Getting to Know You: Implementing Volunteer Assessments

I attended a webinar, on the title of this blog post, at the recent virtual ASAE Annual Meeting.

They started off by suggesting you should get the background information, on your members, who want to volunteer so you can match them up with the best committee or task force.
Assessments help both the volunteer and staff.  Working together is key.
Put another way, getting the right people in the right seats on the bus.  Does that sound familiar?  That was a key component in the book Good to Great.
They talked about three different types of assessments (tools).
  • A getting to know you assessment – use an online survey to get their skill-set, do they like to work in a group or individually?  What do they have passion for in your program of work?  What’s their time commitment, what are their motivations that makes them want to volunteer?  For a great resource on this subject go HERE for the book Decision to Volunteer.
  • The volunteer self-assessment – they referenced IOM faculty member Bob Harris and his board self-assessment tool and other great resources that can be found HERE.  The key is to give the volunteer an opportunity to reflect on their commitment, role, experience, etc.  It allows volunteers to identify their strengths and weaknesses.  This self-assessment could be administered half-way through your volunteer’s experience and adjustments can be made if applicable.
  • Experience assessment (after a year of volunteering or end of term) – think of this as an exit survey.  This is a great opportunity to get great feedback that you can use for future interactions with your volunteers.  Find out what they liked and didn’t like about their experience.  This will make your future volunteer experiences better and your chamber a better organization.
At the end of the day, you want volunteers that are engaged and will move your agenda forward.  Be upfront with your volunteers and let them know you do these assessments to learn how you can create better volunteer experiences for those that come after them.
For resources on volunteer management go HERE.

Great Boards: Finding Them, Engaging Them, Keeping Them

The following post are my notes from a great session led by Claire Louder, Louder NonProfit Strategies, LLC, on the title of this blog.

At this year’s ACCE Summit, Claire started out her session by identifying key attributes of a good board member.  The ones that jumped out for me, include but are not limited to, strategic thinker, visionary, integrity, expertise and financial resources.

She went on to talk about where you can find good board members.  Current volunteers, donors/sponsors, other organizations, and referrals from board members. I’m a fan of identifying skill-sets the board may need; legal, finance, marketing, policy, etc.

Once you have them, support them by holding an orientation – where you can review your program of work, give them support materials and possibly find them a mentor.  Help them build relationships with current board members.

Claire went on to talk about the importance of working effectively with your board chair.  You could have an orientation just for them which is very different than what a full board orientation might look like.  They need to understand their role.  Possibly your past chair could lead this discussion with you as a participant or you could attend a program around the subject. ASAE has conducted their CEO Symposium for over 20 years now.  For more information on that series go HERE.

It is critical that the chair understands his or her role.  They need to understand the difference between the board chair and the CEO of the organization.  Do you have a Memorandum of Understanding on the role of the chair and CEO?  Go HERE for a blog post on that subject and sample document.

And by the way, that document is a great way to set an expectation on how you will communicate, set board agenda’s, etc., in the year they are chair.  Find out what works best for them and stick to the timetable they’ve set.  Respect their time!

She went on to talk about ways to engage them.  Make sure your board meetings are meaningful and timely, stick to the agenda, and use a consent agenda for general reporting items.  Use the other time to discuss any issues the chamber may be facing in the future.

For an example of a board agenda go HERE.  She suggested your strategic plan and business plan should be in your board materials at every meeting.

And her final comments were about recognizing your volunteers.  Thank them and give them credit.  It’s about them, not you!

For resources from Claire’s website go HERE.

I’m Not Interested – Overcoming Prospecting Roadblocks

Here are my notes from a great session I listened to recently led by Doug Holman with 
Holman Brothers.
He started out by saying if you want to get more members, you need to make calls.  I would add be focused, consistent and intentional.
Who & Why?

Identify the businesses to go after to join as members.  They will join if they see an advantage to joining your chamber if you can solve their problems  He talked about how small businesses need growth, visibility and credibility.  Large businesses need access, influence and resources.  As the chamber, you have the answers to all three for each category.
Tailor your pitch to each prospect (i.e., small business pitch vs big business pitch).  Do your research prior to the call.  Find a hook for each prospective business.
Prospect roadblocks are not rejections.  He mentioned the three most common roadblocks:
  1. Can you send me some information - find out what they may want out of a membership.  Ask them what keeps them up at night in their business.  This will help in your follow-up email confirmation.  And don’t forget to set-up that follow-up call to discuss the information you’ve sent.  Make the communication about them.
  2. Is this about joining the Chamber - don’t take these as negative comments.  Find out what they really mean.  Tell the truth that yes ultimately we’d like you to join but first let’s find out if we have a fit!
  3. I’m not interested - is this a reaction or a conclusion?  You might respond by saying “no problem, the chamber is not a fit for everybody.”  And then ask “do you mind if I ask one question before I let you go?”  "What is it about the chamber that has you convinced that you would never join?"
Remember, not every business is a fit for being a member.  But your job is to find the ones that will benefit from joining your chamber.
Stay focused, consistent and intentional in your membership recruitment campaigns, and then get on the phone!

