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Weekend Reading from Votenet: August 22, 2014

August 22, 2014 in Weekend Reading by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

Some posts that caught our attention this week…

A new school year is just around the calendar corner, so it’s a good time for political consultant Phil Van Treuren to provide “five good campaign tips to follow if you want to win your high school class presidential or student body election.” (The Campaign Workshop)

Elections are around the corner too, and Los Angeles is so desperate to increase voter turnout this year that they’re willing to pay voters. Vote in the municipal election and you could win the election lottery: $25,000. The only problem: it might not be legal. (David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times)

Giving away money is certainly better than suing voters, yet that’s what the town of Montezuma, Colorado is doing. “The town and its novice clerk have filed suit against every registered voter in the town, claiming that an election held last spring had numerous errors.” As the reporter said, “You can’t make this s(tuff) up!” (Doug Chapin, Election Academy

Tweet of the Week

Political scientist Kevin Collins shared this tweet and added a comment: “Ballots over bullets.” Amen.

When should you use a Request for Proposals (RFP)? And when is a Request for Information (RFI) a better choice? And what’s the difference? DelCor Technology Solutions has a handy checklist explaining it all. While you’re there, check out their series of posts about RFIs, RFPs and developing requirements for a system selection. (DelCor) 

Culture is the holy grail of governance, says nonprofit consultant Michael R. Vanderpool. “The best way to significantly improve governance is to change the way boards think, work, and act. In other words…to change their culture.” A really great board has a strategically focused, well-trained, active and results-oriented culture. He explains what boards need to do to develop those characteristics. (BoardSource)

Steve Drake posted the slides from a session he led at the ASAE Annual Meeting along with four other association management professionals. They shared eight case studies that illustrate a board failure and the steps taken to solve the problem. (Slideshare)

If younger members are entering your organization’s leadership ranks, either on committees or the board, you may want to read these tips for adjusting to new, young co-workers. Instead of being a grouchy curmudgeon when encountering a different style of associating and leading, the author suggests cutting Millennials some slack. (Alison Green, U.S. News & World Report)

Crowdsourcing Project of the Week

“History nerds, this is for you.” The Smithsonian is asking for volunteers to help transcribe their digital archives. The “collection is so vast that transcribing its content using its own staff could take decades.” 

This Week on Voting 2.0

 Effective communication with leadership candidates and with voters about those candidates is crucial for successful elections. The best communication plan provides voters clear choices, increases turnout in elections and can increase the number of nominees who will accept in the future. 

Join Votenet’s get-out-the-vote expert and University of Florida political scientist Charles Dahan for our webinar, Secrets to Successful Candidate Communication, on Tuesday, August 26 at 2:00 p.m. EDT. 

Members won’t commit to volunteering or leadership if they’re unsure of the consequences. What will it really be like? How much time will it take? Learn why a fear of the unknown is a barrier to leadership.

Enjoy your weekend!

boards, student elections, governance, Millennials, technology selections

Why Fear of the Unknown is a Barrier to Leadership

August 21, 2014 in Governance by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

Why don’t members want to get involved in the leadership of your association? I’m sure you can come up with some reasons, but have you ever asked them? Even if you do, will they be able to pinpoint the real reason? They might say, “I don’t have the time.” But do they have enough information to make that assumption?

In our webinar last month with Votenet’s get-out-the-vote expert and University of Florida political scientist Charles Dahan, we learned that people say “no” and don’t take action when they’re uncertain of the consequences. He told us about the results of a controlled study of ballot initiatives: when ballot language wasn’t clear, even people who would normally support the initiative voted “no.”

We’re wired to be risk-averse and fear the unknown. Members won’t volunteer for a committee if they don’t know how much time they’ll have to spend on committee responsibilities each month. They certainly won’t run for leadership positions if they’re unsure about the commitment involved. To combat those natural instincts, you need to decrease any uncertainty in the member’s mind, anticipate and answer questions, and remove any doubts.

Is the member’s perception the reality?

Members won’t volunteer, run for office or maybe even vote in elections if they perceive your organization’s operations and governance as murky or exclusive. So, it’s time to examine the member’s perceptions and the reality.

How inclusive, open and welcoming is the governing culture of your organization? Does it have connotations of an old boys’ network, clique or country club? What do members think of that culture? Are they right or wrong?

