Staff Spotlight: Caitlin

By Breanna Appling, account associate

In this feature, we interview one of our fabulous team members  to show a little spotlight on the staff that makes IMI great. Today we’re highlighting Caitlin Smith.

Caitlin has been part of the IMI team since February 2017 and brings a variety of experiences to IMI. Born and raised in Greensboro, N.C., Caitlin served four years in the U.S. Navy on a forward deployed aircraft carrier as a Hull Maintenance Technician Engineer and traveled the world. We asked Caitlin a little bit about herself. Check out what she had to say!

IMI: What are some things you like to do in your spare time?

CAITLIN:  Play with my dogs, spend time outdoors, and explore new places.

IMI: What is one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?

CAITLIN: I was a welder and a firefighter in the U.S. Navy.


IMI: Who/what is one thing that gives you inspiration?

CAITLIN: I am easily inspired. I pull inspiration from almost anything. Eating, traveling, reading, looking at art, shopping or simply walking down the streets of the city have all been summations of my inspiration. I would say my biggest inspiration, though, would be my goals and where I want to be in the future.

IMI: What’s one word you would use to describe the Association Management industry?

CAITLIN: Influential.

IMI: How has your background helped you face challenges within the industry?

CAITLIN: Having a military background has helped me in finding alternate solutions to problem solving.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us at to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.


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Time to Stop Using These Subject Lines

By Rachel Owen, communications manager

In our staff teams at IMI, we often discuss how best to tweak our marketing email subject lines. For non-profits, we’re competing for visibility in email boxes filled with work correspondence, messages from friends and an onslaught of promotional emails from every online store you’ve ever purchased from.

It can be tempting to take a page out of the marketing book from all those promotional emails that we receive. Inspiration is great – but be cautious. We want subject lines to be catchy and draw the reader in, but as non-profits we typically need to use a more “approachable” marketing strategy.

How do you know where the line is between an approachable and heavy-handed subject line? Let’s look at a few email offenders I’ve received in my box recently. Yes, these are all examples from actual emails I received. (I unsubscribed from many emails while compiling this list.)

8 Subject Line Offenders

  1. Can we talk about …?

You’ve seen these everywhere: “Can we just talk about Oprah’s speech?” or “Can we talk about conflict?” It can be a great, personable opener, but “Can we talk?” suggests that there will be a dialogue. Beware using this phrase for one-way communication. It can sound disingenuous unless you are making an effort to participate in a dialogue. Keeping that idea in mind, it could be used in the context of an interactive web meeting, social media post (great for engagement!) or a blog where followers can share their thoughts in response.

Runner-up: The “REAL TALK” subject line hits all the same flat notes as “Can we talk?” for me.

  1. You just missed it…

Unless your non-profit is for time travelers, I’m not sure this subject line will resonate with your readers. No one likes to feel like they are behind schedule. Focus on messaging that takes a positive angle on urgency. Here are a few of my favorite of the “time” related subject lines that I’ve seen lately:

  • You’re THIS CLOSE to missing out
  • Only a short time left
  • The clock is ticking
  • Time is running out
  1. I’m Calling You Out…

This pointed subject line coupled with the opening of the email (“If you’re reading this email right now, then I know you haven’t taken advantage of …”) is, at best, a bit passive aggressive. Rather than scolding your readers for failing to take advantage of your offering, perhaps take a lighter approach. Something like, “Did you forget to register? There’s still time!” might be more effective.

  1. Deleting This Email Could Cost You That Promotion

There’s enough generalized anxiety in the world that we shouldn’t add to the stress with our subject lines. Offer the carrot, not the stick. For a great, positive angle on this subject line, I like Jon Acuff’s: “Ready to do great work this year?”

Runner-up: “Can you afford NOT to open this email?” Dear marketer: I’m sure I’ll survive, but thanks for worrying about me.

  1. The best way to make boring data sexy

This subject line was for an educational webinar about data in Excel. Unless it’s somehow related to your non-profit, I’d suggest avoiding marketing that centers around making something “sexy.” If you need ideas for interesting adjectives try a Google search or hold a quick brainstorming session with a colleague.

  1. OMG! The [event/service] is here!

Unless your target audience is young, or your brand voice includes slang, avoid trendy phrases in your messaging. It can be too easy for trendy phrases to be a misstep and no one wants to go viral for a mistake in their email or post.

