Association Leadership: Crafting A Strong Vision Statement

vision statement

The new year is a great time for association leadership to take stock of their current strategic plan. If you are in the process of this already you are likely considering if your organization’s Vision Statement matches what you are actually doing.

A strong Practical Vision Statement puts a stake in the ground that managers and employees feel compelled to reach, and guides the rest of the non-profit business plan.

Part of the problem with Vision Statements is that many organizations articulate them for the wrong reason: because everyone else has one. Then, unfortunately, they put them on their website and other prominent places where their employees, donors, members and competitors can see them.

If your management or board wants to create a vision statement merely as a show piece, stay away. Help them with their vision only if they see it as an important first step to a really great business plan.

Don’t Flaunt it Unless You’ve Really Got It

Don’t get us wrong, if you have a great Practical Vision Statement, flaunt it. After creating the Practical Vision Statement, you can carefully craft a version that can be communicated to various stakeholders.

If you set out to create a vision statement that sounds nice…that is what you’ll get. It probably won’t be that useful. Our advice is that you set out to create a great Vision Statement to help guide the plan and run the business. You can worry communicating it later.

Start from Scratch

We have all seen terrible vision statements. Occasionally you even see one that you think is really good. When you do, print it or copy it down and file it away so you can show it to your participants when you are helping them articulate their own Vision Statement. Maybe your organization’s Vision Statement is already in your “ugly file”.

A word of caution: don’t try to sit down and rewrite a really bad vision statement. If the Vision Statement is that bad, likely so is the underlying vision. Convince your participants to throw it out and start from scratch using the principles and methodology outlined in our Strategy and Business Planning Toolkit.

Next week we’ll analyze an example of a good Practical Vision Statement so you can understand everything that goes into it.

Association Managers are you getting the most out of volunteers?

Volunteers are the lifeblood of many associations. They bring new ideas, create a communal culture and should make your life easier. So how can association managers like you get the most out of your volunteers?

volunteers association managers

A new paper from Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly has some insight on that. They surveyed 244 college students to see if their interests and motivations were matching up with their actual volunteer experiences. Finding a specific role for a volunteer can require more short time work and coordination but the researchers believe it pays off in the long run.

It makes sense that volunteers who are engaged in doing something they are passionate about are likely to become more dedicated. Conversely volunteers who are not matched with an activity they are suited to are less satisfied with their experience.

The first thing your association can do to create happier, more productive volunteers is ask them what they are interested in. Consider setting up simple binary categories such as physical labour. There are volunteers who will find it rewarding and the ones who do not will be able to avoid it. If you are looking for more idea’s for ways to narrow down the categories you can put volunteers into check out this blog post from Alex Maki, one of the researchers who conducted the study.

Maki has also posted a Volunteer Interest Typology (VIT) Questionnaire online for anyone to use. In an email to Associations Now Maki said that the VIT makes it easier to highlight distinct types of positions to potential volunteers.

Have you used a tool like VIT before? What things does your association do to improve your volunteers experience? Let us know in the comments.

Non Profit Management: The Great Meetings Guide

Meetings are a regular and often dreaded part of the workweek for all of us in association and non profit management. In an ideal world meetings are actually a highlight of your workday. They are productive and highlight how well your team can work together. Seeing your team help each other is inspiring. However this ideal likely does not match up with your meeting reality. So how do you move closer to this ideal?

Non profit management meetings

If you are in charge of the meeting there are many things that you can do. First show up early to test your powerpoint, sound, video and the room’s wifi. Your coworkers will understand if technical problems out of your control occur happen and they will appreciate you taking care of it beforehand.

By showing up early and addressing possible technical difficulties your meeting will start on time. There should be a designated attendee who records key items throughout your meeting.

Now you may be tempted to wait for a late coworker, or delay the meeting to allow everyone to settle in. Do not give into that temptation. It punishes those who show up on time ready to work. Another thing to avoid doing is catching up late attendees. It interrupts the flow of the meeting and again punishes those who showed up on time.

During the meeting tactfully end any off topic or dead-end discussions. One way to do this is to say “That is an interesting point you are raising but it we are not able to do it justice right now. Let’s make it a priority at another meeting.” If your attendee insists respond with “We have a lot on the agenda today and we don’t have the bandwidth to add more items.” That should shut down all off topic discussion without antagonizing any attendees.

Often meeting leaders allow redundant dead-end discussions because they do not want discourage participation. Do not be afraid to explicitly state something like “Let’s avoid redundancies. You all have valuable things to contribute so let’s keep moving forward.”

Aim to get everyone’s point of view and ideas. To do this solicit input for those who have contributed yet. Take a the direct approach with passive participants by asking them questions like “What do you think about this plan?”

No matter how productive and excellent the discussion happening in your meeting is you need to end it 5-10 mins before the scheduled end time. This allows  your attendees to make it to their next meeting on time. It is a small thing but it will reduce your attendees stress for the rest of the day.

Once the meeting concludes look over the key items and compose a brief summary email for all attendees within 24 hours. This email compounds the importance of the meeting and stops attendees from forgetting about their responsibilities. The final thing you need to do is touch base with the attendees to ensure that they are following through on action items.

Do you have any meeting tips that we missed? Share them with us in the comments.

Do you want to implement an effective meeting policy in your association? Download this free great meetings template on us. It has even more information than this blogpost and can be implemented in your non profit right away.

Association executives are you getting the most out of Twitter?

As association executives you are always looking for ways to get your word out into the world. There’s a lot of noise about what you should and not should be doing on social media to spread your message. We think the best way is to look at a success story and see what they did right.

Twitter for association executives

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) have worked hard to create an engaged audience on Twitter. If you have spent time trying to do this yourself you know this can be difficult. Competing for users attention with the sheer volume of messages can be intimidating.

So what is NAM doing differently than other associations? For starters they’ve done a great job of identifying where their voice needs to be heard. This year they focused on the State of the Union address and presidential debates.

According to a post on Twitter’s blog the town hall meeting dynamic that happens on Twitter during political events lets users weigh in and learn about issues in real time. “This dynamic makes the platform a prime marketing channel for trade associations and advocacy groups seeking to shape the national dialogue”

During the 2015 State of the Union address NAM had over 100,000 engagements. This means that everyday americans following the debate got see manufacturers needs. It also delivered a clear message to politicians about the importance of manufacturers in America.  

NAM’s social media manager Martha Sprague was pleased with how the campaign played out.

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“The power of now is very important for our association. On Twitter, we’re able to insert ourselves there, get our point across, and engage with new audiences, new followers, and really push the needle a little bit further,” Sprague said.

Does your association have a success story comparable to NAM? Tell us about it in the comments.