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Practical theorist.

Practical Theorist

Derrick Crandall, CAE, doesn't just come up with ideas. He puts them into action.

Derrick A. Crandall, CAE, takes every chance he gets to enjoy the outdoors. And he believes every American should be able to do the same. That's why he devotes himself to the cause of the American Recreation Coalition, Washington, D.C., where he has been president since 1981.

Crandall is known as a man of strong opinions: He ponders issues important to the association community, theorizes on them, and more often than not makes his theories work at ARC, an organization with a $600,000 budget and six staff members.

"Derrick accomplishes a tremendous amount with very limited resources," notes Dave Humphreys, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, Reston, Virginia, and ARC's chairman of the board. "His secret is that he has the ability to be wildly creative in very practical ways."

Talking politics

One of Crandall's preeminent theories is that associations do not need political action committees to influence legislators and lawmaking. "Essentially PACs are a mechanism to buy time for communicating a message," declares Crandall. Associations--because of their depth of membership and their ability to reach out to that membership--provide themselves and their industries with alternatives to raising that money, he adds.

"Many PACs, for example, are drawn into supplying money for what are often referred to as beauty contests--those series of 30-second sound bites that battle back and forth between two candidates in expensive races," explains Crandall. "I think it's fair to say that in such a campaign, many of the issues that are important to association members are not discussed; instead, single-issue causes get the visibility.

"Associations have a great opportunity to refocus campaigns onto issues of importance to them by offering themselves as conduits of information for candidates. If you're a manufacturing association, perhaps the issue is product liability reform; if you're an individual membership group concerned with health care, maybe the issue would be the regulation of medicare or mandatory employee insurance programs. These are the kinds of issues that won't be picked up by the major networks or the print media, but are important to individual groups and communities. We can offer candidates information on them."

Crandall notes that when a candidate speaks to citizen groups, he or she needs information on issues those groups will want to discuss. Associations can provide white papers and other position documents to keep the candidate informed.

Associations can even provide forums for the candidate to speak--town meetings, business dinners, conventions, and other meetings are all examples--and the association that provides the forum will surely garner candidates' respect and attention, he adds.

Associations should keep in mind, though, that depending on the circumstances, when the public is invited to an association-sponsored event, the group may be required to extend invitations to all candidates for the office in question and it may not be possible to announce support for any particular candidate during the event.

"There are other things we can be doing as well," says Crandall, "and we have a lot of associations today being very creative in the political activity sphere. My point is that while PACs can be useful, the laws surrounding them are likely to change in the coming months, and our quivers must be full of alternative arrows."

Crandall's organization, for example, built a relationship between itself and then-Vice President George Bush by inviting him to camp and fish each year with ARC staffers and members. Staffers then wrote of their experiences with Bush in several outdoor-oriented publications. Through these encounters and articles, Bush got publicity and a link to a large segment of the population--outdoor recreators--and ARC got the chance to build a relationship with a powerful politician.

Associations may pay for trips such as those Bush made with ARC, but the politician should check to see how much he or she is allowed to receive from the group, and generally the politician must perform some type of service on the trip, such as a speech to the association's board.

Redirected honoraria are another means of creative relationship building, according to Crandall. An association might combine forces with several other associations similar in focus to hold a large joint meeting with a politician as speaker; then the associations could donate a collective contribution of up to $2,000 in his or her name to charity. The politician gets publicity for the gift, and the meeting will receive more media attention because of its greater size. Keep in mind, however, that the donation to charity must not specifically be linked to the one speaking engagement; it should reflect the politician's general helpfulness to the association.

Yet another suggestion Crandall urges associations to try is encouraging staff and members to become involved as private citizens in the management of political campaigns. Association staff, and often members as well, are trained in organizing meetings, briefings, news conferences, mailings, and other events necessary in campaigns. An association may not loan its paid staff to a campaign, but staff can certainly take unpaid leave as private citizens and retain their benefits while working on a campaign.

A side effect of such involvement is that candidates are bound to learn about your issues, says Crandall. Staff build skills they can use in the association, too. "There is a real connection between a political campaign and the kind of teamwork and emotion that go on in a successful association. In any successful organization, staff and members have to believe in their mission, their goals; they have to have definite objectives--like a particular piece of legislation or a specific trade show, for example--that they are working hard on.

"I think a lot of association executives, like candidates, feel that their work is driven by causes. I know I feel that way. I work far more than a 40-hour week, and it's because I truly believe what we're doing here at ARC is good for people and good for the nation. A campaign is going to be the same way."

Talking tomorrow

As Crandall ponders the future, he predicts associations can serve a vital role as communicators and translators, bridging gaps between government and private sources and thus facilitating good works.

