Bridging the Gap: The Bully on the Board

2015-3-17 the bully on the board
Image Credit: Jared Erondu

Lee Campbell, Executive Director & Director of Conference

These ideas are inspired by the session “Tackling the Turbo Bully on Your Board” at the ASAE Annual Meeting on August 10, 2014, presented by Mark Alcorn, Sandra Giarde, and Jamie Notter.

We all have a pretty good idea of what a bully looks like on the playground, but what does it look like when you have a “bully” on the board?

A bully is not someone who simply asks questions or occasionally offers a “contrary” opinion. (It’s very valuable to have people on the board who have the courage to say “no!”) A board bully uses intimidation to silence ideas, ignores the bylaws and policies, is self-focused rather than keeping the needs of the association in mind, and undermines the board decisions.

So, what do you do when you have a bully on the board?

Help Win the Fight by Offering:

  • Compelling Vision
    • Make sure the board is very clear on the mission so it becomes obvious when a bully starts to take everyone off course.
  • Board Training
    • Make sure the board volunteers have a strong sense of their voice. Yearly board training is essential for old and new volunteers to be well aware of the bylaws, policies, chain of command, and their legal duties.
  • Mentors Assigned to New Volunteers
    • New volunteers will follow the old and experienced board members.

Tools For Your Toolbox:

  • Establish Policies
    • Make sure you have job descriptions, conflict of interest policies, and antitrust statements in place. Develop a sample policy of misconduct and how a member of the board of directors can be removed.
  • Pre-screening of Volunteers during Nomination Process
    • The nominating committee should identify bullying behaviors before acceptance to the board.
  • Resolution Skills
    • Ask the bully questions to understand why the behavior is happening.
    • Move towards the conflict to achieve greater understanding instead of skirting around the issue.
    • Early detection and intervention is essential so the issue doesn’t have a chance to grow. Keep behavior observable. Remind the bully about the impact of their behavior on the board and on the association.
  • Alert the board leaders responsible for discipline.

There are also legal considerations so be sure to keep documentation. Consult legal counsel and other experts such as HR advisers and risk managers.

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

Tips for Effective Lobbying

Image Credit: Erik Heddema
Image Credit: Erik Heddema

By Whitney Bertram, operations manager

I’ve scheduled a meeting with my legislator… Now what?

Come to the meeting prepared. You will have only a short time to talk to your legislator because of the many constituents who want to see him or her about issues or problems. Organize your meeting by following the tips below:

  • Take a letter or fact sheet to the meeting to leave with the legislator.
  • Practice in advance. Anticipate answering questions about the issue.
  • Be yourself. Most legislators are good listeners so they want to hear your perspective on the issue.
  • Treat your legislator as you’d want to be treated; be respectful and professional.
  • Never threaten or brag on your campaigning or contributions when talking about issues.
  • Thank your legislators for their support, time and serving in public office.
  • Send a thank you note after the meeting.
  • Report back to your association to let them know how the meeting went.

If I can’t meet in person, will a phone call work?

Yes, phone calls can be effective if you follow these steps:

  • Write down key points before you call.
  • Practice in advance.
  • If you are a constituent of the legislator, be sure to mention it.
  • Ask for a report on how the legislator stands/voted on the issue.
  • Be brief. Keep your call under five minutes.
  • Be respectful and professional.
  • Follow up with a written thank you note restating your position.
  • Report results to your association.

Should I send a letter?

There is power in numbers when it comes to lobbying. Imagine the impact if every person in the state in your industry was to generate a new letter to legislators each week about pending legislation or issues. Letters to representatives should follow these guidelines:

  • Always type your letter. While handwritten is more personal, the letter should be very easy to read.
  • Use your company or association letterhead so the legislator knows who you are and what organization you represent.
  • Keep your letter to one page. Include fact sheets or other information on additional pages.
  • Include your name and address.
  • If you are a constituent, include that information.
  • Outline your view on the issue/legislation.
  • Request that the legislator support the legislation.

How can I find out who my legislators are and how can I obtain their mailing and email addresses?

Visit and enter your nine digit zip code to determine who your representatives are.

Do you have tips for connecting with legislators or a success story to share? Tell us in the comments!

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

IMI Goes Red for the American Heart Association

IMI Turns Red for the American Heart Association
IMI Goes Red for the American Heart Association

By Adrian Emerson, Association Accounting Specialist and 2014 Chair of the IMI Association Executives Fun Committee
Are you considering starting a “give back to the community” initiative in your office? Read below for Adrian’s experience with IMI’s efforts to branch into office-wide charity efforts.

The Backstory
Based on a lot of individual interest in charity efforts during 2013, IMI asked me to start an ongoing office-wide charity program in 2014.

