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Meetings are necessary to achieve consensus – especially in associations.  We’ve all been in those meetings that were a complete waste of time.  Make sure meetings you run are not a waste of time but are productive and help your organization work toward achieving its mission. 

To do so, we have identified seven keys to running successful, productive meetings:

  • Have an agenda for every meeting
    • Every meeting should have an agenda that identifies all the items to be covered during the meeting.  The agenda should clearly state the purpose of the meeting and the expected outcomes for the meeting and should be distributed enough in advance of the meeting for participants to review and give thought to the items being addressed. The purpose and expected outcomes should also be restated by the leader at the beginning of the meeting. 
  • If you need volunteers for activities, get them lined up before the meeting – never ask for volunteers during a meeting
    • So many times it happens, an item is discussed and after it’s decided upon, we seek a volunteer to “lead it”.  You know in advance the items being addressed and discussed so line up your volunteers before the meeting.  This will help assure you get interested, passionate people leading your activities.   
  • Make sure all planned actions during the meeting are related to strategic goals of the organization
    • If it’s not helping to achieve your mission, you shouldn’t be doing it. 
  • The meeting leader (President, Committee Chair, etc.) should be a facilitator, not a dictator
    • This is very important and is often a difference between for profit corporate leaders and successful association leaders.  Remember all members are equal.  It’s the job of the meeting leader to facilitate the discussion – make sure all points of view are given an opportunity to be discussed and debated.
  • Achieve consensus
    • Before any votes are taken, make sure all participants understand what they’re voting on and give ample time for discussion. 
    • Do not allow people to filibuster or to repeat positions already articulated by others. 
    • See our blog on achieving consensus for more information.
  • Make sure all decisions are clearly articulated at the end of the meeting
    • In order to assure the expected actions occur between meetings, it’s important the decisions are clearly articulated.  If assignments are created, be sure due dates are also assigned.
  • Be sure accurate minutes are taken during the meeting and distributed promptly following the meeting including any assignments and due dates
    • Minutes are the historical record of your meetings and decisions.  Be sure you have accurate minutes for all your meetings.  Additionally, between meetings, follow up with people who have assignments to be sure they’re on track

If you follow these seven simple steps your meetings will be efficient and will lead to successes for your association.  Happy Meeting!

It’s the time of year again when many associations are implementing their nomination and election process.  Because associations are groups of people or companies in the same profession or industry there are many opportunities for conflict and other challenges as an association goes through its nomination and election process. 

To avoid challenges which can lead to bigger problems such as hurt feelings, dropped memberships, etc., it is important that every association have a clear nomination and election process and that the process is followed each and every time. 

Below are some suggestions you might consider including in your nomination and election process:

  • Have a nominating committee whose responsibility is to develop and/or review nominations.  The nominating committee could include a current leader, such as the president; a former leader, such as the most recent past president; and possibly a future leader, such as an engaged committee member. 
  • The nominating committee should work throughout the year to identify potential future leaders. 
  • The nominating committee should have discussions with potential future leaders to gauge their level of interest and commitment prior to nominating them. 
  • If the membership is engaged in the nomination process, the nominating committee should make sure ample opportunity and notice is provided to the membership. 
  • The nominating committee should assure the qualifications and responsibilities for nominees is clearly stated for the membership’s consideration. 
  • The association staff should be sure to remind the nominating committee of their responsibilities and the timing of the process several times throughout the year.  However, it is VERY important the staff be removed from the nomination process.  The staff should never be perceived as attempting to select future volunteer leaders for the association.
  • The nominating committee should consider several factors when evaluating potential nominees such as:
    • Experience in the industry or profession
    • Experience within the association
    • Level of commitment to the association and its mission
    • Is the nominee interested in the position for the good of the association or themselves
    • Is the nominee willing to listen to other opinions and work toward consensus
    • If being nominated for a director position, are they a potential future officer as well
    • Will the nominee work well with others but also be willing to offer their own opinion, even if it’s unpopular
  • Be sure the nominations are clearly published or communicated to whatever the electoral body is in advance of the election
  • Be sure whoever leads the actual election process (nominating committee chair, current president, etc.) is well versed on the process for the election and has information on how to handle curve balls that might be thrown such as nominations from the floor.  (We recommend you draft a script for the person leading the election process).  The script should include potential situations that can occur during the process and how to handle them. 

Above all, don’t let your nomination and election process become a “joke” where people who aren’t interested are nominated or elected because they “were out of the room”.  Building a culture where people want to be an association leader because of its value and importance to them personally, professionally and to the profession or industry they are serving is key to your association’s long-term success. 

