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February 4, 2009 


Big shout-out to great sponsor The George Washington University! Earn your Master's in Organizational Sciences. Don't miss the info session on Wed, Feb 11. See ad to the right for details and tell them we sent you!


Membership in the American Occupational Therapy Ass'n grew from 32,000 to 39,000 the past four years. Fred Somers has been CEO for five and implemented new recruitment and retention methods that helped win back members who suddenly viewed membership as discretionary spending. How'd he do it?


When we visited his Bethesda HQ, he cited two key strategies: 100th re-branding and social media:

  • AOTA turns 100 in 2017 (get ready, Willard Scott) and used the occasion to write a Centennial Vision, based on town halls across the country with members, non-members, futurists, scientists, and government officials. Fred says buy-in from all members was imperative to advance new goals.
  • Regarding social media, Fred said AOTA was an early adopter, hiring a full time manager to launch a social network, linking young practitioners with the field's thought leaders. They also offer networking opportunities via Facebook, Twitter, message boards, podcasts, and more. 

Fred says differentiating occupational therapy from other healthcare professions earned them their own seat at the table. It worked: They met twice with the President's Transition Team, earning goodwill by hosting an official healthcare town meeting in December. When advocating to the legislative branch, Fred says evidence and research are key, so AOTA invests heavily in leadership development for the profession's scientists, links them to NIH, and keeps them aligned with the public's research agenda. Above, Fred shows off a Fenway Park replica; he's a Red Sox diehard, but even better, his son's on pitching scholarship at East Carolina.


Did having Oprah in town last week make you want to talk about your feelings or at least chat candidly with peers? David Kushner, president of association consulting firm The Kushner Companies, hosts the Non-Profit Executive Forum, a regular gathering of CEOs, for that purpose. He's encouraged that even in the confines of a small, high-level, confidential group (no repercussions for honesty) many say, "We're going to take care of our staff" and not cut salaries, because of the damage it would do to morale. If there are cuts, it's in other areas, such as reducing the number of board or committee meetings. (Not exactly the ultimate sacrifice.)


David (in suit and tie now for added credibility) often handles tough cases, like board conflicts, or new CEOs out of synch with staff. Another common issue is reviewing nonprofit governance structures and nomination processes because a tough economy begs tough questions about "How do our committees function?" and "Who's on our board?" The overall trend is toward smaller boards. David's been in DC since 1980, including stints as CEO of the Professional Convention Management Association and the American Osteopathic Hospital Association. The next meeting of the Executive Forum is March 3. For more info, hit him up here.

Send story ideas: curtis@bisnow.com

Arent Fox
Cardinal Bank

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