"In business there is often a view of government as being the enemy, a source of continuing agony and cost," says Crandall. "Part of what associations must do in the 1990s and beyond is to help our members--whether they be firms, individuals, or cause-related groups--understand how to harness the powers of government and turn those powers toward their own concerns.

"You see, Washington is in business not to oversee everything, not to cut back resources, and not to impose taxes and fees, but rather to do something to foster change in this world," asserts Crandall.

"If the business community and the association community do not come forward with proposals for change, I think we're likely to find Congress paying attention to the other guys: those who are talking about making changes," he predicts. "Associations thus need to take a more proactive role in pointing out where their memberships can help to effect changes--I mean changes on a broader scale rather than specific government actions."

To illustrate how his theory can be put into practice, Crandall points to the recreation industry in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Recreation needs three elements to be successful, according to Crandall: people, places, and products. The people were there, wanting to relax and recreate; the products were there, produced by members of the recreation industry; but the places available to the public for recreation were dwindling, he relates.

America has one third of its total land area as public land, says Crandall, and that land is where much of the nation recreates. However, because of federal and state government cutbacks in funding for various programs and facilities, people began to find it difficult to find places to play.

ARC called for the creation of a new committee, the President's Commission on American Outdoors, to address the problem. The 15-member commission was a mixture of members of Congress, local government representatives, and recreation industry representatives--a public-private partnership.

The commission produced a blueprint for how best to make use of the nation's public lands and waters. In Crandall's view, the blueprint came down to more private sector involvement in public land areas and a more market-driven approach toward funding--people who expect to use public facilities are charged a user-fee, or excise tax.

The commission's progress, says Crandall, is an example of how an association or coalition of associations can help to change public policy significantly and move it in a more progressive direction.

"I also believe that associations of tomorrow have to be much more in tune with the way people learn and use those methods to get their messages across," declares Crandall. "We've got to move beyond the traditional publications and use electronic communications resources and audiovisuals. It's not easy or inexpensive, and you can't go into it halfway, but association members--like the world at large--learn about more things through television and other electronic devices these days than they do through print media.

"We just produced a video, as a matter of fact, that explains the Wallop-Breaux Act we worked to help pass. It features beautiful outdoor scenery, the President of the United States, and two senators, and it did not cost that much to produce."

Malcolm Wallop (R-WY) and John Breaux (D-LA) taped comments for the brief videotape, produced by ARC to publicize the use of excise taxes to provide boating safety education, improved public waterway facilities, and increased fisheries research. The taxes are levied as part of the Wallop-Breaux Act sponsored by the two senators.

"We will do a real disservice in the future if we just run associations by the book we've used in the past," says Crandall. "Some entrepreneurial style, some verve and creativity, needs to be a part of any successful association in my judgment. The association has got to keep both staff and members excited."

Talking volunteers

When it comes to keeping members and volunteers excited, Crandall shoots for the top. "I think it's important that associations strive to make themselves forums where decisions are being made about the future of the field that are significant enough to warrant top leaders' time and involvement.

"We have to make sure that when we bring top people together, we offer them the chance to be the architects of important decisions. We can't do to them what we've had others do to us at times--go to a meeting where a half-page memorandum would have given us as much information as the two-hour process of leaving our desks, traveling to the meeting, sitting through it, and coming back."

Easier said than done, you say? ARC has pulled off such a level of top volunteer involvement by creating a club of sorts. Formed in 1989, ARC's Recreation Roundtable requires in its charter that only those with the title "President" or "Chairman" for a recreation-associated business may join the group. This, explains Crandall, was ARC's way of making sure top industry leaders were involved in the coalition's decision-making and public policy efforts.

In turn, ARC makes every attempt to provide roundtable members with meaningful discussion experiences. The group meets just twice each year. At one recent gathering, a half-hour forum with President Bush was scheduled, as Crandall once again called on that carefully nurtured relationship.

"It was only supposed to be a brief meeting," recalls Crandall, "but we have some major recreation industry leaders on the roundtable, such as the president of Walt Disney Attractions and the chairman of Brunswick Corporation, so the President ended up bringing them back into the oval office, where they stayed for more than an hour. They were coming up with some legitimate ideas and were talking his language, so he enjoyed meeting with them.

"We need to continue to strive for association boards to be a prestigious place to serve, an action place for the leaders in our fields," declares Crandall. He feels the ARC Recreation Roundtable has done just that and looks forward to finding other means for positioning the ARC as an industry necessity. In other words, Crandall will continue to put theory into action, from the association board room to the great outdoors.

Amy V. Roberts is a former associate editor of Association Management.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:management style of Derrick Crandall, president of the American Recreation Coalition
Author:Roberts, Amy V.
Publication:Association Management
Date:Aug 1, 1991
Previous Article:From crisis to catharsis: special meetings bring dissident voices into democratic history - without bloodshed.
Next Article:The focus group.

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