Executive Directors Must be Entrepreneurial
Ed Rigsbee, CSP
get it instantly, but it often takes people attending my seminars days,
or even weeks, for my partnering concepts to sink in. And some never get
it. Helping people to see value in changing their paradigm can be a
thankless job. Why it is that people cling so dearly to the lifeline of
their comfort zone? They do so simply because it is just that,
1988, when I Joined the National Speakers Association, I have regularly
presented at association conventions, conferences and meetings. In that
time I have met some stellar association executives and staff. And, I
have had to work with a few that were less than optimal. While I’m
sure the same can be said about speakers, this article is about
association executives helping to deliver member value.
I was presenting to a room full of association executive directors on
the subject of associations delivering value to their members—an
important subject today. Unfortunately, only half of the executive
directors registered at the conference even cared attended. That blew me
a large number of the attendees were open to exploring methods of
delivering high-level member value, still there were several
"closed" people in the room. Forcing them to look in the
mirror and deal with association survival issues was at best, difficult.
This is part of the reason that today; so many associations are
experiencing membership decline. Generally, it is easier to blame the
problem on industry consolidation.
2001 issue of Association Management magazine there was an
article about why members do not renew. The article stated that American
Society of Association Executives’ research revealed the following
reasons for association members not renewing:
·Change of profession-15%
·Dues too high-17%
·Not enough time to use member benefits-7%
·Services no longer relevant-17%
In my opinion, the only “non-value” issue is
the business closing or change of profession. All the remaining reasons
loudly say, “Not enough perceived value!” Over 73% of the
non-renewing members said, “Not enough perceived value.” Why are
association executive directors and volunteer leadership not listening?
many Executive Directors still prefer to simply be administrators rather
than entrepreneurs. A new breed of entrepreneurial association
management executives is necessary for today's associations to survive
and prosper. The old glad-handing at the annual meeting is no longer
relevant to most members.
an era when association executive directors must be part of the solution
in showing value to members, at my recent presentation on the subject, a
number of association executive attendees wanted to argue about
insignificant points rather than to focus on the solutions offered,
especially when I took them through the actual process of determining
association value in real dollars—a process that each executive
director should greatly desire to take back to their own association.
if an association is only willing to pay for a secretary or baby-sitter,
then the volunteer leadership should not, and cannot, expect anything
more. Entrepreneurs, rather than administrators, make things happen, and
want to be paid for their skill and results.
change is difficult. Leaving one's comfort zone is, unfortunately for
some, near impossible. These are the hard challenges that face today's
association executive directors. The days of saying, “Volume solves
most problems,” are gone. For additional association value related
information, please visit www.rigsbee.com/morearticles.htm.
association volunteer leadership:
long-term strategic and review it yearly. Keep what is valuable and
change what is not. Do not shift with the wind, meaning each president
or chair must not select a new and different direction at the onset of
his or her term.
executive director, you get that for which you are willing to pay.
should conduct a Relationship Value Update with its executive director
at a minimum, yearly.
collectively should, at a minimum, each year speak to every member over
the telephone asking about the value received the member that year.
leaders. Don’t cop-out and say, “I’m just a volunteer, I’m too
busy.” If you are too busy to be a leader in your association, why in
the world did you accept a leadership role? Could it be ego? Why does
your lack of planning have to become a crisis for your executive
director? Do not expect your executive director and staff to do it all.
association executive directors:
than focus on job protection, focus on helping the volunteer leadership
to deliver the highest level of real value to your association members.
What is real value? The value they want. If you are delivering the
necessary value, they will want you for life.
are regimented enough to be a superior administrator and flexible enough
to excel as an entrepreneur, you will operate in that “sweet spot”
where the two seemingly opposing circles of interest overlap. That where
the organizational magic emanates from.
your association? Or, does it belong to the members? That can be a much
more difficult question than you might think. “Sure,” you say, “It
belongs to the members.” And, do your actions say the same thing?
directors must be skilled and seasoned politicians, a job I, myself do
not do well. Yet, there is a time to collaborate, and there is a time to
lead with a firm grip. Knowing which, and when, is the secret.
board of directors, the executive director and staff too must yearly
communicate with each and every member.
the above is not a magic solution for the ills of many of today’s
associations, the ideas will deliver a greatly improved perception of
value from the eyes of your association members. And as I always say in
my seminars, “The conversation I have with myself about you is my
reality.” The same holds true with your members’ conversation about
2003-2012 by Ed Rigsbee
Ed Rigsbee, CSP, CAE, is the
author of PartnerShift, Developing
Strategic Alliances and The
Art of Partnering. Additionally, he has over 2,000 published articles to his
credit. Ed travels internationally to deliver strategic alliance keynotes
and workshops. When you need him, Ed can be reached at email@example.com or visit www.rigsbee.com