Monday, December 12, 2016

The Busy Time of Year

Does your association have a "busy time" and a "slow time" of year?

I remember it certainly felt that way when I first started working in association management. Then, the busy and slow cycles were tied to my association's Annual Meeting. The three months leading up to it were crazy busy and the three months following it we remarkably slower. In a way, I felt like I had earned the slow time by working so hard during the busy time, and everyone else, including my bosses and my members, seemed to agree. Things just plain slowed down.

It doesn't feel that way any more. I'm certainly in a different position today than I was back in those early days, but it feels like the "busy time" has expanded and completely pushed the "slow time" off the calendar. Every month, every week, every day--there's more to do than can realistically get done, and I have to ruthlessly prioritize and focus if I want to keep my head above water.

I'm not complaining. We all know the reasons for the accelerating pace of business and life, and it's generally better to "surf" on the crest of those trends than try to swim against them. But one of the painful realities of losing the slow time of year for associations is the negative impact it has on its ability to engage productively with its members.

Because we association staff are not the only ones who have lost our slow time. Our members have lost it, too, and they likely lost it long before we did.

In the old days, the slow time was the ideal time for them to engage in our volunteer structures. They had the time to give, and we had the time to organize activities to make their volunteered time productive for both them and the association.

But that time doesn't exist any more. They no longer have the time to volunteer and we no longer have the time to organize volunteer structures for them. It's pushing more and more associations towards staff-driven models, which just exacerbates the same problem. More work for the staff to do that is not focused on building engagement with their members.

It may be time to reclaim some "slow time" again. Or at least to better prioritize and focus your "busy time" on activities that keep your members engaged in the leadership and activities of your association.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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