No exploration of the value of association membership is complete without highlighting the value of what you, the AE, bring to the association. Your ability to steer the association in the right direction, keep it relevant, and build its value to members depends, to a large degree, on how valued you are by your leadership and members. Don’t take it for granted that they appreciate your sacrifices and dedication or recognize your accomplishments. Promote your value just like you promote the value of membership.
It’s a delicate balance, though, between pompous hornblowing and selfless, graceful informing. Here are some ways to straddle the line and make sure your value is clear.
To make sure that your board and members respect your work, they must appreciate the complexity and hard work that your job entails.
If you do your job well, directors only ever see smooth-running meetings, efficient technology, and interesting events. Today, you need to let them—and members— get a glimpse behind the scenes of your association. Social media is ideal for this. A selfie taken at the convention center during the chaos of expo setup or a picture of you with a local lawmaker captioned with the issues you’re discussing goes a long way toward showing members some of the aspects of your busy job.
Keep notes throughout the year to accurately document your achievements. Keep letters of commendation, continuing education certificates, awards, news clippings, and any other citations that bolster and quantify your contributions to the association and the community.
Create new advocates
Don’t be the only one detailing your responsibilities and accomplishments. Instead, take a more personal approach. Try establishing a “kitchen cabinet” of close advisers beyond your regular board committees. Pick prominent, trustworthy, up-and-coming members with whom you have established a solid rapport. Get their buy-in and let them be your followers and advocates. Entrust them with the facts of the issues the association faces (for example, declining membership renewals) and seek their advice on how best to inform the rest of the board and the membership. They will lend credibility to your reports.
Be sensitive to misperceptions
Eating, drinking, and traveling on the association dime rarely sits well with members even if it’s part of the job. When you spend association money on travel and lodging to attend a state or national meeting, make a formal presentation to elected leaders upon your return that covers the work you did, what you learned, and why it was important for you to attend. Post a report for members on your website as well. In these instances, skip the selfies at the steakhouse or the posh lobby of your conference hotel.