Got Quality Control?

By Rachel Luoma

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Quality Control – I hear this term all the time in association management.  We try to build quality control into every aspect of our work.  From double checking member data entry to checking name badges before meetings, to ensuring financials are correct. 

Sometimes, quality control is so engrained in everything we do, we may not realize how many layers of quality checks we have throughout our processes.  Other times, we must create quality control processes to ensure that our services meet the established standards and requirements.

One of my favorite ways to ensure quality control is through the creation of a checklist.  One recent checklist that I created is for the review and approval of payables.  We have multiple layers of quality control built into the accounts payable process.  

As we were going through the process, I realized that Account Executives and Vice Presidents may all review various aspects of the payable differently.  To help ensure that all team members are reviewing the same elements of the payable, I created a payable review checklist. 

Below are the key elements of the checklist:

  • Vendor Name/Address – Is the vendor name and address correct? Do they match the invoice?
  • Client Account Number (if applicable) – Does the vendor record in the accounting software correctly show the account number?
  • Bill Amount – Does the amount of the payable reflect the correct amount on the invoice? If there is a past due amount on the invoice, has that been paid? If so, you can disregard. If not, contact the vendor to get a copy of the past due invoice.  Do not pay multiple invoices on a single invoice.
  • Invoice Number – Is the invoice number correct in the accounting software? Is the invoice an invoice or a statement? Do not pay from statements. If there is no invoice number, does the invoice number used in the accounting software follow the pattern that has been used in the past?
  • Invoice Date/Due Date – What is the invoice date and the invoice due date in the accounting software? Does this match the invoice? Invoice date and due date are especially important, if a client payable needs to be attributed to a different month or year (i.e. a 2021 invoice needs to be coded back to 2020).
  • Notes/Comments – Are there any notes/comments that need to be included along with the invoice in the accounting software? For example, we use a payment platform that mails our payables directly.  Thus, when checks need to be returned to our office instead of mailed directly from the payment platform, we must include “Manual Check” in the notes section of the payment.
  • Account Code – Is the invoice coded correctly using the chart of accounts? If the invoice needs to be split amongst multiple account codes, are these correct?
  • Back-Up – In most accounting software, you can upload or attach a copy of the invoice/back-up itself into the software.  Is there back-up affiliated with this payable? Does the back-up documentation support the payment amount? Is it sufficient to ensure the transaction is valid?
  • Approvers – Is there a dual control approval process? Does a different person review/approve a payable than the person who input the payable into the accounting software? Is this approval process documented and followed?
  • Past Payments/Duplicate Payment – Has this invoice already been paid? Most accounting software will recognize if an invoice number has been paid.  However, as you are reviewing payables, it may be helpful to review your general ledger for similar amounts and/or invoice numbers.  This is especially important for payables that may not have an invoice number.  
Image by Firmbee from Pixabay

At the end of the day, the quality control process is only as good as it is designed and followed.  Thus, it is important that the process is documented, reviewed and refined.

So, as you review my checklist for reviewing payables, what is missing? Leave a comment and let me know. 

Rachel Luoma, MS, CAE – Vice President. Rachel has been involved in associations for over 15 years and has experience in all areas of association management. She holds a Master’s Degree in Adult Education and holds the Certified Association Executive designation. Rachel was named a Young and Aspiring Professional by Association Trends Magazine, Executive of the Year by the Florida Society of Association Executives and was recognized as one of Association Forum’s and USAE’s Forty Under 40® Awards recipients. She is a former Chair of the Florida Society of Association Executives. Fun Fact: When she’s not doing her association management thing, Rachel rocks out as lead singer with Tallahassee’s hottest cover band – Suckerdust!

Tips on Managing a Grant and Scholarship Program

By: Lindsey Rowan

Now that you’re an expert in launching a new grant or scholarship after reading my previous blog four years ago, I suspect you have quite a few to manage. Perhaps you now have an official grant and scholarship program with more than 10 opportunities as our 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization does. So, now what? How do you manage the copious and consistent marketing objectives and submission deadlines that hit at all different times throughout the year? Below are a few helpful tips to guide you.

