After working nearly 30 years in the association profession, including the last seven as CEO of the Center for Association Leadership and four as executive vice president at ASAE, Susan Sarfati has started a new job with the American Program Bureau. We asked her about why she left ASAE & The Center, her legacy, and the new challenges that lie ahead for her.
AM: When you came back to ASAE as part of the merger in 2004, did you ever envision leaving the association?
Sarfati: I was focused on making the merger work, so that wasn't part of my thought process. If it were, I might have envisioned that I would be there longer. I did not assume at the time that we merged that I would be leaving before myended.
AM: What do you see as your most satisfying accomplishments at ASAE & The Center?
Sarfati: I've mostly been satisfied with my ability to connect with thousands of people. Since I announced my resignation, I've received hundreds of e-mails, letters, and phone calls about the impact that I've had on peoples' lives and careers. That is most important to me.
Second was the launch of The Center for Association Leadership. It was about creating a boundaryless organization that would become the premiere provider of learning for association professionals.
Next is launching a movement around social responsibility with the Global Summit on Social Responsibility (held April 30-May 2). My great hope is that it is the beginning of a movement throughout the many industries and professions and social causes that are represented by ASAE & The Center constituents.
AM: Any regrets?
Sarfati: In some ways, I wish that we had introduced the social responsibility movement earlier. But I wouldn't call that a regret — it came at a time that felt right for our organizations.
AM: You are moving on to a new position at the American Program Bureau — what led to the decision to move on? Dissatisfaction with things at ASAE & The Center? A new opportunity too good to pass up?
Sarfati: It was a combination of both. In everyone's career there are seasons, and I felt that it was time for me to move on. I have accomplished a lot. I feel like I'm at the top of my game, and that's always a good time to leave.
AM: What will be your role at APB?
Sarfati: I will be opening a Wash-ington office and spearheading efforts to reach out to associations, corporations, universities, and public forums worldwide.
I also have the opportunity to start my own consulting business, which will be called Beyond Excellence! I've had many organizations that have talked to me about doing projects, but I have to be careful not to bite off more than I can chew. I'm going to zero in on leadership development, women's issues, and social responsibility.
AM: What one thing do you believe will be your legacy at ASAE & The Center?
Sarfati: Associations' role in social responsibility. It dovetails with my dedication to strengthening the leadership abilities of people who work in associations.
AM: Is the social responsibility movement in good hands?
Sarfati: Yes. They are a wonderful staff. And there are so many people that are engaged in volunteering.
I hope ASAE & The Center continues to be an organization that is out there and risk-taking and bold, and not be about rearranging deck chairs. It's all about the profession and helping create community and engagement — that's what ASAE & The Center is about, connecting great ideas and great people, and I know that it will continue to focus on that in the future.
— Dave Kovaleski