First Steps
My first step was to determine what kind of charities and charity programs would be the best fit for our team’s interests and availability. So, I created a good old fashioned survey. I found that everyone had different passions and interests when it came to charities. Some team members were interested in charity events like a group walk, while others were more interested in collecting donations. I also found that choosing charities for everyone to agree on would not be an easy task! I had to create a plan that would satisfy our desires to give back to the community, but would also fit within the team’s availability and would be appropriate for the entire group.

Next Steps
I decided that this year would be a testing year. We would freely test a plan and be ready to change things up in 2015 based on our experiences. From our survey results, I picked several different types of charity options and just see how they worked with our group of individuals. We settled on one charity drive each quarter and preplanned the four charities for the year. We obviously couldn’t participate in all of the charities suggested by our team members, but we did our best to focus on the main charities our team felt passionate about. I’m keeping the list of the remaining suggestions for future years’ charity efforts.

Going Live With the Plan
For our first quarter charity we picked Go Red for Women, which is a charity drive sponsored by the American Heart Association. The event is during the entire month of February and is part of the National Wear Red Day. Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States? For this charity drive, I built a free online webpage on the Go Red for Women website to collect donations from our employees. Our February staff meeting happened to fall on National Wear Red Day so we asked everyone to wear red in support of the cause. IMI collected donations for about a month and we raised $252 for the American Heart Association. I look forward to the good we hope to do during the rest of this year.

Your Turn
Does your office have an ongoing charity program? We’d love to hear about your success stories and how your program works. Please share in the comments below!

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

What to Consider When Re-Organizing Volunteers

Image Credit: Canva

By Jalene Bowersmith, Executive Director

These ideas are inspired by the session “Re-Imagine Volunteering” at the ASAE Annual Meeting on August 12, 2014, presented by Debra BenAvram and Peggy Hoffman.

Considering how to help your organization’s volunteers be more effective? Maybe it’s time for a re-organization of your volunteer structure.

What to Consider When Re-Organizing Volunteers

Define success.
Before you get started, make sure you have the end result in mind. What are you looking for? Do you want to increase documented engagement, stronger member satisfaction, or added interest groups? Make sure you have an overall plan with a clear timeline, expectations and commitments. Establishing where you want to go is critical to knowing how to get there.

Remember, change it takes time.
It seems to take about 18 months for a board structural change to take affect and everyone to get on board with the new process and roles. Be prepared to be patient – and to help your volunteers settle into their new holes.

Clarify roles and responsibilities.
Make sure every one – board, chairs, volunteers, and staff – knows what their responsibilities are. This is critical during a transition to keep projects moving forward and to make sure all tasks are covered.

Go slow to go fast.
Take the time to communicate well when you are onboarding volunteers. A good foundation will help speed the transition and make for more effective volunteers in the long run.

Listen to the experts.
Let the volunteers determine their skills and expertise. Always start by asking your volunteers about where they feel they would fit best within the organization and work from there.

No volunteer left behind.
Every new process will have people who need help getting on board with the change. Use education to help the stragglers see the benefits of the new process and let them be a part of the solution. Each of your team members can be a positive advocate for the change.

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

7 Evergreen Ideas to Engage Volunteers

evergreen ideas for volunteers jpgBy Jalene Bowersmith, Executive Director

These ideas are inspired by the session “Re-Imagine Volunteering” at the ASAE Annual Meeting on August 12, 2014, presented by Debra BenAvram and Peggy Hoffman.

Don’t miss these 7 evergreen ideas to engage volunteers – and keep them engaged.

1. Make sure the board and volunteer messaging is positive and collaborative.
Proactively establish that the organization works as a team to accomplish the goals.

2. Hold comprehensive training every year for all volunteers.
Group experiences like training help volunteers to feel more invested and anchored in their volunteer experiences.

3. Sunset committees that aren’t needed anymore.
Closing committees that are no longer active allows the volunteers’ energy and efforts to be poured into new tasks where they can see the fruits of their labors.

4. Formalize the volunteer application system.
Having requirements and an application for volunteers will help you to gather information about volunteers and place them in projects that will be the best fit.

5. Know when the project is too big.
No one enjoys volunteering on a project that is struggling. If initiatives are floundering, then it might be time to consider bringing in a staff member or an outside consultant to take over all or part of the project.

6. Develop non-traditional volunteer roles.  
Stop thinking of “positions” and start thinking of tasks and projects that need to be accomplished. Pool the creative resources in your team!

7. Use volunteer satisfaction surveys.
Volunteer satisfaction surveys help your volunteers know that your organization cares about the volunteers. Ask what made participants decide to volunteer, what strategies are working, and how they would like to see the organization change.

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