7: Membership 101: Exit Surveys

neon blue "exit" sign

In position number 7 of the top ten all time Spark blog posts: Membership 101: Exit Surveys.

(I told you the Membership 101 series would be back!)

Once again, the advice in the initial post remains solid. To this day, I regularly recommend conducting an exit survey as part of client projects, or as something they should start doing on their own after we’re done, or both.

It’s important to remember that exit surveys are not a formal statistically valid instrument – they’re a pulse check.

That said, they can, as I wrote nearly four years ago, provide useful clues to emerging problems with your member value proposition, as well as providing one last chance to recapture folks who might not have realized they lapsed.

One thing I would like to highlight that I missed in the initial post is: Are people leaving for reasons that are under your control or NOT under your control?

“I left the profession” is a good example of the second. “A customer service staff person was rude to me” is a good example of the first.

You genuinely can’t do anything about the someone leaving the profession. That person is appropriately gone from membership, and all you can do is wish her good luck in her new ventures.

For the second example, that’s a clue for further investigation. But don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that the staffer in question needs to be retrained – or fired. Maybe the member is just a jerk (it happens). Maybe you’ve set up a system that’s rewarding the wrong behaviors (i.e., how many complaints the staff person can handle in a day, how quickly the staff person can conclude the interaction). Maybe your customer service team is under-staffed, or you’ve tasked them with responsibility (to fix problems) without authority (to actually do anything meaningful about problems). Or maybe that person – or the entire team – needs refresher training on things like empathy, listening, follow through, warm handoffs, checking back in to ensure the problem was solved, and how to debrief as a team effectively.

But many reasons are not so clear-cut. Example: “My employer stopped paying for my dues.”

Is that under your control?

Well, no – you can’t make any given employer pay employees’ association membership dues.

But also, yes – what you’re offering isn’t valuable enough that the employee is willing to pay out of her own pocket. Why is that?

In short, keep running those exit surveys, and keep looking for clues to the *next* question you should ask based on what you learn.

Photo by Dustin Tramel on Unsplash



8: Membership 101: Effective Renewal Cycles

In position number 8 of the top ten all time Spark blog posts: Membership 101: Effective Renewal Cycles.

(Spoiler alert: you’re going to see more of the Membership 101 series posts in the countdown.)

When I reviewed the initial post, I realized everything I wrote still holds four years later. I still walk clients through this process today in creating renewal campaigns, answering questions about goals, audience(s), offer, message, tactics/platforms, resources, schedule and responsibilities, and metrics on the way to creating our campaign plan working document, because EVERY campaign is a working document.


Ideally, you’re going to learn and adjust as you go, devoting more resources to what’s demonstrably working and reducing or eliminating what isn’t. (On a related note, this is why clients often include an implementation retainer – it’s a lot easier to stay on track and actually do real-time evaluation when you have an accountability buddy asking you about those things every week or two.)

After ten years at this (plus my MANY years as association membership staff before launching Spark), what have I learned about where things generally go wrong?


We always run into problems with data, either because we don’t have data we need (or would like) or we can’t use the data we have.

Goals: Associations may struggle to know, with any degree of precision, what their retention rate is, or has been over time. That makes it hard to set a realistic goal.

Audiences: Associations may not know much about their audience, other than that they’re the members who are currently due to renew, when it’s really useful to know how long they’ve been members (first time renewals generally need a little extra attention), what programs, products, and services they have – and haven’t – been using, where they are in their careers/lives, what their normal renewal behavior is, what platform(s) they prefer to communicate with the association on, who else might be involved in the decision to renew, etc. The more you know about your audiences, the better you can segment them and target your messaging to be most effective.

Offer: Associations may not know what persuades – it’s not always discounts – or what’s worked in the past. As an example, a client recently tried offering a drawing to get MORE of their most visible and valuable benefit (it’s a metered program) for those who renewed right at the beginning of the cycle, and we saw a HUGE bump in members who renewed off that first month’s communications, which has all sorts of compounding benefits for the rest of the cycle, not least of which is that staff has fewer slowpokes to chase later on.

Message: Likewise, associations may be unclear about who they’re trying to persuade. Is the member herself? Her boss? Her finance department? Her spouse? They may also not know what persuades – it’s not always WIIFM (what’s in it for me?). As an example, I had a client recently where the most effective message in our renewal series was one that talked about contributing to the good of the entire professional community. I know that type of messaging is supposed to be passé, but I’m here to tell you, it still works for some audiences.

