A few days ago, my oldest son Jordan shared a video with me on Facebook. Many of you probably saw it. It was about a football coach who almost never punts the football. It seems he’s done some studying and realized that statistics show it’s almost always better to “go for it” on 4th down as opposed to kicking the ball away to the opponent, and he almost always tries an on-sides kick after a score. It really highlighted a key component of my own personal philosophy about Organization Management, and I wanted to share that insight with you today.
If you’ve ever seen me speak at a conference or teach at Institute, you know I talk a LOT about the fact that Chambers and Associations should be managed more like a BUSINESS and less like a NON-PROFIT. It’s one of the reasons I’m so vocal about my dislike of the Executive Director and President of the Board job titles. It’s why I’m so passionate about killing off “sacred cows” and why I insist my clients know not only their organizations’ retention rate, but their FIRST YEAR retention rates as well. It’s why I’m so adamant about focusing on issues and advocacy instead of the transactional values we deliver like ribbon-cuttings and networking events. And it’s why I absolutely LOVED the story of Coach Kevin Kelley at Pulaski Academy in Arkansas. Let’s talk about what he’s doing and how it relates to non-profit organization management in Chambers and Associations, and MAYBE even how you can teach your MEMBERS something, as well:
- Get your team using and relying upon the information derived from your data system. Coach Kelley’s insight wouldn’t be POSSIBLE without a serious dedication to learning and knowing the numbers. His strategy didn’t evolve out of thin air. “I came across a video of a college professor where he’d analyzed three years of football games at every level, ran thousands of games through his computer. And based on all the data, he came up with the fact that he thought teams shouldn’t punt at all.” You have data available at YOUR organization as well. We may not be nearly as committed to collecting it as the professor was (are you DILIGENT about recording EVERYTHING in your CRM?) or as dedicated to studying it as Coach Kelley is (do you know your 1st year retention rate?), but it’s sitting there at our fingertips if only we insisted the entire team utilize it the way Pulaski Academy does. The era of big data is upon us, and business best practices DEMAND that we start utilizing it to its fullest potential.
- Commit to making changes. If you’re still reading this post, I have to suspect it’s because you want to improve your organization in one way or another. As MY adaptation of the old saying goes, if you keep doing what you’ve BEEN doing, you’re going to get less and less in return over time. Coach Kelley addressed that in the video when he said “We’re brainwashed in society into thinking that things are the way they’ve always been.” He also said “What do they have to lose? They’ve been doing the same things over and over and getting the same result. Why would you not try something different?” You are likely to get some pushback when you start doing things differently than how they’ve always been done in the past, but if the data suggests (and I PROMISE you, it does) that only 8-12% of your membership will ever attend your regular networking events, you CAN’T keep spending 90% or more of your time, energy, budget, email blasts and social media posts trying to get more people to show up. The results of using your data properly will show up in short order. Don’t let the naysayers get you down. “I’m NOT the gambler. When you’re doing it AGAINST the numbers, that’s when you’re a gambler.”
- GO ALL IN. Don’t be afraid to REALLY commit to the change. “We run a lot of what people would call trick plays, but we don’t even call them trick plays. They’re just a normal part of our offense and our routine and everything we do.” Change your language. Members become INVESTORS. Recruit & Retain are sales words…abandon them forever and talk about ENGAGING your investors instead. Take a page out of Danny Hearn’s book and do away with networking events that don’t work in exchange for net-GIVING events that DO. Insist on business-related job titles and descriptions (yup, I advocated for killing off the Executive Director title TWICE in one blog post…deal with it!) for your staff and your Board. Insist upon including a 3-5 minute block at the beginning of EVERY meeting you host (staff meetings, board meetings, committee meetings, networking events, parties, press conferences…EVERYTHING) with which to educate those in attendance about the things you’re doing “behind the scenes” at City Hall, County Council, the school board, the State House and in DC. Tell stories about what you’ve done to bring more jobs to your community, to increase safety in your industry, to level the playing field for ALL businesses within your footprint and never apologize for doing good work extremely well or for taking credit for the work you’ve done. “It bothers me that people think that we’re running up the score…I’m not going to let those guys tell me how to play the game if I can statistically prove that I’m right in what I’m doing.”
- KNOW you’re right! Science is a “thing”. It exists. It’s real. If you’re tracking your numbers, they’ll be accurate. If you’re digging deeper and using data that’s readily available from ASAE, ACCE and many of your own state associations, you can count on that data to be correct. Use it the way Jeff Bezos would use it at Zappos. Use it like Mark Zuckerberg would use it at Facebook. Don’t be afraid of it. Embrace it. Run with it, and watch your team run alongside you. Do the smartest things possible, do them well, and KNOW that your numbers are about to climb.
We are BUSINESS organizations; we are Association and Chamber PROFESSIONALS. It’s high time we cast off the 501(c) mentality and started ACTING like professional businesses. I’ll be cheering you on the whole way, and I sincerely hope you’ll bring me along for the journey. Let me know how it’s going and how I can help.
TO YOUR CONTINUED SUCCESS!