The Center for Association Resources

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Is an association management firm focused on helping Non-Profit associations succeed in their mission.

What is the Center for Association Resources?

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

The Center is an Association Management firm in Schaumburg, Illinois, with Robert Patterson as the Chief Executive Officer. We provide management, consulting, and advisory services to primarily non-profit organizations and associations that need the expertise and management services we provide.

Our experience spans areas ranging from volunteer recruitment to assembling a productive and engaged board of directors, to developing association policies against substance abuse, drinking, and harassment. Your non-profit organization benefits from over 50 years of combined experience. We can provide numerous positive references and testimony from associations we presently benefit.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Leadership, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , , , , ,

Use search engines to increase association recognition

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

At The Center for Association Resources has published many articles about how to improve your association’s results using an effective online presence. These include
Non-profit organizations and associations benefit from community support, name recognition, and online presence. Search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, can provide traffic and accessibility to clients and those seeking to learn or donate to the association. Even a small center, organization, or association should have a website containing at least basic information about your services, and preferably a more interactive and engaging experience that raises interest and awareness of your association and its central objectives.

Providing useful content, in an accessible form, is critical to reaching the widest audience. Google is able to catalog text pages very well. Unfortunately, many sites have begun using Flash and other media to present information. This also makes life difficult for people with blindness or other disabilities that make using a graphical system difficult. If you’re going to have a  graphics version of your site, also make a text alternative available. This will increase your audience, and show that you care about those you serve and those who contribute to the success of your organization.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Leadership, Marketing, Non-Profit, Planning, Strategic Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Marketing for sponsors and exhibitors

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

For a non-profit organization that doesn’t get too much money via donations, sponsors and exhibitors can be your most important key to success. With the huge advance in technology in the past couple years, the tools and strategies of marketing have changed drastically. For example, if you would have brought up the idea of advertising on Facebook ten years ago, people would have thought you were crazy. Now Facebook is a great way to advertise. One reason it is great is because hundreds of millions of people log in to Facebook every day. If you are reaching an advertising audience of that many people, chances are at least a couple hundred people would be interested in your non-profit organization. This leads to sponsors and/or donators. It is extremely simple and cheap to create an advertisement on Facebook. I know from experience that an advertisement on Facebook can be created in a little less than 5 minutes. It also does not cost too much money. You can even specify who your audience is based on hobbies, age, location, political views, etc. The possibilities are endless.

After talking about the new ways to market, I am going to talk a little bit about the old-fashioned type of ways to do it. As always, the best way to reach people is to talk face to face. I have found from experience with my non-profit organization that going to political events is a great way to meet people face-to-face, but you have to make sure you show up with a political party that matches your views. For example, if you are a pro-life (anti-abortion) group, you should NOT show up at a Democratic event. You SHOULD show up to conferences like CPAC, or to your local congressman’s town halls, fundraiser, etc. (if he is a Republican), but obviously, the same thing works for a pro-choice group except with a Democratic party. Going to these events allow you to meet people who share your point of view, and some of your best sponsors can come from these type of events. Plus, it is always a good thing to get to know you Congressman for many reasons (no matter what political party).

In the end, it is up to you. Some of the best methods of marketing for sponsors come from the least used or new methods that you can come up with. So think, if you were a possible sponsor, what would attract you to a non-profit organization?

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Fund Raising, Leadership, Marketing, Non-Profit, Planning, Strategic Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , , ,

Choosing a Good Board

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

Every organization needs a good mix of board members to be most effective. The mix should comprise of people who have a solid interest in the work of the association and believe in the direction it is going.

Each board member should be able to solidly hold up an area of importance so that when different issues come up, there will be a place to turn for free and respectable advice.

Some areas that should be covered by any organization are leadership, legal, social, subject knowledge, history of the organization, financial and the public media.  Not every organization will be able to cover all their needs with their boards, and each organization will have specialized needs that will have to be identified.

