4 Signs Associations Need to Strengthen Their Financial-Planning Muscles

By / Mar 8, 2018 (Georgijevic/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Good financial planning is integral to the success of any association, but here are some indicators that your organization might need to improve its tools and processes.

A few months ago, I tried my first barre class. Before heading into the ballet-inspired fitness class, I thought that I was in pretty good shape, but the extreme soreness I experienced a few hours later proved otherwise. Clearly, some of my muscles had been neglected.

Financial planning is similar, according to Hilda Polanco, founder and CEO of FMA – Fiscal Management Associates, LLC. Developing strong financial-planning tools and processes (i.e., strengthening the financial planning muscle) is key to being successful in an ever-changing world.

“A budget … as soon as it is approved, needs to change, because the world is changing,” Polanco said in a podcast. “And it’s really hard to predict exactly what will happen, so budgets change, and the planning function is what organizes those ideas as things change …”

Although associations may think their financial-planning muscles are strengthened and toned, but here are a few signs that they might need a little more conditioning:

You can’t imagine revising your annual budget. After creating the annual budget and getting board approval on it, is your organization willing to revisit the budget with the intent to revise it? “If someone feels that it is way too painful to revisit the budget a second time—if you are feeling that, it’s time to build a better planning muscle,” Polanco said.

You can’t imagine responding to unforeseen opportunities. “Sometimes changes bring opportunities that weren’t contemplated when the budget was originally developed, so if the organization feels somewhat limited in taking on new opportunities because they weren’t what they originally planned, that’s also an indication,” Polanco said.

You can’t imagine creating different budget scenarios. “If your budget tool is static, and every time assumptions need to be revisited, it means redoing the budget, that’s an area of opportunity,” Polanco said in the podcast. Associations want to build dynamic tools that allow them to quickly see the impact on the budget if they were to, for example, add new staff roles or offer wage increases to employees.

You can’t imagine approaching your board with a revised budget. “The board could say that ‘we’re never going to change the budget,’ but reality is going to happen, and if life is happening under different circumstances, management has to respond to and navigate those new circumstances,” Polanco said. To that end, the association might need to educate its board on the need to revise a budge. “In planning, the goal is for the board and management to be as closely aligned as possible in their ability to predict the future,” Polanco said. Generally speaking, six months into the fiscal year is the time when associations can start seeing whether there are significant changes—and it’s important that both the board and management are on the same page when it comes to addressing those in the budget.

What are the indications you’ve seen that might mean that your financial-planning muscle could use some strengthening?

From Associations Now, a publication of the American Society of Association Executives.

One Way to Build a Better Board


By / Mar 6, 2018 (tadamichi/iStock/Getty Images Plus) 

Changing the way you think about board member recruitment in one simple way may lead to creating a better board. Also: growth strategy tips for major donor relationship-building and more.

The right board can help ensure your organization’s future success. How can your board member search committee ensure it builds a dynamic one?

Jay Love, chief relationship officer at Bloomerang, recently learned a “simple and yet so elegant” secret from Kent Stroman, the author of The Intentional Board. “Recruit only board members who could serve as board chairs,” writes Love in a recent Bloomerang blog post.

Sounds easy, right? But effective board chairs share a lot of key traits that can be hard to find, including generosity, natural leadership ability, passion for your group’s mission, and expertise in nonprofit governance.

“Most individuals with all or most of these qualities are in high demand and can be very selective in where they serve by their very nature,” says Love. “This means a much wider recruiting effort complete with more in-depth research is required to even find a few of these somewhat rare individuals.”

From Associations Now, a publication of the American Society of Association Executives.

Professional Certifications Increasingly Valuable

By / Mar 6, 2018 (Geber86/E+/Getty Images Plus) 

Business-oriented learners in generations Y and Z are increasingly open to online education and digital certifications, according to a new report from an association of business schools.

A new report from AACSB International is targeted at how university business schools operate as more digital-friendly students drive overall attendance.

That said, there are plenty of lessons that can be translated to other types of educators as well—including those working in the context of associations, which are increasingly seen as alternatives to traditional educational programs.

Understanding the Implications of the Digital Generation on Business Education, also commissioned by the Executive MBA Council and the International Consortium for Executive Education, highlights the changing expectations of “digital generations” in business education.

