The Center for Association Resources

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

Establishing a social media policy for your non-profit

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.

Social Media is a very hot topic these days. In fact, it has become an indispensable means of marketing for corporations as well as non-profit organizations. Most non-profit organizations that utilize social media have formulated best practices and policies to get the most out of this valuable tool. It is best to first use social media sites in your personal life to get an idea of how the various sites operate, and get an understanding of the culture of social media networks. Once an understanding of social media networks is realized it is important to develop some goals and a strategy for using social media.

First off, you should determine what you want to accomplish by using social media. Specifically, looking at your organization’s mission statement and values will help you strategize to gain the most out of social media. Thinking in terms of content you will provide, and how you will interact with your audience will help you develop a strategy.

Things like what type of information you will provide as well as the image you want to promote will help you develop a plan. Other factors such as who will be in charge of monitoring comments, and releasing information should be planned out in advance. Next it is important to implement a short term as well as a long term plan to achieve your organization’s goals. Developing metrics to evaluate success of a social media policy is an important part of your strategy. Things like donations and overall hits on a particular website will tell you how well you are reaching your target audience. Sites with few followers or friends will need to be reassessed.

Creativity and an engaging style are very important when using social media to achieve your goals. The possibilities when using sites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are nearly endless and always evolving. Coming up with creative ideas on how to appeal to your audience will determine, in part, your success. Keep in mind that keeping your page up to date as well as professional is very important.

Things like a “listen, learn, and adapt” policy will help you become better and better at social media, as social media is an iterative process. Finally maintaining and monitoring your social media page is important. It is vital that you allocate resources and time to making sure your page is up to date and keeping people engaged in your cause.

Social media looks like it is here to stay, and has proven invaluable to many organizations.

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

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , ,

Creating a Technology strategy

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.

It is imperative for a non profit organization to have a good technological strategy, because in this day and age people rely on their technology. It is surprisingly easy for an non profit organization to create a technology strategy, and it can usually be done in 2 steps. One of the ways to create a functioning technology strategy is to create a website to help spread the word by leasing out a web domain, creating a newsletter from their website that one can use to tell their followers about upcoming fundraisers goals, as well as just letting their followers know that they can follow this newsletter.

The first thing that a non profit organization should do when they are creating a technology strategy is to create a website. This will be the building blocks of their technology plan and from here they can install many things that will help boost awareness and keep their organization alive! There are many ways to create a website, but the one that most non profit organizations should use is to follow a few steps. Usually the non profit will want to lease out a web domain (I suggest Godaddy.com) which will be the http of their site. This is the place on the web where they will store their information. Usually this dosen’t cost very much, and can be leased for around 5 dollars a month. Next thing they will want to do is get somebody who can help design their website. This will ensure that it looks both professional and also in this economy web designers are looking for work and will normally settle for less than usual, and they will be even more willing if its for a non profit.

The next thing to do is create a news letter in the form of an RSS feed. This “RSS feed” will be available from their website and will let people who are trying to follow their cause have a way to get information on your recent doings. This will require the non profit to update the feed fairly regularly, or at least when they want people to know what they are doing. Creating an RSS feed is a fairly complicated process, so we won’t go into to it in this article, however there is a link included in the sources which goes over how to achieve this. Following these 2 steps will help create a solid and useful technology strategy!

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

Ethics in non-profit associations

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.

When examining the field of nonprofit work, which focuses on providing a wholesome contribution to the community, it becomes clear that the ethics of such associations must be pure and unquestionable. This is essential for several reasons: most importantly, the integrity of a nonprofit organization must be intact for it to have any stature in society. Furthermore, the efficiency of such organizations is compromised by any foul play or mismanagement, and in organizations where every penny is supposed to be used to further a particular cause, efficiency is key.

A not for profit organization is meant to be, in most cases, an association dedicated to a certain charitable cause. The very nature of these organizations is typically thought to be pure and selfless. It is in this way that such groups appeal to the public and people’s desire to join in or donate to something that is helping others. However, if the ethics of an association are besmirched, the moral basis of the group is compromised. Since this moral basis is the foundation of the organization and the factor that makes donating to the organization attractive to the public, the entire legitimacy of the group will be destroyed. The public is not willing to donate their hard-earned money to line the pockets of a greedy middle man rather than to feed starving children. And so, when any question of a breach of ethics arises, the public will easily divert their donations to another organization that has maintained such codes of conduct. This will ultimately cause such an organization to not only lose stature and legitimacy, but also to be drained of funding, without which no organization can long survive.

