How to Create an Effective Event with Volunteers

By Allison Winter, Communications Associate

Sometimes, managing volunteers at a conference can feel like herding cats. However, a little preparation beforehand, and the creation of a simple document, can help things run a lot more smoothly onsite.

Why do I need a Conference Volunteer Guide?

Volunteers are incredible. They’re so passionate about your association and its work that they’re willing to share their time and expertise to further your mission. However, as organizers, we need to remember that volunteering at an event can be an intimidating experience. Volunteers may be experiencing a lot of firsts like meeting other volunteers in person, visiting the host city, seeing the venue, and even helping at an event. It’s a lot to take in!

Emailing a Volunteer Guide (or a packet of relevant information) to the volunteers at least one week beforehand will allow each volunteer to become familiar with all the information they need to know before arriving onsite.

What needs to be in the Volunteer Guide?

Depending on the responsibilities of your volunteers, to create an effective Volunteer Guide, make sure it includes:

  • Schedule
  • List of all volunteers, including leaders and staff, with contact information
  • Updated registration numbers
  • Sponsors
  • Venue floor plans
  • Volunteer assignments
  • General script

While there may be additional items you’ll want to include for specific events, these seven pieces are vital to any Volunteer Guide. All this information is key for volunteers to know so they can help you pull off an amazing event.

Is creating a Volunteer Guide worth it?

Though adding yet another item to your conference to-do list sounds impossible, you won’t regret carving out the time to create this packet. You may already have all of this information prepared; it’s just a matter of combining it into one PDF. At IMI, we have used this helpful tool for many of our clients, and it always allows things to run more smoothly on site. We’ve found the packet allows volunteers to feel more confident and take ownership of the event. We highly recommend trying it out for your next conference.

Has your organization used a Volunteer Guide at past events? Is there anything else you include in your packet?

If you’re tired of managing chaotic events, why not contact IMI? Our team takes the stress out of managing your conference and creates a successful event.  We manage all the details so your association’s board and committee can focus on important strategic initiatives.

Hooked on Non-profits: From Fashion to Association Management

By Mallory Robinson, Account Associate

A year ago, I transitioned from the fashion industry to the association world. In some ways, it is hard to believe that it has only been a year and in other ways I feel like I have been doing this for a long time.

I had never heard of association management before I came to IMI. A board of directors was nothing more than a vague business term I’d heard of previously in business classes when talking about stocks and IPO.

Little did I know how much I would love what I am doing and how my past work experience would have prepared me for this career.

Using My Skills in New Ways

I have worked for a lingerie designer, a network service provider, a women’s activewear startup and an up and coming fashion lifestyle brand. I learned valuable skills at each of these positions that prepared me for what I am doing now. I’ve also had a lot of on the job training that no amount of studying or schooling would be able to replace.

In an association management company (AMC), it is all hands on deck. Each staff member contributes from the wealth of their experience and all of our clients benefit.

When professionals come together to form an association for their industry, they are busy working in their careers. They don’t have the time or the means to do all of the behind the scenes work that an AMC provides. I’m using my experience to help that non-profit succeed.

Invested in Success

Now, I am attached to the outcome. We can easily see how our diligent efforts are turning into measurable success for the non-profits – and their success is our success. While the association world can be stressful, my job is exciting and changes enough that I don’t get bored.

I spend months planning a conference that lasts only a couple of days, but being a part of the end result is incredible.

Making a Difference

My work before seemed just like a job. For the first time, I feel like I am able to make a difference.

The most recent conference I planned, we had a session about Accessibility. Through that conference session, we’re helping companies all over the world make their websites and digital products accessible to those with disabilities. Talk about impact!

Associations provide education and best practices to the industries that they represent which in turn leads to better products and services for consumers. It’s hard not to get excited about being an integral part of making the world a better place!

Wondering how an AMC could support your non-profit? Contact us today!

What’s Your Organization’s Word for 2019?

By Allison Winter, Communications Associate

The new year is quickly approaching which means setting new goals is probably on your mind. But when there are so many things your non-profit wants to accomplish, how do you choose what to focus on?

Several years ago, I was personally inspired by Lara Casey to choose a word of the year. This one word, usually picked in December, is meant to help me set my intentions for the new year. Since starting this practice, I’ve found that returning to my one word throughout the year is incredibly helpful. It keeps me from setting goals I feel like I should set, and helps me create resolutions that truly mean something.

