ASAE’s Path Forward – The Highlight Reel

If you didn’t tune in for Association Chat (#assnchat) Tuesday, November 29, 2016, you missed one of our most viewed episodes of all time!

We brought on two very important guests, American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) president and CEO John Graham and ASAE board chair Scott Wiley (@ScottDWiley), for a very special Q&A.

If you’re new to the association world, you may be wondering why this chat was such a big deal… well, our weekly host KiKi L’Italien, sort of stirred the pot with a statement that she released directed towards ASAE prompted by the association community’s discussion surrounding this article: Manufacturers and Associations Unite to Offer Support to Trump.

In the statement, KiKi told ASAE that she was concerned about a potential “perception problem” for ASAE and thought it was a good idea for leaders to speak out about the commitment they have for diversity and inclusion and to speak to the community’s unrest after the election. She invited John and Scott on to Association Chat for an open discussion and they accepted.

For this Association Chat, we found out how the leaders of the ASAE are anticipating and handling the diversity and inclusion challenges in the tense atmosphere following such a contentious US presidential election and their tactics for leading when members are asking for many different approaches.

The Topic: ASAE’s Path Forward

Check out the highlights of the chat below or listen in to the replay here:

Photo Submitted: Greg Melia via @gmeliaCAE on Twitter.

Our weekly host, KiKi L’Italien (@kikilitalien), began the chat with a fiery question for John, “Please explain the thought process behind the initial effort to craft letter, and discuss why it was not further reviewed before its final issue. Is this a normal process for each election?”

“The letter was crafted before the election. In hindsight it was an unfortunate headline. A better headline would have referred to a ‘Trump administration,’” said John Graham. “We really thought that the associations were in a great place to bring together a country that is extremely divided. And so we would do what associations do best, we would bring people together.”

Scott added, “We have an incredible responsibility to make sure the new administration understands what we stand for. We’re willing to work with anybody who wants to advance America.”

KiKi led into another important question, “President-Elect Trump has treated women in a less than acceptable way. Women continue to struggle in assn leadership–the more money an association has, the less likely the CEO or board will be comprised of women. In one report, women have gone backward in salaries compared to their male counterparts. What will ASAE do to ensure that women–who make up the majority of association workforce continue to achieve leadership roles?”

From a gender perspective ASAE has been aggressively looking at workforce issues,” said Graham.

Our host asked the same question of Wiley, who mentioned that he has a daughter who he wants to grow up in a world where she is treated equal to men. “We can do more & we are committed to do more [for women]. I’m so proud to be a part of a community that gets that,” Wiley said.

Being part of a community that understands diversity and inclusion is important, and this is something that ASAE must continue forward with.

ASAE has good progress with their diversity and inclusion initiatives. How will ASAE continue to improve the D&I under this Administration? This is of particular concern considering the President-Elect’s many negative comments on people with disabilities, women, African-Americans, Muslims, etc. and his recent Cabinet and Executive staff appointments,” asked KiKi.

Wiley was quick to take the lead on this question, “ASAE has a firm commitment to diversity and inclusion. That is something we have to make clear,” Wiley said. “As a community where D&I matters, we have to lead by example.”

We are all proud that ASAE is pushing for more inclusion and more tough but honest dialogue. Want to learn more about ASAE’s Diversity and Inclusion policy? Click HERE.

Take a first hand look at ASAE’s Diversity and Inclusion tree!

We’ll leave you with this one final quote:

“As association leaders, we have a unique challenge and opportunity ahead of us. Associations have always made a difference, and our role has never been more important.” – John Graham

We signed off with John Graham and Scott Wiley after a very quick hour of intriguing discussion. Since we had tons of questions left over we asked for John and Scott to answer them and post them to Collaborate. See their answers below:

  1. ASAE has made good progress with their diversity and inclusion initiatives. How will ASAE continue to improve D +I under this Administration? This is of particular concern considering the President-Elect’s many negative comments on people with disabilities, women, African-Americans, Muslims, etc. and his recent Cabinet and Executive staff appointments.

ASAE has a consistent and unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion (D+ I) in the association management profession. That D+ I commitment extends to our advocacy agenda as well, particularly when there is legislation or regulatory policy proposed that would affect accommodations or services that touch our membership. As would be the case with any Administration, ASAE will continue to oppose any legislative and regulatory proposals that would permit discriminatory practices.

  1. The LGBT community has made considerable progress in recent years under the current administration. Much of the progress was done through executive orders signed by our current president. Should the president-elect announce that he plans on rescinding the orders (namely dealing with Federal contractors not being able to discriminate, and DoE rules regarding Title IX extensions to various communities), will ASAE take a tough position on inclusion and come out against said changes?

Any proposed changes to state or federal policy, statute, regulation or laws will be reviewed carefully to determine how they might impact associations or the profession and if so, how ASAE can best advance the association’s voice in any subsequent policy discussion.

  1. Associations must work with the new President regardless of past unacceptable comments. Signing the NAM letter though is a sign of doing business as usual for ASAE without consideration of member thoughts and ASAE’s own policies such as D&I. How does ASAE plan to navigate the path between “normalizing” administration relationships while remaining cognizant and sensitive to policies and changes that may violate ASAE recommendations such as the D&I policy and commitment and member sensitivities?

