Why Pay for Non-Profit Staff?

Why Pay For Association Staff

 By Linda Owens, CAE, owner and president

In the 31 years since IMI Association Executives began (learn about our beginnings here), we have been asked many times by prospective clients about the benefits of paid staff versus the benefits of remaining strictly volunteer run organizations.

While any non-profit is fortunate to have good, strong, passionate volunteers they are oftentimes better served by paid staff rather than volunteers for a number of reasons.

Below are just a few of the ways that we have personally seen from experience that non-profits benefit from being managed by paid staff, specifically when staffing from an association management company (AMC).

  1. Paid staff has experience managing non-profits specifically. They are trained in association management and stay on top of best practices for the industry versus volunteers who are just interested in helping out.
  2. Although volunteers are experts on their specific non-profit’s focus, they may not be experts on managing a non-profit’s finance, board election procedures, etc. An association management company allows the volunteers to focus on their expertise and passion, while we manage and grow the business.
  3. Staff understands how to negotiate hotel contracts to avoid attrition penalties and how to negotiate for extra concessions including hotel commission or rebates. Plus, with an AMC we can negotiate volume discounts.
  4. AMC staff can pull from experiences working with their other non-profit clients.
  5. Paid staff can commit the time and effort needed to produce the best results – it is their job to run the non-profit. Volunteers have other full time jobs, so they must use their spare time to work on non-profit tasks.
  6. Paid staff is available and working during normal business hours, which is when the members will be most likely calling in for help.
  7. The volunteer working on any particular project tends to change from year to year, so with the turnover, things can fall through the cracks. Paid staff can keep track of progress and all project details to ensure that it keeps moving forward.
  8. Paid staff serves as a central repository for all of the non-profit’s activities so members don’t have to worry about which volunteer to call for what need.
  9. Paid staff understands governance and antitrust issues to protect the leadership.
  10. Professional staff reflects a more professional organization.
  11. It’s hard to “fire” volunteers. With volunteers come feelings. Someone who was once a vibrant, effective volunteer could have entered a new season in their life where they are unable to perform duties as before with the same accuracy or enthusiasm. Yet, because of their past, it’s almost impossible to remove them. With staff, it’s a clear-cut decision based on performance. The non-profit does not have to struggle because of someone in the wrong seat on a team.

It is our privilege to assist organizations in their growth. As we manage the business side of the organization, taking on the important day-to-day tasks, we find that the volunteers are free to focus on what only they can do within the organization.

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.

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5 Questions to Ask About Your Association Today

2017-9-20 questions to ask

By Rachel Owen, communications manager

As agents of change  in the association world, part of our responsibility lies in recognizing the opportunity for change. But sometimes we can get so caught up in doing the association work that we lose an awareness of our organization, our leadership teams, and even our own day-to-day tasks. How can we pull ourselves out of the weeds, so to speak, and consider again the big picture? To find the big picture, I like to start with asking big questions.

Here are 5 “big picture” questions you can ask today to help reveal opportunities for change and identify the best approach to facilitate that growth.

  1. Are we relevant?

How do you stay relevant to the changing needs of our members? The Race for Relevance gives five high impact ideas to implement in your association.

  1. Are we using research appropriately?

Research is one of the best ways to make informed decisions about changes in your organization, but is research always the right step to take? Learn four ways to help determine if it’s time to move on from research.

  1. Is the strategic plan being accomplished?

Do you know how to get your strategic plan from development to accomplishment? There are a few crucial questions to askwhich can help move your strategic initiatives forward, the first of which is “Is it doable with our association’s resources?”

  1. Do we make decisions in a timely manner?

Is your leadership able to make well-informed decisions quickly and concisely? If not, they can be. Learn how to provide board members and other leaders with effective tools for nimble decision making.

  1. How well do we handle criticism?

How we respond to criticism shows our character as individuals and as an organization. In associations, we receive feedback from a variety of sources including fellow association staff, board members, volunteers, and members of the association. Are you prepared for how to respond? A few, simple strategies for responding to criticism can make a big difference in how you present yourself to others.

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.

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From Admissions to Associations: How to Prepare for Oral Presentations

2017-9-5 Presentation

By Meredith Parker, account associate

Though one of my favorite college experiences was giving campus tours to prospective students, I remember waiting to be introduced to the tour group before my first tour, sweat rolling down my back, my hands shaking and my heart ricocheting around my chest like a pinball. I was terrified of forgetting the myriad facts I had been practicing or staring at a stony faced and silent group that didn’t react to my jokes. My tour ended up going smoothly, but after the fear I had experienced, I committed myself to developing a foolproof presentation strategy.

Whether you are developing an elevator speech about your association, practicing to make a great first impression with prospective members, or onboarding new committee members, a little bit of preparation goes a long way.

Below, you can find the strategy I created as an Admissions Ambassador to give engaging, informative tours. I continue to use this strategy in my association work to give high quality presentations.

I was recently invited to speak for a class at UNC-CH in order to explain how a specific course in my department gave me the tools to succeed in my profession. I’ll walk you through my preparation for this talk step-by-step below.

