Time to Make our Association New Year’s Resolutions

Time to Make our Association New Year’s Resolutions

By Bruce Hammond, CAE

It’s that time of year again – time to light the menorah, decorate the tree, and celebrate the end of what was hopefully a fantastic year! It’s also the time when many people make resolutions for the coming year and plan how they’re going to do things differently to make it even better than the one before.

This got me thinking – if wearing our association professional hats, we were to make some New Year’s resolutions for our associations, what might those include?  Here are a few to consider from my perspective:

  1. shoes on streetResolve to walk in your members’ shoes more often. One of the most important things we can do is know our members and the work they do, and I mean REALLY know the work they do. While we won’t ever be experts in their business or field like they are, we should resolve to know as much as we can and be able to speak their language.

    To make this resolution happen means not relying only on the Annual Meeting to see your members face-to-face. Encourage your staff to make member visits, to regularly connect with members by phone and email, and to be active in monitoring what is happening in the industry to be as up to speed as possible.

    My organization, has our staff utilize time when traveling to other industry conferences to see our members. Staff recently traveled to Atlanta for one industry meeting and to San Diego for another, connecting with a member in those cities on each trip. They came back and shared what they learned with the remainder of the staff, which helped us better understand the field and our members’ day-to-day jobs, needs, and challenges.

  2. Resolve to systematically look at your processes and tweak if needed. Piggybacking on the importance of walking in your members’ shoes, oftentimes we do the same thing from year to year, assuming the old way is the best way to do things. I’d actually encourage association professionals to, regularly experience your association like a member would, to see if your processes or interfaces need updating.

    So what does that mean?

    Perhaps at monthly staff meetings, an organization’s staff could go through one process a member might go through – the join/renewal process, the registration for your annual meeting, the nomination process, the awards submission process, etc.

    Ask yourselves questions like, what was the user experience like? Was there a part that was difficult to maneuver that we could make easier? In what way can we streamline the process to simplify it? Is there language we’re using that could trip up a member? Does X, Y or Z need to be a required field for this specific process? The list of possible improvements is endless.

    Just think about how committing to this could benefit your members…

  3. Resolve to consider alternative revenue streams and alternative ways of getting work done. All associations, whether they’re in excellent financial shape or not, should be looking at streams of revenue and how to bring in more of it. As a wise person once said, “Just because we’re not-for-profit doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make money.” By bringing in revenue, we have increased ability to meet our mission on behalf of our members. So think of ways in which you can create additional revenue. Ways such as:
  • Repurposing content from your annual meeting and package it for people who don’t attend.
  • Developing a sponsored webinar series that delivers both member benefit and association revenue.
  • Creating an Industry Relations Council like many clients at Association Management Center have done to build revenue and develop relationships with industry.

There are many ways to benefit from trying something new.

Also, (and I SWEAR I am not writing this because I work at an 911 that provides outsourcing opportunities) I’d recommend you think about how you’re getting your work done in 2017. Do you have the capacity on staff to effectively fundraise or get corporate support, or should you consider outsourcing? Could you use an external partner to help with your governance/board performance? Would it be helpful to have assistance in redesigning your website or your collateral materials? There are experts within our industry who can help with these things, and who might be valuable to consult or work with to enhance your efforts. Consider using them!

So as the holidays approach and you think about your personal resolutions, I hope you’ll also put on your association professional hat (that I hope is insulated in some way) and think about how you can enhance your organizations next year. Good luck and season’s greetings!

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback about what resolutions you’re making for 2017! Share them on our Facebook page at .