Tactics: Associations may not know what platforms get the best response, aka “Just because your members are on Facebook (or Instagram or TikTok or whatever platform arises between the time I type this and when I hit “publish” in ten minutes) doesn’t necessarily mean they want to be WITH YOU on Facebook.” Another example: a lot of associations have stopped sending any type of print renewal notice, particularly since COVID with a lot of people at home rather than in an office and the association maybe not having those home addresses. And their renewal rates have dropped, because even though associations enjoy a significantly higher email open rate than pretty much any other industry, it still runs around 35%. Multichannel campaigns FTW, my friends.

And the thing is, we often don’t discover these gaps until we’re putting together the campaign or even running it, when we find we can’t easily track what’s happening in real time so we can make adjustments, because the association’s various tech systems and platforms don’t talk to each other, which makes that whole “who’s going to do what when?” conversation a little tricky, and makes measuring what happened, and documenting it so we can do better next time, even MORE tricky. But that in itself is a valuable lesson, as we now know where the gaps and problems lie and can begin addressing them by work arounds, working with vendors, or changing systems.

9: Why Is Membership the Only Relationship?

Why is Membership the Only Relationship?

In position number 9 of the top ten all time Spark blog posts: Why Is Membership the Only Relationship?

Originally written as a follow on to a panel session I participated in at ASAE’s 2013 Great Ideas Conference, I noted that while associations have LOTS of different types of constituents, we still, with a few limited exceptions, tend to consider everyone who interacts with us a membership prospect and push everyone we interact with towards becoming a member.

In other words, you can have a relationship with us in any color you want, as long as it’s membership.

As I wrote nearly ten years ago:

The world has changed to one of mass customization, and we aren’t keeping up with people’s expectations and experiences.

How have things changed?

I would argue that the forces I was talking about then have only intensified, even before the pandemic and certainly in its wake.

People’s expectations of our organizations are influenced by their consumer experiences – mass customization and personalization, paying only for what you want, on demand services, subscription models, free and freemium models, and the sharing economy. That may not be fair, but it is a fact. Meanwhile, we’re offering them a model T.

Post-pandemic, a lot of people are re-examining their lives: work-life balance, how they invest their limited resources (time, money, attention), what really matters to them, how much travel they want to and are willing to do and for what purposes, how busy/booked they’re willing to be, what causes are worthy of their volunteer energy and attention, etc.

All of those things influence both what people are looking for from your association and what they’re willing to give to it.

I do get it. We’re membership organizations. That long-term, loyal relationship is critical – it’s a key part of the foundation both of associations’ revenue models and of the work we do to benefit our professions and industries.

However, there are people within the larger profession/industry community your association serves who have valuable things they want to and can contribute to the betterment of that community who might not want to or be able to be members (maybe for now, maybe forever).

Are you making space for them to be part of your community in ways that make sense to them? If not, why not? 

Image Credit: “Henry Ford Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified July 30, 2021. https://www.quotescosmos.com/quotes/Henry-Ford-quote-2.html

10: Five Tips for Success with Ad Hoc Volunteers

Volunteer continuum - consuming, promoting, creating, serving, governing

Starting in position 10, Five Tips for Success with Ad Hoc Volunteers

When I first wrote this post in 2014, Peggy Hoffman and I had recently released The Mission-Driven Volunteer. We looked at what associations were offering by way of volunteering – mostly rigidly structured committee service leading in a hierarchical way to board service, after which people were kind of pushed off the volunteering cliff – and what the data said about what people were looking for in their volunteering experiences – mostly flexible, time-and-effort limited tasks with a clear benefit to both organizational mission and to the volunteers accomplishing those tasks, with an eye towards helping associations shift more of their options for volunteers and the work those volunteers do away from the first and towards the second.

The tips all still very much hold true, things like making a specific (and personal) ask, providing clear instructions, being precise about the timeframe (both when it’s due and how much time the volunteer will need to invest), recognizing the volunteer (in a way that she values), and making the tie between the task and your association’s mission explicit.

How have things changed?

Well, we’re making headway as an industry towards being more flexible in offering ad hoc, micro, episodic, and (particularly in the past two years) virtual options for our volunteers, and in understanding, as Peggy puts it, that volunteerism isn’t a mountain you climb where, once you achieve being chair of the board, you get pushed off it never to return, but rather, it’s a continuum you move back and forth across as your own needs, availability, and interests align with those of the association you’re volunteering with.