Having a clear nomination and election process will help the process, but to build that culture can take time and takes committed leaders and staff. 

Good luck!

As a leading Association Management Company (AMC) we are often asked by prospective association client partners and volunteer leaders of associations, “What is the key to making an association successful?”.  They, understandably, want a ‘silver bullet’ or ‘easy button’ answer – something they can easily implement to make their association successful. 

The answer is easy.  Unfortunately, the implementation is complicated.  The key to association success can be found in one word – Members

Associations that are most successful over long periods of time have figured out how to engage their members continuously

So, if you agree with my premise, the next logical question is “How do you engage members continuously?”.  That’s the complicated part.  There isn’t a simple methodology that works for all associations because each association and even each member within each association is different.  Members have different reasons for being members; they have different goals; they have different interests. 

Associations used to be able to engage all or most of their members around a single issue impacting most or all members.  (Often government legislation or regulation helps with this).  However, these days with member interests being so diverse, one issue doesn’t necessarily make as great an impact as it used to.

These days, associations need to understand the interests and needs of their members, much the way a retailer understands their customers.  Associations need to collect data on their members and the interactions each member has with the association and then deliver products and services that meet the member needs.  But doing just this isn’t enough.  This doesn’t create real engagement with members.

In addition, associations need to create opportunities for their members to interact with each other and the association based on their interests and needs.  The interactions can be through large events, small meetings, online groups, committees, and more.  These interactions must be expertly planned and coordinated by the association and they must allow the members to contribute to and derive value from the content or create knowledge shared during these interactions. 

Members are the lifeblood of associations.  Without members, even with a good and noble purpose, associations do not exist.  However, over time we may begin seeing a shift in how associations are organized around their “members” – this shift is one more reason it’s so important for associations to be engaging their members now

One possible shift could be that associations will cease to have “members” as we know them now.  People and companies won’t pay annual dues to be a “member” of an association and then pay additional (though perhaps discounted) fees for certain engagements with the association.  Instead, people and companies will pay for what they want or need. 

By figuring out ways to truly engage “members” today, associations will be successful today and their success will be sustainable regardless of what changes the membership model for associations encounters over time. 

Association Management Companies (AMCs) have been providing value to associations for more than one hundred years.  What kind of value do they provide and how do volunteer leaders determine the best model for their association – and if that model is the AMC model, how do volunteer leaders determine which AMC is right for them?

These are difficult questions to answer – especially for a volunteer leader who doesn’t have the expertise, time or resources to dedicate to find the right answer. 

So, in the spirit of former late-night host and comedian David Letterman, here are the Top Ten Reasons Volunteer Leaders of Associations Should Select an AMC (and specifically CM Services):

10.  Associations managed by AMCs outperform associations not managed by AMCs from a financial perspective.  Click here to review an article describing a 10 year study which supports this claim.

9.  Associations managed by AMCs realize significantly greater growth over time than associations not managed by AMCs.  Click here to review an infographic demonstrating this point   

8.  Associations managed by AMCs have the flexibility to adapt quickly to changes in their marketplace and redirect or redeploy resources necessary to achieve new or ever-changing goals. 

7.  Associations managed by AMCs receive the expert guidance they require for their specialized projects and activities. 

6.  Leaders of Associations managed by AMCs can focus on their organizational mission, strategies and related outcomes rather than managing employees and day to day activities. 

5. Associations managed by AMCs have more money to devote to membership programming and adding value to members as a result of the efficiencies and leveraged resources brought to bear by AMCs.  In fact, when reviewing the American Society of Association Executives Operating Ratio Report, associations managed by CM Services spend on average 10%-20% less on the resources to manage their association as a result of these efficiencies and leveraged resources.

4.  CM Services’ Core Values mean CM Services creates long term relationships with our client partners and employee partners.  They are: 

  • We put our client partners first
  • Integrity in all we do
  • Expertise in the industries/professions we serve
  • Collaboration to achieve best results
  • Deliver innovative solutions for our client partners
  • A team based work environment that is fun

3.  CM Services was one of the first companies worldwide to achieve Charter Accreditation by the AMCinstitute.  Achieving AMCi Accreditation means CM Services has demonstrated its procedures meet or exceed the best practices documented in an ANSI standard for Association Management Companies.  It also means CM Services passes an independent audit of its procedures every four years.  CM Services is dedicated to continuous improvement of its proven practices. 

