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Many of our association Boards of Directors are turning over at year-end, and it got us thinking about what lies ahead for our new association leaders.

Association President Goal Setting
If you are a President-Elect, congratulations on making the decision to lead your association! No doubt there were many reasons that went into your decision to take the reins. Maybe you served in various leadership roles over the years and it was simply time to step up, or your commitment to your profession has recently grown and you believe you can affect positive change after observing recent challenges. As someone who has seen her share of Presidents come and go, I have just one piece of advice.

Leave your association better than you found it.

As President-Elect, many have probably offered you advice on how to improve the organization by growing membership, improving technology, adding meetings, decreasing meetings, leading the Board out of the weeds, firing the ED, changing the logo…The list goes on and on.

But if you are in this position because you want to make a lasting impact – take time to set goals. I would suggest you pick two goals – one that is readily attainable and doable during your term and one that is more aspirational.

Ideas for Attainable Goals for Your Association:

  1. Refresh your association website. If there is money in the bank, you can form a task force, get it in the budget and request (as President) that it be accomplished during your term. Ensure a modern, mobile-responsive website design, with rich content with relevant resources for members, and that it’s easy to navigate.
  2. Deliver higher caliber programming. Shake up the program committee membership, remind them of the mission and request they provide a fully developed curriculum a year in advance.
  3. Increase membership renewals. Task the membership committee to work with staff to rewrite all messaging to new and renewing members. Have them review the communications timeline and ensure you are following best practices and reminding members to renew throughout the year in a variety of ways. Set a measurable goal, such as a 15% increase in renewals over the previous year.
  4. Focus on new member onboarding: Task the membership committee and staff with finding new ways to roll out the welcome mat and make a great first impression. Make it easy for new members to get engaged. Oftentimes, successful onboarding ends up being the most effective retention tool you have!

Ideas for Aspirational Goals for Your Association:

Aspirational goals should be ones where you can use your position in a powerful way to affect awareness or change. It’s important to make sure it also furthers your association’s mission.

  1. Improve collaboration with affiliated organizations. Perhaps it is a meeting of the minds, or a joint position paper. Maybe you co-sponsor an event or short-term effort together. Work to build bridges and improve influence in your broader community.
  2. Focus on Inclusion. Whether through a new partnership, a special program, or communications platform, develop specific activities that reach out and engage underrepresented populations in your membership by age, gender, race, or geographic location.
  3. Publish two op-ed pieces. Communicate your association’s important work and the trends in your profession in your regional newspapers or industry trade publications to strengthen the position of the organization, the profession, or your constituents.

Perhaps the association requires an even more dramatic change and you are up to the challenge. The Executive Director is leaving and there are big shoes to fill, or your current management is not serving your association well. Take the same approach – your legacy will be to replace the management of the association. It is a big job and a big deal. You will need many people to help you. That becomes – like it or not – your project for the year.

The idea here is that you don’t overreach, but at the same time, you don’t lose this opportunity to make your mark. Your job will be punctuated with lots of unknown issues and opportunities that will come up, and there is the day-to-day management to keep an eye on as well. But if you plan now, and secure the support of your Board, committees, and staff, it can be done.

You have an exciting year ahead!


Marlis Korber
SBI Association Management

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