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Strategic Association Management: 10-Step Plan

Strategic Association Management: 10-Step Plan

In the fast-paced world of associations, staying ahead of the curve is essential for success. Maintaining the status quo is not enough.

It’s for that reason most associations will undergo organizational change every so often. This is the process of periodically planning the future, ensuring that your association’s strategies and initiatives are helping you work towards your overarching business goals. 

Yet despite this, according to Mckinsey & Company, 70 percent of change efforts fail. 

So, how can your association beat the odds and set itself up for future success and longevity? To help, we’ve created this blog to set you up with a robust strategic plan that you can execute with precision - enabling your association to unlock its full potential. 

What is Strategic Association Management? 

Strategic association management refers to the process of developing and implementing a comprehensive plan to effectively manage and grow an association. It involves defining the association's mission, assessing its current position, identifying goals and objectives, and creating strategic initiatives to achieve them. 

This proactive approach helps associations thrive in a competitive environment and deliver value to their members.

The benefits of robust strategic association planning include:

  • Improved top-line revenue
  • Increased bottomline profit
  • Membership growth
  • Stronger member engagement
  • Improved impact and influence on both stakeholders and members
  • Stronger brand awareness 

DOWNLOAD CASE STUDY - Building a Better Brand   to Engage Members

Your 10-Step Guide to a Successful Association Strategy 

1 - Identify Your Value Proposition Using Customer Insights

Understanding your members' needs, expectations, and preferences is critical for developing a compelling value proposition. Conduct surveys, interviews, or focus groups to gather customer insights. Use this information to identify the unique value your association can provide to your members and how it differentiates you from other associations in your industry. 

2 - Assess Your Association’s Current Position, and Identify Where You Want to Go

To develop a successful association strategy, you need to first assess your association's current position. Conduct a thorough analysis of your internal and external environment, including strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Based on this assessment, identify the areas where you want your association to grow, improve, or innovate.

3 - Align Key Stakeholders 

Involving key stakeholders in the strategic planning process is essential for gaining buy-in, building consensus, and fostering a collaborative environment. Engage your board members, staff, volunteers, and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that their perspectives and expertise are incorporated into the strategic decision-making process.

4 - Define Your Mission and Vision

The first step in strategic association management is to define your association's mission and vision. Your mission statement should clearly articulate the purpose of your association and the value it aims to deliver to its members. The vision statement should describe the desired future state and the long-term goals you aspire to achieve.

Note: By focusing on your value proposition before defining your mission and vision, your association can ensure that it puts its members' needs and expectations at the forefront of your overall brand vision. 

5 - Set the Overall Direction of Your Association

Once you have a clear understanding of your mission, vision, and value proposition, it's time to set the overall direction of your association. “Key Success Factors (KSFs)”, which are different to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), will help you determine the strategic priorities that will guide your association's activities and decisions.

By identifying key focus areas, target markets, and strategic partnerships that align with your goals, you’ll want to create clear and actionable strategic objectives around your goals and missions statement.What are the specific key success factors that will measure the success of your overall association strategy? 

6 - Set Your Strategies

Now it’s time to set your strategies. Developing strategic objectives is crucial for translating your overall direction into actionable goals, which should align each objective with your mission, vision, and value proposition. Consider building around three to five strategies that describe what you will do to achieve your strategic objectives. 

7 - Determine Your Strategic Plan

It’s now time to build your strategic plan. This is your plan for how you will fulfill each strategy. What initiatives do you need to successfully complete to achieve your goals? This plan will serve as the building blocks for your strategy, guiding your association's activities and defining the direction that you take. 

Your strategic plan should be grounded on priorities. How many resources do you have to allocate to your strategic plan? To ensure you can properly measure your strategy through KPIs (step 8), it’s important to prioritise your focus on the most important, impactful items that will deliver efficient and meaningful results. 

8 - Set Your Key Performance Indicators 

For each strategic initiative, set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals. SMART goals provide clarity and accountability, ensuring that progress can be measured and tracked. These are your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and will give you insights into how successful your association’s strategy is. Break down larger initiatives into smaller, actionable goals that can be achieved within defined timeframes.

9 - Analyze and Measure Your Performance

Regularly analyze and measure your association's performance against the set goals and objectives. Use relevant metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to track progress and identify areas for improvement. This data-driven approach will help you make informed decisions, adjust strategies if needed, and ensure that you are on track to achieving your desired outcomes.

To do this, it’s important to create a dashboard and update it regularly. A dashboard gives you the insights you need to review data regularly, update results based on your current strategy and then ask the right questions that allow for continuous improvement. 

Don’t have time to manage your association's data? Check out Halmyres new Insights support packages, where we will measure your organization’s growth so that your resources can focus on maximizing it. 

10 - Focus on Continuous Improvements That Help You Reach Your Objectives

Strategic association management is an ongoing process. Continuously evaluate and refine your strategies to adapt to changing circumstances, emerging trends, and member feedback. Foster a culture of continuous improvement within your association, encouraging innovation, learning, and experimentation to stay ahead of the curve and continuously deliver value to your members.

Need help implementing a strategic association management strategy that delivers results? Get in touch with Halmyre today. Our team of marketing experts would love to discuss how your association can increase its membership. 

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Christine Saunders, CM
About Christine Saunders, CM
Halmyre President Christine Saunders is a marketing consultant to service-based organizations, a strategic advisor to marketing executives and leaders, an entrepreneur and a hobby farmer. Prior to founding Halmyre in 2014, Christine owned a traditional integrated marketing and communications agency specializing in financial services, public services and not-for-profits. Her education is in politics, ethics and philosophy, and she is a proud Maritimer despite living in Upper Canada today.