Association Management Blog

Time for a New and Exciting Direction

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Many will no doubt find what Majdalany and I did, selling our firm to a holding company dedicated to the non-profit services sector, to be a bit strange. It's certainly unorthodox in the AMC community, but to us it made a great deal of sense. (press release)

Conference calls gone bad

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Fellow AMC principal Jonathan Strauss posted the link to a routine by the YouTube comedy team Tripp and Tyler highlighting all that can, and too often does, go wrong with teleconference meetings. But teleconference/web-conference meetings don't have to be this way. I can think of at least 5 basic practices that can avoid the problems highlighted in the video.

1.   Have an agenda and distribute it prior to the meeting.

This seems basic, but it was fairly clear on the video skit that not everyone was on the same page for the meeting. It doesn't matter how a meeting is being conducted. It will benefit from some structure. Beginning the meeting by stating desired outcomes is also a good way to get everyone aligned with the purpose and activities for the call. The person leading the meeting doesn't have to be dictatorial about the meeting's purpose of the agenda, but s/he should take responsibility to making the most of attendee's time on the call.

2.   There should be no surprise guests on a virtual call.

It is often the case with working groups widely distributed that some members of the team have not met everyone on a conference meeting. The leader should take steps prior to conference calls, or build time into conference calls for all the members to know a little something about the other team members. This quickly becomes unnecessary as a working team will soon know everyone participating in ongoing calls.

3.   A little conference etiquette goes a long ways.

Show up on time! If you can't, announce yourself at a convenient break in the discussion; simply apologize for being late. Telling the story as to why you're late will mostly NOT be of interest to those who made it on time.

4.   Periodically poll for attendees.

If you're the leader, periodically poll to see if someone has joined after attendance was taken. Be welcoming, don't even imply that being late reflects poorly on them.

5.   Do an Internet search for "teleconference etiquette" and find even more "best practice tips".

If your teleconference and web-conference meetings resemble the Tripp and Tyler skit, you've only yourself to blame.

Data-driven Management Decisions

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In the past few years there's been an increased emphasis on data-driven management in the association management field. This is to be applauded. But data alone will not improve management decisions. At L&M we believe there are five basic steps to solid management studies to increase the likelihood that the right questions are being asked to produce the best answers that time and budget allow.

The release of the third study report in as many years comparing the performance of associations managed under the two dominant management models (e.g., standalone and AMC-managed), caused me to reflect on what I was originally looking for when I undertook comparing the operating ratios of associations based on these two models.

My initial goal was to find a credible set of data that would debunk the many myths about AMCs and AMC-managed organizations. I found that and much more!

The following is a comment to the article entitled "In-House Association Management Services Checklist" published in the Component Relations section of the ASAE. If you're an ASAE member you can read the entire article here.

This is an excellent article, for as far as it goes. At first I was taken back and as an AMC owner thinking: 'this market is competitive enough without a whole new class of competitors....' But as I thought about the risks not identified in the article, I quickly realized three things.

"Benefits of a Five-Member Board" in the March issue ofAssociations Now (AN) should be read with a high degree of skepticism. I've reread the article several times over the past week and I don't know who deserves more criticism: the authors for promoting a "one-trick pony" as a panacea for the industry-wide malaise that seems to have hit EVERY association (one of their many unsubstantiated claims); or AN's editorial staff for choosing such a weak treatment of an otherwise important topic for this month's feature article.

To be fair, this article has some merit, but on balance it contains more erroneous messages than useful knowledge.

My concern is for those relatively new to the profession of association management. I am confident that anyone with some years of association management and governance experience, especially with multiple organizations, would see the same shortcomings I saw in this article.

Here are a few assertions made by the authors I can agree with:

ASAE's AMC Accreditation Program Discontinued

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On May 21, 2007 the leadership of the ASAE and AMCI announced joint support for a single accreditation program based on the more rigorous AMCI program. The ASAE announced at that time that their program would end in 2010. More...

Despite the fact that ASAE's AMC Accreditation program ended on 12/31/10, some AMCs continue to prominently display the logo and promote that having attained it somehow makes them special.

If an organization values accreditation, which they should, then organizational leaders should know that any AMC still displaying the following logos has not been paying attention to important deadlines and may be taking their own accreditation for granted.

What's in store for associations in 2011?

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This is a broad question for what may be an even broader audience given the wide breadth covered by associations in our economy. Still, I think one issue looms large for any association — society or trade — in the coming year, especially considering the economy facing all association sectors. That dominant issue is the value proposition for members.

I can't think of a study that examines how associations respond to economic shifts. There are plenty of anecdotal reports, but nothing rigorous. Yet, what association veterans have observed over the years is that association tend to lag markets by 12 to 18 months. On the face of it this makes sense. Association memberships are typically paid a year in advance. Therefore, it's typical for members who view belonging to an association as a non-critical cost to let an existing membership stand and not renew if a downturn in their market or profession persists when the next renewal period arrives. An organization's activities may slow down within a bad year, but the membership picture may not change until renewals are due.

The feature article in the January 2011 issue of Associations Now, ASAE's monthly magazine, is entitled: "How much risk is right?". It contained a few useful points, but overall it was disappointing. It would have been more useful if the author had recommended a general framework to making decisions involving risk.

What I liked about it includes learning about author and consultant David Ropeik and his book "How Risky Is It, Really?" and referencing Paul Wehking's observation that 'continuing the status quo might actually bring more risk to an organization than making a change, which may or may not involve doing something new.'   That was the only value for anyone with any direct management experience.

No, I'm not looking for academic coursework on the subject from Associations Now, but it would be helpful to lift their aim a bit higher and make their articles more than thinly veiled 'infomercials by vendor members'. Suggesting even one framework for working through strategic decisions involving risk would have been nice. For example...

L&M mourns loss of colleague and friend

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On September 8, 2010 we lost our close colleague and friend Mary Litynski to cancer. Mary had been on medical leave of absence since the January 2010 working very hard to recover from another bout of the disease that was first diagnosed in December 2006. She passed peacefully at home with her husband Massimo Placidi.

L&M staff is extremely grateful to so many colleagues, clients and friends who were very supportive during the last months of 2010. Mary touched many of us with her kindness, diligence and warm humor. So much so, that one of L&M's clients have named an award in her honor to recognize significant member contributions to that organization. The Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group expects to announce the first recipient of the Mary Litynski Award at their June member meeting in San Francisco.

Mary-eNews-Jan2011.jpg In loving memory of our colleague and friend
Mary Litynski
1953 - 2010