  1. Take 30 minutes to plan out your talk: The night before a presentation, I sit down and follow the below steps to plan what I am going to say. In association work our schedules can fill up quickly. Set an appointment in your calendar to block off the time to plan your talk.
  1. Introduce yourself with a connection point: Give basic information about yourself: name, job position, a brief description of your work and your organization. Then, think about the composition of your audience, your message, and how you can connect with them at the beginning of your talk to capture their interest. To do this, identify something about yourself that will help them relate to you or your association.

For my presentation at UNC-CH, I gave my name, my job description and briefly detailed my association. Then, as a recent graduate talking to college seniors at my alma mater, I knew that I should make a joke about being a millennial in the work force, “adulting,” and/or being a “real adult” to get a chuckle from the audience and let them know that I understood where they were coming from. An adult could have related to the audience by mentioning their own experience at that age or perhaps talking briefly about children or other family members in college.

  1. Identify the BIG IDEA: Write down the overarching point of your talk: if everyone in the attendance remembers only one thing from your talk, what do you want it to be?

UNC’s Public Policy Capstone class, which I took during my time as an undergraduate, provided me with skills that prepared me for my current job.

  1. Identify key points: Explain the BIG IDEA by supplying 1-3 supporting points.

I learned how to: (1) work effectively in a team and with real-world clients, (2) develop a work plan and utilize project management software, and (3) write succinct, professional reports

  1. Explain key points: Once you have identified the key points, add information explaining how each of these points relates to each other and the big idea of your presentation.

In my current job, I work with a team of people of varying ages and professional and educational backgrounds who are at different points in their careers. In addition, I utilize the same project management software that we used in the course and, as the manager of several different program areas in my association, create work plans regularly. Finally, I often have to write reports to obtain Board approval for ideas that I would like to implement in my association. Thus, the skills that I developed in my Capstone course directly relate to my daily work.

  1. Illustrate one or more key points with a short, relatable story: This gives the audience an anchor to remember the information that you’re trying to impart.

In my Capstone class, I wrote a final report detailing our proposal for continuity of our project. We had a limit of three pages. Right now, I’m working on a report for our Board of Directors  recommending how to allocate scholarship funds. I am also limiting it to three pages because Board members are volunteers; we need to respect their time by providing all of the relevant information in a succinct format. I think that this class, and the UNC Public Policy department, prepared me for this skill by the short reports we wrote for projects.

  1. Practice: You want the presentation to flow naturally; as such, you should run through the entire presentation at least three times. (I practiced my presentation the night before, the next morning, and in the car on the way to Chapeil Hill.) Also, ask a colleague to be your practice audience. If possible, ask one person who is familiar with the idea you’re presenting and one person who is outside of your group. The different perspectives will help you locate any points that need clarifying. Planning out how you are going to deliver each point will give you a strong foundation for your presentation and assist you in overcoming nerves when you are standing in front of the crowd.

What do you think about this advice? How do you prepare for presentations? Please feel free to leave your comments 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.

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Extroverts: Save Your Strength At a Conference

Image Credit: Canva

Image Credit: Canva

By Meredith Parker, account associate

I’m the type of person who would reach the brink of insanity only days after being shipwrecked alone on a desert island. As an extrovert, I feel the most at ease when I am having meaningful exchanges with other people.

When I was informed that I would be attending my association’s annual conference within weeks of beginning my new position, I was ecstatic. The idea of meeting and greeting hundreds of people at the registration desk seemed like a great way to keep myself engaged and entertained as well as play to my strength of intrapersonal communication.

At 7:00am on the first day of the conference, I made my registration desk debut with gusto, making small talk and showering smiles upon every person who came into my presence. By 5:00pm, my feet ached in my too-small shoes and my skull was throbbing. After closing down Registration, all I could think about was fueling up with some hot food. I went to the Exhibition Hall and filled my tiny plate with an impressively large selection of eggrolls, sliders, and ravioli noodles. I had just taken a steaming bite of an eggroll when an attendee, alerted to my role by my STAFF name tag, tapped me on the shoulder and began to ask some conference-related questions.

At that moment, I could see her lips moving, but the words emitting forth were garbled together like the sounds coming out of a voice-changer toy. I sloshed through the mud of fatigue enveloping my cerebral cortex in an effort to understand what she was saying. I knew that the right words were there, but they were struggling to break free from behind a layer of gunk that had built up over 10 hours of expending energy through beatific smiles and energetic follow-up responses.

I composed myself and after a few moments of contemplation and was able to adequately respond to the member’s concerns. As soon as I had sent her on her way, I took my plate of food and went upstairs to my room. Sitting there, polishing off sliders and ravioli, I thought about the exchange.

Though I am an extrovert, I had never before reached my limit of interpersonal interaction; however, my first day of conference work taught me that even extroverts need to reserve their energy so they are able to provide a high level of customer service throughout a long day.

When registration opened at 7:00am on the second day of the conference, I was still warm and friendly in my exchanges with conference attendees, but I toned down the small talk and giant smiles. My colleagues and I also took advantage of low-traffic periods to take small breaks in the staff office. Even as an extrovert, I found that I needed those 5 or 10 minute periods of “me” time in order to recharge.

