Dean West, president/founder, Association Laboratory Inc.
Good leadership requires vision. Strategic vision. Goal-oriented thinking. A team mindset.
And nowhere is this more important than in nonprofits – or for that matter, in any organization in which boards of directors make decisions.
“When working on complex engagements like strategic planning or developing membership value propositions, the ability of the board of directors to think and, through the staff, act strategically has consistently resulted in superior decisions,” said Dean West, president and founder of Association Laboratory Inc. “Superior decisions mean superior outcomes.”
Association Laboratory recently released a whitepaper (scroll down to download) on how associations can build strategic boards.
In its research, the company surveyed 25 chief staff officers and senior association leaders. In summary, there is a finite set of characteristics that define strategic boards:
Future focused — A strategic board understands and values the necessity of informed, future-focused strategic discussions.
Establishes, prioritizes and monitors goals and interim measurement standards — A strategic board values establishing strategic goals and the corresponding standards or criteria relevant to overseeing implementation of strategies to achieve these goals.
Models strategic decision making competencies — A strategic board models critical thinking skills, objective analysis and decision making. It challenges existing assumptions regarding the association’s future role and corresponding business strategy within the industry or profession.
Promotes accountability within the board and in the board/staff relationship — A strategic board values and supports an objective, accountable partnership with association management.
All this said, it’s not always easy to find and/or develop those characteristics, Association Laboratory warns.
For starters, board members are often influenced by professional or personal interests, which may not align with those of the association. And so an ethical battle ensues.
In addition, often board roles aren’t clearly defined so members struggle with expectations. Some of that is because associations often don’t invest proper resources in training and orientation.
So what’s the key to building a strategic board of directors?
According to those surveyed:
Associations need to implement volunteer identification, recruitment and development strategies that ensure a funnel of high-quality leadership into the association.
Associations need to develop strategies to orient all volunteers to their role and the unique characteristics and corresponding expectations of a peer-to-peer decision making environment.
Associations need to be led by a chief staff officer and management team that understands and models strategic thinking and can apply these competencies to their support of the board.
The business processes of the association need to support the board’s ability to make decisions within a strategic framework.
Associations need to create and support a culture of personal and organizational accountability and continuous improvement.
“As competition for the time, attention and interest of our community’s best leaders grows more intense, the ability of an association to develop a compelling leadership funnel becomes a long-term strategic priority necessary for successfully achieving mission-based and business goals,” Association Laboratory said. “Modern associations and their leaders will create intentional, thoughtful strategies to foster a leadership experience that is attractive to the best and brightest of our professions and industries and will consider the support of these strategies an essential organizational core competency.”
I’m a self-professed word nerd. In college, I loved leaving classes with a new nugget of information. And now that I’m a working professional, I get giddy at the thought of attending conferences.
And, even better: My employers not only encourage professional development, but expect it.
Why? Because they know educated employees drive success.
According to Kieran King, vice president, global customer insight, at Skillsoft, currently there’s a “war for talent.” And many HR departments are losing.
Some HR departments have been pretty lax in encouraging professional development and education, because, quite frankly, it wasn’t deemed important. But with workplace dynamics changing and younger, better-educated professionals coming on board, that’s no longer the case.
“The demographic shifts, revamped business models, digitization of products, rise in big data analytics and new forms of competition require organizations to fuel perpetual skill upgrades,” King said in her new whitepaper. “HR must evolve to apply new paradigms toward talent attraction, mine for unrealized capability, build rapid development tactics, implement highly effective engagement strategies and unveil succession pathways with far more innovation than they have demonstrated to date. Old assumptions and stale practices need to be abandoned. Organizations that successfully compete for talent will exploit technology to achieve a smarter way, build a healthier culture and develop a more resilient workforce.”
Break down the silos between talent management and learning.
Training employees, especially with an event-centric approach, isn’t enough, King said. Instead, companies should create an environment that fosters learning and employee development. It’s about much more than setting up educational programming in an LMS and conducting performance reviews. It requires HR to adapt new roles.
