What’s Your Word for 2015?

2015-1-6 Whats Your Word
Image Credit: Bec Brown

Allison Winter, Administrative Manager

Each year, when new calendars are being unwrapped, we all tend to take the opportunity that a fresh start provides to create new goals for ourselves. However, no matter how hard we try to cut down on our carbs, we usually end up eating a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts in one sitting by mid-February.

In early January, we pick a handful of resolutions that will help us to a healthier lifestyle or to progress in our careers or to become better at organizing, etc. And though we all have good intentions behind our goal setting, they never seem to stick. Isn’t it frustrating? Why is that?

According to business owner and author Lara Casey, we generally end up ditching our goals because they are only surface level goals. Why would anyone resist drinking a delicious Diet Coke instead of their “New Year’s resolution” glass of water just because they have to? I don’t know about you, but my will-power isn’t strong enough to make me do something just because I have to do it.

So, how do we make a resolution “stick”? Casey believes we all need a deeper reason for setting the goals we wish to achieve. She suggests finding a single word that defines your vision for the year. While picking just one word for 365 days’ worth of goals sounds difficult, Casey provides several questions to help us get started. By answering the questions below, we are able to see a trend in our answers and pick a word that describes the general theme.

  • What kind of life do you want to live this year?
  • Where do you want to be when you’re 80?
  • WHY do you do what you do?
  • What is your mission?
  • What is your CORE?
  • If you could envision your best year yet, what does that look like?
  • 2015 is the year I (fill in your blank): _______

Last year was the first time I had heard of this trick. While I was a little skeptical at first, I found that returning to my word of the year was incredibly helpful. I was no longer setting goals I felt like I ought to set, but I created resolutions for myself that truly meant something to me. Each time I felt like I was veering off-track, my word of the year would remind me of the bigger picture.

This method works well for finding focused goals for associations, too. Try answering these questions based on your vision for your association, or pass them out to your association board! Taking a few moments out of your busy schedule to find a vision for the upcoming year will help keep your association on track for the months to come.

If you’d like to read a little more about casting a vision for the new year, I’d suggest reading Lara Casey’s post on the topic. Also, she just started her 2015 Goal Setting series. If you’d like a little inspiration, or would like a deeper look into the goal setting process, then this series is a great place to start.

Happy New Year!


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


Finding Our Strengths

Image Credit: Joshua Earle
Image Credit: Joshua Earle

Beth Wallace, administrative manager

What are your strengths? How can you use them in your daily job tasks or to help you find a good job fit? How can your strengths be best utilized to benefit the company and you? Many people don’t know their strong points or how to put into words what those strengths are, which can leave people feeling unfulfilled and unhappy in their jobs. StrengthsFinder 2.0 is a book by Tom Rath, with a corresponding quiz that includes personality and situational questions. The results of the quiz generate one’s top five strengths out of the 34 defined options. Rath’s method is based on the idea that focusing on and building your strengths benefits you more than trying to become better at your weaknesses. As he says in his book, “You cannot be anything you want to be – but you can be a lot more of who you already are.”

Each of us in IMI Association Executives participated in StrengthsFinder to determine and define our team members’ strengths. As in many industries, there are periods of high and low volume workload – and we like to help each other out around the office. Who do I go to when I have a big project that requires thinking through the possible issues and problems that may arise? Knowing our team members’ strengths helps us identify our best resource for specific tasks. After learning my co-workers’ strengths, I know I could go to someone with Deliberative (a cautious, considerate decision making quality) as a strength to talk through the decisions that are being considered. Also, understanding how to work with and communicate with co-workers based on their strengths creates a more effective and efficient environment.

To make sure we fully utilized this resource, we all completed the quiz and met in groups to discuss the results. We dug deeper into our strengths and how they apply to our current position or in other areas the association needs help. The results were actually quite interesting to analyze and interpret. IMI’s mission is “Building Relationships. Delivering Solutions.” The two common categories that most individuals reported strengths in were Relationship Building and Executing. These categories align with our mission, showing that we have the right people to advance IMI’s mission. Others’ strengths fell into Influencing and Strategic Planning, both of which are very important to the success of IMI and our clients. The Influencers are wonderful people to interact with our members and Board of Directors; and we know we would struggle without our Planners that keep us moving and in the right direction.

Overall we were happy with the results and excited at the potential to utilize our strengths to help our associations grow and succeed. StrengthsFinder is also a great exercise for association boards or other volunteers to complete as a group. Recognizing and utilizing the natural strengths each of us has is a great way to maximize the impact of your team.

