What is the best type of networking event to hold to get the maximum member engagement?
I know, I say that a lot.
I’ve participated in – or seen – all kinds of successful (and unsuccessful) networking events: formal presentations with networking time either around a meal or not, peer-to-peer sharing roundtable discussions either around a meal or not, chat-everyone-up networking events with or without booze, activities (traditional, like golf or less traditional, like bowling), ball games, group service projects, dance parties.
So what makes something work – or not work?
It really depends on your industry culture. Is your community more “suit-and-tie, here’s my card, all-business,” or more “let’s grab a beer”? Are they big sports fans, either spectating or participating? Would they rather go lawn bowling, or spend a few hours together at the local food bank packing boxes of shelf-stable provisions for seniors in your community? Are they comfortable getting their groove thing on together, or would they rather attend an event that will also provide continuing education credits they need to maintain a certification or license?
When you’re thinking through, “Well, what IS our industry culture?” also think about, “Is it something we want to change?”
I was recently conducting stakeholder interviews for a client, and a non-member graciously agreed to participate (their opinions are REALLY important to hear, but it can also be REALLY difficult to get them to agree to invest 30 minutes in the good of a community they’ve chosen not to join). He offered a fairly harsh assessment, painting the association’s culture as an “old boys network,” of “men in suits, women in hose, rubber chicken dinners with off-color MCs” followed by “the men going to the bar, and the women and kids going to the hotel rooms,” and noted “women don’t tolerate this kind of Eisenhower America behavior anymore.”
Are there people in your community who are in recovery? Then maybe you want to think carefully about continuing your tradition of open bars at your events. Do under-represented groups (women, racial minorities, LGBTQ people) feel safe at your events, or are they worried they’re going to be harassed? Is the activity you’ve planned accessible to people with disabilities? Have you considered not just christian religious holidays, but those of the other major world religions as well, in choosing your dates?
Can you use your events not just to provide networking opportunities for today’s needs for today’s members, but also use them to pivot to a more diverse and inclusive future?
Did you miss the July 12 webinar my Include Is a Verb co-author Sherry Marts and I presented for the Wild Apricot Experts series on living your talk on D+I? Never fear! The recording is now available:
Sherry and I got to as many questions as we could in the sidebar chat during the webinar, but as usual, we missed a few, so we’re answering them below:
Question: When holding a free public event, do you post a code of conduct? We have kid friendly “Core Values,” and I wonder if posting that would promote a safer environment.
EWE (addressed during the chat):It might not cover every situation you might want to try to address, but it certainly can’t hurt.
SM (more complete answer):Yes, definitely. Something short and simple, along the lines of:
[Organization] is committed to ensuring a safe and welcoming environment for all participants at [event]. We expect all participants at [event] to abide by this Code of Conduct in all venues at [event], including ancillary events and official and unofficial social gatherings.
Exercise consideration and respect in your speech and actions.
Refrain from demeaning, discriminatory, or harassing behavior and speech.
Be mindful of your surroundings and of your fellow participants.
Alert community leaders if you notice a dangerous situation, someone in distress, or violations of this Code of Conduct, even if they seem inconsequential.
IF YOU ARE BEING HARASSED, NOTICE THAT SOMEONE ELSE IS BEING HARASSED, OR HAVE ANY OTHER CONCERNS, CONTACT [NAME] AT [CONTACT INFORMATION]. [Alternatively: PLEASE CONTACT A MEMBER OF THE [organization] STAFF IMMEDIATELY. Staff can be identified by [clothing, name badges, or other way to ID staff]. All reports are confidential.
Question: One thing to consider – while harassment is most frequently men harassing women, using language that presumes that may make men or nonbinary people uncomfortable coming forward. Also, gender isn’t binary – language like ‘men and women’ can make nonbinary people feel invisible / excluded.
SM: Yes, all of that is true. However, it becomes really awkward and clumsy to try to address all possible combinations of target/harasser each time one is talking about a harassment situation. And harassment is about 85-90% men harassing women, so that ends up being the simplest way to present it. When I do longer (i.e. two-four hours) workshops, I do talk about other harassment scenarios, gender identity, etc.
