Bob Harris, CAE and Kateryna Glazkova
As the economy was faltering and associations began hurting, Ukrainian executive Kateryna Glazkova circulated a statement, “Associations are made for times like these.”
Kateryna is the executive director of the Union of Ukrainian Entrepreneurs, founded in 2016. Its purpose is to protect the interests of entrepreneurs and create a favorable business environment. UUE uses the acronym SUP in Ukrainian language.
We discussed the impact of her statement. I agree, associations have proven to be resilient through wars, politics, recessions, depressions and pandemics.
We shared what characteristics make associations strong.
Collaborative – Associations build partnerships to solve problems. SUP organized a union of regional and professional business associations, named COVID-19 Business Task Force. The purpose of the initiative is to analyzed problems and increase influence.
Member Care – In troubled times especially, members need support. We should be positioned as their indispensable partner. Listening to members, we have created new products and services. SUP launched a hotline so entrepreneurs can get advice on government lockdown and legislative changes.
Strategic – Association boards and staff are strategic, realizing the need to stay out of the weeds and avoid tactics. Plans have been made during the pandemic that reflect urgent and short-term goals. It is often said, an idea without a plan is simply a dream.
Advocacy – An association best knows the issues of their members. SUP knows the pandemic will end, lockdown will stop, and entrepreneurs will face new conditions. We are preparing proposals for the authorities addressing reforms needed to restart the economy.
Leadership – Few organizations have assembled the depth of leadership found in an association. From emerging leaders to past presidents, they step up and champion the cause when called upon.
Convenor – Many organizations are seeking answers to the same questions. Associations provide trusted platforms where others can share news and projects. “…associations have proven to be resilient through wars, politics, recessions, depressions and pandemics.”
Adept – An association has two distinct workforces. Volunteers govern, while the staff manage. The board develops governance finesse through orientation. Continuous training is the cornerstone of performance excellence for staff.
Transparency - Clear communications with state authorities, entrepreneurs and the media are a priority. We inform the government of the mood and problems of business, explain to the media the real situation, we tell members the most important news about coronavirus and how we are addressing the problem. SUP issues the Coronavirus Business Digest to advise entrepreneurs of progress and victories.
Empathy – Associations maintain close relations with members and understand their challenges. It requires flexibility. For members unable to pay dues, be ready to extend the deadline or offer waivers.
Holistic – While associations serve their members, they impact the community, economy and jobs. Associations are positioned to see the big picture and to work for the benefit of all.
Innovative – Associations are innovative, using leverage, expertise and experience to find solutions.
Resourceful – Associations are able to develop sustainable streams of income. It requires the work of committees and staff to monetize programs and deliver value. Diversity in income streams is critical.
Passionate – People are drawn to an association because they share a passion. It is rare to find such passion in any other type of organization. Volunteers dedicate time and energy; staff are known to work hard.
Visionary – Whether a new or seasoned organization, participants develop and communicate a clear vision. This vision is often the fuel for hard work. Few organizations have this combination of characteristics to survive a crisis and sustain the association.
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Note: Bob Harris, CAE, provides free governance tips and templates at www.nonprofitcenter.com. Kateryna Glazkova is the executive director of the Union of Ukrainian Entrepreneurs (SUP), in Kiev.
Guest article by Bob Harris, CAE
The executive committee met in secret, without the full board and disinviting the executive director. “I suggest we layoff all the staff immediately except for our executive,” was the motion.
A few weeks earlier this board discussed a plan. Everybody agreed that with sizable reserves they would wait to assess the situation in June.
At a different association, the executive director offered a plan to furlough some staff. The board of directors met and offered, “No, the staff team is too valuable.” They decided to keep all staff, making best use of their savings reserve.
Roles and Responsibilities
The pandemic and economic recovery pose challenges for boards of directors. Good governance remains essential.
State corporate law authorizes the board to make governance decisions on behalf of stakeholders. Trustee roles are described in the governing documents
Most boards understand their responsibilities to approve budget, protect resources, set policies and positions, and to advance a mission and strategic plan.
The exuberant executive committee firing staff without consultation with the full board and their executive, is problematic. Even in a crisis there is no reason for poor governance.
If staffing issues arise, it is likely a personnel committee will be appointed to study and make recommendations to the board of directors, with the counsel of a HR specialist or a lawyer.
Missing in Action
Another effect of the pandemic is a board that is MIA or AWOL. Understandably some volunteer leaders are focused on the survival of their businesses or jobs
In their minds they may have abdicated responsibilities to the executive director. But to drive a nonprofit organization it requires balance: governance by a board and management by the staff.