2.  CM Services has a proven process to assure our client partners succeed.  The process includes developing strategic and operational plans for our client partners and keeping the Board focused on achieving those plans. 

And the Number 1 Reason Volunteer Leaders should select CM Services as their AMC:

1.  CM Services’ Three Uniques – What makes us different than all other Association Management Companies –

  • Focused on our client partners’ results – we invest ourselves in your industry and make sure you are achieving your goals
  • Consensus Builders – we help your members make decisions through consensus
  • Client Recognized Superior Customer Service – highest Net Promoter Score among Professional Services Firms

We can likely all agree that in business cash may be King but accountability is next in line for the throne. 

In our businesses if we don’t establish Strategies, Goals and specific, measurable Objectives we hold ourselves and each other accountable for achieving, we will not achieve our mission.

Associations are no different – except that associations are led by volunteers.  Everyone knows you can’t hold volunteers accountable right?  WRONG!

This is the biggest mistake we see associations make every day.  However, it’s an easy mistake to make because of the nature of volunteer leadership.  Volunteers have “real jobs”; volunteers have families, volunteers have other interests AND volunteers aren’t getting paid to do their “Association job”. 

What are some things that can be done within the association framework to change this paradigm and create accountability?

  • Staff and volunteer leadership both need to make sure the association has SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Timely) goals aligned with the association’s mission.
  • Each SMART goal MUST have a person responsible for making it happen.  (Note:  This person doesn’t have to do all the work but is the person RESPONSIBLE for making sure it is accomplished by the deadline). 
  • At each meeting (committee, board, staff, etc.) SMART goal status should be shared.  If a goal is falling behind its scheduled deadline, that should be reported and discussed.  If changes are appropriate, they should be made and documented.
  • Between meetings, staff MUST follow up with volunteers who have been assigned responsibilities.  The purpose of the follow up is two-fold.  First to make sure the volunteer understands his/her responsibility and the task at hand.  Second to make sure the task is being addressed and an appropriate status report will be given at the next meeting.
  • Between meetings staff MUST report to the chair or appropriate volunteer leader on assignments for which they’ve been given responsibility.  This will help hold staff accountable for their responsibilities as well.
  • During meetings it’s likely that additional tasks will be identified.  It is the responsibility of the staff and chair of that meeting to clearly articulate the new tasks at the end of the meeting and make sure they’ve been made SMART and have a responsible party assigned to assure their implementation. 

Following these simple guidelines for holding staff and volunteers accountable will help your association be more productive and encourage a healthy environment between and among the volunteers and staff who are all working together to achieve the mission of the organization.   

One often heard piece of advice is when a person steps into a leadership role in business, the first thing they should do is find their successor. That’s very true for most companies. Is it true for associations?

The short answer – YES.

Think about the various leadership opportunities within an association. The Board of Directors, the Officers, the Committee Chairs, the Chapters (if there are any). It is critical that association leaders have planned successions for all leadership positions.

But how can they do this? After all, they’re volunteering their time and need to focus on the important aspects of the association, like its mission, right? Of course that’s true, but remember, if there is no succession plan, there is no way the organization can achieve its mission.

Here are some helpful tips for volunteer leaders to initiate succession plans:

• Officers. Every association should have a policy for electing officers. However, in addition to the election policy, there must be a clear path to find the best candidates for office. Typically these candidates come from the current Board of Directors but may also come from committee chairs or even committee members. As soon as one is elected into an officer position, he/she should start thinking about who would be a qualified, effective leader in that role. At that point the “recruitment” process begins. The officer should initiate discussions with other officers and those tasked with developing nominations about who the best successors may be. After consensus is reached, the officers and nominating committee members should reach out to the potential nominees to gauge interest and “sell” the positions. Many associations do some form of this but most wait until the end of their term to begin this process. It is critical the process to find your successor start at the beginning of your term. What kinds of qualities should you look for in a future officer?

o Someone committed to achieving the mission of the association
o Someone who has demonstrated their his/her willingness and ability to commit the required time to the position
o Someone who is open minded and interested in the opinions of others
o Someone who is a consensus builder
o Someone who has a positive attitude and outlook about the association

• Directors. The pool of potential Directors is usually larger than potential Officers. Typically these are the people who are chairing committees or who have been engaged in the association for some time. It is every director and officer’s job to help find (and even groom) future directors. Again, this process should start at the beginning of the director and officer terms to allow ample time to find the right candidates. The process should be coordinated through the Nominating committee process. What kinds of qualities should you look for in a future director?

