Association strategic planning and development of association board members

The association strategic plan identifies and defines the value the organization can provide to its customer base that will result in the greatest mission impact and growth opportunity. It does this through market and member intelligence-gathering, analysis that reveals challenges and opportunities, assessment of the capabilities of the current organization, and board discussion and decision-making.

Key elements in the association strategic planning process

The strategic planning process is laid out in a linear fashion, but in practice there is often a recurring and iterative relationship between the steps. Results from one may require going back to revisit a previous step. That said, here are the key activities:

  1. Gathering market intelligence
    This involves activities such as consulting with thought leaders, scanning the popular press and news sources, identifying and mining competitors’ services and assets, and of course searching the internet for valuable information. This step relies on the practice of strategic foresight—looking to future trends for game-changing insights and disruptions to take advantage of and prepare for.
  2. Gathering customer intelligence
    All customer bases as well as association staff must be consulted and have the opportunity to provide input. Their unique experience on what is working, what is not working, and what could be improved is critical input for consideration.
  3. Identifying challenges and opportunities
    New challenges and opportunities continually arise from changing market conditions. Both are valuable as they highlight what kind of growth is possible and what kinds of resources (knowledge, time, money, people) will be required to overcome challenges and seize opportunities. Not all challenges must be addressed and not all opportunities seized, only those most relevant to the future of the association and so approved by the board of directors.
  4. Assessing an association’s capacity
    Once challenges and opportunities are identified, it is important to have a third-party assessment of an association’s ability to successfully address them and determine what, if anything, is lacking. This provides important information to the board so that it understands what kind of investments are required to mitigate risk before choosing the opportunities and challenges to pursue.
  5. Involving the board and integrating it into the holistic planning ecosystem
    The board of directors role in strategic planning is critical and board members must be involved in the process throughout so there is continuous engagement and opportunities to steer the process. Toward the conclusion of the work, a board meeting takes place where the outputs and recommendations are reviewed, and the board makes decisions for the organization.

Association executives bring Seth on in a variety of roles and capacities, which may include:

Option 1 – Guidance and Oversight

With this option, Seth provides supervision of the timeline above, with the majority of activity carried out by staff and board members. Seth’s responsibilities include development of the strategic game plan including timeline, milestones, dependencies, outcomes and continuous adjustments as well as oversight of the activity. He also advises staff on how to conduct intelligence with core customer bases, thought leaders and other outside sources and suggests best ways to collect intelligence. Other duties include independent assessment of the association’s capacity and facilitation of all executive committee meetings and board meetings via teleconference. Seth is available throughout for consultation to keep things moving and minimize bottlenecks.

Option 2 – Hands-on Leadership

With this option, Seth is involved every step of the way, leading the market intelligence-gathering with staff, working with them to identify sources and methods of inquiry, and overseeing the process to ensure thoroughness and staff engagement. He conducts interviews and forms relationships with each board member, consulting with them as needed and making informed recommendations on every aspect of the strategic planning process.

He’s also able to provide a neutral approach to intelligence-gathering wherever it would make a significant difference, such as when hearing the concerns of influential members, providing market and industry analysis from an outside perspective, and developing and presenting issues that may be difficult to face. Seth provides thought leadership throughout based on his work with 100+ association CEOs as well as case studies from other associations that highlight prerequisites for success, common obstacles, and remedies for those obstacles.

Option 3 – Build an Association’s Leadership Edge

Seth has applied this option with great success with some of his best clients. In addition to the above activities, option three allows Seth to work closely with the executive director, president and president-elect to identify unique executive development opportunities for the board.

 

Association board of directors and board development

Seth draws from his experience working with other boards to identify best practices that would make the greatest contribution to a board’s long-term performance and align with the planning ecosystem.

Here are two examples of ways Seth can help develop your association board:

  • A workshop on strategic foresight during the board’s strategic planning retreat, cultivating the board’s ability to continually gather information on emerging trends and assess them for strategic opportunity. This work can be integrated into the strategic planning so there is real-life application, and it can be taught in such a way as to be applicable to the volunteer leadership — in their professional lives as well as in service to the board. During the workshop, Seth helps board members develop a proprietary approach for the organization that can be instituted as part of its continuous, environmental scanning for emerging trends and game-changing developments in that association’s market.
  • Understanding value generation and how it applies to customer bases to ensure that innovation is compelling and successful when implemented. Using the principles in Seth’s book Getting Innovation Right, this work can be applied to developing and piloting new value propositions that target scaling for greater impact and growth.

Seth can help raise the bar on your board’s ability to deliver leadership for your organization. He has worked with more than 30 boards and has served on three, including The Council of Better Business Bureaus and Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, and two terms for the American Geophysical Union.