Associations are always going to have committees – indeed, your bylaws probably require, at a minimum, a finance committee and a nominating committee (as they should).

But if you can pare back the busywork and the “we’re holding a meeting because we’re supposed to be holding a meeting” meetings and focus on work that’s appropriate for volunteers to do that will actually have a positive impact on stuff that matters to them  and to your association, you have the opportunity to create a virtuous cycle that will strengthen the network of ties binding your members and volunteers to each other and to your association.

Image credit: Peggy Hoffman, Mariner Management

Revisiting the Top Ten

I first started blogging about association management nearly 15 years ago (RIP Thanks For Playing).

When I launched Spark (TEN years ago this year!), I ported all my old blog posts over and just kept on going.

I’ve done some cleanup of those old posts, removing my Cool Technology posts (does anyone really still want to read about whatever tech was new 15 years ago? I think not), my What I’m Reading posts (man, was that a graveyard of dead links), and my Friday Top Five posts (fun when I did them, now just horribly dated).

I *still* have about 850 live posts. And that’s all good.

But it got me thinking: What about the posts that are evergreen, that people still read, that are in my all time…TOP TEN?

It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to revisit them, provide some additional context, and potentially update them. People are clearly still interested in those topics; let’s make sure the information I’m sharing is still good.

Here’s the original list:

  1. Membership 101:  The Welcome Series (2017)
  2. Strategic Planning v. Strategic Thinking (2013)
  3. Getting the Most Out of Your Consulting Partnerships (2013)
  4. Five Ways NOT to Brainstorm (2014)
  5. 10 Tips for Creating an Effective Marketing Piece (2013)
  6. Explaining Marketing to a Kid (2014)
  7. Membership 101: Exit Surveys (2018)
  8. Membership 101: Effective Renewal Cycles (2018)
  9. Why Is Membership the Only Relationship? (2013)
  10. Five Tips for Success with Ad Hoc Volunteers (2014)

One: I was clearly ON FIRE in 2013 and 2014.

Two: That Membership 101 series was a great idea.

Three: Watch this space as I share my thoughts on what’s changed and what hasn’t between the original posts and now.


Reflections After My First Time Back

Reflections After My First Time Back

This week, I attended the ASAE Technology Exploration Conference, my first in-person event since January 2020.

My MAIN takeaway was that it was very good to see friends and colleagues in the industry who, for the past two years, have appeared only as small rectangles on my computer screen. I also REALLY enjoyed presenting in person to other human beings who were in the same physical space as me. Presenting online does have its advantages, particularly if you’re presenting something highly detailed or technical where you’re going to need to follow your notes closely, but there is no substitute for being able to read the room in the room.

One of my colleagues observed that an excellent icebreaker right now would be to ask people: “What did you used to be really good at that you’ve forgotten how to do in the pandemic?”

Throughout the day, many of us were joking about not remembering how to pack (I nearly forgot to pack any socks this summer when I went on my first trip in 18 months) or dress like grownups (I remembered – only once I saw other people – that accessories are a thing, and I had neglected to include them, although I did remember all the key components: shoes, hard pants and a belt, shirt that is NOT a t-shirt, suit jacket. I even combed my hair and put on some makeup!).

But I also realized that I’m out of practice at a lot of things that are “normal” at a conference, like sitting and/or standing still for long periods of time, small talk, navigating the spaces, what I need to bring with or have on me (notebook and pen, business cards, badge ribbons).

It was also overwhelming to be around so many people for so many hours, to the point that when I walked into the post-event reception, I immediately realized that I just didn’t have it in me to keep going with standing around and shouting at people in an attempt to be heard while wearing a mask in a crowded space with a lot of background noise, and beat a hasty retreat.

And as a speaker, I realized that I’m rusty, there, too. Fortunately, my group had decided on an informal fishbowl format, and we had a spiffy printed handout to supplement the whitepaper the session was based on. But we forgot to create intro and outro slides – you know, like with the title of the session and all our contact info – and we weren’t exactly super-smooth kicking things off or transitioning from the info portion of the session to the interactive portion of the session. Yes, it *is* like riding a bicycle, and we got into a rhythm pretty quickly (it helped that we were all VERY familiar with the topic and had presented on it in virtual formats multiple times previously), but those first few minutes were a little rough.