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

The Value of a Handwritten Thank You Note

Image Credit: Alejandro Escamilla
Image Credit: Alejandro Escamilla

Whitney Bertram, Operations Manager


A lot of what I do daily, I learned from my mom. Make the bed. Say “please.” Floss. Turn off the light when you leave the room. Walk the dog. And always send a thank you note.

Growing up, my siblings and I always had to send a handwritten thank you note after receiving a gift. We had a deadline of one week.

To this day, I still receive a thank you note from each of my sisters and brother after Christmas and their birthdays, even if they thanked me in person.

In this electronic age, it’s easy to shoot off a quick email or post on someone’s Facebook wall. Sending handwritten notes is becoming such a lost art that I’ve even received “thank you for your thank you note” notes. People genuinely appreciate the simple act of a handwritten thank you. I often display the ones I receive on my desk or pin them to my bulletin board as opposed to a quick “delete.”

Think about the feeling you get when you check your mailbox and you see your address written in ink. Mail (not including bills, credit card offers or junk) seems to be a thing of the past. A handwritten note can make someone’s day.

Penning a quick note of appreciation to a vendor, sponsor or volunteer takes only a few minutes but will let the recipient know you value their time, effort and support.

Send a thank you email, express your gratitude in person, but never underestimate the sentiment of the handwritten note.


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

IMI: All About Animals

Image Credit: André Spieker
Image Credit: André Spieker

By Adrian Emerson, Association Accounting Specialist and 2014 Chair of the IMI Association Executives Fun Committee


In a previous post, I discussed how IMI wanted to start a new charity program and the process I followed to develop a program for our team. Here’s an update on the second and third quarter collections.

For our second quarter project, we collected donations for someone in our office who was experiencing hardship. We purchased a large basket and filled it with all kinds of goodies, like gift cards and other items this person needed. She was thrilled with the outpouring and we were all happy to do it. These kinds of collections can be tough to coordinate but are just as important as the bigger charity programs already out there. We at IMI are proud to say that we will help our employees and their families when we can.

During our third quarter we chose to collect donations for the SPCA of Wake County. The SPCA of Wake County, located in Raleigh, N.C., was founded in 1967, and has rehomed thousands of animals during that time. Their mission statement is: “To protect, shelter, and promote the adoption of homeless animals; to provide education about responsible pet ownership and to reduce pet overpopulation through spay/neuter programs.” The organization operates solely on donations, and does not receive government funding. For more information, visit the SPCA of Wake County website. For this charity effort, I built a custom website at a third-party website called Razoo.com. Razoo.com allows you to set up a website to collect donations for a small fee. They are connected with thousands of charities and can even help to set up a new fundraiser. We collected donations in August and September for a total of $225.

Now, I am gearing up for our fourth quarter charity project, which will be to collect donations for Backpack Buddies, a program coordinated by the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, located in Raleigh. This collection will be our final community service project for the year.

In 2014, IMI collected donations for the American Heart Association for Women, a co-worker, the SPCA of Wake County, and Backpack Buddies of Raleigh. I am proud of what our group was able to accomplish. We plan to do something similar next year with different charities. I urge you to set up a collection in your office, even if it is just placing a tip jar in an office common room or organizing a group to participate in a marathon. Every little bit helps, and brings happiness to those in need.


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

Out of Office Best Practices

Image Credit: Sonja Langford
Image Credit: Sonja Langford

By Rachel Owen, Communications Manager

We are headed full swing into the holiday season when many people will be out of the office. Do you know what the best practices are for when you are out of the office?


Update your voicemail to reflect that you will be out of the office. Don’t forget to include information about when you will be returning calls and an emergency contact number. Also, set a calendar appointment to help you remember to update your voicemail message when you return.

If your organization requires call forwarding to an associate when you are out of the office, be sure to let your associate know about any issues they may receive calls regarding (such as membership renewals).


Set your out of office email notification to indicate:

  • When you will return
  • When they can expect a response
  • An emergency contact


Thank you for your email. I am out of the office through December 30 and I will be responding to emails after I return on January 1.

If you have an immediate need please contact Staff Member Staff@fakeemail.org at 222.333.4444.

Thank you,

Your Name

For Your Associations

If your association office will be closed, such as for a holiday, update the main line voicemail to indicate the office is closed. Also, make sure to communicate to members when the office will be closed through a standalone email to members, a small “blurb” in a newsletter, or a post on social media.

For Longer Vacations

If you will be out of the office for more than a day or two around the holidays, you may need a bit more preparation to make sure everything runs smoothly while you are gone.

