CEO to CEO: Innovation and Governance Expenses

Why innovation is important and how to cut expenses related with governance.

How have you cut expenses associated with your association's governance?

Being an association management firm enables us to provide full-service management and share many expenses such as rent, furnishings, technology hardware and software, and telephone and leverage the volume we do with vendors for best prices. This gives associations for which our employees serve full time an automatic cost-efficient model. It also allows us to be flexible with staff hours when associations are experiencing budget pressures by redistributing those hours to new associations that retain our services.

—Rick Cristol, President, Kellen Company, Washington, DC. Email: [email protected]

Cutting expenses for the governance of the Greater Nashville Association of Realtors has come largely through the application of technology. While we have not gone totally paperless, we have reduced print and paper costs significantly by allowing our election and member communication to be done mostly electronically. We distribute most materials electronically as attachments to email messages or postings on our website or through our Facebook page. While we do still find great value in a few printed materials, such as our annual professional development catalog, we have become much more current and efficient and significantly reduced expenses through these choices.

—Don Klein, CEO, Greater Nashville Association of Realtors, Nashville, Tennessee. Email: [email protected]

Association governance processes must be held to the same level of efficiency as all association programs. To set the example, our board reduced face-to-face meetings from four to three times a year. Our board then instituted a webinar format for its monthly teleconference meetings, enhancing the experience. The board then reduced how many of its members traveled to chapter meetings and conferences to represent the parent organization. Finally, the board established a policy that all committees meet at our annual meeting rather than independently meeting throughout the year. The board sent the message that it was willing to walk the talk in absorbing its fair share of reductions.

—Mark W. Light, CAE, CEO and Executive Director, International Association of Fire Chiefs, Fairfax, Virginia. Email: [email protected]

There are many operational areas where I have cut, and I will continue to look for ways to cut expenses for governance. However, there are a few things we have done differently. One is to have less lavish meals for board meetings. Board members noted the "lighter fare" and commented positively that it was a good way to save money and they were better able to stay awake for the trip home. We have also tried to use local speakers for the educational portion of our meeting. That includes a member of our House of Representatives, a member CEO consultant, and staff from other associations, including our national affiliate.

—John Alfano, President and CEO, LeadingAge Ohio, Columbus, Ohio. Email: [email protected]

Why is innovation important to you as CEO?

The Eye Bank Association of America is celebrating its 50th anniversary this June. While we wish to honor the past 50 years, we are committed to formulating for the next 50 years. One of our panels is called Innovations, and its charge is to honor the past, build on it, and lead into a future that will ensure the continuation of our mission and the health of our member organizations. Over the past 50 years we have introduced innovations that have transformed our membership and the constituency they serve, established our leadership, and protected our flank. What is important for EBAA benefits me as its leader.

—Patricia Aiken-O'Neil, President and CEO, Eye Bank Association of America, Washington, DC. Email: [email protected]

Even in the best of times, rote activities and repetition create stagnation. Innovative ideas in communications, advocacy, and activities stimulate my board and staff, our members, and myself. Never has it been as important to bring different approaches to associations to find alternate paths and solutions. Constantly creating generates new enthusiasm, energy, and results. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, "You can't cross the same river twice," and as a CEO, I wouldn't want to!

—Debra L. Wentz, CEO, New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc., Mercerville, New Jersey. Email: [email protected]

Thomas Edison once said, "There's a way to do it better— find it." In today's climate, organizations must continue to innovate their offerings in order to remain relevant to their customers and constituents. The competition for time and resources is so intense that if your offerings are not seen as relevant, the demand for their consumption will decline or cease. An organization that makes innovation a priority promotes a cultural environment that allows the organization to stay ahead of the curve as it relates to servicing the changing needs of their customers and constituents.

For USTA Eastern Section, trying new technology, using new media platforms, constantly delivering new value to product and service solutions, and implementing organizational realignment keeps us working effectively against our mission.

—D.A. Abrams, CAE, Executive Director and CSE, United States Tennis Association Eastern, White Plains, New York. Email: [email protected]

Innovation is important for two major reasons: cost and generational change.

Like most associations, we are learning to do things differently in order to preserve our resources. Our traditional programs were developed for the baby boomer generation, while millennials are much more comfortable with technology. In order not to seem boring to them, it was necessary that we innovate, particularly in our use of technology.

Last year at our annual conference we held a town hall meeting at which members could text their questions and comments to the officers in the front of the room. We introduced electronic voting, streamed our general sessions on the web, and used the various social media outlets. We're reaching a different audience with these innovations: the audience of our future.

—Susan B. Waters, CAE, CEO, National Association of Insurance Financial Advisors, Falls Church, Virginia. Email: [email protected]