ASAE has and will continue to engage its members in establishing our advocacy agenda. We do that in several different ways, including: surveying members on issues of importance to them, soliciting regular input, and feedback from the ASAE Board, the ASAE Public Policy Committee, and other volunteer leaders. In August, the ASAE Board also approved a Diversity + Inclusion advocacy decision tree that will help ASAE make decisions and respond to various social justice issues that have implications for associations.

It’s important that ASAE is at the table with the new administration, so we can educate them about the issues that matter to our community including tax policy, right to petition and lobby the government and business of meetings. It’s important that we make a commitment to work with them on issues that will help advance America. For example, with Business of Meetings, we are working to ensure policies are in place that make everyone feel welcome when attending a meeting or event.

  1. What is ASAE’s next communication to PEOTUS going to be, and who will be involved in crafting its message?

While ASAE has no specific, planned communications to the President-Elect at this time, our Public Policy team is actively working with Congressional and agency leaders to ensure that ASAE’s public policy positions are understood. Should the need arise to communicate with the President-Elect on a specific issue, ASAE’s executive leadership and the ASAE Board, as well as ASAE’s Public Policy staff, will be involved in crafting that message.

  1. How does ASAE leadership view the 2017 Congressional landscape vis-à-vis its top legislative priorities (overtime, Cadillac tax, tax reform, et al.)?

Congressional Republicans have signaled a strong interest in working to overhaul the tax code in 2017, perhaps even in the first 100 days of the next Administration. While we have seen a tax reform blueprint that gives us a rough indication of how congressional tax writers would like to proceed, we don’t yet know whether they will include provisions that impact the tax treatment of various association revenue-generating activities. In the past, we have seen provisions that would change the tax treatment of association investment income, royalty income, sponsorship income, and more. We anticipate this is an issue we will be heavily focused on in 2017.

In terms of the overtime rule, ASAE and numerous other organizations were successful in obtaining a preliminary injunction that blocked the DOL’s overtime rule from taking effect as scheduled on Dec. 1. ASAE has said all along that we are not against increasing the salary threshold at which employees become eligible for overtime, but the DOL rule as written was unworkable for many organizations. We will continue to weigh in on this issue as it develops.

  1. In this evolving state of change in our political system, how does ASAE plan on using its members and volunteers, especially those with government relations expertise, to examine, shape and support the path forward?

ASAE is fortunate to have many members and volunteers who have a lot of experience and expertise in government relations. We need their involvement when it comes to supporting ASAE’s advocacy efforts and contributing content for ASAE’s education programs, publications, and other offerings. We know that in order to maintain a strong voice, we need buy-in and support from our members on what we are doing from an advocacy standpoint.

  1. Will ASAE consider becoming active on First Amendment issues?

ASAE has always been a vocal proponent of First Amendment rights, particularly speech and the right to petition the government. ASAE has historically and will continue to aggressively defend associations’ rights to lobby on issues affecting the industries and professions they represent.

  1. Associations are based in the concept of the First Amendment – the right to represent constituents and petition the government. Some statements and actions by the PEOTUS have challenged fundamental First Amendment rights. What First Amendment issues do you anticipate may arise during the next Administration, and what should be done to protect First Amendment rights including the right to associate?

Associations have to do a better job of communicating the importance of having a voice in Washington, and, in particular, our role as advocates for our industries and professions. Hopefully, the new Administration and Congress will view associations as important resources in the development of legislation and regulatory policy, but it will be the job of ASAE and its members’ associations to reinforce that with policymakers and their staffs.

  1. It might be more appropriate for the Diversity email list, but what kinds of resources, thought leadership, and support do associations expect to need in light of increased political partisanship and divisiveness?

One of the most important resources we have is our diverse membership. Many of our members have great strategies in how they have worked with political partisanship and divisiveness. I encourage our members to reach out to each other and share best practices.

ASAE has several resources on its website including models and samples that cover different topics ( It’s important that our members advocate about the power of associations. It’s critical that we work together to educate our local and state policymakers about the role associations play in communities as well as the issues and policies that are important to your organization.

The Power of A website ( has resources, data, and a toolkit on how associations impact our society and economy. Another great tool for members is the ASAE Foundation ( It has research that focuses on the trends impacting associations, innovation projects helping the community, and education that is helping to advance the profession.

  1. How do you think a Trump administration will impact the advocacy role of many associations given his promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington DC?

President-Elect Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington has a populist appeal, in that, many Americans are disenchanted with what they perceive as government dysfunction and undue influence by special interests. Unfortunately, this is not a particularly a new perception.

ASAE and associations need to continue educating and communicating the importance of having a voice in Washington, and, in particular, our role as advocates for our industries and professions.

Follow ASAE on Twitter: @ASAEcenter

What was your favorite moment during this special Q&A? We want to know! Tweet @assnchat using #assnchat to share your thoughts.

Check out the episode stream here:

Or check out the closed caption episode here:

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