from battle is that everyday life seems absurdly inconsequential and insignificant compared to the combat situations they have left behind. Standing in line in the supermarket or listening to people complain about the weather can be provocatively ordinary when you have been dealing with emergencies for weeks.

    The unresolved tangle of emotions. The leaders I talk to report that they have learned so much new about themselves and their closest colleagues: Who rises to the occasion, who loses faith, who supports, who snaps, who dares, who falls silent — and how do these behaviors evolve as the crisis unfold?

    A leader in the media industry stressed how proud he was of his coworkers. “I don’t think I ever appreciated my colleagues this way before. When corona, hit we all stepped up and covered for each other. We were all fired up by the greater cause and churning out new reporting faster than ever. We had to be brutally honest about our own capacity and energy. Frankly, it was really exciting.”

    Indeed, it’s like the “emotional operating system” of many teams has been reset. Such a reset is psychologically intense: it exposes both strong ties and weak links in the team, and all this requires recalibration of both your own self-image and team dynamics when things return to normal.

    The burden of the work ahead. It’s dawning on leaders and teams that the lockdown phase was in fact just the acute part of the crisis. Now they need to engage with more profound and adaptive challenges in their businesses and the way they lead.

    The paradox is that during the emergency, the sense of purpose seemed crystal clear: Act now. Safeguard the business. As the recovery unfolds, more fundamental and nagging questions arise: What comes after? What parts of our business and organization will even be relevant in the future? What must we do to prepare for a second or third wave? What is the new big picture?

    How Can Leaders Tackle the Recovery Phase?

    The absence of relief is a telltale sign that you have vast psychological work to do as part of the recovery phase, too.  As a leader, you need to be aware of what is going on in your team and on the front line in the recovery phase and adapt your leadership accordingly.

    First, the recovery marks the onset of a broader challenge, not the end of the crisis. One of the hard things about the Covid-19 crisis is that there is no liberation day when it’s gone and done with. It’s not gone and done with in most places, and the aftermath can be longer and harder than turmoil of the first response. Leading with this aftermath in mind is key and you need to confront yourself and your team with this somewhat harsh reality.

    How? Don’t think of recovery as just going back to work and adopting your old habits. Create new meaning. Ask questions: “What was the point of this crisis? What will we do if this happens again? What did we learn from this case? How can we move faster next time?” Find a realistic sense of optimism — “What should we change?” Priorities need to be reset, plans must be adjusted, and resources must be redirected. “Renewal, not return” has become the rallying cry for leaders like Siemens Chairman Jim Hagemann Snabe. That’s the essence of recovery leadership.  

    Second, recalibrate your team. A crisis often reorders the informal hierarchy of a team, both because what’s urgent and who’s important changes, and because new heroes emerge and new relationships are forged. While the formal structure may be unchanged, the informal structure has been disrupted under the surface and needs to be realigned or rethought. Think of the recovery phase as an inflection point for the way your team cooperates, not as a U-turn that leads back to familiar routines.

    Here’s an example of how one team moved forward. The CEO of a company that had been hit very hard by the lockdown summoned his leadership team to reflect on what they had learned during the months of emergency, lockdown, and early recovery. The CEO capped off the session by asking: “Would you rather have been without this experience?” Surprisingly, the overwhelming response from the team was “no.” The crisis had been costly from both a business and personal perspective, but on balance the benefits outweighed the cost.

    One team member summed up the paradox of the crisis. “Looking at the numbers, our business has been set back years. But culturally, we have been catapulted ahead to a future we could not have imagined, and strategically, our transformation has gained a momentum we could never have created on our own.”

    A central lesson of why this happened was that the crisis revealed hidden talents and unseen qualities. And the final outcome of the leader’s session was a formal reset of the roles and responsibilities of the executive team based on the new business needs that the crisis surfaced, but also based on the particular qualities that individual team members had demonstrated.

