Comments: Readers on Risk

Readers react to Beth Ziesenis' article from the 2011 Volunteer Leadership Issue, "How Much Risk is Right?"

For an association board member in an uncertain economy, the skills needed to evaluate and cope with risk are critical—hence the topic of our January 2011 Volunteer Leadership Issue cover story by Beth Zeisenis, “How Much Risk Is Right?” Here are several readers’ reactions to the story, posted as comments on the ASAE website.

Risk vs. Reward

Great article!

The other end of the risk equation is “reward.” How much risk people will take depends on their perception of the potential of a reward. Some organizations take more risks because they perceive a greater reward; some are more inclined to protect what they have and are doing. These mindsets exist in both for- and not-for-profit organizations.

Association leaders have a heavy burden in that they need to protect their organizations’ ability to carry out their mission—and the mission is much bigger than any one person. So leaders need to weigh the risk of not serving some against the reward of the pportunity to serve more.

—David McKnight, Omnipress, Madison, Wisconsin

Opportunity Costs

Many association executives continue to associate the word “risk” with the potential for loss or harm. In my view, this is a far-too-narrow approach. A “risk” is the potential for loss or gain. We need to acknowledge that risk encompasses both threats and opportunities.

When we transition to this broader (and more optimistic!) view, we have the real potential to engage the leaders of an association in a thoughtful discussion of appropriate risk taking and the association’s risk appetite.

—Melanie Lockwood Herman, Nonprofit Risk Management Center, Leesburg, Virginia

Cultivate Confidence

I commend author Beth Ziesenis and ASAE on a highly appropriate topic. Not appreciating the upside of risk taking threatens to blunt the creative energy and market opportunities for many.

Given global trends, we shall look back on the present period when those who achieved long-term sustainable growth will have done so in large part by encouraging a management culture that embraces calculated risk.

Other comments on this article correctly point out the importance of considering risk as a multiplier for expanding one’s influence and business growth.

Risk can be made to work for you. It requires a clear understanding of the market opportunity, customer need, how one’s products and/or membership can become more locally relevant, and, finally, an operational capability that aligns design, delivery, promotion, sales, and service.

I recommend Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s book Confidence, wherein she shows how managers cultivate management confidence to embrace risk and in return build strong business success over many years.

I would urge deeper exploration on how organizations can better use risk taking to their advantage.

—Peter Turner, MCI Group, Alexandria, Virginia

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