Posts tagged #charity

Replacing the Engine While Flying the Plane: The Association Executive’s Guide to 21st Century Change

association-executive-leading-change

Leading Your Association Over Uncharted Territory

Association executives and directors have been hearing for years now that change is coming. Membership apathy and decline. Decreasing revenues. Industry consolidation. Competition for education, other programs and services.  Governance paralysis.  All of these are symptoms of the much larger issue of relevance, value, and member service, that are pushing many associations closer to the brink. For a growing number, the time to change is now…or perhaps never.

One association executive we’ve spoken to described this process as “replacing the engine while flying the plane.”  Whether it is a new membership, governance, revenue or wholesale organizational model that is needed, the change at hand represents largely uncharted territory in the association space.

Research, Strategy, Engagement and Communication: 4 Pillars of Successful Association Change

During the CSAE Trillium Winter Summit a few weeks ago, TPG Partner Jack Shand acknowledged that while association leaders understand that change is needed, it can be very hard to know how to first identify what change is needed, and second, make the change a reality:

Keep One Eye on the Flight Instruments and the other on the Horizon  

As CSO, your role is to execute the strategic direction set by the board of directors and to manage the day-to-day operations of the association…but it is also to think strategically and be future-focused. Keep one eye on operations and one eye on the changes and trends that will be factors in your organization now – and in the future.

Explain Why You are Changing Course

I was on a plane once that had to turn back to the airport just as the flight attendants were about to come by with the snack cart. When the captain announced the reason – smoke coming out of one of the panels in the cockpit (!) - you’d better believe everyone was on board with the new plan. The case for change must be made. What is the sector, membership, or board most concerned about? People will ask – even if they do not say it out loud – ‘what’s in it for me?’ Make sure you have the answer(s) ready.

Use Evidence to Drive Decision-Making

Have you ever seen inside the cockpit of an Airbus A380? Countless pieces of data and information measuring altitude, speed, fuel levels, navigation equipment, as well as monitoring the various elements of the plane itself (cabin temperature and pressure, electrical system etc.).  Information and research must drive what you do. You need evidence, not assumptions. Research should be internal (consultation with members, staff, directors and other constituents) and external (sector better practices and research, case studies and literature). Use qualitative research to uncover issues and add context, and quantitative research to validate potential directions and options.

Understand and Assess Your Options

Avoid the temptation to rush a decision and apply a ‘quick fix.’ Develop and assess alternatives and options based on your research and end goals.  Particularly if your board of directors or other stakeholder body is involved, this approach allows constituents to make their mark in shaping change. Giving constituents some ownership makes it far more likely that the change will be implemented successfully than if it is seen to be thrust upon them from a small group of executive decision-makers.

Chart the Course

Like any other kind of planning, you need an actionable strategy to achieve success tied to your desired outcome(s) for change. Lay out what needs to change and how. Understand what are the critical success factors needed for the plan to be successful, such as informed and engaged members, the right data, and resources.  Be clear about who is accountable for different elements of the plan. Make it measurable by making your plan SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound).

Recruit Change Ambassadors

Grassroots stakeholders are much more likely to get on board with change if people at different levels of the organization have bought in and are visibly engaged - like this flight attendant, for example.  You can help draw attention to the need for change but it needs champions and leadership from the board and, if possible, other influential members. Mobilizing members as change champions and/or using a “train-the-trainer” approach to consistently facilitate and communicate change across the organization can be extremely effective at generating wide-spread support.

Be Open to Mid-Course Correction   

Once underway, people may tend to be excessively optimistic in self-assessing their own decisions, even when there are storm clouds on the horizon. Continually seeking feedback – and acting on it if necessary – is critical.   Make sure when asking for feedback that you are seen to be acting on it through frequent stakeholder communications that clearly make this link.  Implementing change gradually rather than trying to change everything at once is one way to reduce turbulence enroute, even if you need to change direction.

Keep People Informed

Keep members and stakeholders in the loop throughout the process with regular updates on progress toward stated goals and changes to your plan if it evolves. Be honest and transparent and continually tie what you are doing back to the value it is providing to your end-user. Importantly, don’t be afraid to toot your own horn when your change begins to take root and has positive results. It is important to celebrate success!

If you are interested in learning about and continuing the dialogue on association change, we hope you'll consider joining the TPG team at these upcoming events in Toronto and Vancouver!