As you’re thinking about your own association’s return to in-person events, it’s easy to get focused on what the association needs. The list is long: reg numbers, budgets, vaccine requirements, mask requirements, tech to support both in-person and virtual attendees for increasingly common hybrid events, keeping sponsors happy when in-person attendance is lower and there may be no exhibit hall, keeping people safe around food & bev, etc.

But you also need to think about what your attendees and speakers need. They may have forgotten how to conference. They may not be comfortable with things that were formerly fine (buffets, hugging, crowded receptions). They may need more space to process. They may be more focused on re-connecting with friends and colleagues than with squeezing every bit of content out of the event. They may not want, need, or value the same old same old.

You have an opportunity to do things differently, to respond to new or changing member goals and challenges, to become a vital partner in your members’ personal and professional success. Don’t waste it.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Today marks one year since DC shut down for the pandemic. I wrote a Twitter thread to memorialize that fact, and realized I should probably have written a blog post, even though it’s not very association-y. So here it is.

One year ago today, DC shut down for the pandemic.

One year ago yesterday, I went to my last in-person boxing class at Nuboxx and had my last meal in a restaurant (brunch with friends at Coconut Club at Union Market).

One year ago the day before that, I went to my last in-person dance class, a zills technique class, at Sahara Dance.

Earlier that week, I’d been to my fourth Spanish 1 class, gotten my hair cut, had lunch with another friend at Busboys & Poets in Takoma Park, and had dinner with the friends who, as of October, became our pod, at Chez Billy Sud in Georgetown.

I even had an on-site client meeting.

I had also done my last in-person tutoring session at Anne Beers Elementary School.

Two days ago, my asthmatic, over-50 spouse got the Johnson & Johnson vaccination. (I won’t even be eligible to have my number drawn in the DC vaccine lottery for another 6 weeks, but that’s OK – he was the priority.)

Some things have morphed but continued: I kept taking online Spanish classes through the end of last year and achieved my goal of the level of proficiency of your average small child.

I’ve continued to take online boxing and dance classes, and I’ve been doing once a week outdoor masked PT with my boxing coach, Donte, since July. Which has been a REAL sanity-saver.

Starting in June through when it got too cold, we met up outdoors, physically distanced, BYO food & drink with one household of friends per week. Those meet-ups *just* restarted at the end of last week, when it got so warm for a few days here in DC.

As I mentioned, our Chez Billy Sud friends became our pod in October, which meant we had friends to spend the holidays with, and it will be more than just me and my spouse celebrating my upcoming birthday.

But I haven’t had a hair cut in over a year. Good thing I had already decided that now was the time to grow in the grey, but what was supposed to be a managed, gradual process turned into a Hard Grexit.

I’ve resumed going to the dentist and kept up my visits with the doc who makes sure I’m not dying of skin cancer every six months, but I haven’t seen any other medical practitioners.

I’m doing online tutoring with an adorable and VERY energetic kindergartener from Beers now, and it’s working OK, but it’s nowhere near as effective – or as much fun – as being in person.

We get carry out once a week. It’s definitely not the same experience, but we have gotten to sample the cuisine of some previously hard-to-get-into DC restaurants and helped keep some beloved small places in business.

But we haven’t seen any members of our families (aside from each other) in person in more than a year. There are many friends in that category as well. Sure, Zoom, but we ALL know that’s not the same.

Likewise with theater and live music. We’re watching and supporting local (and non-local) companies, venues, and artists we love, but IT IS NOT THE SAME. It’s not even close.

The farthest away we’ve been is Annapolis. My luggage is DUSTY. My passport is LONELY.

Family members and friends have fallen ill from coronavirus. Some have been hospitalized. None – knock wood – has succumbed (so far).

Now I’m going to say the thing consultants are NEVER supposed to admit to anyone, no matter what: 2020 was a VERY rough year for my business.

Thankfully, Spouse is still gainfully employed and lockdown has a tendency to DRAMATICALLY reduce expenses. But still, it’s been hard.

We’ve found some good things, too: our fabulous Black-owned, woman-owned CSA, Deep Roots Farm. Baldor Specialty Foods has substantially dropped the amount of their minimum order to regular-folks-not-restaurants levels (the quantities are mostly still restaurant quantities, but that’s a story for another time). We’ve taken  MAJOR advantage of our proximity to the National Arboretum.

What’s my point? I don’t know that there is one, other than it seemed like the right time to reflect on what’s been lost, what’s changed, and what’s persisted, and to begin turning to the future as we’re hopefully nearing the end of this dark period.