  • Allot a little bit of extra time to give information to any team members that may be covering for you during your absence. Make sure the rest of the team knows who is handling which concerns while you will be unavailable.
  • If you are expecting time sensitive mail or packages, make sure a team member is assigned to open any mail you receive.
  • At least two weeks prior, notify your key contacts and ask if they need anything completed before you leave.


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


Create a Culture of Givers

Image Credit: Ilham Rahmansyah
Image Credit: Ilham Rahmansyah

By Jalene Bowersmith, Executive Director

These ideas are inspired by the General Session “Give and Take” at the ASAE Annual Meeting on August 10, 2014, presented by Adam Grant.

Adam Grant, author of “Give and Take,” says there are three kinds of people in the world: Takers, givers, and matchers. Takers try to get as much as possible from others. Givers go out of their way to support and help others with no strings attached. Matchers expect back what they give others.

A “giving” culture is a great atmosphere to cultivate in your organization. Here are some ideas on how you can promote “giving” in your office.

  • Fast action! Find quick and easy 5-minute acts of giving. Look for opportunities that bring high value, such as praise and recognizing givers, with a low investment of your time. This maximizes your giving without sapping your energy or hurting your own productivity.
  • Lead by example. Remember to ask for help so others have an opportunity to give.
  • Reward the givers. Change the reward systems to also recognize those that contribute to others’ successes rather than only those that strive to succeed on their own or possibly step over others to achieve success.
  • Start a Reciprocity Ring. Get a group together and instruct everyone has to ask for help with one project or task they are working on.
  • Remind team members that it’s a good thing to ask for help. Odds are, most people are willing to help if they are asked to assist.

Now that we’re in the mindset of helping each other, who should you ask for help?

  • If you have a “normal” project, stay close. Check with close contacts first because you know the same people and do similar things. Close contacts often can easily integrate into your project with little or no preparation.
  • If you’re doing something new, think outside of the box! Distance contacts have more of an effect when you reach out for something new because they know different people and do different things. Who is outside of your normal circle that could help?
  • Get the best of both worlds by reconnecting. Activate dormant ties, colleagues or friends that you haven’t connected with for a while. This will achieve “close” contacts you once knew and have something in common with, but who now know different people and do different things.


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

Make Your RFP Work for You

Image Credit: Lucas Theis
Image Credit: Lucas Theis

By Lee Campbell, Executive Director & Director of Conference

These ideas are inspired by the session “RFP Reconstructed” at the ASAE Annual Meeting on August 11, 2014, presented by Rachel Benedick, Mary Kreins, Christine “Shimo” Shimasaki.

If you are an event planner you know the Request for Proposal (RFP) is one of the most important documents in your arsenal and its contents can make or break your event.

Here are a few tips on making sure your RFP is as ready as you are.

Make Sure the RFP is Complete

Hotels need complete information about an organization’s conference program in order to offer the best proposal. Be thorough, but be concise.

It’s important to accurately reflect your conference program, needs, and budget. The hotel team will review all aspects of your information from the RFP to determine if your program is a good fit for the hotel, and vice versa.

Don’t Forget to Include Your History and Expectations

  • Organizational goals (e.g. What does your organization hope to gain from the event? How will you measure success?)
  • Expected number of attendees and the demographics of your group
  • History of the organization’s conferences the last 3 years
    • Hotel and city locations
    • Sleeping room pickups
    • Food & Beverage history
  • List of the expected and requested concessions
  • Date pattern
  • 3rd Party Information (will you secure your own AV Companies and Tradeshow Decorator Companies?)

Make Good Connections

Did you know? EmpowerMINT.com is a resource that hotels will check to investigate an organization’s history to determine if a partnership will be a good fit. Organizations can also use this site to register an official RFP document in order to connect with hotels.

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

Productivity: Your Best Friend and Biggest Hurdle (Part 2)

Image Credit: Aleksi Tappura
Image Credit: Aleksi Tappura

By Linda Owens, President

This is the second in a 2-part series about productivity based on a recent Association Chat (#assnchat). Click here to read part 1.

Read below for more helpful thoughts about productivity from the IMI staff.

Q5: Do you keep your inbox at 0 emails, like some productivity experts suggest? If so, how? If not, why not?

