By: William Lessley
Image Author: VistaICO.com, Creative Commons License 3.0
For a long time I used the phrase “If I get hit by a bus tomorrow…” to explain the reason for having documentation that outlines everything I do. Apparently this phrase makes some people nervous so now I’ve changed it to “If I win the lotto tomorrow…”
Working for an Association Management Company (AMC) has taught me many skills I hadn’t even thought of when I worked as part of a captive staff association. While our AMC has different departments, so much of what we do bleeds over and through every person who works here. Keeping not only members happy but also our clients happy is the job of every single person – no matter what their position. I think we’ve all been the victim of an out of date procedure manual at some point in our lives and it is not a fun place to be.
Frequently Asked Questions (or FAQs) documents are essential for every association. FAQs are great for any program area from your annual meeting to leadership institute as well as your database or social media presence. FAQs can be for internal use only or posted to your website for your members to use.
Today I am working on FAQs for our two newest clients. It’s the right time to work on them as the clients have been with us for a few months and we’ve made it through membership renewals. These FAQs will be for internal use only – saved to our server – and will guide staff on how to answer questions about these new clients that they may not work on. With 25+ employees in the office, it’s a sure bet that there’s someone who hasn’t taken a call yet from a member of either of these associations. If I win the lotto tomorrow, I need to make sure that I’m not leaving my company, our client, or our client’s members in a bind by not recording information for others to follow.
But it’s not just winning the lotto, is it? Maybe I’d like to take a vacation! Maybe I need to travel for an event. Maybe I’ll be at the Florida Society of Association Executives’s (FSAE’s) Annual Meeting down in Orlando for 3 days! (That’s a definite YES!)
Just because I’m not here doesn’t mean calls won’t come in that I usually answer. Don’t leave your team, your members, or your association in a lurch. Create/Update FAQs and procedures regularly. Make a plan to review what you have already on a regular basis and make creating these guidance documents part of your project management when a new program comes online.
The FAQ I’m creating for each is membership related. Here is the information I’ll be including in my FAQs:
- Types of Membership
- Membership Dues Structure
- Membership Renewal Cycle
- Location of Membership Applications on the Server
- New Member On-Boarding Process
- Types of Payment Accepted
- Location of Membership Database on the Server
- Location of Processing Procedures on the Server
- Names and Duties of Staff Working on Client
- Membership Benefits
- Meetings/Continuing Education Offered
- Membership Kit Contents for New and Renewing Members
When writing a FAQ your goal should be to answer all pertinent questions but not overwhelm the reader with too much information. With staff, it is usually safe to include more information or different scenarios which explain or expand on the question being asked. With your members you may want to keep the information provided to a minimum and not expand as the additional information could confuse the issue or your member and create more work for you. Remember, the goal of a FAQ is to actually reduce the amount of work you and your staff do, not increase it!
You want to get everything out there just once (yes, you’ll still need to update it when something changes!) and move on. Why write the same information over and over again in e-mails to staff when you can create the documentation once and just remind staff where to find it? As new staff enter the picture due to job function changes or new positions being added in your organization, this provides an easier path for training.
Create a folder on your internal server called FAQs and put everything there. Add a footer to the bottom of your document with the file path and update date. Staff can print off the FAQs if they want to keep them at their desk but will know where to find the file on the server and have an idea of how out of date the FAQ could be.