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The change factor.

In 1980 the average member of the American Industrial Arts Association taught woodworking, metalworking, or simply shop class. One membership benefit was receiving the association journal Man, Society, and Technology.

Times have changed.

Today that same organization is known as the International Technology Education Association, Reston, Virginia, and has members who teach everything from computer-aided design to robotics to space exploration. ITEA still publishes a journal, although it's now titled The Technology Teacher.

The association's transformation, which occurred between 1982 and 1985, reflected a tremendous reorganization within the industrial arts field as well as new approaches to education. ITEA's leaders looked at what was happening around them, looked ahead, and took some risks in reshaping the association's identity and activities. Today the association would be in deep trouble - or nonexistent - had its leaders not learned to manage the process of change.

As a volunteer leader, you play an important role in your association. You may have worked throughout your entire career to reach this coveted leadership position. Now, more work awaits; to ensure that your association operates effectively, you must understand how to create positive, ongoing change.

Associations, like people, grow and learned at different rates, have different experiences, and acquire diverse self-concepts and public images. Successful associations have leaders who evaluate the present in light of the future, embrace error as they acknowledge and grapple with great uncertainty, and remain open to change in commitments and directions.

The bottom line

No factor in association leadership is more important than the organization's financial health. Whether your association has 8,000 members or 88,000 members, every decision you make has serious financial ramifications. A swift decision that owes more to emotion than to serious study of investments, revenue sources, and expenditures can result in financial difficulties that linger for years.

In the 1960s, for example, one association created life memberships as a means of generating much-needed revenue. Nearly 2,000 life memberships, which carried no age minimum, sold for as little as $50 each. To make matters worse, the board of directors dipped into the reserves generated by the life memberships, rather than drawing off the interest. The association was in financial trouble when it made the membership decision, yet the quick fix of offering life memberships has cost the association countless dollars in membership revenue over the years.

Often, associations must deal with "heart throb" issues - projects or causes everyone would like to support but that require a serious financial commitment. Such issues can be dangerous because empathy for the issue can overshadow the decision-making process.

Recently, leaders of ITEA came under pressure to lower the dues for student members. The regular members, who are teachers, were ready to vote yes because they support what's good for students. The elected leaders, however, took a businesslike approach and pointed out that the association already loses money providing services to student members. ITEA devised a solution to minimize financial issues while providing service to this important segment.

Another national association was not as businesslike when it looked for ways to support its regional affiliates. Board members voted to return a high percentage of dues revenues to the regional groups when those memberships were sold at regional conferences. The national association now has a gaping hole in its budget.

Associations have a tendency to become overly dependent on income from selected profit centers. Just one bad year for convention attendance or publication sales or membership renewals can seriously cripple an association. As a volunteer leader - and as a businessperson - you must constantly search for opportunities to diversify the association's income. Often the new market or idea is very evident but requires your participation to be put into action. Volunteer leaders at ITEA, for example, discovered they could obtain copies of technology-related presentations given around the country and around the world. Those presentations, along with curriculum materials, speeches, and videotapes, now form a valuable technology bank and are available for members to purchase. The need for information has turned into a valuable resource for the profession and generates income for the association as well.

All eyes and ears

Think of yourself not only as a trendsetter but as a trend watcher. Trends that start at the regional or state level often influence what occurs at the national level. Be on the lookout, therefore, for changes in membership demographics, government programs, company personnel, grants, and funding sources - or any other area that involves the business of the association. Whenever possible, clip newspaper and magazine articles, videotape relevant television programs, and obtain statistics and research results.

ITEA's leaders have been keeping close watch on enrollment figures at the colleges and universities that grant degrees in secondary technology education. The numbers have fallen, so the association already knows it must look beyond the tradional pipeline for members in the future. ITEA has drawn up plans to attract more elementary and middle school teachers as members, acknowledging that the association's services must change dramatically as a result of the change in members.

Your ability to recognize members' needs and changing patters is the key to creating positive change for your association. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), Reston, Virginia, for example, always considered its annual exhibit educational, not promotional, and therefore banned selling on the exhibit floor. Last year, however, the association lifted its long-standing ban against selling, because so many members requested the opportunity to make purchases. The elected leaders listened to the members' comments and acted accordingly.

You are the eyes and ears of your association. You are well-positioned to spot patterns and developments before they are noticed by the association's staff. Don't assume the headquarters staff already has all of the information you've gathered through your own network of contacts and sources. By keeping an information loop going, volunteers and staff can act together on behalf of the association.

A world view

Thanks to increasingly sophisticated transportation and communication systems, an association's information loop can easily include colleagues around the world. With the immense changes in governments taking place today, associations can expect increased activity with people in other countries, broader perspectives on issues, and a move toward international standards and guidelines.

The age of having an international perspective as an association has arrived. With it come changes and challenges in philosophy, culture, services, and activities. An association can internationalize in two ways. One, you may expand your membership to include people in other countries. Second, your association may adopt a focus that is international even if the membership is not.

Why would it benefit members to become involved internationally?

What degree of involvement is necessary? Once you've answered these questions, you can begin planning the types of programs, publications, meetings, and other activities that will address the goals of the association. You might, for example, feature speakers from other countries on your convention program or send study teams to investigate manufacturing techniques, training programs, or testing methods.

