See It to Be It : Association Management (w/ Mariama Boney)

Our host Amy C. Waninger speaks with Mariama Boney, the president and CEO of Achieve More LLC, on this entry of the See It to Be It series. They discuss the importance of joining an association and break down what it’s like to manage them from a leadership perspective. Check the links in the show notes to connect with Mariama and check out Achieve More LLC!

Struggling with your Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) work? Kanarys—a Black-founded company—has your back. Regardless of where you are on your DEI journey, we arm you with the insights you need now to take action now. From audits to assessments to data-informed strategy, we’d love to be the partner you have been looking for. Email stacey@kanarys.com or learn more at https://www.kanarys.com/employer.

Connect with Mariama on LinkedIn.

Learn more about Achieve More LLC on their website.

TRANSCRIPT

Amy
Mariama, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for joining me.

Mariama
Well, thank you for having me. It’s so great to be here and see you again.

Amy
Thank you. So this is kind of funny, because a lot of people don’t know this, but, you know, every group has an association, right? Every kind of profession there is has an association. And I didn’t know this–we talk about associations a lot on See It to Be It as places that people find community in their work, and all of these associations are run by people called association executives, and association executives have their very own association called the American Society of Association Executives, and that’s where you and I met. Was it at their annual meeting a couple of years ago?

Mariama
Yes, it absolutely is. And, you know, we met at ASAE, the American Society of Association Executives, the Center for Association Leadership, and the power of associations across the United States and across the world, you know, really is felt, and, you know, we wouldn’t quite know what we would do without associations and nonprofits providing services to our communities and across the various professions.

Amy
Absolutely. You know, it occurs to me–well, first of all, before we get into all of the stuff I want to talk to you about, let’s give our audience a little bit of background. How did you find this work? And what about it appealed to you?

Mariama
Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, as the CEO of Achieve More LLC, I work with associations and nonprofits in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as teams and leadership, and I was introduced to my very first association when I was working at Syracuse University. I’ve also worked in higher education for well over 20 years. So I was introduced to my first association as a college student educator, and then it just kind of took off from there, you know? I was able to find a wonderful sense of community for folks that were doing work on behalf of Black, Latino, Asian and Native American students. Also, you know, those that really cared about the lives of students, you know, when they come to campus and how they get acclimated, and it has just been a wonderful experience. And then obviously since then I’ve been a part of several other associations, and now it’s awesome to be able to be in service to and with associations and nonprofits and higher education.

Amy
I think it’s just fantastic that you found this work and these communities so early in your career. And so you’ve been serving not just the association space, but nonprofits broadly, education. Talk to me a little bit about what does it look like to work with a consultant in this space? Because I think a lot of people have a perception that not for profit means no budget and, you know, I’ve certainly worked with people in not for profits that believe that to be true. So what does it look like to be a consultant in this space? What kind of opportunities are there? And, you know, where does the money come from for these places?

Mariama
Yeah, of course. So, you know, certainly on the association side, many associations might be membership-based. They are still nonprofit organizations, usually classified by the federal government. So it’s either a 501c-3 or a 501c-6 if they have a foundation, or if they might be doing some political activity, however–yeah, so, you know, if it’s a membership-led organization, a lot of times the money is coming from membership as well as corporate sponsors as well as events that they’re providing for their memberships and the external community. And then for nonprofits, you know, sometimes the funding stream is similar as well, more so on the fundraising side and on the donor side and the sponsor side, and then certainly if they’re providing, you know, community-wide services, sometimes it’s also coming from grants, you know, both foundation grants, as well as federal grants, again, or state grants. So there’s really a variety of different funding sources for associations and nonprofits, and then of course we also know within higher education, as well. And just because you’re a nonprofit doesn’t mean that you don’t make money. You know, you need to be able to make money to be able to afford for the organization to run, you know, there–many of these organizations have staff that are also really helping to exemplify and enhance the mission and vision of the organization. So as a consultant, especially if we’re working on team development or leadership development, or we’re looking at diversity, equity and inclusion, or we’re looking at how to integrate race equity as a framework throughout the organization, then, yeah, I mean, there’s funding that the boards usually have set aside for that, and then sometimes there are also grants that the organizations will receive specifically for this work.

