Sunday, September 30, 2012

Association Executives in Sprint Toward New Thinking

All associations have one thing in common:
• We seek time and money from our members, donors and prospects.

And since we’re seeking time and money, we are in competition with every other entity getting people to give their time and money: a professional sports team, a church, a community theater, a great book, a lousy reality TV show.

I’ve said this for years as I work with association and nonprofit boards about turning their association around.
I was reminded of it again today when Mary Byers, CAE, co-author of Race of Relevance, shared this quote in her September newsletter:
 "This should be the new message about associations -- that they should become more competitive in the marketplace by putting forth fresh ideas on issues and problems that concern all of us. As Michael C. Porter and Mark R. Kramer famously asserted in the Harvard Business Review, 'Companies must take the lead in bringing business and society back together. The solution lies in the principle of shared value.'" Thomas G. Loughlin, executive director of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

After seeing this quote, I went to Michael’s article “Associations: Trading Old Thinking for New Action” in the Huffington Post.

A couple of key points from Michael’s story:
  • In a June 2011 NPR piece entitled "Time for Associations to Trade in Their Past?" correspondent Linton Weeks contended that associations are stale, retro, not keeping pace with our uber-digital, hyper-connected world. "In this age of teleconferencing and social networking, the game has changed," Weeks declared. I'm sure when most people receive an invite to their association's latest event, they think, why should I spend the money to attend this to see my friend Ted when I can just text him?
  • And in adapting to the changes in how and why people associate, associations would do well to re-engage members, volunteers and others who are passionate about being involved in these areas. We will be seen as addressing the world's concerns in a meaningful way. Associations can take a page from corporations who've becoming socially responsible and therefore seem to be more connected to the pulse of our times in the public's eye.
Three key questions for association executives to consider:
  1. Does your board and staff recognize your competition for others seeking time and money?
  2. What is your association doing to earn the time and/or money from your members and donors? 
  3. How does it stack up against your competitors?
What do you think?

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