  1. Marketing Tips and Tricks

An established grant and scholarship program often comes with recurring opportunities year to year. Take the time to perfect a marketing piece(s) – e-blast, flier, etc. – for each opportunity so that you can save time for the years to come. Achieve the perfect template by:

  • Including the grant or scholarship’s monetary value. It draws attention and people LOVE to see how much money they can save if awarded.
  • Always including a clear call to action of “Apply Today!”. Not just once, but multiple times.
  • Ensuring your website’s hyperlink is generic (i.e. do not include years) so that there is no change year to year.
  • Refraining from wordiness – less is better.
  • Creating a QR code for printed material that links directly to the particular grant or scholarship page or application.

2. Keep Everything in One Place

Not only do you want your potential applicants to be able to easily access all grant and scholarships that are available to them, but you want a birds-eye view of what’s upcoming for yourself, too. Create a master document of all grant and scholarship opportunities, a brief description of each, and their corresponding application deadlines. This document can serve multi-purposes, for example, as a hand-out at tradeshows, a marketing collateral in various mailings, reference material for email inquiries, and a deadline reminder for you posted on your bulletin board.

Additionally, ensure you house all grant and scholarship information in the same place on your organization’s internal server. This includes blank applications, completed applications, marketing collateral, winner and non-winner letters, certificate and scoring templates, testimonials, etc. The second you receive or complete anything grant or scholarship related, save it in that designated spot.

3. Deadline Management

Since all grants and scholarships serve a specific purpose, it’s likely many of them have different application deadlines, which makes it very easy for one to slip through the cracks. For marketing purposes, create and utilize an e-blast calendar to ensure you are not overwhelming your audience with emails. Be sure to plug those e-blast dates into your preference of deadline management. My go-to, the Outlook calendar, is filled with reminders for each grant and scholarship – not only for upcoming e-blasts and mailings, but for upcoming application deadlines, follow-ups to incomplete application submissions, scoring sessions, and press releases, too. To top it all off, plug ALL of those deadlines into an admin calendar along with other tasks you manage outside of grants and scholarships. If you’re anything like me, you’ll utilize all three plus daily post-it notes!

Needless to say, there are numerous moving parts to just one grant or scholarship. Add in one, two, or ten, and you are literally multiplying your to-do list. However, once you have mastered one, you have mastered them all and the key is to manage the cyclical deadlines.

Conducting a Virtual Board Orientation Using Zoom Polls

By Dee Kring, CAE, CMP

Now that the summer is winding to a close, many organizations have held their big annual meetings and elected new leadership which means it is time for the annual board orientation.  Although it is extremely important, engaging both new and existing board members in the orientation process is not always an easy task.  During the pandemic, meetings were held virtually and although many of us are now meeting again in person, some are not.  This has certainly given us all a wake-up call about how things can change quickly and unexpectedly, forcing us to abandon “the way we’ve always done it”.   Now more than ever, we must position ourselves to deliver content effectively regardless of the forum, understanding that engagement can be even more challenging in a virtual setting.

I have the privilege of conducting the board orientation to the association clients for whom I serve as their Executive Director.  Typically, I do this during the first in-person board meeting of the year, often with the help of a couple dozen Powerpoint slides and an equal number of sugary and/or caffeinated refreshments. 

Having conducted one virtual orientation already to a highly unengaged audience, I was eager to try a different approach. The second one was scheduled to begin at 7 P.M. with a full 2-hour board meeting to follow.  I chose to deliver my board orientation presentation using the polling feature in Zoom.

By using the polling feature in Zoom, we are able to create a fun, interactive and informative means to deliver content.   For instructions on setting up polling questions, click here: Polling for meetings – Zoom Help Center.  It’s important to remember that you must set your polls in advance of your meeting.

I set up 10 “test your knowledge” polling questions, using a multiple choice format and responses were anonymous.  I felt this would be the best way to get full participation and honest answers. When the results were launched to the group, it simply showed the percentages for each answer. 

The questions crafted tested the board member’s knowledge about both the organization and non-profit board governance.  Is there a recurring question or issue that arises around your board table?  This is the perfect opportunity to include this topic.   Once the correct answer is revealed to the group, it provides an opportunity for explanation and further discussion.  During my poll, there were no questions that received 100% correct response, so this reinforced the fact that the orientation was necessary.

To supplement the virtual orientation, board members were provided via Basecamp the association’s governing documents (e.g. bylaws and policies) and reference materials, including a New Board Orientation Workbook and other templates provided free of charge by Bob Harris, CAE (available at I took the opportunity to share my screen, access Basecamp and demonstrate how to locate these documents.  In addition, I distributed forms in advance, via Docusign, which required signature by each board member annually (e.g. confidentiality agreement and code of conduct).