Amy
Thank you for clarifying that, because I think, you know, a lot of this is very obscured, right? For most of us on the outside, we don’t necessarily, you know, see the inner workings. So, you know, associations play a lot of different roles in the professional landscape, right? Some provide a sense of community, some provide an advocacy arm, you know, for, you know, pushing on legislation and that sort of thing to benefit the profession, you know? Others are dedicated to the advancement of the profession itself. Some are a combination of all of the above. Where do you tend to gravitate in the work that you do? Is it, you know, primarily toward one type of association or another? Or is it kind of a hodgepodge?

Mariama
Yeah, for me, it’s really a mix of associations and nonprofits, you know, everything from working with architects to working with advocacy organizations, to working with children and youth organizations. I’ve had science-type associations, as well, you know, within my client collaborative. And so for me, it definitely, you know, needs to be an organization that I’m connected to in terms of mission and vision and I believe in their mission and vision and the impact that they’re trying to make within society. And then next, I want to make sure that it aligns with what we’re trying to do or what they’re trying to do in terms of, you know, really being better, achieving more and really trying to maximize their results around, you know, leadership, their leadership teams, or as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Amy
A lot of the different associations that I’ve worked with or spoken for lately, you know, I hear some common themes about some of the challenges that associations are having right now. Because it’s a little tougher to sell membership for things like, you know, professional development content, when people can go get, you know, just about any information they want for free somewhere right online. But I believe there’s still a place for associations. Can you talk a little bit about some of the existential threats that associations face? And, you know, what your outlook is on their survival?

Mariama
Yeah. You know, certainly given our current times, you know, that everyone’s struggling, you know, and it’s really important to realize that, you know, the corporate arena, yes, although they contribute a lot to society, it’s often our associations and our nonprofits, whether it’s specifically around a particular cause, or if it’s particularly around, you know, community services, or just anything that we’re passionate about and that we know needs to continue to move forward, our associations and our nonprofits are right there. So we are definitely seeing some threats as it relates to finances and funding, so I always encourage everyone, you know, when an association or nonprofit reaches out, please do donate to their cause, because they are advancing and really moving the needle on the ground. Also, when it comes to staffing and being able to have enough staff to move forward with the initiatives, awesome events, you know, many associations and nonprofits have been truly impacted during these times because they’re not able to have those community-oriented events that, like, you and I met at, right, and they’re not able to necessarily have and have not been able to have those events given this particular timeframe. So I think that, you know, definitely as we look at how COVID-19 and the economic landscape, as well as our social justice and racial justice movement, has continued to impact associations, I think it’s truly important to continue to be there to support them to move, help them move forward the cause that they’re making within society. So for example, I work with a advocacy organization that focuses on children and youth. That’s one of my clients. And, you know, it’s really important to make sure that people are advocating for our most vulnerable populations, especially when it comes to children and youth and looking at the disparities that might exist within a certain state and being able to help the staff and the board move forward as it relates to race equity and how they include race equity in their initiatives and within the policies that they’re advocating with legislators for is absolutely critical.

Amy
You know, when you’re doing diversity, equity and inclusion work in the nonprofit space, in associations, in education, the impact is so much bigger than in the corporate sector, for example, right, because if you’re doing something within a company, you’re going to probably impact the employees within a company. But talk about the impact you can have doing this work, you know, outside of the corporate landscape and in the nonprofit and association space.