Defining Your Relevance Through Advocacy

This blog post is based on a recent webinar I attended, led by Todd Murphy, former President of the 
Jefferson Chamber, Greater New Orleans region, Louisiana.
He started out by making the following statements:

How do you define your relevance?  Networking, educational events, annual festival or something seasonal?  What about advocacy?
He stated the phrase you’re familiar with “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
And he talked about some rules:  stick to policy over politics.  PAC’s are political.  You must support your business members.
He then went on to discuss defining your parameters.  They have a government committee to vet issues and then the board can approve.  What are your issues?  They will be different in every community.
He used the phrase – "think big but stay in your zone."
Be proactive vs reactive.  Build partnerships with your regional chamber, state chamber, U.S. Chamber and relevant associations (Realtors, Home Builders to name a few).  Host a quarterly meeting with your partners on issues of the day.  Bottom line, be part of the conversation to access their expertise.
As a chamber person, lead!  He talked about the idea of “get in the middle” on the issues that affect your members (permit issues, broadband, etc.).  Think infrastructure issues (roads, bridges, water, etc.).
He then pivoted to communication.
Internally:  You must educate and then advocate.  Keep your members informed through all communication vehicles.  Use committees, forums and panels to educate and get buy-in from your members.
Externally:  Communicate with your elected officials about the issues that are affecting your small business members.  These communications can either be public or private.  The key is to have an ongoing conversation with your elected officials.  Build a partnership.  You want to be in a place where they contact you to find out where the chamber stands on a specific issue.  You are never going to always agree with your elected officials.
Your relevance raises your revenue.  Think about that!  Business CEO’s will pay for your advocacy efforts.  Design sponsorships for your advocacy programs and ask a member to sponsor!
For a separate blog post on relevance go HERE.

Strategy Outside of a Plan

I recently attended a webinar led by Lowell Applebaum, Vista Cova, on the title of this blog post. Lowell is also a faculty member of Institute for Organization Management.

He started out by making the following statements.

  • Strategy – a plan of action or policy.
  • Strategy Benefits – shared vision, mission. 
  • Strategy Deficits – moment in time, these are times of change.
  • Strategic Plans – frequency should be a set of direction and goals – very different then the 5-year goals, retreats in the past.
Components of a Strategic Plan
  • History – where you came from.
  • Vision – your ideal future, ask your board what they would add, he used the term “additive listening” to create a group vision.
  • Organization Vision and Mission – why, leadership litmus test, resonance in affiliation, definition to the external world.  Always put this in front of your board at every meeting.  Use the back of your name tents to remind why your organization exists.  Vision – statement of the future, Mission – how you’re going to do it.
  • Identity – who we are and how we act.
  • Audiences – know your who.
  • Core Values – what makes you, you!
  • Core Pillars – your area of focus.
  • Unifying Vision – direction and strategy for your volunteers.
  • Operational Plan – action items to implement your strategy.
Strategy Outside the Plan
What are you doing on an ongoing basis to help the strategic plan through everyday results?  He went on to talk about implementing a “Plan Ahead Team” – a group to keep their eye on the future and trends.  Think Foresight!  I did a blog on that topic which can be found HERE.  It’s another way of saying scenario planning.
Listening as a Board Competency – he listed a number of ways you can touch base with your membership to get a pulse of what is happening in their industry, which included but not limited to, surveys, monthly calls, member visits, advisory groups, competition awareness, focus groups.
Strategic Refresh – what is your vision in the post pandemic disruption that we all have been dealing with over the past 12-18 months.  Get the right people in the room to have this discussion.  Have a plan for a quarterly update/milestones.  In 12 months, what do we want our members to say about us?
Core Audiences – who are your audiences?  Create a list.  Most will be your member’s, but you should also have a list of non-members who are your core audiences (i.e., educators, legislators, groups in your community that can’t be members, etc).
Program Impact Matrix – do you measure your programs for relevancy?  What a great way to get rid of those sacred cows.  For a blog post on that subject go HERE.  Others call this program-based budgeting, go HERE for that blog post.
Creating Space for Innovation – he talked about how we were forced to do this over the past 12 – 18 months.  But are you solidifying this for future growth?  Think risk/failure options on new programming.
Building Board Relationships – between the chief executive officer and the board is critical.  Communication is key.
Give yourself space and grace!

