MGI Tipster – Volume 10 Issue 5

May 17, 2011   |   Vol. 10   |   Issue 5
Managing Organizational Growth Strategies

This month’s MGITipster takes a respite from our usual discussion of membership development and instead examines a common management issue—coordinated strategic planning.

Too much work, too little success

Many top executives work harder than they have to. They are often so caught up in day-to-day operational challenges that they lose sight of strategic planning and the need to drive long-term initiatives that facilitate growth and enable prosperity.

To be successful, association leaders must step back from the deluge of detail, look beyond the corner office perspective, and replace it with a holistic vision that oversees the strategies needed by the entire organization and is free from the constant distraction of minutia.

That means developing initiatives that succeed because they address the needs of the entire organization and include ideas from throughout the association. Involving departments such as membership, human resources, marketing, operations, and finance not only captures multiple perspectives during decision making, it also encourages more balanced and workable solutions.

Time for a health check

Association leaders have to know where their organization is in order to find out where it needs to be, so it’s important to take regular health checks to establish a performance baseline. That process can begin with a simple survey. Executive directors and chief operating officers should ask themselves …

  1. Have I identified my ideal members and understand their needs?
  2. Do I know the many reasons why members join my association?
  3. Am I the dominant go-to source for my target membership market?
  4. Does my association enjoy high member renewals and retention?
  5. Is my staff aligned with a mission that aligns with member needs?
  6. Have I a growth plan against which I benchmark performance?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” the organization may be performing below its potential and losing an important share of both mind and wallet.

A prescription for better health

Correcting an organization’s signs of ill health begins with the answers to two fundamental questions:

  • Is the association providing the best available solutions for the membership where demand, need, and opportunity are greatest?
  • Has the organization a unique value proposition that is well positioned and widely recognized among the professionals it serves?

In today’s increasingly challenging and competitive marketplace, it is critical to identify, deliver, and sell at least one one-of-a-kind benefit that differentiates the organization from all others. This is where association leaders must focus their organization’s greatest energies. Success is driven by how well organizations strategically leverage this proposition.

A formula for success

Strategic plans, staff skill sets, organizational systems, market knowledge, marketing programs, and the proper use of technology must all be gathered, organized, and integrated. A winning formula for success must …

  • Identify, assemble, coordinate, and align key people and programs.
  • Ensure the organization delivers on its unique value position.
  • Convey how the organization stands out among competitors.

And the formula must include four basic ingredients:

Who: Who are the ideal members and primary customers and what are their key characteristics, challenges, and participation history?

What: What challenges do ideal members face and what problems do members need solved, both tangible and intangible?

Why: Why do members join the association and not competitors, why do some join both, and which do they consider their primary organization and why do they stay or leave?

How: How and where do prospects learn about the association, what leads them to join, and how well are they communicated with both during and after recruitment?

Putting the answers to work

Next comes the writing of an action plan using a three-step approach:

  • Within the context of the organization’s purpose (why it’s doing what it’s doing), values (its guiding principles), and overall vision (what it may ultimately become), identify reasonable accomplishments over the next year, month-by-month and quarter-by-quarter.
  • Then look even further ahead and identify the three most critical objectives over the next three years.
  • For each major objective, scope out the following:
    • Specific goals and steps
    • Individual and team responsibilities and assignments
    • The order of priority of these goals and actions
    • A time certain when each goal must be accomplished
    • Resources (time, money, staff) to achieve the outcomes

Regular team meetings to review progress are essential to identify needed corrections or refinements and evaluate success against specific, measurable goals.

A note of thanks

The content in this month’s MGITipster consists of edited extracts from Thrive: A Success Formula for Association Growth by MGI Contributing Editor Vinay Kumar and Joe Isaacs, CAE, president of the New Heights Management Consulting Group.

If you would like to learn more about association management techniques and how they can help your organization grow, contact MGI President Rick Whelan at 703-706-0350 or email him at
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