  1. *Don’t Open This Email*

This type of subject line is often suggested for grabbing the “rebel” segment of your email list. Is your organization full of people who thrive on a challenge? Is your brand voice edgy and pressing for change? If not, this subject line seems counterproductive and can be out of character.


Use “Urgent” with caution. Your organization’s “urgent” status may not be what your readers feel is urgent. If you say something is “URGENT” and it’s just a discount expiring soon you will lose a lot of trust with your readers. Unless the need is truly urgent and important, it’s best to focus on other ways to describe the time sensitive nature.

These are just a few of the latest email subject lines that gave me pause. What are some headlines you’ve seen recently that didn’t work for you? How would you craft a better subject line? Please share in the comments below!

Want to know more about association management? Contact us at to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.


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IMI Fun Committee: A Year in Review

By Meredith Parker, account associate

On my favorite TV show of all time, The Office, the Party Planning Committee is responsible for commemorating personal and professional milestones for employees and the company. From the launch of a new website to baby showers to a Moroccan Christmas, they always utilize their creativity to bring everyone closer together.









At IMI, we have our own Party Planning Committee called the Fun Committee. In addition to coordinating the IMI Annual Meeting, planning the IMI Annual Christmas Party and recognizing employee birthdays, the Fun Committee is given the freedom to devise events throughout the calendar year to provide an opportunity for connection outside of the traditional workflow.

It was my pleasure to serve on the Fun Committee in 2017. As a final farewell to my time with this group, I would like to highlight the events completed during my tenure.

February 14: Valentine’s Day Goodies and Recipes Exchange

Inspired by the grade school tradition of bringing cards and bite-size candy to share with the class on Valentine’s Day, we asked IMI staff to bake bite-size sweet treats and bring the accompanying recipes. Then, we provided treat bags so everyone could gather the goodies and recipes of their choice. Each of us enjoyed satisfying our sweet tooth and celebrating a day about sharing love with people you care about.

March 13: IMI Annual Meeting at the NC Museum of History

Every year, IMI staff meets for a review of the previous year and a team-building activity. In 2017, we chose to meet at the event space in the North Carolina Museum of History. After completing the meeting, we broke into teams of 4-5 and did a Scavenger Hunt hosted by Motley Clue Adventures. We had to solve puzzles in teams to gather clues based on exhibits in the NC History Museum and the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, which is across the street. It was hilarious seeing the competitive spirit displayed by each team and inspiring seeing how well everyone worked together.

Check out the photos below from our memorable day:

May 8: Duke Lemur Center

On a beautiful spring day, we visited the Duke Lemur Center, which is a sanctuary for many furry monkeys of the lemur species (and, notably for me, featured on the hit PBS TV Show Zoboomafu.) In reflecting on her experience, Lee Claassen, account manager, commented: “Not only was it a beautiful day and an awesome opportunity to get to know my colleagues outside the office setting, I was completely fascinated by the fuzzy little creatures. Who knew they came in so many sizes and colors and were giving researchers insights into human diseases like Alzheimer’s? As we toured the facility and the various enclosures, I got the sense that the lemurs were as interested in us as we were in them. It was a great learning experience and one worth repeating.”

I have to agree with Lee after capturing the below photo – doesn’t this lemur look like he’s posing for the camera?








 June-August: Summer “Treat Yourself” Series

Our offices are located in Raleigh, N.C., and if you’ve visited here in the summer, you know that it is miserably hot and humid for the duration of the season. To provide a respite from this weather, we arranged for food trucks featuring icy treats to visit the office each month of the summer. First we had delicious homemade ice cream in flavors like Blackberry Hibiscus and Banana Nutella Waffle from Two Roosters Ice Cream. Then, we devoured sugary shaved ice from Kona Ice. Finally, we enjoyed flavorful soft serve concoctions when visited by Jam Soft Serve Ice Cream.

September 8: “Labor” Day Fiesta Baby Shower

Are you a fan of Dad jokes? We certainly are. When we discovered that one of our staff members was expecting, we knew that we wanted to throw a surprise baby shower and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have it around Labor Day (get it?). Anyway, we planned a baby shower inspired by the bright colors and delicious food featured at a Mexican Fiesta. In preparation, we enjoyed buying baby gifts and transforming our conference room with tissue paper flowers and cacti. Though our staff member was ultimately unable to make it to the surprise shower, our whole staff FaceTimed her from the vibrant party space and wished her our very best. We also saved cupcakes, presents and tissue paper flowers for her.

