Thursday, August 20, 2009

Effective communication between Membership Leaders and CFOs

We can all agree that there will ALWAYS be some level of disagreement between CFO's and Membership/Sales. While CFO's deal with the daily business of running an organization, Membership/Sales leadership are ensconced in the future business of the organization...and there in lies the rub.

How much do we invest today to keep the organization going tomorrow? This is a tough question at any time, let alone now when we face 9.6% (and increasing) unemployment, increasing gas prices and much more.

In a session I presented with my good friends Andrew Goldschmidt, Rob Batarla and Susan Medick at the ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership Annual Meeting & Expo held earlier this week in Toronto, ON, in a room of over 40 CFOs and Membership VPs, Directors and Managers, we discussed how CFO's and Membership could better communicate.

It was a great conversation which brought out many important points but the most important one is transparency. Here are a few highlights I took away from the session:

  1. Let membership know about every decision that impacts their department. Sounds silly but many participants shook their heads "yes" when this came up.
  2. Talk with the membership. Many CFOs at the session strongly recommended that ALL CFOs should take the time to speak directly with as many members as they can. Everyone agreed that this can be difficult, but every CFO said it helped them to better understand what the members need, how to better help membership, and how to - in the end - do their job a little better.
  3. Try to clearly explain your decisions to your membership team/leader. They do not see everything that you are involved in so if they ask for money for a campaign or a promotion, and you decide that the money will be put to better use somewhere else, explain that (to the best that you can).
  1. Ask your CFO how to present ideas to him/her. What kind of numbers and explanations do they want? What makes a compelling argument to them?
  2. Timing. Month closing is a difficult time. If you have a request, perhaps it can wait until after month closing.
  3. Offer alternatives. If you have an idea, come in with several ways to accomplish the goal - Plans A, B and C.
It was great session and thanks to all who attended and participated.


  1. Erik: Really enjoyed this session! It was good seeing you in Toronto! A lot of good insight in dealign with the number-guys! Thank you and your fellow panelists!


    Lisa Sidletsky