    True, not every team or leader will reach the same conclusion. But all teams can benefit from conducting a targeted search for the positive outcomes of the crisis and reflecting on how their relationships with each other and their work has changed. Carving out time for this kind of debriefing can both be therapeutic for the team and propel the forward motion you need.

    Third, reopen with attention to the small stuff. Many leaders are realizing right now that reopening is harder than shutting down. Coming back to the office is trickier and requires more finely grained choices and decisions than asking people to work from home. Why? The issues related to reopening don’t really concern abstract problems, acute crisis intervention, or big strategic moves. Instead, it’s about practical and everyday stuff, a radical change of scenery for many leaders. It feels like having to tidy your room after having fought a major battle.

    Even though the “how to reopen the office” discussion can feel like a chore rather than a challenge, you should take the small stuff seriously and be clear about the details: Respect ground rules for social distancing in the office – people have very different ideas of how “close is too close.” Make clear commitments, and keep up your online presence when working from home, so it doesn’t become odious when some people do and other don’t.  Make sure that you continue easing into the new digital routines that your partners, coworkers, or customers have found useful. Try to find joy in routines again and invest in the informal settings

    Avoid the actions of a highly charged leader in the financial sector who, fed up with discussing when their coffee and juice bar would reopen, burst out: “Who cares about coffee and juice now?” In fact, the free haven that the bar represents had never been so important: People need places and spaces and opportunities to reconnect, share experiences, and have all those little conversations that rekindles social life at work. This is where you ask your colleagues what they are going to do in their vacation and how their spouses or children are coping? Who has children graduating from school? Who has sick relatives?

    The “back to the office” move should not feel like musical chairs or a logistics maneuver. Instead, think of the process as if you were onboarding new members to the team with similar attention to (re)introducing the company culture and stimulating professional social life. In some sense it’s a unique chance to get to do the first 90 days all over again.

    Getting Through the Recovery Phase

    Crisis leadership is a double-edged sword: The same skills and reaction patterns that allow you to perform well in an emergency may become destructive when you try to return to (something resembling) normal. The unequivocal determination that made you effective at first can develop into uncompromising micro-management. Constant watchfulness can generate tension and even hyper-vigilance. A prolonged productivity boost can slide into to uncurbed impulsivity. It’s crucial to know when enough is enough.

    At the same time, leaders cannot follow the natural impulse to withdraw, lean back, and just assume that the team will reset itself smoothly when the sea starts calming down. There is a need for continued visibility, purposeful reorientation, and sustained attention to detail

    As a crisis evolves, your leadership approach needs to change. In the emergency phase, leaders must move to the frontline and fight the fires. In the regression phase, leaders need to step back and contain the emotional turmoil of their teams. In the recovery phase, leaders must strike a new balance between guiding a smooth return to normal while keeping up the pressure to renew and rethink the future.

    That’s why you are not feeling relieved: Your work as a crisis leader is not done yet.

    This article was sourced directly from Harvard Business Review here, and is written by Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg.

  • 10 Sep 2020 10:20 AM | Abby Fields (Administrator)

    Association pros take inspiration from literary sources—both expected and unexpected—to do their jobs. Here are just a few books that inspire Associations Now readers.

    Association staff members may be busy managing and leading their organizations, but when they’re not hard at work, they just might be reading.

    In honor of National Read a Book Day on September 6, we asked our readers which titles have given them unexpected career inspiration—with an eye toward books beyond management tomes.

    Our audience took inspiration from all kinds of sources. Multiple readers cited the Bible. Nods to modern book series (Harry Potter) were just as likely to show up as classics (The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G.K. Chesterton). Fiction (such as The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho) was heavily cited; so, too, was nonfiction (‌The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown’s 2013 book about a rowing team that won a gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin). And given the audience, business books (like David Allen’s ‌Getting Things Done) naturally also got mentioned.

    Read on for a few standouts among those who responded to our recent survey.