This method works well for associations and non-profits to find focused goals, too! It helps groups move past the surface level goals, and allows you to uncover the deeper reason behind the things you want to accomplish.

While picking just one word for 365 days’ worth of goals sounds difficult, Casey provides several questions, which are easily adapted to suit a non-profit, to help us get started.

First, it’s helpful to go back to the basics and remind yourself of your organization’s purpose. Ask yourself:

  • What is our vision?
  • What is our mission?
  • What are our core values?
  • Why do we do what we do?

Once you’ve refreshed yourself on the association’s foundation, you’re then able to look to the year ahead. Ask yourself:

  • What kind of presence do we want to have in our community this year?
  • If we could envision our best year yet, what would that look like?
  • Where do we want the association to be in 50 years?
  • 2019 is the year we ______.

Through answering these questions, a general theme will begin to emerge.

Once you recognize this theme, pick three or four words that resonate with it. Then, Casey recommends to get old school and pull out the dictionary to look at the definition of each word, its origin, and its synonyms and antonyms. Finally, pick the word that you feel best encapsulates the theme revealed through your answers.

Now, remember this word when creating goals for 2019. Don’t pull goals out of thin air, and don’t plan to do something just because you see your competitors doing it. Return to your word. It will help remind you of the WHY behind what you want to accomplish and allow you to create goals that get to the heart of your organization.

Has your organization ever picked a word for the year? How did it go?

If your association is too bogged down by every-day tasks to focus on its bigger mission and goals, then contact IMI Association Executives! We are a firm of skilled professionals whose goal is to provide management expertise along with specialized administrative services to associations, societies, and other non-profits in an efficient, cost-effective manner. Submit an RFP today.

What Would You Do If…

By Stevie Kernick, owner emeritus and account manager

What would you do if … a board member consistently missed monthly board calls?

It seems like a no-brainer, right. You have a policy, whether it’s found in the bylaws, P&P Manual or the association’s Operating Rules, which clearly states that “after three unexcused absences from board meetings, the director will be replaced,” or something to that effect. The policy is straightforward, fair and reasonable – everyone agrees on that. However, putting the written policy into an actionable item makes most board members squirmy.

As the chief staff executive, you are more removed from the personal relationship and you might offer to “make the call” since emails to this recalcitrant board member have gone unanswered during previous attempts to make contact and determine the reason for these unexplained absences. Has the board member’s workload gotten out of control? Are there health issues or personal family problems involved? After all, if there are legitimate reasons for these absences, no one really wants to withdraw support from a colleague, a friend.

Even after your best efforts, emails still go unanswered and voicemails are not returned. Finally, after four months of discussion, debate and hand-wringing among board members, the president takes responsibility for a final phone call, followed by written notification. The remaining months of the board member’s term are nullified and a replacement is named.

I ask myself, “What took so long? The policy is clear.” Thinking more deeply about this, I realized that each of my volunteer board members can foresee a situation where they might not be able to fulfill their role as a director and, therefore, see themselves in this individual. This fellow board member is, at the least, a professional colleague and, most likely, has become a friend. Pulling the trigger on someone else is tantamount to pulling the trigger on themselves.

I have worked with boards for more than three decades and can count on one hand the number of times a board member was asked to resign, much less told they have been terminated.

What could I have done to help that board through this difficult process? I could have sounded the alarms earlier, as soon as two consecutive board meetings were missed without explanation. I could have contacted the absent board member sooner to bring the problem to the forefront. A good old-fashioned letter is still a form of communication when emails and voicemails go unreturned. I could have coached my executive board with different methods to use to help the board member recommit.

Despite the lengthy process involved in removing this director from the board, I remain thankful to work with a compassionate and selfless group of people who value the contributions that each member can bring to the board and care about the well-being of their fellow directors while seeking to sustain the continuity of their leadership.

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

Using Technology to Enhance Your Productivity

By Valerie Sprague, Client Technology Manager

As a staff member in the Client Technology Support Department of an association management company (AMC), my day-to-day responsibilities are dynamic and vary in nature. With a number of concurrent projects and tasks on my calendar, I’m always looking for ways that technology can add benefit to my work day. And because it’s imperative that our department stay focused and productive throughout the week, these are a few tools that help us stay on track!

