How Admitting Your Mistakes Can Increase Trust

By Allison Winter, Communications Associate

When we find a mistake we’ve made, typically our instinct for self-preservation kicks in. We hope nobody discovers our error, and we may even be tempted to hide it or cover it up. Though drawing attention to our mistakes is the last thing we want to do, transparency can actually help increase trust.

Allow me to explain with a short story.

Whenever I travel somewhere new, one of my favorite activities is to research the best coffee shop in the area and try it out for myself. Last summer, when I traveled for a friend’s wedding, I headed to my selected spot to spend the morning before the evening’s festivities begun. Everything I read about this place mentioned its delicious salted caramel latte. I’m a sucker for lattes, so I of course had to give it a try. Once I ordered, I sat down, and I waited for my name to be called.

To my surprise, however, the barista walked my drink over to my table instead. When she sat it down in front of me she said, “I’m sorry, but I think I may have added too much salt to your drink. If you don’t like your latte, please let me know and I’ll make you a new one.” After taking a sip, I thanked the barista for her offer, but told her a new one was not necessary. She smiled and returned to the counter to serve her other customers.

Though I ended up actually liking the drink, this brief interaction really left an impression on me. I was impressed that the barista admitted she created something that wasn’t up to her usual standards, and she opened the door for me to politely request a correction. It demonstrated that she really cared about her work, her product, and me as a customer.

If we are upfront about our errors, and we own the responsibility of our actions, then we are seen as trustworthy. Not as failures.

Approaching a colleague to notify them of a mistake can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few suggestions to make this process a little easier.

  1. Offer several different options to fix the problem.
    To truly build trust, and to show that you’ve truly thought about how to fix your mistake, bring a few solutions to the table. Two or three options will go far to demonstrate you’re ready to jump in and make amends.
  2. Talk it over with a trusted coworker or friend.
    If you’re not exactly sure how to address the error, or you need help brainstorming solutions, grab a friend for a confidential discussion. A second set of eyes and ears is always helpful when problem solving. Plus, talking it over with a person you trust will make you feel more comfortable when you talk to the affected party.
  3. Remember, everyone is human.
    Sometimes the person that is hardest on us is ourselves. It’s important to remember that we’re all human, and mistakes are bound to happen. Giving yourself grace is an important step that will allow you to more easily admit your failings to someone else.

As the saying goes, “Pobody’s nerfect.” Mistakes will happen. It’s how we respond to those mistakes that truly demonstrates our character. Fixing an error doesn’t have to be a set-back. It can be an opportunity to showcase your commitment to your work and your relationships.

If you’re searching for someone to trust with the management of your nonprofit, then check out IMI Association Executives. We’ve been building relationships and delivering solutions for over 30 years. Visit our website to learn more, or submit an RFP today!

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 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.

NAPBS Reframes Conference Activities to Increase Attendee Engagement

By Meredith Parker, Account Associate

Tchotchkes. Doodads. Swag. If you’re a regular conference attendee, you know that these terms describe the stress balls, t-shirts, pens, and other assorted items available at vendor booths in a conference’s exhibit hall. While the exhibit hall is a place to load up on office supplies, it is more importantly the location where topic-specific vendors can share information about their products. Because not every attendee has the need for color-changing cups or the desire to talk to vendors, it is common for conference planners to provide an incentive to visit booths.

One of IMI’s clients, the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), has used an exhibitor bingo card as an incentive in the past. Upon registration, attendees were given a bingo card with squares to be signed by vendor representatives as attendees visited their booths. Attendees returned the filled card to the conference registration desk and were entered to win a prize. The bingo card has successfully encouraged attendees to talk to vendors; however, it has been utilized frequently in the past and for its 2018 Annual Conference, NAPBS wanted to do something fresh.

In the 15 years since it was established, NAPBS has grown from a U.S.-based trade association to an international alliance of professional background screening firms with the mission of advanc[ing] excellence in the screening profession. In early October, NAPBS members from the United States and its Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Canada Chapters gathered in Baltimore, Maryland for its 2018 Annual Conference. This year’s conference theme, “Passport to the World” reflected NAPBS’s transition from representing national to international background screening firms and consumers. In alignment with their theme, they forewent the exhibitor bingo card for a booklet modeled after the universally-recognized U.S. passport. This booklet, called the Passport to the Exhibit Hall, reminded attendees of NAPBS’s international presence and provided an innovative way to engage with exhibitors.