For instance, if an organization is set up for race car safety, they probably don’t need a board member who is knowledgeable in the area of high tea parties. Then again, if a group needs to bring a lawsuit to bring about the enforcement of a law, it would be really nice to have a lawyer or two on the board.  Even if they don’t do the work themselves due to busy schedule or specialization, they can advise whom to see and how to set up the case for clarity and focus.

A socially savvy board member knows people who know people and they can tell more people about the group and it’s thrust.  They know best how to set up fundraisers and how to get people of distinction as honored speakers.  These board members are the heart of the group and keep the group alive.

A member of the media or a media member’s spouse or close relative can help any group immensely.  Just keeping the organization’s name in front of the media with the help of a good and honest and accurate media person is key.  Aim to get one of these people on your board until you get one.  They are that important!

One of the best resources an association can have is a person who has a knowledge of what the association has done in previous years.  This person will have an understanding of what works well, what has been done and over done and underdone. This person has an innate sense of the group and is part of the brain…an excellent resource for the group because many things are not written down, or information is lost. A good human memory bank is priceless.

The other must have association resource is one or more people who know the subject matter well. If your group’s reason to exist is to protect orphaned children, you must have someone who knows children well and orphaned children especially well.  If your group covers the protection of a particular beetle, you must have on hand a natural scientist of some kind to help the organization attain believability.

A board member with accounting background can help in many ways, including help with taxes, training employees, and banking and if you are fortunate enough you will have another to help with investing.

Last, but not least, a leader, a board member who will stay with the group, lead the others and is probably the founder of the group, so you don’t have to worry too much about choosing, but if you do, be sure and find someone who has previous experience.

A few final tips…

  • Be sure that all your board members will be able to attend most if not all meetings, and are interested enough to read the minutes of missed meetings.
  • Big name board members are nice on paper but rarely have time to help in real time.
  • And make sure potential board members get along with others.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Leadership, Non-Profit, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , , , , , , , ,

Working with difficult people

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

Difficult people are everywhere.  Our homes, our neighborhoods, our families and at work.  Eventually, a challenging employee or co-worker will eventually find their way into your non-profit organization.  Learning how to handle them and to redirect them in a positive way can save a great deal of time, trouble and wasted resources.

First of all, there are plenty of things NOT to do, when it comes to a challenging person.  Don’t ignore threatening or abusive behavior.  Don’t ignore the problem and hope that it goes away.  It won’t and chances are, others are having similar issues.  Don’t use anonymous or veiled methods of dealing with the problem, such as notes or shunning.  They’ll only serve to alienate the person and make the situation that much worse.  Dealing with the situation, head on, in a positive way can not only solve the problem, but build an environment of trust and respect among colleagues.

The first aspect to look at, when determining how to work with a difficult person is what is making them difficult.  Are they constantly talking over others?  Are they reluctant to really get involved in their work?  Do they have problems working with certain types of people?  Do they need to be in charge, or the center of attention?  Understanding that these behaviors have underlying drives can assist in finding ways to not only neutralize the difficult behavior, but often turn that energy into a positive force.  Those people who need to be in charge can be given a small leadership position, whether it’s managing an outreach project or being in charge of organizing the supply closet.  Giving them a task that they can be in charge of and be recognized for, takes away the challenge and turns it into a positive.

If the difficulties lie in behavior, pulling the person aside and calmly stating your issues can go a long way to fostering an understanding about what is and is not appropriate.  For a serial interrupter, explaining that being interrupted makes you feel as if your contributions aren’t important and asking to be heard will let your colleague know how their behavior is impacting you.  It’s very important to use “I” statements and to avoid accusing the other person of wrongdoing.  “When I’m interrupted during a meeting, I feel as if my ideas aren’t valued.  I would really appreciate being able to finish sharing my ideas, before others discuss them” will go much further toward fostering an environment of understanding than: “You’re always interrupting me and you don’t value my ideas!”  Discussing potentially sensitive topics with understanding and respect can turn an argument into an enriching experience.

