Designing Strategy for Sustainability

The following blog post are my notes from a recent webinar I attended sponsored by Institute for Organization Management with Dr. Steve Swafford and Dr. Jill McCrory of Leadership Outfitters.

The session was focused on designing a strategy for sustainability for yourself, staff, leadership/volunteers and organization.

They started out by asking the question, what is your chamber’s greatest strength?  The sample of responses from participants:

  • Storytelling
  • Mission minded
  • Advocacy
  • Relationships
  • Communication
  • Community builder

Then they turned and led a discussion on focusing on strengths.


Yourself – pay attention to yourself because the team is paying attention to you.


Staff – identify your staff’s strengths through Clifton or other aptitude tests, do some team assessment and get the right people in the right seats.


Leadership/Volunteers – what are the leaders best at?  What are their aspirations?


Organization – do you have a clear vision and mission?  Where are you going, why?  Do you have clear achievable goals?  How will you get there?


They then talked about the SOAR Framework, a twist on the SWOT analysis, that most folks are familiar with, and how you should look at your staff leadership and organization through this SOAR lens as a tool to maximize performance in the areas mentioned above.


Strengths – what do you do well?  What are you excellent at?


Opportunities – what are the opportunities here?  Even those not in your control.


Aspirations – what do you aspire to become or do?


Results – what are the measurable results and outcomes?


To me, the SOAR Framework is very much like the Hedgehog Theory in the book Good to Great – which asks the following three questions:

  1. What do you have passion for?
  2. What are you the best at or can you be the best at?
  3. Where do you make money?

Where those three intersect, that is the business you should be in.

They also talked about strategic leadership and the three components they feel make up that process – strategic thinking, strategic acting, strategic influencing.  What possibilities can you see?  Maximize your strengths.


They pivoted to address the question, what’s coming down the track – change catalysts?


They have identified four big areas that organizations are dealing with - you don’t want to get hit by the train!  The key is to be proactive before you see the trains light.  You need to anticipate what’s on the horizon for your organization in these areas.

  1. Virtual and tech
  2. Social and cultural
  3. Legislative and regulatory
  4. Financial and economics

I did a recent blog post on Foresight that addresses this concept.  Go HERE for that post!

For more resources on strategy for chambers and associations from Steve and Jill go HERE.

Ten Purposeful Provocations for Association Boards in 2021

I recently attended a webinar on the subject of this blog post by Executive Advisor, ForesightFirst, Jeff De Cagna.

Jeff is always thought provoking in his presentations and his insights are worth discussion as we navigate the new order of our organizations in these unprecedented times.

He segmented his presentation into three areas:

Where are we at this moment?

  • Turbulent Twenties (T20s)
  • No new normal, we have to adapt to the new way of doing business.  The pandemic has changed the way we do business and we must change our thinking moving forward, as we serve our members.
  • Uncertainty, volatility and risk is the new “discontinuous next.”
  • Finding a balance between the short-term and long-term for our organizations, think the next quarter vs the next decade.

Ten Provocations for Boards

1.  Embrace voluntary service – it is a high privilege to serve on a board, it’s a choice to serve the long-term stewardship of an organization;

2.  Capacity over comfort – continue to look at building capacity in our organizations versus thinking about just being comfortable.  The future will have uncomfortable times for boards and the decisions they will need to make;

3.  Discard orthodox beliefs – everything we think about is grounded in history and that has changed.  We have to base the future on the now and not the past.  Don’t let orthodoxy capture our thinking going forward;

4.  End inequities – build diversity in your boards, move to picking key stakeholders who may or may not be part of your membership (an orthodoxy is that all board members must be members of the organization);

5.  Pursue stewardship with intention – leaving systems in better shape than what they inherited;

6.  Focus on governing – ensure the organization knows what it is trying to accomplish.  Focus on outcomes;

7.  Stand up for the future – ask different questions with an eye towards the future (i.e., again think decades not the next quarter).

8.  Step back from strategy – stay out of the weeds and bring in younger stake-holders;

9.  Reject ideological division – reject the divisions on our boards and in our communities and focus on what is good overall for our organizations; and

10. Sacrifice for their successors – long-term shared interest for the members of the organization for when board members are long gone.

What are we going to do differently this year?

  • Don’t wait to act on the new way of thinking in these turbulent times on your boards and organizations.
  • Reinvent the work of your boards.  What can we do differently?  Your boards need to ask the question, where are we going, not where are we or where we’ve been?
  • Build a high-performance board to thrive in the turbulent T20s.

