Corn in My Taters and Updated Association Practices

By: Shelly Joines

I remember back when I was about 8 years old, my family did large Thanksgiving celebrations where  everyone would travel across the state to meet.  We would line up several tables to create a buffet, for a fun family feast. Some traditions are time honored ones and some we do for reasons we don’t even know why anymore – yet we still do them. Why is that?

That year, I sat next to my uncle who was well-known in the family at that time for being a stickler about dividing his plate so his food selections didn’t touch – which is especially tough with a meal where there were varieties of gravy and dressings. I asked him to sit by me, not being mindful that he was left handed. Never one to make a fuss, he came around the corner to sit by me and as he did, his elbow hit the high back of the chair, and in the slowest motion possible, his plate went up in the air and did a 180 degree flip and landed upside down on the table.

Everyone was silent and then all at once, laughter filled IMG_63121.pngthe room. Mostly because we knew how much he hated one food touching another. We urged him to fix a new plate, but for some reason he quietly scooped all the food back on his plate and sat down. Veggies were in his mashed potatoes, meat was in his salad – the works! Ironically, by the end of the meal he liked it – loved it really.

You see, for years he created a mental habit of “this is how it’s done” and “this is how I like things.” Once he was open-minded to change albeit by accident, he was surprised at the ease of other options.

Changing practices doesn’t have to be prompted just because something isn’t working out. It can really be considered at any time. Here are three ways that you can help your organization update their practices.

-Invite new/young members to review. A fresh pair of eyes or a new way of thinking may bring forth questions your board of directors never thought to ask. Ask them to review anything that might need a fresh perspective: the website, membership recruitment brochures, convention publicity, etc.  It’s also a great way to engage with new members and make them feel valued. For younger members, it’s a chance to show them what their future of volunteering might look like.

-Plan to make plans. Make it part of your bylaws and/or operating plan to review and update practices or governance documents as needed, preferably every three years. Depending on your industry or profession, you may want to bump that number up or down, but add this on your “to do” list. If you don’t, it’s easy to end up with 10 year old practices that don’t deliver value to your changing membership.

-Set benchmarks. Again, this is relevant to your organization and industry, so make plans to review agreed upon performance metrics regularly throughout the year. If everyone agrees that the changes aren’t working, go back to the original plan. But try it for six months to a year with an open mind.


An open mind to updating traditions and association practices can make for NEW traditions and memories. With each year, we all have new challenges and embracing them allows for stronger continuity.

From our office to yours – we wish all of you a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving with those you love.


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