  • Big Association Trends – From Identification to Innovation. A CSAE Trillium Chapter PDX Event. Wednesday, March 29, 2017 9:00 am – Noon in Toronto. REGISTER
  • Associations 2025: High Performing Associations of Tomorrow. A CSAE National Event. April 03, 2017. 8:30-4:30 at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel. REGISTER
  • Associations Trend Talk. CSAEBC Lunch 'n Learn Session. May 4, 2017. Sheraton Wall Centre. REGISTER

 

Using Big Data to Understand What Your Association's Members Are REALLY Thinking

Have you ever wondered what each of your association's members was really thinking?

Meet Jane, the association executive who was able to better target member segments at both a strategic and operational level by streamlining and making better use of big data and other member information...

Understanding What Nonprofits Do

By Jack Shand, Executive Partner. The Portage Group

In an earlier article on The Characteristics of Executive Leadership, I outlined what employees in the nonprofit sector do. But what do nonprofit organizations do?

First, two observations: Observation one is that many nonprofit organizations feel they are unique. Board leaders tell me this frequently when they are starting a hiring process for a new chief staff executive. Observation two is that many working in the nonprofit sector have struggled at some point in explaining exactly what it is their organization does, and how it adds value. Is it about reciting the mission statement perfectly?

So let's try and build understanding of what goes on in this sector and the "business" nonprofit organizations — associations and charities — are in.

Advocacy is a universal aim for organizations in the sector. Advocacy can focus on a myriad of audiences; it is not only about (and in some cases is not at all about) lobbying governments. Advocacy can be directed to promoting a profession, shaping legislation, engaging stakeholders, dialogue with and through media, or mobilizing a community.

The health charity advocates for better health, quality care, and an early cure. The social welfare organization advocates for better lives and better communities. The business association advocates for the conditions that are catalysts for jobs, investment, and a strong economy. The professional association advocates for better practices, higher standards, and quality performance. Think of an NGO, philanthropic cause, regulatory body, business or professional association and they are doing advocacy.

In my experience, the leaders and stakeholders of all nonprofits are asking that their interests be given influence, put on the map, and have a voice at the table.

Connectivity is the second universal goal shared by nonprofits. Since centuries before the Modern Era, in ancient Egypt and earlier, there is a rich and empowering history of people coalescing around an interest whether it be the arts, culture, or a trade. Indeed, isn't the principal aim of all nonprofit organizations to provide a forum for individuals to engage on matters they share in common? Look at the community cable television station announcements for local events. From places of worship, to sporting pursuits, to clubs, to fundraising events, in all cases it reinforces that the bringing together of people is alive and well. Networking in all its forms — B2B, social media, mentorship — is growing.

Education is the third business nonprofit organizations share. Organizations gather, house, produce and share knowledge. In the United States and Canada, associations and charities are a leading source of adult education and training, possibly second only to private and public educational institutions.

Consider the sizeable resources every city of consequence in the world devotes to attracting conventions, conferences, seminars, symposia, and workshops — events owned in many cases by associations.

For members of professions, from architects to zoologists, there is the impressive business of professional publications, accreditation, and certification that is developed and delivered by nonprofits. In fact for some time there has been a trend where professional associations and educational institutions are forming strategic alliances, including MBA programs, with curriculum in specialist tracks geared to human resource professionals, management consultants, insurance brokers and others.

There is a combined effect of this activity, recognized in constitutions and by democratic governments throughout the world. Nonprofit organizations are special, not in the unpleasant nuance of special interest, but because of the value associations and charities bring to society. Unconvinced? Then think of the tax-exempt status enjoyed by all organizations in this sector. Consider as well the privileged access the sector has to governments. Governments recognize that the organizations comprising this sector add real value to good policy making and to bettering society. Simply, nonprofit organizations contribute to and are needed by society, and their special role has been validated by governments. When you are next asked about what nonprofit organizations do, what your association or charity does, remember the valued work that we have in common:

Advocacy

Connectivity

Education

If you work for an association or a charity, here is our universal business card. It is a membership card we all share because it well symbolizes what nonprofit organizations do, our lead position doing it, and the passion we bring to our work.

© Jack Shand and The Portage Group 2015.

Toot Your Horn: Communicating Effectively in Member-Based Organizations

If you lead an association, you know its important that your members play a role in shaping your strategy and priorities....but being member-driven is just half of the battle. The other important and often overlooked piece has to do with communication.