As this was my first attempt at a virtual board member orientation, there are areas for improvement and enhancement, for sure. However, the Board was more engaged than ever before and I closed the presentation feeling that new and existing board members alike were armed with the tools they need to fulfill their board responsibilities to their fullest.  That is, after all, the ultimate goal of the annual orientation.

NETWORKING. The Challenge and Its Comeback

By Kim Barclay

Networking was challenging enough before the pandemic, and now networking in the traditional sense is almost non-existent.  We as business professionals have become more flexible and creative when it comes to sales, networking and just interacting with colleagues and people in general.  With more people becoming more comfortable, but yet still cautious when it comes to socializing and networking…. now what?  How do we conduct ourselves in an atmosphere where you aren’t sure, frankly, how to behave?  Do we shake hands anymore or just fist bump? If I wear a mask can we hug? Do I still need to stand six feet away?  Carry hand sanitizer in my pocket?  It’s all very stressful and can be overwhelming to the point of, why even try?

Currently, as an attendee at a meeting, conference or any networking event, it is your responsibility to know or find out what the host is doing to ensure everyone’s comfort level prior to the event.  Many events are utilizing some sort of “comfort identifier” and modifying it for their own.  As an example, one of Partners’ clients had “Comfort with Colors” where there were colored dots attendees placed on their name badges and it had a key to identify if you were vaccinated and the different level of interaction that individual was comfortable with.  It wasn’t mandatory, but was used by 95% of the attendees and lessened the stress and awkwardness of “how do I behave”.  If by chance an event or meeting you are attending does not implement any sort of identifier, you can make your own with name badge materials easily purchased at office supply stores if it will put you more at ease.

NETWORKING 101.  Traditional networking, meetings and conferences will make a comeback.  Many people are great at making the rounds and talking to everyone in the room but there are many basics that people either forget or never knew.  Here are my top 10 networking tips:

  1. Wear your badge on your right side or right lapel.  When you shake hands (or fist bump) with someone, you are looking toward their right shoulder.
  2. Don’t make food the priority. You are at a networking event to network.  How are you supposed to talk to people with a plate in each hand, a mouth full of food and broccoli in your teeth?  Eat before you go, or get a small plate when you first arrive.  Eat, go to the restroom and check your teeth and face, eat a breath mint and then begin your socializing. 
  3. Hold your drink in your left hand.  No one wants to shake a cold, wet hand.
  4. If available and appropriate, obtain a list of attendees prior to the event.  It’s helpful to know if anyone that you are targeting to meet will be in attendance.
  5. Don’t stress over having an “elevator speech”.  Unless you are attending a speed networking function, the point of these events is to be able to talk, mingle and get to know each other.  Having a quick explanation of what you do in the back of your mind is always good for “on the fly” but use when appropriate.  You shouldn’t go to every event saying the same thing.
  6. Take a colleague, divide and conquer.  Help each other work the room and find new people to introduce each other to.
  7. Take plenty of business cards and breath mints.
  8. If you are the “wall flower” type, don’t despair.  Many events have some sort of buddy system to assist those that are learning how to network, are shy, or for first time attendees.  Remember that everyone has to start somewhere. 
  9. Dress for the occasion.  If it is summer and the event is outside, no one wants to watch see you dripping in sweat in a suit.  Also, wear comfortable shoes as you will be standing and moving.  You can’t network if you are sitting because your feet hurt from your stilettos.
  10. When you are at a networking event, meeting or convention, the attendees EXPECT people to come out of the blue and introduce themselves.  This is the environment where it is safe to talk to strangers!

Singing, Doodling, and Other Unexpected Skills: Bringing More “You” to Work

By Christina Neuhauser, SHRM-SCP

Often, we get so caught up in trying to get through the day that it can be difficult to step back and look for ways to change the routine and shift our focus. Looking for areas to bring our unique skills and ideas to the table at work can be challenging and even scary – especially given the current climate. Even if your office culture provides a safer space for expression and growth, it can be a delicate balancing act between what is expected, what can be questioned, and how you can interject. So, how do you bring more “you” into the workplace?

We all wear different hats and have different areas of expertise. And most of us have talents that are outside the expected from our job descriptions. It is one of the things that make us interesting and individual in our roles as parents, business owners, teachers, students, etc.

