Today, associations need less
formal, less institutionalized
entities and more ad hoc groups
in order to effectively address
• What programs should be retired?
• What is the least amount of structure needed?
A formal plan or list of goals should never fill more than
two pages. If it does, it’s destined for the filing cabinet.
3. ENSURE A SLEEK, CONTEMPORARY STRUCTURE
The configuration of an association’s board, committees, chapters, delegate assemblies, subsidiary corporations and staff is
its structure. Today, associations need less formal, less institutionalized entities and more ad hoc groups in order to effectively address members’ needs.
To that end, association boards should consider appointing
and overseeing only two standing committees: an independent
nominating committee and a knowledgeable finance committee.
An ethics committee often is a sensible third, intended to protect
the organization and the trade, profession or cause it represents.
Having established the most basic committees, boards can
assign almost all work to informal groups of volunteers and
staff, which they can hold accountable for meeting given goals
and deadlines. To encourage creativity and imagination, or to
identify future priorities, boards might even try organizing asso-
ciation think tanks composed of the broadest possible range
of people inside and outside the organization.
4. EMPOWER THE FINANCE COMMITTEE
Because finance is perhaps the most important function of
governance, boards should empower the finance committee to
submit an annual budget and provide for an annual, independent audit that will be presented to the board by the auditor
and to the membership by the board. This way, no middleman
is needed and transparency is assured.
5. SET A GOOD EXAMPLE
Individually and collectively model good governance and leadership beyond the roles identified above. This may require pay-ing attention to succession and disaster planning, representing
the association on other boards or outside committees, giving
testimony at government hearings, keynoting local groups’ meetings, serving as consultants to fledgling start-ups and more.
If you follow these suggestions, your association will be
fast, focused and slim, able to take advantage of opportunities
while truly providing governance “of the people, by the people
and for the people.” It is time to sell tomorrow’s structure and
governance models to today’s leaders, before the ability to take
advantage of them has expired.
Dadie Perlov and Linda Shinn are principals of Consensus Management Group,
which has offices in Indianapolis and New York. They may be reached through
their Web site at