One of the top three complaints I hear from association executives is a lack of resources. But is it true? Often what is needed is refocusing or restructuring. It is easy to get stuck in the weeds and lose sight of the big picture. Day to day tasks take priority and you and your team move further away from achieving strategic goals.
We recently interviewed Joy Nott, President of the Canadian Importers and Exporters Association (I.E. Canada) who offered these top three tips to association expectations:
- Dare to dream – envision your ideal association and keep your eye on achieving your “utopia”. It provides clear direction, enabling you to creatively best use your tools and resources.
- Be transparent – be open and honest to all stakeholders (members, staff, board, service providers). When everyone understands why and what you are doing, you move closer to your goals.
- Listen to all feedback – seekpositive and negative feedback. It often provides hidden jewels and offers a new and different perspective.
Also consider the following:
- Tie your business activities to your strategic goals
Create a culture that is performance based. Everything the association does should be tied to your strategic goals. Associations that link performance to objectives typically enjoy higher revenue and overall success. According to Charity Navigator, non-profits should direct at least 65-75% of their resources to achieve their mission. Regularly evaluate all of your initiatives to ensure are aligned with your big picture objectives.
- Everyone must connect their role to Vision
Everyone – directors, volunteers, outsourced partners, and staff – must understand the Vision and be aware of their role on achieving those outcomes. Performance reviews and organizational results are more powerful when they are linked to the Vision and the organization’s strategic goals.
- Shift your focus from costs to outcomes
Monitoring costs does not always indicate efficiency and can result in narrow decisions that undermine strategic objectives. An initial investment can yield substantial benefits. Take technology for example. If your staff are completing tasks manually that could be automated through technology, this is a false economy. Your human resources are better deployed on higher value activities.
- Review and assess your talent pool
Annually review your talent pool in relation to the strategic plan. Assess whether you need to restructure, outsource, provide training or reconsider the value of an initiative. Often talent pools evolve without conscious planning. When you plan instead of react you make a meaningful contribution to your member value. Keep your volunteers in mind as you do the assessment. When they are seen as a “free” resource, their value is often disregarded. Annually review your committee structures, volunteer requirements and expertise in relation to the strategic plan. If a strategic objective keeps getting delayed, consider bringing in outside assistance. Consultants or other service providers can often help you to achieve an objective faster or get a project off the ground.
- Outsource lower value activities
Do you have a full time receptionist but little walk-in traffic? Do you have an aging server and a full-time IT person keeping it running? Is an administrator doing bookkeeping – poorly? Are you using expensive office space to store miles of files? All of these activities can be outsourced – often for substantially lower costs than you are spending to do the tasks in house.