Well-preserved ethics and codes of conduct amongst nonprofit organizations are essential for another reason: an organization cannot run efficiently unless all of its transactions are transparent and above board. Should a breach of ethics occur such as the siphoning of an organization’s funds into an administrator’s personal account, the money lost would be a much greater blow to a not for profit than to a multimillion dollar commercial corporation. Indeed, the majority of nonprofit organizations operate at the bottom line, as they typically rely on charitable donations, not the most opulent of sources, to garner funds. Furthermore, when helping the thousands or millions in suffering, a dollar must be stretched as far as possible, and even then it will fall short. If ethics are breach regarding the handling of an association’s funds, it will drastically decrease the necessary efficiency of the organization.

There are a multitude of reasons as to why ethics in nonprofit associations are essential. Any lack of ethics destroys an organization’s reputation and good standing, and cuts into its efficiency. For these reasons, it is clear that to run a nonprofit organization well, upholding ethics must be a key component of the organization’s mission statement.

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

Leadership training and development for non-profits

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 successful organization or business must have competent leadership.  For the non-profit organization, its leaders are the board of directors and the executive director.  Jointly they communicate the vision, set the goals and provide the direction for the organization to achieve its mission.  As leaders, the executive director and each board member must dutifully carry out their roles and responsibilities.  A leader must also recognize when he or she needs training and development and should seek the proper help to fulfill the requirements of the job in order to advance the organization.

The most important staff role of a non-profit organization is its executive director.  While the primary job of the executive director is to manage the day-to-day functions and the staff (including developing the staff), he or she also needs to work closely with the board of directors on a variety of initiatives such as strategic planning, fundraising, and participate in board involved committees.  Whether the organization size is small, with a budget of less than one hundred thousand dollars; or large, with a budget of over five million dollars, the executive director must have excellent business and people skills and teamwork to work along with staff personnel and the board as well as interface with the organization’s constituents and supporters.  To develop the breadth and depth of skills required for this non-profit leadership role, many nonprofit services offer classes and coaching.

Also vital to the non-profit organization is its board of directors.  Most often non-profit board members serve because they are passionate about the cause.  Therefore board members’ talents and skills vary and may or may not compliment the staff or each other.  Sometimes the board members need to learn about their roles and responsibilities and how to perform them as they are a governing body sanctioned by the state.  There is a wealth of information online about board duties as well as agencies that provide consultation to build and develop non-profit boards in the areas of fundraising, strategic planning, succession planning, governance, and managing the performance of the executive director.

A key position on the board is the president.  The board president leads the rest of the board members by being clear about the board’s role, sets examples of behavior for fellow members to follow, maintains a business focus and develops the board into a cohesive and productive body.  If an area of board development is to bring on training, there are many workshops and programs that would help the board and its president to be more effective leaders.

A trained and developed board and executive director are poised to help the non-profit organization through challenges, to transition the organization to the next level, and most importantly to achieve the mission of the organization.

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

Hotel contract negotiation

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.

Negotiating a contract with a hotel for your non-profit organization can be a difficult and time consuming process.  There are often many layers of the hotel to go through, mainly dealing with contracts, fundraising, their tax write off ability and, as a founder or negotiator of the contract, a lot of people to talk to at the hotel.

If you want to host a dinner at a hotel, you have to have a solid estimation of your visitors.  The important thing to remember here is that your attendees to your fundraiser are there to be entertained.  It is their checkbooks that are opening up for the sake of your organization.  They have to feel pampered.  Make sure you organize a few solid negotiating points for the hotel, like live music, vegetarian options for food and a cash bar.  I say cash bar because that will offer the hotel a chance to recoup some of the losses that they would face should they offer a large conference room for your organization.  Not only that, it is critical to use their name on your flyers, website and possibly offer them some future cross-marketing potential.  This way, the hotel recognizes that you are offering a service to your visitors (a live band), considering their needs as well as your own (vegetarian options) and the hotel is offered something as well.  The cross-marketing is an excellent point of negotiation because the duration of their involvement lasts beyond a single event.  Your organization recognizes them in terms of a strategic partner which may help you in the future.

Beyond conference rooms and fundraising partnerships, if your organization needs rooms at a hotel for a non-profit fair or are simply traveling for the purpose of expanding your organization, remember to network market your organization.  The more people who are educated and aware of your purpose and mission, the more leverage you can have in that town.  Ask for recommendations from friends, contacts, even law firms in the area.  If you can connect those you already know with people in the states or countries you are visiting, you can gain a lot of structured leverage.  Governmental organizations are thrilled to have non-profits because they take some of the public service burden off of the governments back.  Contact you local government, of whom your organization should have a strong relationship with and see if they know anyone in the city you are visiting.  They can use their contacts and networking for your organization and put you in touch with the hotels with either a discount or if you are lucky, a free room!

Filed under: Association Resources, Center for Association Resources, Fund Raising, Marketing, 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, , , , , , , ,

November 2017
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