“Achieving this type of symbiotic relationship between talent and learning not only dissolves silos, it also creates competitive differentiation,” King said. “Organizations that apply this modern approach build superior employer brands, entice a higher level of talent to join their ranks and optimize the existing workforce in new ways.”
Enter a self-developing organization.
A self-developing organization allows individuals to control their own personal development and career trajectories, King explains. This involves making information available and actionable and connecting employees with the appropriate resources.
And it starts with the top. Leaders of self-developing organizations establish and monitor goals and stay abreast of industry trends and opportunities, passing that knowledge on to their staff.
However, King said, that’s only possible by leveraging smart technology – technology that customizes individual employee needs and delivers recommendations.
In short, in a self-developing organization:
Learning and talent management efforts and technologies should be coupled together.
High-quality, curated content delivered in the context of job performance is essential.
Fluid talent mobility is key to keeping employees engaged and it is a competitive lever.
Ubiquitous access to learning – delivery at the time and place of need – is critical to knowledge acceleration.
The user experience must be frictionless and compelling.
Technology provides the ability to manage talent and deliver learning in innovative ways.
The power of analytics provides insights that can predict demand and serve-up hyper-personalized experiences.
“Organizations that apply higher levels of talent and learning maturity will be better able to respond to business change and will be better positioned to innovate,” King said. “Their HR direction is highly purpose-driven, with clear objectives and multi-faceted strategy. They will be undoubtedly more successful in handling dynamics that will affect adaptation and ultimately, organizational competitiveness.”
Do you have questions for Kieran King? Connect with her on Twitter.
It’s hard to believe today is the first day of November. How can that be?
Today kicks off what many of us consider a month of blessings. Check Facebook and you’ll see lots of people posting about things for which they’re grateful. And later this month, we’ll spend time with family and friends giving thanks for our blessings.
Then comes another day, after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, that encourages everyone around the globe to give back.
This year, #GivingTuesday is Nov. 29. Always celebrated the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, it’s a global day of giving perpetuated by social media and collaboration. Often, organizations incorporate the day into their yearend giving campaigns. But that doesn’t mean giving can’t be done on a smaller scale.
Last year during #GivingTuesday, 700,000 people from 70 countries participated, raising $116 million.
#GivingTuesday has had double-digit, year-over-year growth in online donations since 2012.
Large organizations have received the most donations on #GivingTuesday but this trend is shifting.
Faith-based organizations now receive the largest percentage of #GivingTuesday online donations.
Online average gift amounts exceed $100 for most organizations on #GivingTuesday.
About 17 percent of online donation form views on #GivingTuesday 2014
“Unlike 15 years ago when online giving first began to emerge, today’s donor embraces and expects a digital option for their charitable contributions,” Blackbaud said. “The online donation has matured even if organizations aren’t utilizing all of the established best practices. There are undoubtedly going to be lessons learned from #GivingTuesday successes that will be promoted and adopted by other organizations.”
At Event Garde, giving back is sewn into our fabric. Individually, all team members volunteer and/or contribute to organizations about which they’re passionate. For me, it’s the food bank in my area, my kids’ PTA, Boy Scouts, American Cancer Society and the Humane Society.
Collectively this year, Event Garde has given to Children’s Miracle Network and Kalamazoo Strong and we also participated in American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
Those are prime examples of causes and organizations to which companies can give on Nov. 29.
But even though #GivingTuesday is right around the corner, it’s not too late to plan. Those interested in giving can download toolkits and browse resources on the #GivingTuesday website.
Learn: Q: How do you learn best? By reading in a coffee shop with lots of noise or in a quiet, library-like setting?
A: I learn best in a quiet, library-like setting.
Network: Q: Some people are wallflowers while others are natural networkers. Which are you (or are you in the middle)?
A: I am in the middle. I survey the crowd before I jump in.
Transfer: Q: Let’s say you just attended a certification course. What would be your first step in applying what you learned?
A: When I get done with a session, I highlight my action items. When I get back to the office I look at my highlighted notes and start taking actions.
Q: Please share with us a must-have resource and why you just can’t live without it.
A: Google! I research potential associations, potential contacts and more.
Q: What is your favorite season…and why?
