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How would you describe your association?

Most people would like to belong to a dynamic, innovative and forward-thinking organization that sets a high bar among its peers.

Yet many associations lose their way, becoming stagnant, uninspiring and distracted with complicated internal barriers. 

If you’ve got the sinking feeling that your association fits in the latter category, don’t worry. 

Here are five signs it’s time to refresh your strategy — plus tips for how to get started:

You’re Exclusively Focused on Members

It’s natural for associations to prioritize their members. But those that completely ignore any other audience are missing out on opportunities to grow and thrive.

Though associations were once the best — or only — place to find information and community, the internet has revolutionized the way people interact. Today, so much information and so many social opportunities are available for free online that potential members might wonder why they should join an association at all. 

To attract and retain members, your association has to be present online and add value that people can’t find anywhere else. Engaging the largest possible audience is the first step toward becoming a key destination for potential members. 

Shifting to an Open Garden model, which doesn't focus exclusively on attracting and retaining members, will allow your association to live up to its core purpose of connecting people and sharing information. It can win the loyalty of new members along the way.

Even if most people don’t ultimately join your association, you’ll still have taken advantage of the chance to educate and interact with a much larger public audience — a win-win in anyone’s book.

Your Mission Statement Is Impossible to Remember

If every member of your organization can’t recite your mission statement, it’s not as effective as it could be. Wordy, dry, forgettable mission statements can hold associations back and prevent employees from staying focused on a common goal.

Instead, associations should reinvent their dusty mission statements as core purpose statements. At five to eight words, a core purpose is a snappy summary of your association’s top priority. 

Refining your core purpose is no small feat, but the end result — achieving total alignment — is well worth the effort.

You’re Hung Up On Weaknesses

Every association has weaknesses.

If your association is on a quest for perfection, you’ll waste years of effort and still never achieve your goal.

The good news? You can let go of this pressure right now and never look back. 

Attempting to eliminate weaknesses is a distraction from a much more worthy goal: Fully embracing and owning your association’s strengths. Your association can always fill in any gaps by working with external experts or partners.

You’re Not Taking Advantage of Technology

If your association doesn’t take advantage of modern digital marketing technology, you’ll quickly fall behind.

Technology can help your association advance its goals by engaging a far bigger audience. At a minimum, your association should have:

  • A user-friendly website with modern features
  • A sophisticated social media strategy
  • Email marketing software 
  • Analytics tools to measure your progress

Once you’ve adopted these basics, you can take your technology to the next level through artificial intelligence, automation, SMS marketing and more. As new technology emerges each year, the possibilities are truly endless.

You’re Meeting All Your Goals

The final sign is also the simplest: What is your association working toward?

If your mission statement lists goals that you’ve already met, it’s time to think bigger. Don’t be afraid to be bold and ambitious — that’s what will sustain your association’s forward momentum for years to come.

Heather Nolan
Post by Heather Nolan
August 24, 2020
Heather a skilled communicator with expertise in social media and marketing strategy, brand management and journalism. She uses storytelling and audience growth skills to help companies showcase their brand and expand their reach.