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Blue Ribbon Consulting

"Good Horsemanship is Built on Solid Basics...So is Good Business!"

Guidelines For Horse Association Management
By Lisa Derby Oden

Where would we all be in the horse industry without our favorite horse
association? Membership in breed, performance, or professional associations
allows us all to do more than we could do on our own. Some associations have
paid staff that assist in accomplishing organization goals. Most
associations rely on volunteers for part of the work, and many are run
entirely by volunteers. You've probably noticed that your association goes
through strong and weak periods. By taking a look at the nuts and bolts of
association management, you can assess and work to improve our own favorite.

Association survival -
The best way to insure association survival and success is to get
people to work harmoniously together over long periods of time. This is
easier said than done. Two problem areas that can disrupt this are: rules of
order and minute taking. Rules of order provide a framework to ensure that
"fairplay" is provided for all in the room; only one issue is considered at
a time; free and full discussion is provided for every proposition; minority
position(s) are heard; after discussion and vote the position of the
majority must rule. Regarding minute taking, minutes need to be concise and
to the point. They don't need to detail every single quote and who said it.
Motions made must be recorded accurately however, along with you made the
motion, who seconded, and vote outcome.
Tips for running more productive and effective meetings include:
1)Send out the agenda ahead of time - this allows others to be thinking and
preparing ahead of time. It can result in increased idea generation, broader
perspectives offered, and supporting materials/research to be included;
2) Don't send minutes to the membership until they've been approved - the
first set of minutes may not reflect the reality of the meeting and may
contain inaccuracies. You can avoid alot of "he said, she said" situations
by getting approval first.
3) Members are permitted to speak on a subject a second time only after
everybody has had a chance to speak the first time. This makes it harder for
one person to dominate a meeting. If there are shy people in attendance,
they should be asked if they have comments. They must also be allowed to
pass until the next turn if they choose. This keeps them involved so they
don't mentally check out early on in the meeting.
These actions will help your association have meetings that people keep
coming back to, rather than being discouraged, at their first attempts to
get involved.
There are warning signs that your association may be headed for
trouble. These include: organization mission and goals are ignored, lack of
leadership rotation very few years, wrong volunteers as leaders, lack of
leadership from the board of directors, organization is run by committees
instead of board of directors, duplication of roles and activities of other
organizations, lack of long-term planning, board's unwillingness to raise
funds, taking on huge projects early in organizations life, program is staff
driven, frequent staff changes, and poor handling of crisis.
If you recognize that your horse association has several of these
symptoms, it's a good time to speak with others regarding your concerns. You
can then work towards getting at the root of the problem. Remember that if
your association is having problems, it probably didn't happen over night,
but rather over a period of time. Expect that your improvements will also
require time, and that just like horse training, quick fixes don't often
stand the test of time. You may require assistance from a consultant to
conduct a survey. A survey will uncover the areas needing attention, and the
consultant can make recommendations for what areas to start working on.
Examples are: strategic planning, reviewing and renewing your mission
statement, board development, leadership and team building.
Should you hire an executive director or program manager/coordinator?
Some associations start this way, some grow into it, others remain strictly
volunteer. The obvious caveat here is that your organization needs to have
the economic capacity to maintain a professional, whether it be full-time or
part-time. The ability to hire a professional helps legitimize your
association, as well as increases your visibility.

Membership Management -
Members are the lifeblood of the organization. One of the best services
you can provide to your members is good communications. The organization
should work to constantly make improvements in this area. One way to
facilitate this is to computerize, particularly if you have over 50 members.
With your membership data on a spreadsheet or database you can easily print
out labels for newsletters, special events, and meeting notifications. You
can establish an email tree or newsletter for the members that have internet
access, and can get more exposure for your association with a website. You
can also track important information that helps you assess function,
efficiency, and direction for much of what you do. In constructing your
database include a means for tracking how much money comes in from
individual members from dues, events and activities, donations, and any
other income producing source. Track what member participates in what
activity as well.
The question of whether to distribute membership mailing lists to
people outside the organization arises frequently. Your association needs to
give this issue serious thought and develop a mailing list policy that suits
your needs. If you never make your mailing list available, you cut yourself
off and isolate yourself also. Many groups will make their lists available
to you also in a reciprocal agreement. This may be helpful for membership
growth purposes. It's wise to make your list available to selected outside
groups. You can determine whether that is: horse oriented, non-profit,
commercial, educational, youth, or some combination. Some groups deal with
this as each request arises. The most important thing is that if your group
establishes a blanket policy of "never, never, never give the mailing list,"
that you do include a mechanism for consideration of rare opportunities that
may arise. This mechanism should be a means to making a determination within
in timely fashion, rather than waiting until the annual meeting for a vote
of the entire membership.
Every organization experiences membership loss. If you have an annual
loss of your previous year membership of more than 10%, you have a problem.
You are either not serving your members and making them happy, or you need
to resolicit your members to renew. This may take up to three or more
notifications. It is easier to get past members to rejoin than it is to
recruit a new member. Conduct a membership survey every two to three years.
Be sure to include additional space for comments. This gives all members the
opportunity to provide feedback about activities, services, successes and
disappointments.

Financial Management -
Your association should produce financial statements, budgets and
analysis of statements. Timely statements are crucial. It means the
difference between being in a position to act rather than react. If you're
in the reacting position your challenge is higher, and this can be hard on
your organization. Be sure to check your state's regulations for review and
audit requirements.

Tools to "plan your work and work your plan" -
Meetings run more smoothly if you create an agenda and minutes form
that you can reproduce and use over and over. An example of items to include
follows and can be customized for your needs.
Meeting date:
Time:
Location:
Attending:
Absent:
Chair:
Top issue: can be broken down further into individual items.
Item: #1
Notes: about item 1.
Action: about item 1
Time:
Repeat format above for item #2, or proceed to issue #2.
Summary/notes for Board/Staff:
Next Meeting Date:
Time:
Location:

Another form that helps to keep your group organized is a work plan.
Both the agenda and work plan forms help clarify tasks and communication
channels and build professionalism into your organization. A sample work
plan includes the following headings:

Chairperson:
Dates that project covers:
Project Title:
Task
Timetable
Responsibility
Budget
Total

At first glance it may seem difficult to make changes in the way you have
operated. But remember this - "If you always do what you always did, you'll
always get what you always got." Your association can choose to continue to
operate as it has, or it can choose to step up a notch to greater success.

(Lisa Derby Oden has been providing business development, marketing, and
association consulting services to the horse industry since 1995. Oden is
author of "Growing Your Horse Business" and "Bang For Your Buck: Making
$ense of Marketing For Your Horse Business." She is the 1999 AHC Van Ness
Award recipient for outstanding service to the horse industry. She can be
reached at: (603)878-1694; email at Lisa@horseconsulting.com; or visit her
website at www.horseconsulting.com)


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