Even the most irritating people are with your non-profit for a reason.  They chare the same concern, passion and ideals that you do.  Finding common ground and turning finding ways to use everyone’s talents, to their fullest, will benefit everyone, from the organization, to coworkers, to the irritating person themselves.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Leadership, Non-Profit, Strategic Planning, Strategy, Training, , , , ,

Board training…..getting qualified people on the board

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

The governing body of a non-profit organization is its board of directors. Whether a non-profit is at its infancy, or is in transition to becoming a more mature organization or is already an established institution, it is vital for its board to be effective and productive. The non-profit board must understand and perform its legal obligations and significant responsibilities fully. Therefore the non-profit board’s membership should consist of qualified individuals who are either experienced in non-profit board functions or who are willing to proactively learn about the roles and acquire the tools and knowledge to be competent contributors.

Most of the time, individuals serve on a non-profit board because they are passionate about the cause. However, passion alone is not enough to fulfill the many duties asked of each board member. Time commitment is a necessary requirement for attending board meetings, preparing for the meetings such as reviewing proposals, budget or other documents and fundraising. A main function of the non-profit board is to raise money. It is a common policy among non-profits to require each board member to either give or get a certain monetary amount annually. Board members are also asked to organize and host fundraising events or to meet with foundations or government agencies that award grants to non-profits. Time commitment aside, each board member should have sufficient business and leadership skills as the board needs to approve the budget, establish a process to create a strategic plan, hire and evaluate the executive director, and ensure the legal and ethical integrity of the organization. In order to perform the roles and responsibilities dutifully, the board should evaluate its effectiveness and identify areas where a new board member may bring on skills that would be complementary.

During growth periods, a board may need to grow too. Sometimes the need to find new board members arise from resignation or when board members reach their term limit. Recruiting for board members may start with referrals from the current board or from the staff. There are services that match prospective board candidates with non-profit organizations such as boardnetUSA and VolunteerMatch. The tasks of screening and determining a board candidate’s qualifications rest with the board. There should be a process to evaluate the candidate as well as a process to on-board the new member.

As leaders wanting to make a difference, the board must be made up of individuals who have sound business skills, experience with board duties and functions and commitment to developing a strong board by ensuring each board member is qualified to meet the needs of the non-profit organization.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Leadership, Planning, Strategic Planning, The Center for Assocation Resources info, Training, , , , , ,

Tips for Effective Strategic Planning

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

In fulfilling their missions, nonprofits must make a plan, lest they follow the adage that those who don’t know where they are going will certainly get there. Strategic planning is a sort of road map that allows organizations to plan where they are going, how they will get there, and what benchmarks will prove that they have met their goals. An analogue is the business plan of a for-profit venture. However, the methods and the goals may be slightly different.

There are, of course, as many ways to approach strategic planning as there are nonprofit organizations. However, the means of putting plans together have key points in common. One important starting place is that the planning has to come on the heels of intimate knowledge of the organization, its constituents, its methods, and philosophy. One tip for strategic planning meetings is to assemble binders that have all these elements in them for planners. Some materials that may be useful to include are previous budgets and figures regarding service delivery. When things will happen is an important question to answer. Proposed timelines for implementation can be included in the binder to maximize the usefulness of the time and materials.

In addition to mechanics of fulfilling the mission of the organization, it is important for the binder to include materials that both present and illustrate the vision and values of the organization. During strategic planning, planners may even notice that a modification of the mission statement is necessary because of an evolution in the organization’s practice or purpose. Examples of how the values of the organization have been implemented in the past can be an important tool in planning for the future. While day-to-day management of the organization is not the focus of a strategic planning session, it should be included from an eagle’s-eye perspective. One thing to include in written materials is a list of key positions and how they support the fulfillment of the organization’s mission.

