Here’s something I’m sure won’t come as a surprise to you: being an association leader is hard. It’s important work, but every day brings new challenges. Your members depend on you to get it right. You can’t let them down.
One way to avoid falling down on the job is to arm yourself with knowledge. Far too many associations falter because they don’t grasp some basic concepts. Here are some areas in which every association leader should build their awareness. Educate yourself, and you’ll increase your association’s chances of success.
Have a clear financial plan
Running a successful association requires money. Managing your finances wisely is a must. It’s a complex process, but one you can simplify by taking care of the following:
- Put an accounting system into place that is easy to understand and useful to your board members.
- Spend wisely and conserve costs where possible.
- Establish and follow a reserve policy. Set a path to invest any surplus funds and make that cash work for you!
Follow a solid strategic plan
Many associations take a reactive approach to operations. Something comes up, they handle it, they move onto the next thing. There’s no true structure, and there’s no planning ahead. You can’t prep yourself for future success if you don’t have any idea what that future should look like. Here are a few tips:
- Understand your budget, and use it as a decision-making framework.
- Rely on data management as another way to manage your operation.
- Prioritize your resources wisely, and don’t overpromise to anyone.
- Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Make sure you’re not solving one problem while creating a bigger one in the process.
- Make sure you’re not overly reliant on dues–look to other revenue sources.
Grasp key legal issues
You don’t have to be a licensed attorney to guard your association against some serious legal woes. However, it’s hugely beneficial if you increase awareness of some central legal areas:
- Understand how the IRS impacts your organization, then comply with the necessary guidelines.
- Antitrust laws can trip you up. Make sure you’re not at risk of breaking rules regarding collusion, price fixing or other complicated areas. This FTC guide can be a helpful resource.
Serve your members well
You can’t underserve your members, offer things they don’t really need or otherwise disappoint. If you are, you need to adjust and get it right, or you’ll lose them (and their dues).
- Listen to what they say they want–and take the time to discern the things they really want.
- Advocacy is important, but don’t overvalue it as a member benefit.
- If you offer certain member benefits, make sure you have a plan for how you’ll deliver.
- Don’t underestimate the value of member-to-member outreach.
- Realize that not only members contribute. People that pay non-member rates for events and other offerings also are your customers.
Build strong leadership
Solid leadership leads to strong associations. Here are some ways to create leaders equipped to steer you toward current and future success.
● Understand the difference between merely passing along information and creating knowledge.
● The industry and your members are constantly changing and growing–plan for that evolution.
● Because your current leaders will need to pass the baton, establish a succession plan.
Don’t miss marketing
There’s a danger in assuming your members and potential members know all the great things you do for them. You need to tell and remind them, and marketing is how you bring that message home. It’s important to understand and apply marketing principles. They will help you communicate your value.
It bears repeating–association leadership isn’t easy. It is important that you forge relationships with partners that you trust along the way. One valued partner worth aligning with is an experienced, committed association management firm. Reach out to FrontlineCo today; we’d be happy to share practices, strategies and ideas that will work for your organization.