At some associations, leadership is seen as a difficult-to-break-into club. The path to leadership may follow an unofficially defined ladder that excludes members who don’t fit the standard profile. Or, members may not even know how to start on that path to leadership. Your challenge is to remove any real or perceived barriers to involvement, such as:

  • A perception that leadership is a special club that’s difficult to enter.
  • Lack of knowledge about the responsibilities and requirements of leadership positions, and whether leadership is an activity they’d like.
  • Confusion about how to start out on the path to leadership.

Pull back the curtain on leadership and governance.

If you’re want to develop and recruit more leadership candidates, you need to make leadership and governance more transparent and easily understood. First, get some facts and see what you’re up against. Ask members why they don’t get involved.

Then, dedicate a page on your website to association leadership and governance. Make sure it’s extremely easy to find.

  • Explain how decisions are made – who makes them and when they’re made.
  • Provide descriptions of the nomination process and leadership positions, including responsibilities and requirements.
  • Show the flow of authority, for example, the relationships between officers, executive committee, board of directors, committees and task forces.
  • Explain how the members of those groups got into those positions, for example, were they appointed or elected, and by whom.
  • Publish blog posts, videos or podcasts of members discussing their leadership experience, including their first year as a leader.

If you have some members on the leadership hook, but they’re still not ready to make the commitment, give them the information they need to make the best decision.

  • Provide opportunities for prospective leadership candidates to have a conversation, Q&A session or meet-up with leaders in person, online or via conference calls.
  • Offer them the opportunity to shadow a leader at a board or business meeting.
  • Create a discussion group in your online community where questions about the nomination process and life as an association leader can be answered.

Focus on the positive and transformational impact of association leadership. Make it easy for members to say “yes” to leadership and committee involvement by removing any uncertainties and fears about how that commitment will change their lives.

barriers to association volunteering leadership

Photo by William Welch/Flickr CC

Webinar: Secrets to Successful Candidate Communication

August 19, 2014 in Webinar by Jenn Barton, Marketing Director

One of the biggest election challenges for associations, according to our most recent benchmark survey, is recruiting leadership candidates. That’s why we’re focusing on candidates this summer in our Summer Candidate Webinar Series.

We want to help you save your time and sanity, and be as effective as possible in your interactions and communications with leadership candidates – from pre-nomination to post-election. Join Votenet’s get-out-the-vote expert and University of Florida political scientist Charles Dahan and our CEO Mike Tuteur for a candidate crash-course this summer!

Successful elections require active candidates and campaigns that provide voters with clear choices. Effective communication with candidates is crucial – it offers voters clearer choices, increases turnout in elections and can increase the number of nominees who will accept in the future. 

In part 2 of our Summer Candidate Series, Secrets to Successful Candidate Communication, you will learn how to:

  • Adopt clear, simple and tested best practices to collect information from candidates that is useful to your voters. 
  • Ensure your candidates comfortably and successfully navigate the entire election event.
  • Create contrasts and comparisons between candidates to increase voter participation and help voters make decisions. 
  • Facilitate fairer elections with all candidates having an opportunity to present themselves in a standardized fashion. 
  • Increase your pool of candidates in future elections by simplifying the candidate management process.

Here are the details for your calendar:

What: Votenet webinar, Secrets to Successful Candidate Communication, part 2 of our Summer Candidate Series

When: Next Tuesday, August 26 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern

Who: Votenet’s get-out-the-vote expert and University of Florida political scientist Charles Dahan and Votenet CEO Mike Tuteur

Where: GoToWebinar

How: Register here, please.

I hope you’ll join us!

Secrets to Successful Candidate Communication

Photo by Kelly Hunter/Flickr CC license


Weekend Reading from Votenet: August 15, 2014

August 15, 2014 in Weekend Reading by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

Here are our favorite posts this week about voter participation, crowdsourced decision-making, organizational democracy, fan voting, transparency, voter mobilization, executive committees and boards.

UK’s Labour Party has a new website where citizens can vote digital policy ideas up or down, like Reddit. Unfortunately, participation so far is pitiful. The two most popular ideas are “stop spying on us” and electronic voting. (Labour Digital)

People may be apathetic about politics but they’re not about wine. Washington state winery Columbia Crest is allowing fans to vote on dozens of wine-making decisions for a new crowdsourced wine — a special release of their Cabernet Sauvignon. Last week, fans voted to remove grapes from the vine that hadn’t reached full maturity so the harvested fruit would have a more concentrated flavor. This week, the winery wants to know whether to irrigate. You have until 11:00 a.m. Eastern today to participate in that decision. (Columbia Crest)

SPARC, a software firm, is using its own technology to solicit employee input for corporate planning, hiring for cultural fit and kicking off happy hour. Employees are “asked to suggest goals for the company–and those are rolled up through the organization…The leadership team pour(s) over all that feedback and incorporate(s) the dominant themes into the company’s annual plan.” And about that happy hour — they use a homegrown app to let them know when it’s okay to start tapping the company’s beer kegs! (Leigh Buchanan, Inc.)

