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Back to the future: the ASAE Foundation celebrates 40 years of putting the future first.

DURING THE PAST 40 YEARS, THE ASAE FOUNDATION HAS RELIED ON THE power of partnership to achieve its purpose of helping association executives and volunteers identify critical challenges facing them--both now and in the future--and preparing their organizations accordingly. Perhaps nothing exemplifies the partnership cornerstone more than the ASAE Foundation Partnership Dinner. This year's event, held on March 19 at the Hilton Washington and Towers, was the scene for honoring Jeffrey W. Raynes, CAE, executive director and COO of APICS--The Educational Society for Resource Management, and John R. Cochran, president and COO, MBNA America Bank, for their effective partnering practices and their significant contributions to the ASAE Foundation, ASAE, and the association management profession and industry.

Introducing the Visionary Award for "philanthropic involvement representing the pinnacle of public service" seemed a fitting addition to this year's event, the "Ruby Celebration," so named to tip its hat to the 40th anniversary of the foundation. Renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin S. Carson Sr., of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions was named to receive the Visionary Award. Ginger Nichols, CAE, the 2002 chair of the ASAE Foundation Board of Directors, says, "As we look to the future, we recognize a need to increase the public's understanding of the important role that associations play in society. That is why we created the visionary award to honor an individual from outside the association community--for the purpose of building bridges to a new group of people who can not only learn from associations but can serve as role models for the association community." Carson more than fills the bill, not only as a brain surgeon, but as cofounder (along with his wife, Candy) of the Carson Scholars Fund, Towson, M aryland, a nonprofit organization that fosters and funds education through scholarships awarded to students in grades 4-12.

Clearly, the dinner and all it represents has come a long way since Brian Stevens first envisioned a foundation event that might attract association executives and industry professionals who believed in the importance of the foundation's innovative research and the many partners required to support it. Stevens, president and CEO, ConferenceDirect, West Hollywood, California, says, "The dinner grew out of an event honoring William H. Edwards Sr., who had been president of Hilton for many years. The event, held in 1988 at the Palmer House in Chicago, was to benefit the ASAE Foundation and attracted 200 guests. "We had no idea that it would grow to such significance," admits Stevens. "At the time, I asked the ASAE Foundation board chair, Dave Bender [then executive director, Special Libraries Association], if he'd allow us to move forward with the dinner. He gave me $1,000 and told me to reserve a table for his association."

"The 40th anniversary," says Nichols, president, GinCommGroup, Rowlett, Texas, "reminded us to look back and celebrate how far the foundation has come in four decades. Some association foundations never fully develop their capacities, but this is not the case with the ASAE Foundation. The quality, sophistication, and credibility of its research have continually advanced and improved and now represent a unique source of knowledge for the association community to draw on."

Let's take a look back on how the foundation and its work have evolved.

An entity to advance the profession

It was in 1963 that the ASAE Board of Directors created the ASAE Foundation with the stated purpose "to advance the science of association management, to diffuse and cultivate knowledge and understanding of associations, and to uphold the high standards of associations generally." The late Samuel B. Shapiro, CAE, wrote in A Coming of Age: A History of the Profession of Association Management (1987, ASAE): "...this was to be done through lectures, seminars, and discussions, reports, maintenance of information for associations, and technical studies. The forte of the foundation since then has been concentration on technical studies and reports, with some seminars and discussions."

It was in the same year, 1963, that ASAE's quarterly Journal became a monthly magazine with a new cover design and the new name ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT. The timing of these two events was no coincidence, given the business environment of the times. James P. Low, CAE, chairman of the board, Dynamics, Great Falls, Virginia, headed the ASAE staff from 1965 until 1981. He recalls in "Fifty Years of the Association in Print," in the October 1999 issue of ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT: "the '60s and '70s were volatile years for association management. The energy crisis, OSHA, ERISA, and product liability and safety all hit the American business and professional communities. They had nowhere else to turn for help in these regulatory matters but to associations. By necessity, associations--overnight--had to become effective partners, while the association executive had to go from administrator to leader." The foundation had its work cut out for it. Two early publications reflect not only the needs of the time, but the fact t hat the foundation had its sights on the future from the very beginning. In 1973, Planning for the Future: Long-Range Planning for Associations set the stage for an ongoing forward focus, while the publication in 1979 of Managing Membership Societies: A Tax, Legal, and Financial Handbook for Officers and Executives provided critical guidance that few, if any, others could provide.

High points, turning points

By the 1980s and on into the '90s and the new millennium, the foundation gained momentum in many areas.