And, frankly, when it comes to talking about this stuff, I really am not concerned about making sure the men present are comfortable. I’d prefer it if they were just a wee bit uncomfortable.
EWE: While using gender-neutral language is overall a good practice, as Sherry points out, meeting harassment is largely a gendered problem. In my view, it’s a case where obscuring the role of gender is not only not helpful to solving the problem, it actively works against our ability to address it.
Question: Is it considered patronizing to seek diversity by offering to pay that board member’s financial obligation? Or do you change the obligation to “give or get” a specific amount?
(Seeing as we’re writing for an association crowd here, a bit of explanation might be in order. In fundraising organizations, it’s common for board service to come with a financial obligation. Each board member is required to contribute a certain (usually significant) amount of money to the organization each year of her board service. This obviously restricts your pool of candidates, which can make diversifying your board difficult. Blue Avocado has a good piece that explains this conundrum in more detail.)
EWE: Yes, finding alternate ways for your board members to meet their financial obligation is important to board diversity. The “give or get” method is one way of doing that (in which your board member either needs to GIVE the amount specified herself or GET other donor/s to give that amount). You can also think about non-financial ways a board member could make significant contributions to the health of the organization, for instance, by putting in significant time nurturing relationships with major donors, by providing services or goods the organization needs, etc.
SM: Yes, it is worth considering whether it is a barrier to diversifying your Board membership. Ask:
Why do we have this obligation?
What strategic goal does this serve?
What else could serve this goal without putting a financial burden on Board members?
I know some organizations expect Board members to pay their own travel to meetings. One organization I worked with changed that to offer to reimburse Board members for travel, and those who could afford to pay it could submit their reimbursement form and indicate that they did not want to be paid back, and that this was an “in-kind” donation to the organization. It worked well, no one (other than the admin and accounting staff) knew who paid and who was paid for.
I have heard of the “give or get” policy that requires Board members to either donate or solicit donations. Again, if there is an amount specified that could be a barrier to participation. If it is as “give or get, within your means” with the actual amount determined by each Board member, that could go a long way to lowering the barrier. The Board could also establishe a policy for waiving the “give or get” requirement, and ask staff to implement it, so that individual Board members don’t know who gives, how much is given, and who gets a waiver. I know some funders look for “100% participation” by Board members (i.e. everyone has donated or solicited a donation), but they don’t ask amounts, so if a Board member gives $1.00 that counts.
The bottom line is that IF the organization is truly committed to D&I, THEN they may have to alter their expectations/requirements of Board members, outside of the legal and fiduciary duties (i.e. yes, they have to show up for and contribute to discussions at meetings, pay attention to financials, and serve on committees and do all the other functions of a Board member). They may have to do some budget re-arranging to reach their D&I goals.
Finally, there is one question that has come up frequently with regards to this whole process: Is it appropriate for two white women to even be talking about diversity and inclusion, much less profiting off doing so?
First, let me address the “profiting” bit. No profit. In fact, cost. All the Spark whitepapers are freely offered to the nonprofit community (I don’t even ask for contact information to put people on a mailing list to download them). No one pays me and my various contributors for our contributions (no sponsors or anything). In fact, most of my co-authors have been, like me, sole practitioner (or small business) consultants, so the time that we put into creating these resources is an opportunity cost, consuming what could otherwise be billable time invested in clients. Additionally, we pay out of pocket for copy editing and layout. And we give our time freely to do things to promote the whitepapers like guest blogging, article writing, and webinars.
Secondly, yes, we are both white. But as Sherry has pointed out, when you’re part of the in-group you stand a better chance of getting other in-groupers to listen to you, e.g. when men call out other men on their harassment, or white people call out other white people on their racism. (Joe Gerstandt, one of our contributors, makes this point in his work as well.)
Also, of course, the two co-authors aren’t the only people who worked on this project. We had a total of 12 contributors. Of those:
Five are people of color
Five are LGBT people
Three are adherents of minority religions
Two are people with disabilities
One is a veteran
And, not to miss the thing staring us in the face, eight are women
It’s important to be aware of the places where we’re each privileged, and to work to use that privilege to be and create the change we want to see in the world. Or, as Sherry put it: “We did this as a way to contribute to co-creating the kind of world we want to live in.”