The report, a quantitative study based on online questionnaires submitted by individuals in 10 countries, found that many respondents were interested in nontraditional education options such as certificates and digital badges to extend their business education. For example, the research found that more than a quarter of respondents said certifications and digital badges could prove a useful substitute for a degree. Those offerings were especially of interest to those not looking to pursue an MBA or other form of graduate-level education.

“Certificates and digital certificates provide more attractive options for individuals employed full time and those holding a graduate degree. In an open-ended question, respondents frequently mentioned the convenience it would provide in their attempt to juggle current employment,” the report explained.

This factor was also highlighted in the fact that many learners, especially younger ones, desired to have a more self-directed learning approach, and those who have taken online educational offerings in the past tend to prefer “blended learning,” which is a mix of in-person and online education.

Ultimately, though, the report focused on the basic motivations for those looking to get more education. In the U.S., the main factors for wanting to learn included an improved standard of living, more career stability, increased job security, and improved leadership and management skills. Outside of the U.S., a much larger factor was the desire to gain international exposure and access.

The findings, while intriguing outside of the business school context, also prove promising within it, noted AACSB’s senior vice president and chief knowledge officer, Juliane Iannarelli.

“More than any other generation, individuals who will benefit most from advanced business education over the next decade are thinking broadly about delivery models, flexible opportunities, and the potential pathways through different learning experiences,” she said in a news release. “Fortunately, today’s business schools are already seeking ways in which they can pivot to better provide both comprehensive programs and more targeted learning modules—independently and with employer partners.”

From Associations Now, a publication of the American Society of Association Executives.

Why Project Debriefs Are a Must

By / Feb 28, 2018 (Rawpixel/iStock/Getty Images Plus

If you’re looking to improve your organizational processes, hold debriefing meetings after you complete major projects.

Do you routinely hold debriefing meetings after a big project? It’s a good habit for a smart leader to get into, whether or not the project was successful.

Often these  meetings, if they happen at all, include only top leadership, but 360 Live Media argues that everyone who had a big part in the project should be included. “Think of this opportunity as primary research about the way your organization operates,” says Bill Zimmer. “The goal is to talk about what worked and what didn’t.”

Zimmer suggests letting your team know when you start the project that you plan to debrief later. “Surprises are not a great way to evoke radical candor,” he writes. “Instead, remind your team at the beginning of each engagement that you’ll be hosting a debrief after it’s complete. Be consistent and you’ll start to build a culture of learning and improvement.”

And be sure to strike the right tone. A debriefing meeting is not a forum for venting or complaining but should be an “open, honest session with a goal of making the team better.”

From Associations Now, a publication of the American Society of Association Executives.

An Ultimate Guide Discovering the Best Times to Post on Social Media

Whenever you put real efforts into creating an outstanding content, you always wish your content targets as many eyeballs as possible, isn’t it?

best times to post on social media

28% of the internet users are spending their time on 1 social media site

Well, now you can easily grab the chance!

With the help of picking the best times to post on social media, you can maximize the chances for your audience to both see and engage with your posts.

Savvy social media experts have also shared their views – “Posting the content on right time is the key to maximizing engagement with their target audience.

There are many essential things that can help you get more traffic, more engagements and more followers.

Do you want to know what are those interesting yet essential things?

There is a plethora of social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Pinterest and more, which cater to the different niche of businesses.

All these social media platforms have different configurations, which are applicable when publishing content, images, videos, and much more.

But, the one superseding them is definitely the best times of posting on social media.

When it comes to standard posting time, there is no such specific time period suitable for all social media networks. Actually, it is very difficult to understand the exact time of posting content, because if you’re posting at wrong times, there are chances to invite bad impact.

It is always important to know a range of good posting times as it helps in increasing the engagement rate tremendously.

But, before moving further…

Let’s first know the basics of how the social media platforms are used by different users!

We all are familiar with the major social media platforms, but knowing their basics is like a boon for the newbies!

Let’s have a look! 

Facebook is one of the leading platforms that has the largest audience and is accessed both at home and work. Actually, people use it from their mobiles and desktops, so it depends on who the audience is and how they use this social network.

Twitter is one of the toughest networks from the marketer’s aspect. People use it more while commuting and during breaks. Just like Facebook, it has been largely audience dependent.

Linkedin is used by professional and the working community. They use it anytime around the day depending on the ease of work, breaks, etc.