Building staff. While the passion of volunteers had carried the day for its first two decades, the foundation eventually needed part-time--and later fulltime--staff to help carry out the board's plans. Up until that time, recalls Roderick Geer, CAE, ASAE Foundation board chair in 1985, "ASAE Foundation leaders were the unsung heroes of ASAE, but we loved the challenge and a superior sense of volunteerism prevailed."

Geer remembers that one of the turning points for the foundation "was the board's conviction that the future did not come gently anymore. That led many of us to conclude that the foundation needed to emerge as the futuristic/research arm of ASAE." Of course, it was clear that research would require funding--and the board was off and running to take fundraising to a new level. And by 1989, there was so much activity that Ann C. Kenworthy, CAE, former deputy executive director, Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Washington, D.C., was hired as the first full-time foundation staff person and was vice president and chief operating officer until 1998. "My goal," says Kenworthy, "was to help grow the foundation's programs, which of course meant a need for greater resources. The most important observation that I made at the beginning of my tenure," Kenworthy recalls, "was that the foundation had no strategic plan in place. We had a wonderful board that was eager to move forward, very limited resources--and no clearly stated goals or roadmap to attain them. We did develop a plan, which grew and evolved to support the reality that the foundation needed to develop along two paths simultaneously: Produce useful products related to the future of associations, and secure support from the association community based on the demonstrated value of those products." Kenworthy recognized that during this time, "the board's view of its own role changed from that of research guidance to fund development--a pivotal change that made future growth possible."

Funding priorities. The foundation's early funding came from contributions or subscriptions of ASAE members and grants made by ASAE and associate member firms. By 1985, Geer says, "the big breakthrough was the proposal to the ASAE board for a challenge grant of $100,000 to be matched by member contributions. Thanks to William Taylor, CAE, ASAE's staff executive at the time, this was a turning point in our affairs and probably set the stage for future successes."

Stevens recalls that apart from the challenge grant, "fundraising for the foundation, particularly in its early stages, was more event-oriented, It was easy for a supplier, for example, to invite good clients to a reserved table and do some valuable networking at the dinner. In addition, ASAE needed to recognize a lot more people than they had vehicles to do so, and the dinner provided one such opportunity." Another event, which proved hugely popular for the foundation, was the Super Weekend. "[The late] George Kirkland [CAE, former president, L.A., Inc., The Convention and Visitors Bureau, Los Angeles] was looking for a must-attend, get-the-CEO-out-of-the-office event," says Stevens. "And the event, now known as the Five-Star Weekend [an invitation-only networking and relationship-building opportunity] was the hook."

Stevens and Richard Green, vice president, Marriott International, Washington, D.C., and the foundation's chair-elect, also put another ASAE Foundation event on the map: Club Energy (and its recently added companion event The Other Party). According to Green, "the event was based on an idea from Ed Able, CAE, president and CEO, American Association of Museums, Washington, D.C. He saw that the events during the ASAE annual meeting were not geared to younger attendees and suggested a venue where younger people could go out and dance the night away." The first Club Energy was in 1991 at the Washington Hilton and Towers in conjunction with the annual meeting. Green adds, "Now there is even greater synergy with the two events and they have become great vehicles for facilitating multigenerational support and contributions to the foundation."

By the mid-1990s, Kenworthy's vision of sustained growth for the foundation meant the need for even greater funding. Says Geer, "Garis Distelhorst [CAE, executive vice president, Marble Institute of America, Westlake, Ohio] and George Kirkland led the foundation into a new era of major fund raising focused on contributions from outside the membership. Part of that vision was the 1993-1994 capital campaign chaired by Jonathon Tisch [president and CEO, Loews Hotels, New York City]. It raised nearly $6 million mostly from suppliers; and the member campaign, chaired by Geer, came in at more than $1 million-with hundreds of pledges. Says Kenworthy, "We had a compelling case for a campaign and the right people working on it. Along with George Kirkland, Jonathon Tisch, and Garis Distelhorst, Don Riggin, Jim Evans, and a host of others got out there and worked tirelessly to make the campaign a success."

These visionary leaders saw an opportunity to create an endowment that would provide funding for ASAE Foundation programs regardless of economic conditions. As endowment pledges were paid and the endowment grew, the need for funding grew even faster. To meet this need, the Partners for the Future campaign generated another $6 million in pledges.

As far as current fundraising efforts, Green says, "We're taking another approach to complement the past capital and annual campaigns- with early success in part due to a new bundling concept that leverages donor recognition with a triad of exhibitor promotion, advertising opportunities, and foundation support.