Marketing Basics: What You Need to Know to Set Your Marketing Plan

I recently attended a webinar by one of my favorite marketers, Melissa Harrison, Founder of Allee Creative, on the title of this blog.  She is great!

The following are my top line notes from her session.

Melissa started by asking people to think about their marketing plan in 12-month chunks.

Define your competition and value proposition.  Find out what your competition is doing and tracking it on a spreadsheet can be very helpful as you create your plan.

I’ve said it before chambers, look to your left, look to your right, the next town chamber is your competition.

Your value proposition is the answer to what makes you unique and why your members join you instead of your competition.  For a previous blog post on your value proposition go HERE.

She went on to discuss how business goals and marketing goals are two different things!  Your marketing goals help achieve your business goals.  Business goals are more revenue driven or number of new members secured.

She also talked about how you need to understand your members journey.  This is the sales funnel that everyone talks about - awareness, interest, decision, sales.

She identified 10 elements to establish your marketing plan:

  1. Overview – what are your goals and objectives for the year.
  2. Key messaging – this is your elevator speech, the short answer to who you are and what you do.
  3. Goals – revenue, new members, completing something in your strategic plan.  The goals should be clear and have metrics tied to it (numbers, timing).
  4. Target audiences and persons – understanding a potential members path to join.  They are not all the same.  Also, everyone is not a potential member.  Someone could find you through your website or through some form of social media (this is their discovery, awareness, decision process of joining).  And be mindful that these can change over time.
  5. Competitive analysis – what makes you different.  I’ve talked about the Hedgehog Theory in the past (what do you do best, what do you have passion for and where do you make money).  Where they intersect is the business you should be in.  Go HERE for that blog post.
  6. Distribution channels – think direct mail, email, social media, advertising, video, events, etc.  She suggests your website should be your “home” of your brand as well as it’s a valuable touchpoint!
  7. Budget – you need to be proactive and set an actual budget.  She shared a chart that showed most small businesses budget 7% - 8% of their overall revenue on marketing.  In addition, you need to decide how you will spend that money in the different marketing channels (i.e. advertising, video, website, print and design) you choose to reach your targeted audience.
  8. KPIs/ROI – you must track your success.  What metrics are you going to use to track that measurement?  Stay focused on the numbers.  If you don’t measure your actions, you’ll have no idea if your efforts are successful. Create a dashboard!
  9. Timeline – don’t just plan.  Do.  Give assignments and keep your team focused on the results.
  10. Supporting documents – have a list of resources you can refer to when working through your plan throughout the year.

Melissa ended with a list of tools, templates and resources you can use to execute your plan.

  • Tracking timelines – Asana, Trello, Basecamp
  • Online listening tools – Hootsuite, SproutSocial
  • Content calendars – (templates from Melissa)
  • Email marketing, CRMs, inbound software – Constant Contact, Pipedrive, HubSpot, ConvertKit
  • Graphics and copywriting – Canva, Fiverr
  • Website and analytics – WordPress, SquareSpace, Google Analytics/AdWords
  • Video Platforms – Vimeo, YouTube, Flipgrid 

She finished with a tip for success – “listen harder, focus on digital.”

Good luck in creating your marketing plan of the future.  For a copy of her slide deck go HERE.

Developing Your Board

In chapter six, of his new book Horseshoes vs Chess, Dave starts out by talking about the size of boards, and in his experience, there is no difference in a board of 25 or 75.

Some suggest the smaller the board the more efficient it can be.  Larger boards may take advantage of using an executive committee to do most of the work.

He did talk about how boards should be a representative sample of your community.


In the past, I’ve always written about getting board members with three key attributes.


  • Intellect
  • Passion
  • Money


That’s also another way of saying you want board members who can make decisions for themselves (i.e., C suite or CEO’s).


Onboarding is another critical step in having a successful and productive board.  I’m a firm believer that you should have a new board member orientation, led by the chairman, and attended by key staff members of the organization to go over the priorities of the organization and the role they play as board members.


This would also be a good time to remind them of their fiduciary responsibilities as board members as it relates to Duty of Care, Duty of Loyalty and Duty of Obedience.

Duty of Care - as a board member it is imperative that you do your homework on the board materials prior to the meeting so you can fully participate in the discussion and make informed decisions.

Duty of Loyalty - as a board member you must take your business hat off and put the hat of the organization on and do what’s best for the organization, not your business.

Duty of Obedience - as a board member you must stay true to the mission of the organization and not get involved in things that are not part of your articles of incorporation  or bylaws.

At the end of the day, set the expectations upfront, that way they will know how to respond.  For a previous post on board orientations go HERE and HERE.


Good luck!