Does your organization have a compelling statement on diversity and inclusion that doesn’t seem to be reflected in your day to day operations? Don’t worry – lots of organizations face the same challenge.
Join Sherry Marts (S*Marts Consulting) and me for a FREE webinar (thanks to our host/sponsor Wild Apricot) Wednesday, July 12 at 2 pm ET to to learn how to move your organization from talk to action when it comes to authentic diversity and inclusion (D+I).
The webinar content will be based on our recently-released whitepaper Include Is a Verb, which is also free to download.
In the webinar, you’ll learn:
The barriers that stand between words and action on D+I
How to lead D+I change with the audiences you serve
Concrete steps you can take to have an immediate, positive impact on D+I in your organization
For those of us who are “on the bus” on the value of genuine diversity and inclusion, this is the crux of the matter: how do we effectively walk our talk on D+I?
We have to work from the inside out, starting with our own selves, taking steps to uncover and combat our implicit biases, understanding where we do – and do not – have privilege, and answering the question “Now that I know, what will I do?”
To quote Include Is a Verb:
That is, how will you move from unconscious reaction to conscious responsibility? How will you use your privileges to help others and, at the same time, let them use theirs to help you in areas where you lack privilege?
Only then can we begin to move outward, to working on our associations as workplaces, then to our boards of directors and other volunteer leaders, then to our members, then to the professions and industries we serve.
I’d like to conclude this week’s focus on Include Is a Verb: Moving from Talk to Action on Diversity and Inclusion with another quote from the whitepaper:
There’s a poem that begins, “When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.” As the man relating the parable lives his life, he realizes that was too grand a goal. He scales back to changing his nation, only to recognize that, too, as too grand a project. So he decides to focus on his town, and then his family. By the time he’s an old man, he realizes that the only thing he can change, the only thing he can control, is himself, but that when you change yourself, that impacts the people around you, and the people around them, and through that, you can change your nation and the world.
Start there. Pick one thing to change in yourself. Then think about one thing you can work on in your workplace with your colleagues. Then identify one program your association o ers that you can enlist your volunteers and members to help you transform. Small steps will add up to big shifts over time.
My co-author Sherry Marts and whitepaper contributors Joe Gerstandt and Jess Pettitt will be joining KiKi L’Italien for an Association Chat focused on Include Is a Verb on Tuesday, July 11 at 2 pm. You can register here.
And, of course, don’t forget to download the whitepaper itself at http://bit.ly/2peWwP0. It includes interviews with a DELP mentor/scholar team (Shawn Boynes and Desirée Knight) and with Cie Armtead, the current chair of ASAE’s D+I committee; sidebars from noted D+I experts Jessica Pettitt, Joan Eisenstodt, and Joe Gerstandt; and case studies of three associations that are doing outstanding D+I work for the audiences they serve (the Association for Women in Science, the Entomological Society of America, and the Geological Society of America).
Most of the focus on diversity and inclusion in the for-profit world is on staff and, to a lesser degree, boards of directors (which, of course, only some for-profit companies have).
The association operating environment is much more multi-layered.
Of course, we also have staff teams and boards of directors. But associations have very different relationships with our boards than for-profit companies do. Although our members are also our customers, the membership relationship is vastly more complex than the consumer relationship. We also have relationships with – and responsibilities to – the professions and industries we serve for which there is no parallel in the for-profit world.
The Association for Women in Science has successfully navigated the transition from a largely homogenous board of directors to one that is truly inclusive, while also avoiding the trap of tokenism.
The Entomological Society of America has created a strong code of conduct for their events that not only aims to reduce instances of harassment at events but also provides a concrete action plan for dealing with them appropriately when they do occur.
The Geological Society of America has responded creatively to the dual imperatives to recruit more people into the field and to increase the diversity of those recruits.
So that’s where Sherry Marts and I start: by defining terms, some of which may be familiar to you and some of which may be new.
What do we actually mean when we use the term diversity? What about inclusion?
What “counts” as diversity, and why does it matter?
What is intersectionality? How does it affect us?
What is “covering,” and why is it a problem?
What is tokenism, and how can we move past it?
Or as Joe put it:
Powerful statements of commitment to diversity and inclusion matter. But without a clear understanding of what we mean when we say “diversity” or “inclusion,” widespread agreement on how that will affect our daily actions, and a shared sense of responsibility for taking those actions, such statements are ultimately meaningless.
