November 2012 – January 2013 I interviewed 24 expert leaders of professional societies and trade associations (see below for the full list). The focus of our conversation was identifying what it takes to grow & succeed in the 21st century.

I wanted to pinpoint and examine both core issues and emerging solutions for successful association leadership in today’s environment of technological and market disruption. Together we investigated emerging trends in leadership, advocacy, member value, and business growth. These conversations targeted new developments that are working and identified the future pathways that place associations in their unique positions of value in the American and global economies.  I wanted to provide key insights association CEOs and EDs can put into practice and begin the work of building a braintrust of passionate CEOs, EDs, and thought leaders to explore and forge the way forward.

Running an association is a whole new game in the 21st century. Market conditions are changing and along with them, member expectations. The resulting turmoil is threatening the future viability of many professional societies and trade associations. It is time for the leaders of these organizations, CEOs and executive directors, to take vision-driven action to adapt and strengthen the impact they can have on their future. The issues are real and urgency is building.

Inflection points are major decisive changes in the market and its favor. They can be positive, lifting us up, or negative, beating us down. Either way they cause disruption. Examples include:

  • Economic uncertainty – the looming potential of a downturn among your members
  • Inability to develop the skills and capabilities necessary to succeed
  • Shifts in member demand away from traditional offerings
  • Competitors
  • Turbulence from new technologies that change industries and disciplines rapidly
  • Demographic shifts that include the prominence of women, young people, older people, Hispanics, Asian, and African Americans and an inability to reach or serve their needs
  • The perception of increasing irrelevance – a dinosaur, on the wane toward extinction

There is a critical need for vision of a compelling future. It is time for thoughtful, innovative exploration and investigation into emerging trends when it comes to member value and business growth, a time to target new developments that are working, and creatively ply them to drive success. Every conversation I engaged in was hopeful, and built on the business sense of leaders who have demonstrated their abilities where it matters, on the front lines of growth.

Please read the attached Executive Summary. If you cannot attend one of the events on our event page, but wish you could, let me know. I will find a way to include you in this effort going forward.

CEOs/EDs Interviewed:

  • Lori Anderson, signs.org – International Sign Association
  • Debra Ben Avram, nutritioncare.org – American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition
  • Anne Bryant (retired), nsba.org – National School Boards Association
  • Henry Chamberlain, boma.org – Building Owners and Managers Association International
  • Julie Coons, retailing.org – Electronic Retailing Association
  • Doug Culkin, naa.org  – National Apartment Association
  • Steve Gold, mapi.net – Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation
  • John Graham, asae.org – American Society of Association Executives: the Center for Association Leadership
  • Linda Hallman, aauw.org – American Association of University Women
  • Kevin Keller, cfpboard.org – Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.
  • Gary LaBranche, acg.org – Association for Corporate Growth
  • Mary Logan, aami.org – Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation
  • Chris McEntee, agu.org– American Geophysical Union
  • Brent Mulgrew, osma.org – Ohio State Medical Association
  • Ralph Nappi, npes.org – Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies
  • Pat Natale, asce.org – American Society of Civil Engineers
  • David Noonan (retired), aao.org – American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • Peter O’Neil, aiha.org – American Industrial Hygiene Association
  • Clarke Price (retired), ohio-cpa.com – Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants
  • Arlene Pietranton, asha.org  – American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
  • Cathy Rydell, aan.com – American Academy of Neurology
  • Susan Sarfati, sarfatihighperformance.com – High Performance Strategies
  • Paul Stalknecht, acca.org – Air Conditioning Contractors of America
  • Marla Weston, ana.org – American Nurses Association