  • Almost – I try to keep sent and inbox at under 20 emails each. I answer quick emails immediately and save emails to the server that have important info but require no action. I use flags as reminders.
  • I do not keep my box at 0 but I like to keep it as clean as possible. I keep items in my in-box that I need to do or follow-up on later. I also use categories and flags to make it easy to find anything in my inbox.
  • I really, really try to keep my inbox at 0. I delete what has been handled and change action items into tasks.
  • I “try” to limit my inbox only to those emails that require an answer or follow-up by me
  • I try to keep 0 emails in my inbox by moving items to the task area, the calendar, and or saving the message in a folder. If I am unable to keep my inbox clear every other Friday I go through and move items out of my inbox.
  • I like to keep my inbox clean, and only keep emails in my “inbox” that I have not completed or I still need. Once I have completed a task I file the email away. I do not delete any emails. I also move emails older than a year in the archives.
  • For the most part I have my inbox to 0 before I close for the day.
  • Sometimes it gets to 0 but my goal is to at least tackle all the new ones each day.
  • I keep my inbox at 0 unread emails. Everything is read and triaged (I color code with urgency, emails that are awaiting responses, etc.).

Q6: Where do you turn for advice about productivity? What are some of your go-to resources?

  • Some great articles pop up on my LinkedIn
  • I ask fellow co-workers to help me not reinvent the wheel on developing plans or documents that have already been used and approved to work.
  • I don’t have a go-to for productivity resources. I try to read articles and anytime I see information in online, in print, or word of mouth I determine if I can incorporate the suggestion into my system to further enhance productivity.
  • I like to learn new features of the software I use, like Outlook and Excel, for new ways to better organize and manage my day.
  • Coworkers have helped me greatly and so have webinars on Outlook productivity.
  • https://www.themuse.com

Q7: Complete this sentence. “For me, the most important thing to remember about productivity is _______________________.”

  • Because, productivity is not just about getting things done. It is about getting things done more efficiently and remembering that there will always be more things to do then there is time in the day.
  • If you are productive, it leaves more time for enjoyable things.
  • That you eat an elephant one bite at a time. This helps me not to get overwhelmed with big projects and keeps me moving forward.
  • I can only do one thing well at a time. Multi-tasking or hurrying can often lead to mistakes. I have to s.l.o.w. down and just do one thing at a time.
  • To stay focused on the current task.
  • It is not about an empty “in box.” It is about using the time you have available to accomplish the tasks which are most closely aligned with your success as you define it.
  • Focus and the ability to stay on task without distraction, especially social distractions.
  • Knowing what you need to do and when it needs to be done.
  • Quality accomplishment of tasks on or before deadlines.
  • Prioritizing projects and staying on top of deadlines.
  • Quality over quickness.
  • Being “busy” is not the same as being productive.
  • Keeping the quality along with the speed.

Q8: Do you do things for your health in order to improve your productivity? (Ex., take supplements, exercise, eat right, etc.)

  • Exercise and yoga help me let go of work. Reading, both for pleasure and for knowledge. Eating healthy. When I start to feel overwhelmed or can’t sit any longer in front of my computer screen I get up and take a quick walk to clear my mind and re-gain my focus.
  • Nothing gets the day ramped up like my 6 a.m. spin class!
  • Get 8 hours of sleep! If I find I’m losing focus while working on a project I push away and go work on something else or walk around for a few minutes.
  • I take a break sometimes just for sanity, walk around, get some sunshine.
  • Exercise, absolutely. Clears the cobwebs, stretches the limbs and makes sitting back down at your desk more comfortable both physically and mentally
  • Yes, yes, yes and yes. Get up and walk away from your desk at least every 30 minutes.
  • A daily walk of 30 minutes is key. I decided not to allow other’s personalities to affect me personally so I wouldn’t take their attitude to heart.
  • I am one to just power through until it all gets done or I have just worked until I can’t work anymore. (Not the greatest for one’s health, I know)
  • Sleeping more hours each night, eating healthier, nutritional supplements.
  • I exercise, eat right, drink water, supplements.
  • I do things for my health, not for productivity. My body serves me first.
  • Yes, I exercise, take supplements, eat right, and take breaks.

We hope you enjoyed IMI’s in-house #assnchat. If you haven’t tried #assnchat on Twitter, give it a try! You may find answers to questions you didn’t even know you had.

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

Productivity: Your Best Friend and Biggest Hurdle (Part 1)

Image Credit: Aleksi Tappura
Image Credit: Aleksi Tappura

By Linda Owens, President

This is part one of a 2-part series on productivity based on a recent Association Chat (#assnchat).

Have you tried the Association Chat recently? Every Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET follow #assnchat on Twitter for a moderated series of questions designed for association professionals to interact and share their experiences. The chat is hosted by KiKi L’Italien (@kikilitalien) and anyone following the hashtag can respond with their answers and participate.