Pinterest is viewed during the leisurely hours like watching TV or spending some time with the family in the evenings.

Instagram has a huge following of smartphone users who use it just about any time.

Now you might have got a rough idea of the how these major social media platforms are used by different users, right?

But, for a better idea, it is important to know how to post your content on the best times on social media.

Here’s a detailed discussion of the best times to post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and more for achieving the finest results. Read more


Written by Manisha Sukhyani, Content Marketer at SocialPilot. She authors in-depth articles that teach users about how to grow traffic through social media marketing. She loves walking on a less traveled road.

Improved Board Diversity May Have Positive Effects

 By / Feb 22, 2018 (Steve Debenport/E+/Getty Images

By / Feb 22, 2018 (Steve Debenport/E+/Getty Images Plus)

A new report from Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy makes the case that certain demographic groups, in particular young adults and women, can help improve nonprofit boards. However, diversity issues continue to be a challenge for boards as a whole.

Could making a board more diverse make it more effective?

That’s an idea that followed through in a new report from Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), produced with the help of Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates and BoardSource.

But The Impact of Diversity: Understanding How Nonprofit Board Diversity Affects Philanthropy, Leadership, and Board Engagement  also makes the case that diversity remains a challenge for many nonprofits. The report found that, overall, boards are generally less diverse than the U.S. population, with 78.6 percent of board members white, compared to a population as a whole that is 76.9 percent white.

Organizations that are older (particularly those founded before 1900) tend to have fewer women and a lower makeup of diversity overall; however, from an income standpoint, boards of nonprofits that have revenues of less than $500,000 tend to have more gender diversity, but less racial diversity, than nonprofits with revenue above that.

“While gender diversity on nonprofit boards is improving, many seem to remain primarily white, older, and have more male than female board members,” the report’s executive summary states.

However, there is evidence that if challenges of diversity are overcome, it could make the board more effective. For example, boards with larger numbers of younger members (particularly under age 39) tend to show higher levels of commitment and are more focused on governance and oversight issues. And boards that have higher percentages of women focus more intently on issues of public policy and also see higher levels of fundraising success.

The report notes that while researchers are not in agreement on the ways that board diversity affects organizational performance overall, individual findings suggest much in the way of potential. Nonetheless, IUPUI Associate Dean for Research and International Programs Una Osili says that the findings offer an opportunity to put a stronger focus on diversity issues.

“As the U.S. population grows more diverse, nonprofit boards have an opportunity to engage members that reflect this diversity in their work,” Osili stated in a news release. “Diverse board members have the capacity to improve the organization’s philanthropic engagement through increased board member participation, fundraising and advocacy.”

From Associations Now, a publication of the American Society of Association Executives.

Customer Service Secrets From the Hospitality Industry

Take a cue from Richard Branson, Danny Meyer, the Ritz-Carlton, Tom Colicchio, and other customer service experts.

By Peter Economy

If there’s an industry that knows how to provide truly exceptional customer service, it’s the hospitality industry–the men and women who every day and night put heads in beds and food on the plates of millions of guests.

Says customer service expert Micah Solomon–author of the book, The Heart of Hospitality–“Whether your business is a retail bank, a car wash, or a SaaS startup (or, for that matter, The Apple Store, which lifted many innovations directly from the hospitality industry, including the Genius Bar, which is a direct knockoff of the concierge desk at a Ritz-Carlton hotel), you’ll find the customer service lessons of the hospitality industry apply.”

Here are five customer service lessons that Micah Solomon gathered from some of today’s most successful businesspeople.

  1. Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotels: Scripted customer service is the ultimate turnoff for today’s customers.

Today’s customers, including the important millennial demographic, demand a customer service style that feels authentic and unscripted. Legendary businessman Richard Branson has built his new Virgin Hotels brand expressly on this principle, avoiding what he calls “Stepford customer service”–the rigid, phony, scripted service style that today’s guests find to be such a turnoff.

  1. Legendary restaurateur Danny Meyer: Customers crave recognition and acknowledgement.

Danny Meyer is the restaurateur and hospitality legend whose every move–including the worldwide expansion of Shake Shack and the elimination of tipping at his restaurants–makes news. According to Meyer, the keys to his success are recognition and acknowledgement–making customers feel appreciated when they arrive, paid attention to while they’re at your establishment, missed when they’re gone, and welcomed back the next time.