October 13: Pullen Park Family Picnic

One of our goals this year was to provide an event where we could spend time with each other’s families and close friends. So on a sunny Friday afternoon, we travelled to a local park to eat pulled pork barbeque and participate in giant Jenga, cornhole, and a photo scavenger hunt. Here are some of our favorite photos from this day:

Giant Jenga









Photo Scavenger Hunt
















November 16: Cocktail Hour to Honor Keith and Dick

It is important to us to highlight milestones for our staff, so when one of our staff members married his longtime partner in October, we hosted an after-work wine and cheese reception for them. I personally enjoyed the opportunity to both relax with coworkers and celebrate something so special.

November 29: Thanksgiving Breakfast

In the past, we have held a traditional potluck Thanksgiving dinner. This year, we decided to incorporate breakfast food into our event. As always, I was amazed at the variety and creativity of our staff: some highlights included cinnamon French toast, an oatmeal toppings bar and mimosas. I was pleased that, to me, this breakfast felt like a comfortable and low-key balance to the stress of the holiday season.

December 9: Staff Holiday Party at Coquette

For our formal holiday party, we traveled to Coquette, a French restaurant in North Raleigh, and partook in an intimate, delicious sit-down dinner. Though we couldn’t pronounce some of the menu items, we were delighted with how they tasted.

December 13: Around the World Holiday Party & Gift Card Roulette

In addition to our formal holiday party where we invite the significant others of staff, we also host a casual staff holiday party in the office. This year, the Fun Committee asked staff to get together in groups of 3-4 and pick a country to highlight. Each group then chose a space in the office for their “booth” and provided food and decorations for the selected country. In this event, we hosted Greece, Mexico, South Africa, Nigeria, New Zealand, France, and North America. Kimber Williams, account associate, commented: “It was really great to experience such a vast number of cultures from the comfort of our offices. And the food was really great too! J” Kara Stachowiak, account associate, added: “I enjoyed the planning stage, which allowed me to learn more about a group of my coworkers, just as much as the event. The celebration was eye-opening as well. Many of our clients serve individuals throughout the world, yet it is easy to focus on the customs and traditions in our own areas. It was nice to learn about different cultural norms for holiday celebration and be reminded that there are many different ways to celebrate.”

I truly appreciate working in a space that values creativity, community and connection with each other. It was wonderful to share food, laughter and family with my IMI coworkers through Fun Committee events in 2017. I look forward to the next year of Fun Committee activities!

If you have any ideas for our 2018 adventures, feel free to comment below.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us at to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

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Acronyms for Non-profits? YMMV.

2017-12-20 acronyms

By Rachel Owen, communications manager

Our world is increasingly full of shortcuts to get where we’re going faster and how we communicate is no exception to that trend. Slang, abbreviations and memes are very much a part of modern communication. Your organization’s culture will often determine if slang and memes are appropriate to use in communication with your members, but what about acronyms and other abbreviations?

Note: For the sake of brevity (see what I did there?), in this post “acronym” can refer to any type of abbreviation your organization might be considering. You can learn about abbreviations, acronyms and initialism here.

One trend I see with non-profits is a steady use of abbreviations. When naming a new product, service or feature, the tendency is to reach for an abbreviation first. Perhaps you even started with the acronym first and worked backwards to create the full name (a backronym).

While acronyms are handy for typing, our challenge in non-profits becomes knowing when they will be useful and valuable to our members.

Here are some things to consider before naming your next program.

Know your audience. Consider where you want to use the acronym. We all have shorthand that we may use with fellow staff and volunteers who are deep in the trenches, but for more general member-facing communications such as emails, newsletters or social media it’s best to use full titles. No one likes needing to ask, “What does XYZ mean?”

Consider “why” the term needs an abbreviation. Is the name of your program simply too long? You may be trying to do too much with the name. Are you working with a “legacy” title? It might be time to consider rebranding if it no longer fits with the current nature of the program or the culture of the organization.

Keep focus on the important things. We can acronym away things that matter. An organization that wants to increase awareness about a specific aspect of their efforts (international, multilingual, legislative, advocacy, integrity, technology, etc.) would benefit from letting those words stand out when naming their initiatives. For example, an organization that wants to increase awareness about its global efforts should promote their International Work Groups rather than “IWG.”