Mariama
Yeah, I mean, you know, we tend to think of corporate in the sense of making widgets. I mean, yes, there are services that are provided, you know, technology services, or finance services, or, you know, an actual kind of product to market a type of service, yet when we think about associations and nonprofits, they really, you know, help to create that additional psycho-social landscape that we have, and, you know, just thinking about the populations that they serve. So whether it’s a national association that might have, you know, 8000 members all the way up to 100,000 members, you know? I just think about each member then impacts their own community, their own workplace, you know? So it really is kind of each one teach one in the sense that one person, you know, you multiply that by the number of people, their family members, that they’re continuing to impact whether they’re a member within the organization or if they are receiving direct services. So if they’re receiving direct services, think about, again, that one person and replicating the gift that that one person is then delivering to a community, a state, or even a whole region.

Amy
Absolutely, and it sounds like to me that for the young people, younger people, younger professionals who are listening, one of the triggers, right, that should, like, pique your interest, right? So you’re always thinking about, like, “Who should be doing this work?” And it sounds like people who are really mission-driven, who want to see big global change, who want to have a real impact, would probably be called to do the kind of work that you do, is that correct?

Mariama
Oh, absolutely, and there are so many great opportunities in terms of actually working with a nonprofit association or even a college campus. And so, you know, nonprofits and associations, they need IT people too. They need webmasters, they need program staff, they need folks that are willing to be in policy or advocacy work. They certainly need, you know, CEOs and executives, right? We need to be training up the next generation of leaders to be able to help lead these associations and nonprofits, in partnership, obviously, with corporations. So this is a great career opportunity, and I know myself, when I was connected to my professional association, I learned so much more about how to work with other people across the country. I learned so much more about the profession, and I learned so much more about just being a professional and what it meant to be a professional in this space. I do also think that associations and nonprofits contribute to really training up people and providing skill sets in new and different ways that we don’t necessarily get from formal education.

Amy
Yeah, and you know, it’s funny, because I don’t think about things like, “Associations need IT people,” right? Because my next question was going to be “Okay, now that we know the drivers, what are the skill sets?” And it sounds like the skill sets are “Yes, we need skill sets.” Not specific ones.

Mariama
Yeah, we need folks that have good leadership. Associations and nonprofits need people that are committed to the mission, they need folks that understand how to work in teams, and then again those have different levels of expertise. Sometimes they may have a research department, so they too need researchers. They also need IT and web and, you know, just that whole infrastructure as well. And, you know, the associations and nonprofits that I have worked with, specifically around diversity, equity and inclusion, it’s just amazing to see how at every level, you know, they need finance people, they need CPAs, they need, you know, every–you know, they need human resource professionals, they need marketing and event professionals, and those are all the different types of folks that I’ve been able to interact with. And then as we help them move together as a team or help them look at, you know, integrating different frameworks or doing a speech on diversity, you know, it’s just great to be able to see the depth and the breadth and the diversity of the different types of roles that people play in associations and nonprofits.

Amy
So for the people who are sitting there saying, “Well, I have some skills, and I’m mission-driven,” how can they go about learning about this work? Like, where do they go to find out more or to be tapped on the shoulder for this kind of work?

Mariama
Certainly. If you are connected into a particular type of organization, that can be really helpful. There are some really great tools and resources, you know? I would definitely say go to ASAE to learn more about the impact that associations are making, and I would also encourage folks to check out idealist.org. That’s a place where you’re also going to see a lot of mission-driven volunteer opportunities, a lot of mission-driven career opportunities, and there’s also ways for, you know–and internships as well, and so I think that that tends to be a really great resource. And, you know, certainly ASAEcenter.org. You know, if there are particulars–so, for example, I want to look at and possibly consider the colleges or universities in my area. You can go to their particular websites to, you know, see what kind of positions they have open, or if there’s, you know, an organization that you are aligned with, you know, it could be United Way, it could be [?], it could be another. There are so many out there. So you could certainly look up, you know, just do a Google search in your area as well for associations or nonprofits, and I’m sure a huge list will come up. And also another avenue is your Chamber of Commerce. Sometimes your Chamber of Commerce will also have a listing of nonprofits and associations in your area as well.