He ended his presentation with his favorite quote from Barbara Jordan – “For all of its uncertainty, we cannot flee the future.

For resources on Jeff and his work go HERE.

Energizing Virtual Meetings: No More ZZZZZ’s

I recently attended a great session on conducting productive virtual meetings by Joyce Weiss, training and development specialist and an Institute for Organization Management faculty member.

She started with the following statement – “It’s all about engagement!”

She talked about how it’s important to get people on camera, don’t let them do other things, like “shampooing the cat,” a real-life example she gave.

She talked about a study that stated that 86% of attendees were fully engaged, as good as face-to-face meetings, if the following five rules are followed.

5 Rules for Online Meetings:

  • The 60 Second Rule – use a statistic or story to let participants understand the content immediately.
  • The Responsibility Rule – set the tone that participants are not observers and the session will be participatory.
  • The Nowhere to Hide Rule – use break out rooms and give clear and special tasks to let everyone know their role.
  • The Power Point NO Overload Rule – mix facts and stories and use minimal slides unless it’s a webinar.
  • The 4 Minute Rule – never go longer than 4 minutes without giving the group an activity (write a comment in the chat function, stand up, reflect on your presentation).

She went on and gave us 4 Tips for Setting Your Virtual Agenda:

Openers – never be boring!  Start with an informal opening by asking a question, let people know what to expect and allow them to get comfortable for the session.  Start with a statistic or story.

Revisit – go back to previous comments and tie them in to help retention of information.  It allows participants to write things down and stay involved!

Energizers – tools you can use to get folks involved, ask a question and make them stand up, go to a breakout room, two opposing views.  Or have a controlled stretch break.


Closers – action plan to tie it all together and leave time to allow for celebration.  People need to leave feeling good about themselves.  And don’t forget to give them a challenge!


For more information on Joyce Weiss and her work go HERE.

Strategic Planning - Better Strategic Plans

Bob Harris, CAE, an Institute for Organization Management faculty member, always delivers great content and this blog post is based on his recent virtual session at an ACCE program.

He started out by talking about the 5 things a Strategic Plan does:

  1. Guides the Board of Directors;
  2. Aligns your committees;
  3. Empowers your staff;
  4. Communicates value to your members; and
  5. Drop programs that are no longer needed.

Bob suggested naming your next strategic plan - Vision 2025 or Vision 2030.  He went on to ask the question, "is your mission statement and strategic plan in your board members hands?"  If not, create something they can carry in their wallet.  Less is more!


He talked about the 5 top documents of an organization:

  1. Mission - purpose for existence;
  2. Articles of Incorporation - relationship to state government;
  3. Bylaws - relationship with members;
  4. Policies - interpretation of the governing documents; and
  5. Strategic Plan - roadmap for the organization.  Keep it tight, maybe 3 - 6 goals, 3 strategies/tactics per goal?  Some chambers are turning their strategic plan into their membership brochure.  Think info graphic!

Bob went on to talk about best practices in creating your strategic plan: 

  • Set the expectations upfront on what to expect in the process and what the outcome will be and the timetable (hopefully no more than 5 hours);
  • Hire a third party to facilitate the process.  Maybe a chamber CEO from a nearby city;
  • Use story boarding for the process;
  • Include both board and senior staff;
  • Conduct every 3 years;
  • Due diligence - survey members on your program of work as a starting point for your facilitator; and
  • Strategic plan goals should be on your board agenda at every meeting.

For a resource on strategic planning go HERE. And go to Bob’s website for his two new books HERE.

How to Use Content Calendars to Win the Content Game

I recently attended a great webinar by Melissa Harrison, Allee Creative, LLC that I wanted to share on this blog concerning winning the content game.

If you’re responsible for delivering content for your chamber, you’ll definitely want to access the slide deck for templates and examples of her discussion.

The following comments are based on my notes and I want to focus on three of the five areas of her presentation, creating one sheets, content calendar’s and third-party resources.

One Sheets

Create a calendar for each month to track holidays, etc., speaking engagements, blog posts going live or other campaigns and industry topics for the month.  In addition, source future ideas from staff for future content (think of it as a call for content).

Her slide deck has an example of an actual One Sheet of a fictional entity.  Create One Sheets for all 12 months of the year and add as needed throughout the year.

Content Calendar Templates

This is where you actually plan each action on a schedule.  I’ve always said it’s important to be consistent in your schedules for posting content in your different platforms where you’re posting your content for your members.