    WENDY-JO TOYAMA, CEO, American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine

    The story of No-No Boy by John Okada takes place during a period in American history that is not widely covered. It centers on a Japanese American man living in an internment camp during WWII. He chooses not to denounce his Japanese heritage nor join the U.S. Army. Those who answered “no” to two questions were deemed “No-No Boys.” As American citizens, they felt that by answering “yes,” it implied they were not loyal to begin with, and they were unwilling to fight for a country that did not treat them as citizens.

    The story captures events that inform my motivation and deep desire to be involved in work on diversity, equity, and inclusion—reinforcing my values of justice, courage, and family. Also, as a sansei (third-generation) Japanese American, it is powerful to read a work written by another Japanese American—sparking a lifelong dedication to include Asian authors and topics on my reading list.

    MARIA MATTHEWS, Grassroots Advocacy, ‌American Society of Civil Engineers, Inc.

    For me, it’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss. I remember reading it as a child and loving it because it was Dr. Seuss. I now love how it conveys that your future is yours to design, with the caveat that you have to accept it all to be really successful—the good and the bad. My dad gave me a copy when I graduated from high school, which is now part of my kids’ library. I hope that they’ll appreciate it as much as I do one day!

    MICHELE DRIVER, ‌Training Coordinator, Society of Petroleum Engineers

    It’s actually a series: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I began by reading The Hobbit in my fourth-grade class and have read the trilogy every year since then. I also read most of the associated books often. It reminds me that we have more courage than we think we have, that commitment to an honorable task must be kept, that what looks most beautiful can be most dangerous, that friendships are invaluable, and that the darkness in life is ultimately overcome by light.

    LAURA NORTHERN VENHAUS, Certification Coordinator, American Association of Professional Landmen

    Always Room for One More, a somewhat obscure but Caldecott Medal-winning children’s book by Sorche Nic Leodhas, is a book that I think of almost every day. With singsong text and gentle illustrations, the author tells the story of Lachie MacLachlan, who lives in “a wee house in the heather” (with his very large family!) who is determined to share whatever he’s got with travelers on a stormy night. It’s a lovely message of generosity and inclusivity, and “there’s always room for one more” has become our family motto.

    TARA BARKER, Staff Liaison to Volunteer Committees, Institute of Management Accountants

    My mother gave me a book early in my life titled How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. It was one of her go-to books, and it has become one of mine. It was copyrighted in 1944, and it still stands the test of time, as it is filled with practical advice that can be used in personal and professional life. A powerful line for me was, “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” So, keep thinking positive, especially now. I have given copies of this book as gifts to family and friends.

    SARAH COOK, ‌Development Manager, CPA Endowment Fund of Illinois

    Not only did I read [The Hunger Games series] in two days, I feel like it taught the long-running story of rising up during terrible times, but in its own way. When all odds are against you, what else can you do but try your best to succeed? In terms of work, I channel the mindset that no matter how bad/hard/rough things can get, my effort to do my best or do better will make a difference. And it has. As a side note, during the pandemic I have been running more because I once had a terrible dream that we were in The Hunger Games. So I guess you could say it applies to all aspects of life!

    TIP TUCKER KENDALL, ‌Director, Member Services, International Society of Arboriculture

    Henry David Thoreau’s Walden is the one book that I go back to again and again for inspiration and philosophical direction. I know that I can open it up to any page and find something in the text that moves me and reminds me how to be more present and how to live a more meaningful life.

    This article was sourced directly from Associations Now here, and is written by Ernie Smith.
  • 10 Sep 2020 9:44 AM | Abby Fields (Administrator)

    COVID-19 has made face-to-face communication with members nearly impossible. The American Forest and Paper Association is thinking outside the box and upping its YouTube game to reach members and other stakeholders.

    While YouTube has been around for many years, it hasn’t always been high on the list of tools that associations use to communicate. But one group is turning that notion on its head. As the pandemic has stopped most face-to-face interactions, the American Forest and Paper Association is leaning into its YouTube channel to make video a stronger part of its communication strategy.