Amy
And I want to point out for those who who haven’t connected these dots yet – volunteer opportunities also count as work experience. So if you’re sitting there wishing you had something on your resume, right, wishing you had an accomplishment or a skill or, you know, an organization name on your resume, guess what? You can go volunteer, you can make the connections–it’s a great networking opportunity too–and then you can take everything you just did and everything you learned and you can put it right on your resume to help you move up where you are, even if it’s not in the nonprofit space.

Mariama
Yeah. And again, you know, what a great way to align yourself with a community around a cause that you care about and continue to contribute and volunteer your time. Also consider that, you know, communities of faith, as well as churches, are considered nonprofits. So, you know, just recognize that that too is another avenue by which you can learn a lot and get involved and contribute as well. So I really do feel like there are a wide variety of what we consider nonprofits, right, and nonprofit structures within which we can continue to give back, areas where we can work with [?], and also areas where we can continue to support.

Amy: I want to switch the conversation just a little bit because we’ve been talking a whole lot about how do you get into this work, but you’ve been in this work for a while, and so now you have a consultancy dedicated to helping these organizations. So you’re on the outside helping. How did you get to that point? You know, what led to your decision to go out on your own and kind of widen your impact across a variety of different groups and different causes?

Mariama
Yeah. I mean, I’ve been working in this space for well over 21 plus years, and not only working in higher education, associations and nonprofits, yet I’ve also had–you know, this is the fifth year anniversary of Achieve More LLC, and then when I decided to really take it full time, within the last year it has really impressed upon me how much we need good leadership in the United States and across the world. I think we have seen a lot within the last, you know, 10, 15 years, both in terms of our national leadership, leadership within companies, leadership on the ground within associations and nonprofits–and some leadership that has been wonderful, and then also leadership that hasn’t been so great. And so recognizing that specifically within associations and nonprofits and even, you know, some institutions of higher education, organizations are strapped. They can’t necessarily afford to have another staff member that solely focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion, specifically associations and nonprofits. In higher education more so. Yes, you’ll find that a little bit more common. So because they can’t necessarily hire a coordinator for DEI or a director of DEI, right, within their budgets and be able to sustain it over the long term, I have found that it has been very helpful that, you know, when they have projects that I can assist with and go ahead and submit for and work with them on a short term basis, to then be able to help them get to a place where they can train up their staff, right, and really integrate DEI within the organization so that they can sustain it on their own. That’s a beautiful place to be. And so yes, sometimes I kind of work myself out of a role, but that’s okay because there’s so many, so many associations or nonprofits out there that can really utilize the assistance.

Amy
Yeah. And I think, you know, it’s interesting, too, because a lot of people don’t think about, “Okay, maybe an organization can’t hire me full-time, but four organizations could hire me part-time,” and that’s just as good, right, from my perspective, or even their perspective, right? And then you’re maximizing your impact, not just in one place but in multiple places.

Mariama
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And it also gives you an opportunity to experience the diversity of the different types of organizations, and everyone’s structured differently, and you just really get to meet, I think, just a wonderful set of staff and the community itself.

Amy
And so what do your target clients look like? If somebody’s listening to this who works in the nonprofit, education, association space, what is the question or the problem that they’re grappling with that should lead them to calling you?