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Associations Are Communities

Graffiti - let's love our community

It’s time to act like it.

Several weeks ago, when it was first becoming apparent to association executives (and everyone else) that the coronavirus pandemic was, in fact, going to be quite serious, most of the industry discussion seemed to revolve around “Do we REALLY have to cancel our conference? What about our revenue!”


Yes, it was appalling.

I do get it – many associations derive 30-50% of their annual revenue from their conference or trade show, and – at least at that time – hotels and convention centers were being utterly intransigent about negotiating. (I’m guessing they’re going to have to change their tunes. I’m also guessing a lot of lawyers are going to be quite busy litigating this for some time.)

Fortunately, we’ve all regained our senses, and conversation has shifted to various incarnations of: How can we do right by our members and broader community right now?

There’s no one answer that’s going to work for every association.

Basically everyone is cancelling or postponing any big events for at least the next several months. Some are refunding reg fees across the board, while others, looking to move events to the summer or fall, are holding onto those fees for the moment, while reassuring registrants that cancellation and refund rules will be significantly relaxed.

Many associations are standing up COVID-19 discussion groups in their online communities and making them available to the entire profession or industry, regardless of their usual practices for non-member access.

Association execs are also considering options for dues renewals, granting extensions by request, pausing renewal campaigns, or even extending everyone automatically across the board.

Staff teams are vetting ways they can support local chapters that are heavily dependent on in-person events and run by small – or no paid – staff.

One thing that seems really important to me is: Think through how the pandemic is affecting your particular profession or industry, and respond accordingly.

If your association serves any segment of the hospitality industry, this is a MASSIVE crisis. You are going to have to take drastic steps to try to help keep your industry and association afloat. That may mean suspending dues entirely for some significant period of time, drastically changing – or curtailing – the services you offer as a result, and almost definitely dipping into your reserves.

If your association serves a profession or industry that’s not being as significantly impacted, you may want to look to what you did to weather the September 11 terrorist attacks or the 2007-2008 Great Recession for clues as to what you should do now.

Some industries that are being heavily impacted are not being heavily financially impacted. Grocery stores, for instance, are doing great financially, but they are in crisis related to supply chain and staffing. Medical personnel are absolutely still hard at work and getting paid, but they are dealing with significant personal and professional stress related to fears of being overwhelmed with patients, of the need to quarantine from their families at home, and of falling ill themselves. University faculty are already facing the fact that their students are not returning this term, and K-12 teachers may be facing that in the near future. They have to adapt – quickly – to remote instruction and assessment.

Everyone is dealing with significantly disrupted day-to-day life, and uncertainty about how long it’s going to last.

Many states and localities are moving quickly to pass emergency relief legislation. The federal government will get there eventually. Your members may need guidance about what’s available to them and how to get it.

How can you repurpose staff – membership, meetings, GR, IT, professional development – to help your community with their REAL challenges right now?

If you have some members who are willing and able to get on the phone with you and have frank conversations about the pressures and worries they’re facing at the moment, CALL THEM. Right now. And then bring your team together to do their best thinking about how your association can pivot to respond to those needs, which may be VERY different from what you all normally do and provide. Your association is their community. You can help them.

Now is the time when we in the association world MUST look at the world from our members’ perspective, think carefully and empathetically about what they need from us, and respond accordingly.

Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash

Tips for Working from Home

computer, cup of coffee, glasses, on a desk

I have to caveat this by saying I can’t help you with what do to with your kids (I don’t have any myself) or with your team telework tech (it’s just me here at Spark).


I have been working for myself from my home office for nearly eight years. Here are some things that work for me, to keep me productive without letting work consume my entire life (well, at least until the times that things get REALLY busy with client work).