    “AF&PA has maintained a YouTube presence for several years, highlighting the industry, our members, and our advocacy efforts, but we’ve been pushed to use video in new ways more recently,” said Heidi Brock, AF&PA President and CEO. “Since we cannot be with our members or stakeholders in person, I wanted to find a way for people to see and connect with me and the great work of our association virtually. Video helps fill this void.”

    To do that, Brock has been recording videos from her home office since the pandemic began. “It doesn’t replace face-to-face engagement, but these videos, I believe, deliver a personal touch, emphasize a key message for a particular point in time, and offer support and reassurance through what, I think, has been a very challenging time for many people,” she said.

    The videos have been used showcase both short-term messages and long-term projects, like AF&PA’s Better Practices, Better Planets 2020 sustainability initiative.

    “My recent video address reported on the progress we’ve made on our comprehensive set of sustainability goals,” Brock said. “It was a moment to reflect on accomplishments and goals we’ve either met or exceeded, including reducing workplace injuries, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, and improving energy efficiency in manufacturing facilities.”

    And while the videos are on YouTube, AF&PA also shares them on other platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. “That’s helping to amplify the reach of each video message, and it’s easier for our members to view and share with followers,” Brock said. “These videos also get shared in our member e-newsletter, Topline. Using video in this format is an excellent way to add variation and creativity to member communications you’re sending by email.”

    For example, Brock said a video was shared widely that thanked workers at paper plants this spring, as it “came at a time of unprecedented demand for paper products, including toilet paper, paper towels, and tissue products.”

    YOU CAN DO IT, TOO

    For those looking to ramp up their video use, Brock had a few suggestions. “I’ll admit there is a learning curve to video,” Brock said. “You want to plan out what you have to say and make sure you—or whoever is in front of the camera—feel comfortable. That might be something you have to ease into and practice before hitting record.”

    Associations should also be mindful of how long their videos are. “Many people are short on time and overwhelmed with content,” Brock said. “We try and keep our videos brief to quickly engage members from whatever device they’re on, wherever they are.”

    As the videos can help amplify that personal connection during this time of separation, Brock suggested making sure you convey your organization’s heart and authenticity.

    “The key to any video you create is to make sure it conveys a human dimension,” Brock said. “I look at each video as an opportunity to engage, but also to connect with peoples’ feelings and emotions. Use words that resonate with your audience and seek to build connection and understanding. Be as transparent and candid as possible, seek to inspire, and layer in a compelling call-to-action to keep your members and stakeholders engaged and energized by the message. The bottom line is to be authentic.

    This article was sourced directly from Associations Now here, and is written by Rasheeda Childress.

  • 10 Sep 2020 9:41 AM | Abby Fields (Administrator)

    Board chairs help set an association’s strategic vision, but they also manage the board itself. When chairs think like managers, not just stewards, they can have a profound impact on the board’s health.

    There’s a problem with some of the words we use to describe board chairs. The post is often described as an “honor,” which it is, but the term gives the impression that being a chair is an award—and that the tenure is a victory lap. It’s also called a “role,” which emphasizes how a chair relates to the staff executive. But the word diminishes what being a board chair actually is, or ought to be: a job.

    Of course, it’s not a job in a traditional sense. Even if you do it well, you’ll likely have to leave it after a year or two, and it’s not (usually) compensated. But thinking of the board chair position as a job might help stress the point that chairs have management tasks to take care of just like any other kind of leader. It’s typically said that staff leaders deal with operational, day-to-day matters while boards handle strategy, but board chairs have day-to-day responsibilities too when it comes to ensuring the board’s long-term health.

    In “How to Be a Super Board Chair,” published last month in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, nonprofit leaders Jon Huggett and Mark Zitter get into what that job entails, particularly when it comes to managing other board members. The chair is the head of a “decision-making team,” they explain, and much of their advice is of the good-governance variety: set clear directions, run meetings well, be a good listener, be a good partner to the staff leader, get plenty of feedback. But they also spotlight two underappreciated job tasks for board chairs.