One of my personal hidden talents is doodling. I love handwriting, creative lettering, fonts, sketches, cartoons, the brain science behind it and how it makes me feel. So, I look for every opportunity to use those skills. This talent is not related with my career path or educational experience, it’s just something I enjoy. When I noticed that the office had a whiteboard wall that featured monthly birthdays and anniversaries, I asked if it was something I could help populate. Now drawing on the wall is something fun for me to look forward to every month. Co-workers approach me with requests or tell me that an illustration made them smile. You can’t beat that! And it wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t volunteer to share my unexpected skill with the office.

Another co-worker has a background in music. Like two degrees worth, and a beautiful singing voice. While that isn’t something easily used on a daily basis around the office, she was able to showcase it during our big office party (obviously, pre-COVID) to much acclaim/applause. What a fabulous experience and culture-building story to tell!

Here are some ways to consider sharing your own unique skills at work:

  1. Join a committee. Your skills could shine in a large or small group.
  2. Write something. A blog post, an article, anything to stretch those skills.
  3. Learn a new skill or develop an existing one. Then tell someone at work about it.  
  4. Teach a class. From crafting to traditional KSAs, I bet someone wants to learn what you know!
  5. Start a book club. Either on a topic of personal interest or for professional development, there’s always something new to read and discuss.
  6. Become a mentor. New professionals and seasoned professionals alike can benefit from a new perspective.
  7. Volunteer. Anytime something comes up that could showcase your skills, jump on it. From singing to doodling, how will they know if you don’t offer to share? And if you make amazing desserts, don’t hesitate to bring those into the office for the next potluck! 

Opening yourself up takes courage but bringing more “you” to work can improve employee morale (for you and your co-workers) and provide personal/job satisfaction. Ultimately, being true to who you are and sharing some of your unique skills will benefit you, the company or association that you work for, and the community where you live.

A Year of HorroR

Human Resources deals with a lot on a normal basis.  Staff management, compensation and benefits, training and development, compliance with all federal state and local HR laws and rules, workplace safety…the list goes on and on.  But during the Covid-19 pandemic, that list became even longer.  To the point that is was like being in a horror movie that never ends.

All horror movies seem to have 4 main features that keep us on our toes and scared and the Covid-19 pandemic has pretty much followed those same steps in HR this past year:

  1. More action than dialogue: During the Covid-19 pandemic your HR department and staff have been in action every single day.  We’ve reviewed the office setup and moved tables and desks and chairs and employees to ensure proper social distancing.  We’ve created and placed 6-foot distance markers and directional arrows throughout the office to ensure staff stays 6 feet apart at all times.  And throughout it all, like the star of a horror movie, we’ve also managed to stay calm, cool and collected and just continue to do what needs to be done.

  2. Mounting suspense: Living through a pandemic is definitely suspenseful.  Helping others live through it too, well that’s just another function of HR.  Not one of the employees that HR assisted this year has ever lived during or through a pandemic.  The suspense about the what ifs was overwhelming for most employees.  On a daily basis HR heard questions like will Covid-19 get to our town, will it affect our company, are we safe, should we even be working, are we putting our families in danger? HR came to rescue with weekly emails to all staff reminding them of all the Covid-19 safety protocols that were in place and informing them of the latest updates from the CDC, Department of Health, OSHA and other federal, state and local experts.  We also informed staff of the many special benefits and discounts that our benefit providers made available to them during the pandemic. This all seemed to help calm the storm of suspense for most of the staff.  At least temporarily until the next big thing hit.

  3. Jumpiness:  That could be the name of 2020’s autobiography.  This is true story…with slight changes in details to ensure confidentiality.  Staff member Agnes got a phone call on her cell at work letting her know that her brother just tested positive for Covid-19.  Agnes immediately tells her two teammates and shares that she was just with her brother this past weekend.  These two teammates tell three other staff people each and eventually Agnes’ having Covid is the talk of the office.  Just like in a horror movie, the star (Agnes) doesn’t even realize that she’s on all the company news channels, staff social media sites and that she has become Partners own Kardashian, i.e. media influencer.  This news finally made its way to HR so we immediately jumped into action. Having a phone call with Agnes, getting the true details of what was happening, going through the contact tracing and then sending her home to quarantine.  Talking to and sending two other staff members home to quarantine who were around Agnes without the required masks and social distancing.  Of course HR then had to field the normal questions from all the other “stars” that always come up in Horror movies….what happened to Agnes, did the monsters get her, is she still alive?  But in spite of our best efforts, the jumpiness about Covid lives on.