1) Tune out distractions… One of my favorite tools to do this is Noisli. It’s essentially a sound machine for your computer. Use one of their preset ambient sounds or create your own mix of background noise. These sounds help to minimize distraction and keep you focused; and the random color generator provides a relaxing backdrop. They’ve even got an integrated timer function to better assist you with your daily time management.

2) Organize your day… Given that there are a number of task management options available, I believe the key is to pick one that works best for your needs and stick with it. A couple of my personal favorites are KanbanFlow and Todoist. KanbanFlow also offers an integrated timer as another option for time management of your tasks. By organizing your “to do” list in one central location, you’ll find yourself focused for the day and see an increase in your productivity.

3) Prioritize… Our department recently implemented a new customer support software, which has allowed us to better support all of the clients here at IMI. After reviewing a number of products, we ultimately decided on Freshdesk and their free version has been able to meet all of our business needs. At a glance we can manage all of our department’s projects and tasks and, by knowing the priority of each, it can assist us in planning our work day.

4) Internal messaging… IMI also utilizes Slack to communicate internally in a quick and efficient manner. This collaboration tool provides an online chat feature with coworkers. You can also setup various “channels” for personalized communications. Have an upcoming deadline that requires your full attention? Not a problem; just set an away status to stay on task or pause your notifications to minimize interruptions.

5) Mute your Email… Ever notice how you’re working on a task and then you stop and switch gears because “you’ve got mail.” Sometimes it’s helpful to turn off the visual desktop alert temporarily and only check email at selected intervals throughout the day. While this may not always be practical given your responsibilities, it can be helpful if you’re in the middle of a project that requires your full attention. If you do need to ensure full coverage, you can always set a temporary out of office message during this time.

There can be numerous distractions faced during the course of your work week but finding tool(s) to help you stay focused and productive can be of great benefit. What tools have you found help you in your day-to-day? Please share in the comments below.

Happy Blogiversary, IMI!

By Melissa Conger, Communications Associate

Has it been four years already?

September 2014 marked the month IMI introduced its blog, Let Your Association Take Flight. We’ve achieved great accomplishments since the start of this voyage, when we began with that single quote, “If you don’t design your week, it will get designed for you.”

IMI has always been an open, dynamic and collaborative organization. We aren’t content to simply sit back and foresee hurdles or potential challenges; rather, we believe in taking the proactive approach of seeking solutions and finding ways to overcome them.

IMI employees demonstrate this philosophy in their daily routines; while working with clients; and through the sharing of best practices, insight and industry knowledge online.

In honor of our blogiversary, let’s take moment to reflect on this milestone with some of the notable pieces (we think) IMI has had since 2014:

2014: “IMI Goes Red for the American Heart Association

2015: “20 Key Takeaways from the Book The Will to Govern Well

2016: “My First 90 Days at an Association Management Company

2017: “How to write a Request for Proposal (RFP) for Hotel Services

2018: “Time to Stop Using These Subject Lines

We are grateful for the many people and personalities who have dedicated themselves to IMI’s culture and growth. And of course, we want thank the individuals who contributed to our voice through this blog, including our most-recent authors:

  • Angela Allen
  • Jalene Bowersmith
  • Melissa Conger
  • Stevie Kernick
  • Rachel Owen
  • Linda Owens
  • Meredith Parker
  • Valerie F. Sprague
  • Jadine Sturgill
  • Whitney Thweatt
  • Allison Winter

We get excited when we consider how far along our blog has come since it took flight, and the many adventures IMI will be experiencing and sharing with you in the future!

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

IMI team member Jalene Bowersmith, CAE, receives INACSL President’s Award

By Meredith Parker, Account Associate

It is with great pride that we congratulate our colleague Jalene Bowersmith, CAE, for receiving the President’s Award from the International Nursing Association for Clinical Stimulation and Learning (INACSL) during their Annual Conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Jalene has served as Executive Director for INACSL since October 2013.

The INACSL President’s Award was created to recognize an individual who has contributed significantly to advance the mission and vision of the organization. In her speech, INACSL’s President, Kristina Thomas Dreifuerst, PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF, noted that she chose Jalene for this award because “[Jalene] has been the wind in INACSL’s sails. As an organization primarily made up of volunteers that rotate in and out of roles, Jalene has been a constant in providing direction and support to keep the ship afloat. She brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the organization in a gentle and guiding manner. She is incredibly efficient, organized and always willing to go the extra mile. Jalene has helped the Board of Directors navigate through challenges in the organization, and guided us to keep moving forward.”