It can be hard for organizations to make 'tooting their own horn' a priority, but the ability to communicate successfully to members about the results they are achieving on their behalf can spell the difference between good and outstanding in the association world.

Following are a few rules of thumb to consider when you're wrapping your head around how best to educate your members about all of the great things your association is accomplishing.

1. Show members that you are listening and that you actually care about what they have to say.  Let them know that you've heard them and plan on taking action based on their needs:

Example:  “The membership survey told us that you think we’re doing a great job providing relevant professional development programming but that we’re falling short in providing you with enough opportunities to network with your peers.  We’re listening and are working on a plan to raise the bar in this critical area.”

2. Demonstrate how you are taking action. Tell members in specific terms how their input is going to be used to turn their vision of the association into a reality:

Example: "Based on your input, we’ve updated our education program to include opportunities that are more relevant to your needs.  These will be launched this coming January and will include X, Y, Z."

 3. Show members the measurable results you have achieved: Keep your members up-to-date with your progress related to the goals you have set. Celebrate your accomplishments when you reach your targets and be honest and accountable when you fall short.

Example: "It has now been six months since we asked you to speak your mind in our member satisfaction survey. Since that time we set several ambitious goals designed to address your key concerns. Here’s an update on what we’ve achieved so far.

Government Relations Goal: Get a seat on X regulatory board by 2012.

Status: Achieved

Media Relations Goal: Members and/or representatives of the organization to be called on for expert advice at the national media level 12 times per year.

Status:  Ahead of schedule for 2015 with the association and its members appearing in national media 8 times in the first quarter.

Education Goal: Develop and fill six new workshops on the impact of the economy on our profession.

Status: First three workshops have been completed and were a great success. All were sold out. The remaining three sessions for this year are already 75% full."

4. Do your homework.

Make sure you understand what balance of communication works with your members. In other words, not only do you need to know what channels your members want used (email, social media, snail mail, MMS etc.), but how often they want to be touched by your association (once a month, weekly, daily). You also need to understand what type of messaging is most effective for the different segments of your membership.

 5. Tell them, tell them often and tell them again.

Communication to your members about what is happening in your association cannot be something done once or twice yearly. Depending on what you learned from #4, communication needs to be sent on a regular basis using different channels and with variety in the messaging to make sure the message ‘sticks’ to your various member groups.

Carol-Anne Moutinho is a Senior Consultant with The Portage Group

Breaking Through the Status Quo: Challenging Your Organizational Limits

By Alan Ward We don’t know our limits until we push past them.

Is this true?  It sounds like it could be true.  If you asked me, though, if I knew my limits my automatic thinking answer would be “Yeah, pretty well.”  I more or less know what I can and cannot do.  Ergo, I probably know my limits.

My deeper thinking process, however, would question that conclusion.  All I really know is what I have done, what I have done well or not so well, and what I stay away from doing.  I know my experience, but not my limits.

Turning Your Nonprofit Strategy Into A Reality: The Implementation Plan

As the saying goes, "failure to plan is planning to fail."  Just as important as your association or nonprofit's strategy is an implementation plan to put all of those great ideas into action! Here is a simple implementation plan template to help get the ball rolling in achieving your strategy.

Show Your Members They Drive the Agenda With a One-Page Strategic Plan

There are a number of tools you can use to succinctly and effectively communicate to your members that they drive the association agenda. The one-page strategic plan is a great way to present your strategic plan in a succinct way to your members - the key is to make it clear that their input is being used to drive the agenda. Below is one example of a one-page member-driven strategic plan. Here is an example.

First This, Then That: Why Your Association’s Team May Not Be Working to Its Full Potential

As leaders and contributors, we want to make things happen.  We need to make things happen.  On our watch revenues should be ramping, membership should be growing, and our organization’s influence should be expanding.  We develop strategy, equip the ship, and set sail.  And things go well… until perhaps they don’t.  Then, it seems, we have more questions than answers...

Stuck in a Rut? Four Ideas to Get the Juices Flowing at Your Next Association Staff or Board Meeting

Whether your association, charity or not-for-profit staff or board is on autopilot, or whether you are just stuck in a rut when it comes to coming up with an effective and creative way to address an opportunity, challenge or niggling problem, here are a few approaches you could try at your next meeting or board retreat.