Beware “alphabet soup.” We’ve all experienced the confusion when multiple abbreviations in a document start to jumble together into “alphabet soup.” Acronyms can exclude some readers from your community, making it hard for them to feel a part of the organization. Practically, this means that the Super Cool Organization’s (SCO) Young Professionals Networking League (YPNL) may have difficulty drawing newcomers to their event (“Join us for SCO’s 2018 YPNL!”). Not only is alphabet soup hard on the eyes, but the purpose of the event is lost to anyone who isn’t familiar with the lingo or the context.

Watch out for a loss of clarity. If a photography non-profit organizes grant writing classes called Snapshot Funding (SNAFU) Workshops, they might find that attendees expect the class is about common photography mistakes.

Make your terms searchable. If you reference SNAFU in your promotions, be sure that a search of your website for “SNAFU” will bring up the Snapshot Funding Workshops. There’s nothing worse than wondering what an organization’s abbreviation means and getting zero results on their website.

Check your name with multiple sources. Always check that your desired name does not conflict with another company’s intellectual property. Also, make sure any abbreviations do not spell something inappropriate or ill-fitting for your organization.

Spell it out. If you decide an acronym is the right fit for your initiative, the first time the abbreviation is used in each document, article, or post always list the full name for clarity.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us at to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.


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Young Non-profit Professionals: What’s Next?

2017-11-28 young professionals


By Meredith Parker, account associate

Until recently, success was easy to define: my life was charted out with the ultimate goal of gainful employment after completion of primary and secondary school. Imagine the following list:

Meredith’s Life Plan:

  • Elementary School (1999-2005)
  • Middle School (2005-2008)
    • Volunteering
    • Honor Societies
    • Clubs
  • High School (2008-2012)
    • Volunteering
    • Honor Societies
    • Clubs
  • College (2012-2016)
    • Volunteering
    • Clubs
  • JOB (2016-????)

I checked off the final box, “JOB,” in July 2016, two months after my graduation from college. I dove into my first year of nonprofit work with some trepidation (you can read about my first 90 days here) and after 1.5 years in, I feel that I am aware of others’ expectations of me and comfortable with my responsibilities.

This checklist conquered, I find myself restless. From 1999 to 2016, I was focused on the long term goal of eventually obtaining a job and I neglected to plan after that. Though at any point in this range of years, I would have defined this moment as “success,” I realize that it’s now time to plan the next stage of my life.

This is how I found myself at the ASAE Women Executives Forum in Washington, D.C. on November 14, 2017.

Our speaker was Kathy Korman Frey, the founder of the Hot Mommas Project, an organization providing resources to inspire ambitious women to excel. The foundation of these resources is the free Case Library, which houses the stories of women from all over the world who have reached their definition of success, from a woman who overcame alcoholism to likening navigating life’s curveballs with “the bend and snap,” a move coined by the 2001 movie Legally Blonde. There are currently 338 case studies available for perusal with periodic Case Study Competitions to expand the collection. Building off of this library, the Hot Mommas Project completes research on successful women and disseminates data and analysis in courses and workshops.

Drawing on her experience as the Founder of the Hot Mommas Project and a lecturer in George Washington University’s Business School, Frey spoke about encouraging entrepreneurial thinking. One of her key points was the necessity of identifying and developing several mentors to help guide one’s career. In response to this, I remember looking around the room and seeing 100 women who owned their own businesses or served as the heads of organizations. This was evident not only by their nametags, which listed organization and position, but by the way that they carried themselves: they wore power suits, talked about taking regular international vacations and, during the small group activities, provided insightful responses honed through years of experience.

I have never been in a room with that many high-achieving women before and I realized, whilst sitting among them, that I have the potential to go on and be an Executive Leader. I also realized that, as Frey suggested, I need to identify some mentors to help me create a new checklist focused on my next big adventure: my career.

Do you have a mentor? How has a mentor influenced your career? Please share in the comments below.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us at to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.


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Staff Spotlight: Dick Padlo

2017-10-31 staff spot light - Dick Padlo








By Meredith Parker, account associate

Richard (Dick) Padlo is one of the most seasoned professionals at IMI. His career has spanned over forty years, beginning in the United States Air Force, where he climbed the ranks until serving as a Base Commander. After leaving the Air Force, he joined the for-profit business world, working with a consulting group to provide strategic planning expertise. Then, he transitioned to a role as a General Manager for Waste Management, Inc., following that position with a role as a General Manager for PMDS, LLC. In the 2010s, he began work in the non-profit world with SOFTLY International, United Way of the Greater Triangle, and since 2012 he has been with IMI Association Executives.