We decided to hold our own in-house #assnchat on productivity, based on the October 7, 2014, #assnchat questions. Read below for productivity troubles and tips from the IMI staff.

Q1: What are some of your productivity killers? What gets in the way of your productivity?

IMI team members shared that their top productivity killer is interruptions. Emails, phone calls, and office visitors were named as the most common interruptions.

Other productivity killers:

  • When others don’t plan their schedules accordingly and it causes an emergency through poor planning.
  • Waiting on others to answer questions or provide information to complete the job from my standpoint.
  • Too many tasks to accomplish in a short amount of time.

Q2: What is the best productivity tool you use regularly?

Across the board, team members cited lists, lists, and more lists as productivity aids!

  • I categorize and assign tasks, due dates and deadlines to items that come in through email. I also use the Franklin Covey system of prioritizing items.
  • It’s a tie between Basecamp and Outlook (color coding emails).
  • I delegate, break big projects into little tasks that I try to work on a little each day, and work at home one day a week, which has fewer interruptions. I also unsubscribe from irrelevant emails and set goals for myself (e.g. I will complete this project in 1 hour).
  • I establish a timeframe during which I will focus on one task that needs attention. No Email interruptions and all phone calls go to voicemail.
  • Not waiting until the last minute to complete the task or responsibility.
  • Outlook! I set reminders/due dates on emails and setup tasks on my calendar.
  • I use a spreadsheet with reminders and deadlines. I also use the Outlook Tasks feature. I just have to remember to stay on top of it!
  • Reducing distractions! I turn off email notifications, set my phone to do not disturb, etc., for a brief time while I focus on critical tasks.
  • I will switch to non-computer tasks for short occasional breaks to rest my eyes and mind from the computer.

Q3: Do you have rules for the way you prioritize tasks each day? What are they? (Such as: List your top 3 priorities but no more, etc.)

  • The week prior, I map out overall items that need to be accomplished during the upcoming week. I then break these down into specific items for specific days of the week. Each day I look through the list for the next day and assign priority to items. A1, A2, A3 are most important and need to get done. B1, B2, B3 are second level of importance, C1, C2, C3 are items that I will do if I have time, but can be pushed to the next day if needed. During the day if an item comes up that needs to trump one of my planned priorities I assign U1, U2, U3 (U = urgent) and determine which item will be bumped to the next day.
  • I get the urgent items done, but each week I also make sure to save some time to work on tasks that have been on the back burner.
  • Each day I prioritize my top nine tasks into three categories: A-one big thing, B-three medium things, and C-five small things.
  • I prioritize tasks by categories: Today, This Week, This Month, This Year.
  • Review deadlines for the week and prioritize tasks based on those deadlines.
  • Prioritize tasks to match or exceed the time available.
  • I usually prioritize by first come first served, starting with tasks that are older than a day that haven’t been completed. Then, I prioritize by request type. For example, requests that take longer to complete I will carve out a time slot in the day, like the whole afternoon or first thing in the morning, and work on other smaller tasks around it. I make sure to complete everything I promised before leaving at the end of the day. If I cannot complete something in a reasonable amount of time or if it has been sitting for a while I will send updates letting the appropriate people know when I will complete the task.
  • Review daily tasks each day and prioritize.
  • I respond to the most important emails first and then go back to the others as time allows. I block time periods to not handle email when working on project.
  • I list my tasks by priority and work on them based on deadline.
  • I first list the tasks that MUST be finished and label them in order that they should be completed. I make a second list below it of tasks I will conquer next if I have time after the critical tasks are complete.
  • I prioritize based on: 1. What needs to be done today? 2. How long has it been waiting? 3. Does it affect our members?

Q4: Do you use an organization or scheduling system, like GTD or the Pomodoro Technique?

Overall, Outlook features, such as tasks and reminders, were the most popular scheduling system.

Other helpful systems:

  • I use Franklin Covey’s system and I do recommend it for people that like to make lists. The system is a great way to bring your love of list making to the next level.
  • Basecamp.
  • Evernote – It’s easy to make lists and check off tasks.
  • I’m a list-keeper, using highlighters to prioritize tasks.
  • I use an Excel spreadsheet with my tasks and their expiration dates.

We hope you enjoyed IMI’s in-house #assnchat. If you haven’t tried #assnchat on Twitter, give it a try! You may find answers to questions you didn’t even know you had.

Check back next week for part 2 of this discussion on productivity.

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