Mariama
Yeah. So if you are trying to figure out how to get your teams to work better–perhaps there’s some communication challenges, perhaps there’s trust issues, perhaps there’s low morale, perhaps there’s high anxiety amongst the team. That’s one issue, you know? Or if you’re trying to get your organization’s–you know, maybe there’s a new initiative that you’ve started and you need everybody to be on the same page. I can come in and help facilitate how everyone gets on the same page, how we develop core values to make sure that we move forward. And, you know, as I talked about, some of those problem areas around building trust, communication, working better together, that’s definitely an issue. And then sometimes if you get to a place where maybe you’ve had an incident around diversity, equity, and inclusion–it could be somebody, you know, making racist remarks, or somebody–you know, or microaggressions might be happening all over the place where, you know, you’re looking at prejudice and discrimination or you’re trying to think about your systems and systematically look at, you know, how are we systematically addressing issues of racism, I think that that also can be an area where, you know, I can definitely help you and can definitely help to help you move forward the needle to a point where you’re getting to be successful and helping the organization learn more about exactly diversity, equity and inclusion from those particular areas. So it could be problem oriented, where, you know, something has totally gone off the rails, or it could be, you know, we have this new initiative, and we need somebody to come in and help us from an external point of view, make sure we’re not missing anything, and help us to be able to think outside the box. So that’s what I’m here for, to help those organizations that want to maximize their results. They know they need to be better, and they really want to achieve more.

Amy
And so here’s a question for you. As you are working with associations, nonprofits and education, and as you are outside of those organizations, where do you go for community?

Mariama
So, I mean, I definitely connect with my other diversity, equity and inclusion colleagues, you know, across the country. I continue to connect within some women’s groups that I’m a part of, as well as a diversity executive leadership program that I’m also a part of, and, you know, I just have kind of my own smaller networks throughout the country that I can continue to rely on. You know, I have an executive coach, and I think that that’s very helpful, you know, being in business, and I also have, you know, other mentors that I can continue to rely on.

Amy
I love that you’ve created that for yourself. So you have community within community where you serve other communities, but it is important that we all have people that we can rely on, right, you know, that are seeing the same things we’re seeing, that are struggling with the same things we’re struggling with and that have solved some of the same problems we seek to solve, because regardless of the kind of work we do, right, there’s no reason to be isolated, and it’s not to anyone’s advantage to be isolated.

Mariama
No. I mean, you know, there are 1.5 million associations in the United States, and so you can find community somewhere.

Amy
You know, sometimes I joke when I’m doing work with groups that are, you know, outside of corporate, I’ll say, “You know, there’s probably a left-handed plumbers association, so if you’re a left-handed plumber–” But 1.5 million associations…

Mariama
Yeah, 1.5 million nonprofits and associations in the US, and there’s, you know, almost upwards of 100,000, you know, membership-based or trade-type of association. So that’s a lot of organizations that are doing really great work in communities at, you know, at the local level, at the state level, right in your own community, perhaps also at the, you know, national level as well. And, you know, there’s got to be something out there for you.

Amy
I’m going to look and see if there’s actually a left-handed plumbers association, and if so, they’re going to have to pay me an affiliate fee for sending people there.

Mariama
While Meetup groups are often wonderful, or Facebook groups can also be great as well, I always encourage everybody to connect to an association or a nonprofit that you’re passionate about, either in your career field or in your community as well.

Amy
Yeah. And I think there’s something too, you know, I think a lot of people are hesitant because they don’t want to pay membership dues, and there’s something about paying dues and being a member of a group–there’s a psychological advantage to that, right? But it also says, like, “I’ve got skin in this game.” Like, “I really believe in this, and I’m not just showing up to take. I know that I need to give also.” Can you speak a little bit to that, about what members get out of membership in these organizations? Because I think sometimes people don’t necessarily see–you know, they’re doing, like, a cost-benefit analysis, like, “My $200 could be–you know, I could spend that on pizza,” right? Talk to us about why membership is such a good idea.