If board members are MIA or preoccupied, consider relaxing some demands so they can continue to serve.
Because of urgency, the board may need to convene more often. Plan shorter meetings to address critical issues. It may be easier to get 20 minutes for a meeting rather than an hour or two. In lengthy remote meetings it is easy to be distracted or drop off the call.
Create board agendas that address only the vital issues. Delay the ordinary reports and updates for a later meeting.
Pause the multi-year strategic plan. For now, the board should focus on immediate initiatives. Return to the strategic plan as appropriate.
Bylaws indicate the minimum number of directors needed to conduct business. If circumstances find the board lacking a quorum, do not adjourn the meeting. Document all actions to present recommendations to the full body at the next meeting for affirmation.
For maximum efficiency, the bylaws should empower the executive committee to address issues when the board cannot meet. Authorize the executive director with full management responsibilities.
Help the board adjust to technology and small screen meetings. The benefits of reading body language and casual discussions are missing, so urge everyone to turn on video screens; and mute microphones unless called upon.
Rules of Order
For groups that hire a parliamentarian and follow Roberts Rules of Order, they may have to be relaxed. Respect the chair and require motions be made and seconded, but do not let parliamentary procedure slow progress.
Agree on Vision
Set a short-term vision for buy-in by volunteers and staff. It may be, “To sustain the organization and deliver value to our members during the pandemic and economic recovery.” Create a written plan to support the vision.
Put members first. Volunteer leaders should be willing to listen, empathize, and categorize member challenges. Turn needs into opportunities and offer solutions. Members must see the organization as their indispensable partner.
Pause standing committees prescribed in the bylaws if they do not have urgency, i.e. bylaws review. Appoint quick action teams, strategic project groups and strike forces to address the challenges.
A subsidiary foundation may have reserves dedicated to education and scholarship. Approach the foundation board about expanding its mission to include pandemic and economic recovery. Consider using funds for the support of members with hardships.
Anticipate adjustments to revenue. Sponsors may not be available, events postponed and membership recruitment on the back burner. The treasurer and finance committee should prepare a contingency budget. Project income and expenses through December 2020.
Organizations usually keep a savings equal to at least half of the annual budget. The rationale is for survival for six months if a crisis occurs. Some boards call it their “rainy day fund.” Maximize best use of reserves and assets.
Circumstances may cause missed deadlines. The election process may have passed or the annual meeting postponed. Document the reasons and find other ways to conduct business. Current board members may be asked to extend their terms until an election can be held. Urge past leaders to serve in open seats or supplement board work.
The organization is not in this alone. Collaborate with organizations having similar interests. Maintain open channels of communication to exchange ideas, needs and solutions.
Organizations amass a host of activities and events. Now may be the time to analyze activities to check their alignment with mission, return on investment, and the drain on resources. Circumstances necessitate the board perform as the leadership team. Now is not the time for micromanagement, distrust or board absence.
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Note: Bob Harris, CAE, provides free governance tips and templates at www.nonprofitcenter.com.
A guest blog by Chris Mead, Magicians of Main Street
For this blog I am examining chamber executives' work to reduce PPE shortages. Feel free to "steal" any of the ideas mentioned here or to share these stories with your members. It's long, so feel free to skip around to what most excites you. I find these stories inspiring and hope you will too.
As we face the unknown with so many changes coming our way, now more than ever Chambers need to re-think an industry-wide over-reliance on in-person events to fund our organizations. It's as if W.A.C.E. President Dave Kilby had a crystal ball when he spoke at the 2019 Annual Conference about chambers transitioning from parade and party planners and evolving to leading as a 3-C Chamber. Now more than ever the COVID-19 pandemic takes chamber professionals to the economic front line of being a catalyst, convener and champion for the business community.
What should your staff focus on to make it through this storm? Be mission-driven and use the power of your Chamber's sphere of influence to convene those together virtually to dialogue about creative tasks to make it through the weeks ahead. So now is the time to find your on-line platform of choice, do some practice runs with your family to become an expert on the platform and step up to lead by virtually connecting your stakeholders. Here are some great ideas to get your chamber going:
1.) Connect with Elected Officials - take the lead to connect your community leaders, Board leaders, major employers and partner organizations with elected officials from the federal, state and local levels. Please don't just open the mic for discussion by all but prepare in advance facilitated lead in questions to make sure the time together is of most value.
2.) Ask the Experts - pick your topics and choose an energetic expert from within your region to field questions from business peers. Some timely topics now could target HR law; business funding; SBA legislation; marketing/sales during a pandemic; setting up a home office; ZOOM 101 best practices; field questions with health department or local hospital; working from home tips from an expert. The sky is literally the limit as we try to project what will be needed after this storm. Sadly, many may find themselves without employment and forced into entrepreneurism when that may not have even been on the radar last year so step it up to be the expert in connecting those wanting to start a business with available resources.