o Someone committed to achieving the mission of the association
o Someone who has demonstrated his/her willingness and ability to commit the required time to the position
o Someone who is open minded and interested in the opinions of others
o Someone who has a positive attitude and outlook about the association
o Someone who will come to meetings prepared and ready to make necessary decisions

• Committee Chairs. Typically, any member of the association can be a committee chair. The best way to assure a smooth succession plan for a committee is to appoint “vice chairs” for each committee. The vice chair is the logical successor to the committee chair. As soon as one is appointed committee chair, he/she should begin the process of finding and selecting someone to serve in the vice chair role. The best pool of candidates is, of course, from active and engaged committee members. However, that’s not the only pool. There may be other members interested and capable. If you know someone who has the leadership qualities you desire for the association, but they haven’t yet been engaged, a vice chair role is a great place to start. What kinds of qualities should committee chairs and vice chairs possess?

o Someone who has a positive attitude and outlook about the association
o Someone who has the willingness to commit the time required for the position
o Someone who has specific knowledge or interest in the content area the committee is focused on, is helpful, though not required
o Someone who can run an effective meeting by keeping the committee focused on the agenda
o Someone who can engage others and encourage their participation in the committee or other association activities

As an association leader your most important job is to focus on achieving the mission of your organization. Your second most important job is succession planning – making sure your association has qualified leaders filling officer, director and committee chair roles for years to come.

I view leadership as a journey. Like most journeys it has its highs and lows. Sometimes I am working on all cylinders and practicing great leadership techniques. Other times, I struggle and find myself practicing more of the “don’ts” than the “do’s” of leadership.

I suspect most leaders have similar experiences.

Like most worthwhile things in life, I find when I’m struggling with leadership I need to go back to the basics – to remember that leadership isn’t about ME – it’s about others!

If you think about most great and sustainable leaders throughout history, they have one thing in common. It’s not that they were the smartest people of their time. They didn’t have the most resources at their disposal. They weren’t always the most outgoing or had magnetic personalities. The one thing they all have in common is that, as leaders, they served others, not themselves.

Given how true it is that the best leaders are selfless leaders, it amazes me how little is written about being a selfless leader. If you google “selfless leadership”, the second and third items are from 2015 and 2011 respectively. That’s incredible!

Click here to read an interesting post on selfless leadership.

Click here to take Inc. magazine’s test to see if you’re a selfless leader.

Personally, I think leadership can be learned and there are a few things you can practice to become a selfless leader. (You won’t do these all the time. When you catch yourself falling short – try again).

In every situation, put others before yourself. Recently I had an opportunity to take the day off for something we call Summer Friday’s. However, the person mainly responsible for answering phones in our office was on vacation. Rather than have someone else in our office come in on their day off, or have our customers call in to an automated system, I answered phones for part of the day. Doing so allowed others to focus on their jobs and gave me an opportunity to “walk a mile” in our receptionist’s shoes.

Be positive, not negative – Encourage, don’t criticize. This can be a hard one for anybody. It’s not easy to always be positive. Truthfully, no one can do that. But staying positive especially during times of adversity and giving words of encouragement instead of criticism is the mark of a selfless leader.

Taking time for others. A selfless leader ALWAYS makes time for others even when they don’t have time to give. We are all very busy in our lives. Time is our most precious resource. The best leaders find ways to give their time to others every time they need it. The people they lead aren’t “afraid” to ask their leader for help and appreciate it when their leader spends time with them without being asked. Back in the old days, some people referred to this as “MBWA” or “Manage by walking around.” For selfless leaders it’s more than that. It’s not just walking around but actually engaging with your team and giving yourself to them unconditionally.

Be an active listener and a passive talker. This one is difficult for me. I, like many leaders, am a “talker.” I enjoy interacting with people. However, selfless leaders actively listen to others. They don’t just hear the words, but they also relate to them and engage with that person to help solve their problems or contribute to their goals. As a goal, leaders should listen 75% of the time and talk 25%. As a leader, I need to remind myself, as I do often, that listening is more powerful than talking. I try to be the last person to talk in a meeting or in a conversation so I can hear what everyone else is saying first and only contribute when I have something valuable to offer.

So why is selfless leadership important to associations? Associations are natural places for selfless leadership to be practiced and learned. By their very nature association leaders are volunteers putting the needs of others before themselves.

If you’re an association leader, you are already practicing some of these selfless leadership concepts.

If you’d like more information on being a selfless leader or if you’re interested in professional management for your association, please contact CM Services’ President and Head Coach, Rick Church at rickc@cmservices.com