Mariama
Yeah, so on the association side–and then again, some nonprofits also have a membership structure–the value of being able to connect with like-minded people in itself is priceless, and then also the education that they’re offering. Usually you are getting some type of educational opportunity, whether it’s webinars or seminars or an annual conference that you can attend, and many of the associations and even nonprofits have all gone virtual and so they’re offering their events virtually as well to really try to accommodate during these times, and have previously offered, you know, webinars and speaker series. So I think the educational aspect is huge, because you really want to stay on your A-game, you know, if you’re in a particular profession where you can connect to an association. Also associations are often [?] advocacy, you know, the things that we care about that we don’t necessarily write our legislators about, many of them are writing our legislators advocating on behalf of our profession, you know, for us. And then, you know, there’s often usually some type of publication, you know, so usually an article or a journal or newsletter, that might come out from the organization as well so you can also stay in the know, and you’ll often tend to see that as well, even on the nonprofit side, whether it’s a publication or newsletter or opportunities to volunteer or ways that they’re providing direct service and advocacy for the particular issues.

Amy
Yeah, and if you’re, you know, an aspiring executive looking to build your brand in your field, right, in your profession or in your industry, associations are a great way to do that, because you can speak at events, right? Your name is on the program, it’s on the website. Your peers are looking at you going, “Man, what are they doing?” Right? You can publish articles in their journal. So it’s not even always about what you’re reading or what you’re taking away, but what can you contribute that really puts you up above your peers and makes you a standout leader?

Mariama
Oh, absolutely. And, you know, that’s one of the reasons why I love working in the association and nonprofit space and contributing as a consultant as well, because the staff and/or the members and even the community have an opportunity to serve on committees. You have a chance to serve on the advisory boards, you have a chance within the association structure to be elected to serve on some of these identity-based groups within the organization. So it could be a women’s group or a men’s group or, you know, focusing on a particular topic area as well. You have an opportunity to write for the newsletter that they’ve published or you have an opportunity to submit a proposal to present at the conference that they’re going to have. So again, there’s so much that you can really glean, and I know my membership in an association and being connected to nonprofits and giving to them–you know, I give to several nonprofits as well–I just, again, have found to be truly, truly rewarding in enhancing my career consistently, you know, over the last 20 plus years.

Amy
Mariama, thank you so much for sharing with us, not just your perspective as a consultant to these groups, but as a member of them as a past employee, and just such a passionate advocate for membership and associations, and, you know, nonprofits, I think sometimes people find that they don’t feel comfortable in a corporate space, they don’t feel connected to the mission, or the values of the organization, or, you know, they feel like they’re, they’re kind of on a on a treadmill, right? Like, is it just working and working and working, but it doesn’t connect with their spirit. And I think this is an avenue for people to put their skills to use in a way that can have a huge impact, fulfill them personally. And, you know, also kind of lift everyone around them at the same time.

Mariama
Totally. You know, and I even think about–you know, I’m a licensed social worker in two states, and I think about, you know, that particular career path and why I chose to be a social worker, and I’m also a certified association executive, and really how I’ve been able to match those two and as you talked about, you know, find that sense of community through connection to the passion or the mission of children and youth and, you know, social justice, and then also thinking about the importance of really helping anyone that’s working in an association, you know, really display their leadership and continue to be leaders within our communities.

Amy
Mariama Boney, founder of Achieve More LLC, thank you so much for your time today.

Mariama
Thank you, Amy. And, again, it’s great to be here. I wish you all the best and wish your listeners and everyone out there the best, and please feel free to connect with me at www.achievemorellc.com if you’d like to talk any more about getting connected to associations and nonprofits or if we can also be of service to you.

Amy
Wonderful. Thank you so much.

Support Our Mission of Amplifying Underrepresented Voices...

Living Corporate’s mission is singular in purpose, but diversified in approach. From our podcasting, to live events around the US, to our giveaways. 

Through Our Podcasts

Our podcast garners over 10K downloads a week and reaches black and brown executives, millennials, college students, creatives and influencers. 

Through Our Visual Media

We host a variety live, interactive web series for Black and brown early, mid, and late careerists that have a global reach. 

Through Our Resources

We connect our audience with valuable resources from resume services, certification prep materials, conference,  attendance sponsorship, and Living Corporate merchandise. Join our newsletter to learn more.

Donation

$
Select Payment Method
Personal Info

Terms

Donation Total: $10.00 One Time

0