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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the February 12, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Associations’ Key: Managing Members
Associations are not-for-profit organizations that represent
the interests of individuals with a profession or interest in common,
or of companies in a particular industry. Not so long ago, many associations
feared that they were going to be replaced by the Internet, says
Frankel, a partner with Tecker Consultants, a Trenton-based consulting
firm with many not-for-profit clients.
While no such wholesale displacement of associations occurred, associations
nevertheless are facing formidable challenges. "Membership is
down," Frankel says. Reasons include the parsimony of cash-strapped
corporations, which are increasingly unwilling to shell out for employees’
dues, and time constraints among constituents, many of whom are working
longer hours. At the same time, members are increasingly assertive
in seeking ever-greater value in exchange for the dues they pay.
Tecker is joining with Marriott and with the New Jersey Society of
Association Executives (NJSAE) in presenting a series of workshops
to help association leaders ability to respond effectively to the
demands their organizations face. Frankel leads the second seminar
in the six-seminar series, "Your Staff: How to Deliver What Members
Expect," on Friday, February 21, at 9 a.m. at the Trenton Marriott.
Other seminars, taking place about one month apart through June, include
"Your Committees: They’re Either Too Involved or Not Involved
at All," "Your Vendors: How to Engage Them to Make Our Association
a Success?" and "Yourself: What Does It Take to Keep Doing
This?" Cost: $139 per seminar. Call 732-339-9085.
Tecker, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, has six principal
partners. Frankel, a partner, joined the firm seven years ago. A resident
of West Windsor, she grew up in Maplewood, and studied history and
English at Muhlenberg College. From there, she worked on Wall Street
in tech management and then at AT&T, where she was involved in implementing
a system of Total Quality Management (TQM). Her last corporate stop
was General Instrument, where her final assignment, overseeing a mass
lay-off, convinced her that the corporate life was no longer what
At Tecker, which has academic and corporate clients as well as not-for-profits,
she travels "at least 50 to 60 percent of the time." She has
a specialty in working with healthcare organizations, but recently
has consulted with entities as diverse as Cook College and the American
Massage Therapy Association. She enjoys her clients, observing that
not-for-profits tend to have a great deal of passion for the work
they do, and she enjoys her routine.
"I feel sorry for the poor saps on my flights who get in at 2
a.m., and are talking about having to be at the office in seven more
hours," she says. While working with not-for-profits, whose boards
often are available only on weekends, involves a lot of Friday night
and Saturday work, she is free to structure the rest of the week as
she pleases, working from home if that is more convenient.
Weekend work is only one thing that sets associations apart. "In
corporations there are pretty clear lines of authority," says
Frankel. "It’s different in a not-for-profit. You have a staff
and a board." While corporations have boards also, they rarely
are as involved as are the boards of not-for-profits, whose influence
is such that, says Frankel, the staff often feels that "we are
here to serve you." To complicate things further, board turnover
in these organizations is high — often one-third to one-half a
The staff obviously must be flexible, and it also must get a lot done
with just a few people. "On average," says Frankel, "the
associations in the NJSAE have only eight staff members.
And while corporations have customers, associations have members.
These members, Frankel points out, are, in fact, customers in that
they purchase everything from seminars and workbooks to trade publications
and T-shirts. But they are also owners, because it is their dues that
funds the association. A third role members play is that of workers.
"Especially in a small setting," says Frankel, "members
run the committees. They’re responsible for doing the work." Managing
members well is a trick — and a vital task. To do so effectively,
are "mail boxes," says Frankel. They have little desire to
be involved beyond receiving a newsletter. Others are "shapers."
These members want to be in on policy and programs. Still other members
are "networkers." They are in the association primarily to
bases are not covered and that staffers are overworked. But it is
possible to over-staff, according to Frankel, who says the result
could be a feeling of disenfranchisement among those members who yearn
to be involved.
to experience more stress. "If leaders are yelling at each other,
it’s not much fun," observes Frankel. Likewise, if interminable,
badly-organized meetings lead to no discernible progress, members
may quickly decide the association is a waste of time.
results. "They want to see that real work is being done,"
on attention," says Frankel. To keep them happy — in fact,
to keep them at all — the association needs to listen carefully
to hear what they want, and then has to follow through.
and service businesses have multiple outlets serving burgers or writing
financial plans, associations have but one asset — their members.
What could be more critical than learning how best to keep them engaged
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