This varied experience gives him a unique set of tools to approach his current position as an Account Manager at IMI, specifically in the area of strategic planning.

As a young professional, I am always interested in learning from the experience of others; as such, I thought it would be interesting to ask Dick to provide some of his favorite professional resources and lessons from his decades of professional experience.

Quick Questions for Dick:

  1. What is your favorite podcast?
    1. Carry Him Shoulder High” (Mary Kate O’Flanagan), The Moth
  2. Who is your favorite blogger?
    1. Meg Buckingham, who currently works at Triangle Community Foundation and writes for their blog
  3. If I weren’t in association management, I’d…be teaching or working with entrepreneurs and emerging organizations to help them realize their dreams
  4. Advice for aspiring Account Managers: Find something you are passionate about and do it for a living—but, maintain a balance between your personal and professional life.
  5. Identify a Mistake and what you learned from it: I let passion rule the day.
    1. There are things we don’t know
    2. There is a reason for an organizational hierarchy
    3. We learn more by listening, which is hard to do when you’re dominating the conversation
  6. Favorite quote: “…if you get gloomy just/ take an hour off and sit/and think how/much better this world/is than hell/of course it won t cheer/you up much if/you expect to go there” (an excerpt from “Certain Maxims of Archy” By Don Marquis from archy and mehitabel, 1927)

What advice resonates with you? Do you have a mentor who could answer these questions for you? Please feel free to share in the comments below.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us at to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

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Taking Control of Your Inbox

2017-10-17 taming your inbox

By Meredith Parker, account associate

Yesterday, I was reading a blog post on the Thrive Global website where Ashton Kutcher was interviewed and he explained that email is “everyone else’s to-do list for you.”

This statement really resonated with me. At my nonprofit, we have just kicked off our annual membership campaign and are in the midst of preparing our annual budget and coordinating an in-person Board of Directors meeting in November. These items are, of course, in addition to my regular day-to-day tasks. As a result, like many nonprofit professionals, my inbox is flooded daily with waves of items from members, staff, and volunteers that may or may not be related to the most pressing issues of the day. To further complicate matters, our policy is to turn around emails to everyone within two business days.

When I began my work as a nonprofit professional, I did not know how to satisfy these competing priorities. The easiest method is always the path of least resistance, so I would spend the majority of my time responding to emails. Eventually, I realized that, with the absence of a concrete plan of attack, emails were controlling my workflow and I wasn’t accomplishing work that needed to be done.

Over the past year, I developed an organizational strategy for managing my emails and work, which is shared below:

First I identified the functional areas of my work:

  • Annual Conference
  • Board of Directors
  • Awards and Scholarships
  • Committees and Task Forces
  • Volunteers

Second, I created To-Do Folders in my email inbox for each of these functional areas.

Third, I established that the first thirty minutes of the day are dedicated to:

  • evaluating the state of each functional area through emails
  • deciding how much time to allocate to each functional area based on emails and outstanding work.

Following this, the first fifteen minutes of my day, I open every new email in my inbox and allocate it to the correct functional area To-Do folder. Then, in the second set of fifteen minutes, I create a daily work plan. In this work plan, I first write down any meetings that I have. Then, I allocate time to each functional area depending on the work that needs to be done that day. I make sure that, even if there are not pressing matters in each area, I allocate at least 15 minutes to each area so I get to all emails with the required two business days.

Fourth, I follow the daily work plan. With my entire day laid out in increments of time corresponding to functional areas, I am forced to prioritize what is important in each functional area instead of letting my email dictate it. In addition, because I make time for every functional area, I ensure that I am not dropping the ball on any items even if they are not pressing.

Since establishing this workflow, I have found that I work more efficiently. Instead of getting bogged down by emails for an hour or two every morning, I spend time focusing on the most important work of the day and answer emails as time permits and as needed within a functional area.

Though this method works for me, I know that everyone’s brain works differently and it might not be an effective strategy for all. I would be interested in hearing what works for you. Please feel free to share below.

Want to know more about association management? Contact us at to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.


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