  1. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company: It takes empowered employees to deliver great customer service.

Great hotels and restaurants empower their frontline employees to proactively fix customer problems without waiting on management approval. This employee empowerment–the permission to be creative, and even spend money, on behalf of customers, is a master stroke in hospitality. At the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, even hourly employees have permission to spend up to $2,000 per guest to solve any problem or dissatisfaction that may arise, “without needing to ask permission, without needing to involve management or worry that they’re going too far,” as President and COO Herve Humler puts it.

  1. Top Chef judge & restaurateur Tom Colicchio: Great customer service depends on trait-based hiring

If you want to provide world-class customer service, you’ve got to hire the right people: employees with the necessary traits–empathy, warmth, and conscientiousness, to name a few. Says Tom Colicchio, the celebrity restaurateur and Top Chef judge, “We’re looking to find people who naturally enjoy this work. The best way I can describe the people we want is like this: There are some people who throw great dinner parties because they really want to take care of their guests, and there are other people who are lousy at it because everything is a chore–everything is a problem. We’re looking for that natural host, the person who is always looking to make people happy and who doesn’t find it to be a chore.”

  1. Five-Star chef and restaurateur Patrick O’Connell (The Inn at Little Washington): Build a culture of “yes.”

In a great hotel or restaurant, the entire organization strives to say “yes” to each guest, rather than figuring out ways to say “no,” or “sorry, not my department,” or “It doesn’t work that way around here.” Patrick O’Connell’s Inn at Little Washington is a double Five Star (per Forbes), double Five Diamond (per AAA) restaurant and inn where presidents, kings, and queens are known to dine. When Chef O’Connell trains his waitstaff, he tells them the story of the guest who asked “How big is the lobster?” and the server who answered, “How big would you like it to be?” O’Connell wants every employee to be comfortable using the customers’ wishes, not the stated capabilities of the restaurant, as the default framework within which to operate.

Get Employees to Follow Your Lead

By / Feb 23, 2018 (phototechno/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Great leadership requires more than just the respect of your staff. Learn how great leaders get everyone to follow along. Also: How to handle employees who fail cybersecurity tests.

The boss is the boss, but there’s no reason that subordinates feel like they have to follow the rules. The right kind of leadership strategy might make them really want to do so.

A new CNBC article shares several tips from The Business Sergeant’s Field Manual, a book from leadership coach Chris Hallberg.

Hallberg notes that admirable leaders are brutally honest and decisive. “You’re actually doing everyone a favor when you say what needs to be said rather than tip-toeing around the problem,” he says.

He is also a big proponent of employing organizational operating systems. A system saves time and money and allows employees to have defined roles. “With a guide in place, 90 percent of the day-to-day can be run by systems, allowing you to give the remaining 10 percent of your undivided time and personal attention,” he says.

Hallberg goes on to say that great bosses support middle managers, give people leadership challenges, and are fair and consistent.

From Associations Now, a publication of the American Society of Association Executives.

Vendor-Relations Lessons from the KFC Chicken Crisis

By / Feb 21, 2018 (sanapadh/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

The shortages that have created some major issues for the fast food chain in the United Kingdom are being blamed on a vendor’s mess-ups. It’s a good reminder that good vendor management can be downright fundamental to your business needs.

Don’t laugh, but there’s a serious lesson to be taken from the misfortune of KFC’s British arm, which is suffering from a chicken shortage of historic proportions.

That lesson: Handle vendor transitions with care. KFC’s switch to a third-party shipper is being blamed for the headaches ailing the company this week.

DHL, the global shipping giant, was affected by a crash near one of its delivery depots on the day that it was supposed to take over the KFC contract, according to The Sun. This led to major delays and a significant backlog that prevented chicken from getting to most of KFC’s British locations. The supply-chain crisis was so serious that it forced 700 of KFC’s 870 U.K. stores to close, leading to issues that prevented employees at its stores from working.

KFC’s vendor move was controversial, with The Guardian noting that Bidvest, the company’s prior chicken supplier, was outbid by DHL, which planned to run its distribution apparatus through a single warehouse. The union that represented Bidvest employees reportedly warned of the risks of changing vendors.

But the crisis that happened to KFC isn’t unique.

After switching delivery providers in late 2015, The Boston Globe found itself in the unenviable position of having a serious shortage of drivers.