3.) Membership Meet-Ups - so your board is in a slight panic about the monthly networking event not happening now. Why not? If you have a speaker at a luncheon, the show can go on. And your members will appreciate staying connected. If you have a monthly platform for business connections, that show can go on, too. When you go virtual, the staff members control the power of the mute button so how cool is that when you can shift discussion if someone if trying to take way too much mic time?
4.) Personal Development - as people embrace working from home or even the reality of a potential short term lay-off, the traditional work schedule will shift. Think of topics that would offer personal development, those areas that many wish we knew more about but we just don't take the time to enhance skills. How about a hands on training for creative on-line tools like Canva or social media. This is a great opportunity to train small business owners who have never thought of selling on-line to transition from a brick and mortar only organization. Social media is a hot button that many small business owners know they should embrace but there never is enough time in the day to find out more about this area. Think this one threw and you can come up with many topics that your members will appreciate. And why limit this opportunity for members only? By offering to non-members, you are showing the community as a whole how we are all in this storm together and we care about all businesses that make up our community.
5.) Check on Your Members - Chamber professionals have a solid reputation for being the optimism in a community. However, now is not the time to tell your struggling small businesses that everything will be just fine, because the sad reality is that many won't be able to re-open their doors after all this lifts. Some chambers are planning targeted small group meet-ups with members where you can find out how they are truly holding up and talk about the deeper areas of concern that they are battling. This is a great opportunity to listen to your members and try and plug in ways that the chamber can help through this crisis. Many chambers held focus groups in person prior to this year . . . . why not do virtually now? Think of 10@10 (ten members at 10:00 a.m.) or 12@12 or however you wish to schedule. And target group (past board leaders of the Chamber; long-time business owners; family-owned business reps; etc. Get creative. Have fun. Go in to the meeting with a target list of lead in questions but most importantly, LISTEN to your members. These calls are not about the chamber. These calls are all about the members and will pay dividends when your chamber reaches out for renewals.
As you move forward, remember that Chambers could work in collaboration with peers in the region to offer these virtual connections as I know chamber professionals excel in the work smarter, not harder professional wins! You could do these as a ZOOM (or your preferred platform) meeting or as a Facebook Live push. Please make sure that the microphone audio of those talking is of high quality. Have a purpose for meeting. Record the content so that it is accessible for members who can't connect at your scheduled time. Let ICEA know how you are excelling with virtual connections by sending a brief e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org so that your ideas can be shared with peers.
guest blog submitted by Bob Harris, CAE
Guest blog post
"If you aren't at the table, you're on the menu."
This pretty well sums up why Chambers of Commerce should be in the business of advocacy and public policy. As
Chambers around the state have seen successes on issues like transportation, workforce development, and economic development, advocacy for Chambers of Commerce is a critical piece of helping support your local businesses.
Advocacy and public policy do not require a high-powered lobbyist or former legislator to make a real impact at the state level. Advocacy is all about being at the table and expressing the thoughts and concerns of your members. The key is being there, having a message to share that will show a positive impact for your community.
Showing up is a key piece to advocacy. Your elected officials need to hear from you. And while inviting them to events back home is great, there is something to be said for being in the hallways at the Statehouse. Legislators talk to lobbyists all the time. It's something quite different when they get a chance to hear directly from their constituents in Indianapolis. Not only are you a friendly face (most of the time...) but you're a voice that they directly represent. Programs like the ICEA Day at the Statehouse are critical opportunities to meet with your legislators on their turf. It can make all the difference in the world.
ICEA is hosting it’s 5th Annual Day at the Statehouse on Tuesday, February 11. Please make plans to attend! It’s an easy way to share your member’s and community’s story, in a way only you can tell it. And you’ll be surrounded by numerous other chamber members from around the state. It’s a great way to meet with your legislators and network with chamber members from all corners of Indiana. Get registered and find out more about Chamber Day on the ICEA website.
Submitted by Shelli Williams, IOM - ICEA President
Chances are great that the November election results will mean big changes for the local elected leadership in your community. What a great opportunity for chamber staff members to really make a bigger impact for the business community.
Over the months ahead, the chief staff rep at your chamber should make an effort to sit down individually with newly elected leaders. (It doesn't hurt to also sit down with returning leaders as well to listen and remind them of what the chamber is all about.) Take time to meet for coffee or lunch. Even if you know the person, still make the effort to meet during typical business hours to talk specifics about community issues. Find out what the core issues are that persuaded each rep to run for local office. Listen about community concerns and align how the chamber plays a key roll in tackling these problems. Ask if he/she knows what the chamber is all about. What does he/she think about the chamber? Do the new elected officials even know what business leaders want & need?
