Thursday, June 28, 2012

Change for Many Associations Represents Rotating Bald Tires: 5 Questions Association Execs Should Ask

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve visited with the CEOs of three national/international associations.

All three were dealing with some core issues about the future of their organizations:
  • One represents an organization with continuous declines in membership and loss of chapters.
  • One’s organization burned through $500,000 in reserves before reacting to the recession’s impact on the association and its members.
  • One has a complex board and membership structure that makes it difficult to adjust and make changes needed for the association to move forward.
All three told me they are struggling to get their boards to act. They’ve asked whether I can come in as a third party and help focus their boards on the key issues.

Sometimes we as board members or staff feel we're being innovative or seeking new solutions for old problems when we are just recycling old ideas. As Michael Meleedy of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) says, “it’s like rotating bald tires and thinking you’ve fixed your car’s problems.”

As Frank noted in his comments to my May 3 blog on 5 Issues Impacting Future of Associations & Nonprofits, “It is going to take entrepreneurially- minded employees and visionary boards to make the giant leap to the new models.”

Here are six key questions to ask your leaders and staff:
1. If our association did NOT exist today, would we create it?
2. If so, what would it look like? Answer the “what if” question.
3. What would we put on the blank paper as we create this new entity?
4. Would it have members who pay dues?
5. What programs/services – if any – would we offer?
6. What else?

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