There will be a significant amount of information and action to discuss when doing strategic planning, Another tip for planning effectively is to allow enough time for reading and active discussion. Following that, It may be useful to change settings with planners. If planning has thus far occurred in a conference room setting, the final stage could take place at a restaurant or in a retreat setting. One final question to answer is what the results will be of successful implementation of the proposed plans. Looking at the answer to this question both at the beginning and the end of planning will inform the answers selected.

No matter what direction strategic planning takes, It is important to remember that whatever is determined must boil down to tangible steps and measurable results. If planners combine these with their passion for the work of the organization, strategic planning has the greatest chance of being successful. As planners take things a step further and clearly communicate the results and expectations of planning to the people within the organization who are affected, something commonly overlooked, they are planning for success.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Non-Profit, Planning, Strategic Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , , , , , ,

Tips for effective strategic planning

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

In fulfilling their missions, nonprofits must make a plan, lest they follow the adage that those who don’t know where they are going will certainly get there. Strategic planning is a sort of road map that allows organizations to plan where they are going, how they will get there, and what benchmarks will prove that they have met their goals. An analogue is the business plan of a for-profit venture. However, the methods and the goals may be slightly different.

There are, of course, as many ways to approach strategic planning as there are nonprofit organizations. However, the means of putting plans together have key points in common. One important starting place is that the planning has to come on the heels of intimate knowledge of the organization, its constituents, its methods, and philosophy. One tip for strategic planning meetings is to assemble binders that have all these elements in them for planners. Some materials that may be useful to include are previous budgets and figures regarding service delivery. When things will happen is an important question to answer. Proposed timelines for implementation can be included in the binder to maximize the usefulness of the time and materials.

In addition to mechanics of fulfilling the mission of the organization, it is important for the binder to include materials that both present and illustrate the vision and values of the organization. During strategic planning, planners may even notice that a modification of the mission statement is necessary because of an evolution in the organization’s practice or purpose. Examples of how the values of the organization have been implemented in the past can be an important tool in planning for the future. While day-to-day management of the organization is not the focus of a strategic planning session, it should be included from an eagle’s-eye perspective. One thing to include in written materials is a list of key positions and how they support the fulfillment of the organization’s mission.

There will be a significant amount of information and action to discuss when doing strategic planning. Another tip for planning effectively is to allow enough time for reading and active discussion. Following that, it may be useful to change settings with planners. If planning has thus far occurred in a conference room setting, the final stage could take place at a restaurant or in a retreat setting. One final question to answer is what the results will be of successful implementation of the proposed plans. Looking at the answer to this question both at the beginning and the end of planning will inform the answers selected.

No matter what direction strategic planning takes, it is important to remember that whatever is determined must boil down to tangible steps and measurable results. If planners combine these with their passion for the work of the organization, strategic planning has the greatest chance of being successful. As planners take things a step further and clearly communicate the results and expectations of planning to the people within the organization who are affected, something commonly overlooked, they are planning for success.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Non-Profit, Planning, Strategic Planning, Strategy, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , , , , , ,

Being on guard for association fraud

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

Non-profit organizations have a special need to prevent and detect fraud. While for profit organizations also must watch for fraud, the non-profit sector has some unique considerations.  To keep donations flowing, the need to maintain the public’s trust and protect the organization’s reputation is paramount.

Fraudulent acts which impact an organization can occur either outside or inside the organization. Some estimates put the total percentage of fraud for the non-profit sector as high as 13% of annual donations. While fraud is more often committed by lower level employees, the higher the employees position in the organization, the larger the total fraud losses tend to be.  CEOs commit the lowest percentage of fraudulent acts, but their fraud tends to involve larger monetary amounts.

Common types of internal fraud involve cash theft and erroneous expense reports. Physical assets can also be stolen from the organization. Frequent periodic audit of asset inventories can prevent and detect this type of fraud.

Outright theft of cash donations needs to be prevented.  Controls such as having two people observe and count cash donations, segregation of duties for the receiving and accounting for donations and other routine cash controls can be beneficial in reducing the risk of cash theft.

