31 December 2009

Happy New Year!

Still haven't picked this year's resolution.

In the running:
BMW Performance Driving School
Attend Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp
Visit all the Washingtonian Magazine's 75 Best Bars


30 December 2009

What I'm Reading

Lots of good stuff floating around the blogosphere this week!
And, more End of Year Listmania:

29 December 2009

Big Idea Month: So what will YOU do TODAY?

Innovation can come from a big idea:
"What if we took ARPNet and made it available to everyone?"
Innovation can come from a small idea:

And really, it all comes down to:
How can we be better today than we were yesterday?
The thing is, all this big thinking or small thinking or medium thinking doesn't matter a damn unless you actually DO something. I'm going to quote JNott again:
The time may not be right for everything...but it's ALWAYS right for something. Do something, and learn from it.
Or, to quote Shelly Alcorn:
Political environments are generally about protecting the status quo. Innovation in the governmental and/or non-profit arena is generally seen as a threat to the status quo. Chief staff executives are generally seen as protectors of the status quo. Ergo, innovative executives are generally seen as a threat to the organization.
What does that mean for you? If you're not the CEO/ED, probably good things - innovation, in most of our organizations, is going to need to come from somewhere other than the top spot.

The New Year starts in a few days. And I'm not a fan of Big, Serious Resolutions. But I might make an exception in this case.

I'm challenging myself and the association community to ask ourselves, every day:
What can I DO TODAY to make myself, my job, my association, and/or life for our members better than it was yesterday?
Big idea. Small idea. Medium idea. Doesn't matter. No excuses. "But I'm not the Grand Poobah!" Good! Be better.

24 December 2009


Best wishes of the season
To you and all those you hold in your heart
Happy Holidays!

23 December 2009

What I'm Reading

Short list to match the short week:
  • What do measuring engagement and measuring email deliverability have to do with each other? Quite a bit, actually.
  • More year-end lists: top 10 marketing tips for 2010.
  • How to have a corporate blog that doesn't sound like a sales pitch.
  • If you're not following all the great Big Ideas Month posts, you really should be.
  • Still reading X Saves the World. It's definitely entertaining, but three things have occurred to me: 1) it's very much a boy book 2) I think Nirvana had more of an impact on Jeff Gordinier than it did on Kurt Cobain 3) Just because Paris Hilton and Britney Spears are vapid doesn't mean ALL Millennials are. It's easier to be funny if you write that way, but it's a little harsh.

22 December 2009

Big Idea Month: What if associations offered no agenda at its next staff retreat other than "show up and talk about how we can be better?"

My third entry in the Acronym Big Idea Month rodeo:

What if the only thing associations focused on was "how can we be better?"

Or, to quote Jeffrey Cufaude from the December 8 #assnchat, what if we had "calls for ideas" just like we have calls for papers/presentations?

I think this gets to some of the other questions, like what if we forgot about petty internal politics and focused on the mission, what if we weren't afraid to share new ideas, what if we removed "we have always done it that way" from our vocabularies?

Anyone who knows me knows that this is what I try to do, and I know a LOT of others in the same boat - you can find us without looking too hard (the association blogger community, association geeks on Twitter, the YAPstars, etc.). And we're all tempted to think that other people think/reason the same way we do. But that's demonstrably not true. Particularly not in this case, or "petty internal politics" would be an oxymoron.

So the question becomes: if "Ideas BAD!" is the focus of a sizable contingent of the association professional world (hell, of the world in general), AND we accept the premise that people act in ways that make sense to them, what's going on here?

No, "my colleagues are all crazy" is not an acceptable answer.

And those of us on the side of "Change GOOD!" *need* the answer, because we have to persuade at least some of the "Change BAAAAAD!" crowd to at least not oppose us if we hope to accomplish anything other than a big ole headache from whacking our heads on our desks repeatedly.

I think - and I certainly could be wrong - that it comes down to fear. But I think it's more than the traditional flip "they fear change" answer. Because that begs another question: why does this person fear change? What happened in her/his past to cause this? Did she have an idea - or multiple ideas - that were shot down in their infancy? Did he get to implement an idea that failed, and then get punished, or just totally hung out to dry? Did she have a great idea that was implemented and worked, only to see someone else hog all the credit?

I'm not saying that you'll be able to somehow fix those past bad experiences. This isn't therapy, and sitting around singing Kumbaya gives me hives anyway. But if you can get some idea about what's happening in your detractors' heads, you can think a little more constructively about what might help them be more comfortable with what you're proposing than "very well, then let it be war between us!" And that's when you can finally get some of those great ideas off the ground.