  4. Covid-19 is our Monster:  Covid-19 has tortured everyone.  Over 500,000 people perished, leaving behind families who had to find new ways to grieve due to social distancing and other restrictions. For those that had Covid and survived, the torture started with the fear of “do I have it” and moved on to feeling sick, having to be hospitalized or quarantined for long periods of time even after you started feeling better and sometimes long term unexplainable effects.  For those that have been lucky enough not to get it yet, the fear is never-ending because you’re not sure who might be coming for you and when they might just jump out and get you.  HR can’t keep that monster from getting to you but we can hopefully slow it down some so that possibly you can get away and get safer (i.e. get vaccinated).

And our Covid-19 HorroR show is not over yet.  2020 came and went and our monster followed us into 2021.  HR, the hero that it is, is still fighting back the monsters, calming down our staff and hopefully ensuring that we all live to fight another day.  After all, the sequel of a HorroR movie is always more exciting!

The 4 C’s of Effective Advocacy During COVID-19

During a conversation last week with veteran lobbyists about how COVID-19 will impact advocacy, it became clear that there are four keys to effectively advocating your member’s concerns in 2021 and beyond: Contacts, Conciseness, Coalitions, and Communication.  We were shooting an episode on this topic for Partners’ video-blog, Association Peeps in Cubicles Drinking Coffee, and while the conversation touched on many topics, those four threads were woven throughout. 

Contacts: Establishing contacts and relationships with elected officials and staff is the time-tested key to successful advocacy.  I know you’re probably thinking, it’s all about “who knows who” and that hasn’t changed.  What has changed, however, is that COVID-19 has caused the near-lockdown of many state capitols. For example, in the past you may have been able to set a meeting with a legislator you didn’t know. The chance of doing that in 2021 is severely diminished if not eliminated altogether.  Associations and non-profits need to up their grassroots ground game and have their members connecting and reconnecting with legislators ASAP to cement and build those relationships so the call will be taken or the text will be responded to when it comes. If you’re in Florida, you have 5 weeks to get that done! Don’t forget about committee, agency and legislative staff.

Conciseness: Being concise should go without saying when dealing with elected officials. They are expected to be knowledgeable and informed on a vast number of topics.  They simply cannot read everything.  Are they more likely to read a single-spaced mini-dissertation or “5 Reasons Why House Bill 94263 is Bad for Consumers” in bulleted format?  Limited access to the capitol buildings and legislative offices means increased volumes of e-mails, text messages, phone calls, letters, etc.  So, leave out the minutia, communicate the key points, include links to supporting information and if they want more information they will contact you.

Coalitions:  The “intelligence” typically gathered when lobbyists and association staff run across each other in the halls of capitol buildings, at lunch across the street, etc., will be significantly diminished. Coalitions of interest groups, whether they be industry-based groups, groups with common interest in a single piece of legislation, etc., are increasingly important in this new environment. The ability to compare notes on conversations with committee staff, legislative aides, legislators, executive agency staff and the like needs to be maintained.  Strong coalitions can help accomplish that goal.

Communication: The fourth “C” that is embedded in all three of above is Communication.  Conciseness is the “How” and the “What” you communicate.  Contacts and Coalitions are the “Who” you communicate with. The “When” is a delicate balance of timing based upon the pace of legislation and volume of information you need convey. Depending upon the strength of each relationship, you probably can only “fire a few bullets” before a legislator or key staffer may begin to ignore your pleas, so be judicious in your outreach. Coalition members on the other hand may need to convene daily or more frequently during the height of a legislative session and less frequently at others.  Slack, GroupMe, ZOOM and other technologies can assist here.  Take all of these factors into account when planning your communication logistics.

It is difficult to advance a legislative agenda during “normal” times.  2021 will prove to be even more challenging.  Heeding these 4 C’s will improve your chance for success. Good luck!

Success with Your Valuable Volunteers

Danielle Jessup, CMP

Many organizations around the world are changing due to COVID-19.  Potentially the organization structure has changed but the workload has increased.  Now is the time to enhance your organization’s volunteer program.  Here are some simple steps to recruit valuable volunteers to potentially save your organization or revamp programs to position them for success moving forward.