Boldest Tweet of the Week

This isn’t a tactic that we’ve ever recommended, but I guess some groups will do whatever it takes to get out the vote.

voter participation, crowdsourced decision-making, organizational democracy, fan voting, transparency, voter mobilization, executive committees and boards

When you give people a vote about an issue or awards, don’t play tricks on them. Don’t act as if the voters are making the ultimate decision and then make the decision yourselves behind their backs. That’s what the Teen Choice Awards did. One of their award recipients said he was told he was the winner six days before fan voting ended. When the news got out, Twitter erupted. One teen tweeted: “#TeensDontHaveAChoiceAwards next year no one should vote. Absolutely no one, and let’s see how they’re going to pick the winners.” That hashtag soon became a trending topic on Twitter. (Laura Rosenfeld, Tech Times)

Environmentalists in Alaska are using behavioral science to prevent littering. “One of the things that’s fundamental to human nature is that we imitate the actions of those around us,” said Robert Cialdini, emeritus professor of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University and author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. “People are likely to do what they think is expected of them. It’s about norms and expectations…Change these, and you’ll change people’s behavior.” To learn how to use this tactic to mobilize voters, see our post on leveraging social norms. (Vivian Wagner, The Atlantic)

Should you place limits on your executive committee’s authority? Takagi points out some of the negative implications of an executive committee taking action on behalf of a board in between board meetings, a common practice at many associations. He explains how to appropriately distribute authority between the two groups. (Gene Takagi, Nonprofit Law Blog)

Is your board dysfunctional, functional, responsible or exceptional? Governance consultant Michael Daigneault believes most credit union boards are at the functional level. He describes how any membership organization can move its governance from functional to exceptional and some of the common barriers to getting there. He recommends developing “robust governance committees; task forces with charters; plus policies and procedures to onboard, develop, and educate team members.” (Credit Union Executives Society)

To figure out where your board might be on Daigneault’s scale, see the descriptions in this supplemental article as well as Daigneault’s fact sheet, Developing an Exceptional Board.

This Week on Voting 2.0

Get the 411 on your leadership nominees. Revise your nomination forms so you can find out what your member voters really need to know.

Enjoy your weekend!

voter participation, crowdsourced decision-making, organizational democracy, fan voting, transparency, voter mobilization, executive committees and boards

Harvest time
(photo by Hahn Family Vineyards/Flickr CC license)

Get the 411 on Your Leadership Nominees

August 12, 2014 in Governance by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

Completing an application isn’t on anyone’s list of enjoyable things to do. But in the case of members who are interested in being nominated or who have been nominated for a leadership position, a nomination application is a critical part of the process.

Even if only one member has been nominated for a leadership position, you should have her complete a nomination application. What if everyone knows her already? Doesn’t matter.

Anyone who’s nominated for an elected position – officer, board or any other elected office – should submit an application prior to being reviewed by the nominating committee. The application gives the nominating committee the information they need to make the best selections for the organization’s needs. Plus, nomination applications provide the information voters need to know about the candidates on the ballot, even if there’s only one candidate per position on the slate.

Nomination applications also level the playing field. Everyone follows the same procedure and provides the same information to the nominating committee and voters. Applications help to make the nominating process transparent.

What do you need to know about prospective nominees?

You want to be sure that prospective nominees have the competencies or skills needed to govern your association and lead it into the future. The information you seek will depend on your organization’s needs, governance structure and culture, but here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Resume, CV or PDF of their LinkedIn profile
  • Description of any volunteer service for your organization and other organizations, as well as governing, leadership and executive roles they’ve held in other organizations – How will that experience help the organization achieve its goals and advance its mission?
  • Candidate bio for the ballot – Specify a word limit
  • Photo for the ballot
  • Existing volunteer commitments for other organizations

Many organizations go beyond the basics so they can get an idea about what the candidate can bring to the organization.

  • Candidate statement – Why they wish to lead or help lead the organization? What’s their motivation? Why they would make a good leader
  • Description of their experience in strategy development and execution and how that experience will help advance the organization’s strategic objectives
  • How will they help the organization achieve its strategic goals and fulfill its mission? What would be priorities for them? Framing the “priority” question in the context of existing strategic goals will help prevent new leaders dragging new “legacy” projects into the office.
  • What would you like your legacy to be at the end of your term?
  • Describe the skills and strengths they will bring to leadership. The nominating committee may not be aware of their background and experience.
  • How would you balance the needs of both the professional and vendor members of the association?
  • Ask them to address any critical issues your industry or profession is facing.

