New Year New Opportunity for Association Leaders

18 January 2017 by Ahmed Eltohamy

The start of a new calendar year is a time when people make change. Some want to and some are actively encouraged to but whichever way it happens there is always change.


The start of a new calendar year is a time when people make change. Some want to and some are actively encouraged to but whichever way it happens there is always change. There is evidence of this everywhere, just talk to your friends, family or colleagues and you will come across people that have decided they want to get fitter, move house or find a new job.

Whilst people are deciding on change, one of their decisions could be whether they want to join your association which is good news. On the reverse of this, you could have some existing members deciding this is the time to leave your organisation.

For your association this is a time when you might be thinking of change and taking on new projects or revitalising ones that have started but lost their momentum.

It may not be the end of your financial year but with all the change feeling around it is as good a time as any to have a look at what is working and what isn’t working. You could treat this time in the calendar year as an ideal opportunity to review.

But what can you review? Well how about your finances, your systems or the way you relate to your members.

What are your financial targets? Have you set them to take account of the ever changing ‘political and economic landscape’? Are you using the same approach to setting your targets by following a historical method which is no longer relevant? Have you looked at new opportunities for raising income other than through the old ways? I recall one association that had kept the same level of membership for at least 12 years without a price increase. Until one year, when they decided to raise their fees. They decided to go for a big overnight increase which had a truly damaging effect on the association. Members lapsed quickly and from there on it was always a battle to grow the membership again. Incremental membership increases on a regular basis can work. Have a look at your membership pricing and review whether it needs a little nudge. But don’t try and reclaim ‘lost years’ as in the example above.  And once you have all the income you need from membership fees and other sources have you decided how you will spend it? Where will the money go? What are the new projects you have on the horizon?

When it comes to your systems and processes the key question is about their relevance. Do they support all the tasks that have to be undertaken? Are your processes clunky and painful to work with or do you seamless systems that make even the most difficult tasks a joy? Do you have manual spreadsheets and bits of paper that could be integrated through the means of technology? How are your systems and processes helping your members and partners? How user friendly are they for the internal and external experience? My guess is that if you look for a new approach to the way you operate you will come up with some ideas that will aid productivity. Now is the time for a look.

Last and definitely not least is a review of how you relate to your membership. If you have a constant supply of new members joining and a great retention rate then you will be doing very well. But even then could you make the membership experience even better? What is your membership number? What was it last year? What do you want it be in 12 months’ time? What type of members do you have? Are they staying for a long period of time or lapsing at the end of a year? Could you do something revolutionary and change the membership model? Are you restricting the growth of your association by adhering to an ‘old style’ membership offering that has become devalued due to other groups offering networking or providing online information? There are always lots of things to consider when it comes to membership.

Is it the right time for a review of finances, systems and membership? I think it is after all change is in the air particularly at this time of year. This doesn’t mean you have to change anything as a good review may be enough at this point. But I doubt it, there will always be something to consider in this ever changing volatile world, especially when it comes to money, technology and people.