Research and outcomes. As fundraising efforts geared up, they enabled the foundation's activities and products to also expand. In 1983, its 20th anniversary year, the ASAE Foundation conducted a survey among selected association professionals to assess the foundation's future roles and directions. The responses reflected a strong consensus that the primary mission of the ASAE Foundation should be to conduct or sponsor research into what associations can do to better prepare for the future-and John Naisbitt's Megatrends was often mentioned as a format that might be applied to associations to analyze the developments and trends crucial to the association management profession. In response to that request, Future Forces: An Association Executive's Guide to a Decade of Change and Choice, by David Pearce Snyder and Gregg Edwards, was released in 1984. Thus began the foundation's more formalized way of identifying and understanding the factors that would have an impact on associations and their leadership.

In 1985, the foundation published a different kind of work, identifying 14 highly regarded association executives and asking each to write on a topic or trend that he or she felt strongly about and that would provide insight into what the future held for their peers. The result, Future Perspectives, covered everything from "Harnessing Stress for Success," by Terry Townsend, CAE, to "Baby Boomers in the Boardroom,' by Roderick L. Geer, CAE.

In keeping with its unique approach to research and education, the foundation held its first Think Tank in 1989. Charles D. Rumbarger, CAE, chairman, Association Management Group, McLean, Virginia, was the foundation board chair at the time. "The intent," says Rumbarger, "Was to create--based on the perspectives of the meeting participants--a meaningful montage of information from which reliable trends might be extrapolated." One of the most useful features of the meeting, recalls Rumbarger, was the fact that people external to the association industry were invited--from academia, the sciences, and for-profit organizations. "We challenged our own thinking, began to agree that associations should be more entrepreneurial, and tried to identify the forces that were coming at us that would most affect our organizations." One outcome from an early Think Tank was "Perspectives on the Future of Association Trade Shows and Exhibits," by Gary LaBranche, CAE, now the president and CEO of the Association Forum of Chicag oland.

Scanning and strategic planning. Building on its view that knowledge of future trends is key to effective planning, the ASAE Foundation began to focus on another way to help associations prepare for the future: Conduct environmental scans and assist associations in performing their own. The foundation's view was that environmental scans should provide analyses of three areas: (1) the macro-environment, such as the state of the economy and the U.S. population; (2) how those issues affect associations; (3) how those issues affect the industry you serve and your members.

In light of this, the ASAE Foundation built on earlier scanning activities by conducting a series of major environmental scans, beginning with Facing the Future, in 1999. This scan addressed the importance of environmental scanning in developing a strategic plan and identified 14 trends affecting associations: leadership's role, return on investment, responsiveness, technology, change loops, revenue sources, generational issues, work force, outsourcing and co-sourcing, governance, competition and alliances, consolidation and mergers, globalization, and image building. A companion guide, Embracing the Future, was designed to assist associations in conducting their own environmental scans.

The American Dietetic Association, Chicago, was one of those associations. "When we decided to shift to a more strategic governance model, we realized we would need to conduct an environmental scan," says Ronald S. Moen, the ADA's chief executive officer. "We were impressed with the ASAB Foundation materials and thought they would provide a good model for our own scan."

Harold J. Holler, director of governance for ADA and author of the organization's environmental scan, says that the guide allowed ADA to customize its scan to meet its specific needs. "We were able to use the ASAE Foundation materials as a basis, while we also incorporated feedback from our membership," Holler says.

Because members found the 1999 scan so valuable, in 2001 the ASAE Foundation took a longer-term view, which resulted in the publication of Exploring the Future. This scan detailed seven strategic discussions that associations must have: creating meaning for your members; addressing global and local needs; expanding your organizations' diversity; fostering intergenerational synergy; developing a learning culture; improving openness and accessibility in your organization; and encouraging fluidity and flexibility in your structures and processes. This scan, along with the 1999 scan and the ASAE Foundation publication The Will to Govern Well (by Glenn H. Tecker, Jean S. Frankel, and Paul D. Meyer, CAE), provided excellent guidance to associations such as the Society of Actuaries, Schaumburg, Illinois, that were working to develop strategic plans.

"The book and the scans were invaluable." says Sarah Sanford, CAE, executive director of the Society of Actuaries, Schaumburg, Illinois, and 2001-2002 ASAE Foundation board chair. "The book provided support for my plans as I described to my board what we were trying to do. As we developed the strategic plan, the scans provided the groundwork, and allowed us to ensure that we included everything we needed to include."