  • Clear Expectations – individuals will not sign-up to volunteer if they don’t know what is expected of them.
  • Match Skills to Opportunities – don’t just sign-up individuals to any committee or plan of work; consider their skills and talents.
  • Training – individuals will be successful if you provide them the training and tools they need to accomplish their role.
  • Leaders for Volunteer Engagement – Assign a chair and/or co-chairs that will lead the group and allow for volunteer engagement.  Having a chair that is too passive or too aggressive can disrupt the work and the overall success of the committee.
  • Recognition – A simple recognition goes a long way and can help you maintain the leaders you built and in turn, help build new leaders to continue the success of the program and association.


  • Easy access to sign-up for a committee.
  • Sign-up at in-person meetings or virtual offerings.
  • Develop a committee recruitment document that explains each committee’s role, frequency of meeting, method of meeting (in-person, zoom, etc.), . . . see setting expectations above.
  • Recruitment Message – consider who would be the best person to deliver this message.
  • Career Path – think of volunteering as a career path; best way to try something out before fully committing.
    • Volunteer/Committee members → Committee Chair → Board Member → Officer
  • Point System
    • Example 1) each volunteer opportunity you receive points to earn a free membership or free registration.
    • Example 2) points are earned based on years in role and type of role and can be used towards moving up into a leadership role (must be a volunteer for X years and a chair for X years prior to serving as a Director)


  • NO overlap of duties among committees.
  • HAVE purpose and structure.
  • Consider a written action plan for each committee.
  • Structure committees with a Chair/Chair-Elect/Past-Chair to maintain continuity.


  • Newsletter, website, publications, conference programs
  • Other: local newspaper, recognition at the state level if you are a national organization
  • Gift or token of appreciation


Committee Toolkit

Toolkit should include:

  • Mission of organization
  • Strategic plan
  • Duties of each committee chair, co-chair, past-chair
  • Action Plan to include committee task list, deadlines, who is responsible, etc.
  • Program/committee budget
  • Post Report Template

Leadership Ladder

Document should include:

  • Steps for Success
  • Roles for each volunteer level to guide you to a National Officer and beyond


By Christina Welty

2020 has been a year none of us will forget. It has affected all of us differently, but one thing is for sure – we’ve all had to adjust and adapt in many ways. For the association industry, it has been particularly challenging as we’ve had to come up with ways to interact with our members virtually instead of our traditional in-person conferences.

I have planned conferences for years in various roles, but virtual conferences are much different.  While you don’t have to worry about some details (meeting your hotel room block, planning food & beverage events, etc.), some might be surprised to learn that it still takes a lot of planning and attention to detail to have a successful virtual conference. 

The last few months have been a whirlwind and while I’m certainly not an expert, I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way and wanted to share them with you.


While a virtual conference might not be your first choice, it’s one of the only ways to offer your members content during this time.  Also, it’s a good time to remind your members of the value of your association. Do your members need CE credits or is this more of a check-in?  If CE hours are required for the profession and something members have come to expect during your in-person conferences, try to offer a similar amount of CE hours during your virtual conference.  Keep in mind though that people are getting “Zoom fatigue”, so be careful to maximize their time.  With one of our conferences, we presented a shorter live program with an opportunity to receive CE hours through on demand courses.  The on demand courses were included in the registration fee and participants could watch them at their leisure. Some organizations have offered all day programs for several days, but just make sure that’s what would be appropriate for your organization.   


So, now that you’ve decided to offer a virtual conference, what platform will you use?  There are quite a few options out there, with a variety of features.  I’ve used Zoom with the added “webinar” option for two virtual conferences so far.  It includes the ability to move speakers to a “panelist” setting and control when they show their video/audio and gives them the ability to share their screen. This program can mute all participants when entering the event to minimize background noise.  Participants are still able to interact with each other through the chat feature and ask questions of the speakers through a Q&A box.  It’s fairly inexpensive, user-friendly and the conference registrants do not need to purchase anything to use it. While many platforms existed before COVID-19, the market has responded quickly with additional online content delivery systems and there are dozens to choose from that vary in terms of features and price points. Do your research and find one that best suits your needs and budget.   