Two years ago, volunteers leaders traveling abroad returned with an interesting project - publishing a U.S. version of a Russian magazine titled Quantum. The magazine, aimed at talented mathematics and science students, has no American counterpart, so NCTM along with the National Science Teachers Association, Washington, D.C., and the American Association of Physics Teachers, College Park, Maryland, saw the opportunity to fill an educational void. NCTM checks the English translations of the Russian articles for accuracy and often adds articles from other countries' magazines.

Increasing your association's international involvement is no different from exploring any other new market. It takes time, dedication, and a sound plan of action. As your members' awareness and interest in foreign affairs increase, seizing international opportunities may well enhance the long-term effectiveness of your association.

Demographic repercussions

Closer to home, shifts in the U.S. population and cultural developments are rearranging association demographics. Perhaps the growth of the Sunbelt states has affected your association's meetings or education schedule. Some associations were once predominately male but now find more women are prospective members. Minorities are another growing group that has often not been well-served by associations.

To stay current and up-to-date, your association must reflect what's happening among the general population. When appointing committees or selecting participants for a panel, for instance, make an effort to balance minorities, genders, and even the geographic areas represented. Explore ways to involve these members in the association and nurture them to take on leadership positions. ITEA annually recognizes one outstanding teacher from each state or province, then moves quickly to involve the prospective leaders on committees.

Change and public image

Whether it's actively recruiting minority leaders or tackling new projects, change may mean controversy. NCTM began developing standards for mathematics education in the early 1980s, when national standards remained a taboo term among the state and local officials who controlled educational requirements. The five-year project began at the committee level, championed by volunteer leaders who foresaw the necessity for national standards in a society that increasingly depends on quality math and science education. The standards project that once raised eyebrows now draws accolades.

If your association plays it safe and doensn't take a stand on an issue, it runs the risk of becoming known as an organization that is not going anywhere. On the other hand, a little controversy - channeled in a positive direction - can actually increase membership and participation.

When ITEA shed its old identity, board members figured they would lose half of the members - the "old time" industrial arts teachers who didn't want anything to change. Instead, membership increased slightly, partly out of curiosity at the new approach and partly out of professional need. Like most people, your members don't want to spend time with a loser; they'd rather belong to an association that is going somewhere - an association that makes them feel good about themselves.

Associations constantly position themselves in the minds of their publics and their members. This image evolves as a result of planning activities that move the association toward its goals. What, for example, is your association doing to influence its industry or profession? Where will additional work gain the most results? Do members perceive their association as active, organized, forward thinking, and in tune with their needs? Is your association recognized as a leader outside its particular industry or profession?

The association's image starts with you and expands in direct proportion to the drive, organization, and enthusiasm you display. The members expect you to develop organized plans that strive for excellence, to represent them effectively in front of outside groups, and to exhibit strong commitments and work ethics. Upon perceiving these qualities in their leaders, members work harder to make their industry or profession outstanding. In short, leadership excellence begets member excellence.

During your term, you can keep your association and your industry or profession on the move by managing change and empowering your colleagues in the process. The degree of change will depend upon the situation, timing, finances, political considerations, and a host of other factors. There are no magic formulas, just astute and informed decision making.

Navigating the Seas of Change

In your industry or profession, changes may take the form of newly enacted legislation, standards setting, advances in technology, or shifts in population and consumer habits. Inevitably, those changes wash over your association as well. To help your association ride the next wave of change, rather than become engulfed by it, consider some of the following actions: * Develop or revise goals and objectives. Whether it's called a strategic plan, a professional improvement plan, or simply long-range objectives, a written document to guide association activities is invaluable.

Look upon your association's plan as a dynamic instrument, not as something that is written once and then put on a shelf to gather dust. Even your association's mission statement may change over the years, in response to events or as a catalyst for action. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Reston, Virginia, revises its goals and objectives every two years when its new elected president takes office; the International Technology Education Association, Reston, Virginia, favors an overall five-year plan, with up-dates and revisions made annually at the committee level. * Survey members frequently. Solicit comments from members whenever the association plans to try something new. The results - whether gathered through informal discussions or formal survey instruments - may mean the difference between an informed decision and an emotional one. * Revise the committee structure. Committees imply a long-term, ongoing charge and financial commitment; also, it's difficult to abolish a committee without hurting someone's feelings. Task forces, on the other hand, have a shorter life span and require less of a time commitment from volunteers. By using task forces, an association can provide more leadership opportunities while controlling meeting costs. * Take advantage of telecommunication. If your association offers electronic mail, bulletin boards, fax networks, or informational data bases, learn to use the services. You'll not only set a good example for members who might be struggling with the new technology but also save time by not playing telephone tag with staff and other volunteers. * Encourage interaction. Build in time for brainstorming during meetings, retreats, and conferences. This provides an opportunity for you to share information and opinions and bounce ideas off other association volunteer leaders. Your association might also consider appointing a future planning committee or trends task force. * Organize support groups with the membership. Independent of association sponsorhip or funding, support groups offer members the opportunity to gather informally and set their own agenda. The groups typically meet two or three times a year and focus on a specialized area or topic, such as teaching high school algebra. Support groups provide members an excellent environment for identifying trends and examining their remifications at the local or regional levels. Kendall N. Starkweather is executive director of the International Technology EducationAssociation, and James D. Gates isexecutive director of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Both organizations are based in Reston, Virginia.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related article; managing change in associations
Author:Gates, James D.
Publication:Association Management
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Previous Article:Advancing America.
Next Article:A breach of faith.

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