With Jalene’s guidance and management, INACSL has increased its assets by more than 568 percent, increased its net income by more than 5 percent, and been able to secure the organizations future by setting aside over $1 million in reserves and invests. In addition, INACSL has had three consecutive years with record high membership numbers and recently released the redesigned INACSL.org. Finally, the INACSL Standards of Best Practice: SimulationSM have been translated from English to Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean. Translations in French, Spanish, and Portuguese are also currently in process.

Congratulations, Jalene! We are so thankful to work with you and learn from you.

Dr. Kristina Thomas Dreifuerst, INACSL President; Dr. Bette Mariani, President – Elect; Jalene Bowersmith, CAE, Executive Director; and Dr. Teresa Gore, Immediate Past President at the INACSL Conference, 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Quick Strategies to Inspire Creativity in the Workplace

By Meredith Parker, Account Associate

In pondering the nature of creativity, I think about moments when I happen upon the thread of an idea for a writing project. I follow the thread, weaving together ideas in my mind until I can envision the finished writing piece as an intricate tapestry. Though I most consistently experience the pull to create in writing, it is not the only area of my work where creativity could be beneficial.

Following this, one of my goals in 2018 has been to set aside more time for creative thinking in all areas of my work. After much reflection over the past few months, I have personally found that that stimulating creativity requires setting aside a space in my mind for new thoughts to take root and flourish. The best way for me to do this is by engaging in some mildly stimulating physical activity for a few minutes.

Most of my work as a nonprofit professional is mentally, rather than physically, challenging, so physical activity provides a respite for my brain. This rest provides space for my mind to wander while the rest of my body is occupied and brings renewed energy and focus when it’s time to turn back to intense mental activity. Sometimes I find creative inspiration in the physical activity itself or in the burst of energy following it. Some strategies I’ve used for engaging in work-appropriate physical activity are below:

Coloring

Physical activity does not always entail breaking a sweat. One of my favorite ways to give my brain a rest is by coloring. Ever the perfectionist, I find that selecting crayon colors and working to stay in the lines of an intricate mandala design is immensely satisfying, though not too challenging. If I am stuck on how to attack a problem, I set my iPhone timer for a few minutes and open my coloring book. In the time it takes me to fill a section of a picture with color, my mind relaxes and, after a few minutes of solitude, creeps back to the problem at hand with a new perspective.

If you are interested in this method, you can print adult coloring pages here.

Desk Yoga

Another way to practice physical activity at work is by doing desk yoga. As the name implies, desk yoga is yoga that has been modified to be completed while sitting at a desk. Yoga practice is steeped in mindfulness, so when I do this, I am forced to focus on my body instead of work for a short period of time. A break doing desk yoga refreshes me mentally and spiritually with the added bonus of alleviating any stiffness from sitting at a desk all day.

Watch this video to give desk yoga a try. Subtitles are included so your coworkers don’t have to listen to your desk yogi.

Walking Meetings

A final way to inspire creativity at work is through a walking meeting. At its heart, a meeting is a conversation between coworkers. Though technology requires that some meetings take place indoors, many meetings can be moved outside; in fact, I prefer this strategy when I have a challenging problem and would like the input of one of my coworkers. I find that walking meetings promote a relaxed and collegial dynamic, which makes tackling problems less intimidating and more productive. In addition, I think that the simple act of switching from an office environment to the outdoors has the potential to inspire my brain to new heights, stimulating my senses by the smell of the air in my nose; the feel of the terrain on my feet; and the sights and sounds of trees, plants, animals, and other people.

In the mental Olympics of the contemporary workplace, it can feel like too much effort to take the time to cultivate creativity. Nonprofit professionals need only a few minutes a day to color, stretch, or walk outside to give themselves outlets for creative thought.

What are your strategies for inspiring creativity at work? Please feel free to comment below.

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

 

Bringing Imagination Back into the Workplace

By Linda Owens, CAE, owner, president

How often do you think about the role of creativity in your workplace? The book Creativity, Inc. written by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace, dives into the creative depths of Pixar Studios and examines the business practices that have led them down the current path of success. As Catmull provides a behind the scenes look at the company during his 30 years as president, his writing takes the form of an instruction manual for cultivating inspired employees. While reading this book, I couldn’t help but become inspired myself. Below, I take a look at a few quotes from Creativity, Inc. that resonated with me and how they translate into running an Association Management team.