Michelle Mason, CAE, vice president of research programs for the ASAE Foundation, notes also that "in 1999, the foundation made a significant shift in the way research was conducted. Rather than awarding grants to fund research, we began to identify credible research partners and commission them to conduct research on relevant issues facing associations." Mason reports that one of the key results of the new positioning is the State of Community Assessment (SOCA), a research project that led to the development of an assessment tool of the same name. Published in 2002, "SOCA," says Mason, "provides a means to measure the relationship between the connection members feel to their association and tangible indicators such as volunteerism, event participation, and technology usage."

The trends explored in these publications, along with the ongoing research, have become vital to association strategic planning today.

Translating trend analysis into hands-on tools

"There's a buzz about the work of the foundation right now that is unmatched in my experience," says Nichols. "We are releasing the newest findings from our scan work at ASAE Hawai'i 2003, placing extra emphasis on helping both association executives and supplier partners translate those findings into actionable strategy." Taking the form of afield book, "this new release," adds Mason, "will include an update on past and future trends and a model to help associations integrate the concepts into the strategic planning process.

According to Nichols, the foundation's new project with Jim Collins, author of Built to Last and Good to Great, is taking its work to a whole new level of rigor and credibility.

Richard Green, who will become the ASAE Foundation chair in August, explains that "the new work supports the foundation's goal of creating a planning process for associations that can be refreshed each year; in this way we embed the work of the foundation into the work of our association members." Green thinks that the momentum that the foundation has created is in part because "as Jim Collins would say, we've had the right people on the bus--great leadership on the board, on the task forces, and overseeing the research. We've also renewed our strategic plan by adding a third major focus area--translation and application [of the foundation's work]. This speaks to applying the research findings to real-world issues faced by associations."

ASAE's incoming board chair, Barbara Belmont, CAE, executive director, American School Food Service Association, Alexandria, Virginia, plans to incorporate the research into ASAE's strategic planning process. "Almost five years ago," says Belmont, "ASFSA executed its first strategic plan. Since that time, no organization has done a better job of performing research and gathering data on the field of association management than has the ASAE Foundation. There is no better beginning point for a board of directors moving forward with the principles of strategic governance than to carefully examine the excellent information that the foundation has successfully collected through the scanning process."

Perhaps there's no better testimony than this to demonstrate how far the ASAE Foundation has come in four decades--and the confidence that we as association executives will place in it for years to come.

RELATED ARTICLES: A Historical Snapshot

1963: ASAE Foundation established by ASAE.

Samuel B. Shapiro. CAE, and Judith Neil, CAE

* 1973: Publication of Planning for the Future: Long-Range Planning for Associations

* 1979: Publication of Managing Membership Societies: A Tax, Legal, and Financial Handbook for Officers and Executives

* 1983: The ASAE Foundation conducts survey to gather knowledge about its future role and direction.

* 1984: Staff is hired to manage the foundation on a part-time basis.

* 1984: Released Future Forces: An Executive Guide to a Decade of Change and Choice

* 1985: The foundation board agrees to focus on the future.

* 1986: The first Silent Auction is launched.

* 1988: The first ASAE Foundation Partnership Dinner takes place at the Palmer House in Chicago.

* 1989: Ann Kenworthy is hired as the first full-time foundation staff person and was vice president and chief operating officer until 1998.

* 1989: Five-Star Weekend launched.

* 1989: Glenn H. Tecker engages the attendees of the first Think Tank.

* 1991: Club Energy is launched and becomes a tradition.

* 1992: The Leadership Edge monograph series debuts: America in the 1990s: Strategic Insights for Associations released.

* 1994: The capital campaign "Endowing the Future" is launched with a goal of $5 million.

* 1995: First grants from the capital campaign are awarded.

* 1999-2000: Released Facing the Future, a comprehensive scan of the association community, and its companion guide Embracing the Future.

* 2000: Launch of the capital campaign "Partners for the Future."

* 2001: Exploring the Future is published.

* 2002: State of Community Assessment tool and The Will to Govern Well are published.

* 2003: The Ruby Celebration pays tribute to the ASAE Foundation's 40th anniversary.

Thomas C. Dolan, CAE, is president and chief executive officer of the American College of Healthcare Executives, Chicago. Dolan served as the ASAE Foundation Board Chair in 2000-2001 and is a member of the 2002-2003 ASAE Board of Directors. E-mail: tdolan@ache.org.
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Author:Dolan, Thomas C.
Publication:Association Management
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Date:Jul 1, 2003
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