Anemic economic performance is unfortunately becoming a mainstay in the U.S. economy. The release of the 3rd quarter GDP numbers where only 1.5% growth was reported is another reminder of how much the ground is shifting for associations. Companies will likely view membership through an even narrower prism of operating margins if economic conditions weaken further. Associations who are Funding Industry Innovation can position themselves as essential partners in helping members achieve business outcomes.
Strategic Planning Alignment
Through an “outside in” strategic planning process board members, CEO’s, and senior managers can utilize actionable data to identify opportunities to leverage the association to provide tools and resources to support business outcomes. The most consequential data comes from member impact surveys where external and operational concerns can be translated into an association’s external objective. Once an organization reaches this point they move to what’s becoming a new trend where Associations are funding Industry Innovation.
Driving Industry Business Outcomes
Value is no longer about services that boards or members view as neither relevant nor impactful. Instead ROI is defined as providing the means necessary to help an industry overcome impediments and grow their top line revenue. The traditional model of providing a suite of services and advocacy programming in and of itself is more about the past than what lies ahead. While domestic economic growth is anemic, international growth is not the option industries once believed it would be.
Marching To Innovation
In several cases nontraditional associations have already partnered with their boards to begin their march toward innovation. Utilizing their industry associations as a strategic platform, organizations are planning, budgeting, and investing dollars. For example:
National Wooden Pallet and Container Association, NWPCA. Brent McClendon, CAE, President and CEO, notes he and his board devised a long range mission and vision through their strategic planning process. The process led to the development of a five-year budget which provides a discussion point for the board around new product innovation and long-term university research funding.
National Investor Relations Institute, NIRI, established an “incubator, venture capital type fund” according to former CEO Jeff Morgan,FASAE, CAE . Now CEO of the Club Managers Association of America, CMAA, Morgan pointed out that this level of investment helped NIRI launch its industry Certification Program. The program was a key part of the organization’s strategic plan.
Funding Industry Innovation
Winning the future is about letting go of the past. Funding Industry Innovation will help align associations with those things that members care most about. Associations will become more essential and relevant for the members and industries they serve. This strategy helps associations position themselves and can help them avoid being eliminated from membership budgets at renewal time.
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