  • No working in your PJs. Put on pants, even if they’re yoga pants or basketball shorts. Take a shower, comb your hair, brush your teeth, make your bed. Don’t go feral 🙂
  • Dedicate a space to work. I have an actual office, as in a separate room with a door where I can close out my spouse (who also works at home full time) that’s set up with a desk and chair, my computer and printer, my file cabinets, etc. You may not be able to do that in your temporary situation, but pick a spot where you do work, which means that everywhere else in your house, you DON’T do work.
  • No snacking. You don’t have to confine yourself to “three squares,” but when you’re going to eat, close your computer, go to the kitchen, put the food on a plate, sit down and eat it, clean up, and then go back to work.
  • Leave your house once a day. I know we’re social distancing, but you can still go out in your yard for a few minutes or take a walk around the block without interacting with other people. You need sunshine to make vitamin D, so go get some.
  • Beware social media. It can be a real time suck. Do you actually need to have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. open on your computer? No? Close it down. Same thing for email. Turn off auto-notifications, set a few times throughout the day to check all that stuff, check it, then shut it down.
  • Get some exercise. That walk counts, but make sure you’re getting up and moving around periodically throughout the day, too. We tend to feel guilt or like we have to prove ourselves when working from home. “I can’t leave my computer for 10 seconds, because the way I’ll prove my dedication and that I’m not slacking off is to respond to every type of message that comes in the second it arrives.” Do you do that when you’re in the office? No, you do not. And your colleagues understand that you might be getting a cup of coffee or running a quick errand or chatting with a colleague, and it’s fine. It’s fine when you’re working from home, too. Take a 10 minute yoga (or dance, or jump rope, or squats) break.
  • Stick to your work hours, whatever they are. And with your kids at home, they might need to be something other than 9 am to 5 pm. When quittin’ time hits, QUIT. Close up/turn off your computer, put away your documents, stop checking email and Slack, leave your workspace. Maybe do something as a ritual to end your day. I often make myself a cup of tea, look at what’s coming up tomorrow, and then write in my journal.
  • DO NOT check in before bed. Also, DO NOT read the news or social media right before bed (that’s generally good advice but particularly so right now). Relatedly, take at least one day each week completely off work.
  • This one is for bosses: your staff is dealing with a lot right now. Everything is not going to be exactly like it always is (other than the fact that people aren’t in the office). Yes, productivity is likely to suffer. People are having to take care of their kids. We’re all under a lot of stress. Focus on what REALLY NEEDS to get done, and maybe let what doesn’t slide for the moment.

Regular teleworkers: What other tips do you have for people?

New teleworkers: What questions do you have for those of us with more experience? 

Leave your advice and queries in the comments! 

Photo by Djurdjica Boskovic on Unsplash

On Resolutions

Writing goals planning worksheet

It’s that time of year, when we all think about what happened last year and what we’d like to do differently in the next.

Two observations:

First, 17 years ago, I realized that “lose 10 pounds and become a better person” was a terrible resolution to make, which is why I never kept it.

So I resolved to resolve differently, choosing resolutions that are fun and about something I want to learn or try. I even wrote and performed an IGNITE session about it.

Since then, I’ve always kept my resolution, and I’ve added a bunch of fun things to my life and repertoire. I’ve seen and done a bunch of cool things. I have my motorcycle license. I know how to mix a damn fine cocktail and bake a damn fine loaf of bread. I can play poker, and I know how to box (and am starting to train to spar).

This year, I’ll be learning Spanish. Not necessarily “reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the original” Spanish, but I’m hoping to get to “conversing at a second-grade level” Spanish. Classes start in a month.

Second, taking time out to assess is critical for your career and your association, too.

Every January, even though it’s just me running Spark, I leave town for a formal business review and planning retreat. I look back at the previous year and how the business performed against the goals I set for it and for myself, thinking about and measuring what went well, what didn’t, and what I need to do differently in the coming year. I then set the goals against which I will measure myself the following year.

Organizationally, associations are perpetually short-staffed and under-resourced. Because of that, we’re bad about setting aside time to debrief, to review our efforts after a project or campaign concludes, to see where we succeeded and where we failed, think about why that happened, and document what we want to do differently next time.

(This is why, even when clients don’t opt to keep me on retainer for campaign implementation, I always include a post-campaign debrief meeting in client projects. Just call me your accountability buddy. Even if you opt to run it yourself, we are going to sit down at the end of the campaign and talk about – and document – what you learned, so you can improve the next time around.)

This “short-staffed and under-resourced” situation affects our careers, too.

Busy association execs can get so caught up in running from one fire to the next that we never stop to think about our own career goals and path. It’s important to have goals for yourself, for your own career, whether they are short term (“I’m going to attend at least one conference just for my own professional development this year – no speaking, no presenting, no committee work, just learning”), medium-term (“This year, I’m FINALLY going to earn my CAE/PMP/CMP/etc.”), or long-term (“I want to be an association CEO, so I’m going to find a current association CEO who is willing to be a sponsor for me to help me move closer to achieving that goal”).

January might not be the right time for you to do this, either personally or organizationally. But you need to find the time that works and make this a regular practice. You won’t regret it.

Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash