Even though the concept of virtual support has been around for years (our team's been doing it since 2005), many associations still struggle with exactly how to make this type of delegation happen effectively.
Here's how most people approach outsourcing:
- Sue feels overwhelmed.
- Sue rushes to find someone to help.
- Sue gives the helper a rapid-fire brain dump of everything that she knows about the task and sends them on their way to do it.
- The helper asks Sue lots of questions that take time to answer.
- Or the helper asks no questions and ends up messing things up.
- Sue jumps back in to do the task herself, proclaiming that outsourcing didn't work.
As we observe this happening from the outside, the problems are clear - poor planning, inadequate structures and misaligned communication. Yet, when we are mentally on overload because the work is coming in faster than we can cope, it's incredibly easy to overlook the fundamentals.
If virtual delegation is new for your association, here are a few tips that can help you get started right:
1. Partner with an *experienced* company. It takes MUCH more of your time to train someone who hasn't worked virtually before. Someone with experience will know the right questions to ask up-front and will have unobtrusive structures already set up to support communication and stay abreast of progress.
2. Beware virtual assistants that offer bargain basement pricing. You almost always get what you pay for in these situations. Low pricing typically means that the person is either a) new - and therefore inexperienced, so see #1 above; or b) they aren't running a solid, profitable business - and you may not be able to depend on them to be a long-term partner.
3. Test the waters. If you have any doubts, start with a single project. Choose something that is significant enough to be meaningful, but not so big that it takes you a lot of time to ramp up (or fix) if things go poorly. You don't have to go "all in" at the start.
4. Outsource at the right level. Use our Delegation Pyramid to outsource the right level of tasks. You can find a copy of that inside our Delegate with Ease Quickstart Exercise. (Note: This resource wasn't written specifically for associations, but the information/process is still totally relevant.)
Virtual delegation is a beautiful way to have your association supported. It not only gives you extra hands, but it also frees you for higher-level activities like development of new programs and creation of strategic partnerships.
Just be smart about it. Don't rush. Plan your approach and pick the right partner.