Expense reports are also often a conduit for fraud . A system for verifying expense reports should be implemented and expense reports and receipts should be examined prior to payment.

Externally, fraud by vendors, either with collusion from an employee, or committed totally by the vendor is also a concern. Some scenarios include a manager authorizing payment for goods never received or authorizing payment to a nonexistent company where the funds are ultimately received by the authorizing employee.  Segregation of duties for payment and purchasing, effective computerized payment system controls, and dual signature requirements for checks can reduce risk of this type of fraud. Periodic checks of vendor records to ensure that vendors actually exist are also a deterrent.

Top management at non-profits can set the tone for fraud prevention by establishing effective internal control policies. One of these controls that may seem surprising is mandating employees take vacation time accrued. Fraud is more difficult to cover up when the employee committing it is absent.

The average amount of time a fraudulent activity occurs prior to catching it is 18 months. Occasionally these schemes have gone on for years without being identified. Sometimes fraud is identified by audits or internal controls. Sadly, fraud is often not caught until an organization fails due to the impact from fraud. Even if an organization is financially able to weather an episode of fraud, the loss of good reputation can often hamper the organization’s future fundraising efforts.

The potential negative effects of fraud on the non-profit organization compel everyone in a non-profit to be aware of the need for fraud prevention. The success and reputation of the organization depends on it.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Marketing, Non-Profit, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , ,

Marketing for success

Another in a series of articles related to association management selected from our reading list by:
Robert O. Patterson, JD
CEO/ Principal
The Center for Association Resources, Inc.

Successful marketing is a discipline with an importance that is often underestimated in the management of non-profit organizations. Traditional marketing for for-profit firms involves a number of complex disciplines working together to find potential customers and put the company’s product in their hands. This is done with the goal of making a reasonable profit on the sale of the product. Non-profit firms often don’t have customers or products in the traditional sense, so the value of strong marketing is sometimes overlooked. However, by understanding the worth of marketing and knowing how to avoid some common mistakes, a non-profit organization can enjoy thriving success.

The first step in developing a successful marketing strategy for a non-profit organization is to understand the goal of the marketing efforts. One chief goal of marketing is to build and maintain a visible, credible company image. While a non-profit firm is not generally looking to sell a product to customers, they are always looking to sell their vision and mission to potential donors and volunteers. Marketing efforts should be geared towards creating a consistent identity for the company and making sure the community of potential donors is aware of that identity. There are several important steps which can be taken in order to achieve this.

One crucial step is to build a website. A strong internet presence can allow people unfamiliar with your organization to stumble upon it; in addition, potential donors and volunteers will often search for your organization’s website as the first step to finding out more information. A well-maintained website is crucial when trying to establish a strong, visually-communicated identity. The website can also be very helpful in disseminating information such as newsletters, event calendars, donation methods, and benefits of your organization.

Another important aspect of marketing which is especially important for non-profit firms is relationship management. Traditional for-profit firms know the advantage of maintaining customer information and being able to retrieve it quickly; this helps returning customers to feel as if they are truly appreciated. This process is even more critical when building relationships with donors. You should never find yourself asking major donors, “What did you say your name was again?” Get to know your donors and make them feel that their donations are well worth it. Whenever possible, explain to them where their money is going and how it is being used to benefit the surrounding community.

An additional marketing effort which should not be overlooked by non-profit organizations is the active search for alliances with local organizations, governments, and businesses. These alliances can bring extra visibility to the organization, as well as bring in extra money. For example, non-profits will sometimes engage private companies for donation-matching agreements for a particular fundraiser. This increases the visibility and rapport of both the non-profit organization and the private firm.

Above all, the biggest pitfall to avoid is thinking that the inherent goodness of your non-profit firm will bring in the money you need. Even though your organization may be doing work for a good cause, you will still need to create visibility and credibility to locate and attract potential donors. A successful marketing strategy can help to accomplish these goals and keep your organization thriving.

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Marketing, Non-Profit, The Center for Assocation Resources info, , , ,

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