Associations know the research that the Millennial generation that is rapidly becoming the majority of our workforce and membership base is the most diverse generation we’ve ever had in the US – and that the yet-to-be-named generation coming up behind them is even more so.
We know that increased diversity and real inclusion produce increased innovation, better decision-making, faster and more creative problem-solving, better outcomes, and an improved bottom line.
We know that D+I is the right thing to do.
And we tend to have strong statements that reflect all that.
The place we often struggle is with turning our beautifully crafted D+I statements into real change in our staff teams, our volunteer leadership, our memberships, and the professions and industries we serve.
In Include is a Verb: Moving from Talk to Action on Diversity and Inclusion, Sherry Marts, PhD (S*Marts Consulting) and I tackle the challenge of turning associations’ powerful talk into equally impactful walk. We share some key concepts in D+I, discuss what makes the association D+I environment unique and the pros and cons that come with that, and provide concrete steps you can take for yourself, your staff, your volunteers, and your members to become a truly diverse and inclusive organization.
I’ll be blogging about the whitepaper for the rest of the week, highlighting some key findings and action steps you can take, but in the meantime, I invite you to download your free copy at http://bit.ly/2peWwP0 – we don’t collect any data on you to get it, and you won’t end up on some mailing list you didn’t ask for. We just use the bit.ly as an easy mechanism to count the number of times it’s been downloaded.
And don’t forget to check out the other FREE Spark whitepapers, too:
I am disappointed that ASAE did not address any of the specific requests the author group had made, such as calling on Donald Trump to renounce his divisive rhetoric and the attacks on various groups that have been made – and are continuing to be made – by his supporters, appointing an ombudsman to address questions about issues that might arise from Mr. Trump’s divisive policies, and instituting a more transparent process for forming advocacy and public policy positions.
Should ASAE wish to pursue any of these requested actions, I believe I speak for the entire original author group when I say that we stand ready to assist in any way that we can.
Airports and cities large and small erupted into chaos this weekend as Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning Muslims from Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen from entering the US took effect.
People with valid entry visas and legal permanent resident status (“green card” holders) were detained at airports across the country. Immigration attorneys flocked to terminals to provide pro bono legal assistance to those detained, and citizens took to the airport terminals and the streets to speak out against this.
This is a crisis for the association industry, as clearly illustrated by the many immediate responses, particularly from STEM associations, who are likely to be some of the first associations profoundly impacted by this order.
The @AssocVoices Twitter account has been doing an excellent job of collecting and disseminating responses from diverse associations like:
What sources are you using for ongoing information? Are there any outside the mainstream news (e.g. law professors, specialty organizations) that you’d strongly recommend?
If you’re planning to get professional counsel on the topic, from whom?
Expansion of the list of countries
Are you also creating contingency plans for the inclusion of other countries on the list? If so, which? (Some of the countries that I’ve seen mentioned in the context of expansion are Egypt, Indonesia, the Chechen-majority parts of Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, eastern Turkey, and the UAE. Alphabetical order, not frequency of mention.)
Are you adjusting conference attendance projections? If so, is this solely for the countries on the list or are you assuming that other international attendees may be deterred from traveling?
Are you talking to conference venues or service providers about options for remote attendance? If so, how would you handle pricing and subsequent revenue forecasts and modeling?
The ethics of diversity and inclusion, as well as the law, call for hiring regardless of national origin, but is the ability to travel freely to any country a key job requirement for any positions? If so, what are the legal and ethical ramifications of taking nation of origin into consideration for hiring?
Recruitment and retention
What are the ramifications for board recruitment and retention? For other volunteers?
How are you communicating to stakeholders, given the rate of change about these executive orders, their interpretation, and the legal challenges? Interjecting a personal note, I’ve personally often found that a tremendous challenge during any times of very rapid change–how do you balance keeping people informed and not over-informing, and providing information in a timely fashion and having to retract earlier information that’s no longer applicable.
What is your association planning by way of response? What is your crisis plan for this?
Edited to add: ASAE has signed onto a letter, prepared jointly by a variety of science organizations, directly opposing the ban.