Again, the slide deck has templates for content calendars for your blog, email marketing and social media actions.  These templates go into great detail on tracking your content and actions depending on the channel you’re in (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc).  Great examples!

Third-party Resources

While she talked about many resources (which are included on the slide deck), I wanted to focus on three she mentioned, since they’re free.  I love free!

She said Pexel and Pixaby are two sites you can go to for free photos for your website.  She also mentioned Canva as a great tool for creating images to showcase you content.

You can access her slide deck HERE.

Good luck in winning the content game!

Governance: Balanced Boards

There are a lot of books and articles on the subject of this blog title and I’d like to highlight the ideas put forth by Glenn Tecker at Tecker International LLC, in a slide deck he recently shared with the association community.

He starts out by talking about the 3 key attributes you should look for when identifying potential new board members.


Skill set – marketing, lobbying, legal, finance, fundraising, etc.?


Diversity – this would include but not limited to generations, geographic, industry sector, gender, ethnic, etc.?


Experience – what experience do they have in the community, working on a board and knowing the work of the chamber?


The slide deck included a list of the “Six Key Attributes of Board Members.”  This list below is verbatim from his slide deck (Copyright 2020 Tecker International LLC).

  • The ability to think strategically and analytically and to effectively communicate thoughts and the reasons for them.
  • Possession of earned respect of other key stakeholder group members.
  • The ability to work well with others as a member of a collaborative group with group decision-making authority and an understanding of the fiduciary duties of loyalty, care, and obedience.
  • A demonstrated understanding of the differences between “oversight” and “supervision.”
  • An earned reputation for emotional maturity, personal integrity, and honesty.
  • A demonstrated familiarity with the body of knowledge related to both the process for which the group is responsible as well as the substantive content of the subject area within which decisions are choices will have to be made.

I wrote about the Duty of Care, Duty of Loyalty and Duty of Obedience of board members in a previous blog post that can be found HERE.


I’ve also talked about creating job descriptions for potential board members in previous blog posts.  Have you thought about creating a set of interview questions to ask your prospective new board members?  This is where you may want to go back to the skill set and attributes comments above for specific examples.


Remember, these new board members will be with the organization for the next six years, if you’re like most chambers who have two year terms renewable for three terms, and picking the right ones is key to your and your organizations success!

For more resources on board governance go HERE.

Connecting with People on Facebook

I attended a fascinating webinar presented by Jannelle Watson with Facebook.

The following are my notes from her session.

She separated her discussion into four different areas; the basics, the tools, content strategy and resources.

The Basics

  • You need to be on a Facebook page not a profile
  • 218 M active every month
  • 166 M return every day
  • 156 M use Facebook on mobile every day
  • 90% of discovery happens on mobile.  Optimize for mobile.
  • Use simple vertical images and graphics, and remember, less is more! 
  • Ensure page security.  Set strong passwords, two-factor authentication.

 The Tools

  • Comment moderation.  Comment policy, profanity filter and page moderation.
  • Facebook Live - most engagement.  10x the comments while Live.
  • Live Premieres - schedule and debut on-demand videos as Live moments.
  • Facebook Groups - you can tie it to your page.  A great resource to continue conversations with select attendees.
  • Events - tool used to promote your events.
  • Messenger - send important messages to your subscribers or use to set auto responses.
  • Messenger Rooms
  • Stories - show your personality.  You’re at the top tray when your people sign into Facebook.  You can use it to interact with your members.  Remember, your story goes away after 24 hours.
  • Facebook and IG ads - paid advertisements vs organic reach. 

Content Strategy

What Works?  Make sure it’s authentic, interactive, timely and consistent and varied.

  • Authentic - make it feel personal and a connection to the community;
  • Interactive - answer questions from your members, go Live, like and reply to comments and tag other pages;
  • Timely - discuss hot topics, breaking new (i.e. press releases or program deadlines) and write quality long-form content.  This can be cut and segmented and promoted on Twitter; and
  • Consistent and varied - develop a content calendar (for a previous blog post on that subject go HERE), post regularly, aim for daily posts and use a variety of post types, photos, videos, stories, links and Facebook live.


  • Google Facebook Resources
  • Fundraising tool for 501 c3’s only
  • Facebook speakers are free
  • Facebook Live Producer
  • - has everything she talked about
  • Facebook Help

Great tips to take advantage of this social media platform.