What does the member need to know about the leadership position?

Information needs to flow both ways during the nomination process. Include the roles and responsibilities of the leadership position on the nomination application. Explain the legal responsibilities (duty of care, loyalty and obedience) of the position. Describe the time commitment involved, meeting attendance required, travel expectations, and any other factors which may not be readily apparent to members.

Make sure the prospective nominee is able to take on the responsibilities of the position.

  • Ask if they can commit the time necessary to serve in the position. Can they be available at short notice for calls? For travel? Can they respond to emails in a timely manner?
  • Do they have the financial resources required for travel, if expenses are not covered by your organization?
  • Do they have the freedom to work on and travel for association business or do they need the approval of a supervisor? Has the supervisor agreed to these commitments?

What do you have to ask even if you think you know the answer?

You have to be sure that ugly skeletons aren’t going to creep out of the closet at the worst possible moment, so you should ask these questions.

  • Have they ever been found to have violated the ethical code or are they under investigation for an alleged ethical violation by any professional association to which they belong?
  • Have they ever been convicted of a felony, or convicted of a misdemeanor which might relate to the responsibilities of the position for which they have been nominated?
  • Are they involved in any relationships, personal, professional or otherwise directly or indirectly, which may raise a potential conflict of interest regarding their service to the organization?
  • Do they have any contractual or financial relationship with the organization?

For more ideas, check out the samples of nomination documents on the ASAE website (members-only).

We’re focusing on candidates all summer long. Join us for our next two webinars in our Summer Candidate Series.

Secrets to Successful Candidate Communication on Tuesday, August 26 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern

Present Your Candidates Fairly & Favorably to Voters on Thursday, September 4 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern

leadership candidate nomination application form

Photo by Kyle Van Horn/Flickr CC license


Weekend Reading from Votenet: August 8, 2014

August 8, 2014 in Weekend Reading by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

Here are our favorite posts this week about mobilizing voters, crowd-sourced cinema, online voting, uplifting marketing, culture of giving, board failures and misperceptions about Millennials.

This 2-minute video is awesome. A Tunisian get-out-the-vote campaign put up an attention-seizing billboard. Watch the dramatic change in people’s reactions. Did you think a riot was about to break out? Wild. (Engagement Citoyen, YouTube)

Ever wish you could get your local cinema to screen a particular film? In the UK, people-powered cinema has arrived thanks to the Ourscreen platform. Pick a film you want to watch, select a participating cinema, invite friends or the public to attend, and if enough people reserve a seat, you get your screening. (Sophie Curtis, The Telegraph)

The debate over online voting in U.S. elections has advocates on both sides, but “a powerful new force has joined the fight: people with disabilities, insisting that using electronic ballots from their homes ought to be seen as a right guaranteed by the Americans With Disabilities Act.” (Steve Friess, Aljazeera America)

Our favorite tweet of the week…

mobilizing voters, crowd-sourced cinema, online voting, uplifting marketing, culture of giving, board failures and misperceptions about Millennials

Are you weary of manipulative charity marketing? “You know the sad-eyed children, slowed-down pop ballads and sombre voice-overs informing us how nobody cares.” New research suggests images like these contribute to negative perceptions of the charities that use them. Our study of political and behavioral science research shows that positive messages are more likely to motivate people than negative messages that induce shame. Ask members and voters to “join the crowd” or “make a difference” instead of guilting them. (Natalie Nezhati, New Internationalist)

If you’re going to the ASAE Annual Meeting this weekend, don’t miss Adam Grant’s keynote. Before you go, read these “tips from Adam Grant on how to ensure that you’re creating a culture of giving in your own organization.” (Kristin Clarke, Associations Now)

In preparation for a session at the ASAE Annual Meeting, Steve Drake surveyed 140 association executives on why board fails. Here are the top three reasons: 

  • The board is too focused on operational or tactical matters, as opposed to strategic issues.
  • Board members fail to understand the role of the board vs. the role of the CEO and staff.
  • The board or its leadership development committee fails to vet board candidates in terms of competencies, ability to serve and support for the mission of the association.