    A buttoned-down process increases the chances of finding and attracting good board candidates.

    One is a short-term task, bluntly stated: “Pare deadwood.” Just about every board has its share of less-engaged or disengaged members, and many simply let such situations go; short of serial absences that trigger removal clauses in the bylaws, many chairs avoid confrontation on the matter. Huggett and Zitter demand more from a chair and suggest that they lead assessments just like any boss would: Have written expectations of board members and follow up to see if they’re meeting them. Those who don’t, Huggett and Zitter write, should be required to either step up or resign. Either way, the governance team becomes more focused.

    The second underappreciated task is to think strategically about the future of the board, not just the future of the organization. That includes succession planning for the board and its committees, and Huggett and Zitter encourage board chairs to think about good fits that go beyond how long candidates have served as committee members or in other volunteer positions. “The ability to lead a board is paramount,” they write. “Experience on that board is secondary.” (See the point about deadwood above.)

    But beyond simply sorting out the question of who’s going to serve as treasurer next year, board chairs need to lead on the question of what the board will look like in the years to come. Succession planning for new and emerging board members who think strategically requires some proactive searching; that’s especially true if the board is working to diversify itself. Whether you hire somebody to assist with that or take it on yourself, Huggett and Zitter stress that it should be treated professionally.

    That’s just good governance, but it also has a multiplier effect: When you show that you think succession planning is important, the high-quality board candidates you want will be more likely to emerge. “A buttoned-down process increases the chances of finding and attracting good candidates because it creates a first-class impression of the organization,” they write.

    Luckily, board chairs have a CEO’s support to lean on. After all, the staff leader is just as invested as the chair in having good board members, and though CEOs have to be mindful of overstepping their bounds, they’re valuable sources of support and information. “Both the chair and the executive director should work to design the relationship in a way that works well for the organization and sets up the executive director for maximum success,” Huggett and Zitter write.

    That kind of symbiosis doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the result of board chairs recognizing the responsibility they’ve been given—and getting to work.

    This article was sourced directly from Associations Now here, and is written by Mark Athitakis.

  • 09 Sep 2020 4:24 PM | Kerrie Green (Administrator)

    Welcome back to our AuSAE Member Chat Series – Half an Hour of Power. This week we are delighted to have sat down with AuSAE member, Eva Scheerlinck, CEO, Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees.

    In a short 30 minute interview we discussed four key questions with Eva to reflect on the last five months and look forward to the future post this crisis.

    What do the next 6 months look like for your association and your members

    This time will be a period of consolidation for the association. We are taking the opportunity to implement a new operational model, refining efficiencies and enhancing organisational performance. We have learnt a lot along the way, including technology use, operating models and the importance of training and reskilling for staff during this time.

    There will be things that will never go back to what they once were and we are using this time as an organisation to realign, reset and refocus on what the future holds. Ensuring our teams understand the changes ahead and feel supported through training in the next few months.

    Like all associations during this time we are focused on delivering outcomes for members, strengthening member value and ensuring we represent member interests in key advocacy priorities.

    Areas of concern

    My main concern lies within the uncertainty of COVID-19. As most associations will understand, our model was built on the delivery of face to face events, educational courses and conferences. As it currently stands, we don’t know if we can rely on face to face delivery in 2021. It’s also important to recognise that delivering conferences online is a lot more involved and creates more work than our normal face to face platform. While we are all pivoting and moving to online, the creation of work and the pressure on teams is high.

    We are scenario planning all possibilities, including the current situation in Victoria and if other states end up in similar circumstances.

    As a CEO the uncertainty is difficult, particularly when staff, stakeholders and members are asking questions that we don’t have the answers to. The best we can do is to try and plan for different scenarios and keep our communication lines open and transparent.

    Areas of opportunity

    We have seen an increased level of community engagement, greater member participation rates, broader and deeper conversations, and access for all members wherever they are located.