A: Summer – I love the water and sunshine!
If you’ve been following this blog for the past five years (heck….even the past year), you know I’m a communications nut.
Seriously. It’s the center of everything I do – from my personal life to my professional life.
Without communication, both internally and externally, there’s no content, no strategy. Nothing.
But not everyone knows how to communicate, at least not effectively. That goes for businesses, too.
Last January, I wrote about Naylor’s 2015 Communication Benchmarking Study. Naylor has been conducting the survey for five years, and last year, the survey found most associations were continuing to struggle with communications. In fact, only 6 percent reported having a communications strategy.
The top two communications challenges reported this year: communications clutter/overload and the inability to communicate membership benefits effectively. Both challenges have increased since 2011, with 69 percent and 67 percent of associations stating those are the largest obstacles.
At the same time, nearly 80 percent of associations said their members ignore their communications – up from 59 percent in 2015.
Also of note:
More than half of respondents recognize a serious or significant problem with the lack of revenue generated from their communication vehicles.
Most respondents believe they are good at creating relevant content, and more than half are conducting communication-specific surveys at least once every 12–24 months to stay on top of members’ needs. But, as stated above, those efforts are often being ignored.
Although 57 percent believe they could improve member engagement by improving their ability to customize for different subgroups, not many are actually doing it.
While under staffing remains a top concern among associations, especially in the communications department, some positive trends emerged in the 2016 survey.
This year, more associations reported success in helping their members find desired information quickly and keeping them informed about education opportunities and events.
While e-newsletters and print magazines remain top communication vehicles, associations seem to be expanding their communication vehicles. For example, according to the results, Facebook, webinars and online career centers have gained traction.
Finally, again this year, associations reported difficulty with communicating to young professionals. While integrated communication is paramount to success, segmentation and customization of communications is key to enticing young members. As such, Naylor advises associations to develop specific events, communications and mentoring opportunities unique to this group.
“In general, associations are doing a better job at organizing information and making it accessible to their members, as well as keeping their members informed about new events and education,” Naylor says. “It’s more critical than ever to make every message count. And while associations appreciate the importance of segmenting member data to provide tailored communications to combat the ‘overload’ challenge, a relatively small percentage feel they are leveraging technology available to do this effectively.”
Leaves change. People change. And yes, businesses change.
But what about associations?
Most of us realize innovation is key to driving a business forward. New ideas, new inventions, new strategies, new operating plans. The options are limitless – even for associations.
Associations aren’t often regarded as agents of change, but recently, Marketing General Inc., in conjunction with the National Business Aviation Association, polled association professionals to learn how they set innovation goals, how they support innovation, what rewards and recognition they offer and how they set metrics for innovation.
Nearly 350 associations participated in the Association Innovation Benchmarking Report, which found most associations are at least moderately innovative. That’s a recent development, however, as most didn’t start focusing on innovation until the past five years.
According to the survey, association innovation tends to focus around a few main areas: website and social media; conventions, conferences and seminars; education programs; and membership, technology and marketing (56 percent each).
In addition, associations reported that innovation flows from the top down, with CEOs and other leaders serving as the primary drivers of new thoughts and ideas. In addition, collaboration and communication and encouragement are the most common ways associations support innovation.
And it seems there’s not much middle ground. Associations either fully support innovation or not at all. At the same time, there are challenges – lack of resources being No. 1. Also, most associations don’t set goals to achieve innovation and often, there aren’t reward programs for striving toward and achieving innovation – perhaps because it’s an expectation, and, in some cases, a culture.
Other key findings:
Changes in the industry or profession and technological developments are the biggest motivators for adopting innovation.
Among organizations that have rallied around innovation, communication has been key to getting everyone on board. Permission to take risk also plays a major role in getting personnel on board with innovation.
Those organizations with a specific system tend to handle new ideas in a variety of ways: 50 percent rely on staff initiative; 48 percent have a special committee or group; and 41 percent develop new ideas with the CEO.
Increased member engagement is the most common way to measure innovation efforts.
In those organizations where innovation is not supported, respondents cite departments and people being very siloed as a principal cause for the lack of support.