One of the fun parts of being more ‘senior’ in one’s career is having the opportunity to share ‘lessons learned’ over the years.  I had the opportunity to participate in one such session in August – blog post here – and another earlier this month.  Here are a few of the lessons shared from this latest session:

  • The ‘why’ is always the most important – why are you undertaking this effort?  Form (tactics – what will you do and how will you do it?) should follow function (what is it you’re trying to accomplish?).  I’ve often called it the Journalism 101 questions – why, what, who, how, when, where…. This can help keep it simple and get to all of the key issues you need to clarify.
  • “You can grow without a strategy but you can only manage growth with a strategy”.
  • There is a difference between engaging internationally and deciding to change your organizational structure and ‘become global’.  A graph like this can help this discussion among your board and staff to gain clarity.  You can develop your own variations to suit your situation. 
  • Aim to grow where your community is – whether that be current members, partners, your professional field (potential members or partners shown by your research), or other stakeholders.
  • Annual budgets don’t necessarily align well with long-term efforts.  It will be necessary to be clear to your volunteer leadership (decision makers) how the annual expenditures are leading to accomplishing goals.  You may lose money (investing in the future) for a few years before you make it.  You should also be clear that a globalization/global engagement process will almost always take more time and money that you initially think.  (Using the experiences of others who are further along in their global engagement process can help provide validation of this if you should need it).  Your organization can have both humanitarian (altruistic) and business model (making some revenue) goals but be clear what you are intending.
  • Part of your due diligence should be having someone who understands the legal and regulatory environment in the areas where you want to engage.  Regional and national laws can be complicated.  Make sure to protect your intellectual property as much as you can.

Also contributing to these lessons: Matt Loeb, Nancy Witty and Greg Heidrich