7 Secrets to Saving Your Association From Failure

Aug 9, 2016 1:30:00 PM

Burke Gibney

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ASAE's annual meeting (#ASAE16) is set to take place in Salt Lake City, UT at the Salt Palace from August 13-16th. This association management convention has some big goals to accomplish. The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), the essential organization for association management, believes that associations have the power to transform society for the better,” and we believe that many associations need their leadership now more than ever.

Failure rate is high for associations, as they often rely on donations and volunteers to further their mission. Conferences such as ASAE can provide tremendous value to difficult industries through their educational and network resources.

Many failed associations have the following neglected areas in common. However, knowing where you need to focus to prevent your association from failing is half the battle.


7 Secrets to Saving Your Association From Failure:

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1. Know Your Business

Stick to your area of expertise and competitive advantage. Many associations try to do too much and wander into fields that are not core to the areas where they shine. This ends up diluting their value and losing focus on what they do best. Outsource where your business is weak, and stick to being the best at what you do.

Check out the ASAE educational session on, "Creating and Leading a Culture of Innovation," to keep your association at the top of their game.


2. Focus on Your Mission

Many associations struggle to stay focused on the mission of the organization. This is often due to the fact that they are run by a collection of people on a board who have different ideas and priorities. Associations with a strong mission statement that are easily referenced will provide guidance when the direction of the association gets muddled.

A solid mission statement will motivate, attract, and provide identity for your association. When the going gets tough, it should remind members who you are, what you do, and why you do it.

Be sure to listen in on the ASAE educational session, "Creating Your Association's Capacity for Foresight," for inspiration.


3. Talk it Up: Communicate the Benefits

Associations need to communicate their benefits on an ongoing basis so that their members feel a purpose in their cause. People need to know whether or not their efforts are making a difference in order to feel connected to their work. Having this information on a regular basis will keep members engaged and motivated to continue their efforts.

ASAE's educational session, "Becoming Your Association’s Storyteller-in-Chief," is sure to provide great tips on how to do this.


4. Value Your Members

Always keep in mind that your members are your customers. They deserve the same quality of service your association provides to its cause. Just because your association is not for profit doesn’t mean that the quality should suffer.

Consider the reason members join your association and strive to meet this need effectively. Repeat customers are likely to donate more and provide more referrals, so it is in your association’s best interest to help them accomplish their goals.

Check out the ASAE educational session on "Volunteers: The Air We Breathe," for an in-depth look at this topic.

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5.No Freebies

Associations that offer free benefits often suffer when growing their memberships. The "Why should I pay to join when I can get this for free?” mentality can be detrimental to growing an association. Associations should be clear in their benefits so that members are compelled to want to pay for them. Accomplish this with “members-only” pricing for your services and incentives to become active members.

The ASAE education session on "Evaluating Your Association Offerings" covers this and much more.


6.Keep Up With the Competition

Many associations fail because their competition sneaks up on them with a better product and takes over. It is important to keep tabs on your competition so that you can stay relevant in the marketplace and constantly find areas where your association can improve. Analyze your competition and find unique ways your association can help members that your competition can’t.

ASAE will hold an education session called, "Boost Your Membership Renewals" that will help your association tackle this issue.


7. Change With The Times

As your association changes due to organizational restructuring, changing demand, or budget changes, maintain continuous and transparent communication with your members. Assure them the association will answer their questions and address their needs, and follow through on action items.

Fear of change can often result in a mass exodus from the association, and you need to maintain a consistent, forward-projecting message to reassure members that the changes are leading the association in the right direction.

ASAE will have an educational session called, "What to do When Getting a New CEO" that will provide solutions and direction when facing change in an association.

Now that you are aware of these common areas where associations fall short in maintaining a healthy organization, do everything in your power to preserve and protect the mission of your organization. Remember why you started or joined your association, and stay true to that purpose. We hope you enjoy your time at ASAE in Salt Lake City and use what you learn to protect your association from failure.

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