Yes, meeting individually with elected officials can be time consuming. When you ask what they think about the Chamber, some of the answers may be hard to hear depending on the past history of your organization. But the results can pay big dividends. Local officials will know more about the chamber and you will know more about the elected reps. Establishing a relationship now will help to communicate the concerns of the business community to get results and that can be a win/win for both the local officials and the chamber leadership team.
Most volunteers do not want to have a seat on the Chamber's leadership team at the time of CEO resignation. The search process can be time consuming. Many volunteer search teams want to move too quickly and run the risk of not getting the right organizational leader selected through the hiring process.
When a staffing turnover occurs is the perfect time to assess the organization. Are there partners in the community that the Chamber should consider merging with to carry forward? Some counties have multiple chambers and this could be an excellent time to see if a consolidation is in the best interest of all possible parties. Has another professional on the chamber's staff been groomed to step up to lead the helm of the organization? Often times, search teams launch a national search when there is skilled, committed talent sitting right in the Chamber's office ready for the next challenge.
Board leaders should plan in advance for any transition in leadership. Does your Chamber have a succession plan in place? ICEA has resources available on the website to assist with developing this for your team. ICEA also offers fee for service executive consultation assistance to board volunteers faced with staff turnover. These resources can be found on the ICEA website under the resources tab.
When a staffing transition happens at your Chamber, please outreach to ICEA. We will post job information and share within the weekly e-news letter at no charge for any of our member Chambers. You can reach the ICEA office at 812-871-3000 or email@example.com.
I have heard many board members state that they don't want the chamber to become 'too political'. Even Chamber staff professionals have often been overheard at conference stating that their chamber 'doesn't get into advocacy'.
So, you think your Chamber doesn't do advocacy? Think again. If you have had a seat at the table where important community decisions are discussed, that's advocacy. When you meet the mayor for coffee to discuss the business community, that's advocacy. Have you ever hosted a Third-House Session? Yes, that's advocacy too.
Taking larger steps into the advocacy arena leads to greater respect and relevance for the future of your organization. You don't have to carry the flag on issues to be effective (although your members expect the Chamber to do this). You don't have to endorse candidates (although many successful Chambers do.) To step into this arena, simple successes come by sharing resources about business related issues. Poll your business members to identify key issues or trust the appointment of a governmental affairs task force to help the Board identify the key issues. This will move your Chamber up to the next level of relevancy. Start local by hosting a State of the City or County. Host candidate forums for key elections. Arrange appointments to share dialogue with key elected officials. Be the convener for community leaders to come together for problem solving. For the state and federal level issues, tap into the resources available through our friends at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber to share hot button information on key issues through your newsletter or social media. These resources will help your Chamber to look like a superstar in providing professional resources to your local business leaders.
It's sometimes hard to lead a hesitant board into the advocacy arena but the results will be overwhelmingly positive for your Chamber once you take this step. And that's why you get paid the big bucks . . .to lead the Chamber in reaching successes that the Board cannot yet envision. Do you have suggestions on helping peers grow in this area? Post a comment below. Are you still thinking that Chamber's should not engage in advocacy? I'd love that feedback also and a chance to grab a cup of coffee to listen to your why on hesitating in this area.
Let's make great things happen in 2019. Identify the issues and position the Chamber to play a key role in problem solving. You will quickly find relevance and purpose for your business leaders to see value in the Chamber as you move toward greater successes in this area. If you need help with getting started, I'm only a phone call away.
Here is a question to think about . . . Executive Director vs. President/CEO for the staff leader of your Chamber? If you have been in this business long enough, you have heard that 'board members need to bring their business minds to the Chamber's board table' and that 'not for profit is the tax status, not the business plan, for the Chamber.' So why are so many chamber board leaders still operating the Chamber as just another community not for profit?
According to Wikipedia, nonprofit senior managers are called executive directors instead of chief executive officers “to avoid the business connotation which the latter name evokes.” A Chamber staff leader represents the diversity of businesses as members and that is what makes the Chamber stand out among the non profit network in a community. We represent business leaders and they will better relate to the title of President or CEO. Regardless of the size of your Chamber, it's time we walk the walk for the members that we represent. This may be a sticky change for a staff leader to persuade a Board to make. ICEA is only a phone call away for confidential assistance with guiding your Board. Give the ICEA Office a call at 812-871-3000 anytime you need help consider directing your Board volunteers to the Board Resources section of this website.