Creating NPO Innovation Capacity in a Downturn

Google announced this week that they are closing down several sites and services. According to reports they are eliminating some redundant services (Google Video being a good example of that) while closing others that never performed.

Peter Drucker, in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said that the single thing that highly innovative companies had in common was that they were ruthless in killing programs, products or services that no longer created value. There is almost always a finite limit to which you can expand your capacity to add new things. The most innovative organizations, according to Drucker, free up existing resources for more valuable efforts.

This is precisely what Google is doing now.

In my experience, stopping programs is a significant challenge for a lot of non-profit organizations. Services and programs tend to come with their own built-in constituencies (that’s how many of them get created in the first place!). The ones that fail to flourish become sacred zombie cows, staggering along without truly dying yet with no hope for growth.

This recession creates an environment where those sacred zombie cows can finally be driven from the organization. Before contemplating layoffs or uniform cuts across the organization, take advantage of the disruption around us to stop doing things that no longer create value. This will allow you redirect resources to more productive programs which will create a thriving organization while others continue to struggle.

Social Media Presentation from Me in January

I am giving a webinar presentation for the Association Societies Alliance at 12 Noon Eastern on January 9, 2009. This is one of my more popular presentations in the past year: Social Media and Member Value: How to Create One with the Other.

Join David Gammel as he delves into creating value online for your members by examining one of the hottest trends on the Web: Social Media. David will take us past the hype and into pratical stategies for leveraging social media and other techniques to enhance the value you are contributing to your members and your mission.

The registration fee for this one is only $49, quite a deal!

Now is the best time to acquire new members

If you don’t take my word on it, listen to Tony Rossell:

First of all, any change prompts people to look at new opportunities and solutions. We are clearly in the midst of great change as a society.

Secondly, during times of economic uncertainly, people look for an anchor. Professionally associations can be that anchor. Think for a second, if you knew your job was in jeopardy, isn’t one of the first places you would go for help your professional association or network. That is the place to make contacts, go to job boards, attend meetings, and interact on a listserv.

Free Webinar Next Week

I am delivering a webinar next Monday at 12 noon eastern that is free with registration. The topic is “Top 10 Quickest Ways to Create Value Online” and is being hosted as part of the Avectra Academy. The content is tailored for membership organizations.

This is a great opportunity to pick up a few practical ideas with which to enhance the value of your site before the year is over. Sign up today!

Creating Member Value with Social Media

I gave a presentation a few weeks ago to the Maryland Society of Association Executive on creating member value with social media. This presentation is always very well received and I post my slides below for your perusal.

I offer professional speaking services and can tailor this presentation for your staff or leadership in keynote and workshop formats. Give me a call at +1 (410) 742-9088 If social media is on your radar and you want to maximize the value your organization creates with it.

The Brutally Honest Mission

James Gilmore, speaking on authenticity, said the following at ASAE earlier this week:

Associations today are a platform to maintain the current paradigm.

Another way of saying that: Associations are largely engines for preservation of the status quo.

I’ve seen plenty of evidence for this in my career. Despite often rather high minded and flowery missions, many groups act to preserve the interests of their members over all else. The operational behaviors of the organization reveal their true purpose.

This is not a bad thing, necessarily. However, if you are in the status quo business, why not dedicate yourself to it? Many organizations would be more effective if they were brutally honest about why they exist.

A brutally honest status quo mission would allow the organization to jettison activities that take up a lot of time and resources without any commitment to change. This would free up that energy for outcomes to which you are actually committed.

Then you can have very productive discussions, such as: what have we done to maintain the status quo today?

I am being a bit tongue in cheek with this post but I think the underlying lesson is there, related to Gilmore’s presentation. Can you “render authenticity,” accruing the benefits Gilmore says come of such an approach, if you are inauthentic about why you exist?

Social Value

Kevin Holland doesn’t care about your Twitter tweats. I’m with ya Kevin. I posted last year that the only interesting use I saw of twitter was as a mini travelogue posted by a friend traveling Cuba, using SMS to get around limited and heavily filtered internet access in the country. Now that was some compelling text written for the medium.

Any online media you publish has to provide value. The same goes for social media, where you are hoping to facilitate connections and collaboration among people. The value may be personal, professional or some mix of the two but it has to be there to maintain audience and participation.

Focusing on value is a cornerstone of how I work with clients and Kevin’s post shows very well why that is critical. It is too easy to chase after the shiny new toy instead of making a realistic assessment of the value you can create with it.

Fear of litigation is the mind killer.

Hullabaloo over social media legal issues rears its head yet again in the association world.

Here is the deal folks: if your association tends to get sued or investigated over the comments of your members or staff every few years, then sponsoring participatory media activities may enhance that risk. For everyone else, get over it.

I am not a lawyer, therefore I can actually offer common sense advice about the online world.

Your Global Web Site

Ever since a Brit invented it in Switzerland as part of a European scientific organization, the Web has been intended as a global medium.

Once your site is live, you immediately have access to a global audience that is only going to grow and diversify further in the future. I remember being amazed by the immediate flow of e-mail from around the globe that I started receiving once my name and address were listed as a resource on a new site that launched in 1995.

Yet, most organizations completely ignore the potential for addressing global audiences and their unique needs. The web is an often efficient way to grow your customer base around the world but it will only work effectively in that role if you develop a strategy for why those audiences will receive value from you.

I am speaking on this very issue Thursday at ASAE & the Center’s International Conference in Washington, DC. You can see the program agenda on their site and I have posted my session description below.

If you have any questions you would like addressed during the event, be sure to post them here or send me an e-mail at

(As an aside, with all of its global initiatives, why does ASAE give the International Conference short shrift with an anemic web presence? Seems rather short sighted to me.)

Making your Web Go World Wide: Global Web Site Strategy

The Web is a powerful vehicle for establishing and enhancing your global presence. Maximizing the contribution of your web site to your international strategy takes much more than translating a few pages of content. This session will zero in on these key issues:

  • Defining global strategy in terms of the Web
  • Common strategies and design patterns for global web sites
  • A decision framework for evaluating which approach best supports your goals

Leave this session with a clear understanding of how the Web can support your association’s international goals and how to make it happen.

Dues are not Taxes

Ben Martin recently compared membership dues to taxes. Acknowledging that Ben is engaging in a thought experiment/debate, I do think this a horribly damaging analogy.

If your members think of paying dues to you like paying a tax, you are dead meat.

If your staff consider dues income to be a tithe from the industry or field, you are also dead meat.

If everyone involved considers paying dues as exchanging money for value, then you have a healthy economic relationship, creating incentives for value-producing behavior on both sides.

Thinking of dues as taxes is a poisonous idea. Just don’t do it.