21 December 2009

Always the Last to Know - Earth911

"Can I recycle my old computer?" Maybe. It depends on where you live. Just in time for the holiday influx of new stuff, Earth911 can help you find out.

18 December 2009

Friday Top 5

Top 5 Things to do in DC to Celebrate the Holidays (shout out to Deb for the idea!) (and yes, you have already missed some of these this year, but you can put them on your calendar for NEXT year)
  1. Going to hear the Eric Felten Orchestra performing the Duke Ellington Nutcracker Suite at Blues Alley. They perform one night only, and this has become an annual tradition with my spouse, followed by driving around the monuments with the top down (assuming it's not raining or snowing). It was December 8 this year, and usually takes place within the first two weeks of December. Also, it's awesomesauce.
  2. Visiting the National Christmas Tree. Not to see the big tree, which is hideous, but to see the 56 smaller trees around it that are each decorated with ornaments provided by the 50 states, 5 territories, and DC.
  3. Going skating in the rink in the sculpture garden at the National Gallery of Art. Rockefeller Center, schmockefeller center!
  4. Visiting the US Botanic Gardens. Not only do they decorate very nicely, it's a good place to go warm up after your skating expedition!
  5. The annual Santa Stumble bar crawl, benefiting the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Fund. You also missed this for 2009, but that gives you almost an entire year to put together your costume for NEXT year.

17 December 2009

Twitter - One More!

Just in case you're not totally burned out on Twitter, a blog reader emailed me this great list of Twitter tools.

16 December 2009

What I'm Reading

  • Trying to encourage socmed coverage of your event? Lindy Dreyer gives you the run down of what your community needs to make it happen (you have to join Engage 265 to read the article, but it's free).
  • 3 things about Twitter that are not so great. I would definitely follow the advice under the DM spam point about checking what programs have access to your account.
  • The babes at SocialFish are doing an interview series with socmed managers in associations - check it out.
  • It's that time of year - social media predictions for 2010 have started coming out of the woodwork.
  • Guy Kawasaki's 6 Twitter types are funny and instructive. I aim to be a mensch (actually, that's pretty much my goal in life), but I don't think I'm quite there yet.
  • Are you ready for real-time search?
  • And finally, I just started Jeff Gordinier's X Saves the World and so far, it's hilarious and true.

15 December 2009

Big Idea Month: What if associations decided that sometimes, telling a member 'no' is an acceptable practice?

Post two in my contribution series to Acronym's Big Ideas Month:

What if (perish the thought!), we actually told members NO?

I actually suspect that most associations already do this, but we do it in the wrong way. We say "no" all the time. Only it's called, "That's against association policy." Which, aside from "we're out of bourbon," might be my least favorite four words in the English language.

You know what "that's against association policy" REALLY means?
  • "I'm only line staff - I'm not actually empowered to decide anything."
  • "I don't want to/feel like it."
  • "Member service isn't my job."
  • "Some day, far in the dim, dark past, someone decided that we don't that. I don't know why. Just because."
  • "We have always done it that way." (my least favorite seven words in the English language, other than "by the way, also out of chocolate.")
Members are absolutely not always right - they know the industry/profession, you know how to run your organization - but what if every request was considered on its merits, rather than whether or not it's "against" some random policy that some person put in place some time ago for reasons known only to him? What if ALL levels of staff were allowed, even encouraged, to make decisions? What if we really measured what we're doing on "does this serve the members?" (Not just *this* member, all members - which can help resolve conflicts when a member asks for something that would be bad if universalized.)

Giving every staff person the ability to make decisions implies that sometimes she might say no. Which means it's really important to know how to say no in the right way. "No." "Why?" "Because I said so." Not the right way to handle members. "We can't do X (and there better be a reason other than "Because you were mean to me and I don't feel like helping you"), but we do want to make this right. What about Y instead?" Or "what else can we do to make this right?" Get the member involved in producing a solution, and you'll get her mind off the fact that you just said no to what she asked for and on to the fact that you're working with her to resolve the situation. Detractors can become your most passionate fans/evangelists *if* you handle them right.

14 December 2009

Alawys the Last to Know: Good Guide

Looking to inject a little social responsibility into your holiday shopping, but don't have time to do all the bloody research yourself? Check out the Good Guide - it helps you assess the full environmental impact of a number of categories of goods (food, personal care, household cleaning, and, most important at this time of year, TOYS), and, as you use it, it learns what issues are most important to you in choosing how to spend your dollars.

11 December 2009

Friday Top 5

Top 5 Holiday Specials I Love To Hate (thanks for the idea, Maggie!)
  1. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Shout out to my spouse, who has pointed out that Santa's a bigot, except when he needs a red-nosed reindeer to haul his fat ass around.
  2. Frosty the Snowman. Insipid. Who makes an entire show about a song that's not even very good in the first place?
  3. Martha Stewart - the Ice Queen makes me crazy. And she has NO sense of humor. Did you ever see the one where she and Julia Child are making croquembouche? Julia's having a ball and getting spun sugar all over the damn place, while Martha's all, "Mine is perfect. I win."
  4. Anything on the Hallmark network.
  5. Anything on this list (click it - it's a HILARIOUS parody).

10 December 2009

Cancer Awareness Video

Providence St. Vincent Medical Center just happens to be a NACHRI member.

NACHRI members = awesomesauce.

Just sayin'.

09 December 2009

What I'm Reading

This is must be Official Smartness Week in the blogosphere. Check it out:
  • Kevin Holland is smart, "branding" is (often) stupid.
  • More awesomeness from Shelly Alcorn on what Star Trek can teach us about leadership. Not only does this totally warm my geek heart, her points are REALLY, REALLY relevant.
  • DARPA uses balloons (and a cash prize) to study game theory and human behavior in social networks. This is just like grad school, only without the soul-crushing angst!
  • Smartness from Jeremy Epstein about online marketing. It's all about cultivating relationships, as any fundraiser can tell you. Why do so many of us have such as hard time with that?
  • Smartness from Seth Godin on "protecting" your ideas in the digital age. Short version? Don't - but make sure there's a way for people to pay you for them, and use them as a way of establishing your rep as an idea generator.
  • You know who else is smart? Jeffrey Cufaude, who asks if your ideas are "spongeworthy," and if that's even a good goal.
Edited to add: HAD to include this post from Jamie Notter: The time may not be right for everything...but it's ALWAYS right for something.

08 December 2009

Big Idea Month: What if associations required every staffer to cold-call one member each week just to connect and listen?

I'm just a little late to the party, but I'll be devoting the next 3 (edited 12/23 to add: nope, FOUR) Tuesdays to musing about questions from the awesome list at Acronym in honor of Big Idea Month.

So what if EVERY staff member had to talk to members on a regular basis?

Despite the existence of the idea "Membership is Everyone's Business," too often, it's really not. Membership retention, for most organizations, is the business of the membership department. If retention goes down, the membership staff gets blamed, even if the reason people are leaving is because, for instance, the receptionist is rude. Or they hate the monthly magazine. Or they've decided to focus their energies on their local chapters. Or they're organizing online. Or the annual meeting's too expensive. Or whatever.

(And, while we're on it, why are we always so concerned with affixing blame? It's pointless. It stifles innovation, because people think "cover your ass" not "come up with and try amazing new idea." And it wastes time and mental energy that would be better spent FIXING the PROBLEM. But I digress...)

I was hired for my first association job as Director of Member Services and Technology not because I knew anything about associations or management, but because I was from the profession, and the executive director figured I'd empathize with the members. And she was right. And that was great, as far as it went. Which was to one staff person. Not far enough, by a long shot.

We all talk about the idea that we exist to serve members, meet their needs, etc. But most of us have no freakin' clue what those things are. We do annual satisfaction surveys and listen to and repeat conventional wisdom and swear that we've been doing this long enough to know every little thing about our members, their industry or profession, and what's best for them.


You know the easiest way to find out what people want and need? Ask them. And not in some "1-5/very dissatisfied-very satisfied" BS survey, either.

"Hi there, . This is Elizabeth calling from NACHRI. If you have a few minutes to chat, I'd love to find out what's going on in your children's hospital and general area, and if you have any questions or comments about what's we're up to here at NACHRI."

What do you get? Information, sure, but also connection. Community. A source of new ideas. The feeling that the association cares about me. Early warning of problems that might be cropping up, whether in your industry, or related to your association.

And, more importantly, it's unfiltered. This is not meant to imply ill intent to your CEO or membership staff (the only people who commonly have contact with members). But everyone filters information they receive through their own mental maps. And someone with a different map might interpret the same data differently.

How would your association benefit from deep understanding of your members, their needs and wants, and industry or profession spread widely across the entire organization? What could you do with that? Would your members think different about the association when the renewal notices show up or when they arrive at your annual meeting if they felt connected not only to other members through the agency of the association, but to the association itself through contact with staff?