    There has been an increased interest in peer to peer learning, and participation in this has skyrocketed over this time. Our members have never been more interested to hear from each other and understand what likeminded colleagues are doing during this time and what they can learn from each other.

    Internally, the increased flexibility for staff is an exciting opportunity for us. While we always offered working from home opportunities, it was never to this level. During this time, two team members have moved to the country full time and with our fully flexible working environment they will be able to continue working from home past this crisis. We are still seeing the same level of productivity from all staff, and as an organisation we look forward to continuing to offer flexible working arrangements for all team members to encourage them to pursue the lifestyle and balance they desire.

    Celebrated moments in the last five months

    Our major conference for the year was scheduled five days after the pandemic was called, we cancelled and reinvented the conference in a short period of time. The conference pivoted to a virtual event, we didn’t try to replicate the conference in its current format but reimagined and reworked the event and overall we were very proud of the delivery and reception from members.

    During this time we have also moved our education courses to virtual classrooms including our Diploma. The team have worked hard to shape this content to transition to an online format, instead of full days of delivery, courses have been broken down into three hours per day.


  • 09 Sep 2020 2:22 PM | Abby Fields (Administrator)

    In the age of online gatherings, a physical gift or box of swag can help your association’s virtual event stand out above the rest.

    While virtual events might not be able to dazzle attendees in quite the same way as in-person meetings, there is a tried-and-true tradition that can live on in the era of virtual conferences: conference swag.

    A tangible gift or box of swag can help create connection and engagement to the virtual event. Plus,they can also benefit your association by boosting its brand presence if attendees show off their new swag on social media.

    Want to offer your own swag to virtual attendees? First, make sure you have their current addresses—your records may have office addresses, but chances are attendees are working from home at the moment. Then, consider these six ideas.

    Welcome box. A few days before your event, mail attendees a box of items that will either build anticipation—a note hinting at surprise guests or events—or help them get the most out of the event, such as pens, a notepad, and a schedule. For example, Sprout Social sent a physical event kit to the first 500 people who registered for Sprout Sessions Digital 2020. While there are companies that offer kit-making services, this could be a project that’s handled by your own staff as well.

    Daily gifts. If your conference is spread out over several days, provide attendees with daily gifts to keep excitement levels high. Send a package containing separate envelopes to open each day—the envelope’s contents can hint at surprises to come or prompt attendees to check your website and social media pages at a certain time to get exclusive offerings.

    Shared experiences. Bring attendees together by tying your tangible goodies to a group activity. For example, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers held a virtual wine tasting in June to build excitement around its annual conference in November. Attendees had the opportunity to order a virtual tasting kit, and on the day of the event, a sommelier guided them through a tasting.

    Virtual snack break. In-person attendees are often treated to meals and snack breaks to help them regroup. Replicate these experiences with a swag bag full of snacks and refreshments to enjoy during scheduled downtime. For example, the Association of Consulting Foresters has sent attendees “virtual refreshment breaks,” which included small snacks, candies, coffee, tea, and a postcard with a message from a sponsor. “We wanted a special way to recognize a sponsor who went above and beyond, and a fun surprise for our virtual education series attendees featuring break items they’re used to having at in-person events,” said Lucy Firebaugh, ACF’s communications and membership specialist.

    Local flair. Virtual events don’t have a location, but you can tap into the unique culture or flavor of your association’s headquarters location. In preparation for its 2020 National Conference—held virtually in June—ACF worked with a local coffee shop in Williamsburg, Virginia, to send small packaged coffee grounds to registrants along with other goodies.

    Customizable items. Give attendees goodies that will let their creativity shine. For its two-day Hearsay Summit, Hearsay Systems sent a Summit Supply Drop Box, which featured a lightboard that attendees used to craft their own messages and share on social media. “Guests could not have been more appreciative and excited to receive these boxes,” wrote Senior Event Manager Becky Brewer.

    This article was sourced direct from Associations Now here, and is written by Michael Hickey.

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