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Planning to get through a crisis is one thing. But planning for business after a crisis is something else entirely. It's not yet possible to accurately project or assess the economic impact of COVID-19, yet it is safe to say this is like nothing that has hit the association industry before. At MSAE, we've run and re-run end-of-year financial estimates and cash projections so many times it's dizzying. I thought some of our lessons may be insightful to you as you work through what tomorrow looks like for your association.
Take a look at your business model from a 10,000-foot view.
It's not possible to capture all of the remarkable things association leaders have done in the past week. The news feed, my Twitter roll, TV... everywhere I look, I see the difficult decisions you are making and critical leadership you are providing to your members, your teams, and society at large. If you ever doubted it before, you can hardly do so now: your members need you.
In these past ten days, the needs of your members have driven you out of bed, pulled at your core, and challenged you to think more, do more, lead more. Their need pushed you to utilize the capacity of your self and your organizations in ways that weren't previously considered. "Can we...?" "What if we...? "How can we...?" Barriers that were once onerous and formalities that seemed important have been stripped away by the driving need of your members.
Welcome to the Pajama Brigade! Whether you long desired to work from home or have come to it reluctantly - we're all in the same boat now! The following list of resources was put together by fellow members of the Pajama Brigade to smooth the transition.
NOTE: This is all fluid and we are not endorsing any of the materials below. We are saying we think they might be useful.
Work from Home Policy, Tips, Tools and Amusing Distractions
· Global Workplace Analytics - Template telecommuting policy
· Workable - Employee remote work policy template
· Business News Daily - 5 issues your company’s remote work policy should address
· Human Resources MBA - What do HR managers need to know about telecommuting and employment law?
· Wordstream - 7 things nobody told you about working remotely
· Upturn Strategies - Lessons I learned from employees about telecommuting
At a recent event, I was talking to a member about what's happening at MSAE and mentioned that I was looking forward to hearing what members had to say at the strategic planning retreat. She looked me dead in the eye and said, "What's different about this plan?" At the time, the question set me back a bit, but I knew she was right. MSAE had numerous strategic plans over the years, and, in many ways, the promises made to members in those plans went unfulfilled.
So, what is different this time?
This plan reflects a critical shift away from MSAE trying to be the sole source of association management expertise and towards MSAE as a connector of brilliant, passionate people who share their expertise. MSAE serves a lot of amazing people - the best thing we can do is get out of the way and be intentional about creating opportunities for connection, knowledge-sharing, and thought leadership to occur.
The Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE) recognizes the current COVID-19 situation and is monitoring for potential impacts on our members and associations. While the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic today and Governor Whitmer has declared a state of emergency in Michigan, it is not yet clear how these declarations will impact business, meetings, and travel. MSAE will continue to monitor the situation and keep you posted.
People seem to fall into two categories when it comes to Coronavirus: those who are prepping for doomsday and those who are frustrated by the hype. In the very least, concerns of a possible pandemic can motivate us as association professionals to take a serious look at our preparedness for a crisis.
Employee health - Sometimes, employees feel like they have to report to work even if they're not feeling well due to workload or a big project. Check-in on your association's illness policy to make sure it's flexible enough to allow for not only employee illness but also their need to provide care to children and loved ones who may need extra help. Communicate your expectations of employees to stay home if they are sick, practice proper handwashing, and be mindful of the personal space of others. Provide kleenex and hand sanitizer for employee workstations or request that employees bring in their own. Ask your cleaning service to be particularly attentive to public areas, water coolers, handrails, light switches, and doorknobs...
MSAE is building a plan to re-engage volunteers in the association. Intentionally or unintentionally, for the most part, the association stopped utilizing volunteers several years back.
The research on the "why" of volunteer programs is compelling. Volunteering improves member perceptions of the association. In study after study, ASAE found that performing even a single, simple task for an association substantially improved the volunteer's perception of the association's value...
We're working on our bylaws. Some of you may think that is the equivalent of watching paint dry, but I beg to differ. It's been just over a year since the Board of Directors committed to working through MSAE's governing documents to set the association up for success. In that time, the Board has engaged in really thoughtful exploration and dialogue around what a vibrant and relevant MSAE looks like and, equally important, what governance structures need to be in place to support it.
Central to that exploration has been asking ourselves some critical questions...
Membership. It matters, right? Lobbying, professional development, networking, discount programs...the list of association services is endless! But no matter what else we do in associations, the work always comes back to membership - understanding the membership, growing membership, serving the membership.
It was the concern most often identified by CEOs in our member survey. Given this environment of radical change, massive shifts in the industry, and changing member demographics, it only makes sense that CEOs give careful consideration to ensuring their associations remain relevant. So what is the state of membership? How are associations faring?
Over the years, I have found William Bridges' work in the area of change and transition useful because it helps me think about change in terms of the people it affects. According to Bridges, things change, but people have to transition. For change to be successful, we must tend to the transition.
It's no great secret that MSAE is in a period of change. We're reviewing every program, product, and service and weighing them against the actual value they create for members. These efforts, as well as last summer's focus groups and the survey that we sent out this week, are the prelude to a strategic planning session scheduled later this month. We are resolute in our commitment to reinventing the association. Cue change...and transition.