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Nine questions that can green-light or sideline your next association initiative


We are evaluating marketing automation software and have listed our desired specifications in a spreadsheet with attributes like “must have” and “nice to have.” This sheet helps us easily compare features and see which platforms are lacking our requirements. Plus, after doing 4-6 demos, it helps organize what could be an overwhelming process.

However, choosing a new software platform or AMS or deciding whether to implement a proposed program initiative on behalf of our clients goes beyond a specified list of features.

Using only a spreadsheet to compare features seems sterile and robotic until we ask ourselves nine questions from our project decision matrix document. The questions demonstrate that we actually think about our clients’ missions and goals when making impactful decisions.

When your leadership is considering a new “toy,” be certain it fits in with your goals, objectives and mission. Ensure that you will be able to sustain the initiative beyond the initial excitement and implementation.

When considering a new initiative, ask your team the following nine questions:
1. What are we trying to accomplish?
2. Does this help reach our goals and further our mission?
3. What does success mean for this initiative?
4. What is the desired timeline for this project?
5. What does our resource pool look like?
6. How will feedback be provided by the client?
7. What is the long-term effect of this project?
8. Is this plan sustainable?
9. What are the major risks of the initiative?

These questions deliberate the process to give your organization and board the time to think about the initiative.

Questions like “What does success look like?” are painfully obvious. Yet, how many projects have you implemented where you have not planned to measure when you have achieved success?

Creating a presence on a trendy social media network where your members may or may not visit might be easy to do. Asking yourself, “Does this help our goals and further our mission?” may at least help you decide if it is worth the resources to maintain.

You might be surprised at how these questions could either green light or sideline a project depending on how well vetted, or thought-through it is.

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Setting mini goals to achieve the big ones

Kimmy Schmidt

Sometimes achieving a large goal is easier when broken up into smaller, more attainable goals. This is true both at work and in our personal lives. For instance, I have a daily goal of drinking at least half of my weight in ounces of water. I’m not about to tell you how many ounces that requires, but I will tell you that I start each day with a 32oz glass, and try to sip on it while I get ready for work each day. My goal is to finish that 32oz before I walk out the door. Because I tend to be rather rushed in the morning, that sometimes means chugging the whole thing just before I leave, but regardless, it’s done. One mini goal accomplished before I even leave the house.

On a perfect day, I’ll set up my workload in such a way that I’m able to set mini goals to get through the big projects that are ahead of me.

First, I prioritize. What needs to be done first? What can wait until tomorrow or later in the week, if necessary? Often it’s easiest to get the biggest task out of the way first. If it’s looming, staring at me all day, I just keep putting it off. I’ll think of a million excuses not to do it. But if I plan out my day, 10-30 minutes at a time, it’s a little easier to get through it all.

I jot down the things I need to get done, in the order they need to be done, and get to work. If email is involved, I first get rid of the junk. Once I’ve pared it down to what is actually relevant, I set my mini goal. 49 new emails? I make a goal to get through ten of them in 20 minutes or less. Of course, depending on the subject matter, you might want to allow yourself more or less time. Something realistic that will keep you focused on the task at hand, but not allow enough time for distraction. Once I’ve responded to the first ten; I get up to refill my water or go to the bathroom, even just look out the window for a couple minutes, and then come back to work on the next batch of ten. Before I know it, I’m through them all in what seems like no time at all because I took that dreaded block of time and broke it into smaller clumps, giving me small slivers of accomplishment periodically, thus influencing my productivity.

You can use this same method with different rewards too. Work on a project with complete focus until lunchtime, or don’t allow yourself that second cup of coffee until your inbox is clear. Even the most dreaded tasks, at work and at home, are easier to complete when divided up into smaller tasks. Or, as the wise, unbreakable, Kimmy Schmidt would say, “You can do anything for ten seconds! Then you just start on a new ten seconds.”

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Strategic goals: One. Step. At. A. Time.

Patterson girls run

I’ve written about the importance of strategic planning and setting goals. In my training this summer for a half marathon with my daughter, I have gotten to “work our plan” and develop goals in ways that parallel planning with our association clients. One. Step. At. A. Time.

When we set our annual goals, whether they're for 90% member retention, 10% growth in our conference, or 13.1 miles, it is so important to not get overwhelmed and to set mini-goals. We should also be prepared to adjust our goals as disruptions occur in our environment, industry and life. 

In our long run last weekend, I encouraged my daughter (who hates hills) to just set her eyes on the top of that hill and then at the bottom on the next, the green mailbox, pine tree – whatever we can see in front of us. We also ran a couple of 5Ks and a 10K to get us ready for the half marathon.

The same is true with our strategic plan goals: in order to reach that retention or member growth rate, focus on the member interaction you have today. Get your members to love your association so that they will be in the 90% — and they will tell their friends. Don’t wait until member renewal (or drop) time to think about those goals. 

If a wrench is thrown into the mix, as it was for our training (one of my daughters developed shin splints/stress fractures) be prepared to adjust your plan. In our case, she has become our coach and decided to volunteer at the first aid station so she can still be at the finish line for us. In our association life, membership may be down due to the economy, but that may present a new opportunity in the online engagement arena, for example.

Each day at our jobs, on the pavement, or at home, we can focus on those little things to reach the big goal. We can reevaluate and adjust as we make our way to the big goals.

(As I write this my son is on page 11 of his 16-page summer math packet. One page at a time!)

Good luck and keep going!

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