The year is 2019. Your board is meeting to discuss strategic vision for the next five years. The conversation is focused squarely on lofty, long-term goals relating to membership growth, revenue generation, and organizational identity. A conference or two is also mentioned. Vision statements are crafted, rallying volunteers to take part in your grand endeavors. We are guessing, however, that a discussion of how the association will endure and rebound from a hypothetical pandemic never occurs (If it does, A+++ for your team’s foresight!).
The reality is that none of us had any idea what was waiting on the other side of New Year’s Eve. Our strategic meetings look a lot different these days. The topics are different, and so are the concerns. We now know how quickly the world can change and how unexpectedly a year’s worth of strategic goals can go right out the window. We’re asking different questions now, especially questions about the future of our organizations. Particularly, association professionals are looking for ways to future-proof their organizations. We’ve rounded up a list of three future-proofing tips that you can implement to protect your association from unforeseen interruptions.
1. Respond, Don't React
Operating with agility is no longer optional for future-proofed organizations. Agility, however, does not always entail a quick reaction to change; rather, agile organizations are prepared to respond promptly and tactfully to unforeseen circumstances. What is the difference between reacting and responding? Check out the chart below:
2. Connect Differently
The last few years have taught us a lot about the fragility and importance of connection. As connections were challenged, we discovered new channels, strengthened viable ones, and discarded those that became useless to us. In the association community, connection is everything. To future-proof your organization, each of your networks must be optimized for maximum efficiency and effectiveness:
When in-person networking isn’t possible, do your members know where to find your organization? Ensuring your member network doesn’t depend on vulnerable connections is vital to sustainability of your association. Consider whether your website, social media accounts, or email lists could use an update before the window of opportunity closes.
Staff & Volunteer Connectivity
Volunteers are the lifeblood of an association. During the pandemic, the typical operations of volunteerism were understandably second to the numerous personal obligations that arose during such an unprecedented time. By necessity, many organizations shifted weight onto staff and management agencies. During this time, many associations, societies, and foundations were enlightened to the power behind a hybrid leadership team – a mix of volunteer commitment and staff duty. The dynamic provided by this arrangement contributes to a stronger and more stabilized root system at the base of the organization, ultimately adding to the effectiveness of future-proofing efforts.
It is now evident that data connectivity is of utmost importance to the sustainability of operations. If your organization is not utilizing the following technologies, consider discussing improvements with your IT experts:
Recent years have also revealed how important it is that vendor relationships function as partnerships, not just agency relationships. Being confident that your vendors have your back through thick and thin has never been more critical. As such, associations should ensure their connections with vendors are regularly revisited for quality. It is also important that associations maintain a broad network of diverse vendors who can contribute to your organization’s flexibility and sustainability.
3. Plan for the Worst, Be Surprised by the Best
We all know the adage “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” and while Murphy’s Law may have been viewed as a pessimistic sentiment a few years ago, today, the concept seems much more realistic. For association leaders, maintaining an awareness of “anything that can go wrong” is an important element of future-proofing. Planning for disaster includes budgeting with margin and ensuring your association is protected by proper security measures and insurance coverages. Overall, maintaining a positive attitude towards organizational change, and promoting such an attitude throughout the association, will weaken the blow of unexpected crises.
If your organization could use some support in future-proofing, contact our team today. We look forward to it!