At the conference registration desk, NAPBS staff asked attendees if they were interested in playing the Exhibitor Passport Game. They showed attendees the passport and explained that at each booth, attendees could get a square “stamped” by the corresponding vendor, just like going through customs on a jet-setting adventure. In an educational twist on rubber stamps, NAPBS distributed sheets of stickers to exhibitors which were printed with facts about the background screening industry to educate participants as they moved from booth to booth. To be entered into the prize drawing, participants had to visit at least half of the 50 booths and return their Passports to the registration desk on the last day of the conference.

Staff at the registration desk noticed increased interest and participation in the exhibitor passport game than in exhibitor bingo of past years. In fact, when some attendees brought their passports to be entered into the prize drawing, they asked if they could keep their passports as mementos, valuing the facts which had been “stamped” inside. This is great news for NAPBS as it means that its vendors received good traffic in the exhibit hall. Also, the conference experience will be shared with industry professionals as returning attendees share their passports with coworkers.

The overwhelmingly positive response to the exhibitor passports was unexpected, and NAPBS is thrilled with the way that a simple tweak to an existing conference activity has given them and their vendors more exposure. They are already pondering how to add a creative spin to other conference elements to engage attendees, further their theme, and execute their mission.

Have you attended or facilitated a conference that found a new way to make attendees excited about conference programming? Leave your 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 to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

Staff Spotlight: Allison

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 Allison Winter.

Originally from Greenville, NC, Allison has been gracing IMI with her bubbly personality and outgoing presence since 2013. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English with minors in Creative Writing and Journalism from NC State University. This month, Allison takes us all back to school and a time where getting a pimple was the end of the world. Check it out!

IMI: What was one of your most embarrassing moments in school? (elementary/ middle/ high school/ college).

Allison: I was very quiet in school, and I mostly kept to myself, which has prevented me from having any great, embarrassing stories to share later in life. However, if I had to pick one, it was when my AP U.S. History teacher in high school called me out in front of the entire class and said I’d be lucky if I made a 2 (out of 5) on the AP test. He picked on me throughout the year and, looking back, I think it’s safe to say he was a big believer in the blonde stereotype. So, needless to say, I was ecstatic when I got a 4 on my test and was able to count his class towards college credit!

IMI: What was your favorite teen show, movie, or book?

Allison: The two channels I stuck to in high school were the Disney Channel (shocker) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM). One rainy afternoon, my mom and I stumbled upon the movie Rebecca on TCM. It’s one of Alfred Hitchcock’s first movies and is an incredible thriller. I loved it, and I’ve been hooked on Hitchcock movies ever since! As far as books go, I was a total Harry Potter fan, and even went to the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

IMI: If you could give one piece of advice to your 16-year-old self what would it be?

Allison: Don’t take yourself so seriously, and don’t care so much about what other people think.

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

Allison: To keep with the school theme, I loved to dance back then, and I took ballet, tap, jazz, and modern. We performed the Nutcracker every year during the holiday season, and we always had a big production right before the start of summer vacation. My two favorite roles throughout the years were the Mirliton in The Nutcracker and Alice from Alice in Wonderland!

In more recent years, something that may be surprising is my husband, Cameron, and I are trying to live a “zero waste” lifestyle. I could talk about this for hours, but if you’re interested in learning more, then I’d highly recommend the book Zero Waste Home. It’s amazing!

IMI: What has been your favorite place to travel while working in AMC?

Allison: The Greenbrier, hands down! It’s a big, beautiful resort in West Virginia with a lot of history. Every inch of it was decorated by Dorothy Draper in her unique style, and it was such a treat to explore the property! Visiting The Greenbrier fulfilled a dream I had of staying there since middle school, and I still count myself so lucky to have gone there.


The first picture is Cameron and I in front of Notre Dame. Paris was our last stop on the month-long European adventure we took two summers ago!

The second picture is of the two of us at the first Georgia Bulldogs football game this past season. Yes, Cameron’s beard has grown exponentially since we moved to Georgia. Go Dawgs!

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