The paper, in a story on the problems, noted that the new vendor wanted delivery drivers to do more work for the same rate, which discouraged drivers from staying on board. The added complexity of the new vendor’s routes didn’t help matters, either. In the end, the problems became so serious that the company’s own journalists had to deliver newspapers.

Finger-Lickin’ Good Advice

So what should associations make of these concerns within their own walls? A 2008 paper from the Project Management Institute makes the case that working with a new vendor requires great care, as every new vendor has pluses and minuses that can affect the overall quality of the work in the end. And that requires doing your homework during the evaluation process to protect your organization in cases of failure.

Author Karen A. McIsaac notes that, even in a positive situation, vendors come with a variety of basic risks, including on issues of performance, culture, competency, capacity, reputation, and alignment with the primary organization as a whole. She recommends making sure that the contract is tightly written, that a statement of work is set up, and that someone is in charge of managing the vendor during the length of the contract.

Fara Francis, the CIO of Associated General Contractors of America, also made this point in a 2014 Associations Now article: “A good tip is to make sure that your contract is established properly, and make sure you establish a good working relationship with the vendor’s project manager.”

And that’s the case whether you’re working with chicken, newspapers, or your cloud infrastructure.

From Associations Now, a publication of the American Society of Association Executives.

Aging World: Adapting to a Key Demographic Shift

As the world gets older, associations will have to take steps to respond to this demographic shift.

The world is getting grayer: The number of Americans 65 and older is expected to double by 2050. And for the next few years, baby boomers plan to stick around in their jobs, either because they want to or because economic necessity forces them to. Which is to say that aging isn’t just about age: It encompasses work, health, economics, and government, too.

Ellie Hollander, president and CEO of Meals on Wheels America, experiences that complex intersection of changes on a daily basis. It runs on a mix of private and public funding to address a senior hunger gap that threatens to keep widening. “We’re serving 2.4 million people, but we know that there are nearly 10 million seniors who are struggling with hunger,” she says. The organization is further challenged by uncertain federal funding and intense competition for philanthropic dollars.

Hollander’s proposed solution is to make the business case for companies to partner with the association. Last September, for instance, it announced a pilot program in collaboration with health insurance giant Aetna where volunteers delivering meals will help facilitate healthcare access for the seniors they serve. Meals on Wheels America benefits by becoming a more essential part of the healthcare infrastructure; Aetna gets a volunteer army that’s checking in on seniors before their health issues become serious—and expensive—saving the insurer on medication and hospital costs.

“We have an intervention that saves money, reduces healthcare costs, and improves people’s health and well-being,” Hollander says. “In addition to malnutrition, social isolation also contributes to people ending up in the emergency room and hospitals much more frequently than if they had access to nutritious meals and companionship.”

To do this, the association has reshuffled its org chart since Hollander’s arrival in 2013. It now has an executive vice president for healthcare integration and its own separate initiative, Meals on Wheels Health, focused on the issue. She says stressing the urgency of the issue with her board was a key factor: She scheduled three multiday sessions over nine months to address the rising numbers of older Americans and consider solutions.

“People said, ‘It’s too soon, you need to get your sea legs,” but the world in which we are living is changing so rapidly and the senior population is growing so quickly,” she says. “I want to make sure we’re relevant. And more than just relevant—I want us to thrive.”

Concerns about aging are relevant beyond an association’s members and customers. The issue also has an impact on association offices themselves, where boomer executives are nearing retirement and thinking about their own roles, as well as succession planning.

“There are millions of boomers who are moving from the left lane to the exit ramp,” says Tara Withington, CAE, vice president at AMC Executive Director Incorporated. “Many boomers won’t discuss their plans to retire or slow down due to the fear they will be marginalized or passed over for meaningful work.”

Exacerbating that anxiety is the fact that nonprofits are generally weak on succession planning: In one 2014 study, 38 percent of CEOs said their organization didn’t have a plan for the executive’s departure. Establishing a regular conversation about succession can put both the CEO and the board at ease, Withington says. So does a frank discussion about what role an executive nearing retirement can play.

“Boomers don’t want to just hang on until they can’t work anymore,” she says. “They want to make sure that they are mentoring and sharing their wisdom. And, quite honestly, I’ve heard from millennials that they’re not ready for the boomers to just walk out the door either. They rely on us for guidance and insight.”

From Associations Now, a publication of the American Society for Association Executives.