BadlyWrappedGiftNot all gifts come in boxes, bags and envelopes. Every person in our life is a gift. We’re not just talking about beloved friends and family members; this goes for the association leaders we’ve worked with over the years.

Many of these gifts are just what we asked for: the ones who are easily accessible, who have a plan for their association, who value and trust the staff and are comfortable in the knowledge that we’re all on the same page. We cherish these folks as we once cherished that new bike Santa left under the tree.

Then there are those whose worth is not as readily visible – like the present wrapped in wrinkled paper with too much tape, containing a sweater that’s three sizes too small. You may not think of their presence as a present.

But think again. It may take some time to see their value, but it’s there.

Dealing with problematic presidents, churlish chairs and disagreeable directors has forced us to develop the skills that make us more effective association executives. Here are a few folks you’ve most certainly met. We’ve assigned each prototype a gender, but they come in all sizes, shapes and sexes.

The Curmudgeon
This individual goes beyond seeing the glass as half-empty. He’s complaining about the quality of the beverage inside. As an association officer or board member, he focuses on what’s broken about the organization and how to fix it, instead of what’s right with it and how to make it better. His attitude has a demoralizing effect on the team and causes a breakdown in trust.

His gift to us: The gift of optimism, what else? Maybe it’s just the contrarian in us, but all that complaining sends us scrambling for the nearest window with a view of the bright side. Every complaint gives us an opening to point out, to Curmudgeon and everyone else, how far the association has come and how much it’s achieved.

ThankfulHappyPeopleThe arrival of Thanksgiving has us reflecting on the many reasons to be thankful for our involvement in association work.

We’re grateful for insight into the professions represented by the associations we work with. We’ve gained great appreciation for the skill and expertise required for our members to perform the work they do. We have grown intimately familiar with inner workings of worlds we’ll never work within ourselves, and are proud to represent people who keep our children safe, make our world beautiful, contribute to the health of our pets, make cancer patients stronger for the fight ahead, speak for the disenfranchised, move us from one place to the next and much more.

We’re grateful for what we’ve learned about how associations function. Many of us are actively involved with nonprofit organizations in our own communities. The knowledge we’ve acquired on the other side of the table has helped us be better organizers, better members and better volunteers.

We’re grateful for the opportunity to build bridges for our members – to be the ones who help them achieve their educational and professional goals.

We’re grateful for the reward that comes when you fix something that isn’t working anymore. The feeling that comes from stepping into a problematic situation and helping members get to a place where they see how they can change it is very fulfilling. The problem-solving skills we’ve gained in this line of work are ones we also find useful at home and in our personal lives.

We’re grateful for the way our association work has clarified our own career goals. Many of us came to this field from other professions. Now we can’t imagine doing anything else. We’re grateful for the variety and the unexpected in our days. In the morning, we might be assembling name badges and in the afternoon, meeting with the governor.

by Shannon Davenport and Emily Luddy

As association managers you wear a lot of different hats. Staying informed about the latest technology and its implications for your association is just par for the course, so let’s dive right into an important development coming out of the web community: free SSL certificates.

SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, is an encryption tool that provides secure communication over a computer network. The information you send over the internet such as usernames, passwords, Social Security numbers and credit card numbers, travels across the world’s computer networks until it reaches its destination. The security certificate locks up this private data, so it arrives at the destination safe and sound.

You may know more than you think about SSL certificates. Have you ever noticed web addresses that begin with “https://” and have a little padlock icon in the address bar? That means the site has a security certificate. It's a visual cue that says, “Hey, you can trust us!”

What are the implications of that for you and your members? Well, does your organization ask people to sign up for a weekly newsletter? Do you offer online registration for events? Do you collect dues payments?

Then you need a security certificate.

Historically, security certificates were pricey and required dedicated man-hours to complete the validation process. Beyond that, there were fewer companies that acted as certificate authorities, driving the cost up. This was a challenge for mom-and-pop businesses, nonprofit organizations and associations, and other small businesses with limited resources. Without a security certificate, they could not create a safe online environment for their constituents, putting them at an obvious disadvantage.

Now with advancements in technology, security certificates can be provided free of charge!