Association maven

Involved in association management for more than 30 years, Barb Kachelski is on a purposeful mission.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) in Madison is an association co-founded by the late Dr. Jack Kammer and Dr. Jeff Morley.

Barb Kachelski, its current executive director, joined AACD about seven years ago after a 23-year career at Credit Union Executives Society (or CUES), and a shorter stint at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

Years ago, while living in upstate New York, she was offered a public relations job for the local chamber of commerce. “That was my first exposure to volunteer leaders and board members who cared so much about an organization’s mission that they also paid money to support it. I loved that passion.”

In a recent conversation, Kachelski explains that associations are her “life’s calling.”

What does AACD do?

It is a global organization that offers a voluntary, three-part accreditation for general dentists and lab technicians committed to learning more and for people starting on their journey toward accreditation. We help them elevate their clinical knowledge and their hand skills because knowing and doing are two different things.

Is AACD a not-for-profit organization?

I prefer to call it “for-purpose.” Girl Scouts sell cookies. So does Nabisco, but they’re not doing it for the same reasons. Girl Scout cookie sales purposefully help young girls grow and thrive.

So, organizations can be purposeful but also must be sustainable. They need net revenue to pour into their missions or face failure. Either term — nonprofit or not-for-profit — is a negative way of saying what I believe ‘for-purpose’ states in a positive way.

We’ve heard that association memberships across the board are declining. What’s your take?

Yes, 26 percent of associations reported membership declines in the last year. I think that most associations are realizing that younger people have different criteria for joining, and they need to adapt. Associations should focus on helping members succeed and give them a place where they can be appreciated and learn.

Here, some of our long-time members are trying to leave legacies, pass torches, and inspire. Many younger dentists face different challenges, including tremendous debt. They want purpose-filled jobs and mentors in clinical and practice management. AACD tries to help by offering a virtual campus, webinars, new member advisors, and a residency program.

What else should the business community know?

We have a charitable foundation called Give Back a Smile. Our members donate their time to help restore the smiles of adults who have received dental injuries from abuse or sexual assault. Broken or missing teeth often keep victims from venturing out and finding work.

Are all teeth the same?

I’ve learned that different parts of the world have different concepts of beauty, and that teeth vary by culture and even gender. Cosmetic dentistry is often thought of as just for Hollywood types, but the fact is some people are just born with bad teeth.

Then we see recovering methamphetamine addicts who come to us with ‘meth mouth,’ patients with bulimia, which can ruin teeth, and staining from some prescription drugs like tetracycline.

What might people be surprised to learn about you?

I’ve been doing a happiness project for the past nine years, an idea based on a book I read by Gretchen Rubin. Each month I plan one thing that brings me joy. For example, I’ve written love letters to my family, including older aunts and uncles, to let them know how important they are to me. I’ve learned that you can’t be joyful and choose joy without elevating people around you.

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