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Monday, July 13, 2015

THE PROBLEM WITH NEWSLETTERS

BRYCE ON LIFE

- Why most end up lining the bottom of bird cages.

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I have belonged to a plethora of nonprofit organizations over the years, be it related to Information Technology, management, homeowner associations, sports clubs, political groups, fraternal organizations, school clubs, etc. Most, if not all issue a newsletter either monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly. Due to rising printing and postal prices, most have gone to an electronic format, be it on the web or in PDF format, which has dramatically cut costs. Regardless, they all pretty much say the same thing.

With rare exception, most newsletters try to put a positive spin on how the club or association is doing. They are typically a public relations piece with the intent of trying to encourage the membership to remain active and attend meetings. As I tend to be intimate with the organizations I participate in, I realize such newsletters offer more facade than substance. They may say everything is great, but the reality is things couldn't be much worse. Not surprising, participation in nonprofit groups is waning, probably due to the politics involved and changing values. Instead of making meetings meaningful (fun and interesting), most nonprofits have fallen into a rut and do not know how to get out of it.

So, why do nonprofits only report positive trends? They fear their membership would abandon them if they knew what was actually going on. Somehow the quote by Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men" comes to mind, "You can't handle the truth!" This may be so, but I would like to believe the membership would rally behind a cause if they truly believe in the institution and knew what was really going on.

Knowing the calendar of events and what club awards were presented is one thing, knowing the condition of the club is something entirely different. There is an old expression derived from psychology which states, "You cannot treat a patient if he doesn't know he is sick." Wouldn't it be refreshing to see clubs add to the newsletter financial statements, membership totals, or attendance records, along with commentary by the chief executive? We would at least grasp what was going on and come to the aid of the institution.

In every organization I have been involved with, I have found it important the senior officer report on the condition of the organization at least once a year. This is similar in intent to the President's State of the Union address. Here, the intention is to come clean with the members by discussing such things as: Membership, Facilities, Participation, Finances, Programs, Sickness and distress, Harmony, Relations with similar groups, Charitable activities, and how well we met our Objectives.

Only by disclosing such items in the newsletter would the members comprehend why a dues increase is being proposed, an assessment, or change in policy.

Because most newsletter do not include such items is why I do not take newsletters seriously; they only tell us what they want us to hear. It also explains why most end up lining the bottom of bird cages.

The best surprise is no surprise.


Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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