Utilizing this strategy for the rest of the conference allowed me to meet members with an appropriate level of customer service while still taking care of myself. I advise all personality types to be intentional about rationing their energy while they are at a conference so they are able to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities.

Have you ever found yourself “hitting a wall” at an event? What tips have you found that help to maintain a healthy balance during a conference?

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.

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Creating a Culture of Success

2015.5.16 Success

By Lee Campbell, account manager

I attended the Meeting Planners International Winter Conference and had the chance to learn about “Strive for Five: Creating a Culture of Success” from Paul Miller and Dawn Daria. Here are some great takeaways from that session.

When mistakes are made people often say “I dropped the ball.” In creating a culture for success what is important is what happens after the ball drops: Are you ready to bounce back? Strategies for success must include strategies for when things don’t go as planned.

Tools for Creating a Culture of Success

Foster Relationships

  • Talk with integrity – say what you mean and mean what you say
  • Listen to each other – always consider their point of view
  • Communicate eye to eye
  • Build a personal connection
  • Get in the trenches – connect with your team regularly

Personality testing is an essential investment for employers to ensure a culture for success. Get to know your team and how they work best. Consider including regular “getting to know you” questions in your team meetings to learn how to work better together.

Stay Positive

Ensure Understanding

  • Speak face to face – avoid emails or texting when tone can be misunderstood
  • Offer tangible trails of instruction
  • Consider different learning styles –what is clear and straightforward to some members of your team may not be helpful to others

Practice Healthy Conflict

  • Foster positive resolution strategies
  • Appreciate different personalities
  • Understand each individual’s approach
  • Work towards resolution quickly – address problems as soon as possible so positive change can happen sooner rather than later

If leaders create a culture of success, it makes hard conversations much easier. Set the expectation of how conflict will be resolved. Steps should be clear and considerate of all parties involved.

When considering your coaching style, leaders should start with encouragement before getting straight to the point of a problem. Trust is built when team members know that their positive efforts will be recognized as much as their mistakes. In your debriefing meetings, praise the successes in addition to discussing solutions to pain points.

For more strategies for success by focusing on the strengths of your team:

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.

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Staff Spotlight: Angela Allen

Staff spotlight

In this feature, we ask our team members some quick, fun questions to show a little spotlight on the staff that makes IMI great.

Angela Allen

AngelaAccount Associate

  • My favorite aspect of association management is:
    • Seeing the members’ passion for a cause and helping them turn their ideas and ‘what-ifs’ into reality.
  • On my desk right now:
    • Coffee, my bike helmet and the webinar schedule for this week.
  • My favorite blogs:
  • My media mix:
    • Pandora –Tom Petty, John Hiatt and ‘Shake It Off’ radio are my favorites.
  • What I’m reading:
    • Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
  • Who to follow on social media:
    • @ilovecycling, @DurhamBulls and @katescraftcave
  • What I do when not at work:
    • Cycling, hiking and hanging out with friends and family.  Anything outdoors!
  • If I weren’t in association management, I’d:
    • Be traveling the world and meeting the locals.  I’d love to do a bike tour across Europe one day!
  • Favorite quote:
    • “So many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible.” – Norton Juster

For more about Angela, don’t forget to check out her full bio on the IMI website!

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.


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Top 5 Online Tools

2017.1.31 top 5 online tools


By Angela Allen, account associate

Conversions are the name of the game in 2017. It doesn’t matter if we’re figuring the number of miles to run because we signed up for a 5k as a New Year’s resolution, thinking about the leadership of our country or planning the next call with a client in another time-zone … conversions are everywhere! Thinking about this blog, I started to think about my favorite on-line tools and how they, too, focus on conversions. A few months ago, my co-workers and I met to discuss some of the tools we found useful and this seemed like the perfect time to blog about them. Here the top five tools that have made every day work life more efficient:

Time and Date Calculator

Want to know what date is six months from now or two years, 33 days ago? Timeanddate.com has a tool that allows you to add or subtract days to any date.

Time Zone Calculator

Worldtimebuddy.com has become my best buddy as of late. If your clients are in multiple time zones, this tool quickly lets you see equivalent times in multiple time zones of your choosing. Scheduling calls with clients around the world is much faster now!


Needing a creative color scheme for your next presentation or want to match a graphic to your organization’s logo? This quick, online color picker tool lets you find the hex code for any point on the color palette and converts it to RGB numbers, too. It even gives you the option to find colors that coordinate nicely and are eye catching.


Who doesn’t love a good design? Canva.com provides a robust library of designs and graphics that will help you convert those drab clip-art announcements into exciting pieces that your clients will pick up and read. From social media posts to marketing materials, this tool has it all.


If you’ve been looking for a way to convert your paper to-do list to an online one, workflowy.com, may be the answer. While I haven’t tried this one, personally, it was recommended by a colleague and definitely worth sharing.

These online tools have made our lives easier and hopefully they will make yours better, too… and a bit more colorful!

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.

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