07 December 2009

Social Media Counter

Coolness shared under a Creative Commons license by Gary Hayes:

04 December 2009

Friday Top 5

Do you know what tomorrow is? It's Repeal of Prohibition Day! 66 years ago tomorrow, the US finally came to its senses and ended the disastrous experiment that was Prohibition. Which means it's time to celebrate. But how?
  1. Go to the 2nd Annual Repeal Day Ball, sponsored by PS 7's and the DC Craft Bartenders Guild.
  2. Visit one of the Washingtonian Magazine list of 75 Best Bars in the DC area.
  3. Accomplish at least ONE of the things on this list.
  4. Throw a cocktail party, Roaring Twenties attire preferred.
  5. Go to the National Archives and pay your respects to the Constitution of the United States.

03 December 2009

Recapping the Twitter Stories

Well, I've reached the end of the task I set for myself: trying to help associations think about some potential answers to the "why" of Twitter.

To recap, Twitter can be used for:
And probably a host of other things I haven't even heard about, thought about, or seen yet.

If your association is NOT using Twitter, I hope this series has at least given you some things to think about as you consider what are the right platforms and level of involvement for your organization in the world of social media.

If your association is already on Twitter, I hope this series has sparked a few ideas about what *else* you might be able to use the platform for.

Either way, I hope it's been as much fun to read as it was to write. And, of course, please bring up all the groovy uses I'm sure I missed in the comments, on your own blog, or on Twitter!

02 December 2009

What I'm Reading

Not too much other than my email this week - the price one pays for going on vacation - but I did read a few good books while I was in New Orleans:
  • Riven Rock, TC Boyle - fictionalized account of the lives of Stanley and Katherine Dexter McCormick. Not my favorite Boyle, but certainly an entertaining read and an interesting look at a very different time and culture in the US.
  • The $64 Tomato, William Alexander. If you've ever even tried to garden, you will bust a gut reading this book. Seriously. Oh Superchuck, you are gone but not forgotten.
  • A Firing Offense, George Pelecanos. The first of the Nick Stefanos books. I loved all the DC color, and the fact that it is clearly set in DC (and not Washington, and yes, there is a major difference), but it seemed a little dated with all the references to bands and clubs that don't exist anymore, and I'm not a big crime novel fan in general. Not sure if I should follow up with more of the Nick Stefanos books - opinions?
  • The Neon Rain, James Lee Burke. I always try to read a book about or set in New Orleans when I'm there, and this time I chose, perhaps poorly, another crime novel. I know this is supposed to be the first of the Dave Robicheaux novels, but it really, really felt like I was coming into the story mid-way - and not in the good way. Again, not sure if I'm going to bother with any more of these - opinions?
  • Finally, because I can't *completely* ignore the association world, I finally read Lynn Morton's great article in the October issue of Associations Now. If your organization is looking into or using social media (which you really, really should be by now), you should definitely check out her colorful and easy to understand breakdown of AAPA's use of some of the major platforms and what they've learned from it. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be available online, so go get yourself a print copy!

01 December 2009

Twitter Story: Fundraising

I have to admit, I don't have a story to relate about using Twitter for fundraising. And in fact, the whole issue of social media and fundraising is a bit problematic, to say the least.

A lot of cause-related nonprofits were really excited about the potential of the Facebook causes app - until they realized that, while it's pretty easy to get people to join/be a fan of your cause, it's not so easy to actually get them to open their wallets - Facebook causes provide a very weak sense of affiliation.

Blogging is a great way to raise awareness of issues (just Google changeblogging if you don't believe me), but again, most blogs don't see enough traffic to generate a lot of cash (and I'm not even talking about fundraising asks here - I'm talking about ads, product placements, and endorsements).

You know what's still the most effective way to fundraise? Direct mail. You know what's still the second most effective way to fundraise? Email campaigns. No skool like the old skool.

But some organizations have experienced success using SMS, and that leads us to Twitter. Much like it's older sibling, Twitter can be a great way to raise microfunds. Now for the average association, microfunds may not be worth it - the funds we need to raise tend to be more in the major donor/capital campaign arena or be related to advocacy work (which comes with a whole range of legal requirements that would be tough to verify in 140 characters), so getting $5 here and $10 there may not seem worth the trouble.

But Twitter provides, as always, another platform to get the word out. Are you going to recruit a major donor through Twitter? Probably not. But you can use it as another method to maintain your relationship with an existing major donor. Can you run a capital campaign entirely on Twitter? Probably not. But you can use it as another way of spreading the word about your campaign and providing campaign updates. Can you do your silent auction 100% on Twitter? Probably not. But you could allow people who aren't present to bid via tweet. And if you have a compelling story and a connected group, you'd be amazed at what you can accomplish in a short amount of time.

And I haven't even touched on the concept of Twestivals.

What is your organization doing to get the word out about your fundraising goals? Could Twitter help?