Brilliant Ideas to Kick-Start a Bright Year

Here’s to a brilliant new year … new years always give us a fresh start, a blank sheet. But sometimes that blank sheet can be intimidating so here’s a little help. We’ve curated 16 bright ideas we’ve spied that just
might be the spark for you.

  1. Could your next great idea come from a Hack-A-Thon? Building on an idea from the corporate world, the International City/County Management Association used this strategy to design a mobile app.
  2. All year long in 2015, we discussed how volunteers prefer smaller jobs and we also talked all about the importance of driving member engagement. For some inspiration on how to tackle this, check out the Association of Academic Physiatrists’ micro jobs quick link and CALSAE’s Small Bites, Ala Carte and Main Course menu.
  3. Networking by any other name is … BINGO, Speedy Setups, Connected Learning Center. Our chapters regularly have networking hours before or after education programming and we’ve done the speed networking session but I’m always looking for options. ASAE Great Ideas conference featured Discussion Dens, which are 20-minute causal conversations between learning labs (check out the wrap-up with a Den on the first visual).
  4. Listening to your members is not just doing surveys. Consider your in-house sources like the member services department. The staff who field and answer members’ phone calls can track frequently asked questions and member feedback, so why not have them create a report or have a monthly “tell us what you heard” meeting.  
  5. Take a trend and capitalize on it. In this sharing economy, people are getting very used to on-demand access (think Uber, ZipCar, Netflix) and incremental buying (iTunes, GoPhone, a la carte TV, free versions) and payment options (Subscriptions (for everything), Blue Apron, PAYE,
    Associations are responding with options in dues paying, offering lower end free membership or high-end
  6. Re-imagine your meeting – make it shorter, change the time of year, shift the focus … read Associations Now for examples. Or consider adding fitness or opportunities to give back like American College Health Association.
  7. Build video into your board/volunteer orientation. Debra BenAvram of A.S.P.E.N. created a series of quick orientation slidedecks and to know that volunteers watched she’d add a “ask me about…” breadcrumb. The Ontario Real Estate Association created a Just-in-Time Learning Video Series.   
  8. Conduct Wisdom Interviews to collect the wisdom of your retiring leaders and thought leaders in your profession/industry.
  9. Put a face on that call. There are lots of free ways to see who’s saying what – join me, skype or zoom to name a few – and share your screen to boot! Don’t miss those critical visual cues (and funny outfits) that help us know if we’re connecting with each other.
  10. Develop micro-training for your volunteers. Time is their most precious commodity, so no more multi-page manuals…think one side of one sheet…MAX! Target to the specific task at hand. What do I need to know to do this NOW!
  11. Need to build a quick and easy online form? Check out WuFoo (from those same crazy guys at SurveyMonkey). Registration, call for presentations, employment applications, subscribe/contact, you name it! It’s easy and it’s really CHEAP (as low as $0)!
  12. Simplify your scheduling by using an online scheduling platform. We use Doodle to schedule many of our board and committee meetings.  Doodle is an online
    scheduling system that allows you to poll a group on tentative meeting times and avoids those cumbersome back-and-forth emails. You can use it free or pay a bit more for features such as a calendar connect.
  13. Avoid numerous versions of important documents floating about the email sphere by using an online document sharing tool like DropBox. Especially useful for those oversized documents that can’t be sent by email. But think beyond that to say streamlining an awards program with the plus of eliminating all those binders/folders. PRSA Maryland used DropBox to accept electronic submissions for their 2015 awards; entrants
    uploaded submissions to their DropBox account then shared the link.
  14. Read a book with staff or your board or volunteer group. In the past year, we’ve seen firsthand how this brings a group together to be more innovative and open to change. Books/resources we’ve used with task forces, boards and staff are When Millennials Take Over by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant (great for a task force exploring member engagement and culture), Knowing Y by Sarah Sladek (great for engaging the next gen), Race For Relevance by Harrison Coerver and Mary Byers (great for looking at governance), Mission Driven Volunteering by Elizabeth Engel and Peggy Hoffman (great for any conversation on member engagement and volunteerism), and ASAE Component Relations Handbook (used for a task force looking at rethinking the affiliation agreement and relationship with components).
  15. Looking for ways to keep employees or do something special for them? When I joined the ranks of fitness instructor for the Columbia Association, they offered a free HepB shot as well as access to free CPR training. There is also a trend to offer to pay off student loans. And then there’s the flu
  16. Copying from airlines, offer an upgrade option on your next event like the Council for Residential Specialist’s conference VIP Package.

Ok, here’s a bonus … to keep finding fresh ideas throughout 2016, consider a field trip, job swap, exchange program or simply a shadow day where a staffer walks in someone else’s shoes.

Any ideas to add?