See the other seven reasons for failing boards on his blog. (SCD Group)

What do you do with a lousy, non-performing board member? Can you fire him or her? You bet, says consultant Simone Joyaux – and I’d add, make sure anything you do complies with your bylaws. She suggests steps to take and preventive practices too. Her final advice: “Aim to ‘enhance attrition’ first. The goal is to help the board member recognize that he isn’t fulfilling his obligations – and apparently cannot.” (Bloomerang)

Chris Ostendorf looks at the sources of some common misperceptions and new research about Millennials. He says, “Now seems like a good time to stop trying to figure Millennials out altogether, and let them determine their collective (and more importantly, their individual) identities for themselves. After all, there’ll always be a new generation to define just around the corner.” (The Daily Dot)

Crowd Vote of the Week

The championship round of the 2014 Mascot Mania is down to 14 contenders. Is your favorite minor league baseball mascot one of them? I like the look of Barley, mascot of the Hillsboro Hops in Oregon.

This Week on Voting 2.0

Help your members blaze new paths to leadership. Check out our ideas on alternatives to getting members involved only through committee service.

Enjoy your weekend!

mobilizing voters, crowd-sourced cinema, online voting, uplifting marketing, culture of giving, board failures and misperceptions about Millennials

Barley, mascot of the Hillsboro Hops
(photo by Bill Lowry/CC license)


Blaze New Paths to Leadership

August 6, 2014 in Governance by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

If you had the magical ability to get to know each of your members, you would discover your association is a community full of talents. Yet these strategic assets often go untapped unless you develop a variety of ways for members to contribute those talents.

Although the traditional path to leadership goes through committees, not all members are interested in committee service, especially when they’re first getting involved in the association. Committee service can be too demanding for personal schedules. Plus, some members may have had bad experiences serving on committees and don’t have any desire to try it again.

Encourage micro-volunteering.

Micro-volunteering – ad hoc or episodic volunteering – only requires a commitment of an hour or so here and there. It’s a great way to give members a taste of association involvement without overwhelming them with responsibilities.

Your association probably has dozens if not hundreds of ways that members can contribute a small amount of their time and talent. Every department and committee should spend an hour or two identifying meaningful micro-volunteering options – tasks that can be done in person or from afar. Create a list and market these opportunities.

Revamp traditional committee service.

Make it easy for those who are looking into involvement. Publicize committee meeting times, locations and agendas on your website. Publicly encourage members to attend a meeting if they’re interested. Take the mystery out of governance. People won’t accept your call to volunteering if there’s any uncertainty about the next step and beyond.

The personal ask is the most effective way to recruit a volunteer — passive calls for volunteers are the least effective. When a member is asked to help, be ready with a few options, so they can choose the one that’s best for them.

Cultivate evangelical leaders and volunteers, those with social capital, who will personally ask others to get involved, and who can testify about the benefits of their volunteer service.

Your leaders and staff must be able to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” Don’t sell volunteering. Instead listen to what members need and provide them solutions, i.e., volunteer opportunities that will help them grow, learn, meet others, or whatever they want to achieve.

Keep in touch with volunteers who step out of their roles temporarily due to other commitments. Let them know they are missed and will be welcomed back in any capacity.

Change what it means to be a leader.

Too often association leaders become martyrs who take on way too much work and burn out way too quickly. Martyrs are a liability for your organization not a blessing. They stand in the way of others who want to have a taste of leadership. Your association will never run out work to accomplish; there’s enough for anyone who wishes to participate.

Conduct ongoing training for officers, board directors and committee chairs on how to break up and delegate tasks, make meetings meaningful and enjoyable, and recruit volunteers who will share the work with them.

Focus on transformational involvement.

Consider appointing a Community Officer as part of your leadership team whose main responsibility is to develop and retain a corps of volunteers. This is an ideal role for the incoming president. Just as you need to focus on your budget and reserves to ensure the financial health of your association, so too do you need to focus on your volunteer corps and reserves.

Give volunteers something to take back to the office. Everyone wants the opportunity to give, learn and grow – to transform into a better version of themselves. Volunteering at your association can be a way to do that, and for many of them, it may be their only way. Remember how important it is to provide those opportunities — the benefits of volunteering.

Deepen the reach of leadership development programs. Don’t limit training to officers and directors. Start by inviting any member who leads a committee, team or project. If you can, open it up to other members who have expressed an interest in future leadership. Consider partnering with other organizations so you can share resources and expenses.

Don’t think about the leadership path the same way you always have. Your future leaders may decide to take a different route to leadership than your existing leaders did. Provide the training they need to lead but let them blossom in their own way.

new paths to associaiton leadership volunteering

Photo by Kenneth Casper/Flickr CC license