  1. “Create a fertile environment”

Whether or not you identify as a creative mind, it is important to remember that everyone has the potential to be creative. This creativity can take shape in a variety of different forms. Thus, to cultivate an environment rich with innovation and development it is important to first lay the groundwork with an atmosphere that encourages individuals to think outside of the box and take risks when necessary. This is where innovation is born and how non-profits continue to stay relevant in the ever-changing business climate.

  1. “Any successful feedback system is built on empathy”

We all know that constructive criticism is a good thing. However, feedback should always be intertwined with the idea that as a manager, I too have walked in my employee’s shoes and I understand their frustration. In other words, “The Braintrust is fueled by the idea that every note we give is in the service of a common goal: supporting and helping each other.” At the end of the day, we are all in this together and are much stronger as a team than when we are working individually.

  1. “I make a point of being open about our meltdowns”

A paralyzing fear of failure is something that is far too common in the workplace. Yet, failure is the catalyst for the learning process and should be treated as such. Of course, we want to be proactive and avoid common pitfalls, but as a leader it is important for me to set an example and face my shortcomings head on and encourage my team to do the same. Such actions will disarm the stagnating fear of failure that if gone unchecked can ultimately render your team uninspired and your business no longer competitive. Thus, when problems are faced head on, solutions are discovered and better practices are established for the future.

  1. “There are two parts to any failure”

However, what happens when we hide our failure? Let’s review, the authors highlight that failure is comprised of one part making a mistake and one part reacting to this mistake. When we become introspective and push part one under the rug in order to avoid part two, we unintentionally hold ourselves back from reaching our full potential. For instance, “When a director stands up in a meeting and says, ‘I realize this scene isn’t working, I don’t yet know how to fix it, but I’m figuring it out. Keep going!’—a crew will follow him or her to the ends of the earth.” However, if the director continually ignores the situation the crew will begin to question the director’s ability to do their job and ultimately become uninspired. The same can be said for the office, when a manager is transparent and keeps their employees in the loop, the team stays motivated towards reaching a common goal.

  1. “Directors have the responsibility to be teachers”

I may not be a film director like the authors, but I recognize that as the president of an Association Management Company (AMC), I am also a teacher. This is an integral part of my job as I am constantly setting an example and preparing the next generation of AMC professionals. If I can generate future leaders that can continue to progress the company and inspire their employees then I have done my job.

Ultimately, Ed Catmull is over 70 years old and is still creating and imagining for Pixar. That’s probably the biggest sign that he loves his work, his employees are inspired by him and the creative space he has cultivated is continuing to grow and prosper. As a result, I am inspired to continually welcome creativity into my life and encourage my employees to do the same.

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

 

Staff Spotlight: Lee

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 Lee Claassen.

Originally from Coldwater, Mich., Lee Claassen has dedicated many years creating a career path for herself that is unstoppable. Lee has been a part of the IMI team since 2016 and has been involved with the association management industry for over three decades. She received her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Grand Valley State University and went on to pursue graduate studies at the University of Virginia. She not only boasts executive leadership experience in trade associations, professional societies and charitable organization, but is also knowledgeable in strategic marketing, fundraising and organizational development. We asked Lee a little bit about herself. Check out what she had to say!

IMI: Who is the one person you always find yourself asking for advice?

Lee: My best friend Cindie. She has lived all over the world and is familiar with many different cultures. I find her perspective on people invaluable, and she never hesitates to remind me that it’s not always about me.

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

Lee: My father is 97, my siblings are 17 and 15 years older than me, I have a niece that’s only 12 years younger than me, and I have four great nieces and nephews.

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

Lee: Waking up every morning! Also, I love the opportunity to be creative and to work with my hands. The second bedroom in my apartment is a studio/craft room that is my happy place.

IMI: What’s one challenge you had to overcome being in the Association Management Industry?

Lee: Learning how to be patient (which can still be a challenge for me). Decisions are typically made by consensus and nothing moves very quickly in non-profit organizations.

IMI: What is one misconception about an AMC?

Lee: That everyone works with multiple clients, which we know isn’t always the case.

 

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