Fundamental changes in the way
association executives and volunteer
leaders think about association governance and management are necessary
for associations to prosper. Following
are five radical changes to consider:
1. Overhaul the governance model.
The typical association’s governance composition, structure and
processes have played a major role
in the predicament their organizations find themselves in today. And
it represents a major impediment to
affecting critically needed change.
Many of today’s boards are not
composed for performance. They
are populated with directors based
on where they live, what interests
they represent, who they know or
how long they have been involved.
The relevant association of the
future would be best served by a
board. Directors are carefully identified and vetted for skills and characteristics that are aligned with the
association’s future opportunities
Meet Harrison Coerver, Race for Relevance
co-author, on Dec. 15 at Holiday Showcase!
Coerver will discuss some of the findings in his book including what approaches and models organizations must embrace to
welcome change and its ensuing success. Reserve your spot for the CEOnly
breakfast at Holiday Showcase, complimentary with full-day or education-only
registration, by visiting holidayshowcase.org.
Many balk at this proposal.
However, consider two similar associations with CEOs of similar experience and skills: One continues
with a large geographically and special interest-based board and the
other proceeds with a five-member
competency-based board. Their
results will be significantly different
over the coming years.
Glenda Berg Sharp, CAE
♦General Substantive & Administrative Support
♦ Strategic Planning
look very different than it did when
the association was established.
In this environment, associations
need to take a hard look at the
member market that they intend to
serve: Can we competitively serve
the member market as it exists
today? Do we need to tighten our
market focus? Are some member
segments no longer serviceable? A
well-defined, serviceable market is
critical for future relevance.
There’s another phenomenon
that contributes to the member
market challenge: market creep.
Over time, the association expands
the reach of its membership to
related or adjacent markets. This
expanded turf stretches the association thin, adds to member
diversity and waters down the association’s focus. Associations would
be wise to follow the lead of the
International Trademark Association, which has remained focused
on its trademark core and resisted
the temptation to expand its scope
to include the broader arena of
intellectual property or patents.
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2. Empower the CEO and enhance
staff. Associations, particularly
trade associations, have been moving over the years to a model led
by an empowered CEO. But the
transition has been far too slow and
the delay in embracing this model
has been costly. Associations are
operating in an environment of
unprecedented competition. Yet
they continue to cling to a model
that counts on part-time volunteers
to play an inappropriate role in the
management of the association’s
Volunteer leadership indeed
plays a critical role in governing
— directing and controlling — and
providing the association with a
rich resource of professional or
industry expertise. But volunteers
should not be micromanaging or
doing the day-to-day work that staff
is capable of handling. This is not
about who is in control, but how to
make the highest and best use of
the association’s human capital.
3. Rationalize the member market.
Every member market is in a con-
stant state of change. Professionals
specialize and sub-specialize. Merg-
ers and acquisitions change the
landscape for trade associations.
Over time the member market can
Visit the Association Forum’s “State-
ment on Governance Structure”
Professional Practice Statement
to learn more about the develop-
mental and operational oversight
function that enables associations
to identify and achieve their organi-
zational missions, goals and strate-
gic outcomes at associationforum.
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