Now it’s time to outline your schedule and plan your speakers and emcee for the conference.  I’ve found that it’s more streamlined to have one person (probably your board president) as the emcee for the full conference and introduce the various speakers. If you would like to recognize your board of directors, you could have each board member record a portion of a welcome script, splice it together and play it during your conference.     Association staff will most likely be the “host” on Zoom, controlling the logistics throughout the day.  There is an option to have a co-host, which I highly recommend.  The backup host is just that.  If the host’s computer freezes for a minute or starts running updates, the backup host can jump in.  Things move so fast and there can be a lot of buttons involved, so even though some might think it’s overkill, I like to write out every “stage direction” and highlight them in the script. 


With an in-person meeting, you most likely create a speaker contract, have a phone call/email about details and then meet the speaker onsite.  With a virtual meeting, it is imperative that you have at least one rehearsal with each speaker.  Make sure the speaker and emcee feel comfortable with the technology.  Practice transitions and sharing screens.


Even with rehearsals, this is a live event and things are going to happen!  Remember to have a backup host, print your script in case you have technical difficulties and keep smiling!  Go with the flow and realize that things will not be perfect. 

6.    MUTE!

How many times have you attended a conference and someone’s phone goes off?!  If you are presenting, make sure to minimize background noise and turn your phone to silent or vibrate.  If you are presenting from your office (or even your house), unplug your landline phone too!  


As a host or panelist in Zoom, your screen looks different than what the attendee sees, so you might not realize that you’re on air!  Be careful and always assume you can be seen and heard. As a host and even a speaker, I would recommend signing on as an attendee on another device so you can see what the attendee sees. 


Although you can pre-record videos, it’s more interactive to have the speaker present live during the event and give the participants the opportunity to ask questions.  You can either have the speaker look at the Q&A tab and answer questions throughout his/her presentation or have a separate Q&A session with the emcee, making it as close to a fireside chat as you can!  I didn’t use this feature, but speakers can also create poll questions to keep participants on their toes or ask yes/no questions and have participants “raise their hands” to see if they are paying attention. 

There are so many aspects to a virtual conference, but I hope these tips will help as you plan your first (or next!) virtual program.  They are probably here to stay for a while!  And remember, every program is different, so you will likely learn something new with each conference you produce. What tips would you add to the list? 

COVID-19 – A Time for Refresher on Basic Board Member Duties

By Bennett Napier, CAE

2020 as we all know has been a “test” for not for profit organizations.

The short and long term impacts of COVID-19 on traditional revenue streams, membership needs and program delivery has created some interesting dynamics relative to board staff/roles.

I have heard countless stories this year from peers that serve as CEO of a number of associations where volunteer board members, while well intentioned, have placed themselves and potentially the organization in harm’s way, for example, having unauthorized ex parte communications directly with hotels related to contract negotiations on meeting cancellations or postponements.

Given what is at stake (which is survival for some groups), it seems appropriate for a refresher on board member responsibilities.

“Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”

Under IRS regulations, an individual Board member, including an individual serving in the office President acts as a part of a Board, and directs – but does not perform – the association’s duties. No board member can act unilaterally relative to making operational and strategic decisions absent what organization governance documents provide. While we may feel the need to act quickly in these uncertain times and obtain feedback from just the President or a few leaders, input from the entire leadership, when feasible, is the standard.

If organizational governance documents don’t provide clarity on some matters, then it is understood that the board would review items (requests, recommendations) and provide authorization on whom can take action, when action can be taken and at what cost (expense), if applicable.

“Who’s on first?”

All board members need to have a clear understanding of what they are responsible for and to whom they are responsible. This understanding will not only help avoid lawsuits and liability; it will also ensure the board functions more effectively.

Board members, by nature do not conduct the day-to-day operations of an organization; instead, the board sets policy direction, and conducts performance reviews of management/staff to ensure daily operations and the work plan are executed effectively. 

The Board especially in times like COVID-19 should rely on the advice and facts provided by the association’s operational staff who are more familiar with the day-to-day operations of the organization and its history of actions (in good times and bad times). Generally speaking, an association’s management staff is educated in association law and association best practices to ensure protection and success of the association.

The duty of loyalty for all board members is an obligation to act in the association’s best interests. Authority is granted either by the organization’s governing documents, which may include bylaws and policies and procedures or board authorizations granted through actions taken at a board meeting.

We have learned and seen a lot this year – let’s use this opportunity to continue to grow in our own skills and continue to educate and train our dedicated volunteer leaders.